The Phantom Ship

Chapter Eleven

Frederick Marryat

IT need hardly be observed that Philip made all possible haste to his own little cottage, which contained all that he valued in this world. He promised to himself some months of happiness, for he had done his duty; and he felt that, however desirous of fulfilling his vow, he could not again leave home till the autumn, when the next fleet sailed, and it was now but the commencement of April. Much, too, as he regretted the loss of Mynheer Kloots and Hillebrant, as well as the deaths of the unfortunate crew, still there was some solace in the remembrance that he was for ever rid of the wretch Schriften, who had shared their fate; and besides he almost blessed the wreck, so fatal to others, which enabled him so soon to return to the arms of his Amine.

It was late in the evening; when Philip took a boat from Flushing, and went over to his cottage at Terneuse. It was a rough evening for the season of the year. The wind blew fresh, and the sky was covered with flaky clouds, fringed here and there with broad white edges, for the light of the moon was high in the heavens, and she was at her full. At times her light would be almost obscured by a dark cloud passing over her disk; at others, she would burst out in all her brightness. Philip landed, and, wrapping his cloak round him, hastened up to his cottage. As with a beating heart he approached, he perceived that the window of the parlour was open, and that there was a female figure leaning out. He knew that it could be no other than his Amine, and, after he crossed the little bridge, he proceeded to the window, instead of going to the door. Amine (for it was she who stood at the window) was so absorbed in contemplation of the heavens above her, and so deep in communion with her own thoughts, that she neither saw nor heard the approach of her husband. Philip perceived her abstraction, and paused when within four or five yards of her. He wished to gain the door without being observed, as he was afraid of alarming her by his too sudden appearance, for he remembered his promise, “that if dead he would, if permitted, visit her as his father had visited his mother.” But while he thus stood in suspense, Amine’s eyes were turned upon him: she beheld him; but a thick cloud now obscured the moon’s disk, and the dim light gave to his form, indistinctly seen, an unearthly and shadowy appearance. She recognised her husband, but having no reason to expect his return, she recognised him as an inhabitant of the world of spirits. She started, parted the hair away from her forehead with both hands, and again earnestly gazed on him.

“It is I, Amine, do not be afraid,” cried Philip, hastily.

“I am not afraid,” replied Amine, pressing her hand to her heart. “It is over now. Spirit of my dear husband—for such I think thou art—I thank thee! Welcome, even in death, Philip—welcome!” and Amine waved her hand mournfully, inviting Philip to enter as she retired from the window.

“My God! she thinks me dead,” thought Philip, and, hardly knowing how to act, he entered in at the window, and found her sitting on the sofa. Philip would have spoken; but Amine, whose eyes were fixed upon him as he entered, and who was fully convinced that he was but a supernatural appearance, exclaimed—

“So soon—so soon! O God! thy will be done: but it is hard to bear. Philip, beloved Philip, I feel that I soon shall follow you.”

Philip was now more alarmed: he was fearful of any sudden reaction when Amine should discover that he was still alive.

“Amine, dear, hear me. I have appeared unexpectedly and at an unusual hour; but throw yourself into my arms, and you will find that your Philip is not dead.”

“Not dead!” cried Amine, starting up.

“No, no, still warm in flesh and blood, Amine—still your fond and doting husband,” replied Philip, catching her in his arms, and pressing her to his heart.

Amine sank from his embrace down upon the sofa, and fortunately was relieved by a burst of tears, while Philip, kneeling by her, supported her.

“O God! O God! I thank thee,” relied Amine, at last. “I thought it was your spirit, Philip. O! I was glad to see even that,” continued she, weeping on his shoulder.

“Can you listen to me, dearest?” said Philip, after a silence of a few moments.

“O speak—speak, love; I can listen for ever.”

In a few words Philip then recounted what had taken place, and the occasion of his unexpected return, and felt himself more than repaid for all that he had suffered, by the fond endearments of his still agitated Amine.

“And your father, Amine?”

“He is well; we will talk of him to-morrow.”

