One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experience_ere, with results both strange and unique. The weather had been somewha_ultry, but not to any degree uncommon in the month of August. Saturda_vening was as fine as was ever known, and the great body of holiday-maker_aid out yesterday for visits to Mulgrave Woods, Robin Hood's Bay, Rig Mill, Runswick, Staithes, and the various trips in the neighborhood of Whitby. Th_teamers Emma and Scarborough made trips up and down the coast, and there wa_n unusual amount of `tripping' both to and from Whitby. The day was unusuall_ine till the afternoon, when some of the gossips who frequent the East Clif_hurchyard, and from the commanding eminence watch the wide sweep of se_isible to the north and east, called attention to a sudden show of `mare_ails' high in the sky to the northwest. The wind was then blowing from th_outhwest in the mild degree which in barometrical language is ranked `No. 2, light breeze.'
The coastguard on duty at once made report, and one old fisherman, who fo_ore than half a century has kept watch on weather signs from the East Cliff, foretold in an emphatic manner the coming of a sudden storm. The approach o_unset was so very beautiful, so grand in its masses of splendidly coloure_louds, that there was quite an assemblage on the walk along the cliff in th_ld churchyard to enjoy the beauty. Before the sun dipped below the black mas_f Kettleness, standing boldly athwart the western sky, its downward was wa_arked by myriad clouds of every sunset colour, flame, purple, pink, green, violet, and all the tints of gold, with here and there masses not large, bu_f seemingly absolute blackness, in all sorts of shapes, as well outlined a_olossal silhouettes. The experience was not lost on the painters, an_oubtless some of the sketches of the `Prelude to the Great Storm' will grac_he R. A and R. I. walls in May next.
More than one captain made up his mind then and there that his `cobble' or his `mule', as they term the different classes of boats, would remain in th_arbour till the storm had passed. The wind fell away entirely during th_vening, and at midnight there was a dead calm, a sultry heat, and tha_revailing intensity which, on the approach of thunder, affects persons of _ensitive nature.
There were but few lights in sight at sea, for even the coasting steamers, which usually hug the shore so closely, kept well to seaward, and but fe_ishing boats were in sight. The only sail noticeable was a foreign schoone_ith all sails set, which was seemingly going westwards. The foolhardiness o_gnorance of her officers was a prolific theme for comment whilst she remaine_n sight, and efforts were made to signal her to reduce sail in the face o_er danger. Before the night shut down she was seen with sails idly flappin_s she gently rolled on the undulating swell of the sea.
"As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean."
Shortly before ten o'clock the stillness of the air grew quite oppressive, an_he silence was so marked that the bleating of a sheep inland or the barkin_f a dog in the town was distinctly heard, and the band on the pier, with it_ively French air, was like a dischord in the great harmony of nature'_ilence. A little after midnight came a strange sound from over the sea, an_igh overhead the air began to carry a strange, faint, hollow booming.
Then without warning the tempest broke. With a rapidity which, at the time, seemed incredible, and even afterwards is impossible to realize, the whol_spect of nature at once became convulsed. The waves rose in growing fury, each overtopping its fellow, till in a very few minutes the lately glassy se_as like a roaring and devouring monster. Whitecrested waves beat madly on th_evel sands and rushed up the shelving cliffs. Others broke over the piers, and with their spume swept the lanthorns of the lighthouses which rise fro_he end of either pier of Whitby Harbour.
The wind roared like thunder, and blew with such force that it was wit_ifficulty that even strong men kept their feet, or clung with grim clasp t_he iron stanchions. It was found necessary to clear the entire pier from th_ass of onlookers, or else the fatalities of the night would have increase_anifold. To add to the difficulties and dangers of the time, masses of sea- fog came drifting inland. White, wet clouds, which swept by in ghostl_ashion, so dank and damp and cold that it needed but little effort o_magination to think that the spirits of those lost at sea were touching thei_iving brethren with the clammy hands of death, and many a one shuddered a_he wreaths of sea-mist swept by.
At times the mist cleared, and the sea for some distance could be seen in th_lare of the lightning, which came thick and fast, followed by such peals o_hunder that the whole sky overhead seemed trembling under the shock of th_ootsteps of the storm.
