The Phantom Ship

Chapter Eighteen

Frederick Marryat

THE fleet under Admiral Rymelandt’s command was ordered to proceed to the East Indies by the western route, through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean—it being still imagined, notwithstanding previous failures, that this route offered facilities which might shorten the passage to the Spice Islands.

The vessels composing the fleet were the Lion of forty-four guns, bearing the admiral’s flag; the Dort of thirty-six guns, with the commodore’s pendant—to which Philip was appointed; the Zuyder Zee of twenty; the Young Frau of twelve, and a ketch of four guns, called the Schevelling.

The crew of the Vrow Katerina were divided between the two larger vessels; the others, being smaller, were easier worked with fewer hands. Every arrangement having been made, the boats were hoisted up, and the ships made sail. For ten days they were baffled by light winds, and the victims to the scurvy increased considerably on board of Philip’s vessel. Many died and were thrown overboard, and others were carried down to their hammocks.

The newly-appointed commodore, whose name was Avenhorn, went on board of the admiral, to report the state of the vessel and to suggest, as Philip had proposed to him, that they should make the coast of South America, and endeavour by bribery or by force to obtain supplies either from the Spanish inhabitants or the natives. But to this the admiral would not listen. He was an imperious, bold, and obstinate man, not to be persuaded or convinced, and with little feeling for the sufferings of others. Tenacious of being advised, he immediately rejected a proposition which, had it originated with himself, would probably have been immediately acted upon; and the commodore returned on board his vessel, not only disappointed, but irritated by the language used towards him.

“What are we do, Captain Vanderdecken? you know too well our situation—it is impossible we can continue long at sea; if we do, the vessel will be drifting at the mercy of the waves, while the crew die a wretched death in their hammocks. At present we have forty men left; in ten days more we shall probably have but twenty; for as the labour becomes more severe, so do they drop down the faster. Is it not better to risk our lives in combat with the Spaniards, than die here like rotten sheep?”

“I perfectly agree with you, commodore,” replied Philip;—“but still we must obey orders. The admiral is an inflexible man.”

“And a cruel one. I have a great mind to part company in the night, and if he finds fault, I will justify myself to the Directors on my return.”

“Do nothing rashly—perhaps, when day by day he finds his own ship’s company more weakened, he will see the necessity, of following your advice.”

A week had passed away after this conversation, and the fleet had made little progress. In each ship the ravages of the fatal disease became more serious, and, as the commodore had predicted, he had but twenty men really able to do duty. Nor had the admiral’s ship and the other vessels suffered less. The commodore again went on board to reiterate his proposition.

Admiral Rymelandt was not only a stern, but a vindictive man. He was aware of the propriety of the suggestion made by his second in command, but having refused it, he would not acquiesce; and he felt revengeful against the commodore, whose counsel he must now either adopt, or by refusing it be prevented from taking the steps so necessary for the preservation of his crew, and the success of his voyage. Too proud to acknowledge himself in error, again did he decidedly refuse, and the commodore went back to his own ship. The fleet was then within three days of the coast, steering to the southward for the Straits of Magellan, and that night, after Philip had returned to his cot, the commodore went on deck and ordered the course of the vessel to be altered some points more to the westward. The night was very dark, and the Lion was the only ship which carried a poop-lantern, so that the parting company of the Dort was not perceived by the admiral and the other ships of the fleet. When Philip went on deck next morning, he found that their consorts were not in sight. He looked at the compass, and perceiving that the course was altered, inquired at what hour and by whose directions. Finding that it was by his superior officer, he of course said nothing. When the commodore came on deck, he stated to Philip that he felt himself warranted in not complying with the admiral’s orders, as it would have been sacrificing the whole ship’s company. This was, indeed, true.

In two days they made the land, and running into the shore, perceived a large town and Spaniards on the beach. Then anchored at the mouth of the river, and hoisted English colours, when a boat came on board to ask them who they were and what they required? The commodore replied that the vessel was English, for he knew that the hatred of the Spanish to the Dutch was so great that, if known to belong to that nation, he would have had no chance of procuring any supplies, except by force. He stated that he had fallen in with a Spanish vessel, a complete wreck, from the whole of the crew being afflicted with the scurvy; that he had taken the men out, who were now in their hammocks below, as he considered it cruel to leave so many of his fellow-creatures to perish, and that he had come out of his course to land them at the first Spanish fort he could reach. He requested that they would immediately send on board vegetables and fresh provisions for the sick men, whom it would be death to remove, until after a few days, when they would be a little restored; and added, that in return for their assisting the Spaniards, he trusted the governor would also send supplies for his own people.

