The rope which had hitherto held the raft to the ship, was now cast off, and it was taken in by the boats; and in a short time the Vrow Katerina was borne to leeward of them; and Philip and Krantz now made arrangements for the better disposal of the people. The sailors were almost all put into boats, that they might relieve one another in pulling; the remainder were placed on the raft, along with the soldiers, the women, and the children. Notwithstanding that the boats were all as much loaded as they could well bear, the numbers on the raft were so great that it sunk nearly a foot under water when the swell of the sea poured upon it; but stanchions and ropes to support those on board had been fixed, and the men remained at the sides, while the women and children were crowded together in the middle.
As soon as these arrangements were made, the boats took the raft in tow, and just as the dawn of day appeared, pulled in the direction of the land.
The Vrow Katerina was, by this time, one volume of flame; she had drifted about half a mile to leeward, and Captain Barentz, who was watching her as he sat in the boat with Philip, exclaimed—"Well, there goes a lovely ship, a ship that could do everything but speak—I'm sure that not a ship in the fleet would have made such a bonfire as she has—does she not burn beautifully—nobly? My poor Vrow Katerina! perfect to the last, we never shall see such a ship as you again! Well, I'm glad my father did not live to see this sight, for it would have broken his heart, poor man."
Philip made no reply, he felt a respect even for Captain Barentz's misplaced regard for the vessel. They made but little way, for the swell was rather against them, and the raft was deep in the water. The day dawned, and the appearance of the weather was not favourable; it promised the return of the gale. Already a breeze ruffled the surface of the water, and the swell appeared to increase rather than go down. The sky was overcast and the horizon thick. Philip looked out for the land but could not perceive it, for there was a haze on the horizon, so that he could not see more than five miles. He felt that to gain the shore before the coming night was necessary for the preservation of so many individuals, of whom more than sixty were women and children, who, without any nourishment, were sitting on a frail raft, immersed in the water. No land in sight—a gale coming on, and in all probability, a heavy sea and dark night. The chance was indeed desperate, and Philip was miserable—most miserable—when he reflected that so many innocent beings might, before the next morning, be consigned to a watery tomb,—and why?—yes, there was the feeling—that although Philip could reason against, he never could conquer; for his own life he cared nothing—even the idea of his beloved Amine was nothing in the balance at these moments. The only point which sustained him, was the knowledge that he had his duty to perform, and, in the full exercise of his duty, he recovered himself.
"Land ahead!" was now cried out by Krantz, who was in the headmost boat, and the news was received with a shout of joy from the raft and the boats. The anticipation and the hope the news gave was like manna in the wilderness; and the poor women on the raft, drenched sometimes above the waist by the swell of the sea, clasped the children in their arms still closer, and cried—"My darling, you shall be saved."
Philip stood upon the stern-sheets to survey the land, and he had the satisfaction of finding that it was not five miles distant, and a ray of hope warmed his heart. The breeze now had gradually increased, and rippled the water. The quarter from which the wind came was neither favourable nor adverse, being on the beam. Had they had sails for the boats, it would have been otherwise, but they had been stowed away and could not be procured. The sight of land naturally rejoiced them all, and the seamen in the boats cheered, and double-banked the oars to increase their way; but the towing of a large raft sunk under water was no easy task; and they did not, with all their exertions, advance more than half a mile an hour.
Until noon they continued their exertions, not without success; they were not three miles from the land; but, as the sun passed the meridian, a change took place; the breeze blew strong; the swell of the sea rose rapidly; and the raft was often so deeply immersed in the waves as to alarm them for the safety of those upon her. Their way was proportionally retarded, and by three o'clock they had not gained half-a-mile from where they had been at noon. The men not having had refreshment of any kind during the labour and excitement of so many hours, began to flag in their exertions. The wish for water was expressed by all—from the child who appealed to its mother, to the seaman who strained at the oar. Philip did all he could to encourage the men; but finding themselves so near to the land, and so overcome with fatigue, and that the raft in tow would not allow them to approach their haven, they murmured, and talked of the necessity of casting loose the raft and looking out for themselves. A feeling of self prevailed, and they were mutinous: but Philip expostulated with them, and out of respect for him, they continued their exertions for another hour, when a circumstance occurred which decided the question, upon which they had recommenced a debate.
The increased swell and the fresh breeze had so beat about and tossed the raft, that it was with difficulty, for some time, that its occupants could hold themselves on it. A loud shout, mingled with screams, attracted the attention of those in the boats, and Philip, looking back, perceived that the lashings of the raft had yielded to the force of the waves, and that it had separated amidships. The scene was agonising; husbands were separated from their wives and children—each floating away from each other—for the part of the raft which was still towed by the boats had already left the other far astern. The women rose up and screamed, and held up their children; some, more frantic, dashed into the water between them, and attempted to gain the floating wreck upon which their husbands stood, and sank before they could be assisted. But the horror increased—one lashing having given way, all the rest soon followed; and, before the boats could turn and give assistance the sea was strewed with the spars which composed the raft, with men, women, and children clinging to them. Loud were the yells of despair, and the shrieks of the women, as they embraced their offspring, and in attempting to save them were lost themselves. The spars of the raft still close together, were hurled one upon the other by the swell, and many found death by being jammed between them. Although all the boats hastened to their assistance, there was so much difficulty and danger in forcing them between the spars, that but few were saved, and even those few were more than the boats could well take in. The seamen and a few soldiers were picked up, but all the females and the children had sank beneath the waves.
The effect of this catastrophe may be imagined, but hardly described. The seamen who had debated as to casting them adrift to perish, wept as they pulled towards the shore. Philip was overcome, he covered his face, and remained, for some time, without giving directions, and heedless of what passed.
It was now five o'clock in the evening; the boats had cast off the tow-lines, and vied with each other in their exertions. Before the sun had set they all had arrived at the beach, and were safely landed in the little sand bay into which they had steered; for the wind was off the shore, and there was no surf. The boats were hauled up, and the exhausted men lay down on the sands, till warm with the heat of the sun, and forgetting that they had neither eaten nor drank for so long a time, they were soon fast asleep. Captain Barentz, Philip, and Krantz, as soon as they had seen the boats secured, held a short consultation, and were then glad to follow the example of the seamen; harassed and worn out with the fatigue of the last twenty-four hours, their senses were soon drowned in oblivion.
For many hours they all slept soundly, dreamt of water, and awoke to the sad reality that they were tormented with thirst, and were on a sandy beach with the salt waves mocking them; but they reflected how many of their late companions had been swallowed up, and felt thankful that they had been spared. It was early dawn when they all rose from the forms which they had impressed on the yielding sand; and, by the directions of Philip, they separated in every direction, to look for the means of quenching their agony of thirst. As they proceeded over the sand-hills, they found growing in the sand a low spongy-leaf sort of shrub, something like what in our greenhouses is termed the ice-plant; the thick leaves of which were covered with large drops of dew. They sank down on their knees, and proceeded from one to the other licking off the moisture which was abundant, and soon felt a temporary relief. They continued their search till noon without success, and hunger was now added to their thirst; they then returned to the beach to ascertain if their companions had been more successful. They had also quenched their thirst with the dew of heaven, but had found no water or means of subsistence; but some of them had eaten the leaves of the plant which had contained the dew in the morning, and had found them, although acid, full of watery sap and grateful to the palate. The plant in question is the one provided by bounteous Providence for the support of the camel and other beasts in the arid desert, only to be found there, and devoured by all ruminating animals with avidity. By the advice of Philip they collected a quantity of this plant and put it into the boats, and then launched.
They were not more than fifty miles from Table Bay, and although they had no sails, the wind was in their favour. Philip pointed out to them how useless it was to remain, when before morning they would, in all probability, arrive at where they would obtain all they required. The advice was approved of and acted upon; the boats were shoved off and the oars resumed. So tired and exhausted were the men, that their oars dipped mechanically into the water, for there was no strength left to be applied; it was not until the next morning at daylight, that they had arrived opposite False Bay, and they had still many miles to pull. The wind in their favour had done almost all—the men could do little or nothing.
Encouraged, however, by the sight of land which they knew, they rallied; and at about noon they pulled exhausted to the beach at the bottom of Table Bay, near to which were the houses, and the fort protecting the settlers who had for some few years resided there. They landed close to where a broad rivulet at that season (but a torrent in the winter) poured its stream into the Bay. At the sight of fresh water, some of the men dropped their oars, threw themselves into the sea when out of their depth—others when the water was above their waists—yet they did not arrive so soon as those who waited till the boat struck the beach, and jumped out upon dry land. And then they threw themselves into the rivulet, which coursed over the shingle, about five or six inches in depth, allowing the refreshing stream to pour into their mouths till they could receive no more, immersing their hot hands, and rolling in it with delight.
