BRITISH COMICS

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THE GHOST SHIP

First episode taken from The Skipper No. 87 - April 30th 1932.

THE GREATEST PIRATE STORY ABOUT THE WORLD’S GREATEST PIRATE.

THE VESSEL THAT CAN VANISH IN A FLASH.

 

OUT OF NOWHERE

A long, lean shaped craft cut its way across the rollers of the Caribbean Sea. She was no more than eighty feet in length and very narrow in the beam; any navyman would have recognised her as an old M.L., the very fast type of motor launch which had been built during the Great War to guard Britain’s coasts from the German U-boats. The two men on her tiny bridge paid no heed to the heavy seas. They were staring at a vessel dead ahead. The taller of the two men suddenly lowered his glasses. “That’s the Lorraine all right,” he snapped. “She’s flying the U.T.L. house flag.” The tall man was a commanding figure. Every line of his body spoke of strength; his face showed an iron will and unbreakable courage. His eyes were keen and dark, and his skin was tanned by a lifetime at sea. “We’ve got ‘em, Hookey,” he growled. “Now we’ll let them see what the Ghost Ship can do.” Hookey Briggs grinned in anticipation. He was well under average height, but he was broad as a door and tough as teak. He had learned his sailoring in the British Navy. The pair were a distinct contrast, but one look at them told they were a pair to be reckoned with. And above their heads on the tiny mast fluttered the ancient ensign of sea adventurers—a black flag with a skull and crossbones! The Ghost Ship was a pirate, but surely the most unusual pirate vessel that ever sailed, for she could trap her victims with something much more effective than grappling irons. She was well named the Ghost Ship—as Captain Hackett of the s.s. Lorraine was soon to discover. She was invisible. Her hull was coated with a curious kind of paint, and when the light fell on her at a certain angle, this made her invisible. Looked at broadside, the outline of her hull could be seen, but end on, either from her bows or stern, it was impossible to spot her. She was well named the Ghost Ship—but she had another peculiar quality which could trap any ship better than any grappling iron. This was a liquid which when dropped into the sea became a thick butter-like mass and could stop a ship’s propeller. “Stand by, Hookey,” ordered the Ghost captain. “We’ll give Hackett a touch of the old game.” “Aye, aye, sir,” replied the smaller man, his eyes gleaming with excitement. He hurried to the stern and began to uncover a curious machine, much like a torpedo tube, but with a long, thin nozzle sticking out over the stern of the Ghost Ship. “The old game,” chuckled Hookey. “That skink Hackett won’t like it, either.”

On board the s.s. Lorraine the skipper had just come up to the bridge, and the young second officer turned excitedly to him. “Look out, sir, there’s a vessel straight ahead! We’re going to ram her amidships! She—she’s gone!” The young second officer rubbed his eyes in wonder, whilst the grim, unshaven man who had just reached the bridge deck turned from the wheel with a scowl. “What’s the matter with you, Murray? Are you drunk or mad? No ship there and there wasn’t one when you yelped. The sea’s clear to the horizon.” “Y-yes, sir, but I could have sworn there was a small fast ship out there directly ahead. It was broadside on when first I saw it, then when it turned it seemed to vanish.” The small, pig-like eyes of Captain Hackett gleamed angrily. He was never in a good temper on early morning watch. “Get down to your cabin and sleep it off!” he barked. “I’m taking over now. Tell that confounded steward to send me up some coffee.” The young officer nodded and hastened away, but before he descended the hatch he turned and stared in puzzled wonder ahead of the s.s. Lorraine. “Darned funny! I must be losing my eyesight. Could’ve sworn to it.” On the bridge Captain Hackett swore at the helmsman for easing off a point with the wind, and then took to pacing the short deck. The day after tomorrow they would be in Kingston, Jamaica, and he would not be sorry. He had a cargo to pick up that would have made the eyes of the authorities open wide if they had ever guessed what it was going to be. At the moment the steamer was in ballast, a big, old freighter flying the blue flag with the white letters “U.T.L..” It was the house flag of the Universal Trading Line, and Hackett was one of their oldest skippers. Now if he pulled off two or three more deals like this one, he was thinking, maybe he could quit the sea at last. Arnold Maw, the head of the line, would be sorry to see him go, and sorrier still if he declined to pay the pension Hackett was going to ask. For the head of the U.T.L. was one of the crookedest ship owners in the game, and Captain Hackett knew it, for he had helped in many a shady deal. He would enjoy walking up to Maw and saying—

