"'My daughter!—man—my daughter!—where is my daughter!' cried he in a rage.
"'Where the wretch, the fiend, should be, I trust,' replied my father, starting up and displaying equal choler; 'where she should be—in hell!—Leave this cottage or you may fare worse.'
"'Ha—ha!' replied the hunter, 'would you harm a potent spirit of the Hartz Mountains. Poor mortal, who must needs wed a weir wolf.'
"'Out demon! I defy thee and thy power.'
"'Yet shall you feel it; remember your oath—your solemn oath—never to raise your hand against her to harm her.'
"'I made no compact with evil spirits.'
"'You did; and if you failed in your vow, you were to meet the vengeance of the spirits. Your children were to perish by the vulture, the wolf—'
"'Out, out, demon!'
"'And their bones blanch in the wilderness. Ha!—ha!'
"My father, frantic with rage, seized his axe, and raised it over Wilfred's head to strike.
"'All this I swear,' continued the huntsman, mockingly.
"The axe descended; but it passed through the form of the hunter, and my father lost his balance, and fell heavily on the floor.
"'Mortal!' said the hunter, striding over my father's body, 'we have power over those only who have committed murder. You have been guilty of a double murder—you shall pay the penalty attached to your marriage vow. Two of your children are gone; the third is yet to follow—and follow them he will, for your oath is registered. Go—it were kindness to kill thee—your punishment is—that you live!'
"With these words the spirit disappeared. My father rose from the floor, embraced me tenderly, and knelt down in prayer.
"The next morning he quitted the cottage for ever. He took me with him and bent his steps to Holland, where we safely arrived. He had some little money with him; but he had not been many days in Amsterdam before he was seized with a brain fever, and died raving mad. I was put into the Asylum, and afterwards was sent to sea before the mast. You now know all my history. The question is, whether I am to pay the penalty of my father's oath? I am myself perfectly convinced that, in some way or another, I shall."
On the twenty-second day the high land of the south of Sumatra was in view; as there were no vessels in sight, they resolved to keep their course through the Straits, and run for Pulo Penang, which they expected, as their vessel laid so close to the wind, to reach in seven or eight days. By constant exposure, Philip and Krantz were now so bronzed, that with their long beards and Mussulman dresses, they might easily have passed off for natives. They had steered during the whole of the days exposed to a burning sun; they had lain down and slept in the dew of night, but their health had not suffered. But for several days, since he had confided the history of his family to Philip, Krantz had become silent and melancholy; his usual flow of spirits had vanished, and Philip had often questioned him as to the cause. As they entered the Straits, Philip talked of what they should do upon their arrival at Goa. When Krantz gravely replied, "For some days, Philip, I have had a presentiment that I shall never see that city."
"You are out of health, Krantz," replied Philip.
"No; I am in sound health, body and mind. I have endeavoured to shake off the presentiment, but in vain; there is a warning voice that continually tells me that I shall not be long with you. Philip, will you oblige me by making me content on one point: I have gold about my person which may be useful to you; oblige me by taking it, and securing it on your own."
"What nonsense, Krantz."
"It is no nonsense, Philip. Have you not had your warnings? Why should I not have mine? You know that I have little fear in my composition, and that I care not about death; but I feel the presentiment which I speak of more strongly every hour. It is some kind spirit who would warn me to prepare for another world. Be it so. I have lived long enough in this world to leave it without regret; although to part with you and Amine, the only two now dear to me, is painful, I acknowledge."
"May not this arise from over-exertion and fatigue, Krantz? consider how much excitement you have laboured under within these last four months. Is not that enough to create a corresponding depression? Depend upon it, my dear friend, such is the fact."
"I wish it were—but I feel otherwise, and there is a feeling of gladness connected with the idea that I am to leave this world, arising from another presentiment, which equally occupies my mind."
"I hardly can tell you; but Amine and you are connected with it. In my dreams I have seen you meet again; but it has appeared to me, as if a portion of your trial was purposely shut from my sight in dark clouds; and I have asked, 'May not I see what is there concealed?'—and an invisible has answered, 'No! 'twould make you wretched. Before these trials take place, you will be summoned away'—and then I have thanked Heaven, and felt resigned."
"These are the imaginings of a disturbed brain, Krantz; that I am destined to suffering may be true; but why Amine should suffer, or why you, young, in full health and vigour, should not pass your days in peace, and live to a good old age, there is no cause for believing. You will be better to-morrow."
"Perhaps so," replied Krantz;—"but still you must yield to my whim, and take the gold. If I am wrong, and we do arrive safe, you know, Philip, you can let me have it back," observed Krantz, with a faint smile—"but you forget, our water is nearly out, and we must look out for a rill on the coast to obtain a fresh supply."
"I was thinking of that when you commenced this unwelcome topic. We had better look out for the water before dark, and as soon as we have replenished our jars, we will make sail again."
At the time that this conversation took place, they were on the eastern side of the Strait, about forty miles to the northward. The interior of the coast was rocky and mountainous, but it slowly descended to low land of alternate forest and jungles, which continued to the beach: the country appeared to be uninhabited. Keeping close in to the shore, they discovered, after two hours' run, a fresh stream which burst in a cascade from the mountains, and swept its devious course through the jungle, until it poured its tribute into the waters of the Strait.
They ran close in to the mouth of the stream, lowered the sails, and pulled the peroqua against the current, until they had advanced far enough to assure them that the water was quite fresh. The jars were soon filled, and they were again thinking of pushing off; when, enticed by the beauty of the spot, the coolness of the fresh water, and wearied with their long confinement on board of the peroqua, they proposed to bathe—a luxury hardly to be appreciated by those who have not been in a similar situation. They threw off their Mussulman dresses, and plunged into the stream, where they remained for some time. Krantz was the first to get out; he complained of feeling chilled, and he walked on to the banks where their clothes had been laid. Philip also approached nearer to the beach, intending to follow him.