Despots and fanatics have exerted their ingenuity to invent torments for their victims—how useless!—the rack, the boot, fire,—all that they have imagined are not to be compared to the torture of extreme thirst. In the extremity of agony the sufferers cry for water and it is not refused: they might have spared themselves their refined ingenuity of torment and the disgusting exhibition of it, had they only confined the prisoner in his cell, and refused him water.
As soon as they had satisfied the most pressing of all wants, they rose dripping from the stream, and walked up to the houses of the factory; the inhabitants of which, perceiving that boats had landed, when there was no vessel in the Bay, naturally concluded that some disaster had happened, and were walking down to meet them.—Their tragical history was soon told. The thirty-six men that stood before them were all that were left of nearly three hundred souls embarked, and they had been more than two days without food. At this intimation no further questions were asked by the considerate settlers, until the hunger of the sufferers had been appeased, when the narrative of their sufferings was fully detailed by Philip and Krantz.
"I have an idea that I have seen you before," observed one of the settlers; "did you come on shore when the fleet anchored?"
"I did not," replied Philip; "but I have been here."
"I recollect, now," replied the man; "you were the only survivor of the Ter Schilling, which was lost in False Bay."
"Not the only survivor," replied Philip; "I thought so myself, but I afterwards met the pilot, a one-eyed man, of the name of Schriften, who was my shipmate—he must have arrived here after me. You saw him, of course?"
"No, I did not; no one belonging to the Ter Schilling ever came here after you, for I have been a settler here ever since, and it is not likely that I should forget such a circumstance."
"He must, then, have returned to Holland by some other means."
"I know not how.—Our ships never go near the coast after they leave the Bay; it is too dangerous."
"Nevertheless, I saw him," replied Philip, musing.
"If you saw him, that is sufficient: perhaps some vessel had been blown down to the eastern side, and picked him up; but the natives in that part are not likely to have spared the life of a European. The Caffres are a cruel people."
The information that Schriften had not been seen at the Cape, was a subject of meditation to Philip. He had always an idea, as the reader knows, that there was something supernatural about the man, and this opinion was corroborated by the report of the settler.
We must pass over the space of two months, during which the wrecked seamen were treated with kindness by the settlers, and, at the expiration of which, a small brig arrived at the Bay, and took in refreshments: she was homeward bound, with a full cargo, and being chartered by the Company, could not refuse to receive on board the crew of the Vrow Katerina. Philip, Krantz, and the seamen embarked, but Captain Barentz remained behind to settle at the Cape.
"Should I go home," said he to Philip, who argued with him, "I have nothing in this world to return for. I have no wife—no children—I had but one dear object, my Vrow Katerina, who was my wife, my child, my everything—she is gone, and I never shall find another vessel like her; and if I could, I should not love it as I did her. No, my affections are buried with her; are entombed in the deep sea. How beautifully she burnt! she went out of the world like a phoenix, as she was. No! no! I will be faithful to her—I will send for what little money I have, and live as near to her tomb as I can—I never shall forget her as long as I live. I shall mourn over her, and 'Vrow Katerina,' when I die, will be found engraven on my heart."
Philip could not help wishing that his affections had been fixed upon a more deserving object, as then, probably, the tragical loss had not taken place; but he changed the subject, feeling that, being no sailor, Captain Barentz was much better on shore, than in the command of a vessel. They shook hands and parted—Philip promising to execute Barentz's commission, which was to turn his money into articles most useful to a settler, and have them sent out by the first fleet which should sail from the Zuyder Zee. But this commission it was not Philip's good fortune to execute. The brig, named the Wilhelmina, sailed, and soon arrived at St Helena. After watering she proceeded on her voyage. They had made the Western Isles, and Philip was consoling himself with the anticipation of soon joining his Amine, when to the northward of the Islands, they met with a furious gale, before which they were obliged to scud for many days, with the vessel's head to the south-east; and as the wind abated and they were able to haul to it, they fell in with a Dutch fleet, of five vessels, commanded by an Admiral, which had left Amsterdam more than two months, and had been buffeted about, by contrary gales, for the major part of that period. Cold, fatigue, and bad provisions had brought on the scurvy, and the ships were so weakly manned that they could hardly navigate them. When the captain of the Wilhelmina reported to the Admiral that he had part of the crew of the Vrow Katerina on board, he was ordered to send them immediately to assist in navigating his crippled fleet—remonstrance was useless—Philip had but time to write to Amine, acquainting her with his misfortunes and disappointment; and, confiding the letter to his wife, as well as his narrative of the loss of the Vrow Katerina for the directors, to the charge of the captain of the Wilhelmina, he hastened to pack up his effects, and repaired on board of the Admiral's ship, with Krantz and the crew. To them were added six of the men belonging to the Wilhelmina, which the Admiral insisted on retaining; and the brig, having received the Admiral's despatches, was then permitted to continue her voyage.
Perhaps there is nothing more trying to the seaman's feelings, than being unexpectedly forced to recommence another series of trials, at the very time when they anticipate repose from the former; yet, how often does this happen! Philip was melancholy. "It is my destiny," thought he, using the words of Amine, "and why should I not submit?" Krantz was furious, and the seamen discontented and mutinous—but it was useless. Might is right on the vast ocean, where there is no appeal—no trial or injunction to be obtained.
But hard as their case appeared to them, the Admiral was fully justified in his proceeding. His ships were almost unmanageable with the few hands who could still perform their duty; and this small increase of physical power might be the means of saving hundreds who lay helpless in their hammocks. In his own vessel, the Lion, which was manned with two hundred and fifty men, when she sailed from Amsterdam, there were not more than seventy capable of doing duty; and the other ships had suffered in proportion.
The first captain of the Lion was dead, the second captain in his hammock, and the Admiral had no one to assist him but the mates of the vessel, some of whom crawled up to their duty more dead than alive. The ship of the second in command, the Dort, was even in a more deplorable plight. The Commodore was dead; the first captain was still doing his duty; but he had but one more officer capable of remaining on deck.
The Admiral sent for Philip into his cabin, and having heard his narrative of the loss of the Vrow Katerina, he ordered him to go on board of the Commodore's ship as captain, giving the rank of Commodore to the captain at present on board of her; Krantz was retained on board his own vessel, as second captain; for, by Philip's narrative, the Admiral perceived at once that they were both good officers and brave men.
The fleet under Admiral Rymelandt's command was ordered to proceed to the East Indies by the western route, through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean—it being still imagined, notwithstanding previous failures, that this route offered facilities which might shorten the passage of the Spice Islands.
The vessels composing the fleet were the Lion of forty-four guns, bearing the Admiral's flag; the Dort of thirty-six guns, with the Commodore's pendant—to which Philip was appointed; the Zuyder Zee of twenty; the Young Frau of twelve, and a ketch of four guns, called the Schevelling.
The crew of the Vrow Katerina were divided between the two larger vessels; the others, being smaller, were easier worked with fewer hands. Every arrangement having been made, the boats were hoisted up, and the ships made sail. For ten days they were baffled by light winds, and the victims to the scurvy increased considerably on board of Philip's vessel. Many died and were thrown overboard, and others were carried down to their hammocks.
The newly-appointed Commodore, whose name was Avenhorn, went on board of the Admiral, to report the state of the vessel, and to suggest, as Philip had proposed to him, that they should make the coast of South America, and endeavour, by bribery or by force, to obtain supplies either from the Spanish inhabitants or the natives. But to this the Admiral would not listen. He was an imperious, bold, and obstinate man, not to be persuaded or convinced, and with little feeling for the sufferings of others. Tenacious of being advised, he immediately rejected a proposition which, had it originated with himself, would probably have been immediately acted upon; and the Commodore returned on board his vessel, not only disappointed, but irritated by the language used towards him.
"What are we to do, Captain Vanderdecken? you know too well our situation—it is impossible we can continue long at sea; if we do, the vessel will be drifting at the mercy of the waves, while the crew die a wretched death in their hammocks. At present, we have forty men left; in ten days more we shall probably have but twenty; for as the labour becomes more severe, so do they drop down the faster. Is it not better to risk our lives in combat with the Spaniards, than die here like rotten sheep?"
"I perfectly agree with you, Commodore," replied Philip; "but still we must obey orders. The Admiral is an inflexible man."
"And a cruel one. I have a great mind to part company in the night, and, if he finds fault, I will justify myself to the directors on my return."
"Do nothing rashly—perhaps, when day by day he finds his own ship's company more weakened, he will see the necessity of following your advice."
A week had passed away after this conversation, and the fleet had made little progress. In each ship the ravages of the fatal disease became more serious, and, as the Commodore had predicted, he had but twenty men really able to do duty. Nor had the Admiral's ship and the other vessels suffered less. The Commodore again went on board to reiterate his proposition.