Some of the scenes thus revealed were of immeasurable grandeur and o_bsorbing interest. The sea, running mountains high, threw skywards with eac_ave mighty masses of white foam, which the tempest seemed to snatch at an_hirl away into space. Here and there a fishing boat, with a rag of sail, running madly for shelter before the blast, now and again the white wings of _torm-tossed seabird. On the summit of the East Cliff the new searchlight wa_eady for experiment, but had not yet been tried. The officers in charge of i_ot it into working order, and in the pauses of onrushing mist swept with i_he surface of the sea. Once or twice its service was most effective, as whe_ fishing boat, with gunwale under water, rushed into the harbour, able, b_he guidance of the sheltering light, to avoid the danger of dashing agains_he piers. As each boat achieved the safety of the port there was a shout o_oy from the mass of people on the shore, a shout which for a moment seemed t_leave the gale and was then swept away in its rush.
Before long the searchlight discovered some distance away a schooner with al_ails set, apparently the same vessel which had been noticed earlier in th_vening. The wind had by this time backed to the east, and there was a shudde_mongst the watchers on the cliff as they realized the terrible danger i_hich she now was.
Between her and the port lay the great flat reef on which so many good ship_ave from time to time suffered, and, with the wind blowing from its presen_uarter, it would be quite impossible that she should fetch the entrance o_he harbour.
It was now nearly the hour of high tide, but the waves were so great that i_heir troughs the shallows of the shore were almost visible, and the schooner, with all sails set, was rushing with such speed that, in the words of one ol_alt, "she must fetch up somewhere, if it was only in hell". Then came anothe_ush of sea-fog, greater than any hitherto, a mass of dank mist, which seeme_o close on all things like a gray pall, and left available to men only th_rgan of hearing, for the roar of the tempest, and the crash of the thunder, and the booming of the mighty billows came through the damp oblivion eve_ouder than before. The rays of the searchlight were kept fixed on the harbou_outh across the East Pier, where the shock was expected, and men waite_reathless.
The wind suddenly shifted to the northeast, and the remnant of the sea fo_elted in the blast. And then, mirabile dictu, between the piers, leaping fro_ave to wave as it rushed at headlong speed, swept the strange schooner befor_he blast, with all sail set, and gained the safety of the harbour. Th_earchlight followed her, and a shudder ran through all who saw her, fo_ashed to the helm was a corpse, with drooping head, which swung horribly t_nd fro at each motion of the ship. No other form could be seen on the deck a_ll.
A great awe came on all as they realised that the ship, as if by a miracle, had found the harbour, unsteered save by the hand of a dead man! However, al_ook place more quickly than it takes to write these words. The schoone_aused not, but rushing across the harbour, pitched herself on tha_ccumulation of sand and gravel washed by many tides and many storms into th_outheast corner of the pier jutting under the East Cliff, known locally a_ate Hill Pier.
There was of course a considerable concussion as the vessel drove up on th_and heap. Every spar, rope, and stay was strained, and some of the `top- hammer' came crashing down. But, strangest of all, the very instant the shor_as touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by th_oncussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand.
Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over th_aneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones, thruffsteans or through-stones, as they call them in Whitby vernacular, actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, i_isappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus o_he searchlight.
It so happened that there was no one at the moment on Tate Hill Pier, as al_hose whose houses are in close proximity were either in bed or were out o_he heights above. Thus the coastguard on duty on the eastern side of th_arbour, who at once ran down to the little pier, was the first to clim_board. The men working the searchlight, after scouring the entrance of th_arbour without seeing anything, then turned the light on the derelict an_ept it there. The coastguard ran aft, and when he came beside the wheel, ben_ver to examine it, and recoiled at once as though under some sudden emotion.
This seemed to pique general curiosity, and quite a number of people began t_un.
It is a good way round from the West Cliff by the Drawbridge to Tate Hil_ier, but your correspondent is a fairly good runner, and came well ahead o_he crowd. When I arrived, however, I found already assembled on the pier _rowd, whom the coastguard and police refused to allow to come on board. B_he courtesy of the chief boatman, I was, as your correspondent, permitted t_limb on deck, and was one of a small group who saw the dead seaman whils_ctually lashed to the wheel.
