The Phantom Ship
by Captain Frederick Marryat
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"After a time, the Dutch formed a settlement at Japan, and when they found that the Japanese Christians around the factories would deal only with the Portuguese, in whom they had confidence, they became our enemies; and the man of whom we have spoken, and who at that period was the head of the Dutch Factory, determined, in his lust for gold, to make the Christian religion a source of suspicion to the emperor of the country, and thus to ruin the Portuguese and their adherents. Such, my son, was the conduct of one who professed to have embraced the reformed religion as being of greater purity than our own.

"There was a Japanese lord of great wealth and influence who lived near us, and who, with two of his sons, had embraced Christianity, and had been baptised. He had two other sons, who lived at the emperor's court. This lord had made us a present of a house for a college and school of instruction: on his death, however, his two sons at court, who were idolaters, insisted upon our quitting this property. We refused, and thus afforded the Dutch principal an opportunity of inflaming these young noblemen against us: by this means he persuaded the Japanese emperor that the Portuguese and Christians had formed a conspiracy against his life and throne; for, be it observed, that when a Dutchman was asked if he was a Christian, he would reply, 'No; I am a Hollander.'

"The emperor, believing in this conspiracy, gave an immediate order for the extirpation of the Portuguese, and then of all the Japanese who had embraced the Christian faith. He raised an army for this purpose, and gave the command of it to the young noblemen I have mentioned, the sons of the lord who had given us the college. The Christians, aware that resistance was their only chance, flew to arms, and chose as their generals the other two sons of the Japanese lord, who, with their father, had embraced Christianity. Thus were the two armies commanded by four brothers, two on the one side and two on the other.

"The Christian army amounted to more than 40,000 men, but of this the emperor was not aware, and he sent a force of about 25,000 to conquer and exterminate them. The armies met, and after an obstinate combat (for the Japanese are very brave) the victory was on the part of the Christians, and, with the exception of a few who saved themselves in the boats, the army of the emperor was cut to pieces.

"This victory was the occasion of making more converts, and our army was soon increased to upwards of 50,000 men. On the other hand, the emperor, perceiving that his troops had been destroyed, ordered new levies and raised a force of 150,000 men, giving directions to his generals to give no quarter to the Christians, with the exception of the two young lords who commanded them, whom he wished to secure alive, that he might put them to death by slow torture. All offers of accommodation were refused, and the emperor took the field in person. The armies again met, and on the first day's battle the victory was on the part of the Christians; still they had to lament the loss of one of their generals, who was wounded and taken prisoner, and, no quarter having been given, their loss was severe.

"The second day's combat was fatal to the Christians. Their general was killed; they were overpowered by numbers, and fell to a man. The emperor then attacked the camp in the rear, and put to the sword every old man, woman, and child. On the field of battle, in the camp, and by subsequent torture, more than 60,000 Christians perished. But this was not all; a rigorous search for Christians was made throughout the islands for many years; and they were, when found, put to death by the most cruel torture. It was not until fifteen years ago that Christianity was entirely rooted out of the Japanese empire, and during a persecution of somewhat more than sixteen years, it is supposed that upwards of 400,000 Christians were destroyed; and all this slaughter, my son, was occasioned by the falsehood and avarice of that man who met his just punishment but a few days ago. The Dutch company, pleased with his conduct, which procured for them such advantages, continued him for many years as the president of their factory at Japan. He was a young man when he first went there, but his hair was grey when he thought of returning to his own country. He had amassed immense wealth,—immense, indeed, must it have been to have satisfied avarice such as his! All has now perished with him, and he has been summoned to his account. Reflect a little, my son. Is it not better to follow up our path of duty, to eschew the riches and pleasures of this world, and, at our summons hence, to feel that we have hopes of bliss hereafter?"

"Most true, holy father," replied Philip, musing.

"I have but a few years to live," continued the old man, "and God knows I shall quit this world without reluctance."

"And so could I," replied Philip.

"You, my son!—no. You are young, and should be full of hopes. You have still to do your duty in that station to which it shall please God to call you."

"I know that I have a duty to perform," replied Philip. "Father, the night air is too keen for one so aged as you. Retire to your bed, and leave me to my watch and my own thoughts."

"I will, my son! may Heaven guard you! Take an old man's blessing. Good-night."

"Good-night," replied Philip, glad to be alone. "Shall I confess all to him?" thought Philip. "I feel I could confess to him.—But no. I would not to Father Seysen,—why to him? I should put myself in his power, and he might order me—No, no! my secret is my own. I need no advisers." And Philip pulled out the relic from his bosom, and put it reverently to his lips.

The Batavia waited a few days at St Helena, and then continued her voyage. In six weeks Philip again found himself at anchor in the Zuyder Zee, and having the captain's permission, he immediately set off for his own home, taking with him the old Portuguese priest Mathias, with whom he had formed a great intimacy, and to whom he had offered his protection for the time he might wish to remain in the Low Countries.

Chapter XIII

"Far be it from me to wish to annoy you, my son," said Father Mathias, as with difficulty he kept pace with the rapid strides of Philip, who was now within a quarter of a mile of his home; "but still recollect that this is but a transitory world, and that much time has elapsed since you quitted this spot. For that reason I would fain desire you, if possible, to check these bounding aspirations after happiness, these joyful anticipations in which you have indulged since we quitted the vessel. I hope and trust in the mercy of God, that all will be right, and that in a few minutes you will be in the arms of your much-loved wife: but still, in proportion as you allow your hopes to be raised, so will you inevitably have them crushed should disappointment cross your path. At Flushing we were told that there has been a dreadful visitation in this land, and death may not have spared even one so young and fair."

"Let us haste on, father," replied Philip. "What you say is true, and suspense becomes most dreadful."

Philip increased his speed, leaving the old man to follow him: he arrived at the bridge with its wooden gate. It was then about seven o'clock in the morning, for they had crossed the Scheldt at the dawn of day.

Philip observed that the lower shutters were still closed.

"They might have been up and stirring before this," thought he, as he put his hand to the latch of the door. It was not fastened. Philip entered! there was a light burning in the kitchen; he pushed open the door, and beheld a maid-servant leaning back in her chair in a profound sleep. Before he had time to go in and awaken her, he heard a voice at the top of the stairs, saying, "Marie, is that the doctor?"

Philip waited no longer; in three bounds he was on the landing-place above, and brushing by the person who had spoken, he opened the door of Amine's room.

A floating wick in a tumbler of oil gave but a faint and glimmering light; the curtains of the bed were drawn, and by the side of it was kneeling a figure that was well known to Philip—that of Father Seysen. Philip recoiled; the blood retreated to his heart; he could not speak: panting for breath, he supported himself against the wall, and at last vented his agony of feeling by a deep groan, which aroused the priest, who turned his head, and perceiving who it was, rose from his knees, and extended his hand in silence.

"She is dead, then!" at last exclaimed Philip.

"No, my son, not dead; there is yet hope. The crisis is at hand; in one more hour her fate will be decided: then either will she be restored to your arms, or follow the many hundreds whom this fatal epidemic has consigned to the tomb."

Father Seysen then led Philip to the side of the bed, and withdrew the curtain. Amine lay insensible, but breathing heavily; her eyes were closed. Philip seized her burning hand, knelt down, pressed it to his lips, and burst into a paroxysm of tears. As soon as he had become somewhat composed, Father Seysen persuaded him to rise and sit with him by the side of the bed.

"This is a melancholy sight to witness at your return, Philip," said he; "and to you who are so ardent, so impetuous, it must be doubly so; but God's will be done. Remember there is yet hope—not strong hope, I grant, but still there is hope, for so told me the medical man who has attended her, and who will return, I expect, in a few minutes. Her disease is a typhus fever, which has swept off whole families within these last two months, and still rages violently; fortunate, indeed, is the house which has to mourn but one victim. I would that you had not arrived just now, for it is a disease easily communicated. Many have fled from the country for security. To add to our misfortunes, we have suffered from the want of medical advice, for physician and patient have been swept away together."

The door was now slowly opened, and a tall, dark man, in a brown cloak, holding to his nose a sponge saturated with vinegar, entered the room. He bowed his head to Philip and the priest, and then went to the bedside. For a minute he held his fingers to the pulse of the sufferer, then laying down her arm, he put his hand to her forehead, and covered her up with the bedclothes. He handed to Philip the sponge and vinegar, making a sign that he should use it, and beckoned Father Seysen out of the room.

In a minute the priest returned. "I have received his directions, my son; he thinks that she may be saved. The clothes must be kept on her, and replaced if she should throw them off; but everything will depend upon quiet and calm after she recovers her senses."

"Surely we can promise her that," replied Philip.

"It is not the knowledge of your return, or even the sight of you, which alarms me. Joy seldom kills, even when the shock is great, but there are other causes for uneasiness."

"What are they, holy father?"

"Philip, it is now thirteen days that Amine has raved, and during that period I have seldom quitted her but to perform the duties of my office to others who required it. I have been afraid to leave her, Philip, for in her ravings she has told such a tale, even unconnected as it has been, as has thrilled my soul with horror. It evidently has long lain heavily on her mind, and must retard her recovery. Philip Vanderdecken, you may remember that I would once have had the secret from you—the secret which forced your mother to her tomb, and which now may send your young wife to follow her, for it is evident that she knows all. Is it not true?"

"She does know all," replied Philip, mournfully.