Thud! Crash! The deck seemed to leap and quiver beneath him. From the bowels of the ship came a tortured tremble as the engines nearly tore themselves from their beds. It was not a collision, but the propeller had stopped with a suddenness which told Hackett it had fouled something. Unknown to Hackett, the Ghost Ship was at work. Hackett swore, darting to the indicator and ringing for full speed astern. “Didn’t you see any floating wreckage on the water, you flat-ribbed son of a sea cook?” The helmsman was nursing a wrist which had been twisted by the rapid swing of the wheel. “No, sir. There’s no wreckage. All I can see is some kind of yellow scum. I thought it was just a little weed.” The engines revved up again, this time dead astern and as men came running on deck from the watch below the freighter rolled and quivered like a horse straining at a load too great for it. Savagely Hackett rang for the engines to be stopped, and they wallowed in the trough of an oily sea. On all sides came shouted questions. What happened? What had they hit? Hackett bawled above the general din. “There’s nothing to get scared about. The propeller’s fouled something under water. There’s a lot of yellow stuff like scum on the water down there. We seem to be surrounded by it. It looks like some of that Sargasso weed, but I’ve never seen it foul a propeller our size before. Mister Julkes, get three men an’ lower ‘em overside to see what can be done. Send the chief engineer to me.” There was hustle and bustle for the next few moments, and in the middle of it someone let out a shout. “Where’d that ship come from?” Not a hundred yards away dead ahead lay a long, sleek vessel with one flat funnel rising from her turtle deck. It was the Ghost Ship, although Captain Hackett did not know her by the name yet. The funnel was really a dummy ventilator. “Now where in the name of thunder did that come from? The sea was clear a few moments ago, not a sail in sight. Now—” His jaw dropped, for from the little aft deck of the M.L., had come a sudden flash. A three-inch shell whined over the funnel of the freighter! For an instant not a man moved, then there was a general scamper for cover. And suddenly they saw the flag at the masthead of the strange vessel—the skull and crossbones!

THE OCEAN PIRATE

“A blinkin’ pirate! Are we going mad or—?” “Don’t forget your ship can be holed at any moment,” came a deep voice from the pirate ship, a voice well accustomed to using a megaphone, judging by the volume of it. “We’re coming aboard, so don’t try any funny business.” Captain Hackett paled, then he turned swiftly to the gaping men. “Tell Sparks to send out a message giving our latitude and longitude and reporting that we have been held up by a pirate who—” Boo-oom! Once more the echo had died away. A small dinghy containing five men came leaping over the waves under the impulse of four oars. The man in the stern who was not rowing kept his head down, and his peaked cap hid his face. It was the Ghost Captain. They came alongside cleverly, and the Ghost Captain caught at the lower rung of the iron ladder and was up at the top almost before the dinghy had lost way. A snort of utter amazement came from Captain Hackett. “Who—who are you?” he gasped. “You’ll find out soon enough,” said the Ghost Captain with a grim smile. “Meantime I know who you are and what you are doing in the Caribbean. “Somewhere in the Windward Passage you are to meet a Yankee ship which will hand over a cargo of guns and ammunition. These guns you are going to smuggle into Nicaragua to help some revolution and cause unnecessary bloodshed. The money to buy these guns is in your cabin. I want that. And I want you to set course for your meeting place. Now jump to it!” Hackett’s face had turned a fiery red, and his eyes were staring. “I’ll be hanged if I do!” he snarled. “You’ll be shot if you don’t,” was the grim response. “And your ship will be sunk under you.” Under the threat of those steely eyes and the unwavering muzzle of the automatic, Hackett’s nerve broke. With a sullen grunt, he led the way to his cabin, and from the safe he took a big bundle of banknotes. In another three minutes he was seated in the Ghost Ship’s dinghy, being pulled away from the Lorraine, while his crew stared after him in amazement.