It was no wonder that the coastguard was surprised, or even awed, for no_ften can such a sight have been seen. The man was simply fastened by hi_ands, tied one over the other, to a spoke of the wheel. Between the inne_and and the wood was a crucifix, the set of beads on which it was fastene_eing around both wrists and wheel, and all kept fast by the binding cords.
The poor fellow may have been seated at one time, but the flapping an_uffeting of the sails had worked through the rudder of the wheel and ha_ragged him to and fro, so that the cords with which he was tied had cut th_lesh to the bone.
Accurate note was made of the state of things, and a doctor, Surgeon J. M.
Caffyn, of 33, East Elliot Place, who came immediately after me, declared, after making examination, that the man must have been dead for quite two days.
In his pocket was a bottle, carefully corked, empty save for a little roll o_aper, which proved to be the addendum to the log.
The coastguard said the man must have tied up his own hands, fastening th_nots with his teeth. The fact that a coastguard was the first on board ma_ave some complications later on, in the Admiralty Court, for coastguard_annot claim the salvage which is the right of the first civilian entering o_ derelict. Already, however, the legal tongues are wagging, and one young la_tudent is loudly asserting that the rights of the owner are alread_ompletely sacrificed, his property being held in contravention of the statue_f mortmain, since the tiller, as emblemship, if not proof, of delegate_ossession, is held in a dead hand.
It is needless to say that the dead steersman has been reverently removed fro_he place where he held his honourable watch and ward till death, _teadfastness as noble as that of the young Casabianca, and placed in th_ortuary to await inquest.
Already the sudden storm is passing, and its fierceness is abating. Crowds ar_cattering backward, and the sky is beginning to redden over the Yorkshir_olds.
I shall send, in time for your next issue, further details of the derelic_hip which found her way so miraculously into harbour in the storm.
9 August.—The sequel to the strange arrival of the derelict in the storm las_ight is almost more startling than the thing itself. It turns out that th_chooner is Russian from Varna, and is called the Demeter. She is almos_ntirely in ballast of silver sand, with only a small amount of cargo, _umber of great wooden boxes filled with mould.
This cargo was consigned to a Whitby solicitor, Mr. S. F. Billington, of 7, The Crescent, who this morning went aboard and took formal possession of th_oods consigned to him.
The Russian consul, too, acting for the charter-party, took formal possessio_f the ship, and paid all harbour dues, etc.
Nothing is talked about here today except the strange coincidence. Th_fficials of the Board of Trade have been most exacting in seeing that ever_ompliance has been made with existing regulations. As the matter is to be a `nine days wonder', they are evidently determined that there shall be no caus_f other complaint.
A good deal of interest was abroad concerning the dog which landed when th_hip struck, and more than a few of the members of the S. P.C.A., which i_ery strong in Whitby, have tried to befriend the animal. To the genera_isappointment, however, it was not to be found. It seems to have disappeare_ntirely from the town. It may be that it was frightened and made its way o_o the moors, where it is still hiding in terror.
There are some who look with dread on such a possibility, lest later on i_hould in itself become a danger, for it is evidently a fierce brute. Earl_his morning a large dog, a half-bred mastiff belonging to a coal merchan_lose to Tate Hill Pier, was found dead in the roadway opposite its master'_ard. It had been fighting, and manifestly had had a savage opponent, for it_hroat was torn away, and its belly was slit open as if with a savage claw.
Later.—By the kindness of the Board of Trade inspector, I have been permitte_o look over the log book of the Demeter, which was in order up to withi_hree days, but contained nothing of special interest except as to facts o_issing men. The greatest interest, however, is with regard to the paper foun_n the bottle, which was today produced at the inquest. And a more strang_arrative than the two between them unfold it has not been my lot to com_cross.
As there is no motive for concealment, I am permitted to use them, an_ccordingly send you a transcript, simply omitting technical details o_eamanship and supercargo. It almost seems as though the captain had bee_eized with some kind of mania before he had got well into blue water, an_hat this had developed persistently throughout the voyage. Of course m_tatement must be taken cum grano, since I am writing from the dictation of _lerk of the Russian consul, who kindly translated for me, time being short.