"And she has in her delirium told all. Nay, I trust she has told more than all; but of that we will not speak now: watch her, Philip. I will return in half an hour, for by that time, the doctor tells me, the symptoms will decide whether she will return to reason, or be lost to you for ever."

Philip whispered to the priest that he had been accompanied by Father Mathias, who was to remain as his guest, and requested him to explain the circumstances of his present position to him, and see that he was attended to. Father Seysen then quitted the room, when Philip sat down by the bedside, and drew back the curtain.

Perhaps there is no situation in life so agonising to the feelings as that in which Philip was now placed. His joyful emotions when expecting to embrace in health and beauty the object of his warmest affections, and of his continual thought during his long absence, suddenly checked by disappointment, anxiety, and grief, at finding her lying emaciated, changed, corrupted with disease—her mind overthrown—her eyes unconscious of his presence—her existence hanging by a single hair—her frame prostrate before the King of Terrors who hovers over her with uplifted dart, and longs for the fiat which should permit him to pierce his unconscious victim.

"Alas!" thought Philip, "is it thus we meet, Amine? Truly did Father Mathias advise me, as I hurried so impetuously along, not (as I fondly thought) to happiness, but to misery. God of Heaven! be merciful and forgive me. If I have loved this angelic creature of Thy formation, even more than I have Thee—spare her—good Heaven, spare her—or I am lost for ever."

Philip covered up his face, and remained for some time in prayer. He then bent over his Amine, and impressed a kiss upon her burning lips. They were burning, but still there was moisture upon them, and Philip perceived that there was also moisture on her forehead. He felt her hand, and the palm of it was moist; and carefully covering her with the bedclothes, he watched her with anxiety and hope.

In a quarter of an hour he had the delight of perceiving that Amine was in a profuse perspiration; gradually her breathing became less heavy, and instead of the passive state in which she had remained, she moved, and became restless. Philip watched, and replaced the clothes as she threw them off, until she at last appeared to have fallen into a profound and sweet sleep. Shortly after, Father Seysen and the physician made their appearance. Philip stated, in few words, what had occurred. The doctor went to the bedside, and in half a minute returned.

"Your wife is spared to you, Mynheer, but it is not advisable that she should see you so unexpectedly; the shock may be too great in her weak state; she must be allowed to sleep as long as possible; on her awaking she will have returned to reason. You must leave her then to Father Seysen."

"May I not remain in the room until she wakes? I will then hasten away unobserved."

"That will be useless; the disease is contagious, and you have been here too long already. Remain below; you must change your clothes, and see that they prepare a bed for her in another room, to which she must be transported as soon as you think she can bear it; and then let these windows be thrown open, that the room may be properly ventilated. It will not do to have a wife just rescued from the jaws of death run the risk of falling a sacrifice to the attentions necessary to a sick husband."

Philip perceived the prudence of this advice, and quitting the room with the medical man, he went and changed his clothes, and then joined Father Mathias, whom he found in the parlour below.

"You were right, father," said Philip, throwing himself on the sofa.

"I am old and suspicious, you are young and buoyant, Philip; but I trust all may yet be well."

"I trust so too," replied Philip. He then remained silent and absorbed in thought, for now that the imminent danger was over, he was reflecting upon what Father Seysen had communicated to him relative to Amine's having revealed the secret whilst in a state of mental aberration. The priest perceiving that his mind was occupied, did not interrupt him. An hour had thus passed, when Father Seysen entered the room.

"Return thanks to Heaven, my son. Amine has awakened, and is perfectly sensible and collected. There is now little doubt of her recovery. She has taken the restorative ordered by the doctor, though she was so anxious to repose once more, that she could hardly be persuaded to swallow it. She is now again fast asleep, and watched by one of the maidens, and in all probability will not move for many hours; but every moment of such sleep is precious, and she must not be disturbed. I will now see to some refreshment, which must be needful to us all. Philip, you have not introduced me to your companion, who, I perceive, is of my own calling."

"Forgive me, sir," replied Philip; "you will have great pleasure in making acquaintance with Father Mathias, who has promised to reside with me, I trust, for some time. I will leave you together, and see to the breakfast being prepared, for the delay of which I trust Father Mathias will accept my apology."

Philip then left the room, and went into the kitchen. Having ordered what was requisite, to be taken into the parlour, he put on his hat and walked out of the house. He could not eat; his mind was in a state of confusion; the events of the morning had been too harassing and exciting, and he felt as if the fresh air was necessary to his existence.

As he proceeded, careless in which direction, he met many with whom he had been acquainted, and from whom he had received condolence at his supposed bereavement, and congratulations when they learnt from him that the danger was over; and from them he also learnt how fatal had been the pestilence.

Not one-third of the inhabitants of Terneuse and the surrounding country remained alive, and those who had recovered were in a state of exhaustion which prevented them from returning to their accustomed occupations. They had combated disease, but remained the prey of misery and want; and Philip mentally vowed that he would appropriate all his savings to the relief of those around him. It was not until more than two hours had passed away that Philip returned to the cottage.

On his arrival he found that Amine still slumbered, and the two priests were in conversation below.

"My son," said Father Seysen, "let us now have a little explanation. I have had a long conference with this good Father, who hath much interested me with his account of the extension of our holy religion among the Pagans. He hath communicated to me much to rejoice at and much to grieve for; but, among other questions put to him, I have (in consequence of what I have learnt during the mental alienation of your wife) interrogated him upon the point of a supernatural appearance of a vessel in the eastern seas. You observe, Philip, that your secret is known to me, or I could not have put that question. To my surprise, he hath stated a visitation of the kind to which he was eye-witness, and which cannot reasonably be accounted for, except by supernatural interposition. A strange and certainly most awful visitation! Philip, would it not be better (instead of leaving me in a maze of doubt) that you now confided to us both all the facts connected with this strange history, so that we may ponder on them, and give you the benefit of the advice of those who are older than yourself, and who, by their calling may be able to decide more correctly whether this supernatural power has been exercised by a good or evil intelligence?"

"The holy Father speaks well, Philip Vanderdecken," observed Mathias.

"If it be the work of the Almighty, to whom should you confide and by whom should you be guided, but by those who do His service on this earth? If of the Evil One, to whom but to those whose duty and wish it is to counteract his baneful influence? And reflect, Philip, that this secret may sit heavily on the mind of your cherished wife, and may bow her to the grave, as it did your (I trust) sainted mother. With you, and supported by your presence, she may bear it well; but, recollect how many are the lonely days and nights that she must pass during your absence, and how much she must require the consolation and help of others. A secret like this must be as a gnawing worm, and, strong as she may be in courage, must shorten her existence, but for the support and the balm she may receive from the ministers of our faith. It was cruel and selfish of you, Philip, to leave her, a lone woman, to bear up against your absence, and at the same time oppressed with so fatal a knowledge."

"You have convinced me, holy Father," replied Philip. "I feel that I should, before this, have made you acquainted with this strange history. I will now state the whole of the circumstances which have occurred, but with little hope your advice can help me, in a case so difficult, and in a duty so peremptory, yet so perplexing."

Philip then entered into a minute detail of all that had passed from the few days previous to his mother's death, until the present time, and when he had concluded, he observed—

"You see, Father, that I have bound myself by a solemn vow—that that vow has been recorded and accepted; and it appears to me that I have nothing now to do but to follow my peculiar destiny."

"My son, you have told us strange and startling things—things not of this world—if you are not deceived. Leave us now. Father Mathias and I will consult upon this serious matter, and when we are agreed, you shall know our decision."

Philip went upstairs to see Amine; she was still in a deep sleep: he dismissed the servant, and watched by the bedside. For nearly two hours did he remain there, when he was summoned down to meet the two priests.

"We have had a long conversation, my son," said Father Seysen, "upon this strange, and perhaps supernatural occurrence. I say perhaps, for I would have rejected the frenzied communications of your mother, as the imaginings of a heated brain; and for the same reason I should have been equally inclined to suppose that the high state of excitement that you were in at the time of her death may have disordered your intellect; but, as Father Mathias positively asserts, that a strange, if not supernatural, appearance of a vessel did take place, on his passage home, and which appearance tallies with and corroborates the legend, if so I may call it, to which you have given evidence; I say that it is not impossible but that it is supernatural."

"Recollect that the same appearance of the Phantom Ship has been permitted to me and to many others," replied Philip.

"Yes," replied Father Seysen; "but who is there alive of those who saw it but yourself? But that is of little importance. We will admit that the whole affair is not the work of man, but of a superior intelligence."

"Superior, indeed!" replied Philip. "It is the work of Heaven!"

"That is a point not so easily admitted; there is another power as well as that which is divine—that of the devil!—the arch-enemy of mankind! But as that power, inferior to the power of God, cannot act without His permission, we may indirectly admit that it is the will of Heaven that such signs and portents should be allowed to be given on certain occasions."

"Then our opinions are the same, good Father."

"Nay, not exactly, my son. Elymas, the sorcerer, was permitted to practise his arts—gained from the devil—that it might be proved, by his overthrow and blindness, how inferior was his master to the Divine Ruler; but it does not therefore follow that sorcery generally was permitted. In this instance it may be true that the Evil One has been permitted to exercise his power over the captain and crew of that ship, and, as a warning against such heavy offences, the supernatural appearance of the vessel may be permitted. So far we are justifiable in believing. But the great questions are, first, whether it be your father who is thus doomed? and, secondly, how far you are necessitated to follow up this mad pursuit, which, it appears to me—although it may end in your destruction—cannot possibly be the means of rescuing your father from his state of unhallowed abeyance? Do you understand me, Philip?"

