"Do you, then, put faith in stars, Amine?"
"In Araby we do; and why not? They were not spread over the sky to give light—for what then?"
"To beautify the world. They have their uses, too."
"Then you agree with me—they have their uses, and the destinies of men are there concealed. My mother was one of those who could read them well. Alas! for me they are a sealed book."
"Is it not better so, Amine?"
"Better!—say better to grovel on this earth with our selfish, humbled race, wandering in mystery, and awe, and doubt, when we can communicate with the intelligences above! Does not the soul leap at her admission to confer with superior powers? Does not the proud heart bound at the feeling that its owner is one of those more gifted than the usual race of mortals? Is it not a noble ambition?"
"A dangerous one—most dangerous."
"And therefore most noble. They seem as if they would speak to me: look at yon bright star—it beckons to me."
For some time Amine's eyes were raised aloft; she spoke not, and Philip remained at her side. She walked to the gangway of the vessel, and looked down upon the placid wave, pierced by the moonbeams far below the surface.
"And does your imagination, Amine, conjure up a race of beings gifted to live beneath that deep blue wave, who sport amid the coral rocks, and braid their hair with pearls?" said Philip, smiling.
"I know not, but it appears to me that it would be sweet to live there. You may call to mind your dream, Philip; I was then, according to your description, one of those same beings."
"You were," replied Philip, thoughtfully.
"And yet I feel as if water would reject me, even if the vessel were to sink. In what manner this mortal frame of mine may be resolved into its elements, I know not; but this I do feel, that it never will become the sport of, or be tossed by, the mocking waves. But come in, Philip, dearest; it is late, and the decks are wet with dew."
When the day dawned, the look-out man at the mast-head reported that he perceived something floating on the still surface of the water, on the beam of the vessel. Krantz went up with his glass to examine, and made it out to be a small boat, probably cut adrift from some vessel. As there was no appearance of wind, Philip permitted a boat to be sent to examine it, and after a long pull, the seamen returned on board, towing the small boat astern.
"There is a body of a man in it, sir," said the second mate to Krantz, as he gained the gangway; "but whether he is quite dead, or not, I cannot tell."
Krantz reported this to Philip, who was, at that time, sitting at breakfast with Amine in the cabin, and then proceeded to the gangway, to where the body of the man had been already handed up by the seamen. The surgeon, who had been summoned, declared that life was not yet extinct, and was ordering him to be taken below for recovery, when, to their astonishment, the man turned as he lay, sat up, and ultimately rose upon his feet and staggered to a gun, when, after a time, he appeared to be fully recovered. In reply to questions put to him, he said that he was in a vessel which had been upset in a squall, that he had time to cut away the small boat astern, and that all the rest of the crew had perished. He had hardly made this answer, when Philip with Amine came out of the cabin, and walked up to where the seamen were crowded round the man; the seamen retreated so as to make an opening, when Philip and Amine, to their astonishment and horror, recognised their old acquaintance, the one-eyed pilot Schriften.
"He! he! Captain Vanderdecken, I believe—glad to see you in command, and you too, fair lady."
Philip turned away with a chill at his heart; Amine's eye flashed as she surveyed the wasted form of the wretched creature. After a few seconds, she turned round and followed Philip into the cabin, where she found him with his face buried in his hands.
"Courage, Philip, courage!" said Amine; "it was indeed a heavy shock, and I fear me forbodes evil—but what then; it is our destiny."
"It is—it ought perhaps to be mine," replied Philip, raising his head; "but you, Amine, why should you be a partner—"
"I am your partner, Philip, in life and in death. I would not die first, Philip, because it would grieve you; but your death will be the signal for mine, and I will join you quickly."
"Surely, Amine, you would not hasten your own?"
"Yes! and require but one moment for this little steel to do its duty."
"Nay! Amine, that is not lawful—our religion forbids it."
"It may do so, but I cannot tell why. I came into this world without my own consent—surely I may leave it without asking the leave of priests! But let that pass for the present: what will you do with that Schriften?"
"Put him on shore at the Cape; I cannot bear the odious wretch's presence. Did you not feel the chill, as before, when you approached him?"
"I did—I knew that he was there before I saw him; but still, I know not why, I feel as if I would not send him away."
"I believe it is because I am inclined to brave destiny, not to quail at it. The wretch can do no harm."
"Yes, he can—much: he can render the ship's company mutinous and disaffected;—besides, he attempted to deprive me of my relic."
"I almost wish he had done so; then must you have discontinued this wild search."
"Nay, Amine, say not so; it is my duty, and I have taken my solemn oath—"
"But this Schriften—you cannot well put him ashore at the Cape; being a Company's officer, you might send him home if you found a ship there homeward-bound; still, were I you, I would let destiny work. He is woven in with ours, that is certain. Courage, Philip, and let him remain."
"Perhaps you are right, Amine; I may retard, but cannot escape, whatever may be my intended fate."
"Let him remain, then, and let him do his worst. Treat him with kindness—who knows what we may gain from him?"
"True, true, Amine; he has been my enemy without cause. Who can tell?—perhaps he may become my friend."
"And if not, you will have done your duty. Send for him now."
"No, not now—to-morrow; in the meantime, I will order him every comfort."
"We are talking as if he were one of us, which I feel that he is not," replied Amine; "but still, mundane or not, we cannot but offer mundane kindness, and what this world, or rather what this ship affords. I long now to talk with him, to see if I can produce any effect upon his ice-like frame. Shall I make love to the ghoul?" and Amine burst into a bitter laugh.
Here the conversation dropped, but its substance was not disregarded. The next morning, the surgeon having reported that Schriften was apparently quite recovered, he was summoned into the cabin. His frame was wasted away to a skeleton, but his motions and his language were as sharp and petulant as ever.
"I have sent for you, Schriften, to know if there is anything that I can do to make you more comfortable. Is there anything that you want?"
"Want?" replied Schriften, eyeing first Philip and then Amine.—"He! he! I think I want filling out a little."
"That you will, I trust, in good time; my steward has my orders to take care of you."
"Poor man," said Amine, with a look of pity, "how much he must have suffered! Is not this the man who brought you the letter from the Company, Philip?"
"He! he! yes! Not very welcome, was it, lady?"
"No, my good fellow, it's never a welcome message to a wife, that sends her husband away from her. But that was not your fault."
"If a husband will go to sea and leave a handsome wife, when he has, as they say, plenty of money to live upon on shore, he! he!"
"Yes, indeed, you may well say that," replied Amine.
"Better give it up. All folly, all madness—eh, captain?"
"I must finish this voyage, at all events," replied Philip to Amine, "whatever I may do afterwards. I have suffered much, and so have you, Schriften. You have been twice wrecked; now tell me what do you wish to do? Go home in the first ship, or go ashore at the Cape—or—"
"Or do anything, so I get out of this ship—he! he!"
"Not so. If you prefer sailing with me, as I know you are a good seaman, you shall have your rating and pay of pilot—that is, if you choose to follow my fortunes."
"Follow?—Must follow. Yes! I'll sail with you, Mynheer Vanderdecken, I wish to be always near you—he! he!"
"Be it so, then: as soon as you are strong again, you will go to your duty; till then, I will see that you want for nothing."
"Nor I, my good fellow. Come to me if you do, and I will be your help," said Amine. "You have suffered much, but we will do what we can to make you forget it."
"Very good! very kind!" replied Schriften, surveying the lovely face and figure of Amine. After a time, shrugging up his shoulders, he added—"A pity! Yes it is!—Must be, though."
"Farewell," continued Amine, holding out her hand to Schriften.
The man took it, and a cold shudder went to her heart; but she, expecting such a result, would not appear to feel it. Schriften held her hand for a second or two in his own, looking at it earnestly, and then at Amine's face.—"So fair, so good! Mynheer Vanderdecken, I thank you. Lady, may Heaven preserve you!"—Then, squeezing the hand of Amine which he had not released, Schriften hastened out of the cabin.
So great was the sudden icy shock which passed through Amine's frame when Schriften pressed her hand, that when with difficulty she gained the sofa she fell upon it. After remaining with her hand pressed against her heart for some time, during which Philip bent over her, she said in a breathless voice, "That creature must be supernatural, I am sure of it, I am now convinced.—Well," continued she, after a pause of some little while, "all the better, if we can make him a friend; and if I can I will."
"But think you, Amine, that those who are not of this world have feelings of kindness, gratitude, and ill-will, as we have? Can they be made subservient?"
"Most surely so. If they have ill-will, as we know they have, they must also be endowed with the better feelings. Why are there good and evil intelligences? They may have disencumbered themselves of their mortal clay, but the soul must be the same. A soul without feeling were no soul at all. The soul is active in this world and must be so in the next. If angels can pity, they must feel like us. If demons can vex, they must feel like us. Our feelings change, then why not theirs? Without feelings, there were no heaven, no hell. Here our souls are confined, cribbed, and overladen, borne down by the heavy flesh by which they are, for the time, polluted; but the soul that has winged its flight from clay is, I think, not one jot more pure, more bright, or more perfect than those within ourselves. Can they be made subservient, say you! Yes! they can; they can be forced, when mortals possess the means and power. The evil-inclined may be forced to good, as well as to evil. It is not the good and perfect spirits that we subject by art, but those that are inclined to wrong. It is over them that mortals have the power. Our arts have no power over the perfect spirits, but over those which are ever working evil, and which are bound to obey and do good, if those who master them require it."