"And now, Philip," said Krantz, "this will be a good opportunity for me to give you the money. I will open my sash, and pour it out, and you can put it into your own before you put it on."
Philip was standing in the water, which was about level with his waist.
"Well, Krantz," said he, "I suppose if it must be so, it must; but it appears to me an idea so ridiculous—however, you shall have your own way."
Philip quitted the run, and sat down by Krantz, who was already busy in shaking the doubloons out of the folds of his sash; at last he said—
"I believe, Philip, you have got them all, now?—I feel satisfied."
"What danger there can be to you, which I am not equally exposed to, I cannot conceive," replied Philip; "however—"
Hardly had he said these words, when there was a tremendous roar—a rush like a mighty wind through the air—a blow which threw him on his back—a loud cry—and a contention. Philip recovered himself, and perceived the naked form of Krantz carried off with the speed of an arrow by an enormous tiger through the jungle. He watched with distended eyeballs; in a few seconds the animal and Krantz had disappeared!
"God of Heaven! would that Thou hadst spared me this," cried Philip, throwing himself down in agony on his face. "Oh! Krantz, my friend—my brother—too sure was your presentiment. Merciful God! have pity—but Thy will be done;" and Philip burst into a flood of tears.
For more than an hour did he remain fixed upon the spot, careless and indifferent to the danger by which he was surrounded. At last, somewhat recovered, he rose, dressed himself, and then again sat down—his eyes fixed upon the clothes of Krantz, and the gold which still lay on the sand.
"He would give me that gold. He foretold his doom. Yes! yes! it was his destiny, and it has been fulfilled. His bones will bleach in the wilderness, and the spirit-hunter and his wolfish daughter are avenged."
The shades of evening now set in, and the low growling of the beasts of the forest recalled Philip to a sense of his own danger. He thought of Amine; and hastily making the clothes of Krantz and the doubloons into a package, he stepped into the peroqua, with difficulty shoved it off, and with a melancholy heart, and in silence, hoisted the sail, and pursued his course.
"Yes, Amine," thought Philip, as he watched the stars twinkling and corruscating. "Yes, you are right, when you assert that the destinies of men are foreknown, and may by some be read. My destiny is, alas! that I should be severed from all I value upon earth, and die friendless and alone. Then welcome death, if such is to be the case; welcome a thousand welcomes! what a relief wilt thou be to me! what joy to find myself summoned to where the weary are at rest! I have my task to fulfil. God grant that it may soon be accomplished, and let not my life be embittered by any more trials such as this."
Again did Philip weep, for Krantz had been his long-tried, valued friend, his partner in all his dangers and privations, from the period that they had met when the Dutch fleet attempted the passage round Cape Horn.
After seven days of painful watching and brooding over bitter thoughts, Philip arrived at Pulo Penang, where he found a vessel about to sail for the city to which he was destined. He ran his peroqua alongside of her, and found that she was a brig under the Portuguese flag, having, however, but two Portuguese on board, the rest of the crew being natives. Representing himself as an Englishman in the Portuguese service, who had been wrecked, and offering to pay for his passage, he was willingly received, and in a few days the vessel sailed.
Their voyage was prosperous; in six weeks they anchored in the roads of Goa; the next day they went up the river. The Portuguese captain informed Philip where he might obtain lodging; and passing him off as one of his crew, there was no difficulty raised as to his landing. Having located himself at his new lodging, Philip commenced some inquiries of his host relative to Amine, designating her merely as a young woman who had arrived there in a vessel some weeks before; but he could obtain no information concerning her. "Signor," said the host, "to-morrow is the grand Auto da Fe; we can do nothing until that is over; afterwards, I will put you in the way to find out what you wish. In the meantime, you can walk about the town; to-morrow I will take you to where you can behold the grand procession, and then we will try what we can do to assist you in your search."
Philip went out, procured a suit of clothes, removed his beard, and then walked about the town, looking up at every window to see if he could perceive Amine. At a corner of one of the streets, he thought he recognised Father Mathias, and ran up to him; but the monk had drawn his cowl over his head, and when addressed by that name, made no reply.
"I was deceived," thought Philip; "but I really thought it was him." And Philip was right; it was Father Mathias, who thus screened himself from Philip's recognition.
Tired, at last he returned to his hotel, just before it was dark. The company there were numerous; everybody for miles distant had come to Goa to witness the Auto da Fe,—and everybody was discussing the ceremony.
"I will see this grand procession," said Philip to himself, as he threw himself on his bed. "It will drive thought from me for a time, and God knows how painful my thoughts have now become. Amine, dear Amine, may angels guard thee!"
Although to-morrow was to end all Amine's hopes and fears—all her short happiness—her suspense and misery—yet Amine slept until her last slumber in this world was disturbed by the unlocking and unbarring of the doors of her cell, and the appearance of the head jailor with a light. Amine started up—she had been dreaming of her husband—of happiness! She awoke to the sad reality. There stood the jailor, with a dress in his hand, which he desired she would put on. He lighted a lamp for her, and left her alone. The dress was of black serge, with white stripes.
Amine put on the dress, and threw herself down on the bed, trying if possible to recall the dream from which she had been awakened, but in vain. Two hours passed away, and the jailor again entered, and summoned her to follow him. Perhaps one of the most appalling customs of the Inquisition is, that after accusation, whether the accused parties confess their guilt or not, they return to their dungeons, without the least idea of what may have been their sentence, and when summoned on the morning of the execution they are equally kept in ignorance.
The prisoners were all summoned by the jailors, from the various dungeons, and led into a large hall, where they found their fellow-sufferers collected.