"I certainly understand what you would say, Father; but—"

"Answer me not yet. It is the opinion of this holy father as well as of myself, that, allowing the facts to be as you suppose, the revelations made to you are not from on high, but the suggestions of the devil, to lead you into danger and ultimately to death; for if it were your task, as you suppose, why did not the vessel appear on this last voyage, and how can you (allowing that you met her fifty times) have communication with that, or with those which are but phantoms and shadows, things not of this world? Now what we propose is, that you should spend a proportion of the money left by your father, in masses for the repose of his soul, which your mother, in other circumstances, would certainly have done; and that having so done, you should remain quietly on shore until some new sign should be given to you which may warrant our supposing that you are really chosen for this strange pursuit?"

"But my oath, Father—my recorded vow?"

"From that, my son, the holy Church hath power to absolve you; and that absolution you shall receive. You have put yourself into our hands, and by our decision you must be guided. If there be wrong, it is we, and not you, who are responsible; but, at present, let us say no more. I will now go up, and so soon as your wife awakens, prepare her for your meeting."

When Father Seysen had quitted the room, Father Mathias debated the matter with Philip. A long discussion ensued, in which similar arguments were made use of by the priest; and Philip, although not convinced, was, at least, doubtful and perplexed. He left the cottage.

"A new sign—a corroborative sign," thought Philip; "surely there have been signs and wonders enough. Still it may be true that masses for my father's soul may relieve him from his state of torture. At all events, if they decide for me, I am not to blame. Well then, let us wait for a new sign of the Divine will—if so it must be;" and Philip walked on, occasionally thinking on the arguments of Father Seysen, and oftener thinking of Amine.

It was now evening, and the sun was fast descending. Philip wandered on, until at last he arrived at the very spot where he had knelt down and pronounced his solemn vow. He recognised it; he looked at the distant hills. The sun was just at the same height; the whole scene, the place, and the time were before him. Again Philip knelt down, took the relic from his bosom and kissed it. He watched the sun; he bowed himself to the earth. He waited for a sign; but the sun sank down and the veil of night spread over the landscape. There was no sign; and Philip rose and walked home towards the cottage, more inclined than before to follow the suggestions of Father Seysen.

On his return, Philip went softly upstairs and entered the room of Amine, whom he found awake and in conversation with the priests. The curtain was closed, and he was not perceived. With a beating heart he remained near the wall at the head of the bed.

"Reason to believe that my husband has arrived!" said Amine, in a faint voice. "Oh tell me, why so?"

"His ship is arrived, we know; and one who had seen her said that all were well."

"And why is he not here, then? Who should bring the news of his return but himself? Father Seysen, either he has not arrived or he is here—I know he must be, if he is safe and well. I know my Philip too well. Say! is he not here? Fear not, if you say yes; but if you say no, you kill me!"

"He is here, Amine," replied Father Seysen—"here and well."

"O God! I thank you; but where is he? If he is here, he must be in this room, or else you deceive me. Oh, this suspense is death!"

"I am here," cried Philip, opening the curtains.

Amine rose with a shriek, held out her arms, and then fell senseless back. In a few seconds, however, she was restored, and proved the truth of the good Father's assertion, "that joy does not kill."

We must now pass over the few days during which Philip watched the couch of his Amine, who rapidly regained her strength. As soon as she was well enough to enter upon the subject, Philip narrated all that had passed since his departure; the confession which he had made to Father Seysen, and the result. Amine, too glad that Philip should remain with her, added her persuasions to those of the priests, and, for some little time, Philip talked no more of going to sea.

Chapter XIV

Six weeks had flown away, and Amine, restored to health, wandered over the country, hanging on the arm of her adored Philip, or nestled by his side in their comfortable home. Father Mathias still remained their guest; the masses for the repose of the soul of Vanderdecken had been paid for, and more money had been confided to the care of Father Seysen to relieve the sufferings of the afflicted poor. It may be easily supposed that one of the chief topics of conversation between Philip and Amine was the decision of the two priests relative to the conduct of Philip. He had been absolved from his oath, but, at the same time that he submitted to his clerical advisers, he was by no means satisfied. His love for Amine, her wishes for his remaining at home, certainly added weight to the fiat of Father Seysen; but, although he in consequence obeyed it more willingly, his doubts of the propriety of his conduct remained the same. The arguments of Amine, who, now that she was supported by the opinion of the priests, had become opposed to Philip's departure; even her caresses, with which those arguments were mingled, were effective but for the moment. No sooner was Philip left to himself, no sooner was the question, for a time, dismissed, than he felt an inward accusation that he was neglecting a sacred duty. Amine perceived how often the cloud was upon his brow; she knew too well the cause, and constantly did she recommence her arguments and caresses, until Philip forgot that there was aught but Amine in the world.

One morning, as they were seated upon a green bank picking the flowers that blossomed round them, and tossing them away in pure listlessness, Amine took the opportunity that she had often waited for, to enter upon a subject hitherto unmentioned.

"Philip," said she, "do you believe in dreams? think you that we may have supernatural communications by such means?"

"Of course we may," replied Philip; "we have proof abundant of it in the holy writings."

"Why, then, do you not satisfy your scruples by a dream?"

"My dearest Amine, dreams come unbidden; we cannot command or prevent them—"

"We can command them, Philip; say that you would dream upon the subject nearest to your heart, and you shall!"

"I shall?"

"Yes! I have that power, Philip, although I have not spoken of it. I had it from my mother, with much more that of late I have never thought of. You know, Philip, I never say that which is not. I tell you, that, if you choose, you shall dream upon it."

"And to what good, Amine? If you have power to make me dream, that power must be from somewhere."

"It is, of course: there are agencies you little think of, which, in my country, are still called into use. I have a charm, Philip, which never fails."

"A charm, Amine! do you, then, deal in sorcery? for such powers cannot be from Heaven."

"I cannot tell. I only know the power is given."

"It must be from the devil, Amine."

"And why so, Philip? May I not use the argument of your own priests, who say, 'that the power of the devil is only permitted to be used by Divine intelligence, and that it cannot be used without that permission?' Allow it then to be sorcery, or what you please, unless by Heaven permitted, it would fail. But I cannot see why we should suppose that it is from an evil source. We ask for a warning in a dream to guide our conduct in doubtful circumstances. Surely the evil one would rather lead us wrong than right!"

"Amine, we may be warned in a dream, as the patriarchs were of old; but to use mystic or unholy charms to procure a vision, is making a compact with the devil."

"Which compact the devil could not fulfil if not permitted by a higher power. Philip, your reasoning is false. We are told that, by certain means, duly observed, we may procure the dreams we wish. Our observance of these means is certainly the least we can attend to, to prove our sincerity. Forgive me, Philip, but are not observances as necessary in your religion—which I have embraced? Are we not told that the omission of the mere ceremony of water to the infant will turn all future chance of happiness to misery eternal?"

Philip answered not for some time. "I am afraid, Amine," said he, at last, in a low tone; "I—"

"I fear nothing, Philip, when my intentions are good," replied Amine. "I follow certain means to obtain an end. What is that end? It is to find out (if possible) what may be the will of Heaven in this perplexing case. If it should be through the agency of the devil—what then? He becomes my servant, and not my master; he is permitted by Heaven to act against himself;" and Amine's eyes darted fire, as she thus boldly expressed herself.

"Did your mother often exercise her art?" inquired Philip, after a pause.

"Not to my knowledge; but it was said that she was most expert. She died young (as you know), or I should have known much more. Think you, Philip, that this world is solely peopled by such dross as we are?—things of clay—perishable and corruptible? Lords over beasts—and ourselves but little better. Have you not, from your own sacred writings, repeated acknowledgments and proofs of higher intelligences mixing up with mankind, and acting here below? Why should what was then, not be now! and what more harm is there to apply for their aid now, than a few thousand years ago? Why should you suppose that they were permitted on the earth then—and not permitted now? What has become of them? Have they perished? have they been ordered back—to where—to heaven? If to heaven—the world and mankind have been left to the mercy of the devil and his agents. Do you suppose that we, poor mortals, have been thus abandoned? I tell you plainly, I think not. We no longer have the communications with those intelligences that we once had, because, as we become more enlightened, we become more proud, and seek them not; but that they still exist—a host of good against a host of evil, invisibly opposing each other—is my conviction. But, tell me, Philip, do you in your conscience believe that all that has been revealed to you is a mere dream of the imagination?"

"I do not believe so, Amine: you know well I wish I could."

"Then is my reasoning proved: for if such communications can be made to you, why cannot others? You cannot tell by what agency; your priests say it is that of the evil one; you think it is from on high. By the same rule, who is to decide from whence the dream shall come?"

"'Tis true, Amine; but are you certain of your power?"

"Certain of this: that if it pleases superior intelligence to communicate with you, that communication may be relied upon. Either you will not dream, but pass away the hours in deep sleep, or what you dream will be connected with the question at issue."

"Then, Amine, I have made up my mind—I will dream: for at present my mind is racked by contending and perplexing doubts. I would know whether I am right or wrong. This night your art shall be employed."

"Not this night, nor yet to-morrow night, Philip. Think you one moment that, in proposing this, I serve you against my own wishes? I feel as if the dream will decide against me, and that you will be commanded to return to your duty; for I tell you honestly, I think not with the priests; but I am your wife, Philip, and it is my duty that you should not be deceived. Having the means, as I suppose, to decide your conduct, I offer them. Promise me that, if I do this, you will grant me a favour which I shall ask as my reward."