Beside him sat the Ghost Captain, that grim smile still on his lips. And in the dinghy was also a lifebelt taken from the Lorraine as a souvenir of the Ghost Captain’s coup. Once aboard the Ghost Ship, Hackett found himself hustled to the tiny bridge. And there he turned to see for the first time the full face of the man who had captured him. He had intended to bluster it out, but the sight of his captor seemed like a knockout blow. His eyes opened wide in terror, and he sagged at the knees. “You!” he gasped. “Captain Falcon!” “Yes,” said the Ghost Captain. “And now you’ll know why I kidnapped you from your own ship and that I’m going to smash your master—Arnold Maw, president of the Universal Trading Line.” Two years ago the Ghost Captain had also commanded a vessel of the U.T.L. But he took no part in the unscrupulous schemes for which Maw used his ships. So Maw decided to get rid of Falcon, and at the same time use him as a scapegoat for one of his crimes. Captain Falcon had been decoyed of his ship the s.s. Action, by a letter which stated that Hackett was to take command for the time being. The Action had been scuttled, and Captain Falcon had been blamed. His master’s ticket had been taken from him. And now here he was back on the high seas, sailing under the flag of piracy, his main object being to wipe out the Universal Trading Line and the men who had ruined his career. “What in the name of thunder are you doing here?” stammered Hackett. “What’s your crazy game? I heard that after—after you left us you went to South America and—” “Yes, I went to South America after I was flung out of this line,” snapped the man called Falcon. “I wanted to make a lot of money quickly and I did it.” “Glad to hear it,” smiled Hackett, but his smile was forced. “And now?” “I wanted that money for only one reason, Hackett, and that was to smash Maw and the U.T.L. It’s no good you looking like that. You know very well why I want to smash them. They—and you—smashed me and made me a scapegoat. I lost my master’s certificate owing to you.” “No, I swear—” “Yes, you swore all kinds of things at the Board of Trade inquiry. I know Maw paid you well for it. You were always ready to do his dirty jobs, and because I was about the one skipper in his line who wouldn’t do such things, he got rid of me. Had my ship scuttled and pretended I had lost it through carelessness, eh?” “Now, look here,” blustered Hackett, “that’s all rot. You can’t go round playing the pirate with a miserable M.L., and a three-inch gun. You lost your ticket because you went ashore and left your ship in Belsize harbour during the hurricane.” “I went ashore because I received that letter ordering me to hand the s.s. Action over to you. She vanished during the hurricane and—” “And so did the letter you talked about, eh? Very unlucky you were not to have been able to produce that wonderful letter, Falcon, and for why? Because there never was such a letter.” “It’s no use lying, Hackett,” said the Ghost Captain with his grim smile. “When you get in touch with Maw again you can tell him that I’m out to smash him, and I won’t rest content till I’ve not only smashed him but proved my own innocence in that s.s. Action affair.”

Captain Hackett licked his dry lips as he looked about the Ghost Ship. Then the very smallness of the vessel seemed to give him courage. “You—you’re mad, Falcon!” he declared. “What can you do with a cockle shell like this?” “Quite a lot,” answered the Ghost Captain in his usual quiet way. “Do you remember how the Lorraine stopped? What do you think stopped her? Why did your propeller foul?” “Weeds, I guess.” “Weeds nothing! I did that. I made a circle round you half an hour ago and dropped into the water a chemical which caused a dense mass of yellowish fibrous scum to form in the water. That stopped your ship, and I can stop any ship in the same way. I can load it into shells and fire it alongside a ship or—” “You circled me!” gasped Hackett. “Why you fool, do you expect me to believe that? What was I doing while you circled?” “Looking ahead seeing nothing,” was the calm reply. “My ship isn’t called the Ghost Ship for nothing. That’s another invention I brought from a crazy old chemist whose life I saved in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a paint which makes things invisible when looked at from a certain angle. My ship is painted with it, and when we are endwise on to any object, the angle at which light rays strike us prevents anyone on that object from seeing us. Broadside on you can see us quite clearly—But I’m not here to explain things to your addled brain, Hackett. Get going and set the course to meet that Yank gun-runner. And remember, if we don’t sight her it’s overboard for you.” “Ghost Ship—paint—invisible!” spluttered the captain of the s.s. Lorraine, while the Ghost Captain and Hookey Briggs, who had climbed up on the bridge, grinned to each other. “That will do, Hackett,” said the Ghost Captain, and he turned to one of his men. “Take him below while I take the wheel.”