In this spacious, dimly lighted hall were to be seen about two hundred men, standing up as if for support, against the walls, all dressed in the same black and white serge; so motionless, so terrified were they, that if it had not been for the rolling of their eyes, as they watched the jailors, who passed and repassed, you might have imagined them to be petrified. It was the agony of suspense, worse than the agony of death. After a time, a wax candle, about five feet long, was put into the hands of each prisoner, and then some were ordered to put on over their dress the Sanbenitos—others the Samarias! Those who received these dresses, with flames painted on them, gave themselves up for lost; and it was dreadful to perceive the anguish of each individual as the dresses were one by one brought forward, and with the heavy drops of perspiration on his brows, he watched with terror lest one should be presented to him. All was doubt, fear, and horror!
But the prisoners in this hall were not those who were to suffer death. Those who wore the Sanbenitos had to walk in the procession and receive but slight punishment; those who wore the Samarias had been condemned, but had been saved from the consuming fire, by an acknowledgment of their offence; the flames painted on their dresses were reversed, and signified that they were not to suffer; but this the unfortunate wretches did not know, and the horrors of a cruel death stared them in the face!
Another hall, similar to the one in which the men had been collected, was occupied by female culprits. The same ceremonies were observed—the same doubt, fear, and agony were depicted upon every countenance. But there was a third chamber, smaller than the other two, and this chamber was reserved for those who had been sentenced, and who were to suffer at the stake. It was into this chamber that Amine was led, and there she found seven other prisoners dressed in the same manner as herself: two only were Europeans, the other five were negro slaves. Each of these had their confessor with them, and were earnestly listening to his exhortation. A monk approached Amine, but she waved him away with her hand: he looked at her, spat on the floor, and cursed her. The head jailor now made his appearance with the dresses for those who were in this chamber; these were Samarias, only different from the others, inasmuch as the flames were painted on them upwards instead of down. These dresses were of grey stuff, and loose, like a waggoner's frock; at the lower part of them, both before and behind, was painted the likeness of the wearer, that is, the face only, resting upon a burning faggot, and surrounded with flames and demons. Under the portrait was written the crime for which the party suffered. Sugar-loaf caps, with flames painted on them, were also brought and put on their heads, and the long wax candles were placed into their hands.
Amine and the others condemned being arrayed in these dresses, remained in the chambers, for some hours before it was time for the procession to commence, for they had been all summoned up by the jailors at about two o'clock in the morning.
The sun rose brilliantly, much to the joy of the members of the Holy Office, who would not have had the day obscured on which they were to vindicate the honour of the church, and prove how well they acted up to the mild doctrines of the Saviour—those of charity, good-will, forbearing one another, forgiving one another. God of Heaven! And not only did those of the Holy Inquisition rejoice, but thousands and thousands more who had flocked from all parts to witness the dreadful ceremony, and to hold a jubilee—many indeed actuated by fanaticism, superstition, but more attended from thoughtlessness and the love of pageantry. The streets and squares through which the procession was to pass were filled at an early hour. Silks, tapestries, and cloth of gold and silver were hung over the balconies, and out of the windows, in honour of the procession. Every balcony and window was thronged with ladies and cavaliers in their gayest attire, all waiting anxiously to see the wretches paraded before they suffered; but the world is fond of excitement, and where is anything so exciting to a superstitious people as an Auto da Fe?
As the sun rose, the heavy bell of the Cathedral tolled, and all the prisoners were led down to the Grand Hall, that the order of the procession might be arranged. At the large entrance door, on a raised throne, sat the Grand Inquisitor, encircled by many of the most considerable nobility and gentry of Goa. By the Grand Inquisitor stood his Secretary, and as the prisoners walked past the throne, and their names were mentioned, the Secretary, after each, called out the names of one of those gentlemen, who immediately stepped forward, and took his station by the prisoner. These people are termed the godfathers; their duty is to accompany and be answerable for the prisoner, who is under their charge, until the ceremony is over. It is reckoned a high honour conferred on those whom the Grand Inquisitor appoints to this office.
At last the procession commenced. First was raised on high the standard of the Dominican Order of Monks, for the Dominican Order were the founders of the Inquisition, and claimed this privilege, by prescriptive right. After the banner the monks themselves followed, in two lines. And what was the motto of their banner? "Justitia et Misericordia!" Then followed the culprits, to the number of three hundred, each with his godfather by his side, and his large wax candle lighted in his hand. Those whose offences have been most venial walk first; all are bareheaded, and barefooted. After this portion, who wore only the dress of black and white serge, came those who carried the Sanbenitos; then those who wore the Samarias, with the flames reversed. Here there was a separation in the procession, caused by a large cross, with the carved image of Our Saviour nailed to it, the face of the image carried forward. This was intended to signify, that those in advance of the Crucifix, and upon whom the Saviour looked down, were not to suffer; and that those who were behind, and upon whom his back was turned, were cast away, to perish for ever in this world, and the next. Behind the Crucifix followed the seven condemned; and, as the greatest criminal, Amine walked the last. But the procession did not close here. Behind Amine were five effigies, raised high on poles, clothed in the same dresses, painted with flames and demons. Behind each effigy was borne a coffin, containing a skeleton; the effigies were of those who had died in their dungeon, or expired under the torture, and who had been tried and condemned after their death, and sentenced to be burnt. These skeletons had been dug up, and were to suffer the same sentence as, had they still been living beings, they would have undergone. The effigies were to be tied to the stakes, and the bones were to be consumed. Then followed the members of the Inquisition; the familiars, monks, priests, and hundreds of penitents, in black dresses, which concealed their faces, all with the lighted tapers in their hands.
It was two hours before the procession, which had paraded through almost every important street in Goa, arrived at the Cathedral in which the further ceremonies were to be gone through. The barefooted culprits could now scarcely walk, the small sharp flints having so wounded their feet, that their tracks up the steps of the Cathedral were marked with blood.
