The Phantom Ship

Chapter Twenty-one

Frederick Marryat

THE CARGO of the Dort was soon ready, and Philip sailed and arrived at Amsterdam without any further adventure. That he reached his cottage, and was received with delight by Amine need hardly be said. She had been expecting him; for the two ships of the squadron, which had sailed on his arrival at Batavia, and which had charge of his despatches, had, of course, carried letters to her from Philip, the first letters she had ever received from him during his voyages. Six weeks after the letters Philip himself made his appearance, and Amine was happy. The Directors were, of course, highly satisfied with Philip’s conduct, and he was appointed to the command of a large armed ship, which was to proceed to India in the spring, one-third of which, according to agreement, was purchased by Philip out of the funds which he had in the hands of the Company. He had now five months of quiet and repose to pass away, previous to his once more trusting to the elements and this time, as it was agreed, he had to make arrangements on board for the reception of Amine.

Amine narrated to Philip what had occurred between her and the priest Mathias, and by what means she had rid herself of his unwished for surveillance.

“And were you practising your mother’s arts, Amine?”

“Nay, not practising them, for I could not recall them, but I was trying to recover them.”

“Why so, Amine? this must not be. It is, as the good father said, ‘unholy.’ Promise me you will abandon them now and for ever.”

“If that act be unholy, Philip, so is your mission. You would deal and co-operate with the spirits of another world—I would do no more. Abandon your terrific mission—abandon your seeking after disembodied spirits, stay at home with you Amine, and she will cheerfully comply with your request.”

“Mine is an awful summons from the Most High.”

“Then the Most High permits your communion with those who are not of this world?”

“He does; you know even the priests do not gainsay it although they shudder at the very thought.”

“If then He permits to one, He will to another; nay, ought that I can do is but with His permission.”

“Yes, Amine, so does He permit evil to stalk on the earth but He countenances it not.”

“He countenances your seeking after your doomed father, your attempts to meet him; nay, more He commands it. If you are thus permitted, why may not I be? I am your wife, a portion of yourself; and when I am left over a desolate hearth while you pursue your course of danger, may not I appeal also to the immaterial world to give me that intelligence which will soothe my sorrow, lighten my burden, and which, at the same time, can hurt no living creature? Did I attempt to practise these arts for evil purposes, it were just to deny them me, am wrong to continue them; but I would but follow in the step of my husband, and seek, as he seeks, with a good intent.”

“But it is contrary to our faith.”

“Have the priests declared your mission contrary to their faith? or, if they have, have they not been convinced to the contrary, and been awed to silence? But why argue, my dear Philip? Shall I not now be with you? and while with you I will attempt no more. You have my promise; but if separated I will not say but I shall then require of the invisible a knowledge of my husband’s motions, when in search of the invisible also.”

The winter passed rapidly away, for it was passed by Philip in quiet and happiness; the spring came on, the vessel was to be fitted out, and Philip and Amine repaired to Amsterdam.

The Utrecht was the name of the vessel to which he had been appointed, a ship of 400 tons, newly launched, and pierced for twenty-four guns. Two more months passed away, during which Philip superintended the fitting and loading of the vessel, assisted by his favourite Krantz, who served in her as first mate. Every convenience and comfort that Philip could think of was prepared for Amine; and in the month of May he started with orders to stop at Gambroon and Ceylon, run down the Straits of Sumatra, and from thence to force his way into the China seas, the Company having every reason to expect from the Portuguese the most determined opposition to the attempt. His ship’s company was numerous, and he had a small detachment of soldiers on board to assist the supercargo, who carried out many thousand dollars to make purchases at ports in China, where their goods might not be appreciated. Every care had been taken in the equipment of the vessel, which was perhaps the finest, the best manned, and freighted with the most valuable cargo, which had ever been sent out by the India Company.