“Yes,” thought Philip, as he awoke next morning, and dwelt upon the lovely features of his still slumbering wife; “yes, God is merciful. I feel that there is still happiness in store for me; nay, more, that that happiness also depends upon my due performance of my task, and that I should be punished if I were to forget my solemn vow. Be it so,—through danger and to death will I perform my duty, trusting to His mercy for a reward both here below and in heaven above. Am I not repaid for all that I have suffered? O yes more than repaid,” thought Philip, as with a kiss he disturbed the slumber of his wife, and met her full dark eyes fixed upon him, beaming with love and joy.

Before Philip went down stairs, he inquired about Mynheer Poots.

“My father has indeed troubled me much,” replied Amine. “I am obliged to lock the parlour when I leave it, for more than once I have found him attempting to force the locks of the buffets. His love of gold is insatiable: he dreams of nothing else, he has caused me much pain, insisting that I never should see you again, and that I should surrender to him all your wealth. But he fears me, and he fears your return much more.”

“Is he well in health?”

“Not ill, but still evidently wasting away—like a candle burnt down to the socket, flitting and flaring alternately; at one time almost imbecile, at others, talking and planning as if he were in the vigour of his youth. O what a curse it must be—that love of money! I believe—I’m shocked to say so, Philip,—that that poor old man, now on the brink of a grave into which he can take nothing, would sacrifice your life and mine to have possession of those guilders, the whole of which I would barter for one kiss from thee.”

“Indeed, Amine, has he then attempted anything in my absence?”

“I dare not speak my thoughts, Philip, nor will I venture upon surmises, which it were difficult to prove. I watch him carefully;—but talk no more about him. You will see him soon, and do not expect a hearty welcome, or believe that, if given, it is sincere, I will not tell him of your return, as I wish to mark the effect.”

Amine then descended to prepare breakfast, and Philip walked out for a few minutes. On his return, he found Mynheer Poots sitting at the table with his daughter.

“Merciful Allah! am I right?” cried the old man: “is it you, Mynheer Vanderdecken?”

“Even so,” replied Philip; “I returned last night.”

“And you did not tell me, Amine.”

“I wished that you should be surprised,” replied Amine.

“I am surprised! When do you sail again, Mynheer Philip? very soon, I suppose? perhaps to-morrow?” said Mynheer Poots.

“Not for many months, I trust,” replied Philip.

“Not for many months!—that is a long while to be idle. You must make money. Tell me, have you brought back plenty this time?”

“No,” replied Philip; “I have been wrecked, and very nearly lost my life.”

“But you will go again?”

“Yes, in good time I shall go again.”

“Very well, we will take care of your house and your guilders.”

“I shall perhaps save you the trouble of taking care of my guilders,” replied Philip, to annoy the old man, “for I mean to take them with me.”

“To take them with you! for what, pray?” replied Poots, in alarm.

“To purchase goods where I go, and make more money.”

“But you may be wrecked again and then the money will be all lost. No, no; go yourself, Mynheer Philip; but you must not take your guilders.”

“Indeed I will,” replied Philip; “when I leave this, I shall take all my money with me.”

During this conversation it occurred to Philip that, if Mynheer Poots could only be led to suppose that he took away his money with him, there would be more quiet for Amine who was now obliged, as she had informed him, to be constantly on the watch. He determined, therefore, when he next departed, to make the doctor believe that he had taken his wealth with him.

Mynheer Poots did not renew the conversation, but sank into gloomy thought. In a few minutes he left the parlour, and went up to his own room, when Philip stated to his wife what had induced him to make the old man believe that he should embark his property.

“It was thoughtful of you, Philip, and I thank you for your kind feeling towards me; but I wish you had said nothing on the subject. You do not know my father; I must now watch him as an enemy.”

“We have little to fear from an infirm old man,” replied Philip, laughing. But Amine thought otherwise, and was ever on her guard.

The spring and summer passed rapidly away, for they were happy. Many were the conversations between Philip and Amine, relative to what had passed—the supernatural appearance of his father’s ship, and the fatal wreck.

Amine felt that more dangers and difficulty were preparing for her husband, but she never once attempted to dissuade him from renewing his attempts in fulfilment of his vow. Like him, she looked forward with hope and confidence, aware that, at some time, his fate must be accomplished, and trusting only that that hour would be long delayed.

At the close of the summer, Philip again went to Amsterdam, to procure for himself a berth in one of the vessels which were to sail at the approach of winter.