The grand altar of the Cathedral was hung with black cloth, and lighted up with thousands of tapers. On one side of it was a throne for the Grand Inquisitor, on the other, a raised platform for the Viceroy of Goa, and his suite. The centre aisle had benches for the prisoners, and their godfathers; the other portions of the procession falling off to the right and left, to the side aisles, and mixing for the time with the spectators. As the prisoners entered the Cathedral, they were led into their seats, those least guilty sitting nearest to the altar, and those who were condemned to suffer at the stake being placed the farthest from it.
The bleeding Amine tottered to her seat, and longed for the hour which was to sever her from a Christian world. She thought not of herself, nor of what she was to suffer; she thought but of Philip; of his being safe from these merciless creatures—of the happiness of dying first, and of meeting him again in bliss.
Worn with long confinement, with suspense and anxiety, fatigued and suffering from her painful walk, and the exposure to the burning sun, after so many months' incarceration in a dungeon, she no longer shone radiant with beauty; but still there was something even more touching in her care-worn, yet still perfect features. The object of universal gaze, she had walked with her eyes cast down, and nearly closed; but occasionally, when she did look up, the fire that flashed from them spoke the proud soul within, and many feared and wondered, while more pitied that one so young, and still so lovely, should be doomed to such an awful fate. Amine had not taken her seat in the Cathedral more than a few seconds, when, overpowered by her feelings and by fatigue, she fell back in a swoon.
Did no one step forward to assist her? to raise her up, and offer her restoratives? No—not one. Hundreds would have done so, but they dared not: she was an outcast, excommunicated, abandoned, and lost; and should any one, moved by compassion for a suffering fellow-creature, have ventured to raise her up, he would have been looked upon with suspicion, and most probably have been arraigned, and have had to settle the affair of conscience with the Holy Inquisition.
After a short time two of the officers of the Inquisition went to Amine and raised her again in her seat, and she recovered sufficiently to enable her to retain her posture.
A sermon was then preached by a Dominican monk, in which he pourtrayed the tender mercies, the paternal love of the Holy Office. He compared the Inquisition to the ark of Noah, out of which all the animals walked after the deluge; but with this difference, highly in favour of the Holy Office, that the animals went forth from the ark no better than they went in, whereas those who had gone into the Inquisition with all the cruelty of disposition, and with the hearts of wolves, came out as mild and patient as lambs.
The public accuser then mounted the pulpit, and read from it all the crimes of those who had been condemned, and the punishments which they were to undergo. Each prisoner, as the sentence was read, was brought forward to the pulpit by the officers, to hear their sentence, standing up, with their wax candles lighted in their hands. As soon as the sentences of all those whose lives had been spared were read, the Grand Inquisitor put on his priestly robes and, followed by several others, took off from them the ban of excommunication (which they were supposed to have fallen under), by throwing holy water on them with a small broom.
As soon as this portion of the ceremony was over, those who were condemned to suffer, and the effigies of those who had escaped by death, were brought up one by one, and their sentences read; the winding up of the condemnation of all was in the same words, "that the Holy Inquisition found it impossible on account of the hardness of their hearts and the magnitude of their crimes, to pardon them. With great concern it handed them over to Secular Justice to undergo the penalty of the laws; exhorting the authorities at the same time to show clemency and mercy towards the unhappy wretches, and if they must suffer death, that at all events it might be without the spilling of blood." What mockery was this apparent intercession, not to shed blood, when to comply with their request, they substituted the torment and the agony of the stake!
Amine was the last who was led forward to the pulpit, which was fixed against one of the massive columns of the centre aisle, close to the throne occupied by the Grand Inquisitor. "You, Amine Vanderdecken," cried the public accuser. At this moment an unusual bustle was heard in the crowd under the pulpit, there was struggling and expostulation, and the officers raised their wands for silence and decorum—but it continued.
"You, Amine Vanderdecken, being accused—"
Another violent struggle; and from the crowd darted a young man, who rushed to where Amine was standing, and caught her in his arms.
"Philip! Philip!" screamed Amine, falling on his bosom; as he caught her, the cap of flames fell off her head and rolled along the marble pavement. "My Amine—my wife—my adored one—is it thus we meet? My lord, she is innocent. Stand off, men," continued he to the officers of the Inquisition, who would have torn them asunder. "Stand off, or your lives shall answer for it."
This threat to the officers, and the defiance of all rules, were not to be borne; the whole Cathedral was in a state of commotion, and the solemnity of the ceremony was about to be compromised. The Viceroy and his followers had risen from their chairs to observe what was passing, and the crowd was pressing on, when the Grand Inquisitor gave his directions, and other officers hastened to the assistance of the two who had led Amine forward, and proceeded to disengage her from Philip's arms. The struggle was severe. Philip appeared to be endued with the strength of twenty men; and it was some minutes before they could succeed in separating him, and when they had so done, his struggles were dreadful.
Amine, also, held by two of the familiars, shrieked, as she attempted once more, but in vain, to rush into her husband's arms. At last, by a tremendous effort, Philip released himself, but as soon as he was released, he sank down helpless on the pavement; the exertion had caused the bursting of a blood-vessel, and he lay without motion.
"Oh God! Oh God! they have killed him—monsters—murderers—let me embrace him but once more," cried Amine, frantically.
A priest now stepped forward—it was Father Mathias—with sorrow in his countenance; he desired some of the bystanders to carry out Philip Vanderdecken, and Philip, in a state of insensibility, was borne away from the sight of Amine, the blood streaming from his mouth.
Amine's sentence was read—she heard it not, her brain was bewildered. She was led back to her seat, and then it was that all her courage, all her constancy and fortitude gave way; and during the remainder of the ceremony, she filled the Cathedral with her wild hysterical sobbing; all entreaties or threats being wholly lost upon her.
