They set sail in the silent mist of early dawn. The weather was warm and so still that on their second day out the ship came to a stop. No wind filled her sails for three days and three nights. The Rambling Man’s sailors became anxious and antsy and muttered darkly to one another. Sailors are always a superstitious lot and these men already began to pass about ideas of strange powers causing this unusual calm. The Rambling Man had no experience leading men and no experience sailing a ship. He was therefore becoming very worried himself.
During this time two strange things happened aboard the ship. On the first day of no wind, the cook came to the Rambling Man in a raging red-faced fury.
“Someone has been steeling the apples! Four gone already! You must put a stop to this.”
And so the Rambling Man called together all the crew and addressed them in his most polite tone, encouraging the culprit to reveal himself and apologize and assuring them that if they came forward no disciplinary action would be taken except that they would be denying their farther share of apples. Despite his generous words, no crew member stepped forward, but rather they all seemed genuinely innocent of the crime. Then, just as the Rambling Man was about to call an end to the meeting a little shadow detached itself from a pile of ropes and stepped dejectedly forward. It was a little grey monkey and he brought, very guiltily, from behind his back the core of an apple. The monkey walked right up to the Rambling Man, his tail dragging across the boards behind him and set the apple core down with a sad little bow.
The little monkey was so apologetic and endearing that the men all had a good laugh about it and he was forgiven. It turned out that the monkey did not belong to any of the crew members but must have snuck on at boarding. They named the little stowaway Cory, after the apple core he had stolen and he quickly became everyone’s favorite monkey.
The monkey’s extreme intelligence was due to something that none of them could have guessed. You see, Cory was actually a young man, who, through a serious of unfortunate happenings had been bewitched, and turned into a monkey. He had stowed away on their ship in hopes that their adventures might lead him to someplace where he might have the spell removed.
On the second day, another strange thing happened. One of the crew members, a broad-shouldered man with a stout heart and a sober mind had gone down to the hold for a long nap because he had worked the night shift the night before. He came up after an hour, very disconcerted and asked for a word in private with the Rambling Man.
This granted, he proceeded to tell the Rambling Man a very strange tale. The sailor had just been dozing off when he had been woken by a voice saying, “Shantle thy grantle and tell me away. Time is a passing for you with me to stay. Shiggle thy swiggle and talk to a toad. I long for the song of the last open road.”
Thinking that the odd poetry was being said by another sailor who must have come down silently, or else been there all along, the man called out, asking who was there. He received no response but more rhyming. So he got up and lit a lantern and began to wander the dark hold of the ship, following the voice to its source.
“Wittle and mittle, I can’t go with you. My heart is in chains, my soul captured too.”
When the sailor entered the place where they stored wine, water and bread, he was surprised to see the form of a man, and the source of the poetry, sitting dejectedly on a barrel. The stranger looked up in surprise and the sailor was so shocked that he dropped his lantern. The stranger was almost transparent—a ghost!
The ghost was not seen again, but others claimed to hear queer poetry in the dark and even the Rambling Man thought he heard it that night.
Then, on dawn of the third day, the strangest event occurred. The morning was as calm and windless as the previous mornings had been. The Rambling Man restlessly paced the deck of the ship, his steps muffled in a white mist. Suddenly there was a hollow roaring sound that seemed to come from the belly of the ship. Then the sails, which had lain slack for three days filled with wind and the ship leapt forward across the glassy-calm waters.
The Rambling Man and his crew spent a worrisome day as their haunted sails led them across still waters. Only Cory the monkey seemed unconcerned as he leapt about as cheerfully as ever, clearly happy to be on the move again.
The Rambling Man later wondered if it was purpose or accident that led their unnaturally sailing ship into the sight of a pirate ship.