“Master,” said my faithful servant, “something awful has happened here. Nevertheless, even if the ship down there below is full of murderers, still would I rather submit myself to their mercy or cruelty, than spend a longer time among these dead bodies.” I agreed with him, and so we took heart, and descended, full of apprehension.
But the stillness of death prevailed here also, and there was no sound save that of our steps upon the stairs. We stood before the door of the cabin; I applied my ear, and listened—there was nothing to be heard. I opened it. The room presented a confused appearance; clothes, weapons, and other articles, lay disordered together. The crew, or at least the Captain, must shortly before have been carousing, for the remains of a banquet lay scattered around. We went on from room to room, from chamber to chamber finding, in all, royal stores of silk, pearls, and other costly articles. I was beside myself with joy at the sight, for as there was no one on the ship, I thought I could appropriate all to myself; but Ibrahim thereupon called to my notice that we were still far from land, at which we could not arrive, alone and without human help.
We refreshed ourselves with the meats and drink, which we found in rich profusion, and at last ascended upon deck. But here again we shivered at the awful sight of the bodies. We determined to free ourselves therefrom, by throwing them overboard; but how were we startled to find, that no one could move them from their places! So firmly were they fastened to the floor, that to remove them one would have had to take up the planks of the deck, for which tools were wanting to us. The Captain, moreover, could not be loosened from the mast, nor could we even wrest the sabre from his rigid hand. We passed the day in sorrowful reflection on our condition; and, when night began to draw near, I gave permission to the old Ibrahim to lie down to sleep, while I would watch upon the deck, to look out for means of deliverance.
When, however, the moon shone forth, and by the stars I calculated that it was about the eleventh hour, sleep so irresistibly overpowered me that I fell back, involuntarily, behind a cask which stood upon the deck. It was rather lethargy than sleep, for I plainly heard the sea beat against the side of the vessel, and the sails creak and whistle in the wind. All at once I thought I heard voices, and the steps of men upon the deck. I wished to arise and see what it was, but a strange power fettered my limbs, and I could not once open my eyes. But still more distinct became the voices; it appeared to me as if a merry crew were moving around upon the deck. In the midst of this I thought I distinguished the powerful voice of a commander, followed by the noise of ropes and sails. Gradually my senses left me; I fell into a deep slumber, in which I still seemed to hear the din of weapons, and awoke only when the sun was high in the heavens, and sent down his burning rays upon my face. Full of wonder, I gazed about me; storm, ship, the bodies, and all that I had heard in the night, recurred to me as a dream; but when I looked around, I found all as it had been the day before. Immoveable lay the bodies, immoveably was the Captain fastened to the mast; I laughed at my dream, and proceeded in search of my old companion.
The latter was seated in sorrowful meditation in the cabin. “O master,” he exclaimed as I entered, “rather would I lie in the deepest bottom of the sea, than pass another night in this enchanted ship.” I asked him the reason of his grief, and thus he answered me:—
“When I had slept an hour, I awoke, and heard the noise of walking to and fro over my head. I thought at first that it was you, but there were at least twenty running around; I also heard conversation and cries. At length came heavy steps upon the stairs. After this I was no longer conscious; but at times my recollection returned for a moment, and then I saw the same man who is nailed to the mast, sit down at that table, singing and drinking; and he who lies not far from him on the floor, in a scarlet cloak, sat near him, and helped him to drink.” Thus spoke my old servant to me.
You may believe me, my friends, that all was not right to my mind; for there was no delusion—I too had plainly heard the dead. To sail in such company was to me horrible; my Ibrahim, however, was again absorbed in deep reflection. “I have it now!” he exclaimed at length; there occurred to him, namely, a little verse, which his grandfather, a man of experience and travel, had taught him, and which could give assistance against every ghost and spectre. He also maintained that we could, the next night, prevent the unnatural sleep which had come upon us, by repeating right fervently sentences out of the Koran.
The proposition of the old man pleased me well. In anxious expectation we saw the night set in. Near the cabin was a little room, to which we determined to retire. We bored several holes in the door, large enough to give us a view of the whole cabin; then we shut it as firmly as we could from within, and Ibrahim wrote the name of the Prophet in all four corners of the room. Thus we awaited the terrors of the night.
It might again have been about the eleventh hour, when a strong inclination for sleep began to overpower me. My companion, thereupon, advised me to repeat some sentences from the Koran, which assisted me to retain my consciousness. All at once it seemed to become lively overhead; the ropes creaked, there were steps upon the deck, and several voices were plainly distinguishable. We remained, a few moments, in intense anxiety; then we heard something descending the cabin stairs. When the old man became aware of this, he began to repeat the words which his grandfather had taught him to use against spirits and witchcraft:
“Come you, from the air descending, Rise you from the deep sea-cave, Spring you forth where flames are blending, Glide you in the dismal grave: Allah reigns, let all adore him! Own him, spirits—bow before him!”
I must confess I did not put much faith in this verse, and my hair stood on end when the door flew open. The same large, stately man entered, whom I had seen nailed to the mast. The spike still passed through the middle of his brain, but he had sheathed his sword. Behind him entered another, attired with less magnificence, whom also I had seen lying on the deck. The Captain, for he was unquestionably of this rank, had a pale countenance, a large black beard, and wildly-rolling eyes, with which he surveyed the whole apartment. I could see him distinctly, for he moved over opposite to us; but he appeared not to observe the door which concealed us. The two seated themselves at the table, which stood in the centre of the cabin, and spoke loud and fast, shouting together in an unknown tongue. They continually became more noisy and earnest, until at length, with doubled fist, the Captain brought the table a blow which shook the whole apartment. With wild laughter the other sprang up, and beckoned to the Captain to follow him. The latter rose, drew his sabre, and then both left the apartment. We breathed more freely when they were away; but our anxiety had still for a long time no end. Louder and louder became the noise upon deck; we heard hasty running to and fro, shouting, laughing, and howling. At length there came an actually hellish sound, so that we thought the deck and all the sails would fall down upon us, the clash of arms, and shrieks—of a sudden all was deep silence. When, after many hours, we ventured to go forth, we found every thing as before; not one lay differently—all were as stiff as wooden figures.