"It is promised, Amine, without its being known," replied Philip, rising from the turf; "and now let us go home."

We observed that Philip, previous to his sailing in the Batavia, had invested a large proportion of his funds in Dutch East India stock: the interest of the money was more than sufficient for the wants of Amine, and, on his return, he found that the funds left in her charge had accumulated. After paying to Father Seysen the sums for the masses, and for the relief of the poor, there was a considerable residue, and Philip had employed this in the purchase of more shares in the India stock.

The subject of their conversation was not renewed. Philip was rather averse to Amine practising those mystical arts, which, if known to the priests, would have obtained for her, in all probability, the anathema of the Church. He could not but admire the boldness and power of Amine's reasonings, but still he was averse to reduce them into practice. The third day had passed away, and no more had been said upon the subject.

Philip retired to bed, and was soon fast asleep; but Amine slept not. So soon as she was convinced that Philip would not be awakened, she slipped from the bed and dressed herself. She left the room, and in a quarter of an hour returned, bringing in her hand a small brazier of lighted charcoal, and two small pieces of parchment, rolled up and fixed by a knot to the centre of a narrow fillet. They exactly resembled the philacteries that were once worn by the Jewish nation, and were similarly applied. One of them she gently bound upon the forehead of her husband, and the other upon his left arm. She threw perfumes into the brazier, and as the form of her husband was becoming indistinct from the smoke which filled the room, she muttered a few sentences, waved over him a small sprig of some shrub which she held in her white hand, and then closing the curtains, and removing the brazier she sat down by the side of the bed.

"If there be harm," thought Amine, "at least the deed is not his—'tis mine; they cannot say that he has practised arts that are unlawful and forbidden by his priests. On my head be it!" And there was a contemptuous curl on Amine's beautiful arched lip, which did not say much for her devotion to her new creed.

Morning dawned, and Philip still slumbered. "'Tis enough," said Amine, who had been watching the rising of the sun, as she beheld his upper limb appear above the horizon. Again she waved her arm over Philip, holding the sprig in her hand; and cried, "Philip, awake!"

Philip started up, opened his eyes, and shut them again to avoid the glare of the broad daylight, rested upon his elbow, and appeared to be collecting his thoughts.

"Where am I?" exclaimed he. "In my own bed? Yes!" He passed his hand across his forehead, and felt the scroll. "What is this?" continued he, pulling it off, and examining it. "And Amine, where is she? Good Heavens, what a dream! Another?" cried he, perceiving the scroll tied to his arm. "I see it now. Amine, this is your doing." And Philip threw himself down, and buried his face in the pillow.

Amine, in the meantime, had slipped into bed, and had taken her place by Philip's side. "Sleep, Philip, dear! sleep!" said she, putting her arms round him; "we will talk when we wake again."

"Are you there, Amine?" replied Philip, confused. "I thought I was alone; I have dreamed—" And Philip again was fast asleep before he could complete his sentence. Amine, too, tired with watching, slumbered and was happy.

Father Mathias had to wait a long while for his breakfast that morning; it was not till two hours later than usual that Philip and Amine made their appearance.

"Welcome, my children," said he; "you are late."

"We are, Father," replied Amine; "for Philip slept, and I watched till break of day."

"He hath not been ill, I trust," replied the priest.

"No, not ill; but I could not sleep," replied Amine.

"Then didst thou do well to pass the night—as I doubt not thou hast done, my child—in holy watchings."

Philip shuddered; he knew that the watching, had its cause been known, would have been, in the priest's opinion, anything but holy. Amine quickly replied—

"I have, indeed, communed with higher powers, as far as my poor intellect hath been able."

"The blessing of our holy Church upon thee, my child!" said the old man, putting his hand upon her head; "and on thee too, Philip."

Philip, confused, sat down to the table; Amine was collected as ever. She spoke little, it is true, and appeared to commune with her own thoughts.

As soon as the repast was finished, the old priest took up his breviary, and Amine beckoning to Philip, they went out together. They walked in silence until they arrived at the green spot where Amine had first proposed to him that she should use her mystic power. She sat down, and Philip, fully aware of her purpose, took his seat by her in silence.

"Philip," said Amine, taking his hand, and looking earnestly in his face, "last night you dreamed."

"I did, indeed, Amine," replied Philip, gravely.

"Tell me your dream; for it will be for me to expound it."

"I fear it needs but little exposition, Amine. All I would know is, from what intelligence the dream has been received?"

"Tell me your dream," replied Amine, calmly.

"I thought," replied Philip, mournfully, "that I was sailing as captain of a vessel round the Cape: the sea was calm and the breeze light; I was abaft; the sun went down, and the stars were more than usually brilliant; the weather was warm, and I lay down on my cloak, with my face to the heavens, watching the gems twinkling in the sky and the occasionally falling meteors. I thought that I fell asleep, and awoke with a sensation as if sinking down. I looked around me; the masts, the rigging, the hull of the vessel—all had disappeared, and I was floating by myself upon a large, beautifully shaped shell on the wide waste of waters. I was alarmed, and afraid to move, lest I should overturn my frail bark and perish. At last, I perceived the fore-part of the shell pressed down, as if a weight were hanging to it; and soon afterwards a small white hand, which grasped it. I remained motionless, and would have called out that my little bark would sink, but I could not. Gradually a figure raised itself from the waters, and leaned with both arms over the fore-part of the shell, where I first had seen but the hand. It was a female, in form beautiful to excess; the skin was white as driven snow; her long loose hair covered her, and the ends floated in the water; her arms were rounded and like ivory: she said, in a soft sweet voice—

"'Philip Vanderdecken, what do you fear? Have you not a charmed life?'

"'I know not,' replied I, 'whether my life be charmed or not; but this I know, that it is in danger.'

"'In danger!' replied she; 'it might have been in danger when you were trusting to the frail works of men, which the waves love to rend to fragments—your good ships, as you call them, which but float about upon sufferance; but where can be the danger when in a mermaid's shell, which the mountain wave respects, and upon which the cresting surge dare not throw its spray? Philip Vanderdecken, you have come to seek your father?'

"'I have,' replied I; 'is it not the will of Heaven?'

"'It is your destiny—and destiny rules all above and below. Shall we seek him together? This shell is mine; you know not how to navigate it; shall I assist you?'

"'Will it bear us both?'

"'You will see," replied she, laughing, as she sank down from the fore-part of the shell, and immediately afterwards appeared at the side, which was not more than three inches above the water. To my alarm, she raised herself up, and sat upon the edge, but her weight appeared to have no effect. As soon as she was seated in this way—for her feet still remained in the water—the shell moved rapidly along, and each moment increased its speed, with no other propelling power than that of her volition.

"'Do you fear now, Philip Vanderdecken?'

"'No!' replied I.

"She passed her hands across her forehead, threw aside the tresses which had partly concealed her face, and said—

"'Then look at me.'

"I looked, Amine, and I beheld you!"

"Me!" observed Amine, with a smile upon her lips.

"Yes, Amine, it was you. I called you by your name, and threw my arms round you. I felt that I could remain with you and sail about the world for ever."

"Proceed, Philip," said Amine, calmly.

"I thought we ran thousands and thousands of miles—we passed by beautiful islands, set like gems on the ocean bed; at one time bounding against the rippling current, at others close to the shore—skimming on the murmuring wave which rippled on the sand, whilst the cocoa-tree on the beach waved to the cooling breeze."

"'It is not in smooth seas that your father must be sought,' said she, 'we must try elsewhere.'

"By degrees the waves rose, until at last they were raging in their fury, and the shell was tossed by the tumultuous waters; but still not a drop entered, and we sailed in security over billows which would have swallowed up the proudest vessel.

"'Do you fear now, Philip?' said you to me.

"'No,' replied I; 'with you, Amine, I fear nothing.'

"'We are now off the Cape again,' said she; 'and here you may find your father. Let us look well round us, for if we meet a ship it must be his. None but the Phantom Ship could swim in a gale like this.'

"Away we flew over the mountainous waves—skimming from crest to crest between them, our little bark sometimes wholly out of the water; now east, now west, north, south, in every quarter of the compass, changing our course each minute. We passed over hundreds of miles: at last we saw a vessel, tossed by the furious gale.

"'There,' cried she, pointing with her finger, 'there is your father's vessel, Philip.'

"Rapidly did we approach—they saw us from on board, and brought the vessel to the wind. We were alongside—the gangway was clearing away—for though no boat could have boarded, our shell was safe. I looked up. I saw my father, Amine! Yes, saw him, and heard him as he gave his orders. I pulled the relic from my bosom, and held it out to him. He smiled, as he stood on the gunnel, holding on by the main shrouds. I was just rising to mount on board, for they had handed to me the man-ropes, when there was a loud yell, and a man jumped from the gangway into the shell. You shrieked, slipped from the side, and disappeared under the wave, and in a moment the shell, guided by the man who had taken your place, flew away from the vessel with the rapidity of thought. I felt a deadly chill pervade my frame. I turned round to look at my new companion—it was the Pilot Schriften!—the one-eyed wretch who was drowned when we were wrecked in Table Bay!

"'No! no! not yet!' cried he.

"In an agony of despair and rage I hurled him off his seat on the shell, and he floated on the wild waters.

"'Philip Vanderdecken,' said he, as he swam, 'we shall meet again!'

