They had set sail in the silent mist of the early dawn. The weather was warm, and on the second day the winds had calmed, leaving them motionless. For three days and three nights the wind refused to fill the sails. The Rambling Man and his sailors grew anxious, muttering dark whispers to each other. They spoke of witches' curses and foul spirits stalling their journey.
Now, sailors are usually a superstitious lot, to be sure--and these men were no exception. They began passing ideas of strange powers causing this unnatural calm. The Rambling Man had little experience in sailing, and less in the leading of men. He knew not what to say to bring the crewmen at ease and began to worry, himself.
During this time, three strange events began to take place aboard the ship.
On the first day of their unnaturally calm wind, the ship's cook came to the Rambling Man in a rage.
"Someone's been stealing the apples!" he cried. "Four of them gone already! You must put a stop to this!"
And so, doing as bidden, the Rambling Man went about the ship, addressing the crewmen as he found them, encouraging the culprit to bring himself to light and stop his thievery. Even with assurances that no harm would come to him for doing so, no member of the crew ever stepped forward. To the Rambling Man, they all seemed genuinely innocent and ignorant of the crime.
Then, just as the Rambling Man had searched high and low aboard the ship and spoken with every sailor, he came upon a small shadow down in storage. The shadow belonged to that of a small monkey hiding between the large, standing barrels below deck. The Rambling Man looked in upon the little monkey's hiding place and found the cores of four apples, freshly eaten.
The little monkey seemed apologetic to the Rambling Man as it hung its small head low in shame. The Rambling Man took pity on the small creature and lifted it to ride upon his shoulder. With his newfound passenger, the Rambling Man returned to the deck to show off his new friend. The cook was quite surprised to find that his apple thief wasn't one of the crew at all, but this little monkey stowaway. None of the men claimed to have brought it on board. They determined that the creature must have snuck onto their ship while it was still docked at the harbor. They named their little stowaway Cory after the apple cores he had left below deck. The men were glad for Cory's company, for he seemed to be a bright little monkey, indeed.
On the second day of the unnatural calm, another strange thing happened. One of the crew--a broad-shouldered man with a stout heart and a sober mind--had gone down in the hold for a long nap. Only an hour later, however, the sailor returned to the deck and asked the Rambling Man for a word in private.
With the two stepped aside, the sailor proceeded to tell the Rambling Man a very strange tale. You see, the sailor had just slipped off to sleep when he was woken by a very disconcerting voice. The voice had said, "Shantle thy grantle and tell me away! Time is a-passing for you to stay. Shiggle they swiggle and talk to a toad--I long for the song of the last open road!"
Thinking that to be perhaps the most odd poetry the Rambling Man had ever heard, he assumed it to be the singing of a second man below deck. The sailor had assumed that as well, and called out to the voice. In response, he heard more of the rhyme: "Whittle and mittle, I can't go with you. My heart is in chains--my soul captured, too."
The sailor arose from his cot, struck a light in the lantern and scoured the dark hold underneath the ship's deck. He searched for the origin of the voice and came upon the storage deck for the wine, water, bread and rations. Once inside, he was surprised to see the form of a man--the source of the odd rhymes--sitting casually upon one of the barrels. The sailor was so shocked by the sight of this stranger that he dropped his lantern, the light extinguishing. The image of the man upon the barrel had been translucent and faded--he was a ghost!
The rhyming ghost was not to be seen again, but sometimes, late at night, others claimed to hear his bizarre poetry echoing through the creaking halls of the ship.
Then lastly, on the dawn of the third day, the strangest thing of all occurred. This morning was calm and windless as the previous mornings had been. The Rambling Man paced back and forth across the deck, his steps muffled in a white mist that had settled over the ship and sea.
Suddenly, there was a hollowing roar which sounded from deep within the belly of the ship. Afterward, the sails, hanging tall so high above, burst forward in an explosion of air, billowing out in a strong wind.
The Rambling Man and his crew spent the worrisome day wondering where their haunted sails were leading them. The waters remained still, and the air unchanged--still the sails billowed and bulged in a wind all their own. Only Cory the little monkey seemed unconcerned as he leapt about, cheerful to be on the move once again.
The Rambling Man would later suspect that it was this unnatural wind that had purposefully led them to sail directly into the sights of a pirate ship.