The Utrecht sailed with a flowing sheet, and was soon clear the English Channel; the voyage promised to be auspicious, favouring gales bore them without accident to within a few hundred miles of the Cape of Good Hope, when, for the first time, they were becalmed. Amine was delighted: in the evenings she would pace the deck with Philip; then all was silent, except the splash of the wave as it washed against the side of the vessel—all was in repose and beauty, as the bright southern constellations sparkled over their heads.

“Whose destinies can be in these stars, which appear not to those who inhabit the northern regions?” said Amine, as she cast her eyes above, and watched them in their brightness; “and what does that falling meteor portend? what causes its rapid descent from heaven?”

“Do you then put faith in stars, Amine?”

“In Araby we do; and why not? They were not spread over the sky to give light—for what then?”

“To beautify the world. They have their uses, too.”

“Then you agree with me—they have their uses, and the destinies of men are there concealed. My mother was one of those who could read them well. Alas! for me they are a sealed book.”

“Is it not better so, Amine?”

“Better!—say better to grovel on this earth with our selfish, humbled race, wandering in mystery and awe, and doubt, when we can communicate with the intelligences above! Does not the soul leap at her admission to confer with superior powers? Does not the proud heart bound at the feeling that its owner is one of those more gifted than the usual race of mortals? Is it not a noble ambition?”

“A dangerous one—most dangerous.”

“And therefore most noble. They seem as if they would speak to me: look at you bright star—it beckons to me.”

For some time, Amine’s eyes were raised aloft; she spoke not, and Philip remained at her side. She walked to the gangway of the vessel, and looked down upon the placid wave, pierced by the moonbeams far below the surface.

“And does your imagination, Amine, conjure up a race of beings gifted to live beneath that deep blue wave, who sport amidst the coral rocks, and braid their hair with pearls?” said Philip, smiling.

“I know not, but it appears to me that it would be sweet to live there. You may call to mind your dream, Philip; I was then, according to your description, one of those same beings.”

“You were,” replied Philip, thoughtfully.

“And yet I feel as if water would reject me, even if the vessel were to sink. In what manner this mortal frame of mine may be resolved into its elements, I know not; but this I do feel, that it never will become the sport of, or be tossed by, the mocking waves. But come in, Philip, dearest; it is late, and the decks are wet with dew.”

When the day dawned, the look-out man at the masthead reported that he perceived something floating on the still surface of the water, on the beam of the vessel. Krantz went up with his glass to examine, and made it out to be a small boat, probably cut adrift from some vessel. As there was no appearance of wind, Philip permitted a boat to be sent to examine it and after a long pull, the seamen returned on board, towing the small boat astern.

“There is a body of a man in it, sir,” said the second mate to Krantz, as he gained the gangway; “but whether he is quite dead or not, I cannot tell.”

Krantz reported this to Philip, who was, at that time sitting at breakfast with Amine, in the cabin, and then proceeded to the gangway, to where the body of the man had been already handed up by the seamen. The surgeon, who had been summoned, declared that life was not yet extinct, and was ordering him to be taken below, for recovery, when, to their astonishment, the man turned as he lay, sat up, and ultimately rose upon his feet and staggered to a gun, when, after a time, he appeared to be fully recovered. In reply to questions put to him, he said that he was in a vessel which had been upset in a squall, that he had time to cut away the small boat astern, and that all the rest of the crew had perished. He had hardly made this answer, when Philip, with Amine, came out of the cabin, and walked up to where the seamen were crowded round the man; the seamen retreated so as to make an opening, when Philip and Amine, to their astonishment and horror, recognised their old acquaintance, one-eyed pilot Schriften.

“He! he! Captain Vanderdecken I believe—glad to see you in command, and you too, fair lady.”

Philip turned away with a chill at his heart; Amine’s eye flashed as she surveyed the wasted form of the wretched creature. After a few seconds she turned round and followed Philip into the cabin, where she found him with his face buried in his hands.

“Courage, Philip, courage!” said Amine; “it was indeed a heavy shock, and I fear me, forebodes evil; but what then? it is our destiny.”