"You still resort to forbidden arts, Amine. Is that right?"
"Right! If we have power given to us, it is right to use it."
"Yes, most certainly, for good—but not for evil."
"Mortals in power, possessing nothing but what is mundane, are answerable for the use of that power; so those gifted by superior means, are answerable as they employ those means. Does the God above make a flower to grow, intending that it should not be gathered? No! neither does He allow supernatural aid to be given, if He did not intend that mortals should avail themselves of it."
As Amine's eyes beamed upon Philip's, he could not for the moment subdue the idea rising in his mind, that she was not like other mortals, and he calmly observed, "Am I sure, Amine, that I am wedded to one mortal as myself?"
"Yes! yes! Philip, compose yourself, I am but mortal; would to Heaven I were not. Would to Heaven I were one of those who could hover over you, watch you in all your perils, save and protect you in this your mad career; but I am but a poor weak woman, whose heart beats fondly, devotedly for you—who, for you, would dare all and everything—who, changed in her nature, has become courageous and daring from her love; and who rejects all creeds which would prevent her from calling upon heaven, or earth, or hell, to assist her in retaining with her her soul's existence?"
"Nay! nay! Amine, say not you reject the creed. Does not this,"—and Philip pulled from his bosom the holy relic, "does not this, and the message sent by it, prove our creed is true?"
"I have thought much of it, Philip. At first it startled me almost into a belief, but even your own priests helped to undeceive me. They would not answer you; they would have left you to guide yourself; the message and the holy word, and the wonderful signs given were not in unison with their creed, and they halted. May I not halt, if they did? The relic may be as mystic, as powerful as you describe; but the agencies may be false and wicked, the power given to it may have fallen into wrong hands—the power remains the same, but it is applied to uses not intended."
"The power, Amine, can only be exercised by those who are friends to Him who died upon it."
"Then is it no power at all; or if a power, not half so great as that of the arch-fiend; for his can work for good and evil both. But on this point, dear Philip, we do not well agree, nor can we convince each other. You have been taught in one way, I another. That which our childhood has imbibed, which has grown up with our growth, and strengthened with our years, is not to be eradicated. I have seen my mother work great charms, and succeed. You have knelt to priests: I blame not you!—blame not then your Amine. We both mean well—I trust, do well."
"If a life of innocence and purity were all that were required, my Amine would be sure of future bliss."
"I think it is; and thinking so, it is my creed. There are many creeds: who shall say which is the true one? And what matters it? they all have the same end in view—a future Heaven."
"True, Amine, true," replied Philip, pacing the cabin thoughtfully; "and yet our priests say otherwise."
"What is the basis of their creed, Philip?"
"Charity, and good-will."
"Does charity condemn to eternal misery those who have never heard this creed, who have lived and died worshipping the Great Being after their best endeavours, and little knowledge?"
Amine made no further observations; and Philip, after pacing for a few minutes in deep thought, walked out of the cabin.
The Utrecht arrived at the Cape, watered, and proceeded on her voyage and, after two months of difficult navigation, cast anchor off Gambroon. During this time, Amine had been unceasing in her attempts to gain the good-will of Schriften. She had often conversed with him on deck, and had done him every kindness, and had overcome that fear which his near approach had generally occasioned. Schriften gradually appeared mindful of this kindness, and at last to be pleased with Amine's company. To Philip he was at times civil and courteous, but not always; but to Amine he was always deferent. His language was mystical, she could not prevent his chuckling laugh, his occasional "He! he!" from breaking forth. But when they anchored at Gambroon, he was on such terms with her, that he would occasionally come into the cabin; and, although he would not sit down, would talk to Amine for a few minutes, and then depart. While the vessel lay at anchor at Gambroon, Schriften one evening walked up to Amine, who was sitting on the poop. "Lady," said he, after a pause, "yon ship sails for your own country in a few days."
"So I am told," replied Amine.
"Will you take the advice of one who wishes you well? Return in that vessel, go back to your own cottage, and stay there till your husband comes to you once more."
"Why is this advice given?"
"Because I forbode danger, nay, perhaps death, a cruel death, to one I would not harm."
"To me!" replied Amine, fixing her eyes upon Schriften, and meeting his piercing gaze.
"Yes, to you. Some people can see into futurity farther than others."
"Not if they are mortal," replied Amine.
"Yes, if they are mortal. But mortal or not, I do see that which I would avert. Tempt not destiny farther."
"Who can avert it? If I take your counsel, still was it my destiny to take your counsel. If I take it not, still it was my destiny."
"Well, then, avoid what threatens you."
"I fear not, yet do I thank you. Tell me, Schriften, hast thou not thy fate someway interwoven with that of my husband? I feel that thou hast."
"Why think you so, lady?"
"For many reasons: twice you have summoned him, twice have you been wrecked, and miraculously reappeared and recovered. You know, too, of his mission, that is evident."
"But proves nothing."
"Yes! it proves much; for it proves that you knew what was supposed to be known but to him alone."
"It was known to you, and holy men debated on it," replied Schriften with a sneer.
"How knew you that, again?"
"He! he!" replied Schriften; "forgive me, lady, I meant not to affront you."
"You cannot deny that you are connected mysteriously and incomprehensibly with this mission of my husband's. Tell me, is it as he believes, true and holy?"
"If he thinks that it is true and holy, it becomes so."
"Why then do you appear his enemy?"
"I am not his enemy, fair lady."
"You are not his enemy—why then did you once attempt to deprive him of the mystic relic by which the mission is to be accomplished?"
"I would prevent his further search, for reasons which must not be told. Does that prove that I am his enemy? Would it not be better that he should remain on shore with competence and you, than be crossing the wild seas on this mad search? Without the relic it is not to be accomplished. It were a kindness, then, to take it from him."
Amine answered not, for she was lost in thought.
"Lady," continued Schriften, after a time; "I wish you well. For your husband I care not, yet do I wish him no harm. Now hear me; if you wish for your future life to be one of ease and peace—if you wish to remain long in this world with the husband of your choice—of your first and warmest love—if you wish that he should die in his bed at a good old age, and that you should close his eyes with children's tears lamenting, and their smiles reserved to cheer their mother—all this I see and can promise is in futurity, if you will take that relic from his bosom and give it up to me. But if you would that he should suffer more than man has ever suffered, pass his whole life in doubt, anxiety, and pain, until the deep wave receive his corpse, then let him keep it—If you would that your own days be shortened, and yet those remaining be long in human sufferings, if you would be separated from him and die a cruel death, then let him keep it. I can read futurity, and such must be the destiny of both. Lady, consider well, I must leave you now. To-morrow I will have your answer."
Schriften walked away and left Amine to her own reflections. For a long while she repeated to herself the conversation and denunciations of the man, whom she was now convinced was not of this world, and was in some way or another deeply connected with her husband's fate. "To me he wishes well, no harm to my husband, and would prevent his search. Why would he?—that he will not tell. He has tempted me, tempted me most strangely. How easy 'twere to take the relic whilst Philip sleeps upon my bosom—but how treacherous! And yet a life of competence and ease, a smiling family, a good old age; what offers to a fond and doting wife! And if not, toil, anxiety, and a watery grave; and for me! Pshaw! that's nothing. And yet to die separated from Philip, is that nothing? Oh, no, the thought is dreadful.—I do believe him. Yes, he has foretold the future, and told it truly. Could I persuade Philip? No! I know him well; he has vowed, and is not to be changed. And yet, if the relic were taken without his knowledge, he would not have to blame himself. Who then would he blame? Could I deceive him? I, the wife of his bosom tell a lie. No! no! it must not be. Come what will, it is our destiny, and I am resigned. I would that Schriften had not spoken. Alas! we search into futurity, and then would fain retrace our steps, and wish we had remained in ignorance."
"What makes you so pensive, Amine?" said Philip, who some time afterwards walked up to where she was seated.
Amine replied not at first. "Shall I tell him all?" thought she. "It is my only chance—I will." Amine repeated the conversation between her and Schriften. Philip made no reply; he sat down by Amine and took her hand. Amine dropped her head upon her husband's shoulder. "What think you, Amine?" said Philip, after a time.
"I could not steal your relic, Philip; perhaps you'll give it to me."
"And my father, Amine, my poor father—his dreadful doom to be eternal! He who appealed, was permitted to appeal to his son, that that dreadful doom might be averted. Does not the conversation of this man prove to you that my mission is not false? Does not his knowledge of it strengthen all? Yet, why would he prevent it?" continued Philip, musing.
"Why, I cannot tell, Philip, but I would fain prevent it. I feel that he has power to read the future, and has read aright."
"Be it so; he has spoken, but not plainly. He has promised me what I have long been prepared for—what I vowed to Heaven to suffer. Already have I suffered much, and am prepared to suffer more. I have long looked upon this world as a pilgrimage, and (selected as I have been) trust that my reward will be in the other. But, Amine, you are not bound by oath to Heaven, you have made no compact. He advised you to go home. He talked of a cruel death. Follow his advice and avoid it."
"I am not bound by oath, Philip; but hear me; as I hope for future bliss, I now bind myself—"
"Nay, Philip, you cannot prevent me; for if you do now, I will repeat it when you are absent. A cruel death were a charity to me, for I shall not see you suffer. Then may I never expect future bliss, may eternal misery be my portion, if I leave you as long as fate permits us to be together. I am yours—your wife; my fortunes, my present, my future, my all are embarked with you, and destiny may do its worst, for Amine will not quail. I have no recreant heart to turn aside from danger or from suffering. In that one point, Philip, at least, you chose, you wedded well."