The wreck of the Ter Schilling was well known; and the circumstances attending it, with the exception of the appearance of the Phantom Ship, had been drawn up by Philip on his passage home, and communicated to the Court of Directors. Not only on account of the very creditable manner in which that report had been prepared, but in consideration of his peculiar sufferings and escape, he had been promised by the Company a berth, as second mate, on board of one of their vessels, should he be again inclined to sail to the East Indies.

Having called upon the Directors, he received his appointment to the Batavia, a fine vessel of about 400 tons burden. Having effected his purpose, Philip hastened back to Terneuse, and, in the presence of Mynheer Poots, informed Amine of what he had done.

“So you go to sea again?” observed Mynheer Poots.

“Yes, but not for two months, I expect,” replied Philip.

“Ah!” replied Poots, “in two months!” and the old man muttered to himself.

How true it is that we can more easily bear up against a real evil than against suspense! Let it not be supposed that Amine fretted at the thought of her approaching separation from her husband; she lamented it, but feeling his departure to be an imperious duty, and having it ever in her mind, she bore up against her feelings, and submitted, without repining, to what could not be averted. There was, however, one circumstance, which caused her much uneasiness—that was the temper and conduct of her father. Amine, who knew his character well, perceived that he already secretly hated Philip, whom he regarded as an obstacle to his obtaining possession of the money in the house; for the old man was well aware that if Philip were dead, his daughter would care little who had possession of, or what became of it. The thought that Philip was about to take that money with him had almost turned the brain of the avaricious old man. He had been watched by Amine, and she had seen him walk for hours muttering to himself, and not, as usual, attending to his profession.

A few evenings after his return from Amsterdam, Philip, who had taken cold, complained of not being well.

“Not well!” cried the old man, starting up; “let me see—yes, your pulse is very quick. Amine, your poor husband is very ill. He must go to bed, and I will give him something which will do him good. I shall charge you nothing, Philip—nothing at all.”

“I do not feel so very unwell, Mynheer Poots,” replied Philip; “I have a bad headache certainly.”

“Yes, and you have fever also, Philip, and prevention is better than cure; so go to bed, and take what I send you, and you will be well to-morrow.”

Philip went up stairs, accompanied by Amine; and Mynheer Poots went into his own room to prepare the medicine. So soon as Philip was in bed, Amine went down stairs, and was met by her father, who put a powder into her hands to give to her husband, and then left the parlour.

“God forgive me if I wrong my father,” thought Amine, “but I have my doubts. Philip is ill, more so than he will acknowledge; and if he does not take some remedies, he may be worse—but my heart misgives me—I have a foreboding. Yet surely he cannot be so diabolically wicked.”

Amine examined the contents of the paper: it was a very small quantity of dark-brown powder, and, by the directions of Mynheer Poots, to be given in a tumbler of warm wine. Mynheer Poots had offered to heat the wine. His return from the kitchen broke Amine’s meditations.

“Here is the wine, my child; now give him a whole tumbler of wine, and the powder, and let him be covered up warm, for the perspiration will soon burst out and it must not be checked. Watch him, Amine, and keep the clothes on, and he will be well to-morrow morning.” And Mynheer Poots quitted the room, saying, “Good night, my child.”

Amine poured out the powder into one of the silver mugs on the table, and then proceeded to mix it up with the wine. Her suspicions had, for the time been removed by the kind tone of her father’s voice. To do him justice as a medical practitioner, he appeared always to be most careful of his patients. When Amine mixed the powder, she examined and perceived that there was no sediment, and the wine was as clear as before. This was unusual, and her suspicions revived.

“I like it not,” said she; “I fear my father—God help me!—I hardly know what to do—I will not give it to Philip. The warm wine may produce perspiration sufficient.”

Amine paused, and again reflected. She had mixed the powder with so small a portion of wine that it did not fill a quarter of the cup; she put it on one side, filled another up to the brim with the warm wine, and then went up to the bedroom.

On the landing-place she was met by her father, whom she supposed to have retired to rest.

“Take care you do not spill it, Amine. That is right, let him have a whole cupful. Stop, give it to me; I will take it to him myself.”

Mynheer Poots took the cup from Amine’s hands, and went into Philip’s room.