THE SECOND VICTIM

The bridge was only a miniature, but it bristled with an array of switches and gauges. The twin motors below were controlled by miniature hydraulic switches, and in a few seconds they were both ticking over in answer to the Ghost Captain’s touch. The Ghost Ship began to forge ahead at a good ten knots, and as she gathered speed Falcon brought her round so that she was pointing her stern at the freighter. Aboard the s.s. Lorraine he heard a shout of wonder, and Captain Hackett knew why. As soon as the M.L. was end-on to any other vessel the light rays played their trick with the paint, and she seemed to vanish on the surface of the sea. She was a real phantom ship. There were only nine men aboard besides Captain Falcon and his first lieutenant, but they were picked men, each knowing his job down to the last letter, and all united in worshipping their skipper. Pay was high, and they enjoyed a freedom known to few these days of laws and restrictions. They had put themselves outside the law with the Ghost Ship, but they would follow their captain anywhere. Leaving the freighter wallowing with a disabled propeller, doubtless to try and call the attention of passing ships, they headed almost due west under the direction of the thoroughly cowed captain of the Lorraine. Presently their speed crept up to fifteen knots, sixteen, seventeen—twenty. The M.L. leapt through the sea like some lean, well-bred greyhound, throwing out a line of foam which alone would have betrayed her to the casual onlooker. She was built to obtain the highest speed with the minimum of effort, and because of this she was a distinctly uncomfortable ship in bad weather, but the blue Caribbean was settling down, and the sun blazed down on the strange little ship which had taken on such a gigantic task. Over the chart behind the splash screen on the bridge deck Falcon and his lieutenant discussed their next plan after Hackett had been sent below. The Ghost Captain got busy on the chart with scales and compasses, and finally stuck a small flag on the chart. “Here we are. According to Hackett, the Yankee, the Florida Folly, ought to be about level with Cape Maisi, Cuba, by midnight tonight. If we keep up full speed, we’ll be there at the same time.” Hookey Briggs’ eyes twinkled. “Fine, sir. But if we keep goin’ full speed all those hours it’ll about empty our fuel tanks. An’ fuel costs a tidy bit.” “Don’t worry. Have you forgotten that this Yankee ship is an oil burner? If I can’t fill my tanks from here and feel justified, I ought to chuck up this pirate business. You take the wheel for a spell while I go down and entertain our friend Hackett. Hold the same course until I come up again.” All through the long day they kept up twenty knots, rounding the south-western corner of Haiti soon after noon, then turning north towards the Windward Passage. Many times they sighted other ships, liners, tramps, all kinds of vessels, but whether or not they saw the Ghost Ship was a very different matter. Broadside on they might have noticed her speeding along, but from head or astern she would have been quite invisible. There was a glorious tropical sunset that evening, and then they sped on through the warm darkness, Captain Falcon setting his course for the point he had worked out on the chart. They were there soon after eleven p.m., and slowed down almost to a stop. Shoals of luminous fish made the sea a thing of wonder about them, and all eyes were turned to the north, whence they expected to see the Florida Folly arrive.

The Ghost Captain had not been far out. Just after midnight they sighted a big oil burning freighter making south, and closer investigation proved it to be the Florida Folly. Things began to hum aboard the Ghost Ship. In the stern there was something like a torpedo tube, with a big tank of chemical liquid attached in-board. This was worked by compressed air in such a way that it would squirt the chemical clear of their own propeller. Noticing the course that the freighter was taking, the Ghost Captain zig-zagged his small vessel up and down over an area of about a quarter mile, and Hookey Briggs supervised the tube appliance at the stern. Only a thin jet of chemical squirted out into the sea, but as it touched the water it seemed to turn solid, spread, and extended like a loose mass of sponge. It was the salt in the water which combined with the chemical to form this pulpy mass, and before the M.L., had finished zig-zagging there was a veritable minefield of the strange weed ahead of the freighter. It extended into the water for a depth of twenty feet. No propeller could avoid being fouled by it, and the best part of the whole business was that it would all dissolve in twenty fours hours and leave no trance of its presence in the water. Innocent ships would not suffer. Then they sped away to one side, turned bow-on to the oncoming vessel, and watched patiently. The freighter forged her way majestically southwards. She was almost a new vessel, and made about fifteen knots. It was hard to believe that such a peaceful looking craft should carry a cargo destined to bring such bloodshed and suffering to a country like Nicaragua, but the Ghost Captain knew that she was owned by an unscrupulous armament company. Then came the sudden thud-thud of her strained engines, the ringing of bells, and the shouting of excited men. Within two minutes she was wallowing to a standstill, and the Ghost Captain chuckled to his companion. “Bring Hackett up on top,” he commanded. Carefully keeping her broadside-on to the big freighter, he took the Ghost Ship in so close that those aboard the American craft could not help seeing her when he hailed through the megaphone. “Ahoy there! Can we be of any assistance?” An almost incoherent growl was the only reply he got. The American skipper was too busy trying to find what was wrong to worry about the offer of such a tiny ship as the M.L. No doubt he took here for some privately owned pleasure cruiser. “Launch the dinghy,” ordered Falcon. “Don’t take her in any further in case we foul the propellers. Hackett to go aboard the dinghy, too.” This time six men pulled alongside an unsuspecting freighter, and judging by the shouting and argument aboard, the Americans were still puzzled to explain why they had stopped. They did not see Falcon and his men until they were coming overside, two of them shepherding Hackett. “Hey, what do you want?” “I want to see your captain,” said the Ghost Captain smoothly. “I happen to know why you stopped.” “Durn it, you do!” growled the bearded Yankee on the bridge. “What was it, weed?” “Not quite. As a matter of fact, Captain Horner, I stopped you for a purpose. This gentleman is Captain Hackett, of the s.s. Lorraine, who was to take over your cargo. But I must inform you that for the time being you are my prisoner.” A levelled automatic caused the American to nearly jump out of his skin. A gasp came from his officers. “Who the—what—?” “Don’t get excited, please. In case you think of rushing me, I will warn you that I carry a gun aboard my ship, and at the first signal from me a shell will be put into your holds. Knowing what is in your holds, I do not think you will like that.”