LOG OF THE "DEMETER" Varna to Whitby
Written 18 July, things so strange happening, that I shall keep accurate not_enceforth till we land.
On 6 July we finished taking in cargo, silver sand and boxes of earth. At noo_et sail. East wind, fresh. Crew, five hands … two mates, cook, and myself, (captain).
On 11 July at dawn entered Bosphorus. Boarded by Turkish Customs officers.
Backsheesh. All correct. Under way at 4 p. m.
On 12 July through Dardanelles. More Customs officers and flagboat of guardin_quadron. Backsheesh again. Work of officers thorough, but quick. Want us of_oon. At dark passed into Archipelago.
On 13 July passed Cape Matapan. Crew dissatisfied about something. Seeme_cared, but would not speak out.
On 14 July was somewhat anxious about crew. Men all steady fellows, who saile_ith me before. Mate could not make out what was wrong. They only told hi_here was SOME- THING, and crossed themselves. Mate lost temper with one o_hem that day and struck him. Expected fierce quarrel, but all was quiet.
On 16 July mate reported in the morning that one of the crew, Petrofsky, wa_issing. Could not account for it. Took larboard watch eight bells last night, was relieved by Amramoff, but did not go to bunk. Men more downcast than ever.
All said they expected something of the kind, but would not say more tha_here was SOMETHING aboard. Mate getting very impatient with them. Feared som_rouble ahead.
On 17 July, yesterday, one of the men, Olgaren, came to my cabin, and in a_westruck way confided to me that he thought there was a strange man aboar_he ship. He said that in his watch he had been sheltering behind th_eckhouse, as there was a rain storm, when he saw a tall, thin man, who wa_ot like any of the crew, come up the companionway, and go along the dec_orward and disappear. He followed cautiously, but when he got to bows foun_o one, and the hatchways were all closed. He was in a panic of superstitiou_ear, and I am afraid the panic may spread. To allay it, I shall today searc_he entire ship carefully from stem to stern.
Later in the day I got together the whole crew, and told them, as the_vidently thought there was some one in the ship, we would search from stem t_tern. First mate angry, said it was folly, and to yield to such foolish idea_ould demoralise the men, said he would engage to keep them out of troubl_ith the handspike. I let him take the helm, while the rest began a thoroug_earch, all keeping abreast, with lanterns. We left no corner unsearched. A_here were only the big wooden boxes, there were no odd corners where a ma_ould hide. Men much relieved when search over, and went back to wor_heerfully. First mate scowled, but said nothing.
22 July.—Rough weather last three days, and all hands busy with sails, no tim_o be frightened. Men seem to have forgotten their dread. Mate cheerful again, and all on good terms. Praised men for work in bad weather. Passed Gibralta_nd out through Straits. All well.
24 July.—There seems some doom over this ship. Already a hand short, an_ntering the Bay of Biscay with wild weather ahead, and yet last night anothe_an lost, disappeared. Like the first, he came off his watch and was not see_gain. Men all in a panic of fear, sent a round robin, asking to have doubl_atch, as they fear to be alone. Mate angry. Fear there will be some trouble, as either he or the men will do some violence.
28 July.—Four days in hell, knocking about in a sort of malestrom, and th_ind a tempest. No sleep for any one. Men all worn out. Hardly know how to se_ watch, since no one fit to go on. Second mate volunteered to steer an_atch, and let men snatch a few hours sleep. Wind abating, seas stil_errific, but feel them less, as ship is steadier.
29 July.—Another tragedy. Had single watch tonight, as crew too tired t_ouble. When morning watch came on deck could find no one except steersman.
Raised outcry, and all came on deck. Thorough search, but no one found. Ar_ow without second mate, and crew in a panic. Mate and I agreed to go arme_enceforth and wait for any sign of cause.
30 July.—Last night. Rejoiced we are nearing England. Weather fine, all sail_et. Retired worn out, slept soundly, awakened by mate telling me that bot_an of watch and steersman missing. Only self and mate and two hands left t_ork ship.
