THE TALE OF THE GHOST SHIP
“Now I know what to do,” continued Abraham, “my grandfather, an experienced and traveled man, taught me a charm, which exorcised all evil spirits. But first we must resist the strange, unnatural sleep that had overtaken us the night before. If we recite verses from the Koran the moment we begin feeling drowsy, we shall not sleep.”
I agreed with the old man’s plan. We retired to a closet next to the cabin and drilled several holes in the door, through which we had a view of the whole cabin. Then we secured the door on the inside and I wrote the name of the Prophet in each of the four corners of the closet. Thus prepared, we awaited the horrors of the night.
Around eleven o’clock I again began to feel drowsy. I at once repeated some prayers from the Koran and soon felt my head clear. Suddenly the deck seemed to come alive, ropes creaked, steps sounded loudly and a babble of voices broke out. We waited tensely for a few minutes, and then we heard someone coming down. Abraham immediately began to repeat his grandfather’s charm.
I admit that I did not have much faith in the power of the charm and when the door flew open my hair stood on end. The tall, well-built man with a sword entered. He had a pale face and a thick black beard. As he was richly dressed I thought that he was the captain of the ship. Though his sword was in its scabbard I began to tremble with fear. Behind him was another man, not so well-dressed, whom I had seen lying on the deck among the dead. The captain’s eyes darted wildly about the cabin in a way which terrified me. I saw him very clearly for he passed close to the door behind which we were hidden, but he did not notice us. Both men sat down at the table and began to talk loudly in what was to me an unknown language. At times their voices rose almost to a shriek. They grew more and more impassioned until finally the captain dealt the table a blow with his clenched fist which made the whole place ring. The other jumped up with a wild laugh and indicated that the captain should go with him. The captain stood up, drew his sword and they both left the room. We breathed more freely when they were outside the door. But the noise on the deck increased. We heard rushing feet, shouts, laughter and yells. Finally, such a pandemonium broke loose that it seemed as though the whole deck were about to come crashing down on us. Above this the clash of arms and coarse oaths sounded. Then suddenly everything became quiet and a mantle of silence fell over the ship. After half an hour we ventured upstairs and found everything as it had been before, with the corpses lying stiff and immobile on the deck.
We tried once again to move them, but without success. The charm had failed. That night and the following night the macabre scene was repeated as we cowered in our closet – the terrifying quarrel in the cabin, the shouts, screams and oaths on deck, the clash of arms and, finally, silence; and, in the morning, the ghastly tableau unchanged.
Abraham and I debated long and earnestly about our terrible situation. We came to the conclusion that, somehow, we must try to sail the ship towards land. I set a course for the east where I calculated land could lie.
During the first day the wind was in our favour and we made good progress. But as night drew in the wind seemed to change and blew directly in our faces. It was impossible to keep the ship on course. Some malignant power seemed to hold the vessel in its sway, locking the rudder and sending the ship back along its course. To add to our terror, we soon began to feel the familiar drowsiness. We crept below and gave ourselves up to the torpor that was stealing over us.
The next morning I checked our position and found that our previous day’s progress had been wiped out and that we were back at the position from which we had started. Who could describe the horror that filled us then! We were doomed to remain on the haunted vessel until our provision ran out or we threw ourselves into the waves. Abraham suggested that we should try the charm once more. In it lay our only hope of salvation. I agreed, and we copied out the verse on several pieces of parchment and attached them to the sails. During the day the wind again veered in our favour, and we made up the ground we had lost during the night. That night we once more retired to our closet and prayed fervently to Allah that this time the charm would work.
In the morning, to our joy, we found that the ship had continued on its course during the night. In this way we covered a considerable distance in a few days and, on the morning of the eighth day, we sighted land. We fell on our knees on the deck and thanked Allah and his Prophet for our miraculous deliverance. That day and the following night we sailed up the coast, and on the ninth morning we sighted a town close at hand. With a great effort we dropped anchor, lowered a small boat and rowed for the shore. In less than half-an-hour we reached the land. At the gate of the town we asked its name from a passer-by and learned that we were in India, not far from the place for which we had originally set sail. We repaired to an inn and refreshed ourselves after our adventurous journey. After our meal I drew the innkeeper aside and asked him where I might find a wise man who knew something of the magic arts. He led me to a modest-looking dwelling in a side street and knocked. A grey-bearded old man opened the door and told me to go in.