All was now over, except the last and most tragical scene of the drama. The culprits who had been spared were led back to the Inquisition by their godfathers, and those who had been sentenced were taken down to the banks of the river to suffer. It was on a large open space, on the left of the Custom-house, that this ceremony was to be gone through. As in the Cathedral, raised thrones were prepared for the Grand Inquisitor and the Viceroy, who, in state, headed the procession, followed by an immense concourse of people. Thirteen stakes had been set up, eight for the living, five for the dead. The executioners were sitting on, or standing by, the piles of wood and faggots, waiting for their victims. Amine could not walk; she was at first supported by the familiars, and then carried by them, to the stake which had been assigned for her. When they put her on her feet opposite to it, her courage appeared to revive, she walked boldly up, folded her arms, and leant against it.
The executioners now commenced their office: the chains were passed round Amine's body—the wood and faggots piled around her. The same preparations had been made with all the other culprits, and the confessors stood by the side of each victim. Amine waved her hand indignantly to those who approached her, when Father Mathias, almost breathless, made his appearance from the crowd, through which he had forced his way.
"Amine Vanderdecken—unhappy woman! had you been counselled by me this would not have been. Now it is too late, but not too late to save your soul. Away then with this obstinacy—this hardness of heart; call upon the blessed Saviour, that He may receive your spirit—call upon His wounds for mercy. It is the eleventh hour, but not too late. Amine," continued the old man, with tears, "I implore, I conjure you. At least, may this load of trouble be taken from my heart."
"'Unhappy woman!' you say?" replied she, "say rather, 'unhappy priest:' for Amine's sufferings will soon be over, while you must still endure the torments of the damned. Unhappy was the day when my husband rescued you from death. Still more unhappy the compassion which prompted him to offer you an asylum and a refuge. Unhappy the knowledge of you from the first day to the last. I leave you to your conscience—if conscience you retain—nor would I change this cruel death for the pangs which you in your future life will suffer. Leave me—I die in the faith of my forefathers, and scorn a creed that warrants such a scene as this."
"Amine Vanderdecken," cried the priest on his knees, clasping his hands in agony.
"Leave me, Father."
"There is but a minute left—for the love of God—"
"I tell you then, leave me—that minute is my own."
Father Mathias turned away in despair, and the tears coursed down the old man's cheeks. As Amine said, his misery was extreme.
The head executioner now inquired of the confessors whether the culprits died in the true faith? If answered in the affirmative, a rope was passed round their necks and twisted to the stake, so that they were strangled before the fire was kindled. All the other culprits had died in this manner; and the head executioner inquired of Father Mathias, whether Amine had a claim to so much mercy. The old priest answered not, but shook his head.
The executioner turned away. After a moment's pause, Father Mathias followed him, and seized him by the arm, saying, in a faltering voice, "Let her not suffer long."
The Grand Inquisitor gave the signal, and the fires were all lighted at the same moment. In compliance with the request of the priest, the executioner had thrown a quantity of wet straw upon Amine's pile, which threw up a dense smoke before it burnt into flames.
"Mother! mother! I come to thee!" were the last words heard from Amine's lips.
The flames soon raged furiously, ascending high above the top of the stake to which she had been chained. Gradually they sunk down; and only when the burning embers covered the ground, a few fragments of bones hanging on the chain were all that remained of the once peerless and high-minded Amine.
Years have, passed away since we related Amine's sufferings and cruel death; and now once more we bring Philip Vanderdecken on the scene. And during this time, where has he been? A lunatic—at one time frantic, chained, coerced with blows; at others, mild and peaceable. Reason occasionally appeared to burst out again, as the sun on a cloudy day, and then it was again obscured. For many years there was one who watched him carefully, and lived in hope to witness his return to a sane mind; he watched in sorrow and remorse,—he died without his desires being gratified. This was Father Mathias!
The cottage at Terneuse had long fallen into ruin; for many years it waited the return of its owners, and at last the heirs-at-law claimed and recovered the substance of Philip Vanderdecken. Even the fate of Amine had passed from the recollection of most people; although her portrait, over burning coals, with her crime announced beneath it, still hangs—as is the custom in the church of the Inquisition—attracting, from its expressive beauty, the attention of the most careless passers-by.
But many, many years have rolled away—Philip's hair is white—his once-powerful frame is broken down—and he appears much older than he really is. He is now sane; but his vigour is gone. Weary of life, all he wishes for is to execute his mission—and then to welcome death.
The relic has never been taken from him: he has been discharged from the lunatic asylum, and has been provided with the means of returning to his country. Alas! he has now no country—no home—nothing in the world to induce him to remain in it. All he asks is—to do his duty and to die.
The ship was ready to sail for Europe; and Philip Vanderdecken went on board—hardly caring whither he went. To return to Terneuse was not his object; he could not bear the idea of revisiting the scene of so much happiness and so much misery. Amine's form was engraven on his heart, and he looked forward with impatience to the time when he should be summoned to join her in the land of spirits.
He had awakened as from a dream, after so many years of aberration of intellect. He was no longer the sincere Catholic that he had been; for he never thought of religion without his Amine's cruel fate being brought to his recollection. Still he clung on to the relic—he believed in that—and that only. It was his god—his creed—his everything—the passport for himself and for his father into the next world—the means whereby he should join his Amine—and for hours would he remain holding in his hand that object so valued—gazing upon it—recalling every important event in his life, from the death of his poor mother, and his first sight of Amine; to the last dreadful scene. It was to him a journal of his existence, and on it were fixed all his hopes for the future.
"When! oh when is it to be accomplished!" was the constant subject of his reveries. "Blessed, indeed, will be the day when I leave this world of hate, and seek that other in which 'the weary are at rest.'"
The vessel on board of which Philip was embarked as a passenger was the Nostra Senora da Monte, a brig of three hundred tons, bound for Lisbon. The captain was an old Portuguese, full of superstition, and fond of arrack—a fondness rather unusual with the people of his nation. They sailed from Goa, and Philip was standing abaft, and sadly contemplating the spire of the Cathedral, in which he had last parted with his wife, when his elbow was touched, and he turned round.
