Nonsense, man!” cried Captain Applegarth. “Don’t make such an ass of yourself! Flying Dutchman indeed! Why, that cock and bull yarn was exploded years ago, and I didn’t think there was a sailor afloat in the present day ass enough to believe in this story!”
“I may be a hass, sir; I know I am sometimes,” retorted old Masters, evidently aggrieved by the skipper speaking to him like this before the men. “But, sir, seein’ is believin’. There’s this ship an’ there’s that there craft a-sailin’ alongside in the teeth o’ the gale. Hass or no hass, I sees that, captain!”
“Hang it all, man, can’t you see that it is only the mirage or reflection of our own vessel, produced by the light of the meteor throwing her shadow on to the mass of cloud leeward? Look, there are our two old sticks and the funnels between, with the smoke rushing out of them! Aye, and there, too, you can see this very bridge here we’re standing on, and all of us, as large as life. Why, bo’sun, you can see your own ugly mug reflected now opposite us, just as it would be in a looking glass. Look, man!”
“Aye, I sees, sir, plain enuff, though I’m a hass,” said Masters at length. “But it ain’t nat’rel, sir, anyhow; an’ I misdoubts sich skeary things. I ain’t been to sea forty years for nothin’, Captain Applegarth, an’ I fears sich a sight as that betokens some danger ahead as ’ill happen to us some time or other this voyage. Even started on a Friday, sir, as you knows on, sir!”
“Rubbish!” cried the skipper, angry at his obstinacy. “See, the mirage has disappeared now that the meteor light has become dispersed. Look smart there, aloft, and furl that topsail! It’s just seven bells and I’m going to ease down the engines and bear up on our course again. Up with you, men, and lay out on the yard!”
The hands who had stopped half-way up the fore-rigging, spell-bound at the sight of the mirage, now bestirred themselves, shaking off their superstitious fears; old Masters, in the presence of something to be done, also working, and soon the sail was furled, the bunt stowed, and the gaskets passed.