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moment you talked about a ghost.” Dick waited till a little more light was obtained, and then commenced.
“ I had shipped on board of a vessel bound to Smyrna, now about seven years ago. We had gone down to Portsmouth, where we waited for one of the partners of the house by which we had been freighted, and who was going out as passenger. a man short, and the captain went on shore to get one from the crimps, whom he knew very well, and the fellows promised to send one on board the next morning. Well, sure enough a wherry came off with him just before break of day, and he and his traps were taken on board; but it was not perceived, at the time, what he had in his arms under his grego ; and what do you think it proved to be at daylight? Why - a large black tom cat."
« What, a black one ?"
“ Yes, as black as the enemy himself. The fellow came down forward with it, and so says I, • Why, messmate, you're not going to take that animal to sea with us?”
“Yes, I am,” said he very surlily ; it's an old friend of mine, and I never parts with him.'
Well,' says I, “you'll find the difference when the captain hears on it, I can tell you; and, for the matter of that, I won't promise you that it will be very safe if it comes near me, when I've a handspike in my hand.'
“I tell you what,' says he, it ain't the taking of a cat on board what brings mischief; but it's turning one out of a ship, what occasions ill luck. No cat ever sunk a ship till the animal was hove overboard, and sunk first itself, and then it does drag the ship down after it.'
" Well, one of the boys who did not care about such things, for he was young and ignorant, put his hand to the cat's head to stroke it, and the cat bit him right through the fingers, at which the boy gave a loud cry.
«« Now, that will teach you to leave my cat alone,' said the man ; ‘he won't come near nobody but me, and he bites every body else, so I give you fair warning.'
“ And sure enough the brute, which was about as big as two
common cats, was just as savage as a tiger. When the first mate called the man on deck, the fellow left his cat behind him in the fore peak, just as if it were now here; and it got into a dark corner, growling and humping its back, with its eyes flashing fire at every one of us as we came anigh it. Oh' says we, this here won't never do ; wait till the captain comes on board, that's all.' Well, the hatches were off, and we were busy re-stowing the upper tier of the cargo, which we had thrown in very carelessly in our hurry to get down the river; just putting the bales in order (it wasn't breaking bulk, you see); and we were at it all day. At last, towards evening, the captain comes on board with the gentleman passenger ; a mighty timorsome sort of young chap he appeared for to be, and had never before set his foot upon the plank of a vessel. So, as soon as the captain was on deck, we all broke off our work and went to him to tell him about this cat; and the captain he gets into a great rage as soon as he hears on it, and orders the man to send the cat on shore, or else he'd throw it overboard. Well, the man, who was a sulky, saucy sort of chap, and no seaman, I've a notion, gives cheek, and says he won't send his cat on shore for no man; whereupon the captain orders the cat to be caught, that he might send it in the boat; but nobody dared to catch it, for it was so fierce to every body but its master : the second mate tried, and he got a devil of a bite, and came up from the fore peak without the cat, looking very blue indeed ; and then the first mate went down, and he tried; but the cat flew at him, and he came up as white as a sheet; and then the cat became so savage that it stood at the foot of the ladder, all ready to attack whoever should come down; and the man laughed heartily, and told us to fetch the cat. • Well,' says the first mate, 'I can't touch the cat, but I can you, you beggar; and I will, too, if it costs me twenty pounds ;' so he ups with a handspike and knocks the fellow down senseless on the deck, and there he laid ; and it sarved him right.