Admiral Rymelandt was not only a stern, but a vindictive man. He was aware of the propriety of the suggestion made by his second in command, but, having refused it, he would not acquiesce; and he felt revengeful against the Commodore, whose counsel he must now either adopt, or by refusing it be prevented from taking the steps so necessary for the preservation of his crew, and the success of his voyage. Too proud to acknowledge himself in error, again did he decidedly refuse, and the Commodore went back to his own ship. The fleet was then within three days of the coast, steering to the southward for the Straits of Magellan, and that night, after Philip had retired to his cot, the Commodore went on deck and ordered the course of the vessel to be altered some points more to the westward. The night was very dark, and the Lion was the only ship which carried a poop-lantern, so that the parting company of the Dort was not perceived by the Admiral and the other ships of the fleet. When Philip went on deck next morning, he found that their consorts were not in sight. He looked at the compass, and, perceiving that the course was altered, inquired at what hour and by whose directions. Finding that it was by his superior officer, he of course said nothing. When the Commodore came on deck, he stated to Philip that he felt himself warranted in not complying with the Admiral's orders, as it would have been sacrificing the whole ship's company. This was, indeed, true.
In two days they made the land, and, running into the shore, perceived a large town and Spaniards on the beach. They anchored at the mouth of the river, and hoisted English colours, when a boat came on board to ask them who they were and what they required? The Commodore replied that the vessel was English, for he knew that the hatred of the Spanish to the Dutch was so great that, if known to belong to that nation, he would have had no chance of procuring any supplies, except by force. He stated that he had fallen in with a Spanish vessel, a complete wreck, from the whole of the crew being afflicted with the scurvy; that he had taken the men out, who were now in their hammocks below, as he considered it cruel to leave so many of his fellow-creatures to perish, and that he had come out of his course to land them at the first Spanish fort he could reach. He requested that they would immediately send on board vegetables and fresh provisions for the sick men, whom it would be death to remove, until after a few days, when they would be a little restored; and added, that in return for their assisting the Spaniards, he trusted the Governor would also send supplies for his own people.
This well made-up story was confirmed by the officer sent on board by the Spanish Governor. Being requested to go down below and see the patients, the sight of so many poor fellows in the last stage of that horrid disease—their teeth fallen out, gums ulcerated, bodies full of tumours and sores—was quite sufficient, and, hurrying up from the lower deck, as he would have done from a charnel-house, the officer hastened on shore and made his report.
In two hours a large boat was sent off with fresh beef and vegetables sufficient for three days' supply for the ship's company, and these were immediately distributed among the men. A letter of thanks was returned by the Commodore, stating that his health was so indifferent as to prevent his coming on shore in person to thank the Governor, and forwarding a pretended list of the Spaniards on board, in which he mentioned some officers and people of distinction, whom he imagined might be connected with the family of the Governor, whose name and titles he had received from the messenger sent on board; for the Dutch knew full well the majority of the noble Spanish families—indeed, alliances had continually taken place between them, previous to their assertion of their independence. The Commodore concluded his letter by expressing a hope that, in a day or two, he should be able to pay his respects and make arrangements for the landing of the sick, as he was anxious to proceed on his voyage of discovery.
On the third day, a fresh supply of provisions was sent on board, and, so soon as they were received, the Commodore, in an English uniform, went on shore and called upon the Governor, gave a long detail of the sufferings of the people he had rescued, and agreed that they should be sent on shore in two days, and they would, by that time, be well enough to be moved. After many compliments, he went on board, the Governor having stated his intention to return his visit on the following day, if the weather were not too rough. Fortunately, the weather was rough for the next two days, and it was not until the third that the Governor made his appearance. This was precisely what the Commodore wished.
There is no disease, perhaps, so dreadful or so rapid in its effects upon the human frame, and at the same time so instantaneously checked, as the scurvy, if the remedy can be procured. A few days were sufficient to restore those, who were not able to turn in their hammocks, to their former vigour. In the course of the six days nearly all the crew of the Dort were convalescent and able to go on deck; but still they were not cured. The Commodore waited for the arrival of the Governor, received him with all due honours, and then, so soon as he was in the cabin, told him very politely that he and all his officers with him were prisoners. That the vessel was a Dutch man-of-war, and that it was his own people, and not Spaniards, who had been dying of the scurvy. He consoled him, however, by pointing out that he had thought it preferable to obtain provisions by this ruse, than to sacrifice lives on both sides by taking them by force, and that his Excellency's captivity would endure no longer than until he had received on board a sufficient number of live bullocks and fresh vegetables to insure the recovery of the ship's company; and, in the meantime, not the least insult would be offered to him. Whereupon the Spanish Governor first looked at the Commodore and then at the file of armed men at the cabin door, and then to his distance from the town; and then called to mind the possibility of his being taken out to sea. Weighing all these points in his mind, and the very moderate ransom demanded (for bullocks were not worth a dollar apiece in that country), he resolved, as he could not help himself, to comply with the Commodore's terms. He called for pen and ink, and wrote an order to send on board immediately all that was demanded. Before sunset the bullocks and vegetables were brought off, and, so soon as they were alongside, the Commodore, with many bows and many thanks, escorted the Governor to the gangway, complimenting him with a salvo of great guns, as he had done before, on his arrival. The people on shore thought that his Excellency had paid a long visit, but, as he did not like to acknowledge that he had been deceived, nothing was said about it at least, in his hearing, although the facts were soon well known. As soon as the boats were cleared, the Commodore weighed anchor and made sail, well satisfied with having preserved his ship's company; and, as the Falkland Islands, in case of parting company, had been named as the rendezvous, he steered for them. In a fortnight he arrived, and found that his Admiral was not yet there. His crew were now all recovered, and his fresh beef was not yet expended, when he perceived the Admiral and the three other vessels in the offing.
It appeared that so soon as the Dort had parted company, the Admiral had immediately acted upon the advice that the Commodore had given him, and had run for the coast. Not being so fortunate in a ruse as his second in command, he had landed an armed force from the four vessels, and had succeeded in obtaining several head of cattle, at the expense of an equal number of men killed and wounded. But at the same time they had collected a large quantity of vegetables of one sort or another, which they had carried on board and distributed with great success to the sick, who were gradually recovering.
Immediately that the Admiral had anchored, he made the signal for the Commodore to repair on board, and taxed him with disobedience of orders in having left the fleet. The Commodore did not deny that he had so done, but excused himself upon the plea of necessity, offering to lay the whole matter before the Court of Directors so soon as they returned; but the Admiral was vested with most extensive powers, not only of the trial, but the condemnation and punishment of any person guilty of mutiny and insubordination in his fleet. In reply, he told the Commodore that he was a prisoner, and, to prove it, he confined him in irons under the half-deck.
A signal was then made for all the captains: they went on board, and of course Philip was of the number. On their arrival the Admiral held a summary court-martial, proving to them by his instructions that he was so warranted to do. The result of the court-martial could be but one,—condemnation for a breach of discipline, to which Philip was obliged reluctantly to sign his name. The Admiral then gave Philip the appointment of second in command, and the Commodore's pendant, much to the annoyance of the captains commanding the other vessels,—but in this the Admiral proved his judgment, as there was no one of them so fit for the task as Philip. Having so done, he dismissed them. Philip would have spoken to the late Commodore, but the sentry opposed it, as against his orders; and with a friendly nod, Philip was obliged to leave him without the desired communication.
The fleet remained three weeks at the Falkland Islands, to recruit the ships' companies. Although there was no fresh beef, there was plenty of scurvy-grass and penguins. These birds were in myriads on some parts of the island, which, from the propinquity of their nests, built of mud, went by the name of towns. There they sat, close together (the whole area which they covered being bare of grass), hatching their eggs and rearing their young. The men had but to select as many eggs and birds as they pleased, and so numerous were they, that, when they had supplied themselves, there was no apparent diminution of the numbers. This food, although in a short time not very palatable to the seamen, had the effect of restoring them to health, and, before the fleet sailed, there was not a man who was afflicted with the scurvy. In the meantime the Commodore remained in irons, and many were the conjectures concerning his ultimate fate. The power of life and death was known to be in the Admiral's hands, but no one thought that such power would be exerted upon a delinquent of so high a grade. The other captains kept aloof from Philip, and he knew little of what was the general idea. Occasionally when on board of the Admiral's ship, he ventured to bring up the question, but was immediately silenced; and feeling that he might injure the late Commodore (for whom he had a regard), he would risk nothing by importunity; and the fleet sailed for the Straits of Magellan, without anybody being aware of what might be the result of the court-martial.
It was about a fortnight after they had left the Falkland Islands, that they entered the Straits. At first they had a leading wind which carried them half through, but this did not last, and they then had to contend not only against the wind, but against the current, and they daily lost ground. The crews of the ships also began to sicken from fatigue and cold. Whether the Admiral had before made up his mind, or whether, irritated by his fruitless endeavours to continue his voyage, it is impossible to say; but, after three weeks' useless struggle against the wind and currents, he hove-to and ordered all the captains on board, when he proposed that the prisoner should receive his punishment—and that punishment was—to be deserted—that is, to be sent on shore with a day's food, where there was no means of obtaining support, so as to die miserably of hunger. This was a punishment frequently resorted to by the Dutch at that period, as will be seen by reading an account of their voyages: but, at the same time, seldom, if ever, awarded to one of so high a rank as that of Commodore.
