Out of the Dreadful Depths by C. D. Willard
Robert Thorpe seeks out the nameless horror that is sucking
all human life out of ships in the South Pacific.
obert Thorpe reached languidly for a cigarette and, with lazy
fingers, extracted a lighter from his pocket.
"Be a sport," he repeated to the gray haired man across the table. "Be
a sport, Admiral, and send me across on a destroyer. Never been on a
destroyer except in port. It ... would be a new experience ... enjoy
it a lot...."
In the palm-shaded veranda of this club-house in Manila, Admiral
Struthers, U. S. N., regarded with undisguised disfavor the young man
in the wicker chair. He looked at the deep chest and the broad
shoulders which even a loose white coat could not conceal, at the
short, wavy brown hair and the slow, friendly smile on the face below.
A likable chap, this Thorpe, but lazy—just an idler—he had
concluded. Been playing around Manila for the last two months—resting
up, he had said. And from what? the Admiral had questioned
disdainfully. Admiral Struthers did not like indolent young men, but
it would have saved him money if he had really got an answer to his
question and had learned just why and how Robert Thorpe had earned a
"You on a destroyer!" he said, and the lips beneath the close-cut gray
mustache twisted into a smile. "That would be too rough an experience
for you, I am afraid, Thorpe. Destroyers pitch about quite a bit, you
He included in his smile the destroyer captain and the young lady who
completed their party. The young lady had a charming and saucy smile
and knew it; she used it in reply to the Admiral's remark.
"I have asked Mr. Thorpe to go on the Adelaide," she said. "We shall
be leaving in another month—but Robert tells me he has other plans."
"Worse and worse," was the Admiral's comment. "Your father's yacht is
not even as steady as a destroyer. Now I would suggest a nice
obert Thorpe did not miss the official glances of amusement, but his
calm complacence was unruffled. "No," he said, "I don't just fancy
liners. Fact is, I have been thinking of sailing across to the States
The Admiral's smile increased to a short laugh. "I would make a bet
you wouldn't get fifty miles from Manila harbor."
The younger man crushed his cigarette slowly into the tray. "How much
of a bet?" he asked. "What will you bet that I don't sail alone from
here to—where are you stationed?—San Diego?—from here to San
"Humph!" was the snorted reply. "I would bet a thousand dollars on
that and take your money for Miss Allaire's pet charity."
"Now that's an idea," said Thorpe. He reached for a check book in his
inner pocket and began to write.
"In case I lose," he explained, "I might be hard to find, so I will
just ask Miss Allaire to hold this check for me. You can do the same."
He handed the check to the girl.
"Winner gets his thousand back, Ruth; loser's money goes to any little
orphans you happen to fancy."
"You're not serious," protested the Admiral.
"Sure! The bank will take that check seriously, I promise you. And I
saw just the sloop I want for the trip ... had my eye on her for the
"But, Robert," began Ruth Allaire, "you don't mean to risk your life
on a foolish bet?"
Thorpe reached over to pat tenderly the hand that held his check. "I'm
glad if you care," he said, and there was an undertone of seriousness
beneath his raillery, "but save your sympathy for the Admiral. The U.
S. Navy can't bluff me." He rose more briskly from his chair.
"Thorpe...." said Admiral Struthers. He was thinking deeply, trying to
recollect. "Robert Thorpe.... I have a book by someone of that
name—travel and adventure and knocking about the world. Young man,
are you the Robert Thorpe?"
"Why, yes, if you wish to put it that way," agreed the other. He waved
lightly to the girl as he moved away.
"I must be running along," he said, "and get that boat. See you all in
he first rays of the sun touched with golden fingers the tops of the
lazy swells of the Pacific. Here and there a wave broke to spray under
the steady wind and became a shower of molten metal. And in the boat,
whose sails caught now and then the touch of morning, Robert Thorpe
stirred himself and rose sleepily to his feet.
Out of the snug cabin at this first hint of day, he looked first at
the compass and checked his course, then made sure of the lashing
about the helm. The steady trade-winds had borne him on through the
night, and he nodded with satisfaction as he prepared to lower his
lights. He was reaching for a line as the little craft hung for an
instant on the top of a wave. And in that instant his eyes caught a
marking of white on the dim waters ahead.
"Breakers!" he shouted aloud and leaped for the lashed wheel. He
swung off to leeward and eased a bit on the main-sheet, then lashed
the wheel again to hold on the new course.
Again from a wave-crest he stared from under a sheltering hand. The
breakers were there—the smooth swells were foaming—breaking in
mid-ocean where his chart, he knew, showed water a mile deep. Beyond
the white line was a three-master, her sails shivering in the breeze.
The big sailing ship swung off on a new tack as he watched. Was she
dodging those breakers? he wondered. Then he stared in amazement
through the growing light at the unbroken swells where the white line
e rubbed his sleepy eyes with a savage hand and stared again. There
were no breakers—the sea was an even expanse of heaving water.
"I could swear I saw them!" he told himself, but forgot this
perplexing occurrence in the still more perplexing maneuvers of the
This steady wind—for smooth handling—was all that such a craft could
ask, yet here was this old-timer of the sea with a full spread of
canvas booming and cracking as the ship jibed. She rolled far over as
he watched, recovered, and tore off on a long, sweeping circle.
The one man crew of the little sloop should have been preparing
breakfast, as he had for many mornings past, but, instead he swung his
little craft into the wind and watched for near an hour the erratic
rushes and shivering haltings of the larger ship. But long before this
time had passed Thorpe knew he was observing the aimless maneuvers of
an unmanned vessel.
And he watched his chance for a closer inspection.
he three-master Minnie R., from the dingy painting of the stern,
hung quivering in the wind when he boarded her. There was a broken
log-line that swept down from the stern, and he caught this and made
his own boat fast. Then, watching his chance, he drew close and went
overboard, the line in his hand.
"Like a blooming native after cocoanuts," he told himself as he went
up the side. But he made it and pulled himself over the rail as the
ship drew off on another tack.
Thorpe looked quickly about the deserted deck. "Ahoy, there!" he
shouted, but the straining of rope and spars was his only answer.
Canvas was whipping to ribbons, sheets cracked their frayed ends like
lashes as the booms swung wildly, but a few sails still held and
caught the air.