This well made-up story was confirmed by the officer sent on board by the Spanish governor. Being requested to go down below and see the patients, the sight of so many poor fellows in the last stage of that horrid disease—their teeth fallen out, gums ulcerated, bodies full of tumours and sores—was quite sufficient; and hurrying up from the lower deck, as he would have done from a charnel-house, the officer hastened on shore and made his report.

In two hours a large boat was sent off with fresh beef and vegetables sufficient for three days’ supply for the ship’s company, and these were immediately distributed among the men. A letter of thanks was returned by the commodore, stating that his health was so indifferent as to prevent his coming on shore in person to thank the governor, and forwarding a pretended list of the Spaniards on board, in which he mentioned some officers and people of distinction, whom he imagined might be connected with the family of the governor, whose name and titles he had received from the messenger sent on board; for the Dutch knew full well the majority of the noble Spanish families—indeed, alliances had continually taken place between them, previous to their assertion of their independence. The commodore concluded his letter by expressing a hope that, in a day or two, he should be able to pay his respects, and make arrangements for the landing of the sick, as he was anxious to proceed on his voyage of discovery.

On the third day, a fresh supply of provisions was sent on board, and so soon as they were received the commodore, in an English uniform went on shore and called upon the governor, gave a long detail of the sufferings of the people he had rescued, and agreed that they should be sent on shore in two days, as they would by that time be well enough to be moved. After many compliments, he went on board, the governor having stated his intention to return his visit on the following day, if the weather were not too rough. Fortunately, the weather was rough for the next two days, and it was not until the third that the governor made his appearance. This was precisely what the commodore wished.

There is no disease, perhaps, so dreadful or so rapid in its effects upon the human frame, and at the same time so instantaneously checked, as the scurvy, if the remedy can be procured. A few days were sufficient to restore those, who were not able to turn in their hammocks, to their former vigour. In the course of the six days nearly all the crew of the Dort were convalescent, and able to go on deck; but still they were not cured. The commodore waited for the arrival of the governor, received him with all due honours, and then, so soon as he was in the cabin, told him very politely that he and all his officers with him were prisoners. That the vessel was a Dutch man-of-war, and that it was his own people, and not Spaniards, who had been dying of the scurvy. He consoled him, however, by pointing out that he had thought it preferable to obtain provisions by this ruse, than to sacrifice lives on both sides by taking them by force, and that his Excellency’s captivity would endure no longer than until he had received on board a sufficient number of live bullocks and fresh vegetables to insure the recovery of the ship’s company; and, in the mean time, not the least insult would be offered to him. Whereupon the Spanish governor first looked at the commodore and then at the file of armed men at the cabin-door, and then to his distance from the town; and then called to mind the possibility of his being taken out to sea. Weighing all these points in his mind, and the very moderate ransom demanded (for bullocks were not worth a dollar a piece in that country), he resolved, as he could not help himself, to comply with the commodore’s terms. He called for pen and ink, and wrote an order to send on board immediately all that was demanded. Before sunset the bullocks and vegetables were brought off, and, so soon as they were alongside, the commodore, with many bows and many thanks, escorted the governor to the gangway, complimenting him with a salvo of great guns, as he had done before, on his arrival. The people on shore thought that his Excellency had paid a long visit, but, as he did not like to acknowledge that he had been deceived, nothing was said about it, at least in his hearing, although the facts were soon well known. As soon as the boats were cleared, the commodore weighed anchor and made sail well satisfied with having preserved his ship’s company and as the Falkland Islands, in case of parting company, had been named as the rendezvous, he steered for them. In a fortnight he arrived, and found that his admiral was not yet there. His crew were now all recovered, and his fresh beef was not yet expended, when he perceived the admiral and the three other vessels in the offing.

It appeared that so soon as the Dort had parted company, the admiral had immediately acted upon the advice that the commodore had given him, and had run for the coast. Not being so fortunate in a ruse as his second in command, he had landed an armed force from the four vessels, and had succeeded in obtaining several head of cattle, at the expense of an equal number of men killed and wounded. But at the same time they had collected a large quantity of vegetables of one sort or another, which they had carried on board and distributed with great success to the sick, who were gradually recovering.