Philip immediately protested against it, and so did Krantz, although they were both aware, that by so doing they would make the Admiral their enemy; but the other captains, who viewed both of them with a jealous eye, and considered them as interlopers and interfering with their advancement, sided with the Admiral. Notwithstanding this majority, Philip thought it his duty to expostulate.
"You know well, Admiral," said he, "that I joined in his condemnation for a breach of discipline: but, at the same time, there was much in extenuation. He committed a breach of discipline to save his ship's company, but not an error in judgment, as you yourself proved, by taking the same measure to save your own men. Do not, therefore, visit an offence of so doubtful a nature with such cruelty. Let the Company decide the point when you send him home, which you can do so soon as you arrive in India. He is sufficiently punished by losing his command: to do what you propose will be ascribed to feelings of revenge more than to those of justice. What success can we deserve if we commit an act of such cruelty; and how can we expect a merciful Providence to protect us from the winds and waves when we are thus barbarous towards each other?"
Philip's arguments were of no avail. The Admiral ordered him to return on board his ship, and had he been able to find an excuse, he would have deprived him of his command. This he could not well do; but Philip was aware that the Admiral was now his inveterate enemy. The Commodore was taken out of irons and brought into the cabin, and his sentence was made known to him.
"Be it so, Admiral," replied Avenhorn; "for, to attempt to turn you from your purpose, I know would be unavailing. I am not punished for disobedience of orders, but for having, by my disobedience, pointed out to you your duty—a duty which you were forced to perform afterwards by necessity. Then be it so; let me perish on these black rocks, as I shall, and my bones be whitened by the chilly blasts which howl over their desolation. But mark me, cruel and vindictive man! I shall not be the only one whose bones will bleach there. I prophesy that many others will share my fate, and even you, Admiral, may be of the number,—if I mistake not, we shall lie side by side."
The Admiral made no reply, but gave a sign for the prisoner to be removed. He then had a conference with the captains of the three smaller vessels; and, as they had been all along retarded by the heavier sailing of his own ship and the Dort commanded by Philip, he decided that they should part company, and proceed on as fast as they could to the Indies—sending on board of the two larger vessels all the provisions they could spare, as they already began to run short.
Philip had left the cabin with Krantz after the prisoner had been removed. He then wrote a few lines upon a slip of paper—"Do not leave the beach when you are put on shore, until the vessels are out of sight;" and, requesting Krantz to find an opportunity to deliver this to the Commodore, he returned on board of his own ship.
When the crew of the Dort heard of the punishment about to be inflicted upon their old Commander, they were much excited. They felt that he had sacrificed himself to save them, and they murmured much at the cruelty of the Admiral.
About an hour after Philip's return to his ship, the prisoner was sent on shore and landed on the desolate and rocky coast, with a supply of provisions for two days. Not a single article of extra clothing, or the means of striking a light was permitted him. When the boat's keel grazed the beach, he was ordered out. The boat shoved off, and the men were not permitted even to bid him farewell.
The fleet, as Philip expected, remained hove-to, shifting the provisions, and it was not till after dark that everything was arranged. This opportunity was not lost. Philip was aware that it would be considered a breach of discipline, but to that he was indifferent; neither did he think it likely that it would come to the ears of the Admiral, as the crew of the Dort were partial both to the Commodore and to him. He had desired a seaman whom he could trust, to put into one of the boats a couple of muskets and a quantity of ammunition, several blankets, and various other articles, besides provisions for two or three months for one person, and, as soon as it was dark, the men pulled on shore with the boat, found the Commodore on the beach waiting for them, and supplied him with all these necessaries. They then rejoined their ship, without the Admiral's having the least suspicion of what had been done, and shortly after the fleet made sail on a wind, with their heads off shore. The next morning, the three smaller vessels parted company, and by sunset had gained many miles to windward, after which they were not again seen.
The Admiral had sent for Philip to give him his instructions, which were very severe, and evidently framed so as to be able to afford him hereafter some excuse for depriving him of his command. Among others, his orders were, as the Dort drew much less water than the Admiral's ship, to sail ahead of him during the night, that, if they approached too near the land as they beat across the Channel, timely notice might be given to the Admiral, if in too shallow water. This responsibility was the occasion of Philip's being always on deck when they approached the land of either side of the Straits. It was the second night after the fleet had separated that Philip had been summoned on deck as they were nearing the land of Terra del Fuego; he was watching the man in the chains heaving the lead, when the officer of the watch reported to him that the Admiral's ship was ahead of them instead of astern. Philip made enquiry as to when he passed, but could not discover; he went forward, and saw the Admiral's ship with her poop-light, which, when the Admiral was astern, was not visible. "What can be the Admiral's reason for this?" thought Philip; "has he run ahead on purpose to make a charge against me of neglect of duty? it must be so. Well, let him do as he pleases; he must wait now till we arrive in India, for I shall not allow him to desert me; and, with the Company, I have as much, and I rather think, as a large proprietor, more interest than he has. Well, as he has thought proper to go ahead, I have nothing to do but follow. 'You may come out of the chains there.'"
Philip went forward: they were now, as he imagined, very near to the land, but the night was dark and they could not distinguish it. For half an hour they continued their course, much to Philip's surprise, for he now thought he could make out the loom of the land, dark as it was. His eyes were constantly fixed upon the ship ahead, expecting every minute that she would go about; but no, she continued her course, and Philip followed with his own vessel.
"We are very close to the land, sir," observed Vander Hagen, the lieutenant, who was the officer of the watch.
"So it appears to me: but the Admiral is closer, and draws much more water than we do," replied Philip.
"I think I see the rocks on the beam to leeward, sir."
"I believe you are right," replied Philip: "I cannot understand this. Ready about, and get a gun ready—they must suppose us to be ahead of them, depend upon it."
Hardly had Philip given the order, when the vessel struck heavily on the rocks. Philip hastened aft; he found that the rudder had been unshipped, and the vessel was immovably fixed. His thoughts then reverted to the Admiral. "Was he on shore?" He ran forward, and the Admiral was still sailing on, with his poop-light, about two cables' length ahead of him.
"Fire the gun, there," cried Philip, perplexed beyond measure.
The gun was fired, and immediately followed up by the flash and report of another gun close astern of them. Philip looked with astonishment over the quarter and perceived the Admiral's ship close astern to him, and evidently on shore as well as his own.
"Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Philip, rushing forward, "what can this be?" He beheld the other vessel with her light ahead, still sailing on and leaving them. The day was now dawning, and there was sufficient light to make out the land. The Dort was on shore not fifty yards from the beach, and surrounded by the high and barren rocks; yet the vessel ahead was apparently sailing on over the land. The seamen crowded on the forecastle watching this strange phenomenon; at last it vanished from their sight.
"That's the Flying Dutchman, by all that's holy!" cried one of the seamen, jumping off the gun.
Hardly had the man uttered these words when the vessel disappeared.
Philip felt convinced that it was so, and he walked away aft in a very perturbed state. It must have been his father's fatal ship which had decoyed them to probable destruction. He hardly knew how to act. The Admiral's wrath he did not wish, just at that moment, to encounter. He sent for the officer of the watch, and, having desired him to select a crew for the boat, out of those men who had been on deck, and could substantiate his assertions, ordered him to go on board of the Admiral and state what had happened.
As soon as the boat had shoved off, Philip turned his attention to the state of his own vessel. The daylight had increased, and Philip perceived that they were surrounded by rocks, and had run on shore between two reefs, which extended half a mile from the mainland. He sounded round his vessel, and discovered that she was fixed from forward to aft, and that, without lightening her, there was no chance of getting her off. He then turned to where the Admiral's ship lay aground, and found that, to all appearance, she was in even a worse plight, as the rocks to leeward of her were above the water, and she was much more exposed, should bad weather come on. Never, perhaps, was there a scene more cheerless and appalling: a dark wintry sky—a sky loaded with heavy clouds—the wind cold and piercing—the whole line of the coast one mass of barren rocks, without the slightest appearance of vegetation; the inland part of the country presented an equally sombre appearance, and the higher points were capped with snow, although it was not yet the winter season. Sweeping the coast with his eye, Philip perceived, not four miles to leeward of them (so little progress had they made), the spot where they had deserted the Commodore.
"Surely this has been a judgment on him for his cruelty," thought Philip, "and the prophecy of poor Avenhorn will come true—more bones than his will bleach on those rocks." Philip turned round again to where the Admiral's ship was on shore, and started back, as he beheld a sight even more dreadful than all that he had viewed—the body of Vander Hagen, the officer sent on board of the Admiral, hanging at the main-yard-arm. "My God! is it possible?" exclaimed Philip, stamping with sorrow and indignation.