He was on the after deck, and he leaped first for the wheel that was
kicking and whirling with the swing of the rudder. A glance at the
canvas that still drew, and he set her on a course with a few
steadying pulls. There was rope lying about, and he lashed the wheel
with a quick turn or two and watched the ship steady down to a smooth
slicing of the waves from the west.
And only then did the man take time to quiet his panting breath and
look about him in the unnatural quiet of this strangely deserted deck.
He shouted again and walked to a companionway to repeat the hail. Only
an echo, sounding hollowly from below, replied to break the vast
t was puzzling—inconceivable. Thorpe looked about him to note the
lifeboats snug and undisturbed in their places. No sign there of an
abandonment of the boat, but abandoned she was, as the silence told
only too plainly. And Thorpe, as he went below, had an uncanny feeling
of the crew's presence—as if they had been there, walked where he
walked, shouted and laughed a matter of a brief hour or two before.
The door of the captain's cabin was burst in, hanging drunkenly from
one hinge. The log-book was open; there were papers on a rude desk.
The bunk was empty where the blankets had been thrown hurriedly
aside. Thorpe could almost see the skipper of this mystery ship
leaping frantically from his bed at some sudden call or commotion. A
chair was smashed and broken, and the man who examined it curiously
wiped from his hands a disgusting slime that was smeared stickily on
the splintered fragments. There was a fetid stench within his
nostrils, and he passed up further examination of this room.
Forward in the fo'c'sle he felt again irresistibly the recent presence
of the crew. And again he found silence and emptiness and a disorder
that told of a fear-stricken flight. The odor that sickened and
nauseated the exploring man was everywhere. He was glad to gain the
freedom of the wind-swept deck and rid his lungs of the vile breath
within the vessel.
He stood silent and bewildered. There was not a living soul aboard the
ship—no sign of life. He started suddenly. A moaning, whimpering cry
came from forward on the deck!
Thorpe leaped across a disorder of tangled rope to race toward the
bow. He stopped short at sight of a battered cage. Again the moaning
came to him—there was something that still lived on board the
e drew closer to see a great, huddled, furry mass that crouched and
cowered in a corner of the cage. A huge ape, Thorpe concluded, and it
moaned and whimpered absurdly like a human in abject fear.
Had this been the terror that drove the men into the sea? Had this ape
escaped and menaced the officers and crew? Thorpe dismissed the
thought he well knew was absurd. The stout wood bars of the cage were
broken. It had been partially crushed, and the chain that held it to
the deck was extended to its full length.
"Too much for me," the man said slowly, aloud; "entirely too much for
me! But I can't sail this old hooker alone; I'll have to get out and
let her drift."
He removed completely one of the splintered bars from the broken cage.
"I've got to leave you, old fellow," he told the cowering animal, "but
I'll give you the run of the ship."
He went below once more and came quickly back with the log-book and
papers from the captain's room. He tied these in a tight wrapping of
oilcloth from the galley and hung them at his belt. He took the wheel
again and brought the cumbersome craft slowly into the wind. The bare
mast of his own sloop was bobbing alongside as he went down the line
and swam over to her.
Fending off from the wallowing hulk, he cut the line, and his small
craft slipped slowly astern as the big vessel fell off in the wind and
drew lumberingly away on its unguided course.
She vanished into the clear-cut horizon before the watching man ceased
his staring and pricked a point upon his chart that he estimated was
And he watched vainly for some sign of life on the heaving waters as
he set his sloop back on her easterly course.
t was a sun-tanned young man who walked with brisk strides into the
office of Admiral Struthers. The gold-striped arm of the uniformed man
was extended in quick greeting.
"Made it, did you?" he exclaimed. "Congratulations!"
"All O.K.," Thorpe agreed. "Ship and log are ready for your
"Talk sense," said the officer. "Have any trouble or excitement? Or
perhaps you are more interested in collecting a certain bet than you
are in discussing the trip."
"Damn the bet!" said the young man fervently. "And that's just what I
am here for—to talk about the trip. There were some little incidents
that may interest you."
He painted for the Admiral in brief, terse sentences the picture of
that daybreak on the Pacific, the line of breakers, white in the
vanishing night, the abandoned ship beyond, cracking her canvas to
tatters in the freshening breeze. And he told of his boarding her and
of what he had found.
"Where was this?" asked the officer, and Thorpe gave his position as
he had checked it.
"I reported the derelict to a passing steamer that same day," he
added, but the Admiral was calling for a chart. He spread it on the
desk before him and placed the tip of a pencil in the center of an
"Breakers, you said?" he questioned. "Why, there are hundreds of
fathoms here, Mr. Thorpe."
know it," Thorpe agreed, "but I saw them—a stretch of white water
for an eighth of a mile. I know it's impossible, but true. But forget
that item for a time, Admiral. Look at this." He opened a brief case
and took out a log-book and some other papers.
"The log of the Minnie R.," he explained briefly. "Nothing in it but
routine entries up to that morning and then nothing at all."
"Abandoned," mused the Admiral, "and they did not take to the boats.
There have been other instances—never explained."
"See if this helps any," suggested Thorpe and handed the other two
sheets of paper. "They were in the captain's cabin," he added.
Admiral Struthers glanced at them, then settled back in his chair.
"Dated September fourth," he said. "That would have been the day
previous to the time you found her." The writing was plain, in a
careful, well-formed hand. He cleared his throat and read aloud:
"Written by Jeremiah Wilkens of Salem, Mass., master of the Minnie
R., bound from Shanghai to San Pedro. I have sailed the seas for
forty years, and for the first time I am afraid. I hope I may destroy
this paper when the lights of San Pedro are safe in sight, but I am
writing here what it would shame me to set down in the ship's log,
though I know there are stranger happenings on the face of the waters
than man has ever seen—or has lived to tell.
ll this day I have been filled with fear. I have been watched—I
have felt it as surely as if a devil out of hell stood beside me with
his eyes fastened on mine. The men have felt it, too. They have been
frightened at nothing and have tried to conceal it as I have
done.—And the animals....
"A shark has followed us for days—it is gone to-day. The cats—we
have three on board—have howled horribly and have hidden themselves
in the cargo down below. The mate is bringing a big monkey to be sold
in Los Angeles. An orang-outang, he calls it. It has been an ugly
brute, shaking at the bars of its cage and showing its ugly teeth ever
since we left port. But to-day it is crouched in a corner of its cage
and will not stir even for food. The poor beast is in mortal terror.
