Sigsand Manuscript


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 For the first couple of weeks out, nothing unusual happened, and the wind still held fair. I began to feel that I had been rather lucky, after all, in the packet into which I had been shunted. Most of the other fellows gave her a good name, and there was a pretty general opinion growing among the crowd, that it was all a silly yarn about her being haunted. And then, just when I was settling down to things, something happened that opened my eyes no end.

It was in the eight to twelve watch, and I was sitting on the steps, on the starboard side, leading up to the fo'cas'le head. The night was fine and there was a splendid moon. Away aft, I heard the timekeeper strike four bells, and the look-out, an old fellow named Jaskett, answered him. As he let go the bell lanyard, he caught sight of me, where I sat quietly, smoking. He leant over the rail, and looked down at me.

"That you, Jessop?" he asked.

"I believe it is," I replied.

"We'd 'ave our gran'mothers an' all the rest of our petticoated relash'ns comin' to sea, if 'twere always like this," he remarked, reflectively--indicating, with a sweep of his pipe and hand, the calmness of the sea and sky.

I saw no reason for denying that, and he continued:

"If this ole packet is 'aunted, as some on 'em seems to think, well all as I can say is, let me 'ave the luck to tumble across another of the same sort. Good grub, an' duff fer Sundays, an' a decent crowd of 'em aft, an' everythin' comfertable like, so as yer can feel yer knows where yer are. As fer 'er bein' 'aunted, that's all 'ellish nonsense. I've comed 'cross lots of 'em before as was said to be 'aunted, an' so some on 'em was; but 'twasn' t with ghostesses. One packet I was in, they was that bad yer couldn't sleep a wink in yer watch below, until yer'd 'ad every stitch out yer bunk an' 'ad a reg'lar 'unt. Sometimes--" At that moment, the relief, one of the ordinary seamen, went up the other ladder on to the fo'cas'le head, and the old chap turned to ask him "Why the 'ell" he'd not relieved him a bit smarter. The ordinary made some reply; but what it was, I did not catch; for, abruptly, away aft, my rather sleepy gaze had lighted on something altogether extraordinary and outrageous. It was nothing less than the form of a man stepping inboard over the starboard rail, a little abaft the main rigging. I stood up, and caught at the handrail, and stared.

Behind me, someone spoke. It was the look-out, who had come down off the fo'cas'le head, on his way aft to report the name of his relief to the second mate.

"What is it, mate?" he asked, curiously, seeing my intent attitude.

The thing, whatever it was, had disappeared into the shadows on the lee side of the deck.

"Nothing!" I replied, shortly; for I was too bewildered then, at what my eyes had just shown me, to say any more. I wanted to think.

The old shellback glanced at me; but only muttered something, and went on his way aft.

For a minute, perhaps, I stood there, watching; but could see nothing. Then I walked slowly aft, as far as the after end of the deck house. From there, I could see most of the main deck; but nothing showed, except, of course, the moving shadows of the ropes and spars and sails, as they swung to and fro in the moonlight.

The old chap who had just come off the look-out, had returned forrard again, and I was alone on that part of the deck. And then, all at once, as I stood peering into the shadows to leeward, I remembered what Williams had said about there being too many "shadders." I had been puzzled to understand his real meaning, then. I had no difficulty now. There were too many shadows. Yet, shadows or no shadows, I realised that for my own peace of mind, I must settle, once and for all, whether the thing I had seemed to see stepping aboard out of the ocean, had been a reality, or simply a phantom, as you might say, of my imagination. My reason said it was nothing more than imagination, a rapid dream--I must have dozed; but something deeper than reason told me that this was not so. I put it to the test, and went straight in amongst the shadows--There was nothing.

I grew bolder. My common sense told me I must have fancied it all. I walked over to the mainmast, and looked behind the pinrail that partly surrounded it, and down into the shadow of the pumps; but here again was nothing. Then I went in under the break of the poop. It was darker under there than out on deck. I looked up both sides of the deck, and saw that they were bare of anything such as I looked for. The assurance was comforting. I glanced at the poop ladders, and remembered that nothing could have gone up there, without the Second Mate or the Time-keeper seeing it. Then I leant my back up against the bulkshead, and thought the whole matter over, rapidly, sucking at my pipe, and keeping my glance about the deck. I concluded my think, and said "No!" out loud. Then something occurred to me, and I said "Unless--" and went over to the starboard bulwarks, and looked over and down into the sea; but there was nothing but sea; and so I turned and made my way forrard. My common sense had triumphed, and I was convinced that my imagination had been playing tricks with me.

I reached the door on the portside, leading into the fo'cas'le, and was about to enter, when something made me look behind. As I did so, I had a shaker. Away aft, a dim, shadowy form stood in the wake of a swaying belt of moonlight, that swept the deck a bit abaft the main-mast.


  「もし、みんながいうごと、このぼろ船が取り憑かれっちょるちゅうんだったら、そげなもんに会ってみてえもんじゃな。考えちみない、いい飯、日曜日の堅プディング、船尾楼にはふさわしい奴ら、それに、心地よう思えること全部、そうすりゃ御自分がどこにおるのかわかりなさるじゃろうよ。この娘が呪われちゅうなんざ、くだらねえ戯事さな。今まで呪われちょるちゅう船にゃ何度も乗ってきたがよ、そこの奴らは憑かれちょったな、けどよ、幽霊なんぞたぁ御対面できなんだな。前に乗ったある船なんざ、非直になっても一睡もできんごとひどかったぜ。服もシーツも全部、寝棚からおっぽり出して、いつもの狩りば済まさんとな。時々・・・」  そのとき、オーディナリーのひとりが交替に、船首楼へ続く別の梯子を登ってきた。老水夫は振り返るとそいつに『いったい何で』もうちっと早く交替できんかの、といって、それにオーディナリーが何か答えたが俺の耳には入らなかった。寝ぼけ眼ではあったが、船尾のほうに何かとんでもないものがいるのが目が留まったんだ。そいつは人の形をしていて、右舷メインリギングの少し船尾寄りの手摺りを乗り越えて来たとしか見えなかった。俺は立ち上がり、手摺りを掴んで、じっと目を凝らした。
 どんどん大胆になっていった。常識的に考えて、俺は幻を見ていただけに違いないんだ。俺はメイン・マストまで歩いていって、それをコの字に囲っているピンレールの後ろを覗いてみた。揚水器の闇も覗いてみた。そこにも何もいなかった。そして船尾楼のブレークの下に行ってみた。そこはデッキよりももっと暗かったな。デッキの両側を見上げたが、すぐに探しているようなものは何もないと思った。この確信ははっきりしてきた。船尾楼の梯子をちらと目をやって、どんなものもそこは登ってなんかいけやしないことを思い出したのさ。行けばきっと二等航海士か計時係が見るはずだからな。俺は隔壁にもたれ、デッキから目を離さずにパイプをふかしながら、それまで起こったこと全てに、素早く考えを巡らせた。それで、自分なりの結論を出した。「気のせいだ!」俺は大きな声で呟いた。だが、その時ふと思い浮かんだことがあって 「いや、待てよ……」と続けた。俺は右舷の舷檣から海を覗き込んだが、海面の他には何も見えなかった。それで、俺は踵を返し、船首へと歩いていった。常識の勝ちだな。どうやら俺は自分の空想に一杯食わされたらしい。そう確信してたよ。