"Fellow-passenger, again!" said a well-known voice—it was that of the pilot Schriften.
There was no alteration in the man's appearance; he showed no marks of declining years; his one eye glared as keenly as ever.
Philip started, not only at the sight of the man, but at the reminiscences which his unexpected appearance brought to his mind. It was but for a second, and he was again calm and pensive.
"You here again, Schriften?" observed Philip. "I trust your appearance forebodes the accomplishment of my task."
"Perhaps it does," replied the pilot; "we both are weary."
Philip made no reply; he did not even ask Schriften in what manner he had escaped from the fort; he was indifferent about it; for he felt that the man had a charmed life.
"Many are the vessels that have been wrecked, Philip Vanderdecken, and many the souls summoned to their account by meeting with your father's ship, while you have been so long shut up," observed the pilot.
"May our next meeting with him be more fortunate—may it be the last!" replied Philip.
"No, no! rather may he fulfil his doom, and sail till the day of judgment," replied the pilot with emphasis.
"Vile caitiff! I have a foreboding that you will not have your detestable wish. Away!—leave me! or you shall find, that although this head is blanched by misery, this arm has still some power."
Schriften scowled as he walked away; he appeared to have some fear of Philip, although it was not equal to his hate. He now resumed his former attempts of stirring up the ship's company against Philip, declaring that he was a Jonas, who would occasion the loss of the ship, and that he was connected with the Flying Dutchman. Philip very soon observed that he was avoided; and he resorted to counter-statements, equally injurious to Schriften, whom he declared to be a demon. The appearance of Schriften was so much against him, while that of Philip, on the contrary, was so prepossessing, that the people on board hardly knew what to think. They were divided: some were on the side of Philip—some on that of Schriften; the captain and many others looking with equal horror upon both, and longing for the time when they could be sent out of the vessel.
The captain, as we have before observed, was very superstitious, and very fond of his bottle. In the morning he would be sober and pray; in the afternoon he would be drunk, and swear at the very saints whose protection he had invoked but a few hours before.
"May Holy Saint Antonio preserve us, and keep us from temptation," said he, on the morning after a conversation with the passengers about the Phantom Ship. "All the saints protect us from harm," continued he, taking off his hat reverentially, and crossing himself. "Let me but rid myself of these two dangerous men without accident, and I will offer up a hundred wax candles, of three ounces each, to the shrine of the Virgin, upon my safe anchoring off the tower of Belem." In the evening he changed his language.
"Now, if that Maldetto Saint Antonio don't help us, may he feel the coals of hell yet; damn him and his pigs too; if he has the courage to do his duty, all will be well; but he is a cowardly wretch, he cares for nobody, and will not help those who call upon him in trouble. Carambo! that for you," exclaimed the captain, looking at the small shrine of the saint at the bittacle, and snapping his fingers at the image—"that for you, you useless wretch, who never help us in our trouble. The Pope must canonise some better saints for us, for all we have now are worn out. They could do something formerly, but now I would not give two ounces of gold for the whole calendar; as for you, you lazy old scoundrel,"—continued the captain, shaking his fist at poor Saint Antonio.
The ship had now gained off the southern coast of Africa, and was about one hundred miles from the Lagullas coast; the morning was beautiful, a slight ripple only turned over the waves, the breeze was light and steady, and the vessel was standing on a wind, at the rate of about four miles an hour.
"Blessed be the holy saints," said the captain, who had just gained the deck; "another little slant in our favour, and we shall lay our course.—Again I say, blessed be the holy saints, and particularly our worthy patron Saint Antonio, who has taken under his peculiar protection the Nostra Senora da Monte. We have a prospect of fine weather; come, signors, let us down to breakfast, and after breakfast we will enjoy our cigarros upon the deck."
But the scene was soon changed; a bank of clouds rose up from the eastward, with a rapidity that, to the seamen's eyes, was unnatural, and it soon covered the whole firmament; the sun was obscured, and all was one deep and unnatural gloom; the wind subsided, and the ocean was hushed. It was not exactly dark, but the heavens were covered with one red haze, which gave an appearance as if the world was in a state of conflagration.
In the cabin the increased darkness was first observed by Philip, who went on deck; he was followed by the captain and passengers, who were in a state of amazement. It was unnatural and incomprehensible. "Now, holy Virgin, protect us—what can this be?" exclaimed the captain in a fright. "Holy Saint Antonio, protect us—but this is awful."
"There! there!" shouted the sailors, pointing to the beam of the vessel. Every eye looked over the gunnel to witness what had occasioned such exclamations. Philip, Schriften, and the captain were side by side. On the beam of the ship, not more than two cables' length distant, they beheld, slowly rising out of the water, the tapering mast-head and spars of another vessel. She rose, and rose gradually; her topmasts and top-sail yards, with the sails set, next made their appearance; higher and higher she rose up from the element. Her lower masts and rigging, and, lastly, her hull showed itself above the surface. Still she rose up till her ports, with her guns, and at last the whole of her floatage was above water, and there she remained close to them, with her main-yard squared, and hove-to.
"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed the captain, breathless; "I have known ships to go down, but never to come up before. Now will I give one thousand candles, of ten ounces each, to the shrine of the Virgin to save us in this trouble. One thousand wax candles! Hear me, blessed lady; ten ounces each. Gentlemen," cried the captain to the passengers, who stood aghast—"why don't you promise?—promise, I say; promise, at all events."
"The Phantom Ship—The Flying Dutchman" shrieked Schriften; "I told you so, Philip Vanderdecken; there is your father—He! he!"
Philip's eyes had remained fixed on the vessel; he perceived that they were lowering down a boat from her quarter. "It is possible," thought he, "I shall now be permitted!" and Philip put his hand into his bosom and grasped the relic.