His boat was returning on board, and Philip awaited it with impatience. The men hastened up the side, and breathlessly informed Philip that the Admiral, as soon as he had heard the Lieutenant's report, and his acknowledgment that he was officer of the watch, had ordered him to be hung, and that he had sent them back with a summons for him to repair on board immediately, and that they had seen another rope preparing at the other yard-arm.
"But not for you, sir," cried the men; "that shall never be—you shall not go on board—and we will defend you with our lives."
The whole ship's company joined in this resolution, and expressed their determination to resist the Admiral. Philip thanked them kindly—stated his intention of not going on board, and requested that they would remain quiet, until it was ascertained what steps the Admiral might take. He then went down to his cabin, to reflect upon what plan he should pursue. As he looked out of the stern-windows, and perceived the body of the young man still swinging in the wind, he almost wished that he was in his place, for then there would be an end to his wayward fate: but he thought of Amine, and felt that, for her, he wished to live. That the Phantom Ship should have decoyed him to destruction was also a source of much painful feeling, and Philip meditated, with his hands pressed to his temples. "It is my destiny," thought he at last, "and the will of Heaven must be done: we could not have been so deceived if Heaven had not permitted it." And then his thoughts reverted to his present situation.
That the Admiral had exceeded his powers in taking the life of the officer was undeniable, as, although his instructions gave him power of life and death, still it was only to be decided by the sentence of the court-martial held by the captains commanding the vessels of the fleet; he therefore felt himself justified in resistance. But Philip was troubled with the idea that such resistance might lead to much bloodshed; and he was still debating how to act, when they reported to him that there was a boat coming from the Admiral's ship. Philip went upon deck to receive the officer, who stated that it was the Admiral's order that he should immediately come on board, and that he must consider himself now under arrest, and deliver up his sword.
"No! no!" exclaimed the ship's company of the Dort. He shall not go on board. We will stand by our Captain to the last."
"Silence, men! silence!" cried Philip. "You must be aware, sir," said he to the officer, "that in the cruel punishment of that innocent young man, the Admiral has exceeded his powers: and, much as I regret to see any symptoms of mutiny and insubordination, it must be remembered that, if those in command disobey the orders they have received, by exceeding them, they not only set the example, but give an excuse for those who otherwise would be bound to obey them, to do the same. Tell the Admiral that his murder of that innocent man has determined me no longer to consider myself under his authority, and that I will hold myself, as well as him, answerable to the Company whom we serve, for our conduct. I do not intend to go on board and put myself in his power, that he might gratify his resentment by my ignominious death. It is a duty that I owe these men under my command to preserve my life, that I may, if possible, preserve theirs in this strait; and you may also add, that a little reflection must point out to him that this is no time for us to war with, but to assist each other with all our energies. We are here, ship-wrecked on a barren coast, with provisions insufficient for any lengthened stay, no prospect of succour, and little of escape. As the Commodore truly prophesied, many more are likely to perish as well as him—and even the Admiral himself may be of the number. I shall wait his answer; if he choose to lay aside all animosity, and refer our conduct to a higher tribunal, I am willing to join with him in rendering that assistance to each other which our situation requires—if not, you must perceive, and of course will tell him, that I have those with me who will defend me against any attempt at force. You have my answer, sir, and may go on board."
The officer went to the gangway, but found that none of his crew, except the bowman, were in the boat; they had gone up to gain from the men of the Dort the true history of what they had but imperfectly heard: and, before they were summoned to return, had received full intelligence. They coincided with the seamen of the Dort, that the appearance of the Phantom Ship, which had occasioned their present disaster, was a judgment upon the Admiral, for his conduct in having so cruelly deserted the poor Commodore.
Upon the return of the officer with Philip's answer, the rage of the Admiral was beyond all bounds. He ordered the guns aft, which would bear upon the Dort, to be double-shotted, and fired into her; but Krantz pointed out to him that they could not bring more guns to bear upon the Dort, in their present situation, than the Dort could bring to bear upon them; that their superior force was thus neutralised, and that no advantage could result from taking such a step. The Admiral immediately put Krantz under arrest, and proceeded to put into execution his insane intentions. In this he was, however, prevented by the seamen of the Lion, who neither wished to fire upon their consort, nor to be fired at in return. The report of the boat's crew had been circulated through the ship, and the men felt too much ill-will against the Admiral, and perceived at the same time the extreme difficulty of their situation, to wish to make it worse. They did not proceed to open mutiny, but they went down below, and when the officers ordered them up, they refused to go upon deck; and the officers, who were equally disgusted with the Admiral's conduct, merely informed him of the state of the ship's company, without naming individuals, so as to excite his resentment against any one in particular. Such was the state of affairs when the sun went down. Nothing had been done on board the Admiral's ship, for Krantz was under arrest, and the Admiral had retired in a state of fury to his cabin.
In the meantime Philip and the ship's company had not been idle—they had laid an anchor out astern, and hove taut: they had started all the water, and were pumping it out, when a boat pulled alongside, and Krantz made his appearance on deck.
"Captain Vanderdecken, I have come to put myself under your orders, if you will receive me—if not, render me your protection; for, as sure as fate, I should have been hanged to-morrow morning, if I had remained in my own ship. The men in the boat have come with the same intention—that of joining you, if you will permit them."
Although Philip would have wished it had been otherwise, he could not well refuse to receive Krantz, under the circumstances of the case. He was very partial to him, and to save his life, which certainly was in danger, he would have done much more. He desired that the boat's crew should return; but when Krantz had stated to him what had occurred on board the Lion, and the crew earnestly begged him not to send them back to almost certain death, which their having effected the escape of Krantz would have assured, Philip reluctantly allowed them to remain.
The night was tempestuous, but the wind being now off shore, the water was not rough. The crew of the Dort, under the directions of Philip and Krantz, succeeded in lightening the vessel so much during the night that the next morning they were able to haul her off, and found that her bottom had received no serious injury. It was fortunate for them that they had not discontinued their exertions, for the wind shifted a few hours before sunrise, and by the time that they had shipped their rudder, it came on to blow fresh down the Straits, the wind being accompanied with a heavy swell.
The Admiral's ship still lay aground, and apparently no exertions were used to get her off. Philip was much puzzled how to act: leave the crew of the Lion he could not; nor indeed could he refuse, or did he wish to refuse the Admiral, if he proposed coming on board; but he now made up his mind that it should only be as a passenger, and that he would himself retain the command. At present he contented himself with dropping his anchor outside, clear of the reef, where he was sheltered by a bluff cape, under which the water was smooth, about a mile distant from where the Admiral's ship lay on shore; and he employed his crew in replenishing his water-casks from a rivulet close to where the ship was anchored. He waited to see if the other vessel got off, being convinced that if she did not some communication must soon take place. As soon as the water was complete, he sent one of the boats to the place where the Commodore had been landed, having resolved to take him on board, if they could find him; but the boat returned without having seen anything of him, although the men had clambered over the hills to a considerable distance.
On the second morning after Philip had hauled his vessel off, they observed that the boats of the Admiral's ship were passing and repassing from the shore, landing her stores and provisions; and the next day, from the tents pitched on shore, it was evident that she was abandoned, although the boats were still employed in taking articles out of her. That night it blew fresh, and the sea was heavy; the next morning her masts were gone, and she turned on her broadside; she was evidently a wreck, and Philip now consulted with Krantz how to act. To leave the crew of the Lion on shore was impossible: they must all perish when the winter set in upon such a desolate coast. On the whole, it was considered advisable that the first communication should come from the other party, and Philip resolved to remain quietly at anchor.
It was very plain that there was no longer any subordination among the crew of the Lion, who were to be seen, in the day-time, climbing over the rocks in every direction, and at night, when their large fires were lighted, carousing and drinking. This waste of provisions was a subject of much vexation to Philip. He had not more than sufficient for his own crew, and he took it for granted that, so soon as what they had taken on shore should be expended, the crew of the Lion would ask to be received on board of the Dort.
For more than a week did affairs continue in this state, when, one morning, a boat was seen pulling towards the ship, and, in the stern-sheets Philip recognised the officer who had been sent on board to put him under arrest. When the officer came on deck, he took off his hat to Philip.
"You do, then, acknowledge me as in command," observed Philip.
"Yes, sir, most certainly; you were second in command, but now you are first—for the Admiral is dead."
"Dead!" exclaimed Philip; "and how?"
"He was found dead on the beach, under a high cliff, and the body of the Commodore was in his arms; indeed, they were both grappled together. It is supposed, that in his walk up to the top of the hill, which he used to take every day, to see if any vessels might be in the Straits, he fell in with the Commodore—that they had come to contention, and had both fallen over the precipice together. No one saw the meeting, but they must have fallen over the rocks, as the bodies are dreadfully mangled."