“It is! it ought perhaps to be mine,” replied Philip, raising his head; “but you, Amine, why should you be a partner—“

“I am your partner, Philip, in life and in death. I would not die first, Philip, because it would grieve you; but your death will be the signal for mine, and I will join you quickly.”

“Surely, Amine, you would not hasten your own?”

“Yes! and require but one moment for this little steel to do its duty.”

“Nay! Amine, that is not lawful—our religion forbids it.”

“It may do so, but I cannot tell why. I came into this world without my own consent; surely I may leave it without asking the leave of priests! But let that pass for the present what will you do with that Schriften?”

“Put him on shore at the Cape—I cannot bear the odious wretch’s presence. Did you not feel the chill, as before, when you approached him?”

“I did—I knew that he was there before I saw him; but still I know not why, I feel as if I would not send him away.”

“Why not?”

“I believe it is because I am inclined to brave destiny, not to quail at it. The wretch can do no harm.”

“Yes, he can—much: he can render the ship’s company mutinous and disaffected; besides, he attempted to deprive me of my relic.”

“I almost wish he had done so; then must you have discontinued this wild search.”

“Nay, Amine, say not so; it is my duty, and I have taken my solemn oath—“

“But this Schriften—you cannot well put him ashore at the Cape; being a Company’s officer, you might send him home if you found a ship there homeward bound; still were I you I would let destiny work. He is woven in with ours, that is certain. Courage, Philip, and let him remain.”

“Perhaps you are right, Amine: I may retard, but cannot escape, whatever may be my intended fate.”

“Let him remain, then, and let him do his worst. Treat him with kindness—who knows what we may gain from him?”

“True, true, Amine; he has been my enemy without cause. Who can tell?—perhaps he may become my friend.”

“And if not, you will have done your duty. Send for him now.”

“No, not now—to-morrow; in the mean time, I will order him every comfort.”

“We are talking as if he were one of us, which I feel that he is not,” replied Amine; “but still, mundane or not we cannot but offer mundane kindness, and what this world, or rather what this ship, affords. I long now to talk with him to see if I can produce any effect upon his ice-like frame. Shall I make love to the ghoul?” And Amine burst into a bitter laugh.

Here the conversation dropped, but its substance was not disregarded. The next morning, the surgeon having reported that Schriften was apparently quite recovered, he was summoned into the cabin. His frame was wasted away to a skeleton, but his motions and his language were as sharp and petulant as ever.

“I have sent for you, Schriften, to know if there is anything that I can do to make you more comfortable. Is there anything that you want?”

“Want?” replied Schriften, eyeing first Philip and then Amine. “He! he I think I want filling out a little.”

“That you will, I trust, in good time; my steward has my orders to take care of you.”

“Poor man,” said Amine, with a look of pity, “how much he must have suffered! Is not this the man who brought you the letter from the Company, Philip?”

“He! he! yes! Not very welcome, was it, lady?”

“No, my good fellow; it’s never a welcome message to a wife, that sends her husband away from her. But that was not your fault.”

“If a husband will go to sea and leave a handsome wife when he has, as they say, plenty of money to live upon on shore, he! he!”

“Yes, indeed, you may well say that,” replied Amine.

“Better give it up. All folly, all madness—eh, captain?”

“I must finish this voyage, at all events,” replied Philip to Amine, “whatever I may do afterwards. I have suffered much, and so have you, Schriften. You have been twice wrecked; now tell me, what do you wish to do? Go home in the first ship, or go ashore at the Cape, or—“

“Or do anything, so I get out of this ship—he! he!”

“Not so. If you prefer sailing with me, as I know you are a good seaman, you shall have your rating and pay of pilot—that is, if you choose to follow my fortunes.”

“Follow?—Must follow. Yes! I’ll sail with you, Mynheer Vanderdecken, I wish to be always near you—he! he!”

“Be it so, then: as soon as you are strong again, you will go to your duty; till then, I will see that you want for nothing.”