As a demonstration of what he meant, he flashed a small torch towards the silent M.L. Instantly there was a bang, and a three-inch shell brought down the wireless aerial overhead. “You see what I mean? Please understand you are at my mercy.” “Pirates! You doggone sea-crooks! What is it you want with me?” “Nothing but your cargo,” said the Ghost Captain sweetly. “And I want that for Davy Jones’ locker. It will be better there than in the hands of excitable rebels down in Nicaragua.”

DEFYING THE NAVY

For two hours the Ghost Ship kept her gun trained on the Florida Folly, and for two hours the American crew worked under the threat of the boarding party’s revolvers, bringing up case after case of guns and ammunition from the holds and dropping them into the sea. As the cases splashed overside, the freighter rose higher and higher in the water, the rage of Captain Horner grew louder and louder, while Hackett stood nervously chewing his finger nails. It was only the presence of the calm-eyed Ghost Captain which held them in check. Falcon did not want bloodshed, and he said so, but he gave them to understand that he would not hesitate at shooting and wounding a few gun runners. When the last of the guns had gone, he had a long pipe run out to his M.L., and fuel oil was pumped into the tanks of the Ghost Ship. “After this you will be at liberty to go on your way, captain,” he drawled. “I would advise you to tell your owners that this happened only because they dealt with the U.T.L. ships. However, perhaps you will want to argue that out with Captain Hackett, who I am leaving with you. And, by the way, I am keeping the money which would have paid for your cargo. Perhaps some day I shall start a fund for captains who are robbed at sea.” “You durn pirate!” howled the American. “Who are you? What are you? I’ll have the U.S.A. Navy out searching for you before morning. You won’t escape.” “I believe I shall. I feel honoured that your country’s navy will take notice of me, but will you tell them you were carrying a cargo of guns for Nicaragua at the time you were held up? I thought not. I wish you a good night and a very pleasant voyage. And Hackett you can tell Arnold Maw that I am coming after him.” He signalled for another shell to be put over the freighter, just to warn them not to try and make trouble while he rowed back to the Ghost Ship, and within a few minutes he was lighting his pipe on his own spotless deck. It had been a good night’s work, and he felt he had not only dealt a shattering blow at the U.T.L., but he had caused loss to a concern who undoubtedly made their profits out of bloodshed and trouble. Leaving the wallowing freighter to her own troubles, the Ghost Ship turned about and made for the Haiti coast. Fresh fruit and water were their chief requirements, for the little vessel could not carry large supplies of either. But things were not going to be quite as easy as that. They had barely got into their stride before a dazzling beam of light struck the water not a hundred yards ahead of them, danced for a few seconds, and settled full upon them. “A searchlight! Someone heard our last shot—maybe a gunboat of some kind.” That was not the worst of it. The man at the wheel was so blinded by the dazzle in his eyes that he let go the helm for a few moments. The M.L. veered, plunged, and turned at right angles to their course. The man grasped the spokes of the wheel in a frenzied effort to pull them back on their right course, but the damage was done.