"All this is more like the wandering talk of an old woman muttering in
a corner by the fireside of witches and the like than it is like a
truthful account set down by Jeremiah Wilkins. And now that I have
written it I see there is nothing to tell. Nothing but the shameful
account of my fear of some horror beyond my knowing. And now that it
is written I am tempted to destroy—No, I will wait—"
"And now what is this?" Admiral Struthers interrupted his reading to
ask. He turned the paper to read a coarse, slanting scrawl at the
bottom of the page.
"The eyes—the eyes—they are everywhere above us—God help—" The
writing trailed off in a straggling line.
he lips beneath the trim gray mustache drew themselves into a hard
line. It was a moment before Admiral Struthers raised his eyes to
meet those of Robert Thorpe.
"You found this in the captain's cabin?" he asked.
"And the captain was—"
"No, but the door had been burst off its hinges. There had been a
struggle without a doubt."
The officer mused for a minute or two.
"Did they go aboard another vessel?" he pondered. "Abandon ship—open
the sea-cocks—sink it for the insurance?" He was trying vainly to
find some answer to the problem, some explanation that would not
impose too great a strain upon his own reason.
"I have reported to the owners," said Thorpe. "The Minnie R. was not
The Admiral ruffled some papers on his desk to find a report.
"There has been another," he told Thorpe. "A tramp freighter is listed
as missing. She was last reported due east of the position you give.
She was coming this way—must have come through about the same
water—" He caught himself up abruptly. Thorpe sensed that an Admiral
of the Navy must not lend too credulous an ear to impossible stories.
"You've had an interesting experience, Mr. Thorpe," he said. "Most
interesting. Probably a derelict is the answer, some hull just afloat.
We will send out a general warning."
He handed the loose papers and the log book to the younger man. "This
stuff is rubbish," he stated with emphasis. "Captain Wilkins held his
command a year or so too long."
"You will do nothing about it?" Thorpe asked in astonishment.
"I said I would warn all shipping; there is nothing more to be done."
"I think there is." Thorpe's gray eye were steady as he regarded the
man at the desk. "I intend to run it down. There have been other such
instances, as you said—never explained. I mean to find the answer."
dmiral Struthers smiled indulgently. "Always after excitement," he
said. "You'll be writing another book, I expect. I shall look forward
to reading it ... but just what are you going to do?"
"I am going to the Islands," said Thorpe quietly. "I am going to
charter a small ship of some sort, and I am going out there and camp
on that spot in the hope of seeing those eyes and what is behind them.
I am leaving to-night."
Admiral Struthers leaned back to indulge in a hearty laugh. "I refused
you a passage on a destroyer once," he said, "and it was an expensive
mistake. I don't make the same mistake twice. Now I am going to offer
you a trip....
"The Bennington is leaving to-day on a cruise to Manila. I'll hold
her an extra hour or two if you would like to go. She can drop you at
Honolulu or wherever you say. Lieutenant Commander Brent is in
command—you remember him in Manila, of course."
"Fine," Thorpe responded. "I'll be there."
"And," he added, as he took the Admiral's hand, "if I didn't object to
betting on a sure thing I would make you a little proposition. I would
bet any money that you would give your shirt to go along."
"I never bet, either," said Admiral Struthers, "on a sure loss. Now
get out of here, you young trouble-shooter, and let the Navy get to
work." His eyes were twinkling as he waved the young man out.
horpe found himself comfortably fixed on the Bennington. Brent, her
commander, was a fine example of the aggressive young chaps that the
destroyer fleet breeds. And he liked to play cribbage, Thorpe found.
They were pegging away industriously the sixth night out when the
first S.O.S. reached them. A message was placed before the commander.
He read it and tossed it to Thorpe as he rose from his chair.
"S.O.S.," said the radio sheet, "Nagasaki Maru, twenty-four
thirty-five N., one five eight West. Struck something unknown. Down at
the bow. May need help. Please stand by."
Captain Brent had left the room. A moment later, and the quiver and
tremble of the Bennington told Thorpe they were running full speed
for the position of the stricken ship.
But: "Twenty-four thirty-five North," he mused, "and less than two
degrees west of where the poor old Minnie R. got hers. I wonder ...
"We will be there in four hours," said Captain Brent on his return.
"Hope she lasts. But what have they struck out there? Derelict
probably, though she should have had Admiral Struthers' warning."
Robert Thorpe made no reply other than: "Wait here a minute, Brent. I
have something to show you."
e had not told the officer of his mission nor of his experience, but
he did so now. And he placed before him the wildly improbable
statement of the late Captain Wilkins.
"Something is there," surmised Captain Brent, "just awash,
probably—no superstructure visible. Your Minnie R. hit the same
"Something is there," Thorpe agreed. "I wish I knew what."
"This stuff has got to you, has it?" asked Brent as he returned the
papers of Captain Wilkins. He was quite evidently amused at the
"You weren't on the ship," said Thorpe, simply. "There was nothing to
see—nothing to tell. But I know...."
He followed Brent to the wireless room.
"Can you get the Nagasaki?" Brent asked.
"They know we are coming, sir," said the operator. "We seem to be the
only one anywhere near."
He handed the captain another message. "Something odd about that," he
"U. S. S. Bennington," the captain read aloud. "We are still afloat.
On even keel now, but low in water. No water coming in. Engines full
speed ahead, but we make no headway. Apparently aground. Nagasaki
"Why, that's impossible," Brent exclaimed impatiently. "What kind of
foolishness—" He left the question uncompleted. The radio man was
writing rapidly. Some message was coming at top speed. Both Brent and
Thorpe leaned over the man's shoulder to read as he wrote.
"Bennington help," the pencil was writing, "sinking fast—decks
almost awash—we are being—"
In breathless silence they watched the pencil, poised above the paper
while the operator listened tensely to the silent night.
gain his ear received the wild jumble of dots and dashes sent by a
frenzied hand in that far-off room. His pencil automatically set down
the words. "Help—help—" it wrote before Thorpe's spellbound gaze,
"the eyes—the eyes—it is attack—"
And again the black night held only the rush and roar of torn waters
where the destroyer raced quivering through the darkness. The message,
as the waiting men well knew, would never be completed.