“Nor I, my good fellow. Come to me if you do, and I will be your help,” said Amine. “You have suffered much; but we will do what we can to make you forget it.”

“Very good!—very kind!” replied Schriften, surveying the lovely face and figure of Amine. After a times shrugging up his shoulders, he added—“A pity! Yes, it is! Must be, though.”

“Farewell!” continued Amine, holding out her hand to Schriften.

The man took it, and a cold shudder went to her heart; but she, expecting such a result, would not appear to feel it. Schriften held her hand for a second or two in his own, looking at it earnestly, and then at Amine’s face. “So fair—so good! Mynheer Vanderdecken, I thank you. Lady, may Heaven preserve you!” Then squeezing the hand of Amine, which he had not released, Schriften hastened out of the cabin.

So great was the sudden icy shock which passed through Amine’s frame when Schriften pressed her hand, that when with difficulty she gained the sofa, she fell upon it. After remaining with her hand pressed against her heart for some time, during which Philip bent over her, she said, in a breathless voice, “That creature must be supernatural—I am sure of it—I am now convinced. Well,” continued she, after a pause of some little while, “all the better, if we can make him a friend; and if I can I will.”

“But think you, Amine, that those who are not of this world have feelings of kindness, gratitude, and ill-will, as we have? Can they be made subservient?”

“Most surely so. If they have ill-will—as we know they have—they must also be endowed with the better feelings. Why are there good and evil intelligences? They may have disencumbered themselves of their mortal clay, but the soul must be the same. A soul without feeling were no soul at all. The soul is active in this world, and must be so in the next. If angels can pity, they must feel like us. If demons can vex, they must feel like us. Our feelings change, then why not theirs? Without feelings, there were no heaven, no hell. Here our souls are confined, cribbed, and overladen—borne down by the heavy flesh by which they are, for the time, polluted; but the soul that has winged its flight from clay is, I think, not one jot more pure, more bright, or more perfect, than those within ourselves. Can they be made subservient, say you! Yes, they can; they can be forced, when mortals possess the means and power. The evil-inclined may be forced to good, as well as to evil. It is not the good and perfect spirits that we subject by art, but those that are inclined to wrong. It is over them that mortals have the power. Our arts have no power over the perfect spirits, but over those which are ever working evil, and which are bound to obey and do good, if those who master them require it.”

“You still resort to forbidden arts, Amine. Is that right?”

“Right! If we have power given to us, it is right to use it.”

“Yes, most certainly, for good; but not for evil.”

“Mortals in power, possessing nothing but what is mundane, are answerable for the use of that power; so those gifted by superior means are answerable as they employ those means. Does the God above make a flower to grow, intending that it should not be gathered! No! neither does he allow supernatural aid to be given, if he did not intend that mortals should avail themselves of it.”

As Amine’s eyes beamed upon Philip’s, he could not for the moment subdue the idea rising in his mind, that she was not like other mortals; and he calmly observed, “Am I sure, Amine, that I am wedded to one mortal as myself?”

“Yes! yes! Philip, compose yourself, I am but mortal; would to Heaven I were not. Would to Heaven I were one of those who could hover over you, watch you in all your perils, save and protect you in this your mad career but I am but a poor weak woman, whose heart beats fondly, devotedly for you—who for you would dare all and everything—who, changed in her nature, has become courageous and daring from her love—and who rejects all creeds which would prevent her from calling upon heaven, or earth, or hell, to assist her in retaining with her her soul’s existence!”

“Nay! nay! Amine,—say not you reject the creed. Does not this,”—and Philip pulled from his bosom the holy relic,—“does not this, and the message sent by it, prove our creed is true?”

“I have thought much of it, Philip. At first it startled me almost into a belief; but even your own priests helped to undeceive me. They would not answer you; they would have left you to guide yourself; the message and the holy word, and the wonderful signs given, were not in unison with their creed, and they halted. May I not halt, if they did? The relic may be as mystic, as powerful as you describe; but the agencies may be false and wicked—the power given to it may have fallen into wrong hands; the power remains the same, but it is applied to uses not intended.”