1 August.—Two days of fog, and not a sail sighted. Had hoped when in th_nglish Channel to be able to signal for help or get in somewhere. Not havin_ower to work sails, have to run before wind. Dare not lower, as could no_aise them again. We seem to be drifting to some terrible doom. Mate now mor_emoralised than either of men. His stronger nature seems to have worke_nwardly against himself. Men are beyond fear, working stolidly and patiently, with minds made up to worst. They are Russian, he Roumanian.
2 August, midnight.—Woke up from few minutes sleep by hearing a cry, seemingl_utside my port. Could see nothing in fog. Rushed on deck, and ran agains_ate. Tells me he heard cry and ran, but no sign of man on watch. One mor_one. Lord, help us! Mate says we must be past Straits of Dover, as in _oment of fog lifting he saw North Foreland, just as he heard the man cry out.
If so we are now off in the North Sea, and only God can guide us in the fog, which seems to move with us, and God seems to have deserted us.
3 August.—At midnight I went to relieve the man at the wheel and when I got t_t found no one there. The wind was steady, and as we ran before it there wa_o yawing. I dared not leave it, so shouted for the mate. After a few seconds, he rushed up on deck in his flannels. He looked wild-eyed and haggard, and _reatly fear his reason has given way. He came close to me and whispere_oarsely, with his mouth to my ear, as though fearing the very air might hear.
"It is here. I know it now. On the watch last night I saw It, like a man, tal_nd thin, and ghastly pale. It was in the bows, and looking out. I crep_ehind It, and gave it my knife, but the knife went through It, empty as th_ir." And as he spoke he took the knife and drove it savagely into space. The_e went on, "But It is here, and I'll find It. It is in the hold, perhaps i_ne of those boxes. I'll unscrew them one by one and see. You work the helm."
And with a warning look and his finger on his lip, he went below. There wa_pringing up a choppy wind, and I could not leave the helm. I saw him come ou_n deck again with a tool chest and lantern, and go down the forward hatchway.
He is mad, stark, raving mad, and it's no use my trying to stop him. He can'_urt those big boxes, they are invoiced as clay, and to pull them about is a_armless a thing as he can do. So here I stay and mind the helm, and writ_hese notes. I can only trust in God and wait till the fog clears. Then, if _an't steer to any harbour with the wind that is, I shall cut down sails, an_ie by, and signal for help …
It is nearly all over now. Just as I was beginning to hope that the mate woul_ome out calmer, for I heard him knocking away at something in the hold, an_ork is good for him, there came up the hatchway a sudden, startled scream, which made my blood run cold, and up on the deck he came as if shot from _un, a raging madman, with his eyes rolling and his face convulsed with fear.
"Save me! Save me!" he cried, and then looked round on the blanket of fog. Hi_orror turned to despair, and in a steady voice he said,"You had better com_oo, captain, before it is too late. He is there! I know the secret now. Th_ea will save me from Him, and it is all that is left!" Before I could say _ord, or move forward to seize him, he sprang on the bulwark and deliberatel_hrew himself into the sea. I suppose I know the secret too, now. It was thi_adman who had got rid of the men one by one, and now he has followed the_imself. God help me! How am I to account for all these horrors when I get t_ort? When I get to port! Will that ever be?
4 August.—Still fog, which the sunrise cannot pierce, I know there is sunris_ecause I am a sailor, why else I know not. I dared not go below, I dared no_eave the helm, so here all night I stayed, and in the dimness of the night _aw it, Him! God, forgive me, but the mate was right to jump overboard. It wa_etter to die like a man. To die like a sailor in blue water, no man ca_bject. But I am captain, and I must not leave my ship. But I shall baffl_his fiend or monster, for I shall tie my hands to the wheel when my strengt_egins to fail, and along with them I shall tie that which He, It, dare no_ouch. And then, come good wind or foul, I shall save my soul, and my honou_s a captain. I am growing weaker, and the night is coming on. If He can loo_e in the face again, I may not have time to act … If we are wrecked, mayha_his bottle may be found, and those who find it may understand. If not … well, then all men shall know that I have been true to my trust. God and the Blesse_irgin and the Saints help a poor ignorant soul trying to do his duty …
Of course the verdict was an open one. There is no evidence to adduce, an_hether or not the man himself committed the murders there is now none to say.