"A derelict!" Robert Thorpe exclaimed with unconscious scorn. But
Captain Brent was already at a communication tube.
"Chief? Captain Brent. Give her everything you've got. Drive the
Bennington faster than she ever went before."
The slim ship was a quivering lance of steel that threw itself through
foaming waters, that shot with an endless, roaring surge of speed
toward that distant point in the heaving waste of the Pacific, and
that seemed, to the two silent men on the bridge, to put the dragging
miles behind them so slowly—so slowly.
"Let me see those papers," said Captain Brent, finally.
e read them in silence.
Then: "The eyes!" he said. "The eyes! That is what this other poor
devil said. My God, Thorpe, what is it? What can it be? We're not all
"I don't know what I expected to find," said Thorpe slowly. "I had
thought of many things, each wilder than the next. This Captain
Wilkins said the eyes were above him. I had visions of some sky
monster ... I had even thought of some strange aircraft from out in
space, perhaps, with round lights like eyes. I have pictured
impossibilities! But now—"
"Yes," the other questioned, "now?"
"There were tales in olden times of the Kraken," suggested Thorpe.
"The Kraken!" the captain scoffed. "A mythical monster of the sea.
Why, that was just a fable."
"True," was the quiet reply, "that was just a fable. And one of the
things I have learned is how frequently there is a basis of fact
underlying a fable. And, for that matter, how can we know there is no
such monster, some relic of a Mesozoic species supposed to be
He stood motionless, staring far out ahead into the dark. And Brent,
too, was silent. They seemed to try with unaided eyes to penetrate the
dark miles ahead and see what their sane minds refused to accept.
t was still dark when the search-light's sweeping beam picked up the
black hull and broad, red-striped funnels of the Nagasaki Maru. She
was riding high in the water, and her big bulk rolled and wallowed in
the trough of the great swells.
The Bennington swept in a swift circle about the helpless hulk while
the lights played incessantly upon her decks. And the watching eyes
strained vainly for some signal to betoken life, for some sign that
their mad race had not been quite vain. Her engines had been shut
down; there was no steerage-way for the Nagasaki Maru, and, from all
they could see, there were no human hands to drag at the levers of her
waiting engines nor to twirl with sure touch the deserted helm. The
Nagasaki Maru was abandoned.
The lights held steadily upon her as the Bennington came alongside
and a boat was swung out smartly in its davits. But Thorpe knew he was
not alone in his wild surmise as to the cause of the catastrophe.
"Throw your lights around the water occasionally," Brent ordered. "Let
me know if you see anything."
"Yes sir," said the man at the search-light. "I will report if I spot
any survivors or boats."
"Report anything you see," said Commander Brent curtly.
"You go aboard if you want to," he suggested to Thorpe. "I will stay
here and be ready if you need help."
Thorpe nodded with approval as the small boat pulled away in the dark,
for there was activity apparent on the destroyer not warranted by a
mere rescue at sea. Gun-crews rushed to their stations; the tarpaulin
covers were off of the guns, and their slender lengths gleamed where
they covered the course of the boat.
"Brent is ready," Thorpe admitted, "for anything."
hey found the iron ladder against the ship's side, and a sailor
sprang for it and made his way aboard. Thorpe was not the last to set
foot on deck, and he shuddered involuntarily at the eery silence he
knew awaited them.
It was the Minnie R. over again, as he expected, but with a
difference. The sailing vessel, before he boarded it, had been for
some time exposed to the sun, while the Nagasaki Maru had not. And
here there were slimy trails still wet on the decks.
He went first to the wireless room. He must know the final answer to
that interrupted message, and he found it in emptiness. No radio man
was waiting him there, nor even a body to show the loser of an unequal
battle. But there was blood on the door-jamb where a body—the man's
body, Thorpe was sure—had been smashed against the wood. A wisp of
black hair in the blood gave its mute evidence of the hopeless fight.
And the slime, like the trails on the deck, smeared with odorous
vileness the whole room.
Thorpe went again to the deck, and, as on the other ship, he breathed
deeply to rid his lungs and nostrils of the abhorrent stench. The
ensign in charge of the boarding party approached.
"What kind of a rotten mess is this?" he demanded. "The ship is filthy
and not a soul on board. Not a man of them, officers or crew, and the
boats are all here. It's absolutely amazing, isn't it?"
"No," Thorpe told him, "about what we expected. What do you make of
this?" He touched with his foot a broad trail that shone wet in the
"The Lord knows," said the ensign in wonder. "It's all over and it
smells like a rotten dead fish. Well, we will be going back, sir." He
called to a petty officer to round up the men, and the boat was
heir return to the Bennington again through a pathway of light that
Thorpe knew was safe under the black muzzles of the destroyer's guns.
Or was it, he asked himself. Safe! Was anything safe from this
devilish mystery that could pluck each cowering human from the lowest
depths of this steel freighter, that could drag her down in the water
till the radio man sent his cry: "We are sinking!..."
He told Brent quietly, after the ensign had reported, of the struggles
in the wireless room and its few remaining traces. And he watched with
the commander through the hour of darkness while the Bennington
steamed in slow circles about the abandoned hulk, while her
search-lights played endlessly over the empty waters and the men at
the guns cast wondering glances at their skipper who ordered such
strange procedure when no danger was there.
With daylight the scene lost its sense of mysterious threat, and
Thorpe was eager to return to the abandoned ship.
"I might find something," he said, "some trace or indication of what
we have to fight."
"I must leave," said Commander Brent. "Oh, I'm coming back, never
fear," he added, at the look of dismay on Thorpe's face. The thought
of leaving this mystery unsolved was more than that young seeker after
adventure could accept.
"I'm coming back," Brent repeated. "I've been in communication with
the Admiral—Honolulu has relayed the messages through. All code, of
course; we mustn't alarm the whole Pacific with our nightmares. The
old man says to stick around and get the low-down on this damn thing."
"Then why leave?" objected Thorpe.
ecause I am coming around to your way of thinking, Thorpe. Because I
am as certain as can be that we have a monster of some sort to deal
with ... and because I haven't any depth charges. I want to run up to
the supply station at Honolulu and get a couple of ash-cans of TNT to
lay on top of the brute if we sight him."