Philip raised her hand to his lips in silence, and the conversation was not resumed. The next evening, Schriften came up again to Amine. "Well, lady?" said he.
"Schriften, it cannot be," replied Amine; "yet do I thank you much."
"Lady, if he must follow up his mission, why should you?"
"Schriften, I am his wife—his for ever, in this world, and the next. You cannot blame me."
"No," replied Schriften, "I do not blame, I admire you. I feel sorry. But, after all, what is death? Nothing. He! he!" and Schriften hastened away, and left Amine to herself.
The Utrecht sailed from Gambroon, touched at Ceylon, and proceeded on her voyage in the Eastern Seas. Schriften still remained on board, but since his last conversation with Amine he had kept aloof, and appeared to avoid both her and Philip; still there was not, as before, any attempt to make the ship's company disaffected, nor did he indulge in his usual taunts and sneers. The communication he had made to Amine had also its effect upon her and Philip; they were more pensive and thoughtful; each attempted to conceal their gloom from the other; and when they embraced, it was with the mournful feeling that perhaps it was an indulgence they would soon be deprived of: at the same time, they steeled their hearts to endurance and prepared to meet the worst. Krantz wondered at the change, but of course could not account for it. The Utrecht was not far from the Andaman Isles, when Krantz, who had watched the barometer, came in early one morning and called Philip.
"We have every prospect of a typhoon, sir," said Krantz; "the glass and the weather are both threatening."
"Then we must make all snug. Send down top-gallant yards and small sails directly. We will strike top-gallant masts. I will be out in a minute."
Philip hastened on deck. The sea was smooth, but already the moaning of the wind gave notice of the approaching storm. The vacuum in the air was about to be filled up, and the convulsion would be terrible; a white haze gathered fast, thicker and thicker; the men were turned up, everything of weight was sent below, and the guns were secured. Now came a blast of wind which careened the ship, passed over, and in a minute she righted as before; then another and another, fiercer and fiercer still. The sea, although smooth, at last appeared white as a sheet with foam, as the typhoon swept along in its impetuous career; it burst upon the vessel, which bowed down to her gunwale and there remained; in a quarter of an hour the hurricane had passed over, and the vessel was relieved; but the sea had risen, and the wind was strong. In another hour the blast again came, more wild, more furious than the first, the waves were dashed into their faces, torrents of rain descended, the ship was thrown on her beam ends, and thus remained till the wild blast had passed away, to sweep destruction far beyond them, leaving behind it a tumultuous angry sea.
"It is nearly over I believe, sir," said Krantz. "It is clearing up a little to windward."
"We have had the worst of it, I believe," said Philip.
"No! there is worse to come," said a low voice near to Philip. It was Schriften who spoke.
"A vessel to windward scudding before the gale," cried Krantz.
Philip looked to windward, and in the spot where the horizon was clearest, he saw a vessel under topsails and foresail, standing right down. "She is a large vessel; bring me my glass." The telescope was brought from the cabin, but before Philip could use it, a haze had again gathered up to windward, and the vessel was not to be seen.
"Thick again," observed Philip, as he shut in his telescope; "we must look out for that vessel, that she does not run too close to us."
"She has seen us, no doubt, sir," said Krantz.
After a few minutes the typhoon again raged, and the atmosphere was of a murky gloom. It seemed as if some heavy fog had been hurled along by the furious wind; nothing was to be distinguished except the white foam of the sea, and that not the distance of half a cable's length, where it was lost in one dark gray mist. The storm-staysail yielding to the force of the wind, was rent into strips, and flogged and cracked with a noise even louder than the gale. The furious blast again blew over, and the mist cleared up a little.
"Ship on the weather beam close aboard of us," cried one of the men.
Krantz and Philip sprung upon the gunwale, and beheld the large ship bearing right down upon them, not three cables' length distant.
"Helm up! she does not see us, and she will be aboard of us!" cried Philip. "Helm up, I say, hard up, quick!"
The helm was put up, as the men, perceiving their imminent danger, climbed upon the guns to look if the vessel altered her course; but no—down she came, and the head-sails of the Utrecht having been carried away, to their horror they perceived that she would not answer her helm and pay off as they required.
"Ship, ahoy!" roared Philip through his trumpet—but the gale drove the sound back.
"Ship, ahoy!" cried Krantz on the gunwale, waving his hat. It was useless—down she came, with the waters foaming under her bows, and was now within pistol-shot of the Utrecht.
"Ship, ahoy!" roared all the sailors, with a shout that must have been heard: it was not attended to; down came the vessel upon them, and now her cutwater was within ten yards of the Utrecht. The men of the Utrecht, who expected that their vessel would be severed in half by the concussion, climbed upon the weather gunwale, all ready to catch at the ropes of the other vessel and climb on board of her. Amine who had been surprised at the noise on deck, had come out and had taken Philip by the arm.
"Trust to me—the shock"—said Philip. He said no more; the cutwater of the stranger touched their sides; one general cry was raised by the sailors of the Utrecht, they sprang to catch at the rigging of the other vessel's bowsprit which was now pointed between their masts—they caught at nothing—nothing—there was no shock—no concussion of the two vessels—the stranger appeared to cleave through them—her hull passed along in silence—no cracking of timbers—no falling of masts—the foreyard passed through their mainsail, yet the canvas was unrent—the whole vessel appeared to cut through the Utrecht, yet left no trace of injury—not fast, but slowly, as if she were really sawing through her by the heaving and tossing of the sea with her sharp prow. The stranger's forechains had passed their gunwale before Philip could recover himself. "Amine," cried he, at last, "the Phantom Ship! my father!"
The seamen of the Utrecht, more astounded by the marvellous result than by their former danger, threw themselves down upon deck; some hastened below, some prayed, others were dumb with astonishment and fear. Amine appeared more calm than any, not excepting Philip; she surveyed the vessel as it slowly forced its way through; she beheld the seamen on board of her coolly leaning over her gunwale, as if deriding the destruction they had occasioned; she looked for Vanderdecken himself, and on the poop of the vessel, with his trumpet under his arm, she beheld the image of her Philip—the same hardy, strong build—the same features—about the same age apparently—there could be no doubt it was the doomed Vanderdecken!
"See, Philip," said she, "see!—your father!"
"Even so—Merciful Heaven! It is—it is"—and Philip, overpowered by his feelings, sank upon deck.
The vessel had now passed over the Utrecht; the form of the elder Vanderdecken was seen to walk aft and look over the taffrail; Amine perceived it to start and turn away suddenly—she looked down, and saw Schriften shaking his fist in defiance at the supernatural being! Again the Phantom Ship flew to leeward before the gale, and was soon lost in the mist; but before that, Amine had turned and perceived the situation of Philip. No one but herself and Schriften appeared able to actor move. She caught the pilot's eye, beckoned to him, and with his assistance Philip was led into the cabin.
"I have then seen him," said Philip, after he had lain down on the sofa in the cabin for some minutes to recover himself, while Amine bent over him. "I have at last seen him, Amine! Can you doubt now?"
"No, Philip, I have now no doubt," replied Amine, mournfully; "but take courage, Philip."
"For myself, I want not courage—but for you, Amine—you know that his appearance portends a mischief that will surely come."
"Let it come," replied Amine, calmly; "I have long been prepared for it, and so have you."
"Yes, for myself; but not for you."
"You have been wrecked often, and have been saved—then why should not I?"
"But the sufferings!"
"Those suffer least, who have most courage to bear up against them. I am but a woman, weak and frail in body, but I trust I have that within me which will not make you feel ashamed of Amine. No, Philip, you will have no wailing, no expression of despair from Amine's lips; if she can console you, she will; if she can assist you, she will; but, come what may, if she cannot serve you, at least, she will prove no burden to you."
"Your presence in misfortune would un-nerve me, Amine."
"It shall not; it shall add to your resolution. Let fate do its worst."
"Depend upon it, Amine, that will be ere long."
"Be it so," replied Amine; "but, Philip, it were as well you showed yourself on deck—the men are frightened, and your absence will be observed."
"You are right," said Philip; and rising and embracing her, he left the cabin.
"It is but too true, then," thought Amine. "Now to prepare for disaster and death—the warning has come. I would I could know more. Oh! mother, mother, look down upon thy child, and in a dream reveal the mystic arts which I have forgotten, then should I know more; but I have promised Philip, that unless separated—yes, that idea is worse than death, and I have a sad foreboding; my courage fails me only when I think of that!"
Philip, on his return to the deck, found the crew of the vessel in great consternation. Krantz himself appeared bewildered—he had not forgotten the appearance of the Phantom Ship off Desolation Harbour, and the vessels following her to their destruction. This second appearance, more awful than the former, quite unmanned him; and when Philip came out of the cabin, he was leaning in gloomy silence against the weather bulkhead.
"We shall never reach port again, sir," said he to Philip, as he came up to him.
"Silence, silence; the men may hear you."
"It matters not—they think the same," replied Krantz.
"But they are wrong," replied Philip, turning to the seamen. "My lads! that some disaster may happen to us, after the appearance of this vessel, is most probable; I have seen her before more than once, and disasters did then happen; but here I am alive and well, therefore it does not prove that we cannot escape as I have before done. We must do our best, and trust in Heaven. The gale is breaking fast, and in a few hours we shall have fine weather. I have met this Phantom Ship before, and care not how often I meet it again. Mr Krantz, get up the spirits—the men have had hard work, and must be fatigued."