"I turned away my head in disgust, when a wave filled my bark, and down it sank. I was struggling under the water, sinking still deeper and deeper, but without pain, when I awoke.

"Now, Amine," said Philip, after a pause, "what think you of my dream?"

"Does it not point out that I am your friend, Philip, and that the Pilot Schriften is your enemy?"

"I grant it; but he is dead."

"Is that so certain?"

"He hardly could have escaped without my knowledge."

"That is true, but the dream would imply otherwise. Philip, it is my opinion that the only way in which this dream is to be expounded is—that you remain on shore for the present. The advice is that of the priests. In either case you require some further intimation. In your dream, I was your safe guide—be guided now by me again."

"Be it so, Amine. If your strange art be in opposition to our holy faith, you expound the dream in conformity with the advice of its ministers."

"I do. And now, Philip, let us dismiss the subject from our thoughts. Should the time come, your Amine will not persuade you from your duty; but recollect, you have promised to grant one favour when I ask it."

"I have: say, then, Amine, what may be your wish?"

"O! nothing at present. I have no wish on earth but what is gratified. Have I not you, dear Philip?" replied Amine, fondly throwing herself on her husband's shoulder.

Chapter XV

It was about three months after this conversation that Amine and Philip were again seated upon the mossy bank which we have mentioned, and which had become their favourite resort. Father Mathias had contracted a great intimacy with Father Seysen, and the two priests were almost as inseparable as were Philip and Amine. Having determined to wait a summons previous to Philip's again entering upon his strange and fearful task; and, happy in the possession of each other, the subject was seldom revived. Philip, who had, on his return, expressed his wish to the Directors of the Company for immediate employment, and, if possible, to have the command of a vessel, had, since that period, taken no further steps, nor had any communication with Amsterdam.

"I am fond of this bank, Philip," said Amine; "I appear to have formed an intimacy with it. It was here, if you recollect, that we debated the subject of the lawfulness of inducing dreams; and it was here, dear Philip, that you told me your dream, and that I expounded it."

"You did so, Amine; but if you ask the opinion of Father Seysen, you will find that he would give rather a strong decision against you—he would call it heretical and damnable."

"Let him, if he pleases. I have no objection to tell him."

"I pray not, Amine; let the secret remain with ourselves only."

"Think you Father Mathias would blame me?"

"I certainly do."

"Well, I do not; there is a kindness and liberality about the old man that I admire. I should like to argue the question with him."

As Amine spoke, Philip felt something touch his shoulder, and a sudden chill ran through his frame. In a moment his ideas reverted to the probable cause: he turned round his head, and, to his amazement, beheld the (supposed to be drowned) mate of the Ter Schilling, the one-eyed Schriften, who stood behind him, with a letter in his hand. The sudden appearance of this malignant wretch induced Philip to exclaim, "Merciful heaven! is it possible?"

Amine, who had turned her head round at the exclamation of Philip, covered up her face, and burst into tears. It was not fear that caused this unusual emotion on her part, but the conviction that her husband was never to be at rest but in the grave.

"Philip Vanderdecken," said Schriften, "he! he! I've a letter for you—it is from the Company."

Philip took the letter, but, previous to opening it, he fixed his eyes upon Schriften. "I thought," said he, "that you were drowned when the ship was wrecked in False Bay. How did you escape?"

"How did I escape?" replied Schriften. "Allow me to ask how did you escape?"

"I was thrown up by the waves," replied Philip; "but—"

"But," interrupted Schriften, "he! he! the waves ought not to have thrown me up."

"And why not, pray? I did not say that."

"No! but I presume you wish it had been so; but, on the contrary, I escaped in the same way that you did—I was thrown up by the waves—he! he! but I can't wait here. I have done my bidding."

"Stop," replied Philip; answer me one question. "Do you sail in the same vessel with me this time?"

"I'd rather be excused," replied Schriften; "I am not looking for the Phantom Ship, Mynheer Vanderdecken;" and, with this reply, the little man turned round and went away at a rapid pace.

"Is not this a summons, Amine?" said Philip, after a pause, still holding the letter in his hand, with the seal unbroken.

"I will not deny it, dearest Philip. It is most surely so; the hateful messenger appears to have risen from the grave that he might deliver it. Forgive me, Philip; but I was taken by surprise. I will not again annoy you with a woman's weakness."

"My poor Amine," replied Philip, mournfully. "Alas! why did I not perform my pilgrimage alone? It was selfish of me to link you with so much wretchedness, and join you with me in bearing the fardel of never-ending anxiety and suspense."

"And who should bear it with you, my dearest Philip, if it is not the wife of your bosom? You little know my heart if you think I shrink from the duty. No, Philip, it is a pleasure, even in its most acute pangs; for I consider that I am, by partaking with, relieving you of a portion of your sorrow, and I feel proud that I am the wife of one who has been selected to be so peculiarly tried. But, dearest, no more of this. You must read the letter."

Philip did not answer. He broke the seal, and found that the letter intimated to him that he was appointed as first mate to the Vrow Katerina, a vessel which sailed with the next fleet; and requesting he would join as quickly as possible, as she would soon be ready to receive her cargo. The letter which was from the secretary, further informed him that, after this voyage, he might be certain of having the command of a vessel as captain, upon conditions which would be explained when he called upon the Board.

"I thought, Philip, that you had requested the command of a vessel for this voyage," observed Amine, mournfully.

"I did," replied Philip; "but not having followed up my application, it appears not to have been attended to. It has been my own fault."

"And now it is too late?"

"Yes, dearest, most assuredly so: but it matters not; I would as willingly, perhaps rather, sail this voyage as first mate."

"Philip, I may as well speak now. That I am disappointed, I must confess; I fully expected that you would have had the command of a vessel, and you may remember that I exacted a promise from you, on this very bank upon which we now sit, at the time that you told me your dream. That promise I shall still exact, and I now tell you what I had intended to ask. It was, my dear Philip, permission to sail with you. With you, I care for nothing. I can be happy under every privation or danger; but to be left alone for so long, brooding over my painful thoughts, devoured by suspense, impatient, restless, and incapable of applying to any one thing—that, dear Philip, is the height of misery, and that is what I feel when you are absent. Recollect, I have your promise, Philip. As captain, you have the means of receiving your wife on board. I am bitterly disappointed in being left this time; do, therefore, to a certain degree, console me by promising that I shall sail with you next voyage, if Heaven permit your return."

"I promise it, Amine, since you are so earnest. I can refuse you nothing; but I have a foreboding that yours and my happiness will be wrecked for ever. I am not a visionary, but it does appear to me that, strangely mixed up as I am, at once with this world and the next, some little portion of futurity is opened to me. I have given my promise, Amine, but from it I would fain be released."

"And if ill do come, Philip, it is our destiny. Who can avert fate?"

"Amine, we are free agents, and to a certain extent are permitted to direct our own destinies."

"Ay, so would Father Seysen fain have made me believe; but what he said in support of his assertion was to me incomprehensible. And yet he said that it was a part of the Catholic faith. It may be so—I am unable to understand many other points. I wish your faith were made more simple. As yet the good man—for good he really is—has only led me into doubt."

"Passing through doubt, you will arrive at conviction, Amine."

"Perhaps so," replied Amine; "but it appears to me that I am as yet but on the outset of my journey. But come, Philip, let us return. You must to Amsterdam, and I will go with you. After your labours of the day, at least until you sail, your Amine's smiles must still enliven you. Is it not so?"

"Yes, dearest, I would have proposed it. I wonder much how Schriften could come here. I did not see his body it is certain, but his escape is to me miraculous. Why did he not appear when saved? where could he have been? What think you, Amine?"

"What I have long thought, Philip. He is a ghoul with an evil eye, permitted for some cause to walk the earth in human form; and, is, certainly, in some way, connected with your strange destiny. If it requires anything to convince me of the truth of all that has passed, it is his appearance—the wretched Afrit! Oh, that I had my mother's powers!—but I forget; it displeases you, Philip, that I ever talk of such things, and I am silent."

Philip replied not; and absorbed in their own meditations they walked back in silence to the cottage. Although Philip had made up his own mind, he immediately sent the Portuguese priest to summon Father Seysen, that he might communicate with them and take their opinion as to the summons he had received. Having entered into a fresh detail of the supposed death of Schriften, and his reappearance as a messenger, he then left the two priests to consult together, and went upstairs to Amine. It was more than two hours before Philip was called down, and Father Seysen appeared to be in a state of great perplexity.

"My son," said he, "we are much perplexed. We had hoped that our ideas upon this strange communication were correct, and that, allowing all that you have obtained from your mother and have seen yourself to have been no deception, still that it was the work of the evil one; and, if so, our prayers and masses would have destroyed this power. We advised you to wait another summons, and you have received it. The letter itself is of course nothing, but the reappearance of the bearer of the letter is the question to be considered. Tell me, Philip, what is your opinion on this point? It is possible he might have been saved—why not as well as yourself?"

"I acknowledge the possibility, Father," replied Philip; "he may have been cast on shore and have wandered in another direction. It is possible, although anything but probable; but since you ask me my opinion, I must say candidly that I consider he is no earthly messenger—nay, I am sure of it. That he is mysteriously connected with my destiny is certain. But who he is, and what he is, of course I cannot tell."

"Then, my son, we have come to the determination, in this instance, not to advise. You must act now upon your own responsibility and your own judgment. In what way soever you may decide we shall not blame you. Our prayers shall be that Heaven may still have you in its holy keeping."