"Glory be!" said Thorpe fervently. "That sounds like business. Go and
get your eggs and perhaps we can feed them to this devil—raw.... And
I think I'll stay here, if you will be back by dark."
"Better not," the other objected; but Thorpe overruled him.
"This thing attacks in the dark," he said. "I will lay a little bet on
that. It left the orang-outang on the Minnie R.—quit at the first
sign of daylight. I will be safe through the day, and besides, the
beast has gutted this ship. It won't return, I imagine. And if I stay
there for the day—live as they lived, the men who manned that ship—I
may have some information that will be of help when you get back. But
for Heaven's sake, Brent, don't stop to pick any flowers on the way."
"It's your funeral," said Brent not too cheerfully. "The old man said
to give you every assistance, and perhaps that includes helping you
But Robert Thorpe only laughed as Commander Brent gave his orders for
a small boat to be lowered. A ship's lantern and rockets for night
signals were taken at the officer's orders. "We'll be back before
dark," he said, "but take these as a precaution."
One favor Thorpe asked—that the ship's carpenter go over with him and
help him to make a strong-barred retreat of the wireless cabin.
"And I'll talk to you occasionally," he told Brent. "I tried the key
while I was aboard; the wireless is working on its batteries."
He waved a cheery good-by as the small boat pulled away. "And hurry
back," he called. The destroyer commander nodded an emphatic assent.
n board the Nagasaki Maru, Thorpe directed the carpenter and his
helpers in the work he wanted done. The man seemed to know
instinctively where to put his hands on needed supplies, and the
result was a virtual cage of strong oak bars enclosing the wireless
room, and braces of oak to bar the single door. Thorpe was not
assuming any bravado in his feeling of safety, but he was doing what
he had done in many other tight corners, and he prepared his defences
These included weapons of offense as well. As the boat with the
destroyer's men pulled back to the Bennington, he placed in easy
reach in a corner of the room a heavy calibered rifle he had taken
from his belongings.
And, still, with all his feeling of security, there was a strange
depression fell upon him when the Bennington's narrow hull was small
upon the horizon, and then that, too, was gone and only the heaving
swells and the wallowing hulk were his companions.
Only these? He shivered slightly as he thought of that unseen watcher
with the devil-eyes whose presence Captain Wilkins had felt—and his
men, and the poor terrified ape! He deliberately put from his mind the
thought of this; no use to start the day with morbid fears. He went
below to examine the cabins. But he carried the heavy elephant gun
with him wherever he went.
elow decks the signs of the marauder were everywhere, yet there was
little to be learned. The slimy trails dried quickly and vanished, but
not before Thorpe had traced them to the uttermost depths of the ship.
There was not a nook or corner that had gone unsearched in the
horrible quest for human food. And one thing impressed itself forcibly
upon the man's mind. He found a lantern, and he used it of necessity
in his explorations, but this thing had gone through the dark and with
unerring certainty had found its way to every victim.
"Can it see in the dark?" Thorpe questioned. "Or...." He visioned
dimly some denizen of the vast depths, living beyond the limits of the
sun's penetration, far in the abysmal darkness where its only light
must be self-made. But his mind failed in the attempt to picture what
manner of horror this thing might be.
Even in the hold its evil traces were found. There were tiers of metal
drums that still shone wet in his lantern's light. Calcium
carbide—for making acetylene, he supposed—marked "Made in U.S.A."
The Nagasaki must have been westward bound.
e went, after an hour or so, to the wireless room, and only when he
relaxed in the safety of his improvised fortress did he realize how
tense had been every nerve and muscle through his long search. He
tried the wireless and got an instant response from the destroyer.
"Don't shoot it too fast," he spelled out slowly to the distant
operator: "I am only a dub. Just wanted to say hello and report all
"Fine," was the steady, careful response. "We have had a little
trouble with our condensers—" There was a short pause, then the
message continued, this portion dictated by the commander. "Delay not
important. We will be back as agreed. Have picked up S. S. Adelaide
bound east in your latitude. Warned her to take northerly course
account derelict. See you later. Signed, Brent, commanding U. S. S.
The man in the barred room tapped off his acknowledgement and closed
the key. He suddenly realized he had had no breakfast, and the hours
had been slipping past. He took his gun again and went down to the
galley to prepare some coffee. It was not the time or place for an
enjoyable meal, but he would have relished it more had he not pictured
the Adelaide and her lovely owner steaming across these threatening
He knew the captain of the Adelaide. "Obstinate pigheaded old
Scotchman!" "Hope he takes Brent's advice. Of course Brent couldn't
tell him the truth. We can't blat this wild yarn all over the air or
the passenger lines would have our scalps. But I wish the Adelaide
was safe in Manila."
is explorations in the afternoon were half-hearted and perfunctory.
There was nothing more to be learned. But he had seen in his mind some
vague outline of what they must meet. He saw a something, mammoth,
huge, that could grasp and hold an ocean freighter—against whose
great body he had seen the waves dash in a line of white spray. Yet a
something that could force its way down narrow passages, could press
with terrific strength on bolted doors and crush them inward, wrecked
and splintered. Some serpentine thing that felt and saw its way and
crawled so surely through the dark—found its prey—seized it—and
carried off a man as easily as it might a mouse.
No octopus, no matter what proportions, filled the description. He
gave up trying to see too clearly the awful thing. And he kept away
from the ship's rail when once he had ventured near. For there had
come to him a feeling of fear that had sent the waves of cold
trickling and prickling up his spine. Was there something really
there?... A waiting lurking horror in the depths?
"The eyes," he thought, "the eyes!..." And he went more quickly than
he knew to his barred retreat where again he might breathe quietly.
he position of the deserted ship was south of the regular steamer
lanes on the TransPacific run. Only a trace of smoke on the northern
horizon marked through the afternoon the passage of other craft. It
was a long and lonely vigil for the waiting man. But the Bennington
would return, and he listened in at intervals hoping to hear her
The batteries operating the Nagasaki's wireless were none too
strong; Thorpe saved their strength, though he tried at times to raise
the Bennington somewhere beyond his reach.
The sun was touching the horizon when he got his first response. "Keep
up the old nerve," admonished the slow, careful sending of the
Bennington's operator. "We have been delayed but we are on our way.