The very prospect of obtaining liquor, appeared to give courage to the men; they hastened to obey the order, and the quantity served out was sufficient to give courage to the most fearful, and induce others to defy old Vanderdecken and his whole crew of imps. The next morning the weather was fine, the sea smooth, and the Utrecht went gaily on her voyage.
Many days of gentle breezes and favouring winds gradually wore off the panic occasioned by the supernatural appearance, and if not forgotten, it was referred to either in jest or with indifference. They now had run through the Straits of Malacca, and entered the Polynesian Archipelago. Philip's orders were to refresh and call for instructions at the small island of Boton, then in possession of the Dutch. They arrived there in safety, and after remaining two days, again sailed on their voyage, intending to make their passage between the Celebes and the island of Galago. The weather was still clear and the wind light: they proceeded cautiously, on account of the reefs and currents, and with a careful watch for the piratical vessels, which have for centuries infested those seas; but they were not molested, and had gained well up among the islands to the north of Galago, when it fell calm, and the vessel was borne to the eastward of it by the current. The calm lasted several days, and they could procure no anchorage; at last they found themselves among the cluster of islands near to the northern coast of New Guinea.
The anchor was dropped, and the sails furled for the night; a drizzling small rain came on, the weather was thick, and watches were stationed in every part of the ship, that they might not be surprised by the pirate proas, for the current ran past the ship, at the rate of eight or nine miles per hour, and these vessels, if hid among the islands, might sweep down upon them unperceived.
It was twelve o'clock at night when Philip, who was in bed, was awakened by a shock; he thought it might be a proa running alongside, and he started from his bed and ran out. He found Krantz, who had been awakened by the same cause, running up undressed—another shock succeeded, and the ship careened to port. Philip then knew that the ship was on shore.
The thickness of the night prevented them from ascertaining where they were, but the lead was thrown over the side, and they found that they were lying on shore on a sand bank, with not more than fourteen feet water on the deepest side, and that they were broadside on, with a strong current pressing them further up on the bank; indeed the current ran like a mill-race, and each minute they were swept into shallower water.
On examination they found that the ship had dragged her anchor, which, with the cable, was still taut from the starboard bow, but this did not appear to prevent the vessel from being swept further up on the bank. It was supposed that the anchor had parted at the shank, and another anchor was let go.
Nothing more could be done till daybreak, and impatiently did they wait till the next morning. As the sun rose, the mist cleared away, and they discovered that they were on shore on a sand bank, a small portion of which was above water, and round which the current ran with great impetuosity. About three miles from them was a cluster of small islands with cocoa-trees growing on them, but with no appearance of inhabitants.
"I fear we have little chance," observed Krantz to Philip. "If we lighten the vessel the anchor may not hold, and we shall be swept further on, and it is impossible to lay out an anchor against the force of this current."
"At all events we must try; but I grant that our situation is anything but satisfactory. Send all the hands aft."
The men came aft, gloomy and dispirited.
"My lads!" said Philip, "why are you disheartened?"
"We are doomed, sir; we knew it would be so."
"I thought it probable that the ship would be lost—I told you so; but the loss of the ship does not involve that of the ship's company—nay, it does not follow that the ship is to be lost, although she may be in great difficulty, as she is at present. What fear is there for us, my men?—the water is smooth—we have plenty of time before us—we can make a raft and take to our boats—it never blows among these islands, and we have land close under our lee. Let us first try what we can do with the ship; if we fail, we must then take care of ourselves."
The men caught at the idea and went to work willingly; the water casks were started, the pumps set going, and everything that could be spared was thrown over to lighten the ship; but the anchor still dragged from the strength of the current and bad holding-ground; and Philip and Krantz perceived that they were swept further on the bank.
Night came on before they quitted their toil, and then a fresh breeze sprung up and created a swell, which occasioned the vessel to beat on the hard sand; thus did they continue until the next morning. At daylight the men resumed their labours, and the pumps were again manned to clear the vessel of the water which had been started, but after a time they pumped up sand. This told them that a plank had started, and that their labours were useless; the men left their work, but Philip again encouraged them, and pointed out that they could easily save themselves, and all that they had to do was to construct a raft, which would hold provisions for them, and receive that portion of the crew who could not be taken into the boats.
After some repose the men again set to work; the topsails were struck, the yards lowered down, and the raft was commenced under the lee of the vessel, where the strong current was checked. Philip, recollecting his former disaster, took great pains in the construction of this raft, and aware that as the water and provisions were expended there would be no occasion to tow so heavy a mass, he constructed it in two parts, which might easily be severed, and thus the boats would have less to tow, as soon as circumstances would enable them to part with one of them.
Night again terminated their labours, and the men retired to rest, the weather continuing fine, with very little wind. By noon the next day the raft was complete; water and provisions were safely stowed on board; a secure and dry place was fitted up for Amine in the centre of one portion; spare ropes, sails, and everything which could prove useful, in case of their being forced on shore, were put in. Muskets and ammunition were also provided, and everything was ready, when the men came aft and pointed out to Philip that there was plenty of money on board, which it was folly to leave, and that they wished to carry as much as they could away with them. As this intimation was given in a way that made it evident they intended that it should be complied with, Philip did not refuse; but resolved, in his own mind, that when they arrived at a place where he could exercise his authority, the money should be reclaimed for the Company to whom it belonged. The men went down below, and while Philip was making arrangements with Amine, handed the casks of dollars out of the hold, broke them open and helped themselves—quarrelling with each other for the first possession, as each cask was opened. At last every man had obtained as much as he could carry, and had placed his spoil on the raft with his baggage, or in the boat to which he had been appointed. All was now ready—Amine was lowered down, and took her station—the boats took in tow the raft, which was cast off from the vessel, and away they went with the current, pulling with all their strength, to avoid being stranded upon that part of the sand bank which appeared above water. This was the great danger which they had to encounter, and which they very narrowly escaped.
They numbered eighty-six souls in all: in the boats there were thirty-two; the rest were on the raft, which being well-built and full of timber, floated high out of the water, now that the sea was so smooth. It had been agreed upon by Philip and Krantz, that one of them should remain on the raft and the other in one of the boats; but, at the time the raft quitted the ship, they were both on the raft, as they wished to consult, as soon as they discovered the direction of the current, which would be the most advisable course for them to pursue. It appeared that as soon as the current had passed the bank, it took a more southerly direction towards New Guinea. It was then debated between them whether they should or should not land on that island, the natives of which were known to be pusillanimous, yet treacherous. A long debate ensued, which ended, however, in their resolving not to decide as yet, but wait and see what might occur. In the meantime, the boats pulled to the westward, while the current set them fast down in a southerly direction.
Night came on, and the boats dropped the grapnels, with which they had been provided; and Philip was glad to find that the current was not near so strong, and the grapnels held both boats and raft. Covering themselves up with the spare sails with which they had provided themselves, and setting a watch, the tired seamen were soon fast asleep.
"Had I not better remain in one of the boats?" observed Krantz. "Suppose, to save themselves, the boats were to leave the raft."
"I have thought of that," replied Philip, "and have, therefore, not allowed any provisions or water in the boats; they will not leave us for that reason."
"True, I had forgotten that."
Krantz remained on watch, and Philip retired to the repose which he so much needed. Amine met him with open arms.
"I have no fear, Philip," said she, "I rather like this wild adventurous change. We will go on shore and build our hut beneath the cocoa-trees, and I shall repine when the day comes which brings succour, and releases us from our desert isle. What do I require but you?"
"We are in the hands of One above, dear, who will act with us as He pleases. We have to be thankful that it is no worse," replied Philip. "But now to rest, for I shall soon be obliged to watch."
The morning dawned, with a smooth sea and a bright blue sky; the raft had been borne to leeward of the cluster of uninhabited islands of which we spoke, and was now without hopes of reaching them; but to the westward were to be seen on the horizon the refracted heads and trunks of cocoa-nut trees, and in that direction it was resolved that they should tow the raft. The breakfast had been served out, and the men had taken to the oars, when they discovered a proa, full of men, sweeping after them from one of the islands to windward. That it was a pirate vessel there could be no doubt; but Philip and Krantz considered that their force was more than sufficient to repel them, should an attack be made. This was pointed out to the men; arms were distributed to all in the boats, as well as to those on the raft; and that the seamen might not be fatigued, they were ordered to lie on their oars, and await the coming up of the vessel.
As soon as the pirate was within range, having reconnoitred her antagonists, she ceased pulling and commenced firing from a small piece of cannon, which was mounted on her bows. The grape and langridge which she poured upon them wounded several of the men, although Philip had ordered them to lie down flat on the raft and in the boats. The pirate advanced nearer, and her fire became more destructive, without any opportunity of returning it by the Utrecht's people. At last it was proposed, as the only chance of escape, that the boats should attack the pirate. This was agreed to by Philip—more men were sent in the boats—Krantz took the command—the raft was cast off, and the boats pulled away. But scarcely had they cleared the raft, when, as by one sudden thought, they turned round and pulled away in the opposite direction. Krantz's voice was heard by Philip, and his sword was seen to flash through the air—a moment afterwards he plunged into the sea, and swam to the raft. It appeared that the people in the boats, anxious to preserve the money which they had possession of, had agreed among themselves to pull away and leave the raft to its fate. The proposal for attacking the pirate had been suggested with that view, and as soon as they were clear of the raft, they put their intentions into execution. In vain had Krantz expostulated and threatened; they would have taken his life; and when he found that his efforts were of no avail, he leaped from the boat. "Then are we lost, I fear," said Philip. "Our numbers are so reduced, that we cannot hope to hold out long. What think you, Schriften?" ventured Philip, addressing the pilot who stood near to him.