"My decision, holy Father, is to obey the summons."

"Be it so, my son; something may occur which may assist to work out the mystery,—a mystery which I acknowledge to be beyond my comprehension, and of too painful a nature for me to dwell upon."

Philip said no more, for he perceived that the priest was not at all inclined to converse. Father Mathias took this opportunity of thanking Philip for his hospitality and kindness, and stated his intention of returning to Lisbon by the first opportunity that might offer.

In a few days Amine and Philip took leave of the priests, and quitted for Amsterdam—Father Seysen taking charge of the cottage until Amine's return. On his arrival, Philip called upon the Directors of the Company, who promised him a ship on his return from the voyage he was about to enter upon, making a condition that he should become part owner of the vessel. To this Philip consented, and then went down to visit the Vrow Katerina, the ship to which he had been appointed as first mate. She was still unrigged, and the fleet was not expected to sail for two months. Only part of the crew were on board, and the captain, who lived at Dort, had not yet arrived.

So far as Philip could judge, the Vrow Katerina was a very inferior vessel; she was larger than many of the others, but old, and badly constructed; nevertheless, as she had been several voyages to the Indies, and had returned in safety, it was to be presumed that she would not have been taken up by the Company if they had not been satisfied as to her seaworthiness. Having given a few directions to the men who were on board, Philip returned to the hostelry where he had secured apartments for himself and Amine.

The next day, as Philip was superintending the fitting of the rigging, the captain of the Vrow Katerina arrived, and, stepping on board of her by the plank which communicated with the quay, the first thing that he did was to run to the mainmast and embrace it with both arms, although there was no small portion of tallow on it to smear the cloth of his coat. "Oh; my dear Vrow, my Katerina!" cried he, as if he were speaking to a female. "How do you do? I'm glad to see you again; you have been quite well, I hope? You do not like being laid up in this way. Never mind, my dear creature! you shall soon be handsome again."

The name of this personage who thus made love to his vessel, was Wilhelm Barentz. He was a young man, apparently not thirty years of age, of diminutive stature and delicate proportions. His face was handsome, but womanish. His movements were rapid and restless, and there was that appearance in his eye which would have warranted the supposition that he was a little flighty, even if his conduct had not fully proved the fact.

No sooner were the ecstacies of the captain over than Philip introduced himself to him, and informed him of his appointment. "Oh! you are the first mate of the Vrow Katerina. Sir, you are a very fortunate man. Next to being captain of her, first mate is the most enviable situation in the world."

"Certainly not on account of her beauty," observed Philip; "she may have many other good qualities."

"Not on account of her beauty! Why, sir, I say (as my father has said before me, and it was his Vrow before it was mine) that she is the handsomest vessel in the world. At present you cannot judge; and besides being the handsomest vessel, she has every good quality under the sun."

"I am glad to hear it, sir," replied Philip; "it proves that one should never judge by appearances. But is she not very old?"

"Old! not more than twenty-eight years—just in her prime. Stop, my dear sir, till you see her dancing on the waters, and then you will do nothing all day but discourse with me upon her excellence, and I have no doubt that we shall have a very happy time together."

"Provided the subject be not exhausted," replied Philip.

"That it never will be, on my part: and, allow me to observe, Mr Vanderdecken, that any officer who finds fault with the Vrow Katerina quarrels with me. I am her knight, and I have already fought three men in her defence,—I trust, I shall not have to fight a fourth."

Philip smiled: he thought that she was not worth fighting for; but he acted upon the suggestion, and, from that time forward, he never ventured to express an opinion against the beautiful Vrow Katerina.

The crew were soon complete, the vessel rigged, her sails bent, and she was anchored in the stream, surrounded by the other ships composing the fleet about to be despatched. The cargo was then received on board, and, as soon as her hold was full, there came, to Philip's great vexation, an order to receive on board 150 soldiers and other passengers, many of whom were accompanied by their wives and families. Philip worked hard, for the captain did nothing but praise the vessel, and, at last, they had embarked everything, and the fleet was ready to sail.

It was now time to part with Amine, who had remained at the hostelry, and to whom Philip had dedicated every spare moment that he could obtain. The fleet was expected to sail in two days, and it was decided, that on the morrow they should part. Amine was cool and collected. She felt convinced that she should see her husband again, and with that feeling, she embraced him as they separated on the beach, and he stepped into the boat in which he was to be pulled on board.

"Yes," thought Amine, as she watched the form of her husband, as the distance between them increased—"yes, I know that we shall meet again. It is not this voyage which is to be fatal to you or me; but I have a dark foreboding that the next, in which I shall join you, will separate us for ever—in which way, I know not—but it is destined. The priests talk of free-will. Is it free-will which takes him away from me? Would he not rather remain on shore with me? Yes. But he is not permitted, for he must fulfil his destiny. Free-will! Why, if it were not destiny it were tyranny. I feel, and have felt, as if these priests are my enemies; but why I know not: they are both good men, and the creed they teach is good. Good-will and charity, love to all, forgiveness of injuries, not judging others. All this is good; and yet my heart whispers to me that—but the boat is alongside, and Philip is climbing up the vessel. Farewell, farewell, my dearest husband. I would I were a man! No, no! 'tis better as it is."

Amine watched till she could no longer perceive Philip, and then walked slowly to the hostelry. The next day, when she arose, she found that the fleet had sailed at daylight, and the channel, which had been so crowded with vessels, was now untenanted.

"He is gone," muttered Amine; "now for many months of patient, calm enduring,—I cannot say of living, for I exist but in his presence."

Chapter XVI

We must leave Amine to her solitude, and follow the fortunes of Philip. The fleet had sailed with a flowing sheet, and bore gallantly down the Zuyder Zee; but they had not been under way an hour before the Vrow Katerina was left a mile or two astern. Mynheer Barentz found fault with the setting and trimming of the sails, and with the man at the helm, who was repeatedly changed; in short, with everything but his dear Vrow Katerina: but all would not do; she still dropped astern, and proved to be the worst-sailing vessel in the fleet.

"Mynheer Vanderdecken," said he, at last, "the Vrow, as my father used to say, is not so very fast before the wind. Vessels that are good on a wind seldom are: but this I will say, that, in every other point of sailing, there is no other vessel in the fleet equal to the Vrow Katerina."

"Besides," observed Philip, who perceived how anxious his captain was on the subject, "we are heavily laden, and have so many troops on deck."

The fleet cleared the sands and were then close-hauled, when the Vrow Katerina proved to sail even more slowly than before.

"When we are so very close-hauled," observed Mynheer Barentz, "the Vrow does not do so well; but a point free, and then you will see how she will show her stern to the whole fleet. She is a fine vessel, Mynheer Vanderdecken, is she not?"

"A very fine, roomy vessel," replied Philip, which was all that, in conscience, he could say.

The fleet sailed on, sometimes on a wind, sometimes free, but let the point of sailing be what it might, the Vrow Katerina was invariably astern, and the fleet had to heave-to at sunset to enable her to keep company; still, the captain continued to declare that the point of sailing on which they happened to be, was the only point in which the Vrow Katerina was deficient. Unfortunately, the vessel had other points quite as bad as her sailing; she was crank, leaky, and did not answer the helm well: but Mynheer Barentz was not to be convinced. He adored his ship, and, like all men desperately in love, he could see no fault in his mistress. But others were not so blind, and the admiral, finding the voyage so much delayed by the bad sailing of one vessel, determined to leave her to find her way by herself so soon as they had passed the Cape. He was, however, spared the cruelty of deserting her, for a heavy gale came on which dispersed the whole fleet, and on the second day the good ship Vrow Katerina found herself alone, labouring heavily in the trough of the sea, leaking so much as to require hands constantly at the pumps, and drifting before the gale as fast to leeward almost as she usually sailed. For a week the gale continued, and each day did her situation become more alarming. Crowded with troops, encumbered with heavy stores, she groaned and laboured, while whole seas washed over her, and the men could hardly stand at the pumps. Philip was active, and exerted himself to the utmost, encouraging the worn-out men, securing where aught had given way, and little interfered with by the captain, who was himself no sailor.

"Well," observed the captain to Philip, as they held on by the belaying-pins, "you'll acknowledge that she is a fine weatherly vessel in a gale—is she not? Softly, my beauty, softly," continued he, speaking to the vessel, as she plunged heavily into the waves, and every timber groaned. "Softly, my dear, softly! How those poor devils in the other ships must be knocking about now. Heh! Mynheer Vanderdecken, we have the start of them this time: they must be a terrible long way down to leeward. Don't you think so?"

"I really cannot pretend to say," replied Philip, smiling.

"Why, there's not one of them in sight. Yes, by Heavens, there is! Look on our lee beam. I see one now. Well, she must be a capital sailor at all events: look there, a point abaft the beam. Mercy on me! how stiff she must be to carry such a press of canvas!"

Philip had already seen her. It was a large ship on a wind, and on the same tack as they were. In a gale in which no vessel could carry the topsails, the Vrow Katerina being under close-reefed foresails and staysails, the ship seen to leeward was standing under a press of sail—top-gallant-sail, royals, flying-jib, and every stitch of canvas which could be set in a light breeze. The waves were running mountains high, bearing each minute the Vrow Katerina down to the gunwale: and the ship seen appeared not to be affected by the tumultuous waters, but sailed steadily and smoothly on an even keel. At once Philip knew it must be the Phantom Ship, in which his father's doom was being fulfilled.

