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The Bedevilled Galleon


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

"Sing hey, sing ho! The wind doth blow,
And I'll meet my love in the morning,"

Sang the lookout, as he paced the forecastle of the galleon Rose of
May, and peered about for signs of land against the dawn. Not that
he expected to meet his love in the morning, nor for many mornings,
but he had been up in his off-watch and was getting drowsy, so that he
sang to keep himself awake. His was one of the first among the English
ships to follow in Magellan's track. The Philippines, or the Manillas,
as they were called, had been almost reached, and it was expected
that Mindanao would be sighted at break of day off the starboard bow.

"Hello, forward!" bawled the man at the helm.

"Ay, ay!" sang the lookout.

"What d'ye make o' yonder light?"

"Light? What d'ye mean, man?" And the lookout rubbed his eyes, scanned
the water close and far, and wondered if his sight was going out.

"In the sky, o' course, ye bumble-brain."

"Now, by the mass, you costard, you gave me a twist of the inwards
with your lame joke."

"'Tis no joke. Will you answer?"

"Why, then, 'tis the daylight, in course, and you aiming for it that
steady as to drive the nose of us straight agin the sun, give he
comes up where he threats to. And he'll be here straightway, for in
these waters he comes up as he were popped outen a cohorn."

"The day! Heaven forefend! I'm holding her to the north."

"You're holding due east. Aha! Look yonder, where the cloud is
lifting. Land ho!"

"Where away?" cried a mate, roused out of a forbidden doze by this
talk, and blundering up to the roof of the after-castle.

"Port bow, sir."

"Port bow! The fiend take us! You block! You jolterhead! Where are
you fetching us?"

"I'm holding her due to the north, sir, as you bade me," faltered
the steersman. "Look for yourself, if it please you, for 'tis light
enough to read the card without the binnacle lamp. We're sailing east
by the sky and north by the needle. The ship's bedevilled!"

"Hold your peace, or you'll have the crew in a fright. Head her around
eight points to port, and keep her west by the card."

"Lights in, sir? The sun is up," called the lookout.

"Yes." And the mate added in a lower tone, "'Tis the first time ever
the sun came up in the north."

"What's all this gabble?" grumbled the captain, thrusting his red and
whiskered face out of the cabin. "Can't a man have his rest when you
keep the watch, Master Roaker?"

"Pray, captain, come and look at the compass. Do you see the lay o'
the needle? We're sailing west to hold north, or else the sun has
missed stays over night and come up in the north himself."

"Hi, hi! That's parlous odd. Keep her as you have her, and have out
Bill, the carpenter, to see if there's any iron overside. Nay, let
her off a little more, for that's a hard-looking piece of shore out
yonder, for all of the palms and green stuff."

The watch was changed presently, the captain preferring to take the
biscuit and spirits that were his breakfast on the deck. He went to
the compass every minute or so, looked curiously at the draw of the
sails and studied the water alongside. The carpenter had reported
all sound, with no iron out of place to deflect the needle. There
was a grave look on the faces of the officers, and the men talked
low together as they watched them.

"Strange-looking hill out yonder," remarked a mate. "Not a tree on it,
nor any green thing. 'Tis black and shining enough for the devil's

"Have done with your gossip of devils," snorted the other mate. "You're
as evil a man for a ship's company as a whistler. You'll be calling
ill luck on us to name the fiend so often."

"Looks like shoal water forward, sir," called the new lookout.

"Right! Head her away to port yet farther. Look you, fellow, have
you no inkling of your business? You'll have us all ashore. Mary,
mother! Give me the helm!" With sweat bursting from his brow the
captain caught the tiller and put it hard over. The ship shook a bit,
swerved, yet made side-wise toward the green patch on the sea. The
land was looming large now.

"'Tis not in the rudder to keep her off, sir," called a mate who had
gone forward. "'Tis the leeway she is making."

"There's a scant breeze."

"Ay, but there must be a fearsome current."

"I see no sign of it. This water is smooth as any pond."

"But you see for yourself, she's gaining on the shore. Look, now,
how we're passing that patch o' water-weed."

"I think hell is under us. Have up the clerk and put him at prayers,
and you fellows take in sail--each rag of it--that if we strike we
may go easy. Call all hands. See that the boats are clear. She minds
her helm no more than a straw. God help us!"

The galleon was at the edge of the shoal spot now, and all held their
breath, expecting to hear the grinding of the keel on a bank; but,
no, she floated in safety.