"Lost—but not lost by the pirates—no harm there. He! he!"
The remark of Schriften was correct. The pirates, imagining that in taking to their boat, the people had carried with them everything that was valuable, instead of firing at the raft, immediately gave chase to the boats. The sweeps were now out, and the proa flew over the smooth water like a sea-bird, passed the raft, and was at first evidently gaining on the boats; but their speed soon slackened, and as the day passed, the boats, and then the pirate vessel disappeared in the southward; the distance between them being apparently much the same as at the commencement of the chase.
The raft being now at the mercy of the winds and waves, Philip and Krantz collected the carpenter's tools which had been brought from the ship, and selecting two spars from the raft, they made every preparation for stepping a mast and setting sail by the next morning.
The morning dawned, and the first objects that met their view, were the boats pulling back towards the raft, followed closely by the pirate. The men had pulled the whole night, and were worn out with fatigue. It was presumed that a consultation had been held, in which it was agreed that they should make a sweep, so as to return to the raft; as, if they gained it, they would be able to defend themselves, and moreover, obtain provisions and water, which they had not on board at the time of their desertion. But it was fated otherwise; gradually the men dropped from their oars, exhausted, into the bottom of the boat, and the pirate vessel followed them with renewed ardour. The boats were captured one by one; the booty found was more than the pirates anticipated, and it hardly need be said that not one man was spared. All this took place within three miles of the raft, and Philip anticipated that the next movement of the vessel would be towards them, but he was mistaken. Satisfied with their booty, and imagining that there could be no more on the raft, the pirate pulled away to the eastward, towards the islands from amongst which she had first made her appearance. Thus were those who expected to escape and who had deserted their companions, deservedly punished, whilst those who anticipated every disaster from this desertion, discovered that it was the cause of their being saved.
The remaining people on board the raft amounted to about forty-five; Philip, Krantz, Schriften, Amine, the two mates, sixteen seamen, and twenty-four soldiers, who had been embarked at Amsterdam. Of provisions they had sufficient for three or four weeks, but of water they were very short, already not having sufficient for more than three days at the usual allowance. As soon as the mast had been stepped and rigged, and the sails set (although there was hardly a breath of wind), Philip explained to the men the necessity of reducing the quantity of water, and it was agreed that it should be served out so as to extend the supply to twelve days, the allowance being reduced to half a pint per day.
There was a debate at this time, as the raft was in two parts, whether it would not be better to cast off the smaller one and put all the people on board the other; but this proposal was overruled, as in the first place, although the boats had deserted them, the number on the raft had not much diminished, and moreover, the raft would steer much better under sail, now that it had length, than it would do if they reduced its dimensions and altered its shape to a square mass of floating wood.
For three days it was a calm, the sun poured down his hot beams upon them, and the want of water was severely felt; those who continued to drink spirits suffered the most.
On the fourth day the breeze sprung up favourably, and the sail was filled; it was a relief to their burning brows and blistered backs; and as the raft sailed on at the rate of four miles an hour, the men were gay and full of hope. The land below the cocoa-nut trees was now distinguishable, and they anticipated that the next day they could land and procure the water, which they now so craved for. All night they carried sail, but the next morning they discovered that the current was strong against them, and that what they gained when the breeze was fresh, they lost from the adverse current as soon as it went down; the breeze was always fresh in the morning, but it fell calm in the evening. Thus did they continue for four days more, every noon being not ten miles from the land but the next morning swept away to a distance, and having their ground to retrace. Eight days had now passed, and the men, worn out with exposure to the burning sun, became discontented and mutinous. At one time they insisted that the raft should be divided, that they might gain the land with the other half; at another, that the provisions which they could no longer eat should be thrown overboard to lighten the raft. The difficulty under which they lay, was the having no anchor or grapnel to the raft, the boats having carried away with them all that had been taken from the ship. Philip then proposed to the men, that, as every one of them had such a quantity of dollars, the money should be sewed up in canvas bags, each man's property separate; and that with this weight to the ropes they would probably be enabled to hold the raft against the current for one night, when they would be able the next day to gain the shore; but this was refused—they would not risk their money. No, no—fools! they would sooner part with their lives by the most miserable of all deaths. Again and again was this proposed to them by Philip and Krantz, but without success.
In the meantime, Amine had kept up her courage and her spirits; proving to Philip a valuable adviser and a comforter in his misfortunes. "Cheer up, Philip," would she say; "we shall yet build our cottage under the shade of those cocoa-nut trees, and pass a portion, if not the remainder of our lives in peace; for who indeed is there who would think to find us in these desolate and untrodden regions?"
Schriften was quiet and well-behaved; talked much with Amine, but with nobody else. Indeed he appeared to have a stronger feeling in favour of Amine than he had ever shown before. He watched over her and attended her; and Amine would often look up after being silent, and perceived Schriften's face wear an air of pity and melancholy, which she had believed it impossible that he could have exhibited.
Another day passed; again they neared the land, and again did the breeze die away, and they were swept back by the current. The men now rose, and in spite of the endeavours of Philip and Krantz, they rolled into the sea all the provisions and stores, everything but one cask of spirits and the remaining stock of water; they then sat down at the upper end of the raft with gloomy, threatening looks, and in close consultation.
Another night closed in: Philip was full of anxiety. Again he urged them to anchor with their money, but in vain; they ordered him away, and he returned to the after part of the raft, upon which Amine's secure retreat had been erected; he leant on it in deep thought and melancholy, for he imagined that Amine was asleep.
"What disturbs you, Philip?"
"What disturbs me? The avarice and folly of these men. They will die, rather than risk their hateful money. They have the means of saving themselves and us, and they will not. There is weight enough in bullion on the fore part of the raft to hold a dozen floating masses such as this, yet they will not risk it. Cursed love of gold! it makes men fools, madmen, villains. We have now but two days' water—doled out as it is drop by drop. Look at their emaciated, broken down, wasted forms, and yet see how they cling to money, which probably they will never have occasion for, even if they gain the land. I am distracted!"
"You suffer, Philip, you suffer from privation; but I have been careful, I thought that this would come; I have saved both water and biscuit—I have here four bottles;—drink, Philip, and it will relieve you."
Philip drank; it did relieve him, for the excitement of the day had pressed heavily on him.
"Thanks, Amine—thanks, dearest! I feel better now.—Good Heaven! are there such fools as to value the dross of metal above one drop of water in a time of suffering and privation such as this?"
The night closed in as before; the stars shone bright but there was no moon, Philip had risen at midnight to relieve Krantz from the steerage of the raft. Usually the men had lain about in every part of the raft, but this night the majority of them remained forward. Philip was communing with his own bitter thoughts, when he heard a scuffle forward, and the voice of Krantz crying out to him for help. He quitted the helm, and seizing his cutlass ran forward, where he found Krantz down, and the men securing him. He fought his way to him, but was himself seized and disarmed. "Cut away—cut away," was called out by those who held him; and, in a few seconds, Philip had the misery to behold the after part of the raft, with Amine upon it, drifted apart from the one on which he stood. "For mercy's sake! my wife—my Amine—for Heaven's sake save her!" cried Philip, struggling in vain to disengage himself. Amine also, who had run to the side of the raft, held out her arms—it was in vain—they were separated more than a cable's length. Philip made one more desperate struggle, and then fell down deprived of sense and motion.
It was not until the day had dawned that Philip opened his eyes, and discovered Krantz kneeling at his side; at first his thoughts were scattered and confused; he felt that some dreadful calamity had happened to him, but he could not recall to mind what it was. At last it rushed upon him, and he buried his face in his hands.
"Take comfort," said Krantz; "we shall probably gain the shore to-day, and we will go in search of her as soon as we can."
"This, then, is the separation and the cruel death to her which that wretch Schriften prophesied to us," thought Philip; "cruel indeed to waste away to a skeleton, under a burning sun, without one drop of water left to cool her parched tongue; at the mercy of the winds and waves; drifting about—alone—all alone—separated from her husband, in whose arms she would have died without regret; maddened with suspense and with the thoughts of what I may be suffering, or what may have been my fate. Pilot, you are right; there can be no more cruel death to a fond and doting wife. Oh! my head reels. What has Philip Vanderdecken to live for now?"
Krantz offered such consolation as his friendship could suggest, but in vain. He then talked of revenge, and Philip raised his head. After a few minutes' thought, he rose up. "Yes," replied he, "revenge!—revenge upon those dastards and traitors! Tell me, Krantz, how many can we trust?"
"Half of the men, I should think, at least. It was a surprise." A spar had been fitted as a rudder, and the raft had now gained nearer the shore than it ever had done before. The men were in high spirits at the prospect, and every man was sitting on his own store of dollars, which, in their eyes, increased in value, in proportion as did their prospect of escape.
Philip discovered from Krantz, that it was the soldiers and the most indifferent seamen who had mutinied on the night before, and cut away the other raft; and that all the best men had remained neuter.