"Very odd, is it not?" observed Mynheer Barentz.

Philip felt such an oppression on his chest that he could not reply. As he held on with one hand, he covered up his eyes with the other.

But the seamen had now seen the vessel, and the legend was too well known. Many of the troops had climbed on deck when the report was circulated, and all eyes were now fixed upon the supernatural vessel; when a heavy squall burst over the Vrow Katerina, accompanied with peals of thunder and heavy rain, rendering it so thick that nothing could be seen. In a quarter of an hour it cleared away, and, when they looked to leeward, the stranger was no longer in sight.

"Merciful Heaven! she must have been upset, and has gone down in the squall," said Mynheer Barentz. "I thought as much, carrying such a press of sail. There never was a ship that could carry more than the Vrow Katerina. It was madness on the part of the captain of that vessel; but I suppose he wished to keep up with us. Heh, Mynheer Vanderdecken?"

Philip did not reply to these remarks, which fully proved the madness of his captain. He felt that his ship was doomed, and when he thought of the numbers on board who might be sacrificed, he shuddered. After a pause, he said—

"Mynheer Barentz, this gale is likely to continue, and the best ship that ever was built cannot, in my opinion, stand such weather. I should advise that we bear up, and run back to Table Bay to refit. Depend upon it, we shall find the whole fleet there before us."

"Never fear for the good ship, Vrow Katerina," replied the captain; "see what weather she makes of it."

"Cursed bad," observed one of the seamen, for the seamen had gathered near to Philip to hear what his advice might be. "If I had known that she was such an old, crazy beast, I never would have trusted myself on board. Mynheer Vanderdecken is right; we must back to Table Bay ere worse befall us. That ship to leeward has given us warning—she is not seen for nothing,—ask Mr Vanderdecken, captain; he knows that well, for he is a sailor."

This appeal to Philip made him start; it was, however, made without any knowledge of Philip's interest in the Phantom Ship.

"I must say," replied Philip, "that, whenever I have fallen in with that vessel, mischief has ever followed."

"Vessel! why, what was there in that vessel to frighten you? She carried too much sail, and she has gone down."

"She never goes down," replied one of the seamen.

"No! no!" exclaimed many voices; "but we shall, if we do not run back."

"Pooh! nonsense! Mynheer Vanderdecken, what say you?"

"I have already stated my opinion," replied Philip, who was anxious, if possible, to see the ship once more in port, "that the best thing we can do, is to bear up for Table Bay."

"And, captain," continued the old seaman who had just spoken, "we are all determined that it shall be so, whether you like it or not; so up with the helm, my hearty, and Mynheer Vanderdecken will trim the sails."

"Why! what is this?" cried Captain Barentz. "A mutiny on board of the Vrow Katerina? Impossible! The Vrow Katerina the best ship, the fastest in the whole fleet!"

"The dullest old rotten tub," cried one of the seamen.

"What!" cried the captain, "what do I hear? Mynheer Vanderdecken, confine that lying rascal for mutiny."

"Pooh! nonsense! he's mad," replied the old seaman. "Never mind him; come, Mynheer Vanderdecken, we will obey you; but the helm must be up immediately."

The captain stormed, but Philip, by acknowledging the superiority of his vessel, at the same time that he blamed the seamen for their panic, pointed out to him the necessity of compliance, and Mynheer Barentz at last consented. The helm was put up, the sails trimmed, and the Vrow Katerina rolled heavily before the gale. Towards the evening the weather moderated, and the sky cleared up; both sea and wind subsided fast; the leaking decreased, and Philip was in hopes that in a day or two they would arrive safely in the Bay.

As they steered their course, so did the wind gradually decrease, until, at last, it fell calm; nothing remained of the tempest but a long heavy swell which set to the westward, and before which the Vrow Katerina was gradually drifting. This was a respite to the worn-out seamen, and also to the troops and passengers, who had been cooped below or drenched on the main-deck.

The upper deck was crowded; mothers basked in the warm sun with their children in their arms; the rigging was filled with the wet clothes, which were hung up to dry on every part of the shrouds; and the seamen were busily employed in repairing the injuries of the gale. By their reckoning, they were not more than fifty miles from Table Bay, and each moment they expected to see the land to the southward of it. All was again mirth, and everyone on board, except Philip, considered that danger was no more to be apprehended.

The second mate, whose name was Krantz, was an active, good seaman, and a great favourite with Philip, who knew that he could trust to him, and it was on the afternoon of this day that he and Philip were walking together on the deck.

"What think you, Vanderdecken, of the strange vessel we saw?"

"I have seen her before, Krantz; and—"

"And what?"

"Whatever vessel I have been in when I have seen her, that vessel has never returned into port—others tell the same tale."

"Is she, then, the ghost of a vessel?"

"I am told so; and there are various stories afloat concerning her: but of this, I assure you—that I am fully persuaded than some accident will happen before we reach port, although everything, at this moment, appears so calm, and our port is so near at hand."

"You are superstitious," replied Krantz; "and yet I must say that, to me, the appearance was not like a reality. No vessel could carry such sail in the gale; but yet, there are madmen afloat who will sometimes attempt the most absurd things. If it was a vessel, she must have gone down, for when it cleared up she was not to be seen. I am not very credulous, and nothing but the occurrence of the consequences which you anticipate will make me believe that there was anything supernatural in the affair."

"Well! I shall not be sorry if the event proves me wrong," replied Philip; "but I have my forebodings—we are not in port yet."

"No! but we are but a trifling distance from it, and there is every prospect of a continuance of fine weather."

"There is no saying from what quarter the danger may come," replied Philip; "we have other things to fear than the violence of the gale."

"True," replied Krantz; "but, nevertheless, don't let us croak. Notwithstanding all you say, I prophesy that in two days, at the farthest, we are safely anchored in Table Bay."

The conversation here dropped, and Philip was glad to be left alone. A melancholy had seized him—a depression of spirits even greater than he had ever felt before. He leant over the gangway and watched the heaving of the sea.

"Merciful Heaven!" ejaculated he, "be pleased to spare this vessel; let not the wail of women, the shrieks of the poor children, now embarked, be heard; the numerous body of men, trusting to her planks,—let them not be sacrificed for my father's crimes." And Philip mused. "The ways of Heaven are indeed mysterious," thought he.—"Why should others suffer because my father has sinned? And yet, is it not so everywhere? How many thousands fall on the field of battle in a war occasioned by the ambition of a king, or the influence of a woman! How many millions have been destroyed for holding a different creed of faith! He works in His own way, leaving us to wonder and to doubt."

The sun had set before Philip had quitted the gangway and gone down below. Commending himself and those embarked with him to the care of Providence, he at last fell asleep; but, before the bell was struck eight times to announce midnight, he was awakened by a rude shove of the shoulder, and perceived Krantz, who had the first watch, standing by him.

"By the Heaven above us! Vanderdecken, you have prophesied right! Up—quick! The ship's on fire!"

"On fire!" exclaimed Vanderdecken, jumping out of his berth—"where?"

"The main-hold."

"I will up immediately, Krantz. In the meantime, keep the hatches on and rig the pumps."

In less than a minute Philip was on deck, where he found Captain Barentz, who had also been informed of the case by the second mate.—In a few words all was explained by Krantz: there was a strong smell of fire proceeding from the main-hold; and, on removing one of the hatches, which he had done without calling for any assistance, from a knowledge of the panic it would create, he found that the hold was full of smoke; he had put it on again immediately, and had only made it known to Philip and the captain.

"Thanks for your presence of mind," replied Philip; "we have now time to reflect quietly on what is to be done. If the troops and the poor women and children knew their danger, their alarm would have much impeded us: but how could she have taken fire in the main-hold?"

"I never heard of the Vrow Katerina taking fire before," observed the captain; "I think it is impossible. It must be some mistake—she is—"

"I now recollect that we have, in our cargo, several cases of vitriol in bottles," interrupted Philip. "In the gale, they must have been disturbed and broken. I kept them above all, in case of accident: this rolling, gunwale under, for so long a time must have occasioned one of them to fetch way."

"That's it, depend upon it," observed Krantz.

"I did object to receive them, stating that they ought to go out in some vessel which was not so encumbered with troops, so that they might remain on the main-deck; but they replied, that the invoices were made out and could not be altered. But now to act. My idea is to keep the hatches on, so as to smother it if possible."

"Yes," replied Krantz; and, at the same time, cut a hole in the deck just large enough to admit the hose, and pump as much water as we can down into the hold."

"You are right, Krantz; send for the carpenter, and set him to work. I will turn the hands up and speak to the men. I smell the fire now very strong; there is no time to lose.—If we can only keep the troops and the women quiet we may do something."

The hands were turned up, and soon made their appearance on deck, wondering why they were summoned. The men had not perceived the state of the vessel, for, the hatches having been kept on, the little smoke that issued ascended the hatchway and did not fill the lower deck.

"My lads," said Philip, "I am sorry to say that we have reason to suspect that there is some danger of fire in the main-hold."

"I smell it!" cried one of the seamen.

"So do I," cried several others, with every show of alarm, and moving away as if to go below.

"Silence, and remain where you are, my men. Listen to what I say: if you frighten the troops and passengers we shall do nothing; we must trust to ourselves; there is no time to be lost.—Mr Krantz and the carpenter are doing all that can be done at present; and now, my men, do me the favour to sit down on the deck, every one of you, while I tell you what we must do."