Immediately that the admiral had anchored, he made the signal for the commodore to repair on board, and taxed him with disobedience of orders in having left the fleet. The commodore did not deny that he had so done, but excused himself upon the plea of necessity, offering to lay the whole matter before the Court of Directors so soon as they returned; but the admiral was vested with most extensive powers, not only of the trial, but the condemnation and punishment of any person guilty of mutiny and insubordination in his fleet. In reply, he told the commodore that he was a prisoner, and to prove it, he confined him in irons under the half-deck.

A signal was then made for all the captains: they went on board, and of course Philip was of the number. On their arrival, the admiral held a summary court-martial, proving to them by his instructions that he was so warranted to do. The result of the court-martial could be but one—condemnation for a breach of discipline, to which Philip was obliged reluctantly to sign his name. The admiral then gave Philip the appointment of second in command, and the commodore’s pendant, much to the annoyance of the captains commanding the other vessels; but in this the admiral proved his judgment, as there was no one of them so fit for the task as Philip. Having so done, he dismissed them. Philip would have spoken to the late commodore, but the sentry opposed it, as against his orders; and with a friendly nod, Philip was obliged to leave him without the desired communication.

The fleet remained three weeks at the Falkland Islands, to recruit the ships’ companies. Although there was no fresh beef, there was plenty of scurvy-grass and penguins. These birds were in myriads on some parts of the island, which, from the propinquity of their nests, built of mud, went by the name of towns. There they sat close together (the whole area which they covered being bare of grass) hatching their eggs and rearing their young. The men had but to select as many eggs and birds as they pleased and so numerous were they, that when they had supplied themselves, there was no apparent diminution of the numbers. This food, although in a short time not very palatable to the seamen, had the effect of restoring them to health, and before the fleet sailed, there was not a man who was afflicted with the scurvy. In the mean time the commodore remained in irons, and many were the conjectures concerning his ultimate fate. The power of life and death was known to be in the admiral’s hands, but no one thought that such power would be exerted up on a delinquent of so high a grade. The other captains kept aloof from Philip, and he knew little of what was the general idea. Occasionally when on board of the admiral’s ship, he ventured to bring up the question, but was immediately silenced; and feeling that he might injure the late commodore (for whom he had a regard), he would risk nothing by importunity; and the fleet sailed for the Straits of Magellan without anybody being aware of what might be the result of the court-martial.

It was about a fortnight after they had left the Falkland Islands, that they entered the Straits. At first they had a leading wind which carried them half through, but this did not last, and they then had to contend not only against the wind, but against the current, and they daily lost ground. The crews of the ships also began to sicken from fatigue and cold. Whether the admiral had before made up his mind, or whether irritated by his fruitless endeavours to continue his voyage, it is impossible to say; but after three weeks’ useless struggle against the wind and currents, he hove to and ordered the captains on board, when he proposed that the prisoner should receive his punishment—and that punishment was—to be deserted; that is, to be sent on shore with a day’s food, where there was no means of obtaining support, so as to die miserably of hunger. This was a punishment frequently resorted to by the Dutch at that period, as will be seen by reading an account of their voyages; but at the same time seldom, if ever, awarded to one of so high a rank as that of commodore.

Philip immediately protested against it, and so did Krantz, although they were both aware, that by so doing, they would make the admiral their enemy; but the other captains, who viewed both of them with a jealous eye, and considered them as interlopers and interfering with their advancement, sided with the admiral. Notwithstanding this majority, Philip thought it his duty to expostulate.

“You know well, admiral,” said he, “that I joined in his condemnation for a breach of discipline: but at the same time there was much in extenuation. He committed a breach of discipline to save his ship’s company, but not an error in judgment, as you yourself proved, by taking the same measure to save your own men. Do not, therefore, visit an offence of so doubtful a nature with such cruelty. Let the Company decide the point when you send him home, which you can do so soon as you arrive in India. He is sufficiently punished by losing his command: to do what you propose will be ascribed to feelings of revenge more than to those of justice. What success can we deserve if we commit an act of such cruelty; and how can we expect a merciful Providence to protect us from the winds and waves, when we are thus barbarous towards each other?”

Philip’s arguments were of no avail. The admiral ordered him to return on board his ship, and had he been able to find an excuse, he would have deprived him of his command. This he could not well do; but Philip was aware that the admiral was now his inveterate enemy. The commodore was taken out of irons and brought into the cabin, and his sentence was made known to him.