The man in the wireless room placed the oak bars across the door, and
tried to believe he was nonchalant and unafraid as he laid out extra
clips of cartridges. But his eyes persisted in following the sinking
sun, and he watched from within his cage the coming of the quick dark.
The protecting glare of day must be unbearable to this monster from
the lightless depths, and daylight was vanishing. Thorpe's mind was
searching for additional means of defense. He found it in the cargo he
had seen. The drums of carbide! He could scatter it on the deck—it
reacted with water, and those slimy arms, if they came and touched it,
could find the contact hot. He took his lantern and went hastily below
to stagger back with a drum upon his shoulder.
In the half-light that was left him he forced the cover and then
rolled the drum about the swaying deck. The gray, earthly lumps of
carbide formed erratic lines. Useless perhaps, he admitted, but the
threatening dark forced the man to use every means at his command.
e was scattering the contents of a second drum when he stiffened
abruptly to rigid attention.
The ship, thrown broadside to the wide-spaced swells, had rolled
endlessly with a monotonous motion. But now the deck beneath him was
steadying. It assumed an abnormal levelness. The boat rose and fell
with the waves, but it no longer rolled. There was something beneath
holding, drawing on it.
Thorpe knew in that frozen second what it meant. The drum clattered to
the rail as he dashed for his room. Gun in hand, he watched with
staring eyes where the deserted deck showed dim and vague in the light
of the stars and the bow of the ship was lost in the uncertain dark of
Wide-eyed he watched into the blackness, and he listened with
desperate attention for some slightest sound beyond the splashing of
waves and the creaking of spars.
Far in the west a light appeared, to glow and vanish and glow again in
the tumbling waters. The Bennington! His heart leaped at the
thought, then sank as he knew the destroyer's lights would not appear
from that direction.
Through a slow hour that seemed an eternity the oncoming ship drew
near, and he knew with a sudden, startling certainty that it was the
Adelaide—and Ruth Allaire—coming on, through into the horror
He leaned forward tensely as a sound reached his ears. A ghostly echo
of a sound, like the softest of smooth, slipping fabric upon hard
steel. And as he listened, before his staring eyes, a something came
between him and the lighted yacht.
It wavered and swung in the darkness. It was formless, uncertain of
outline, and it swung in the night out beyond the ship's rail till it
suddenly neared, waved high overhead, and the cold light of the stars
shone in pale reflection from an enormous, staring eye.
It surmounted a serpentine form that took shape in the dim radiance
without and came lower in undulating folds to crash heavily upon the
horpe's hand was upon the wireless key. He had wanted to warn off the
yacht, but not till the thud of the creature on the bare deck proved
its reality could he force his cold fingers to press the key.
Then, fast as his inexperience allowed, he called frantically for the
Adelaide. He spelled her name, over and over.... Would the sleepy
operator never answer?
The Bennington broke in one. "Is that you, Thorpe? What is up?" they
But Thorpe kept up his slow spelling of the yacht's name. He must get
a warning to them! Then he realized that the Bennington could do it
"Bennington," he called, "Adelaide approaching. I am attacked.
Warn them off. Warn them—" His frantic, hissing dots and dashes died
immediately. Beneath his feet the Nagasaki Maru was rolling again,
swinging free to the lift and thrust of the swells beneath.
"Good God!" he shouted aloud in his lonely cabin. "It's gone for the
yacht. Adelaide—turn north—full speed—" he clicked off on a slow,
stuttering key. "Head north. You are being attacked!" He groaned again
as he saw the Adelaide's shining ports swing away from the safety of
the north; the ship broached broadside to the waves and came slowly to
"Bennington," he radioed. "Brent—it has got the Adelaide.
Help—hurry! I am going over."
He tore wildly at the barred door, and he made a dash across the deck
to slip sprawling in a heap against the rail where the slimy traces of
the recent visitor stretched glistening on the deck.
ow he lowered the boat Thorpe never knew. But he knew there was one
that the men from the Bennington had swung over the side, and tore
madly at the tackle to let the boat crash miraculously upright into
the sea. He slung the rifle about his neck with a rope end—there were
cartridges in his pocket—and he went down the dangling lines and cast
off in a frenzy of haste.
What could he do? He hardly dared form the question. Only this stood
clear and unanswerable in his mind: The yacht was in the monster's
grip, and Ruth Allaire was there on board. Ruth Allaire, so smiling,
so friendly, so lovable! Food for that horror from the depths.... He
rowed with super-human strength to drive the heavy boat across the
wave-swept distance that separated them.
Between gasping breaths he turned at times to glance over his shoulder
and correct his course. And now, as he drew near, he saw though
indistinct the unmistakable, snakelike weaving of horrible tenuous
fingers, rolling and groping about the yacht.
They were plain as he drew alongside. The trim ship rose and fell with
the water, while over her side where Thorpe approached swung a long,
white monstrous rope of flesh. It retreated like the lash of a whip,
and the horrified watcher saw as it went the struggling figure of a
man in the grasp of flabby lips. And above them a single eye glared
Another vile, twisting arm rose from the afterdeck with a screaming
figure in its grasp and vanished into the water beyond the yacht.
There were others writhing about the decks. Thorpe saw them as he made
his boat fast and clambered aboard.
wave of reeking air enveloped him as he reached the deck; the
nauseous stench from the monster's tentacles was horrible beyond
endurance. He gagged and choked as the stifling breath entered his
A huge rope of slippery, throbbing flesh stretched its twisted length
toward the stern. It contracted as he watched into bulging muscular
rings and withdrew from the afterdeck. The deadly end of it stopped in
mid-air not twenty feet from where he stood. The jawlike pincers on it
held the limp form of an officer in its sucking grip, while above, in
a protuberance like a gnarled horn, a great eye glared into Thorpe's
with devilish hatred.
The beak opened sharply to drop its unconscious burden upon the deck,
and the watching man, petrified with horror, saw within the gaping maw
great sucking discs and beyond them a brilliant glow. The whole
cavernous pit was aflame with phosphorescent light. Dimly he knew that
this light explained the ability of the beastly arms to grope so
surely in the dark.