On inquiry, Philip ascertained that all chance of saving the Lion had been lost after the second night, when she had beat in her larboard streak, and had six feet of water in the hold—that the crew had been very insubordinate, and had consumed almost all the spirits; and that not only all the sick had already perished, but also many others who had either fallen over the rocks when they were intoxicated, or had been found dead in the morning, from their exposure during the night.
"Then the poor Commodore's prophecy has been fulfilled!" observed Philip to Krantz. "Many others, and even the Admiral himself, have perished with him—peace be with them! And now let us get away from this horrible place as soon as possible."
Philip then gave orders to the officer to collect his men, and the provisions that remained, for immediate embarkation. Krantz followed soon after with all the boats, and before night everything was on board. The bodies of the Admiral and Commodore were buried where they lay, and the next morning the Dort was under weigh, and, with a slanting wind, was laying a fair course through the Straits.
It appeared as if their misfortunes were to cease, after the tragical death of the two commanders. In a few days, the Dort had passed through the Straits of Magellan, and was sailing in the Pacific Ocean, with a blue sky and quiet sea. The ship's company recovered their health and spirits, and the vessel being now well manned, the duty was carried on with cheerfulness.
In about a fortnight, they had gained well up on the Spanish coast, but although they had seen many of the inhabitants on the beach, they had not fallen in with any vessels belonging to the Spaniards. Aware that if he met with a Spanish ship of superior force it would attack him, Philip had made every preparation, and had trained his men to the guns. He had now, with the joint crews of the vessels, a well-manned ship, and the anticipation of prize-money had made his men very eager to fall in with some Spaniard, which they knew that Philip would capture if he could. Light winds and calms detained them for a month on the coast, when Philip determined upon running for the Isle St Marie, where, though he knew it was in possession of the Spaniards, he yet hoped to be able to procure refreshments for the ship's company, either by fair means or by force. The Dort was, by their reckoning, about thirty miles from the island, and having run in until after dark, they had hove-to till the next morning. Krantz was on deck; he leant over the side, and as the sails flapped to the masts, he attempted to define the line of the horizon. It was very dark, but as he watched, he thought that he perceived a light for a moment, and which then disappeared. Fixing his eyes on the spot, he soon made out a vessel, hove-to, and not two cables' length distant. He hastened down to apprise Philip, and procure a glass. By the time Philip was on deck, the vessel had been distinctly made out to be a three-masted xebeque, very low in the water. After a short consultation, it was agreed that the boats on the quarter should be lowered down, and manned and armed without noise, and that they should steal gently alongside and surprise her. The men were called up, silence enjoined, and in a few minutes the boats' crew had possession of the vessel; having boarded her and secured the hatches before the alarm could be given by the few who were on deck. More men were then taken on board by Krantz, who, as agreed upon, lay to under the lee of the Dort until the daylight made its appearance. The hatches were then taken off, and the prisoners sent on board of the Dort. There were sixty people on board, a large number for a vessel of that description.
On being interrogated, two of the prisoners, who were well-dressed and gentlemanlike persons, stepped forward and stated that the vessel was from St Mary's, bound to Lima, with a cargo of flour and passengers; that the crew and captain consisted of twenty-five men, and all the rest who were on board, had taken that opportunity of going to Lima. That they themselves were among the passengers, and trusted that the vessel and cargo would be immediately released, as the two nations were not at war.
"Not at war at home, I grant," replied Philip, "but in these seas, the constant aggressions of your armed ships compel me to retaliate, and I shall therefore make a prize of your vessel and cargo. At the same time, as I have no wish to molest private individuals, I will land all the passengers and crew at St Mary's, to which place I am bound in order to obtain refreshments, which now I shall expect will be given cheerfully as your ransom, so as to relieve me from resorting to force." The prisoners protested strongly against this, but without avail. They then requested leave to ransom the vessel and cargo, offering a larger sum than they both appeared to be worth; but Philip, being short of provisions, refused to part with the cargo, and the Spaniards appeared much disappointed at the unsuccessful issue of their request. Finding that nothing would induce him to part with the provisions, they then begged hard to ransom the vessel; and to this, after a consultation with Krantz, Philip gave his assent. The two vessels then made sail, and steered on for the island, then about four leagues distant. Although Philip had not wished to retain the vessel, yet, as they stood in together, her superior speed became so manifest that he almost repented that he had agreed to ransom her.
At noon, the Dort was anchored in the roads, out of gunshot, and a portion of the passengers allowed to go on shore and make arrangements for the ransom of the remainder, while the prize was hauled alongside, and her cargo hoisted into the ship. Towards evening, three large boats with live stock and vegetables and the sum agreed upon for the ransom of the xebeque, came alongside; and as soon as one of the boats was cleared, the prisoners were permitted to go on shore in it, with the exception of the Spanish pilot, who, at the suggestion of Krantz, was retained, with a promise of being released directly the Dort was clear of the Spanish seas. A negro slave was also, at his own request, allowed to remain on board, much to the annoyance of the two passengers before mentioned, who claimed the man as their property, and insisted that it was an infraction of the agreement which had been entered into. "You prove my right by your own words," replied Philip; "I agreed to deliver up all the passengers, but no property; the slave will remain on board."
Finding their endeavours ineffectual, the Spaniards took a haughty leave. The Dort remained at anchor that night to examine her rigging, and the next morning they discovered that the xebeque had disappeared, having sailed unperceived by them during the night.
As soon as the anchor was up and sail made on the ship, Philip went down to his cabin with Krantz, to consult as to their best course. They were followed by the negro slave, who, shutting the door and looking watchfully round, said that he wished to speak with them. His information was most important, but given rather too late. The vessel which had been ransomed was a government advice-boat, the fastest sailer the Spaniards possessed. The two pretended passengers were officers of the Spanish navy, and the others were the crew of the vessel. She had been sent down to collect the bullion and take it to Lima, and at the same time to watch for the arrival of the Dutch fleet, intelligence of whose sailing had been some time before received overland. When the Dutch fleet made its appearance, she was to return to Lima with the news, and a Spanish force would be despatched against it. They further learnt that some of the supposed casks of flour contained 2000 gold doubloons each, others bars of silver; this precaution having been taken in case of capture. That the vessel had now sailed for Lima there was no doubt. The reason why the Spaniards were so anxious not to leave the negro on board of the Dort, was, that they knew that he would disclose what he now had done. As for the pilot, he was a man whom the Spaniards knew they could trust, and for that reason they had better be careful of him, or he would lead the Dort into some difficulty.
Philip now repented that he had ransomed the vessel, as he would, in all probability, have to meet and cope with a superior force, before he could make his way clear out of these seas; but there was no help for it. He consulted with Krantz, and it was agreed that they should send for the ship's company and make them acquainted with these facts; arguing that a knowledge of the valuable capture which they had made, would induce the men to fight well, and stimulate them with the hopes of further success. The ship's company heard the intelligence with delight, professed themselves ready to meet double their force, and then, by the directions of Philip, the casks were brought up on the quarter-deck, opened, and the bullion taken out. The whole, when collected, amounted to about half a million of dollars, as near as they could estimate it, and a distribution of the coined money was made from the capstan the very next day; the bars of metal being reserved until they could be sold, and their value ascertained.
For six weeks Philip worked his vessel up the coast, without falling in with any vessel under sail. Notice had been given by the advice-boat, as it appeared, and every craft, large and small, was at anchor under the batteries. They had nearly run up the whole coast, and Philip had determined that the next day he would stretch across to Batavia, when a ship was seen in-shore under a press of sail, running towards Lima. Chase was immediately given, but the water shoaled, and the pilot was asked if they could stand on. He replied in the affirmative, stating that they were now in the shallowest water, and that it was deeper within. The leadsman was ordered into the chains, but at the first heave the lead-line broke; another was sent for, and the Dort still carried on under a heavy press of sail. Just then, the negro slave went up to Philip, and told him that he had seen the pilot with his knife in the chains, and that he thought he must have cut the lead-line so far through as to occasion it being carried away, and told Philip not to trust him. The helm was immediately put down; but as the ship went round she touched on the bank, dragged, and was again clear.—"Scoundrel!" cried Philip. "So you cut the lead-line? The negro saw you, and has saved us."
The Spaniard leaped down from off the gun, and, before he could be prevented, had buried his knife in the heart of the negro. "Maldetto, take that for your pains!" cried he, in a fury, grinding his teeth and flourishing his knife.
The negro fell dead. The pilot was seized and disarmed by the crew of the Dort, who were partial to the negro, as it was from his information that they had become rich.
"Let them do with him as they please," said Krantz to Philip.
"Yes," replied Philip; "summary justice."
The crew debated a few minutes, and then lashed the pilot to the negro, and carried him off to the taffrail. There was a heavy plunge, and he disappeared under the eddying waters in the wake of the vessel.