This order of Philip's was obeyed, and the effect was excellent: it gave the men time to compose themselves after the first shock; for, perhaps, of all shocks to the human frame, there is none which creates a greater panic than the first intimation of fire on board of a vessel—a situation, indeed, pitiable, when it is considered that you have to choose between the two elements seeking your destruction. Philip did not speak for a minute or two. He then pointed out to the men the danger of their situation, what were the measures which he and Krantz had decided upon taking, and how necessary it was that all should be cool and collected. He also reminded them that they had but little powder in the magazine, which was far from the site of the fire, and could easily be removed and thrown overboard; and that, if the fire could not be extinguished, they had a quantity of spars on deck to form a raft, which, with the boats, would receive all on board, and that they were but a short distance from land.

Philip's address had the most beneficial effects; the men rose up when he ordered them; one portion went down to the magazine, and handed up the powder, which was passed along and thrown overboard; another went to the pumps; and Krantz, coming up, reported the hole to have been cut in the planking of the deck above the main-hold: the hoses were fixed, and a quantity of water soon poured down, but it was impossible that the danger could be kept secret. The troops were sleeping on the deck, and the very employment of the seamen pointed out what had occurred, even if the smoke, which now increased very much, and filled the lower deck, had not betrayed it. In a few minutes the alarm of Fire! was heard throughout the vessel, and men, women, and children were seen, some hurrying on their clothes, some running frightened about the decks, some shrieking, some praying, and the confusion and terror were hardly to be described.

The judicious conduct of Philip was then made evident: had the sailors been awakened by the appalling cry, they would have been equally incapable of acting, as were the troops and passengers. All subordination would have ceased: some would have seized the boats, and left the majority to perish: others would have hastened to the spirit-room, and, by their drunkenness, added to the confusion and horror of the scene: nothing would have been effected, and almost all would, in all probability, have perished miserably. But this had been prevented by the presence of mind shown by Philip and the second mate, for the captain was a cypher:—not wanting in courage certainly, but without conduct or a knowledge of his profession. The seamen continued steady to their duty, pushing the soldiers out of the way as they performed their allotted tasks: and Philip perceiving this, went down below, leaving Krantz in charge; and by reasoning with the most collected, by degrees he brought the majority of the troops to a state of comparative coolness.

The powder had been thrown overboard, and another hole having been cut in the deck on the other side, the other pump was rigged, and double the quantity of water poured into the hold; but it was evident to Philip that the combustion increased. The smoke and steam now burst through the interstices of the hatchways and the holes cut in the deck, with a violence that proved the extent of the fire which raged below, and Philip thought it advisable to remove all the women and children to the poop and quarter-deck of the ship, desiring the husbands of the women to stay with them. It was a melancholy sight, and the tears stood in Philip's eyes as he looked upon the group of females—some weeping and straining their children to their bosoms; some more quiet and more collected than the men: the elder children mute or crying because their mothers cried, and the younger ones, unconscious of danger, playing with the first object which attracted their attention, or smiling at their parents. The officers commanding the troops were two ensigns newly entered, and very young men, ignorant of their duty and without any authority—for men in cases of extreme danger will not obey those who are more ignorant than themselves—and, at Philip's request, they remained with and superintended the women and children.

So soon as Philip had given his orders that the women and children should be properly clothed (which many of them were not), he went again forward to superintend the labour of the seamen, who already began to show symptoms of fatigue, from the excess of their exertions; but many of the soldiers now offered to work at the pumps, and their services were willingly accepted. Their efforts were in vain. In about half an hour more the hatches were blown up with a loud noise, and a column of intense and searching flame darted up perpendicularly from the hold, high as the lower mast-head. Then was heard the loud shriek of the women, who pressed their children in agony to their breasts, as the seamen and soldiers who had been working the pumps, in their precipitate retreat from the scorching flames, rushed aft, and fell among the huddled crowd.

"Be steady, my lads—steady, my good fellows," exclaimed Philip; "there is no danger yet. Recollect, we have our boats and raft, and although we cannot subdue the fire, and save the vessel, still we may, if you are cool and collected, not only save ourselves, but everyone—even the poor infants, who now appeal to you as men to exert yourselves in their behalf. Come, come, my lads, let us do our duty—we have the means of escape in our power if we lose no time. Carpenter, get your axes, and cut away the boom-lashings. Now, my men, let us get our boats out, and make a raft for these poor women and children; we are not ten miles from the land. Krantz, see to the boats with the starboard watch; larboard watch with me, to launch over the booms. Gunners, take any of the cordage you can, ready for lashing. Come, my lads, there is no want of light—we can work without lanterns."

The men obeyed, as Philip, to encourage them, had almost jocularly remarked (for a joke is often well-timed, when apparently on the threshold of eternity), there was no want of light. The column of fire now ascended above the main-top—licking with its forky tongue the top-mast rigging—and embracing the mainmast in its folds: and the loud roar with which it ascended proved the violence and rapidity of the combustion below, and how little time there was to be lost. The lower and main decks were now so filled with smoke that no one could remain there: some few poor fellows, sick in their cots, had long been smothered, for they had been forgotten. The swell had much subsided, and there was not a breath of wind: the smoke which rose from the hatchways ascended straight up in the air, which, as the vessel had lost all steerage way, was fortunate. The boats were soon in the water, and trusty men placed in them: the spars were launched over, arranged by the men in the boats, and lashed together. All the gratings were then collected and firmly fixed upon the spars for the people to sit upon; and Philip's heart was glad at the prospect which he now had of saving the numbers which were embarked.

Chapter XVII

But their difficulties were not surmounted—the fire now had communicated to the main-deck, and burst out of the port-holes amidships—and the raft which had been forming alongside was obliged to be drifted astern, where it was more exposed to the swell. This retarded their labour, and, in the meantime, the fire was making rapid progress; the mainmast, which had long been burning, fell over the side with the lurching of the vessel, and the flames out of the main-deck ports soon showed their points above the bulwarks, while volumes of smoke were poured in upon the upper deck, almost suffocating the numbers which were crowded there; for all communication with the fore-part of the ship had been, for some time, cut off by the flames, and everyone had retreated aft. The women and children were now carried on to the poop; not only to remove them farther from the suffocating smoke, but that they might be lowered down to the raft from the stern.

It was about four o'clock in the morning when all was ready, and by the exertions of Philip and the seamen, notwithstanding the swell, the women and children were safely placed on the raft, where it was considered that they would be less in the way, as the men could relieve each other in pulling when they were tired.

After the women and children had been lowered down, the troops were next ordered to descend by the ladders; some few were lost in the attempt, falling under the boat's bottom and not reappearing; but two-thirds of the men were safely put in the berths they were ordered to take by Krantz, who had gone down to superintend this important arrangement. Such had been the vigilance of Philip, who had requested Captain Barentz to stand over the spirit-room hatch, with pistols, until the smoke on the main-deck rendered the precaution unnecessary, that not a single person was intoxicated, and to this might be ascribed the order and regularity which had prevailed during this trying scene. But before one-third of the soldiers had descended by the stern ladder, the fire burst out of the stern windows with a violence that nothing could withstand; spouts of vivid flame extended several feet from the vessel, roaring with the force of a blow-pipe; at the same time, the flames burst through all the after-ports of the main-deck, and those remaining on board found themselves encircled with fire, and suffocated with smoke and heat. The stern ladders were consumed in a minute and dropped into the sea; the boats which had been receiving the men were obliged, also, to back astern from the intense heat of the flames; even those on the raft shrieked as they found themselves scorched by the ignited fragments which fell on them as they were enveloped in an opaque cloud of smoke, which hid from them those who still remained on the deck of the vessel. Philip attempted to speak to those on board, but he was not heard. A scene of confusion took place which ended in great loss of life. The only object appeared to be who should first escape; though, except by jumping overboard, there was no escape. Had they waited, and (as Philip would have pointed out to them) have one by one thrown themselves into the sea, the men in the boats were fully prepared to pick them up; or had they climbed out to the end of the lateen mizen-yard which was lowered down, they might have descended safely by a rope, but the scorching of the flames which surrounded them and the suffocation from the smoke was overpowering, and most of the soldiers sprang over the taffrail at once, or as nearly so as possible. The consequence was that there were thirty or forty in the water at the same time, and the scene was as heart-rending as it was appalling; the sailors in the boats dragging them in as fast as they could—the women on the raft, throwing to them loose garments to haul them in; at one time a wife shrieking as she saw her husband struggling and sinking into eternity;—at another, curses and execrations from the swimmer who was grappled with by the drowning man, and dragged with him under the surface. Of eighty men who were left of the troops on board at the time of the bursting out of the flames from the stern windows, but twenty-five were saved. There were but few seamen left on board with Philip, the major part having been employed in making the raft or manning the three boats; those who were on board remained by his side, regulating their motions by his. After allowing full time for the soldiers to be picked up, Philip ordered the men to climb out to the end of the lateen yard which hung on the taffrail, and either to lower themselves down on the raft if it was under, or to give notice to the boats to receive them. The raft had been dropped farther astern by the seamen, that those on board of it might not suffer from the smoke and heat; and the sailors, one after another, lowered themselves down and were received by the boats. Philip desired Captain Barentz to go before him, but the captain refused. He was too much choked with smoke to say why, but no doubt but that it would have been something in praise of the Vrow Katerina. Philip then climbed out; he was followed by the captain, and they were both received into one of the boats.

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