There was a shudder as their propeller struck some of the spongy mass they had recently expelled for the benefit of the freighter, and the motors ground to a standstill. A roar came from the Ghost pirate. To run into their own booby trap was the last thing he had ever expected to do. He had always taken every precaution to stop this, and here was an unlucky chance landing them in the thick of it at the very moment they wanted to take to their heels. The searchlight continued to dazzle them. Another had searched the waters and settled on the big freighter. The vessel on which they were installed was no more than half a mile distant. A long, rakish craft, she was undoubtedly a United States destroyer of the latest type. They heard her engines slow down about four hundred yards away. “What’s the matter here?” came a curt demand over the water. “Who fired a distress signal?” The Ghost Captain gave no answer. It was that last shot from the three-inch gun that had been heard by the destroyer. “Get a couple of men overside to clear that propeller,” he hissed. “Hi, you, don’t you understand English?” came the angry demand. “Who fired that distress gun?” So far, the men on the freighter had been silent, but now Captain Horner got busy with a megaphone. “That launch held me up and fired a couple of rounds at me!” he bellowed. “We made one mistake,” said Falcon quickly. “We heaved all those cases of guns over the side when we ought to have two or three as evidence. Horner can now swear blind that he’s never had anything in the way of guns aboard. We can’t prove anything. How are those propellers, Priestley?” “One choked badly, sir, and the other not so much. Give us half an hour and we’ll be under way again,” came the reply from a man who was being dangled over the stern by his heels. Half an hour! How could they hold off the Americans all that time? Captain Horner’s complaint, coupled with the continued silence of the Ghost Ship, had decided the destroyer commander that there was something wrong. A launch was being lowered overside and was filling with men. The Ghost Captain’s jaw set hard. “I’m not going to be taken and have our secrets discovered as early as this in the game. Now’s the chance to try those shells of yours, Hookey. Gunner, load with some of the new shells and put a number in the water as close to the destroyer as you can without hitting anyone. Don’t hit the ship or the launch.” “Aye, aye, sir!” Mollet, the gunner was delighted. It was the first time they had used the new shells, which in place of most of the usual high explosive contained a concentrated mixture of the sponge making chemicals. They had practised with these in the open sea, but this was the first serious trial. The launch was about to push off from the destroyer when—Boo-oom! The Americans must have doubted their senses, for here was a small eighty-foot launch having the audacity to fire on them with a miserable three-inch gun! Splash! The shell fell short, about forty yards in front of the launch, which bumped against the steel plates of the destroyer as though for protection. Splash! Another had fallen almost in the same spot. It looked like very bad shooting, but as a matter of fact Mollet had never been in better form. And where those shells burst a strange thing happened. The water bubbled and heaved as though some chemical action was taking place. These bubbles welled to the surface and spread. It was just as though a tremendous mass of sponges or soap-suds was rising from the ocean.

Bigger and bigger they grew, faster than the proverbial mushrooms, until the nearest completely overshadowed the launch as it drifted down upon it with the wind. The astonished Yankee sailors found themselves blinking at a gluey, fibrous mass many times the height of their boat, a slow moving mass which choked the waiter round them. Then the commander set his teeth. “I don’t know what they’re firing, but they’re not going to fire on an American ship without getting something back. Man that quick-firer and give them a couple on the waterline.” The gun crew leapt to their posts, the gun soon barked, and the first shell whistled over the deck of the Ghost Ship so closely that the crew ducked. “How’s that first propeller?” snapped the Ghost Captain. “Nearly cleared. Good. Four of you use those long sweeps to bring her round bows on to the destroyer. We’re making too good a target like this.” Flash! The shell hit up a fountain of water less than their own length away. The little M.L. rocked, and that helped her to come round bows-on. Aboard the destroyer the gun-layer suddenly pinched himself. “Number One, what can I do about this? That blinkin’ ship’s vanished. Guess we must’ve blown it out of the water!” “Rot!” growled Number One. “I—Well, can yeh beat it? She’s vanished!” He ran to the aft deck, where the commander was examining some of the bulbous spongy mass which was climbing over their stern. He had not yet discovered that it had choked his propeller and rudder. “Excuse me, sir, but we seem to have sunk her. She’s gone!” The officer wheeled about, took one look at the empty ocean, and gasped—“I heard no explosion. She couldn’t have dived as quickly as that. It—it’s impossible! She wasn’t a submarine, Mr Somers? It’s positively uncanny. Full speed ahead for that spot where she was a moment ago. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” The engine room bell rang, the engines whirled, and the propeller churned its way into the solid mass of fibrous material which had spread from the shell. The destroyer could not move. It was just as paralysed as the freighter, or the Ghost Ship itself, but whereas it all came as a terrible shock to the naval men, aboard the Ghost Ship they knew just what to do, and were doing it with the knowledge that they had done a vanishing trick which would prevent them being a target for the American guns. The Ghost Ship was living up to its name!

 

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd

Vic Whittle 2007