“Here, my son, drink this off, and you will be well,” said Mynheer Poots, whose hand trembled so that he spilt the wine on the coverlid. Amine, who watched her father, was more than ever pleased that she had not put the powder into the cup. Philip rose on his elbow, drank off the wine, and Mynheer Poots then wished him good night.

“Do not leave him, Amine, I will see all right,” said Mynheer Poots, as he left the room. And Amine, who had intended to go down for the candle left in the parlour, remained with her husband, to whom she confided her feelings and also the fact that she had not given him the powder.

“I trust that you are mistaken, Amine,” replied Philip; “indeed I feel sure that you must be. No man could be so bad as you suppose your father.”

“You have not lived with him as I have—you have not seen what I have seen,” replied Amine. “You know not what gold will tempt people to do in this world—but, however, I may be wrong. At all events, you must go to sleep, and I shall watch you, dearest. Pray do not speak—I feel I cannot sleep just now—I wish to read a little—I will lie down by-and-by.”

Philip made no further objections, and was soon in a sound sleep, and Amine watched him in silence till midnight long had passed.

“He breathes heavily,” thought Amine; “but had I given him that powder, who knows if he had ever awoke again? My father is so deeply skilled in the Eastern knowledge, that I fear him. Too often has he, I well know, for a purse well filled with gold, prepared the sleep of death. Another would shudder at the thought; but he, who has dealt out death at the will of his employers, would scruple little to do so even to the husband of his own daughter; and I have watched him in his moods and know his thoughts and wishes. What a foreboding of mishap has come over me this evening!—what a fear of evil! Philip is ill, ’tis true, but not so very ill. No! no! Besides his time is not yet come; he has his dreadful task to finish. I would it were morning. How soundly he sleeps!—and the dew is on his brow. I must cover him up warm, and watch that he remains so. Some one knocks at the entrance-door. Now will they wake him. ’Tis a summons for my father.”

Amine left the room, and hastened down stairs. It was as she supposed, a summons for Mynheer Poots to a woman taken in labour. “He shall follow you directly,” said Amine; “I will now call him up.” Amine went up stairs to the room where her father slept, and knocked; hearing no answer, as usual, she knocked again.

“My father is not used to sleep in this way,” thought Amine, when she found no answer to her second call. She opened the door and went in. To her surprise, her father was not in bed. “Strange,” thought she; “but I do not recollect having heard his footsteps coming up after he went down to take away the lights.” And Amine hastened to the parlour, where, stretched on the sofa, she discovered her father apparently fast asleep; but to her call he gave no answer. “Merciful Heaven! is he dead?” thought she, approaching the light to her father’s face. Yes, it was so!—his eyes were fixed and glazed—his lower jaw had fallen.

For some minutes, Amine leant against the wall in a state of bewilderment; her brain whirled; at last she recovered herself.

“’Tis to be proved at once,” thought she, as she went up to the table, and looked into the silver cup in which she had mixed the powder—it was empty! “The God of Righteousness hath punished him!” exclaimed Amine; “but O! that this man should have been my father! Yes! it is plain. Frightened at his own wicked, damned intentions, he poured out more wine from the flagon, to blunt his feelings of remorse, and not knowing that the powder was still in the cup, he filled it up and drank himself—the death he meant for another! For another!—and for whom? one wedded to his own daughter!—Philip! my husband! Wert thou not my father,” continued Amine, looking at the dead body, “I would spit upon thee? and curse thee!—but thou art punished, and may God forgive thee! thou poor, weak, wicked creature!”

Amine then left the room and went up stairs, where she found Philip still fast asleep, and in a profuse perspiration.

Most women would have awakened their husbands, but Amine thought not of herself; Philip was ill, and Amine would not arouse him to agitate him. She sat down by the side of the bed, and with her hands pressed upon her forehead, and her elbows resting on her knees, she remained in deep thought until the sun had risen and poured his bright beams through the casement.

She was roused from her reflections by another summons at the door of the cottage. She hastened down to the entrance, but did not open the door.

“Mynheer Poots is required immediately,” said the girl, who was the messenger.

“My good Therese,” replied Amine, “my father has more need of assistance than the poor woman; for his travail in this world I fear, is well over. I found him very ill when I went to call him, and he has not been able to quit his bed. I must now entreat you to do my message, and desire Father Seysen to come hither; for my poor father is, I fear, in extremity.”