The gloom now increased, so that the strange vessel's hull could but just be discovered through the murky atmosphere. The seamen and passengers threw themselves down on their knees, and invoked their saints. The captain ran down for a candle, to light before the image of St Antonio, which he took out of its shrine, and kissed with much apparent affection and devotion, and then replaced.
Shortly afterwards the splash of oars was heard alongside, and a voice calling out, "I say, my good people, give us a rope from forward."
No one answered, or complied with the request. Schriften only went up to the captain, and told him that if they offered to send letters they must not be received or the vessel would be doomed, and all would perish.
A man now made his appearance from over the gunnel, at the gangway. "You might as well have let me had a side rope, my hearties," said he, as he stepped on deck; "where is the captain?"
"Here," replied the captain, trembling from head to foot. The man who accosted him appeared a weather-beaten seaman, dressed in a fur cap and canvas petticoats; he held some letters in his hand.
"What do you want?" at last screamed the captain.
"Yes—what do you want?" continued Schriften. "He! he!"
"What, you here, pilot?" observed the man; "well—I thought you had gone to Davy's locker, long enough ago."
"He! he!" replied Schriften, turning away.
"Why the fact is, captain, we have had very foul weather, and we wish to send letters home; I do believe that we shall never get round this Cape."
"I can't take them," cried the captain.
"Can't take them! well, it's very odd—but every ship refuses to take our letters; it's very unkind—seamen should have a feeling for brother seamen, especially in distress. God knows, we wish to see our wives and families again; and it would be a matter of comfort to them, if they only could hear from us."
"I cannot take your letters—the saints preserve us;" replied the captain.
"We have been a long while out," said the seaman, shaking his head.
"How long?" inquired the captain, not knowing what to say.
"We can't tell; our almanack was blown overboard, and we have lost our reckoning. We never have our latitude exact now, for we cannot tell the sun's declination for the right day."
"Let me see your letters," said Philip, advancing, and taking them out of the seaman's hands.
"They must not be touched," screamed Schriften.
"Out, monster!" replied Philip, "who dares interfere with me?"
"Doomed—doomed—doomed!" shrieked Schriften, running up and down the deck, and then breaking into a wild fit of laughter.
"Touch not the letters," said the captain, trembling as if in an ague fit.
Philip made no reply, but held his hand out for the letters.
"Here is one from our second mate, to his wife at Amsterdam, who lives on Waser Quay."
"Waser Quay has long been gone, my good friend; there is now a large dock for ships where it once was," replied Philip.
"Impossible!" replied the man; "here is another from the boatswain to his father, who lives in the old market-place."
"The old market-place has long been pulled down, and there now stands a church upon the spot."
"Impossible!" replied the seaman; "here is another from myself to my sweetheart, Vrow Ketser—with money to buy her a new brooch."
Philip shook his head—"I remember seeing an old lady of that name buried some thirty years ago."
"Impossible! I left her young and blooming. Here's one for the house of Slutz & Co., to whom the ship belongs."
"There's no such house now," replied Philip; "but I have heard, that many years ago there was a firm of that name."
"Impossible! you must be laughing at me. Here is a letter from our captain to his son"
"Give it me," cried Philip, seizing the letter, he was about to break the seal, when Schriften snatched it out of his hand, and threw it over the lee gunnel.
"That's a scurvy trick for an old shipmate," observed the seaman. Schriften made no reply, but catching up the other letters which Philip had laid down on the capstan, he hurled them after the first.
The strange seaman shed tears, and walked again to the side:—"It is very hard—very unkind," observed he, as he descended; "the time may come when you may wish that your family should know your situation;" so saying, he disappeared: in a few seconds was heard the sound of the oars, retreating from the ship.
"Holy St Antonio!" exclaimed the captain, "I am lost in wonder and fright. Steward, bring me up the arrack."
The steward ran down for the bottle; being as much alarmed as his captain, he helped himself before he brought it up to his commander. "Now," said the captain, after keeping his mouth for two minutes to the bottle, and draining it to the bottom, "what is to be done next?"
"I'll tell you," said Schriften, going up to him. "That man there has a charm hung round his neck; take it from him and throw it overboard, and your ship will be saved; if not, it will be lost, with every soul on board."
"Yes, yes, it's all right depend upon it;" cried the sailors.
"Fools," replied Philip, "do you believe that wretch? Did you not hear the man who came on board recognise him, and call him shipmate? He is the party whose presence on board will prove so unfortunate."
"Yes, yes," cried the sailors, "it's all right, the man did call him shipmate."
"I tell you it's all wrong," cried Schriften; "that is the man, let him give up the charm."
"Yes, yes; let him give up the charm," cried the sailors, and they rushed upon Philip.
Philip started back to where the captain stood. "Mad-men, know ye what ye are about? It is the holy cross that I wear round my neck. Throw it overboard if you dare, and your souls are lost for ever;" and Philip took the relic from his bosom and showed it to the captain.
"No, no, men;" exclaimed the captain, who was now more settled in his nerves; "that won't do—the saints protect us."
The seamen, however, became clamorous; one portion were for throwing Schriften overboard, the other for throwing Philip; at last, the point was decided by the captain, who directed the small skiff, hanging astern, to be lowered down, and ordered both Philip and Schriften to get into it. The seamen approved of this arrangement, as it satisfied both parties. Philip made no objection; Schriften screamed and fought, but he was tossed into the boat. There he remained trembling in the stern sheets, while Philip, who had seized the sculls, pulled away from the vessel in the direction of the Phantom Ship.
In a few minutes the vessel which Philip and Schriften had left was no longer to be discerned through the thick haze; the Phantom Ship was still in sight, but at a much greater distance from them than she was before. Philip pulled hard towards her, but although hove-to, she appeared to increase her distance from the boat. For a short time he paused on his oars, to regain his breath, when Schriften rose up and took his seat in the stern sheets of the boat. "You may pull and pull, Philip Vanderdecken," observed Schriften; "but you will not gain that ship—no, no, that cannot be—we may have a long cruise together, but you will be as far from your object at the end of it, as you are now at the commencement.—Why don't you throw me overboard again? You would be all the lighter—He! he!"