“Be it so, admiral,” replied Avenhorn; “for to attempt to turn you from your purpose, I know would be unavailing. I am not punished for disobedience of orders, but for having, by my disobedience, pointed out to you your duty—a duty which you were forced to perform afterwards by necessity. Then be it so; let me perish on these black rocks, as I shall, and my bones be whitened by the chilly blasts which howl over their desolation. But mark me, cruel and vindictive man! I shall not be the only one whose bones will bleach there. I prophesy that many others will share my fate, and even you, admiral, may be of the number,—if I mistake not, we shall lie side by side.”

The admiral made no reply, but gave a sign for the prisoner to be removed. He then had a conference with the captains of the three smaller vessels; and, as they had been all along retarded by the heavier sailing of his own ship, and the Dort commanded by Philip, he decided that they should part company, and proceed on as fast as they could to the Indies—sending on board of the two larger vessels all the provisions they could spare, as they already began to run short.

Philip had left the cabin with Krantz after the prisoner had been removed. He then wrote a few lines upon a slip of paper—“Do not leave the beach when you are put on shore, until the vessels are out of sight;” and requesting Krantz to find an opportunity to deliver this to the commodore, he returned on board of his own ship.

When the crew of the Dort heard of the punishment about to be inflicted upon their old commander, they were much excited. They felt that he had sacrificed himself to save them, and they murmured much at the cruelty of the admiral.

About an hour after Philip’s return to his ship, the prisons was sent on shore and landed on the desolate and rocky coast, with a supply of provisions for two days. Not a single article of extra clothing, or the means of striking a light, was permitted him. When the boat’s keel grazed the beach, ha was ordered out. The boat shoved off, and the men were not permitted even to bid him farewell.

The fleet, as Philip had expected, remained hove to shifting the provisions, and it was not till after dark that everything was arranged. This opportunity was not lost. Philip was aware that it would be considered a breach of discipline, but to that he was indifferent; neither did he think it likely that it would come to the ears of the admiral, as the crew of the Dort were partial both to the commodore and to him. He had desired a seaman whom he could trust, to put into one of the boats a couple of muskets, and a quantity of ammunition, several blankets, and various other articles, besides provisions for two or three months for one person; and as soon as it was dark the men pulled on shore with the boat, found the commodore on the beach waiting for them, and supplied him with all these necessaries. They then rejoined their ship, without the admiral’s having the least suspicion of what had been done, and shortly after the fleet made sail on a wind, with their heads off shore. The next morning, the three smaller vessels parted company, and by sunset had gained many miles to windward, after which they were not again seen.

The admiral had sent for Philip to give him his instructions, which were very severe, and evidently framed so as to be able to afford him hereafter some excuse for depriving him of his command. Among others, his orders were, as the Dort drew much less water than the admiral’s ship, to sail ahead of him during the night, that if they approached too near the land as they beat across the Channel, timely notice might be given to the admiral, if in too shallow water. This responsibility was the occasion of Philip’s being always on deck when they approached the land on either side of the Straits. It was the second night after the fleet had separated that Philip had been summoned on deck as they were nearing the land of Terra del Fuego: he was watching the man in the chains heaving the head, when the officer of the watch reported to him that the admiral’s ship was ahead of them instead of astern. Philip made inquiry as to when he passed, but could not discover; he went forward, and saw the admiral’s ship with her poop-light, which, when the admiral was astern, was not visible. “What can be the admiral’s reason for this?” thought Philip; “has he run ahead for purpose to make a charge against me of neglect of duty? It must be so. Well, let him do as he pleases; he must wait now till we arrive in India, for I shall not allow him to desert me; and with the Company, I have as much, and I rather think, as a large proprietor, more interest than he has. Well as he has thought proper to go ahead, I have nothing to do but to follow. ‘You may come out of the chains there.’”

Philip went forward: they were now, as he imagined, very near to the land, but the night was dark and they could not distinguish it. For half an hour they continued their course, much to Philip’s surprise, for he now thought he could make out the loom of the land, dark as it was. His eyes were constantly fixed upon the ship ahead, expecting every minute that she would go about; but no, she continued her course, and Philip followed with his own vessel.

“We are very close to the land, sir,” observed Vander Hagen, the lieutenant, who was the officer of the watch.