Philip now determined to shape his course for Batavia. He was within a few days' sail of Lima, and had every reason to believe that vessels had been sent out to intercept him. With a favourable wind he now stood away from the coast, and for three days made a rapid passage. On the fourth, at daylight, two vessels appeared to windward, bearing down upon him. That they were large armed vessels was evident; and the display of Spanish ensigns and pennants, as they rounded to, about a mile to windward, soon showed that they were enemies. They proved to be a frigate of a larger size than the Dort, and a corvette of twenty-two guns.
The crew of the Dort showed no alarm at this disparity of force: they clinked their doubloons in their pockets; vowed not to return them to their lawful owners, if they could help it; and flew with alacrity to their guns. The Dutch ensign was displayed in defiance, and the two Spanish vessels, again putting their heads towards the Dort, that they might lessen their distance, received some raking shot, which somewhat discomposed them; but they rounded to at a cable's length, and commenced the action with great spirit, the frigate lying on the beam, and the corvette on the bow of Philip's vessel. After half an hour's determined exchange of broadsides, the foremast of the Spanish frigate fell, carrying away with it the maintop-mast; and this accident impeded her firing. The Dort immediately made sail, stood on to the corvette, which she crippled with three or four broadsides, then tacked, and fetched alongside of the frigate, whose lee-guns were still impeded with the wreck of the foremast. The two vessels now lay head and stern, within ten feet of each other, and the action recommenced to the disadvantage of the Spaniard. In a quarter of an hour the canvas, hanging overside, caught fire from the discharge of the guns, and very soon communicated to the ship, the Dort still pouring in a most destructive broadside, which could not be effectually returned. After every attempt to extinguish the flames, the captain of the Spanish vessel resolved that both vessels should share the same fate. He put his helm up, and, running her on to the Dort, grappled with her, and attempted to secure the two vessels together. Then raged the conflict; the Spaniards attempting to pass their grappling-chains so as to prevent the escape of their enemy, and the Dutch endeavouring to frustrate their attempt. The chains and sides of both vessels were crowded with men fighting desperately; those struck down falling between the two vessels, which the wreck of the foremast still prevented from coming into actual collision. During this conflict, Philip and Krantz were not idle. By squaring the after-yards, and putting all sail on forward they contrived that the Dort should pay off before the wind with her antagonist, and by this manoeuvre they cleared themselves of the smoke which so incommoded them; and, having good way on the two vessels, they then rounded to so as to get on the other tack, and bring the Spaniard to leeward. This gave them a manifest advantage, and soon terminated the conflict. The smoke and flames were beat back on the Spanish vessel—the fire which had communicated to the Dort was extinguished—the Spaniards were no longer able to prosecute their endeavours to fasten the two vessels together, and retreated to within the bulwarks of their own vessel; and, after great exertions, the Dort was disengaged, and forged ahead of her opponent, who was soon enveloped in a sheet of flame. The corvette remained a few cables' length to windward, occasionally firing a gun. Philip poured in a broadside, and she hauled down her colours. The action might now be considered at an end, and the object was to save the crew of the burning frigate. The boats of the Dort were hoisted out, but only two of them could swim. One of them was immediately despatched to the corvette, with orders for her to send all her boats to the assistance of the frigate, which was done, and the major part of the surviving crew were saved. For two hours the guns of the frigate, as they were heated by the flames, discharged themselves; and then, the fire having communicated to the magazine, she blew up, and the remainder of her hull sank slowly and disappeared. Among the prisoners in the uniform of the Spanish service Philip perceived the two pretended passengers, this proving the correctness of the negro's statement. The two men-of-war had been sent out of Lima on purpose to intercept him, anticipating, with such a preponderating force, an easy victory. After some consultation with Krantz, Philip agreed that, as the corvette was in such a crippled state, and the nations were not actually at war, it would be advisable to release her with all the prisoners. This was done, and the Dort again made sail for Batavia, and anchored in the roads three weeks after the combat had taken place. He found the remainder of the fleet, which had been despatched before them, and had arrived there some weeks, had taken in their cargoes, and were ready to sail for Holland. Philip wrote his despatches, in which he communicated to the directors the events of the voyage; and then went on shore, to reside at the house of the merchant who had formerly received him, until the Dort could be freighted for her voyage home.
We must return to Amine, who is seated on the mossy bank where she and Philip conversed when they were interrupted by Schriften the pilot. She is in deep thought, with her eyes cast down, as if trying to recall the past. "Alas! for my mother's power," exclaimed she; "but it is gone—gone for ever! This torment and suspense I cannot bear—those foolish priests too!" And Amine rose from the bank and walked towards her cottage.
Father Mathias had not returned to Lisbon. At first he had not found an opportunity, and afterwards, his debt of gratitude towards Philip induced him to remain by Amine, who appeared each day to hold more in aversion the tenets of the Christian faith. Many and many were the consultations with Father Seysen, many were the exhortations of both the good old men to Amine, who, at times, would listen without reply, and at others, argue boldly against them. It appeared to them that she rejected their religion with an obstinacy as unpardonable as it was incomprehensible. But to her the case was more simple: she refused to believe, she said, that which she could not understand. She went so far as to acknowledge the beauty of the principles, the purity of the doctrine; but when the good priests would enter into the articles of their faith, Amine would either shake her head or attempt to turn the conversation. This only increased the anxiety of the good Father Mathias to convert and save the soul of one so young and beautiful; and he now no longer thought of returning to Lisbon, but devoted his whole time to the instruction of Amine, who, wearied by his incessant importunities, almost loathed his presence.
Upon reflection, it will not appear surprising that Amine rejected a creed so dissonant to her wishes and intentions. The human mind is of that proud nature, that it requires all its humility to be called into action before it will bow, even to the Deity.
Amine knew that her mother had possessed superior knowledge, and an intimacy with unearthly intelligences. She had seen her practise her art with success, although so young at the time that she could not now call to mind the mystic preparations by which her mother had succeeded in her wishes; and it was now that her thoughts were wholly bent upon recovering what she had forgotten, that Father Mathias was exhorting her to a creed which positively forbade even the attempt. The peculiar and awful mission of her husband strengthened her opinion in the lawfulness of calling in the aid of supernatural agencies; and the arguments brought forward by these worthy, but not over-talented, professors of the Christian creed, had but little effect upon a mind so strong and so decided as that of Amine—a mind which, bent as it was upon one object, rejected with scorn tenets, in proof of which they could offer no visible manifestation, and which would have bound her blindly to believe what appeared to her contrary to common sense. That her mother's art could bring evidence of its truth she had already shown, and satisfied herself in the effect of the dream which she had proved upon Philip;—but what proof could they bring forward?—Records—which they would not permit her to read!
"Oh! that I had my mother's art," repeated Amine once more, as she entered the cottage; "then would I know where my Philip was at this moment. Oh! for the black mirror in which I used to peer at her command, and tell her what passed in array before me. How well do I remember that time—the time of my father's absence, when I looked into the liquid on the palm of my hand, and told her of the Bedouin camp—of the skirmish—the horse without a rider—and the turban on the sand!" And again Amine fell into deep thought. "Yes," cried she, after a time, "thou canst assist me, mother! Give me in a dream thy knowledge; thy daughter begs it as a boon. Let me think again. The word—what was the word? what was the name of the spirit—Turshoon? Yes, methinks it was Turshoon. Mother! mother! help your daughter."
"Dost thou call upon the Blessed Virgin, my child?" said Father Mathias, who had entered the room as she pronounced the last words. "If so, thou dost well, for she may appear to thee in thy dreams, and strengthen thee in the true faith."
"I called upon my own mother, who is in the land of spirits, good father," replied Amine.
"Yes; but, as an infidel; not, I fear, in the land of the blessed spirits, my child."
"She hardly will be punished for following the creed of her fathers, living where she did, where no other creed was known?" replied Amine, indignantly. "If the good on earth are blessed in the next world—if she had, as you assert she had, a soul to be saved—an immortal spirit—He who made that spirit will not destroy it because she worshipped as her fathers did.—Her life was good: why should she be punished for ignorance of that creed which she never had an opportunity of rejecting?"
"Who shall dispute the will of Heaven, my child? Be thankful that you are permitted to be instructed, and to be received into the bosom of the holy church."
"I am thankful for many things, father; but I am weary, and must wish you a good-night."
Amine retired to her room—but not to sleep. Once more did she attempt the ceremonies used by her mother, changing them each time, as doubtful of her success. Again the censer was lighted—the charm essayed; again the room was filled with smoke as she threw in the various herbs which she had knowledge of, for all the papers thrown aside at her father's death had been carefully collected, and on many were directions found as to the use of those herbs. "The word! the word! I have the first—the second word! Help me, mother!" cried Amine, as she sat by the side of the bed, in the room, which was now so full of smoke that nothing could be distinguished. "It is of no use," thought she at last, letting her hands fall at her side; "I have forgotten the art. Mother! mother! help me in my dreams this night."