"And so they will be now, I imagine," continued Krantz; "the prospect of gaining the shore has, in a manner, reconciled them to the treachery of their companions."
"Probably," replied Philip, with a bitter laugh; "but I know what will rouse them. Send them here to me."
Philip talked to the seamen, whom Krantz had sent over to him. He pointed out to them that the other men were traitors, not to be relied upon; that they would sacrifice everything and everybody for their own gain; that they had already done so for money, and that they themselves would have no security, either on the raft or on shore, with such people; that they dare not sleep for fear of having their throats cut, and that it were better at once to get rid of those who could not be true to each other; that it would facilitate their escape, and that they could divide between themselves the money which the others had secured, and by which they would double their own shares. That it had been his intention, although he had said nothing, to enforce the restoration of the money for the benefit of the Company, as soon as they had gained a civilised port, where the authorities could interfere; but that, if they consented to join and aid him, he would now give them the whole of it for their own use.
What will not the desire of gain effect? Is it, therefore, to be wondered at, that these men, who were indeed but little better than those who were thus, in his desire of retaliation, denounced by Philip, consented to his proposal? It was agreed, that if they did not gain the shore, the others should be attacked that very night, and tossed into the sea.
But the consultation with Philip had put the other party on the alert; they, too, held council, and kept their arms by their sides. As the breeze died away, they were not two miles from the land, and once more they drifted back into the ocean. Philip's mind was borne down with grief at the loss of Amine; but it recovered to a certain degree when he thought of revenge: that feeling stayed him up, and he often felt the edge of his cutlass, impatient for the moment of retribution.
It was a lovely night; the sea was now smooth as glass, and not a breath of air moved in the heavens; the sail of the raft hung listless down the mast, and was reflected upon the calm surface by the brilliancy of the starry night alone. It was a night for contemplation—for examination of oneself, and adoration of the Deity; and here, on a frail raft, were huddled together more than forty beings ready for combat, for murder, and for spoil. Each party pretended to repose; yet each were quietly watching the motions of the other, with their hands upon their weapons. The signal was to be given by Philip: it was, to let go the halyards of the yard, so that the sail should fall down upon a portion of the other party, and entangle them. By Philip's directions, Schriften had taken the helm, and Krantz remained by his side.
The yard and sail fell clattering down, and then the work of death commenced; there was no parley, no suspense; each man started upon his feet and raised his sword. The voices of Philip and of Krantz alone were heard, and Philip's sword did its work. He was nerved to his revenge, and never could be satiated as long as one remained who had sacrificed his Amine. As Philip had expected, many had been covered up and entangled by the falling of the sail, and their work was thereby made easier.
Some fell where they stood; others reeled back, and sunk down under the smooth water; others were pierced as they floundered under the canvas. In a few minutes, the work of carnage was complete. Schriften meanwhile looked on, and ever and anon gave vent to his chuckling laugh—his demoniacal "He! he!"
The strife was over, and Philip stood against the mast to recover his breath. "So far art thou revenged, my Amine," thought he; "but, oh! what are these paltry lives compared to thine?" And now that his revenge was satiated, and he could do no more, he covered his face up in his hands, and wept bitterly, while those who had assisted him were already collecting the money of the slain for distribution. These men, when they found that three only of their side had fallen, lamented that there had not been more, as their own shares of the dollars would have been increased.
There were now but thirteen men besides Philip, Krantz, and Schriften left upon the raft. As the day dawned, the breeze again sprung up, and they shared out the portions of water, which would have been the allowance of their companions who had fallen. Hunger they felt not; but the water revived their spirits.
Although Philip had had little to say to Schriften since the separation from Amine, it was very evident to him and to Krantz, that all the pilot's former bitter feelings had returned. His chuckle, his sarcasms, his "He! he!" were incessant; and his eye was now as maliciously directed to Philip as it was when they first met. It was evident that Amine alone had for the time conquered his disposition; and that, with her disappearance, had vanished all the good-will of Schriften towards her husband. For this Philip cared little; he had a much more serious weight on his heart—the loss of his dear Amine; and he felt reckless and indifferent concerning anything else.
The breeze now freshened, and they expected that, in two hours, they would run on the beach, but they were disappointed: the step of the mast gave way from the force of the wind, and the sail fell upon the raft. This occasioned great delay; and before they could repair the mischief, the wind again subsided, and they were left about a mile from the beach. Tired and worn out with his feelings, Philip at last fell asleep by the side of Krantz, leaving Schriften at the helm. He slept soundly—he dreamt of Amine—he thought she was under a grove of cocoa-nuts in a sweet sleep; that he stood by and watched her, and that she smiled in her sleep, and murmured "Philip," when suddenly he was awakened by some unusual movement. Half-dreaming still, he thought that Schriften, the pilot, had in his sleep been attempting to gain his relic, had passed the chain over his head, and was removing quietly from underneath his neck the portion of the chain which, in his reclining posture, he lay upon. Startled at the idea, he threw up his hand to seize the arm of the wretch, and found that he had really seized hold of Schriften, who was kneeling by him, and in possession of the chain and relic. The struggle was short, the relic was recovered, and the pilot lay at the mercy of Philip, who held him down with his knee on his chest. Philip replaced the relic on his bosom, and, excited to madness, rose from the body of the now breathless Schriften, caught it in his arms, and hurled it into the sea.
"Man or devil! I care not which," exclaimed Philip, breathless; "escape now, if you can!"
The struggle had already roused up Krantz and others, but not in time to prevent Philip from wreaking his vengeance upon Schriften. In few words, he told Krantz what had passed; as for the men, they cared not; they laid their heads down again, and, satisfied that their money was safe, inquired no further.
Philip watched to see if Schriften would rise up again, and try to regain the raft; but he did not make his appearance above water, and Philip felt satisfied.
What pen could portray the feelings of the fond and doting Amine, when she first discovered that she was separated from her husband? In a state of bewilderment, she watched the other raft as the distance between them increased. At last the shades of night hid it from her aching eyes, and she dropped down in mute despair.
Gradually she recovered herself, and turning round, she exclaimed, "Who's here?"
"Who's here?" cried she in a louder voice; "alone—alone—and Philip gone. Mother, mother, look down upon your unhappy child!" and Amine frantically threw herself down so near to the edge of the raft, that her long hair, which had fallen down, floated on the wave.
"Ah me! where am I?" cried Amine, after remaining in a state of torpor for some hours. The sun glared fiercely upon her, and dazzled her eyes as she opened them—she cast them on the blue wave close by her, and beheld a large shark motionless by the side of the raft, waiting for his prey. Recoiling from the edge, she started up. She turned round, and beheld the raft vacant, and the truth flashed on her. "Oh! Philip, Philip!" cried she, "then it is true, and you are gone for ever! I thought it was only a dream, I recollect all now. Yes—all—all!" And Amine sank down again upon her cot, which had been placed in the centre of the raft, and remained motionless for some time.
But the demand for water became imperious; she seized one of the bottles, and drank. "Yet why should I drink or eat? Why should I wish to preserve life?" She rose, and looked round the horizon—"Sky and water, nothing more. Is this the death I am to die—the cruel death prophesied by Schriften—a lingering death under a burning sun, while my vitals are parched within? Be it so! Fate I dare thee to thy worst—we can die but once—and without him, what care I to live! But yet I may see him again," continued Amine, hurriedly, after a pause. "Yes! I may—who knows? Then welcome life, I'll nurse thee for that bare hope—bare indeed with nought to feed on. Let me see, is it here still?" Amine looked at her zone, and perceived her dagger was still in it. "Well then, I will live since death is at my command, and be guardful of life for my dear husband's sake." And Amine threw herself on her resting-place that she might forget everything. She did: from that morning till the noon of the next day, she remained in a state of torpor.
When she again rose, she was faint; again she looked round her—there was but sky and water to be seen. "Oh! this solitude—it is horrible! death would be a release—but no, I must not die—I must live for Philip." She refreshed herself with water and a few pieces of biscuit, and folded her arms across her breast. "A few more days without relief, and all must be over. Was ever woman situated as I am, and yet I dare to indulge hope? Why, 'tis madness! And why am I thus singled out: because I have wedded with Philip? It may be so; if so, I welcome it. Wretches! who thus severed me from my husband; who, to save their own lives, sacrificed a helpless woman! Nay! they might have saved me, if they had had the least pity;—but no, they never felt it. And these are Christians! The creed that the old priests would have had me—yes! that Philip would have had me embrace. Charity and good-will! They talk of it, but I have never seen them practise it! Loving one another!—forgiving one another!—say rather hating and preying upon one another! A creed never practised: why, if not practised, of what value is it? Any creed were better—I abjure it, and if I be saved, will abjure it still for ever. Shade of my mother! is it that I have listened to these men—that I have, to win my husband's love, tried to forget that which thou taughtest, even when a child at thy feet—that faith which our forefathers for thousands of years lived and died in—that creed proved by works, and obedience to the prophet's will—is it for this that I am punished? Tell me, mother—oh! tell me in my dreams."
The night closed in, and with the gloom rose heavy clouds; the lightning darted through the firmament, ever and anon lighting up the raft. At last, the flashes were so rapid, not following each other—but darting down from every quarter at once, that the whole firmament appeared as if on fire, and the thunder rolled along the heavens, now near and loud, then rumbling in the distance. The breeze rose up fresh, and the waves tossed the raft, and washed occasionally even to Amine's feet, as she stood in the centre of it.
