The Captain’s Nightmare

Presently the captain yawned and Doctor Syn rose and summoned Mrs. Waggetts. The captain yawned again and rubbed his eyes. Was he awake or dreaming? The last thing he remembered was drinking the hot rum punch and listening to a long story that he thought the Doctor would never finish. What a soothing effect that punch seemed to have on his faculties, for after that he was rather vague. He dreamt he was lifted up sleeping, lifted up by two men who had followed Mrs. Waggetts from the bar when Doctor Syn had called her. Was one of those men that insolent Sexton Mipps? He vaguely thought it was, though he wouldn’t be sure. No, he wouldn’t be sure of anything! He thought he had been carried up to bed, but that was too silly, for who would carry him up to bed? Was it Doctor Syn who had said to Mipps on the stairs that he wasn’t going riding tonight for a thousand guineas, and that they must do without him for once? Then Mipps answered:

“That yellow beast ain’t a-lookin’ out for Clegg’s carpenter, is he? Well, I’ll go, it don’t want us both tonight.”

Then the dream got more confused than ever. There was a lonely reef in the coral seas, and on it was a weird figure calling. The captain seemed to be on a ship that was standing away from the reef, and all the time the figure kept calling. There was a full ship’s crew collected on the deck who were threatening two men. One was a familiar figure, a figure he had not seen often out of his dreams, and so was his little companion, and still the voice kept calling. The crew pushed forward a spokesman: he was a Chinaman⁠—they called him by a nickname⁠—Pete. Pete sheepishly advanced and stammered out to the familiar figure, whom he addressed as “Captain,” to put the ship about, and take up again the lonely form calling from the reef. Pete’s argument was evidently useless, for as he turned to join his fellows, the tallest of the familiar figures stretched out his hand and caught the yellow man⁠—he was clad in the scanty garb of a cook⁠—and broke his naked back with a marlinspike that the little companion of the familiar figure had handed to him. Then the crew were commanded to throw the body overboard or they would be served the same. This they did, and the sharks surrounded the ship, clacking their teeth. Then the breeze seemed to blow off the reef, and the familiar figure ordered the men aloft to unfurl the sails. They obeyed sullenly, and still the voice, getting fainter and fainter, called from the reef, and the breeze increased, and the captain and his mate ordered the men the quicker aloft.

“Get up aloft there, you dogs! Get up! Get up! Get up!”

The familiar figure then caught sight of the dreamer (though he wasn’t sure that he was dreaming even yet), and striding up to him ordered him aloft, and when he refused he dragged him up by the arm. The dreamer felt dizzy, for the sails were blowing in his face, and he thought he would let go, it was so like his first experience aloft; and he begged the familiar figure to let him go down, but the voice went on crying: “Up! Get up! Get up!”

Then the sail was pulled from his face, the wind blew through his hair, and he started up, catching hold of a stay (which turned out to be the bedpost), and letting the sail fall below, upon the deck, which in reality was the bedclothes slipping to the floor, and still the voice cried: “Get up! Get up!” And he recognized there the familiar face and form of Doctor Syn, and by him his companion. Sexton Mipps.

“Get up! Get up!” the parson was crying. “What a fellow to sleep you are! Like waking the dead! Upon my soul, it is, Mr. Mipps.”

The captain rubbed his eyes again.

The sun was streaming through the window, which was open, and a good stiff breeze was blowing in from the sea.

“What the devil!” said the captain. “Oh, it’s Doctor Syn, is it? What’s the time?”

“Just on ten o’clock,” said the cleric.

“Ten o’ what?” bellowed the captain, leaping out of bed.

“Clock,” repeated Mr. Mipps.

“I’ve overslept. Thing I’ve never done in my life. Been dreaming, too. Nightmares⁠—horrible! But what do you want? Is anything the matter?”

“I think there is,” said the Doctor quietly.

“And so do I,” said Mr. Mipps.

“What? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

“I don’t quite know yet, it may be nothing at all, but I don’t like the look of it.”

“The look of what?” shouted the captain.

“The vicarage,” replied the vicar. “Put on your clothes quickly, Captain, and come and see. I think there’s something wrong.”