The eye narrowed as the gaping, fleshy jaws distended, and Robert
Thorpe, in a flash that galvanized him to action, was aware that his
fight for life was on. He fired blindly from the hip, and the recoil
of the heavy gun almost tore it from his hands. But he knew he had
aimed true, and the toothless, seeking jaws whipped in agony back into
There were other arms whose eyes were searching the stern of the
yacht. Thorpe plunged frenziedly down a companionway for the cabin he
knew was Ruth Allaire's. Was he in time? Could he save her if he found
her? His mind was in a turmoil of half-formed plans as he rushed madly
down the corridor to find the body of the girl a limp huddle across
the threshold of her cabin.
he was alive; he knew it as he swung her soft body across one
shoulder and staggered with his burden up the stairs. If he could only
breathe! His throat was tight and strangling with the reeking
putrescence in the air. And before his eyes was a picture of the
strong oak bars of his own retreat. Somehow, some way, he must get
back to the abandoned ship.
An eye detected him as he came on deck, and he dropped the limp body
of the girl at his feet as he swung his rifle toward the glowing light
within the opening jaws. The sucking discs cupped and wrinkled in
dread readiness in the fleshy, toothless opening. He emptied the
magazine into the head, though he knew this was only a feeler and a
feeder for a still more horrible mouth in the monstrous body that rose
and fell tremendously in the dark waters beyond. But it was typical of
Robert Thorpe that even in the horror and frenzy of the moment he
rammed another clip of cartridges into his rifle before he stooped to
again raise the prostrate figure of Ruth Allaire.
The forward deck for the moment was clear; it rose high with the
weight of the writhing, twisting arms that weighed down the stern of
the yacht where the crew had taken refuge.
To think of helping them was worse than folly—he dismissed the
thought as another great eye came over the rail. Once more he used the
gun, then lowered the girl to the waiting boat, and cast off and rowed
with the stealthiest of strokes into the dark.
ehind him were whipping points of light above the white brilliance of
the yacht Adelaide. The boat was tossing in great waves that came
from beyond, where a body, incredibly huge, was tearing the waters to
foam. There were ghostly arms that shone in slimy wetness, that lashed
searchingly in all directions, as the monster gave vent to its fury at
Thorpe's attack. There were screaming human figures grasped in many of
the jaws, and the man was glad with a great thankfulness that the
girl's stupor could save her from the frightful sight.
He dared to row now, and his breath was coming in great choking sobs
of sheer exhaustion when at last he pulled the senseless form of Ruth
Allaire to the deck of the Nagasaki and drew her within the frail
shelter of the wireless room.
Stout had the oaken bars appeared, and safe his refuge in the
barricaded room, but that was before he had seen in horrible reality
the fearful fury of this monster from the deep. He placed the braces
against the door and turned with hopeless haste to seize the wireless
"Bennington," he called, and the answer came strong and clear.
"Where are you.... Help—" His fingers froze upon the key and the
answering message in his ears was unheeded as he watched across the
water the destruction of the yacht.
This craft that had dared to resist the onset of the brute, to fight
against it, to wound it, was feeling the full fury of the monster's
rage. The gleaming lights of the doomed ship were waving lines that
swept to and fro in the grip of those monstrous arms. The boat beneath
Thorpe's feet was tossing in the waves that told of the titanic
struggle. He had meant to look south for some sign of the oncoming
destroyer, but in fearful fascination he stared spellbound where the
masts of the trim yacht swept downward into the waves, where the green
of her star-board lantern glowed faintly for an instant, then
vanished, to leave only the darkness and the starlit sea.
voice aroused him from his stupefaction. "Where am I ... where am
I?" Ruth Allaire was asking in a frightened whisper. "That terrible
thing—" She shuddered violently as memory returned to show again the
horror she had witnessed. "Where are we, Robert? And the
Adelaide—where is it?"
Thorpe turned slowly. The insane turmoil of the past hour had numbed
his brain, stunned him.
"The Adelaide—" he mumbled, and groped fumblingly for coherent
thoughts. He stared at the girl. She was half-risen from the floor
where he had laid her, and the sight of her quivering face brought
reason again to his mind. He knelt tenderly beside her and raised her
in his arms.
"Where is the yacht?" she repeated. "The Adelaide?"
"Gone," Thorpe told her. "Lost!" A thought struck him.
"Was your father on board, Ruth?"
Ruth was dazed.
"Lost," she repeated. "The Adelaide—lost!... No," she added in
belated response to Thorpe's question. "Daddy was not there. But the
men—Captain MacPherson ... that horrible monster...." She buried her
face in her hands as she realized what Thorpe's silence meant.
He held the trembling figure close as the girl whispered: "Where are
we, Robert? Are we safe?"
"We may win through yet," he told her through grim, set lips. He
realized abruptly that he was seeing the face of Ruth Allaire in the
light. He had left a lantern burning! He withdrew his arms from about
her and sprang quickly to his feet to put out the tell-tale light. In
darkness and quiet was their only safety. And he knew as he sprang
that he had waited too long. A soft body crashed heavily on the deck
he girl's voice was shrill with terror as she began a question.
Thorpe's hand pressed upon her lips in the dark where he stood
A luminous something was glowing outside the cabin. It searched and
prodded about the deserted deck to whip upward at the audible hiss of
wet carbide. Another appeared; the rifle came slowly to the man's
shoulder as a pair of jaws gaped glowingly beyond the windows and an
eye stared unblinkingly from its hornlike sheath. It crashed madly
against the walls of the wireless room to shatter the glass and make
kindling of the woodwork of the sash. Thorpe fired once and again
before the specter vanished, and he knew with sickening certainty that
the wounds were only messages to some central brain that would send
other ravening tentacles against them. But the oak bars had held.
He reached in the brief interval for the key, and he sent out one
final call for help. He strained his ears against the head-set for
some friendly human word of hope.
"—rocket," the wireless man was saying. "Fire rockets. We can't
find—" A swift, writhing arm wrapped crushingly about the cabin as
the message ceased.
horpe seized his rifle and fired into the gray mass that bulged with
terrible muscular contractions through the window. He fired again to
aim lengthways of the arm and inflict as damaging a wound as his
weapon would permit.
The arm relaxed, but a score of others took up the attack. Again the
sickening stench was about them as gaping jaws gleamed fiery beneath
the hateful eyes and tore at the flimsy structure. Thorpe jammed more
cartridges into the gun and fired again and again, then dropped the
weapon to fumble for the rockets that Brent had given him.