"I like this—this is far better than that calm and withering heat—this rouses me," said Amine, as she cast her eyes up, and watched the forked lightning till her vision became obscured. "Yes, this is as it should be. Lightning, strike me if you please—waves wash me off and bury me in a briny tomb—pour the wrath of the whole elements upon this devoted head.—I care not, I laugh at, I defy it all. Thou canst but kill, this little steel can do as much. Let those who hoard up wealth—those who live in splendour—those that are happy—those who have husbands, children, aught to love—let them tremble, I have nothing. Elements! be ye fire, or water, or earth, or air, Amine defies you! And yet—no, no, deceive not thyself, Amine, there is no hope; thus will I mount my funeral bier, and wait the will of destiny." And Amine regained the secure place which Philip had fitted up for her in the centre of the raft, threw herself down upon her bed, and shut her eyes.
The thunder and lightning was followed up by torrents of heavy rain, which fell till daylight; the wind still continued fresh, but the sky cleared, and the sun shone out. Amine remained shivering in her wet garments; the heat of the sun proved too powerful for her exhausted state, and her brain wandered. She rose up in a sitting posture, looked around her, saw verdant fields in every direction, the cocoa-nuts waving to the wind—imagined even that she saw her own Philip in the distance hastening to her; she held out her arms; strove to get up, and run to meet him, but her limbs refused their office; she called to him, she screamed, and sank back exhausted on her resting-place.
We must for a time return to Philip, and follow his strange destiny. A few hours after he had thrown the pilot into the sea they gained the shore, so long looked at with anxiety and suspense. The spars of the raft, jerked by the running swell, undulated and rubbed against each other, as they rose and fell to the waves breaking on the beach. The breeze was fresh, but the surf was trifling, and the landing was without difficulty. The beach was shelving, of firm white sand, interspersed and strewed with various brilliant-coloured shells; and here and there, the bleached fragments and bones of some animal which had been forced out of its element to die. The island was, like all the others, covered with a thick wood of cocoa-nut trees, whose tops waved to the breeze, or bowed to the blast, producing a shade and a freshness which would have been duly appreciated by any other party than the present, with the exception only of Krantz; for Philip thought of nothing but his lost wife, and the seamen thought of nothing but of their sudden wealth. Krantz supported Philip to the beach and led him to the shade; but after a minute he rose, and running down to the nearest point, looked anxiously for the portion of the raft which held Amine, which was now far, far away. Krantz had followed, aware that, now the first paroxysms were past, there was no fear of Philip's throwing away his life.
"Gone, gone for ever!" exclaimed Philip, pressing his hands to the balls of his eyes.
"Not so, Philip, the same Providence which has preserved us, will certainly assist her. It is impossible that she can perish among so many islands, many of which are inhabited; and a woman will be certain of kind treatment."
"If I could only think so," replied Philip.
"A little reflection may induce you to think that it is rather an advantage than otherwise, that she is thus separated—not from you, but from so many lawless companions, whose united force we could not resist. Do you think that, after any lengthened sojourn on this island, these people with us would permit you to remain in quiet possession of your wife? No!—they would respect no laws; and Amine has, in my opinion, been miraculously preserved from shame and ill-treatment, if not from death."
"They durst not, surely! Well, but Krantz, we must make a raft and follow her; we must not remain here—I will seek her through the wide world."
"Be it so, if you wish, Philip, and I will follow your fortunes," replied Krantz, glad to find that there was something, however wild the idea, for his mind to feed on. "But now let us return to the raft, seek the refreshment we so much require, and after that we will consider what may be the best plan to pursue."
To this, Philip, who was much exhausted, tacitly consented, and he followed Krantz to where the raft had been beached. The men had left it, and were each of them sitting apart from one another under the shade of his own chosen cocoa-nut tree. The articles which had been saved on the raft had not been landed, and Krantz called upon them to come and carry the things on shore—but no one would answer or obey. They each sat watching their money, and afraid to leave it, lest they should be dispossessed of it by the others. Now that their lives were, comparatively speaking, safe, the demon of avarice had taken full possession of their souls; there they sat, exhausted, pining for water, and longing for sleep, and yet they dared not move—they were fixed as if by the wand of the enchanter.
"It is the cursed dollars which have turned their brains," observed Krantz to Philip; "let us try if we cannot manage to remove what we most stand in need of, and then we will search for water."
Philip and Krantz collected the carpenter's tools, the best arms, and all the ammunition, as the possession of the latter would give them advantage in case of necessity; they then dragged on shore the sail and some small spars, all of which they carried up to a clump of cocoa-nut trees, about a hundred yards from the beach.
In half an hour they had erected an humble tent, and put into it what they had brought with them, with the exception of the major part of the ammunition, which, as soon as he was screened by the tent, Krantz buried in a heap of dry sand behind it; he then, for their immediate wants, cut down with an axe a small cocoa-nut tree in full bearing. It must be for those who have suffered the agony of prolonged thirst, to know the extreme pleasure with which the milk of the nuts were one after the other poured down the parched throats of Krantz and Philip. The men witnessed their enjoyment in silence, and with gloating eyes. Every time that a fresh cocoa-nut was seized and its contents quaffed by their officers, more sharp and agonising was their own devouring thirst—still closer did their dry lips glue themselves together—yet they moved not, although they felt the tortures of the condemned.
Evening closed in; Philip had thrown himself down on the spare sails, and had fallen asleep, when Krantz set off to explore the island upon which they had been thrown. It was small, not exceeding three miles in length, and at no one part more than five hundred yards across. Water there was none, unless it were to be obtained by digging; fortunately the young cocoa-nuts prevented the absolute necessity for it. On his return, Krantz passed the men in their respective stations. Each was awake, and raised himself on his elbow to ascertain if it were an assailant; but perceiving Krantz, they again dropped down. Krantz passed the raft—the water was now quite smooth, for the wind had shifted off shore, and the spars which composed the raft hardly jostled each other. He stepped upon it, and, as the moon was bright in the heavens, he took the precaution of collecting all the arms which had been left, and throwing them as far as he could into the sea. He then walked to the tent, where he found Philip still sleeping soundly, and in a few minutes he was reposing by his side. And Philip's dreams were of Amine; he thought that he saw the hated Schriften rise again from the waters, and, climbing up to the raft, seat himself by her side. He thought that he again heard his unearthly chuckle and his scornful laugh, as his unwelcome words fell upon her distracted ears. He thought that she fled into the sea to avoid Schriften, and that the waters appeared to reject her—she floated on the surface. The storm rose, and once more he beheld her in the sea-shell skimming over the waves. Again, she was in a furious surf on the beach, and her shell sank, and she was buried in the waves; and then he saw her walking on shore without fear and without harm, for the water which spared no one, appeared to spare her. Philip tried to join her, but was prevented by some unknown power, and Amine waved her hand and said, "We shall meet again, Philip; yes, once more on this earth shall we meet again."
The sun was high in the heavens and scorching in his heat, when Krantz first opened his eyes, and awakened Philip. The axe again procured for them their morning's meal. Philip, was silent; he was ruminating upon his dreams, which had afforded him consolation. "We shall meet again!" thought he. "Yes, once more at least we shall meet again. Providence! I thank thee."
Krantz then stepped out to ascertain the condition of the men. He found them faint, and so exhausted, that they could not possibly survive much longer, yet still watching over their darling treasure. It was melancholy to witness such perversion of intellect, and Krantz thought of a plan which might save their lives. He proposed to them each separately, that they should bury their money so deep, that it was not to be recovered without time: this would prevent any one from attacking the treasure of the other, without its being perceived and the attempt frustrated, and would enable them to obtain their necessary food and refreshment without danger of being robbed.
To this plan they acceded. Krantz brought out of the tent the only shovel in their possession, and they, one by one, buried their dollars many feet deep in the yielding sand. When they had all secured their wealth, he brought them one of the axes, and the cocoa-nut trees fell, and they were restored to new life and vigour. Having satiated themselves, they then lay down upon the several spots under which they had buried their dollars, and were soon enjoying that repose which they all so much needed.
Philip and Krantz had now many serious consultations as to the means which should be taken for quitting the island, and going in search of Amine; for although Krantz thought the latter part of Philip's proposal useless, he did not venture to say so. To quit this island was necessary; and provided they gained one of those which were inhabited, it was all that they could expect. As for Amine, he considered that she was dead before this, either having been washed off the raft, or that her body was lying on it exposed to the decomposing heat of a torrid sun.
To cheer Philip, he expressed himself otherwise; and whenever they talked about leaving the island, it was not to save their own lives, but invariably to search after Philip's lost wife. The plan which they proposed and acted upon was, to construct a light raft, the centre to be composed of three water-casks, sawed in half, in a row behind each other, firmly fixed by cross pieces to two long spars on each side. This, under sail, would move quickly through the water, and be manageable so as to enable them to steer a course. The outside spars had been selected and hauled on shore, and the work was already in progress; but they were left alone in their work, for the seamen appeared to have no idea at present of quitting the island. Restored by food and repose, they were not content with the money which they had—they were anxious for more. A portion of each party's wealth had been dug up, and they now gambled all day with pebbles, which they had collected on the beach, and with which they had invented a game. Another evil had crept among them: they had cut steps in the largest cocoa-nut trees, and with the activity of seamen had mounted them, and by tapping the top of the trees, and fixing empty cocoa-nuts underneath, had obtained the liquor, which in its first fermentation is termed toddy, and is afterwards distilled into arrack. But as toddy, it is quite sufficient to intoxicate; and every day the scenes of violence and intoxication, accompanied with oaths and execrations, became more and more dreadful. The losers tore their hair, and rushed like madmen upon those who had gained their dollars; but Krantz had fortunately thrown their weapons into the sea, and those he had saved, as well as the ammunition, he had secreted.