“So it appears to me: but the admiral is closer and draws much more water than we do,” replied Philip.

“I think I see the rocks on the beam to leeward, sir.”

“I believe you are right,” replied Philip: “I cannot understand this. Ready about, and get a gun ready—they must suppose us to be ahead of them, depend up on it.”

Hardly had Philip given the order, when the vessel struck heavily on the rocks. Philip hastened aft; he found that the rudder had been unshipped, and the vessel was immovably fixed. His thoughts then reverted to the admiral. “Was he on shore?” He ran forward, and the admiral was still sailing on with his poop-light about two cables’ length ahead of him.

“Fire the gun, there,” cried Philip, perplexed beyond measure.

The gun was fired, and immediately followed up by the flash and report of another gun close astern of them. Philip looked with astonishment over the quarter, and perceived the admiral’s ship close astern to him, and evidently on shore as well as his own.

“Merciful Heaven!” exclaimed Philip, rushing forward, “what can this be?” He beheld the other vessel, with her light ahead, still sailing on and leaving them. The day was now dawning, and there was sufficient light to make out the land. The Dort was on shore not fifty yards from the beach, and surrounded by the high and barren rocks; yet the vessel ahead was apparently sailing on over the land. The seamen crowded on the forecastle, watching this strange phenomenon; at last it vanished from their sight.

“That’s the Flying Dutchman, by all that’s holy!” cried one of the seamen, jumping off the gun.

Hardly had the man uttered these words when the vessel disappeared.

Philip felt convinced that it was so, and he walked away aft in a very perturbed state. It must have been his father’s fatal ship which had decoyed them to probable destruction. He hardly knew how to act. The admiral’s wrath he did not wish, just at that moment, to encounter. He sent for the officer of the watch, and having desired him to select a crew for the boat, out of those men who had been on deck, and could substantiate his assertions, ordered him to go on board of the admiral, and state what had happened.

As soon as the boat had shoved off, Philip turned his attention to the state of his own vessel. The daylight had increased and Philip perceived that they were surrounded by rocks, and had run on shore between two reefs, which extended half a mile from the mainland. He sounded round his vessel, and discovered that she was fixed from forward to aft, and that without lightening her, there was no chance of getting her off. He then turned to where the admiral’s ship lay aground and found that, to all appearance, she was in even a worse plight, as the rocks to leeward of her were above the water, and she was much more exposed, should bad weather come on. Never, perhaps, was there a scene more cheerless and appalling: a dark wintry sea—a sky loaded with heavy clouds—the wind cold and piercing—the whole line of the coast one mass of barren rocks, without the slightest appearance of vegetation; the inland part of the country presented an equally sombre appearance, and the higher points were capped with snow, although it was not yet the winter season. Sweeping the coast with his eye, Philip perceived, not four miles to leeward of them (so little progress had they made), the spot where they had deserted the commodore.

“Surely this has been a judgment on him for his cruelty,” thought Philip, “and the prophecy of poor Avenhorn will come true—more bones than his will bleach on those rocks.” Philip, turned round again to where the admiral’s ship was on shore, and started back, as he beheld a sight even more dreadful than all that he had viewed—the body of Vander Hagen, the officer sent on board of the admiral hanging at the main-yard-arm. “My God! is it possible?” exclaimed Philip, stamping with sorrow and indignation.

His boat was returning on board, and Philip awaited it with impatience. The men hastened up the side, and breathlessly informed Philip that the admiral, as soon as he had heard the lieutenant’s report, and his acknowledgment that he was officer of the watch, had ordered him to be hung, and that he had sent them back with a summons for him to repair on board immediately, and that they had seen another rope preparing at the other yardarm.

“But not for you, sir,” cried the men—“that shall never be—you shall not go on board—and we will defend you with our lives.”

The whole ship’s company joined in this resolution, and expressed their determination to resist the admiral. Philip thanked them kindly—stated his intention of not going on board, and requested that they would remain quiet, until it was ascertained what steps the admiral might take. He then went down to his cabin, to reflect upon what plan he should proceed. As he looked out of the stern windows, and perceived the body of the young man still swinging in the wind, he almost wished that he was in his place, for then there would be an end to his wayward fate: but he thought of Amine, and felt, that for her he wished to live. That the Phantom Ship should have decoyed him to destruction was also a source of much painful feeling, and Philip meditated, with his hands pressed to his temples. “It is my destiny,” thought he at last, “and the will of Heaven must be done: we could not have been so deceived if Heaven had not permitted it.” And then his thoughts reverted to his present situation.