He lighted one with trembling fingers; the first ball shot straight
into a waiting mouth. Another ignited a searing flame of acetlylene
gas where a wet arm writhed in the hot carbide trail. The man leaned
far out through the broken window.
No time to look around. He let the red flares stream upward high into
the air, then dropped the rocket hissing on the deck to seize once
more the rifle.
A mass of muscle crashed against the door; it went to splinters under
the impact, and only the two oak bars remained to hold in check the
horrible tentacles and the darting heads. One mouth closed to a
pointed end that forced its way between the bars. The oak gave under
the strain as Robert Thorpe pulled vainly at an empty gun. Beside him
rose shrieks of terror as the monstrous thing came on, and Thorpe beat
with frantic fury with his clubbed rifle at the fleshy snout.
He knew as he swung the weapon that the shrieks had ceased, then
smiled grimly in the numbing horror as he realized that Ruth Allaire
was beside him. A piece of oak was in her hands, and she was striking
with desperate and silent fury at the slimy flesh.
t was the end, Thorpe knew, and suddenly he was glad. The nightmare
was over, and the end was coming with this girl beside him. But Robert
Thorpe was fighting on to the last, and he tried to make his blows
reach outward to the hateful devilish eye.
He saw it plainly now, for the deck was a glare of white light. He saw
the eye and the thick arm behind it and the score of others that made
a heaving, knotted mass were brilliant and wetly shining. He could see
now how best to strike, and he turned his gun to thrust with the
barrel at the eye.
It withdrew before his stroke—the jaws slid backward to the deck.
There were sounds that hammered at his ears. "The guns! The guns!" a
girl was screaming. Across the deck, where a search-light played,
huge arms were lashing backward toward the sea. The waves beyond had
vanished where a monstrous body shone wetly black in a blinding glare.
And the man hung panting, helpless, on the one remaining bar across
the doorway to look where, beyond, her forward guns a spitting stream
of staccato flashes, the Bennington tore the waves to high-thrown
spray. Her four clean funnels swung far over as the slim ship, with
her stabbing, crashing guns, swung in a sweeping circle to bear down
upon the black bulk slowly sinking in the search-light's glare.
The vast body had vanished as the destroyer shot like one of her own
projectiles over the spot where the beast had lain. And then, where
she had passed, the sea arose in a heaving mound. The big ship beneath
the watching man shuddered again as another depth charge grumbled its
challenge to the master of the deeps.
he warship went careening on an arc to return and throw the full
glare of her search-lights on the scene. They lighted a vast sea,
strangely stilled. An oily smoothness leveled waves and ironed them
out to show more clearly the convulsions of a torn mass that rose
slowly into sight.
Thorpe in some way found himself outside the cabin. And he knew that
the girl was again beside him as he stared and stared at what the
waters held. A bloated serpent form beyond believing was struggling in
the greasy swell. Its waving tentacles again were flung aloft in
impotent fury, and, beneath them, where their thick ends jointed the
body, a head with one horrible eye rose into the air. A thick-lipped
mouth gaped open, and the gleam of molars shone white in the blinding
The twisting body shuddered throughout its vast bulk, and the waving
arms and futile staring eyes dropped helpless into the splashing sea.
Again the revolting head was raised as the destroyer sent a rain of
shells into its fearful mass. Once more the oily seas were calm. They
closed over the whirling vortex where a denizen of the lightless
depths was returning to those distant, subterranean caverns—returning
as food for what other voracious monsters might still exist.
The man's arm was about the figure of the girl, trembling anew in a
fresh reaction from the horror they had escaped, when a small boat
"They're safe," a hoarse voice bellowed back to the destroyer, and a
man came monkeywise up a rope where Thorpe had launched his boat.
And now, as one in a dream, Thorpe allowed the girl to be taken from
him, to be lowered to the waiting boat. He clambered down himself and
in silence was rowed across to the destroyer.
"Thank God!" said Brent, as he met them at the rail. "You're safe, old
man ... and Miss Allaire ... both of you! You let off that rocket just
in time; we couldn't pick you up with our light—
"And now," he added, "we're going back; back to San Diego. The Admiral
wants a word of mouth report."
Thorpe stilled him with a heavy gesture. "Give Ruth an opiate," he
said dully. "Let her forget ... forget!... Good God, can we ever
forget—" He stumbled forward, heedless of Brent's arm across his
shoulders as the surgeon took the girl in charge.
dmiral Struthers, U.S.N., leaned back from his desk and blew a cloud
of smoke thoughtfully toward the ceiling. He looked silently from
Thorpe to Commander Brent.
"If either one of you had come to me with such a report," he said
finally, "I would have found it incredible; I would have thought you
were entirely insane, or trying some wild hoax."
"I wish it were a damn lie," said Thorpe quietly. "I wish I didn't
have to believe it." There were new lines about the young-old eyes,
lines that spoke what the lips would not confess of sleepless nights
and the impress of a picture he could not erase.
"Well, we have kept it out of the papers," said the Admiral. "Said it was a
derelict, and the wild messages floating about were from an inexperienced
man, frightened and irresponsible. Bad advertising—very—for the passenger
"Quite," Commander Brent agreed, "but of course Mr. Thorpe may want to
use this in his next book of travel. He has earned the right without
"No," said Thorpe emphatically. "No! I told you, Brent, there was
often a factual basis for fables—remember? Well, we have proved that.
But sometimes it is best to leave the fables just fables. I think you
will agree." A light step sounded in the corridor beyond. "Nothing of
this to Miss Allaire," he said sharply.
The men rose as Ruth Allaire entered the room. "We were just
speaking," said the Admiral with an engaging smile beneath his
close-cut mustache, "of the matter of a bet. Mr. Thorpe has won
handily, and he has taught me a lesson."
He took a check book from his desk. "What charity would you like to
name, Miss Allaire? That was left to you, you remember."
"Some seamen's home," said Ruth Allaire gravely. "You will know best,
if you two are really serious about that silly bet."
"That bet, my dear," said Robert Thorpe with smiling eyes, "was very
serious ... and it has had most serious consequences." He turned to
the waiting men and extended a hand in farewell.
"We are going to Europe, Ruth and I," he told them. "Just rambling
around a bit. Our honeymoon, you know. Look us up if you're cruising
out that way."