“Mercy on me!” replied Therese. “Is it so? Fear not but I will do your bidding, Mistress Amine.”

The second knocking had awakened Philip, who felt that he was much better, and his headache had left him. He perceived that Amine had not taken any rest that night, and he was about to expostulate with her, when she at once told him what had occurred.

“You must dress yourself, Philip,” continued she, “and must assist me to carry up his body, and place it in his bed, before the arrival of the priest. God of mercy! had I given you that powder, my dearest Philip—but let us not talk about it. Be quick, for Father Seysen will be here soon.”

Philip was soon dressed, and followed Amine down into the parlour. The sun shone bright, and its rays were darted upon the haggard face of the old man, whose fists were clenched, and his tongue fixed between the teeth on one side of his mouth.

“Alas! this room appears to be fatal. How many more scenes of horror are to pass within it?”

“None, I trust,” replied Amine; “this is not, to my mind, the scene of horror. It was when that old man (now called away—and a victim to his own treachery) stood by your bed-side, and with every mark of interest and kindness, offered you the cup—that was the scene of horror,” said Amine, shuddering—“one which long will haunt me.”

“God forgive him! as I do,” replied Philip, lifting up the body, and carrying it up the stairs to the room which had been occupied by Mynheer Poots.

“Let it at least be supposed that he died in his bed, and that his death was natural,” said Amine. “My pride cannot bear that this should be known, or that I should be pointed at as the daughter of a murderer! O Philip!”

Amine sat down, and burst into tears.

Her husband was attempting to console her, when Father Seysen knocked at the door. Philip hastened down to open it.

“Good morning, my son. How is the sufferer?”

“He has ceased to suffer, father.”

“Indeed!” replied the good priest, with sorrow in his countenance; “am I then too late? yet have I not tarried.”

“He went off suddenly, father, in a convulsion,” replied Philip, leading the way up stairs.

Father Seysen looked at the body and perceived that his offices were needless, and then turned to Amine, who had not yet checked her tears.

“Weep, my child, weep! for you have cause,” said the priest. “The loss of a father’s love must be a severe trial to a dutiful and affectionate child. But yield not too much to your grief, Amine; you have other duties, other ties, my child—you have your husband.”

“I know it, father,” replied Amine; “still must I weep, for I was his daughter.”

“Did he not go to bed last night then that his clothes are still upon him? When did he first complain?”

“The last time that I saw him, father,” replied Philip; “he came into my room and gave me some medicine, and then he wished me good night. Upon on a summons to attend a sick bed, my wife went to call him, and found him speechless.”

“It has been sudden,” replied the priest; “but he was an old man, and old men sink at once. Were you with him when he died?”

“I was not, sir,” replied Philip; “before my wife had summoned me and I had dressed myself, he had left this world.”

“I trust, my children, for a better.” Amine shuddered. “Tell me Amine,” continued the priest, “did he show signs of grace before he died? for you know full well that he has long been looked on as doubtful in his creed and little attentive to the rites of our holy church.”

“There are times, holy father,” replied Amine, “when even a sincere Christian can be excused, even if he give no sign. Look at his clenched hands, witness the agony of death on his face, and could you, in that state expect a sign?”

“Alas! ’tis but too true, my child: we must then hope for the best. Kneel with me, my children, and let us offer up a prayer for the soul of the departed.”

Philip and Amine knelt with the priest, who prayed fervently; and as they rose, they exchanged a glance which fully revealed what was passing in the mind of each.

“I will send the people to do their offices for the dead, and prepare the body for interment,” said Father Seysen; “but it were as well not to say that he was dead before I arrived, or to let it he supposed that he was called away without receiving the consolations of our holy creed.”

Philip motioned his head in assent as he stood at the foot of the bed, and the priest departed. There had always been a strong feeling against Mynheer Poots in the village;—his neglect of all religious duties—the doubt whether he was even a member of the church—his avarice and extortion—had created for him a host of enemies; but, at the same time, his great medical skill, which was fully acknowledged, rendered him of importance. Had it been known that his creed (if he had any) was Mahomedan, and that he had died in attempting to poison his son-in-law, it is certain that Christian burial would have been refused him, and the finger of scorn would have been pointed at his daughter. But as Father Seysen, when questioned, said, in a mild voice, that “he had departed in peace,” it was presumed that Mynheer Poots had died a good Christian although he had acted little up to the tenets of Christianity during his life. The next day the remains of the old man were consigned to the earth with the usual rites; and Philip and Amine were not a little relieved in their minds at everything having passed off so quietly.

