by Captain W. E. Johns
4. MYSTERY UPON MYSTERY (Pages 49 – 66)
Worrals and Frecks
have a meal of biscuits, tinned butter, sardines and jam. They then set off exploring the reef around
where they have landed. On the seaward
side, the rollers sweep in with great ferocity.
Worrals finds some cartridge cases on the dead
coral, proving that bullets were fired.
In the distance something disappears into the palms. The girls think it was a brown human being,
possibly a native. Frecks
notices sharks in the lagoon. They walk
up the silver beach and just past a high bank of coral that initially obstructs
their view, they find a ship! It is a
ship of some size and it is wedged between two submerged shelves of coral that
rises from the bottom of the lagoon. It
had once been a yacht and where it was once painted white; it is now all brown
and grey, blistered and peeling and rusty.
The name of the ship is painted on the bows – “Cleopatra”. “I know what you were thinking,” said Frecks. “What?” “You thought it was the missing yacht,
‘Vanity’.” Quite right, I was,” admitted
Worrals. Worrals says she is going onboard. However, she notices the coral is wet where
it shouldn’t be. As if someone had
climbed out of the water at that spot. Worrals concludes that someone has been there, the person
they caught sight of earlier. “From
inside the wreck came a long drawn out cry, so heart-rending, so melancholy in
anguish, that Frecks went cold all over. Her skin turned goose-flesh, to use the
common expression”. Swimming over to the
boat and climbing onboard they hear the same noise. Frecks wants to
leave. “And spend the rest of our lives
wondering what made that noise?” sneered Worrals. “Not likely”.
They go into the ship and find a locked metal door. They use a rusty iron spike to force it open
and a black and white object streaks past them, out of the ship and jumps into
the water. It was a woman, with long
black hair and the rags of an ancient pinafore.
“I’d put her age at about sixteen – but, of course, a girl of that age
is a woman in this part of the world”. Worrals tells Frecks that this
part of the South Sea Islands is divided up into Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia,
these zones being determined by the racial characteristics of the
thinks the girl she saw was not Polynesian.
She saw her running up the beach afterwards and thinks she had whip
marks on her back. Walking around the
rubbish strewn deck, Worrals finds a lifebelt. On it, almost obliterated by sun and
sea-water is the still legible word “Vanity”.
Walking over to the bow and rubbing off blistered paint, it can be seen
that ‘Vanity’ has been painted out and ‘Cleopatra’ superimposed on top. “Honest mariners don’t change the name of
their ship on the high seas” says Worrals. “Come on, let’s get ashore”.