"I threw you overboard in a state of frenzy," replied Philip, "when you attempted to force from me my relic."
"And have I not endeavoured to make others take it from you this very day?—Have I not—He! he!"
"You have," rejoined Philip; "but I am now convinced, that you are as unhappy as myself, and that in what you are doing, you are only following your destiny, as I am mine. Why, and wherefore I cannot tell, but we are both engaged in the same mystery;—if the success of my endeavours depends upon guarding the relic, the success of yours depends upon your obtaining it, and defeating my purpose by so doing. In this matter we are both agents, and you have been, as far as my mission is concerned, my most active enemy. But, Schriften, I have not forgotten, and never will, that you kindlily did advise my poor Amine; that you prophesied to her what would be her fate, if she did not listen to your counsel; that you were no enemy of hers, although you have been, and are still mine. Although my enemy, for her sake I forgive you, and will not attempt to harm you."
"You do then forgive your enemy, Philip Vanderdecken?" replied Schriften, mournfully, "for such, I acknowledge myself to be."
"I do, with all my heart, with all my soul," replied Philip.
"Then have you conquered me, Philip Vanderdecken; you have now made me your friend, and your wishes are about to be accomplished. You would know who I am. Listen:—when your Father, defying the Almighty's will, in his rage took my life, he was vouchsafed a chance of his doom being cancelled, through the merits of his son. I had also my appeal, which was for vengeance; it was granted that I should remain on earth, and thwart your will. That as long as we were enemies, you should not succeed; but that when you had conformed to the highest attribute of Christianity, proved on the holy cross, that of forgiving your enemy, your task should be fulfilled. Philip Vanderdecken, you have forgiven your enemy, and both our destinies are now accomplished."
As Schriften spoke, Philip's eyes were fixed upon him. He extended his hand to Philip—it was taken; and as it was pressed, the form of the pilot wasted as it were into the air, and Philip found himself alone.
"Father of Mercy, I thank Thee," said Philip, "that my task is done, and that I again may meet my Amine."
Philip then pulled towards the Phantom Ship, and found that she no longer appeared to leave him; on the contrary, every minute he was nearer and nearer, and at last he threw in his oars, climbed up her sides, and gained her deck.
The crew of the vessel crowded round him.
"Your captain," said Philip; "I must speak with your captain."
"Who shall I say, sir?" demanded one, who appeared to be the first mate.
"Who?" replied Philip; "tell him his son would speak to him, his son Philip Vanderdecken."
Shouts of laughter from the crew, followed this answer of Philip's; and the mate, as soon as they ceased, observed with a smile,
"You forget, sir, perhaps you would say his father."
"Tell him his son, if you please," replied Philip, "take no note of grey hairs."
"Well, sir, here he is coming forward," replied the mate, stepping aside, and pointing to the captain.
"What is all this?" inquired the captain.
"Are you Philip Vanderdecken, the captain of this vessel?"
"I am, sir," replied the other.
"You appear not to know me! But how can you? you saw me but when I was only three years old; yet may you remember a letter which you gave to your wife."
"Ha!" replied the captain; "and who then are you?"
"Time has stopped with you, but with those who live in the world he stops not! and for those who pass a life of misery, he hurries on still faster. In me, behold your son, Philip Vanderdecken, who has obeyed your wishes; and after a life of such peril and misery as few have passed, has at last fulfilled his vow, and now offers to his father the precious relic that he required to kiss."
Philip drew out the relic, and held it towards his father. As if a flash of lightning had passed through his mind, the captain of the vessel started back, clasped his hands, fell on his knees, and wept.
"My son, my son!" exclaimed he, rising, and throwing himself into Philip's arms, "my eyes are opened—the Almighty knows how long they have been obscured." Embracing each other, they walked aft, away from the men, who were still crowded at the gangway.
"My son, my noble son, before the charm is broken—before we resolve, as we must, into the elements, oh! let me kneel in thanksgiving and contrition: my son, my noble son, receive a father's thanks," exclaimed Vanderdecken. Then with tears of joy and penitence he humbly addressed himself to that Being, whom he once so awfully defied.
The elder Vanderdecken knelt down: Philip did the same; still embracing each other with one arm, while they raised on high the other, and prayed.
For the last time the relic was taken from the bosom of Philip and handed to his father—and his father raised his eyes to heaven and kissed it. And as he kissed it, the long tapering upper spars of the Phantom vessel, the yards and sails that were set, fell into dust, fluttered in the air and sank upon the wave. Then mainmast, foremast, bowsprit, everything above the deck, crumbled into atoms and disappeared.
Again he raised the relic to his lips, and the work of destruction continued, the heavy iron guns sank through the decks and disappeared; the crew of the vessel (who were looking on) crumbled down into skeletons, and dust, and fragments of ragged garments; and there were none left on board the vessel in the semblance of life but the father and the son.
Once more did he put the sacred emblem to his lips, and the beams and timbers separated, the decks of the vessel slowly sank, and the remnants of the hull floated upon, the water; and as the father and son—the one young and vigorous, the other old and decrepit—still kneeling, still embracing, with their hands raised to heaven, sank slowly under the deep blue wave, the lurid sky was for a moment illumined by a lightning cross.
Then did the clouds which obscured the heavens roll away swift as thought—the sun again burst out in all his splendour—the rippling waves appeared to dance with joy. The screaming sea-gull again whirled in the air, and the scared albatross once more slumbered on the wing. The porpoise tumbled and tossed in his sportive play, the albicore and dolphin leaped from the sparkling sea.—All nature smiled as if it rejoiced that the charm was dissolved for ever, and that "THE PHANTOM SHIP" WAS NO MORE.