It was not until after the funeral had taken place that Philip, in company with Amine, examined the chamber of his father-in-law. The key of the iron chest was found in his pocket; but Philip had not yet looked into this darling repository of the old man. The room was full of bottles and boxes of drugs, all of which were either thrown away, or, if the utility of them was known to Amine, removed to a spare room. His table contained many drawers, which were now examined, and among the heterogeneous contents were many writings in Arabic—probably prescriptions. Boxes and papers were also found, with Arabic characters written upon them; and in the box which they first took up was a powder similar to that which Mynheer Poots had given to Amine. There were many articles and writings, which made it appear that the old man had dabbled in the occult sciences, as they were practised at that period, and those they hastened to commit to the flames.

“Had all these been seen by Father Seysen!” observed Amine, mournfully. “But here are some printed papers, Philip!”

Philip examined them, and found that they were acknowledgments of shares in the Dutch East-India Company.

“No, Amine, these are money, or what is as good—these are eight shares in the Company’s capital, which will yield us a handsome income every year. I had no idea that the old man made such use of his money. I had some intention of doing the same with a part of mine before I went away, instead of allowing it to remain idle.”

The iron chest was now to be examined. When Philip first opened it; he imagined that it contained but little; for it was large and deep, and appeared to be almost empty; but when he put his hands down to the bottom, he pulled out thirty or forty small bags, the contents of which, instead of being silver guilders, were all coins of gold; there was only one large bag of silver money. But this was not all; several small boxes and packets were also discovered, which, when opened, were found to contain diamonds and other precious stones. When everything was collected, the treasure appeared to be of great value.

“Amine, my love, you have indeed brought me an unexpected dower,” said Philip.

“You may well say unexpected,” replied Amine. “These diamonds and jewels my father must have brought with him from Egypt. And yet how penuriously were we living until we came to this cottage! And with all this treasure he would have poisoned my Philip for more! God forgive him!”

Having counted the gold, which amounted to nearly fifty thousand guilders, the whole was replaced, and they left the room.

“I am a rich man,” thought Philip, after Amine had left him; “but of what use are riches to me? I might purchase a ship and be my own captain, but would not the ship be lost? That certainly does not follow; but the chances are against the vessel; therefore I will have no ship. But is it right to sail in the vessels of others with this feeling?—I know not; this, however, I know, that I have a duty to perform, and that all our lives are in the hands of a kind Providence, which calls us away when it thinks fit. I will place most of my money in the shares of the Company, and if I sail in their vessels, and they come to misfortune by meeting with my poor father, at least I shall be a common sufferer with the rest. And now to make my Amine more comfortable.”

Philip immediately made a great alteration in their style of living. Two female servants were hired: the rooms were more comfortably furnished; and in everything in which his wife’s comfort and convenience were concerned, he spared no expense. He wrote to Amsterdam and purchased several shares in the Company’s stock. The diamonds and his own money he still left in the hands of Amine. In making these arrangements the two months passed rapidly away; and everything was complete when Philip again received his summons, by letter, to desire that he would join his vessel. Amine would have wished Philip to go out as a passenger instead of going as an officer, but Philip preferred the latter, as otherwise he could give no reason for his voyage to India.

“I know not why,” observed Philip, the evening before his departure, “but I do not feel as I did when I last went away; I have no foreboding of evil this time.”

“Nor have I,” replied Amine; “but I feel as if you would be long away from me, Philip; and is not that an evil to a fond and anxious wife?”

“Yes, love, it is; but—“

“O, yes, I know it is your duty, and you must go,” replied Amine, burying her face in his bosom.

The next day Philip parted from his wife, who behaved with more fortitude than on their first separation. “All were lost but he was saved,” thought Amine. “I feel that he will return to me. God of Heaven, Thy will be done!”

Philip soon arrived at Amsterdam; and having purchased many things which he thought might be advantageous to him in case of accident, to which he now looked forward as almost certain, he embarked on board the Batavia, which was lying at single anchor, and ready for sea.

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