The smoke gradually cleared away, and, when Amine lifted up her eyes, she perceived a figure standing before her. At first she thought she had been successful in her charm; but, as the figure became more distinct, she perceived that it was Father Mathias, who was looking at her with a severe frown and contracted brow, his arms folded before him.
"Unholy child! what dost thou?"
Amine had roused the suspicions of the priests, not only by her conversation, but by several attempts which she had before made to recover her lost art; and on one occasion, in which she had defended it, both Father Mathias and Father Seysen had poured out the bitterest anathemas upon her, or anyone who had resort to such practices. The smell of the fragrant herbs thrown into the censer, and the smoke, which afterwards had escaped through the door and ascended the stairs, had awakened the suspicions of Father Mathias, and he had crept up silently, and entered the room without her perceiving it. Amine at once perceived her danger. Had she been single, she would have dared the priest; but, for Philip's sake, she determined to mislead him.
"I do no wrong, father," replied she, calmly; "but it appears to me not seemly that you should enter the chamber of a young woman during her husband's absence. I might have been in my bed. It is a strange intrusion."
"Thou canst not mean this, woman! My age—my profession—are a sufficient warranty," replied Father Mathias, somewhat confused at this unexpected attack.
"Not always, Father, if what I have been told of monks and priests be true," replied Amine. "I ask again, why comest thou here into an unprotected woman's chamber?"
"Because I felt convinced that she was practising unholy arts."
"Unholy arts!—what mean you? Is the leech's skill unholy? is it unholy to administer relief to those who suffer?—to charm the fever and the ague which rack the limbs of those who live in this unwholesome climate?"
"All charms are most unholy."
"When I said charms, Father, I meant not what you mean; I simply would have said a remedy. If a knowledge of certain wonderful herbs, which, properly combined will form a specific to ease the suffering wretch—an art well known unto my mother, and which I now would fain recall—if that knowledge, or a wish to regain that knowledge, be unholy, then are you correct."
"I heard thee call upon thy mother for her help."
"I did, for she well knew the ingredients; but I, I fear have not the knowledge that she had. Is that sinful, good Father?"
"'Tis, then, a remedy that you would find?" replied the priest; "I thought that thou didst practise that which is most unlawful."
"Can the burning of a few weeds be then unlawful? What did you expect to find? Look you, Father, at these ashes—they may, with oil, be rubbed into the pores and give relief—but can they do more? What do you expect from them—a ghost?—a spirit?—like the prophet raised for the King of Israel?" And Amine laughed aloud.
"I am perplexed, but not convinced," replied the priest.
"I, too, am perplexed and not convinced," responded Amine, scornfully. "I cannot satisfy myself that a man of your discretion could really suppose that there was mischief in burning weeds; nor am I convinced that such was the occasion of your visit at this hour of the night to a lone woman's chamber. There may be natural charms more powerful than those you call supernatural. I pray you, Father, leave this chamber. It is not seemly. Should you again presume, you leave the house. I thought better of you. In future, I will not be left at any time alone."
This attack of Amine's upon the reputation of the old priest was too severe. Father Mathias immediately quitted the room, saying, as he went out, "May God forgive you for your false suspicions and great injustice! I came here for the cause I have stated, and no more."
"Yes!" soliloquised Amine, as the door closed, "I know you did; but I must rid myself of your unwelcome company. I will have no spy upon my actions—no meddler to thwart me in my will. In your zeal you have committed yourself, and I will take the advantage you have given me. Is not the privacy of a woman's chamber to be held sacred by you sacred men? In return for assistance in distress—for food and shelter—you would become a spy. How grateful, and how worthy of the creed which you profess!" Amine opened her door as soon as she had removed the censer, and summoned one of the women of the house to stay that night in her room, stating that the priest had entered her chamber, and she did not like the intrusion.
"Holy father! is it possible?" replied the woman.
Amine made no reply, but went to bed; but Father Mathias heard all that passed as he paced the room below. The next day he called upon Father Seysen, and communicated to him what had occurred, and the false suspicions of Amine.
"You have acted hastily," replied Father Seysen, "to visit a woman's chamber at such an hour of the night."
"I had my suspicions, good Father Seysen."
"And she will have hers. She is young and beautiful."
"Now, by the Blessed Virgin—"
"I absolve you, good Mathias," replied Father Seysen; "but still, if known, it would occasion much scandal to our church."
And known it soon was; for the woman who had been summoned by Amine did not fail to mention the circumstance; and Father Mathias found himself everywhere so coldly received, and, besides, so ill at ease with himself, that he very soon afterwards quitted the country, and returned to Lisbon; angry with himself for his imprudence, but still more angry with Amine for her unjust suspicions.
The cargo of the Dort was soon ready, and Philip sailed and arrived at Amsterdam without any further adventure. That he reached his cottage, and was received with delight by Amine, need hardly be said. She had been expecting him; for the two ships of the squadron, which had sailed on his arrival at Batavia, and which had charge of his despatches, had, of course, carried letters to her from Philip, the first letters she had ever received from him during his voyages. Six weeks after the letters Philip himself made his appearance, and Amine was happy. The directors were, of course, highly satisfied with Philip's conduct, and he was appointed to the command of a large armed ship, which was to proceed to India in the spring, and one-third of which, according to agreement, was purchased by Philip out of the funds which he had in the hands of the Company. He had now five months of quiet and repose to pass away, previous to his once more trusting to the elements; and this time, as it was agreed, he had to make arrangements on board for the reception of Amine.
Amine narrated to Philip what had occurred between her and the priest Mathias, and by what means she had rid herself of his unwished-for surveillance.
"And were you practising your mother's arts, Amine?"
"Nay, not practising them, for I could not recall them, but I was trying to recover them."
"Why so, Amine? this must not be. It is, as the good father said, 'unholy.' Promise me you will abandon them, now and for ever."
"If that act be unholy, Philip, so is your mission. You would deal and co-operate with the spirits of another world—I would do no more. Abandon your terrific mission—abandon your seeking after disembodied spirits—stay at home with your Amine, and she will cheerfully comply with your request."
"Mine is an awful summons from the Most High."
"Then the Most High permits your communion with those who are not of this world?"
"He does; you know even the priests do not gainsay it, although they shudder at the very thought."
"If then He permits to one, He will to another; nay, aught that I can do is but with His permission."
"Yes, Amine, so does He permit evil to stalk on the earth, but He countenances it not."
"He countenances your seeking after your doomed father, your attempts to meet him; nay, more, He commands it. If you are thus permitted, why may not I be? I am your wife, a portion of yourself; and when I am left over a desolate hearth, while you pursue your course of danger, may not I appeal also to the immaterial world to give me that intelligence which will soothe my sorrow, lighten my burden, and which, at the same time, can hurt no living creature? Did I attempt to practise these arts for evil purposes, it were just to deny them me, and wrong to continue them; but I would but follow in the steps of my husband, and seek as he seeks, with a good intent."
"But it is contrary to our faith."
"Have the priests declared your mission contrary to their faith? or, if they have, have they not been convinced to the contrary, and been awed to silence? But why argue, my dear Philip? Shall I not now be with you? and while with you I will attempt no more. You have my promise; but if separated, I will not say, but I shall then require of the invisible a knowledge of my husband's motions, when in search of the invisible also."
The winter passed rapidly away, for it was passed by Philip in quiet and happiness; the spring came on, the vessel was to be fitted out, and Philip and Amine repaired to Amsterdam.
The Utrecht was the name of the vessel to which he had been appointed, a ship of 400 tons, newly launched, and pierced for twenty-four guns. Two more months passed away, during which Philip superintended the fitting and loading of the vessel, assisted by his favourite Krantz, who served in her as first mate. Every convenience and comfort that Philip could think of was prepared for Amine; and in the month of May he started, with orders to stop at Gambroon and Ceylon, run down the Straits of Sumatra, and from thence to force his way into the China seas, the Company having every reason to expect from the Portuguese the most determined opposition to the attempt. His ship's company was numerous, and he had a small detachment of soldiers on board to assist the supercargo, who carried out many thousand dollars to make purchases at ports in China, where their goods might not be appreciated. Every care had been taken in the equipment of the vessel, which was perhaps the finest, the best manned, and freighted with the most valuable cargo, which had been sent out by the India Company.
The Utrecht sailed with a flowing sheet, and was soon clear of the English Channel; the voyage promised to be auspicious, favouring gales bore them without accident to within a few hundred miles of the Cape of Good Hope, when, for the first time, they were becalmed. Amine was delighted: in the evenings she would pace the deck with Philip; then all was silent, except the splash of the wave as it washed against the side of the vessel—all was in repose and beauty, as the bright southern constellations sparkled over their heads.
"Whose destinies can be in these stars, which appear not to those who inhabit the northern regions?" said Amine, as she cast her eyes above, and watched them in their brightness; "and what does that falling meteor portend? what causes its rapid descent from heaven?"