Young John is charmed by the Dragon, the schooner he is planning to sail to London and use for the honest wool trade. But a mysterious gentleman delivers an ominous warning to "steer clear of that ship," because the ship was "christened with blood." The ship looks clever and quick, and the crew seems to know how to man it, but with such a warning John is left to wonder how well he really knows what lies ahead. Will he heed the advice given by the mysterious man? Or will he brave the unknown on his own?
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I fetched a lantern and went right to the depths of the ship, where water, brown and fetid, slurped among the timbers. I went through the darkness in a circle of light, frightening cockroaches into shelter, hearing the groans and creaks of the hull as it worked. The places where I had to go were small and cramped, and I slithered through them as the lantern made the shadows zoom and tilt.
And someone came behind me.
When I stopped, he was silent. When I moved, so did he. I heard a faint creaking of wood as he crept up, closing the distance. He was quiet as a cat. And suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I cried out, startled, as he pushed me down against the hull.
"You're in danger, boy," said he.
I tried to lift myself, to turn and see him, but the sailor held me down.
"Watch yourself," he said. "There's one aboard who'll kill you."
For a moment I only heard him breathing. He said, "The one who seems least likely."
"But who?" I asked again.
He pressed harder on my shoulder. "He'll want the dead man's secrets. See you keep them safe."
"Who are you?" I asked.
"A man you never saw." And then the hand was gone.