Blows and bloodshed, therefore, were continual, but loss of life there was none, as the contending parties were separated by the others, who were anxious that the play should not be interrupted. Such had been the state of affairs for now nearly a fortnight, while the work of the raft had slowly proceeded. Some of the men had lost their all, and had, by the general consent of those who had won their wealth, been banished to a certain distance that they might not pilfer from them. These walked gloomily round the island, or on the beach, seeking some instrument by which they might avenge themselves, and obtain repossession of their money. Krantz and Philip had proposed to these men to join them, and leave the island, but they had sullenly refused.
The axe was now never parted with by Krantz. He cut down what cocoa-nut trees they required for subsistence, and prevented the men from notching more trees, to procure the means of inebriation. On the sixteenth day, all the money had passed into the hands of three men who had been more fortunate than the rest. The losers were now by far the more numerous party, and the consequence was, that the next morning these three men were found lying strangled on the beach; the money had been redivided, and the gambling had recommenced with more vigour than ever.
"How can this end?" exclaimed Philip to Krantz, as he looked upon the blackened countenances of the murdered men.
"In the death of all," replied Krantz. "We cannot prevent it. It is a judgment."
The raft was now ready; the sand had been dug from beneath it, so as to allow the water to flow in and float it, and it was now made fast to a stake, and riding on the peaceful waters. A large store of cocoa-nuts, old and young, had been procured and put on board of her, and it was the intention of Philip and Krantz to have quitted the island the next day.
Unfortunately, one of the men, when bathing, had perceived the arms lying in the shallow water. He had dived down and procured a cutlass; others had followed his example, and all had armed themselves. This induced Philip and Krantz to sleep on board of the raft, and keep watch; and that night, as the play was going on, a heavy loss on one side ended in a general fray. The combat was furious, for all were more or less excited by intoxication. The result was melancholy, for only three were left alive. Philip, with Krantz, watched the issue; every man who fell wounded was put to the sword, and the three left, who had been fighting on the same side, rested panting on their weapons. After a pause, two of them communicated with each other, and the result was an attack upon the third man, who fell dead beneath their blows.
"Merciful Father! are these Thy creatures?" exclaimed Philip.
"No!" replied Krantz, "they worshipped the devil as Mammon. Do you imagine that those two, who could now divide more wealth than they could well spend if they return to their country, will consent to a division? Never!—they must have all—yes, all."
Krantz had hardly expressed his opinion, when one of the men, taking advantage of the other turning round a moment from him, passed his sword through his back. The man fell with a groan, and the sword was again passed through his body.
"Said I not so? But the treacherous villain shall not reap his reward," continued Krantz, levelling the musket which he held in his hand, and shooting him dead.
"You have done wrong, Krantz; you have saved him from the punishment he deserved. Left alone on the island, without the means of obtaining his subsistence, he must have perished miserably and by inches, with all his money round him—that would have been torture indeed!"
"Perhaps I was wrong. If so, may Providence forgive me, I could not help it. Let us go ashore, for we are now on this island alone. We must collect the treasure and bury it, so that it may be recovered; and, at the same time, take a portion with us—for who knows but that we may have occasion for it. To-morrow we had better remain here, for we shall have enough to do in burying the bodies of these infatuated men, and the wealth which has caused their destruction."
Philip agreed to the propriety of the suggestion; the next day they buried the bodies where they lay; and the treasure was all collected in a deep trench, under a cocoa-nut tree, which they carefully marked with their axe. About five hundred pieces of gold were selected and taken on board of the raft, with the intention of secreting them about their persons, and resorting to them in case of need.
The following morning they hoisted their sail and quitted the island. Need it be said in what direction they steered? As may be well imagined, in that quarter where they had last seen the raft with the isolated Amine.
The raft was found to answer well; and although her progress through the water was not very rapid, she obeyed the helm and was under command. Both Philip and Krantz were very careful in taking such marks and observations of the island as should enable them, if necessary, to find it again. With the current to assist them, they now proceeded rapidly to the southward, in order that they might examine a large island which lay in that direction. Their object, after seeking for Amine, was to find out the direction of Ternate; the king of which they knew to be at variance with the Portuguese, who had a fort and factory at Tidore, not very far distant from it; and from thence to obtain a passage in one of the Chinese junks, which, on their way to Bantam, called at that island.
Towards evening they had neared the large island, and they soon ran down it close to the beach. Philip's eyes wandered in every direction to ascertain whether anything on the shore indicated the presence of Amine's raft, but he could perceive nothing of the kind, nor did he see any inhabitants.
That they might not pass the object of their search during the night, they ran their raft on shore, in a small cove, where the waters were quite smooth, and remained there until the next morning, when they again made sail and prosecuted their voyage. Krantz was steering with the long sweep they had fitted for the purpose, when he observed Philip, who had been for some time silent, take from his breast the relic which he wore, and gaze attentively upon it.
"Is that your picture, Philip?" observed Krantz.
"Alas! No, it is my destiny," replied Philip, answering without reflection.
"Your destiny! What mean you?"
"Did I say my destiny? I hardly know what I said," replied Philip, replacing the relic in his bosom.
"I rather think you said more than you intended," replied Krantz, "but at the same time, something near the truth. I have often perceived you with that trinket in your hand, and I have not forgotten how anxious Schriften was to obtain it, and the consequences of his attempt upon it. Is there not some secret—some mystery attached to it? Surely, if so, you must now sufficiently know me as your friend, to feel me worthy of your confidence."
"That you are my friend, Krantz, I feel—my sincere and much valued friend, for we have shared much danger together, and that is sufficient to make us friends—that I could trust you, I believe, but I feel as if I dare not trust anyone. There is a mystery attached to this relic (for a relic it is), which as yet has been confided to my wife and holy men alone."
"And if trusted to holy men, surely it may be trusted to sincere friendship, than which nothing is more holy."
"But I have a presentiment that the knowledge of my secret would prove fatal to you. Why I feel such a presentiment I know not; but I feel it, Krantz; and I cannot afford to lose you, my valued friend."
"You will not, then, make use of my friendship, it appears," replied Krantz. "I have risked my life with you before now, and I am not to be deterred from the duties of friendship by a childish foreboding on your part, the result of an agitated mind and a weakened body. Can anything be more absurd than to suppose, that a secret confided to me can be pregnant with danger, unless it be, indeed, that my zeal to assist you may lead me into difficulties. I am not of a prying disposition; but we have been so long connected together, and are now so isolated from the rest of the world, that it appears to me it would be a solace to you, were you to confide in one whom you can trust, what evidently has long preyed upon your mind. The consolation and advice of a friend, Philip, are not to be despised, and you will feel relieved if able to talk over with him a subject which evidently oppresses you. If, therefore, you value my friendship, let me share with you in your sorrows."
There are few who have passed through life so quietly, as not to recollect how much grief has been assuaged by confiding its cause to, and listening to the counsels and consolations of, some dear friend. It must not therefore appear surprising, that, situated as he was, and oppressed with the loss of Amine, Philip should regard Krantz as one to whom he might venture to confide his important secret. He commenced his narrative with no injunctions, for he felt that if Krantz could not respect his secret for his secret's sake, or from good-will towards him, he was not likely to be bound by any promise; and as, during the day, the raft passed by the various small capes and headlands of the island, he poured into Krantz's ear the history which the reader is acquainted with. "Now you know all," said Philip with a deep sigh, as the narrative was concluded. "What think you? Do you credit my strange tale, or do you imagine, as some well would, that it is a mere phantom of a disordered brain?"
"That it is not so, Philip, I believe," replied Krantz; "for I too have had ocular proof of the correctness of a part of your history. Remember how often I have seen this Phantom Ship—and if your father is permitted to range over the seas, why should you not be selected and permitted to reverse his doom? I fully believe every word that you have told me, and since you have told me this, I can comprehend much that in your behaviour at times appeared unaccountable; there are many who would pity you, Philip, but I envy you."
"Envy me?" cried Philip.
"Yes! envy you: and gladly would I take the burden of your doom on my own shoulders, were it only possible. Is it not a splendid thought that you are summoned to so great a purpose,—that instead of roaming through the world as we all do in pursuit of wealth, which possibly we may lose after years of cost and hardship, by the venture of a day, and which, at all events, we must leave behind us,—you are selected to fulfil a great and glorious work—the work of angels, I may say—that of redeeming the soul of a father, suffering indeed, for his human frailties, but not doomed to perish for eternity; you have, indeed, an object of pursuit worthy of all the hardships and dangers of a maritime life. If it ends in your death, what then? Where else end our futile cravings, our continual toil, after nothing? We all must die—but how few—who indeed besides yourself—was ever permitted before his death to ransom the soul of the author of his existence! Yes, Philip, I envy you!"
"You think and speak like Amine. She too is of a wild and ardent soul, that would mingle with the beings of the other world, and hold intelligence with disembodied spirits."
"She is right," replied Krantz; "there are events in my life, or rather connected with my family, which have often fully convinced me that this is not only possible but permitted. Your story has only corroborated what I already believed."