That the admiral had exceeded his powers in taking the life of the officer was undeniable, as although his instructions gave him power of life and death, still it was only to be decided by the sentence of the court-martial held by the captains commanding the vessels of the fleet; he therefore felt himself justified in resistance. But Philip was troubled with the idea that such resistance might lead to much bloodshed; and he was still debating how to act, when they reported to him that there was a boat coming from the admiral’s ship. Philip went upon deck to receive the officer, who stated that it was the admiral’s order that he should immediately come on board, and that he must consider himself now under arrest and deliver up his sword.

“No! no!” exclaimed the ship’s company of the Dort. “He shall not go on board. We will stand by our captain to the last.”

“Silence, men! silence!” cried Philip. “You must be aware, sir,” said he to the officer, “that in the cruel punishment of that innocent young man the admiral has exceeded his powers: and, much as I regret to see any symptoms of mutiny and insubordination, it must be remembered, that if those in command disobey the orders they have received, by exceeding them, they not only set the example, but give an excuse for those who otherwise would be bound to obey them, to do the same. Tell the admiral that his murder of that innocent man has determined me no longer to consider myself under his authority, and that I will hold myself as well as him answerable to the Company whom we serve, for our conduct. I do not intend to go on board and put myself in his power, that he might gratify his resentment by my ignominious death. It is a duty that I owe these men under my command to preserve my life, that I may, if possible, preserve theirs in this strait; and you may also add, that a little reflection must point out to him that this is no time for us to war with, but to assist each other with all our energies. We are here, shipwrecked on a barren coast, with provisions insufficient for any lengthened stay, no prospect of succour, and little of escape. As the commodore truly prophesied, many more are likely to perish as well as him—and even the admiral himself may be of the number. I shall wait his answer; if he choose to lay aside all animosity, and refer our conduct to a higher tribunal, I am willing to join with him in rendering that assistance to each other which our situation requires—if not, you must perceive, and of course will tell him, that I have those with me who will defend me against any attempt at force. You have my answer, sir, and may return on board.”

The officer went to the gangway, but found that none of his crew, except the bowman were in the boat; they had gone up to gain from the men of the Dort the true history of what they but imperfectly heard: and before they were summoned to return, had received full intelligence. They coincided with the seamen of the Dort, that the appearance of the Phantom Ship, which had occasioned their present disaster, was a judgment upon the admiral, for his conduct in having so cruelly deserted the poor commodore.

Upon the return of the officer with Philip’s answer, the rage of the admiral was beyond all bounds. He ordered the guns aft which would bear upon the Dort to be double-shotted, and fired into her; but Krantz pointed out to him that they could not bring more guns to bear upon the Dort, in their present situation, than the Dort could bring to bear upon them; that their superior force was thus neutralised, and that no advantage could result from taking such a step. The admiral immediately put Krantz under arrest, and proceeded to put into execution his insane intentions. In this he was, however, prevented by the seamen of the Lion, who neither wished to fire upon their consort, or to be fired at in return. The report of the boat’s crew had been circulated through the ship, and the men felt too much ill-will against the admiral, an perceived at the same time the extreme difficulty of their situation, to wish to make it worse. They did not proceed to open mutiny, but they went down below, and when the officers ordered them up, they refused to go upon deck; and the officers, who were equally disgusted with the admiral’s conduct, merely informed him of the state of the ship’s company, without naming individuals so as to excite his resentment against any one in particular. Such was the state of affairs when the sun went down. Nothing had been done on board the admiral’s ship, for Krantz was under arrest, and the admiral had retired in a state of fury to his cabin.

In the mean time, Philip and the ship’s company had not been idle—they had laid an anchor out astern, and hove taut: they had started all the water, and were pumping it out, when a boat pulled alongside, and Krantz made his appearance on deck.

“Captain Vanderdecken, I have come to put myself under your orders, if you will receive me—if not, render me your protection; for, as sure as fate, I should have been hanged to-morrow morning, if I had remained in my own ship. The men in the boat have come with the same intention—that of joining you, if you will permit them.”