ACTIVITIES & EXERCISES
I. Comprehension Check
Are the sentences true (+) or false (-)?
1. I at once repeated some prayers from the Koran and soon felt my hands clear.
2. We waited tensely for a few minutes, and then we heard nothing.
3. The captain’s eyes darted wildly about the cabin in a way which terrified me.
4. Then suddenly everything became quiet and a mantle of silence fell over the boat.
5. We decided not to move them, but without success.
6. Abraham and I debated long and earnestly about our terrible situation.
7. Abraham suggested that we should try the charm once more.
8. In the morning, to our joy, we found that the ship had continued on its course during the day.
9. With a great effort we dropped anchor, caught a small fish and rowed for the shore.
10. We repaired to an inn and refreshed ourselves after our adventurous journey.
Answers: 1. F (hands/head); 2. F (nothing/someone coming down); 3. T; 4. F (boat/ship); 5. F (decided not/tried once again); 6. T; 7. T; 8. F (the day/the night); 9. F (caught a small fish/lowered a small boat); 10. T
Put the words in the correct order and write sentences (all of them are statements).
1. immediately, to repeat, grandfather’s, Abraham, his, began, charm.
2. man, with, the, tall, a, sword, entered, well-built.
3. richly, I, that, he, thought, the, he, captain, the, was, ship, of, dressed, as, was.
4. were, when, more, breathed, they, door, freely, outside, the, we.
5. and, long, about, terrible, earnestly, situation, I, debated, our, and, Abraham.
6. to, the, was, on, keep, ship, impossible, it, course.
7. describe, could, the, who, that, us, then, horror, filled!
8. once, that, should, Abraham, we, more, try, charm, suggested, the.
9. we, the, than, in, land, half-an-hour, reached, less.
10. old, opened, a, the, and, me, go, door, man, to, told, grey-bearded, in.
1. Abraham immediately began to repeat his grandfather’s charm.
2. A tall, well-built man with a sword entered
3. As he was richly dressed I thought that he was the captain of the ship.
4. We breathed more freely when they were outside the door.
5. Abraham and I debated long and earnestly about our terrible situation.
6. It was impossible to keep the ship on course.
7. Who could describe the horror that filled us then!
8. Abraham suggested that we should try the charm once more.
9. In less than half-an-hour we reached the land.
10. A grey-bearded old man opened the door and told me to go in.
III. Pronunciation Task
The words below have “ou” that mostly sounds [au]. Use your dictionary to check the pronunciation. Underline the words which are odd-sounding. Practice saying these words.
around, sounded, loudly, thought, though, about, outside, shouts, hour, found, without, our, course, could, favour, ourselves, should, ground, would, miraculous, adventurous, journey
Answers: thought, though, course, could, favour, should, would, miraculous, adventurous, journey
In English there are many word prefixes (beginnings) that can be added to a word to change its meaning. The prefixes “un-” and “im-” are used in front of many words to produce an opposite meaning. The prefix “over-” denotes “too much” or “above”.
There are some words below. Choose the prefix, add to a word, and form a new one. Translate both words and compare their meanings. Find these words in the text to check your answers.
natural, taken, known, passion, mobile, changed, possible
Answers: unnatural, overtaken, unknown, impassioned, immobile, unchanged, impossible
What do you think would happen next in the story? The questions below could help you to guess its end.
1. Would the narrator meet the wise Mulej?
2. What would the wise Mulej say to the narrator?
3. Would the wise Mulej teach the narrator a charm which could exorcise all evil spirits?
4. Do you think the crew of the ship was dead or alive?
5. Do you think the crew of the ship was damned for some godless deed?
6. Would the narrator and Abraham get rid of the corpses?
7. Would anybody help them to get rid of the corpses?
8. Who would the ship and its cargo belong to?
9. Do you think it would be right if the ship and its cargo belonged to the narrator?
10. Would the narrator and Abraham sail for their homeland or stay in India?