The folk here hold almost universally that the captain is simply a hero, an_e is to be given a public funeral. Already it is arranged that his body is t_e taken with a train of boats up the Esk for a piece and then brought back t_ate Hill Pier and up the abbey steps, for he is to be buried in th_hurchyard on the cliff. The owners of more than a hundred boats have alread_iven in their names as wishing to follow him to the grave.
No trace has ever been found of the great dog, at which there is muc_ourning, for, with public opinion in its present state, he would, I believe, be adopted by the town. Tomorrow will see the funeral, and so will end thi_ne more `mystery of the sea'.
MINA MURRAY'S JOURNAL
8 August.—Lucy was very restless all night, and I too, could not sleep. Th_torm was fearful, and as it boomed loudly among the chimney pots, it made m_hudder. When a sharp puff came it seemed to be like a distant gun. Strangel_nough, Lucy did not wake, but she got up twice and dressed herself.
Fortunately, each time I awoke in time and managed to undress her withou_aking her, and got her back to bed. It is a very strange thing, this sleep- walking, for as soon as her will is thwarted in any physical way, he_ntention, if there be any, disappears, and she yields herself almost exactl_o the routine of her life.
Early in the morning we both got up and went down to the harbour to see i_nything had happened in the night. There were very few people about, an_hough the sun was bright, and the air clear and fresh, the big, grim-lookin_aves, that seemed dark themselves because the foam that topped them was lik_now, forced themselves in through the mouth of the harbour, like a bullyin_an going through a crowd. Somehow I felt glad that Jonathan was not on th_ea last night, but on land. But, oh, is he on land or sea? Where is he, an_ow? I am getting fearfully anxious about him. If I only knew what to do, an_ould do anything!
10 August.—The funeral of the poor sea captain today was most touching. Ever_oat in the harbour seemed to be there, and the coffin was carried by captain_ll the way from Tate Hill Pier up to the churchyard. Lucy came with me, an_e went early to our old seat, whilst the cortege of boats went up the rive_o the Viaduct and came down again. We had a lovely view, and saw th_rocession nearly all the way. The poor fellow was laid to rest near our sea_o that we stood on it, when the time came and saw everything.
Poor Lucy seemed much upset. She was restless and uneasy all the time, and _annot but think that her dreaming at night is telling on her. She is quit_dd in one thing. She will not admit to me that there is any cause fo_estlessness, or if there be, she does not understand it herself.
There is an additional cause in that poor Mr. Swales was found dead thi_orning on our seat, his neck being broken. He had evidently, as the docto_aid, fallen back in the seat in some sort of fright, for there was a look o_ear and horror on his face that the men said made them shudder. Poor dear ol_an!
Lucy is so sweet and sensitive that she feels influences more acutely tha_ther people do. Just now she was quite upset by a little thing which I di_ot much heed, though I am myself very fond of animals.
One of the men who came up here often to look for the boats was followed b_is dog. The dog is always with him. They are both quiet persons, and I neve_aw the man angry, nor heard the dog bark. During the service the dog woul_ot come to its master, who was on the seat with us, but kept a few yards off, barking and howling. Its master spoke to it gently, and then harshly, and the_ngrily. But it would neither come nor cease to make a noise. It was in _ury, with its eyes savage, and all its hair bristling out like a cat's tai_hen puss is on the war path.
Finally the man too got angry, and jumped down and kicked the dog, and the_ook it by the scruff of the neck and half dragged and half threw it on th_ombstone on which the seat is fixed. The moment it touched the stone the poo_hing began to tremble. It did not try to get away, but crouched down, quivering and cowering, and was in such a pitiable state of terror that _ried, though without effect, to comfort it.
Lucy was full of pity, too, but she did not attempt to touch the dog, bu_ooked at it in an agonised sort of way. I greatly fear that she is of to_uper sensitive a nature to go through the world without trouble. She will b_reaming of this tonight, I am sure. The whole agglomeration of things, th_hip steered into port by a dead man, his attitude, tied to the wheel with _rucifix and beads, the touching funeral, the dog, now furious and now i_error, will all afford material for her dreams.
I think it will be best for her to go to bed tired out physically, so I shal_ake her for a long walk by the cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay and back. She ough_ot to have much inclination for sleep-walking then.