Although Philip would have wished it had been otherwise, he could not well refuse to receive Krantz, under the circumstances of the case. He was very partial to him, and to save his life, which certainly was in danger, he would have done much more. He desired that the boat’s crew should return; but when Krantz had stated to him what had occurred on board the Lion, and the crew earnestly begged him not to send them back to almost certain death, which their having effected the escape of Krantz would have assured, Philip reluctantly allowed them to remain.

The night was tempestuous, but the wind being now off shore, the water was not rough. The crew of the Dort, under the directions of Philip and Krantz, succeeded in lightening the vessel so much during the night, that the next morning they were able to haul her off, and found that her bottom had received no serious injury. It was fortunate for them that they had not discontinued their exertions, for the wind shifted a few hours before sunrise, and by the time that they had shipped their rudder, it came on to blow fresh down the Straits, the wind being accompanied with a heavy swell.

The admiral’s ship still lay aground, and apparently no exertions were used to get her off. Philip was much puzzled how to act: leave the crew of the Lion he could not; nor indeed could he refuse, or did he wish to refuse the admiral, if he proposed coming on board; but he now made up his mind that it should only be as a passenger, and that he would himself retain the command. At present he contented himself with dropping his anchor outside, clear of the reef, where he was sheltered by a bluff cape, under which the water was smooth, about a mile distant from where the admiral’s ship lay on shore; and he employed his crew in replenishing his water-casks from a rivulet close to where the ship was anchored. He waited to see if the other vessel got off, being convinced that if she did not, some communication must soon take place. As soon as the water was complete, he sent one of his boats to the place where the commodore had been landed, having resolved to take him on board, if they could find him; but the boat returned without having seen anything of him, although the men had clambered over the hills to a considerable distance.

On the second morning after Philip had hauled his vessel off, they observed that the boats of the admiral’s ship were passing and repassing from the shore, landing her stores and provisions; and the next day, from the tents pitched on shore, it was evident that she was abandoned, although the boats were still employed in taking articles out of her. That night it blew fresh, and the sea was heavy; the next morning her masts were gone, and she turned on her broadside: she was evidently a wreck, and Philip now consulted with Krantz how to act. To leave the crew of the Lion on shore was impossible: they must all perish when the winter set in upon such a desolate coast. On the whole, it was considered advisable that the first communication should come from the other party, and Philip resolved to remain quietly at anchor.

It was very plain that there was no longer any subordination among the crew of the Lion, who were to be seen, in the day time, climbing over the rocks in every direction, and at night, when their large fires were lighted, carousing and drinking. This waste of provisions was a subject of much vexation to Philip. He had not more than sufficient for his own crew, and he took it for granted that, so soon as what they had taken on shore should be expended, the crew of the Lion would ask to be received on board of the Dort.

For more than a week did affairs continue in this state when one morning a boat was seen pulling towards the ship and in the stern-sheets Philip recognised the officer who had been sent on board to put him under arrest. When the officer came on deck he took off his hat to Philip.

“You do, then, acknowledge me as in command,” observed Philip.

“Yes, sir, most certainly; you were second in command, but now you are first—for the admiral is dead.”

“Dead!” exclaimed Philip—“and how?”

“He was found dead on the beach, under a high cliff, and the body of the commodore was in his arms; indeed, they were both grappled together. It is supposed, that in his walk up to the top of the hill, which he used to take every day, to see if any vessels might be in the Straits, he fell in with the commodore—that they had come to contention, and had both fallen over the precipice together. No one saw the meeting, but they must have fallen over the rocks, as the bodies are dreadfully mangled.”

On inquiry, Philip ascertained that all chance of saving the Lion had been lost after the second night, when she had beat in her larboard streak, and six feet water in the hold; that the crew had been very insubordinate, and had consumed almost all the spirits; and that not only all the sick had already perished, but also many others who had either fallen over the rocks, when they were intoxicated, or had been found dead in the morning from their exposure during the night.

“Then the poor commodore’s prophecy has been fulfilled!” observed Philip to Krantz. “Many others, and even the admiral himself, have perished with him—peace be with them! And now let us get away from this horrible place as soon as possible.”

Philip then gave orders to the officer to collect his men, and the provisions that remained, for immediate embarkation. Krantz followed soon after with all the boats, and before night everything was on board. The bodies of the admiral and commodore were buried where they lay, and the next morning the Dort was under weigh, and with a slanting wind was laying a fair course through the Straits.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Nineteen

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