“Well, then the captain thought to shoot the cat, for it was for all the world like a wild beast, and one proposed one thing and one another; at last Jim, the cabin boy, comes forward with some
brimstone matches in a pan, and he lights them and lowers them down into the fore peak by a rope yarn, to smother it out; and so it did sure enough, for all of a sudden the cat made a spring up to the deck, and then we all chased it here and there until at last it got out to the end of the flying jib-boom; and then Jim, the cabin boy, followed it out with a handspike, and poked at it as hard as he could, until at last it lost its hold, and down it went into the water, and Jim and the handspike went along with it ; for Jim, in his last poke at the cat, lost his balance so away they went together. Well, there was a great hurry in manning the boat, and picking up poor Jim and the handspike; but the cat we saw no more, for it was just dark at the time. Well, when it was all over, we began to think what we had done ; and as soon as we had put on the hatches and secured the hold, we went down below into the fore peak, where the smell of brimstone did not make us feel more comfortable, I can tell you, and we began to talk over the matter; for you see the cat should not have been thrown overboard, but put on shore ; but we were called away to man the boat again, for the fellow had come to his senses, and swore that he would not stay in the ship, but go on shore and take the law of the first mate; and the first mate and captain thought the sooner he was out of the ship the better, for we were to sail before daylight, and there might not be a wherry for him to get into; so the fellow took his kit, and we pulled him on shore and landed him on Southsea beach, he swearing vengeance the whole way, and as he stepped out on the beach he turned round to us, and said, as he shook his fist, “You've thrown overboard a black tom cat, recollect that! and now you'll see the consequence ; a pleasant voyage to you, —I wouldn't sail in that vessel if you were to offer her to me as a present as soon as she got to Smyrna; because why — you've thrown overboard a black tom cat, and you'll never get there never,' cried he again, and off he ran with his bundle.
“ Well we didn't much like it, and if the second mate hadn't been in the boat, I'm not sure that we shouldn't all have gone on shore rather than sail in the vessel ; but there was no help for it. The next morning before daylight we started, for the captain wouldn't wait to get another hand, and we were soon out of soundings, and well into the Bay of Biscay.
“We had just passed Cape Finisterre, when Jim, the cabin-boy, says, one inorning, · I'm blessed if I didn't hear that cat last night, or the ghost on it!' So we laughed at hinı; for, you see, he slept abaft, just outside the cabin-door, close to the pantry, and not forward with the rest of us.
« «Well,' says he, 'I heard her miaul, and when I awoke I think I seed two eyes looking at me.'
« « Well, Jim,' said I, for we had got over our fears, “it was you who knocked her overboard; so it's all right that she should haunt you and nobody else.' Jim, however, could not laugh, but looked very grave and unhappy. A few days afterwards, the captain and passenger complained that they could not sleep for the noise and racket that was kept up all night between the timbers and in the run aft. They said it was as if a whole legion of devils were broken loose and scampering about: and the captain was very grave; and as for the passenger, he was frightened out of his wits. Still we laughed, because we had heard nothing ourselves, and thought that it must only be fancy on their parts, particularly as the captain used to bowse his jib up pretty taut every night. Well, all went on very well; we arrived at the Rock, got our fresh provisions and vegetables, and then made sail again. The captain complained of no more noises, and Jim of no more eyes, and the whole matter was almost forgotten.”
Here the narrator was interrupted by the thumping of a handspike on the deck above.
“ Halloo ! what's the matter now !"
“ Come, tumble up, my lads, and pump the ship out,” said the mate from above; we had almost forgotten that. Be smart now, it's but a ten minutes' job.”
Thus broke off the story, much to my annoyance; but it could not be helped,— ships must be pumped out, — so the men went on deck, and I followed them.
RECOLLECT,” SAYS THE FELLOW, “YOU HAVE THROWN OVERBOARD A
BLACK TOM CAT!”
In a quarter of an hour the pump sucked, and we all hastened down below to our grog and the completion of our yarn. As soon as we were all comfortably seated as before, Dick recommenced.
• Well, we were abreast of Malta, when the weather, which had hitherto on the voyage been very fine, changed. The clouds hung down very heavy, and there was every symptom of a fierce gale; and sure enough a worse gale I never was in than came on that night, — and such a sea ! — the ship rolled gunnel under, for the gale was fair, but the sea ran so high and so fast, that we expected to be pooped every minute. It was about midnight, when the rain came on in torrents, and the wind blew fiercer than ever. I was on deck, and so was the first mate, and another man at the helm, for we were flying right before it, and she was hard to steer.
« « We shall have it worse yet,' said the captain.
“ • Miaw !' was the reply; so clear, so loud, we could not tell where it came from. I thought it came from the maintop.
“ • Mercy on us ! what was that ?' said the first mate, the light from the binnacle showing his face as pale as a sheet.
« • Miuw !' was the reply from somewhere.
“ • The Lord have mercy upon us, we're all gone!' said the mate, clasping his hands in terror. To clasp his hands, of course he let go the wheel; and the other man, who was equally frightened, had not strength to hold it. Away he went, right over the wheel, knocking down the mate on the other side; and the ship taking a heavy lurch, they both went into the scuppers together. The ship broached to; and our mainmast and mizenmast went over the side."