"Sound!" commanded the captain. "There may be anchorage."

"Four fathom," called the sailor at the lead after he had made
his cast.

"Stand by to let go. We'll tie up here till the tide turns or the
spell's worked out. Alive--alive, there! Get that anchor overboard."

"It be wedged agin the bulwark, captain, and needs another pair o'

"Forward all! Why, you lump, the flukes are clear. What ails you? Lift
all. There!"

With an united heave the sailors raised the barbed iron and cast it
over the side. The faces of all dripped and went white, and their
knees bent then, for the anchor flew from their hands and struck
the sea quite twenty feet away,--in deep water, for the shoal was
passed,--and the chain paid out like rope as the iron sank, yet not
straight down. It rattled off toward the shore.

"We've had krakens and mermaids and all variety of horrid beasts,"
said one old tar, with his jaw a-shaking, "and now the foul fiend
has that anchor, and is pulling us ashore with it."

The chain had run out to its length, but the anchor had found no
bottom. A cracking and grinding of the links could be heard, as if a
tug of war were going on between two giants that had this chain between
them. Bits of rust powdered off, and the strain was tearing splinters
from the timbers. A loud snap,--the chain had parted. Down went the
anchor, but again not straight,--off toward the land, and one free
link of the chain shot as if from a gun straight toward the shore,
whizzing with ever-increasing speed until it was out of sight. The
men looked at one another in amaze.

"Get up the stores," shouted the captain, "and be ready all to quit
the ship." He added to his mates, "A half hour's the longest we can
hope for. The Rose of May will be on the black cliff by that. Is the
clerk praying? Good! We may get away in the boats, but we'll end our
days here in the Manillas. Alack, my Betsy! I'll never look into her
eyes again."

"She's down a little by the head, an't please you," cried a sailor,
running aft.

"Ease her a little, then. Toss over some of the dunnage."

"Lor'! Lor'! Spare us all this day!" yelled a sailor a minute later.

"What is it?"

"I tried to put my knife on the rail here, while I gripped the line I
was to cut, when it tugged at my hand like a live thing. In a fright
I let go, and away it flew toward the shore. Oh, we've reached the
Devil's country. Why ever did I leave England?"

"How of the compass?"

"It points steady to that rock."

"Master captain! Master captain!" shouted the steward, running upon
deck. "The fiend is in the after-castle, for the pans and the knives
and a blunderbuss and two cutlasses that were loose have leaped
against the forward panelling and stick there as if rivets were
through them. 'Tis wizard's work. Let us pray, all."

A sudden commotion was seen among the sailors at that moment. The
cannon balls had rolled forward to the break of the forecastle, and
the two guns themselves--the ship's armament against the pirates of
China and Sulu--were straining at their stays.

"Heave over the shot. It'll lighten her," ordered the captain.

The crew obeyed, but after the first of the balls had been lifted
over the bulwarks, they had scarce the strength to cast out the rest,
for amazement overcame them on seeing the shot plucked from the man's
hands and blown through the air as if sent from its gun toward the
rock. The ship was leaping through the water, though the breeze
was from the land. One after another the men fell on their knees
and prayed loudly, the captain last of all. Suddenly he looked up,
with a wondering flash in his eyes. He sprang to his feet, plucked
an iron belaying-pin from its ledge, held it up, felt it pull, let
go, and saw it whirl away like a leaf in a cyclone. He looked at the
compass; the needle pointed straight toward the black and glistening
cliff now lowering not more than half a mile ahead.

"It's the guns," he shrieked. "Up with you. Cut away the
lashings. Stave down the bulwarks. Let them go."

In the panic there was no stopping to argue or to question. The guns
were freed, and they, too, went hurtling through the air, striking
the rock with a clang. The captain leaped to the helm and put it hard
a-starboard. The ship's pace slackened, she curved gracefully around,
and headed from the threatening coast. "Shake out all sail, lads,
for we're free at last, by God's good grace."

Though trembling and confused, the sailors managed to hoist sail,
and on a gentle wind from the east they left that coast never more to
venture near it. The captain's face lost its knots and seams, by slow
degrees the color of it returned,--a color painted upon it, especially
about the nose, by many winds, much sunshine, and uncounted bottles
of strong waters. He wiped his brow and drew a big breath. "It comes
to me, now," he said. "We've not been bewitched. That hill beyond,
that's robbed us of our guns and anchor, is a magnet,--the biggest
in the world."

In an earthquake, several years later, the magnet-mountain disappeared.

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