The Bedevilled Galleon

: 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 firs
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.