a strange story comes from the antarctic. on the morning of september 13th 17__, a vessel captained by the famous captain blackbeard was searching the waters directly north of the enderby abyssal plain in search of the giant cranch squid, when a longboat was spotted floating on the water. as night had fallen, it was impossible to make out if there were any inhabitants on board.
"we shall wait until morning, " announced the captain, with his habitual caution. "if it is still there, we shall ascertain its exact situation, and the situations of anyone who might happen to be on board."
"but captain," protested little nell, "there may be a map of the location of buried treasure on board the boat, or even a chest of treasure itself."
"indeed," added sinbad the sailor," see how low in the water the stern is. there may well be a treasure chest weighing it down."
"your point is well taken," replied blackbeard.
"we can hardly afford to miss this chance," cried the medicine man. "especially considering how poorly our fortunes have gone since setting out on this unfortunate voyage, nominally in search of the giant cranch squid. after ten long months - no treasure - and no squid."
"very well then," answered the captain. "the matter is settled. nellie, light a torch. lower a boat. an extra tot of rum, my lads, for every jolly jack tar who volunteers to board yon mysterious vessel - treasure or no treasure!"
"i volunteer!" cried sinbad. "i will board the vessel first. who's with me, eh?"
"i!" answered little nell. "i shall carry the torch!"
"and i!" cried the medicine man. "i shall man the left front oar, right behind nellie!"
"and i!" cried the wandering jew.
"and i" cried the jesuit.
"andI i!" cried the queen of clubs, shaking her curls.
"and i!" shouted the queen of spades, louder than all the rest. the moonlight glittered on her eye patch.
"oh, i shall go along," drawled the jack of diamonds, twirling his mustache.
"then we have a crew," exclaimed sinbad. "well done, comrades, well and truly done!"
in the twinkling of an eye the boat was lowered into the curiously placid water. with sinbad waving his cutlass and little nell holding the torch aloft, the little craft fairly sped along the surface toward the dark and silent vessel drifting in the mist.
(professor thunderby paused and relit his pipe)
and yet the drifting vessel seemed to remain curiously out of reach.
"harder, comrades! harder!" cried the medicine man. "pull with a will!"
a curious phosphorence played around the elusive craft, taunting the straining rowers.
finally they drew abreast of the silent craft. but they had lost sight of the ship behind them.
(professor thunderby's pipe went out again. the embers in the fireplace, likewise, flickered into darkness...)
sinbad reached out with a grappling hook and seized the gunwale and pulled the drifting vessel close to the longboat. a desperate shout went up from the weary but jubilant oarpullers.
little nell held her torch over the stern of the captured craft, which rode low and heavy in the water.
"look!" she cried. "look ye! here be no treasure!"
on the bottom of the boat, luridly lit by the flame of the torch, lay a body! the body of a young woman!"
"is she dead?" cried the medicine man, looking over the shouder of sinbad.
"dead?" he answered. "dead? aye, she looks like she's been dead these hundred years!"