“The power, Amine, can only be exercised by those who are friends to Him who died upon it.”

“Then is it no power at all or if a power, not half so great as that of the arch-fiend; for his can work for good and evil both. But on this point, dear Philip, we do not well agree, nor can we convince each other. You have been taught in one way, I another. That which our childhood has imbibed—which has grown up with our growth, and strengthened with our years—is not to be eradicated. I have seen my mother work great charms and succeed. You have knelt to priests. I blame not you!—blame not, then, your Amine. We both mean well—I trust do well.”

“If a life of innocence and purity were all that were required, my Amine would be sure of future bliss.”

“I think it is; and thinking so, it is my creed. There are many creeds: who shall say which is the true one? And what matters it?—they all have the same end in view—a future Heaven.”

“True Amine, true,” replied Philip, pacing the cabin thoughtfully; “and yet our priests say otherwise.”

“What is the basis of their creed, Philip?”

“Charity and good-will.”

“Does charity condemn to eternal misery those who have never heard this creed—who have lived and died worshipping the Great Being after their best endeavours, and little knowledge?”

“No, surely.”

Amine made no further observations; and Philip, after pacing for a few minutes in deep thought, walked out of the cabin.

The Utrecht arrived at the Cape, watered, and proceeded on her voyage, and, after two months of difficult navigation, cast anchor off Gambroon. During this time Amine had been unceasing in her attempts to gain the good-will of Schriften. She had often conversed with him on deck, and had done him every kindness, and had overcome that fear which his near approach had generally occasioned. Schriften gradually appeared mindful of this kindness, and at last to be pleased with Amine’s company. To Philip he was at times civil and courteous, but not always; but to Amine he was always deferent. His language was mystical,—she could not prevent his chuckling laugh, his occasional “He! he!” from breaking forth. But when they anchored at Gambroon, he was on such terms with her, that he would occasionally come into the cabin; and, although he would not sit down, would talk to Amine for a few minutes, and then depart. While the vessel lay at anchor at Gambroon, Schriften one evening walked up to Amine, who was sitting on the poop. “Lady,” said he, after a pause, “yon ship sails for your own country in a few days.”

“So I am told,” replied Amine.

“Will you take the advice of one who wishes you well? Return in that vessel—go back to your own cottage, and stay there till your husband comes to you once more.”

“Why is this advice given?”

“Because I forebode danger—nay, perhaps death, a cruel death—to one I would not harm.”

“To me!” replied Amine, fixing her eyes upon Schriften, and meeting his piercing gaze.

“Yes, to you. Some people can see into futurity further than others.”

“Not if they are mortal,” replied Amine.

“Yes, if they are mortal. But, mortal or not, I do see that which I would avert. Tempt not destiny further.”

“Who can avert it? If I take your counsel, still was it my destiny to take your counsel. If I take it not, still it was my destiny.”

“Well, then, avoid what threatens you.”

“I fear not, yet do I thank you. Tell me, Schriften, hast thou not thy fate some way interwoven with that of my husband? I feel that thou hast.”

“Why think you so, lady?”

“For many reasons: twice you have summoned him—twice have you been wrecked, and miraculously reappeared and recovered. You know, too, of his mission—that is evident.”

“But proves nothing.”

“Yes! it proves much; for it proves that you knew what was supposed to be known but to him alone.”

“It was known to you, and holy men debated on it,” replied Schriften, with a sneer.

“How knew you that, again?”

“He! he!” replied Schriften. “Forgive me, lady; I meant not to affront you.”

“You cannot deny that you are connected mysteriously and incomprehensibly with this mission of my husband’s. Tell me, is it, as he believes, true and holy?”

“If he thinks that it is true and holy, it becomes so.”

“Why, then, do you appear his enemy?”

“I am not his enemy, fair lady.”

“You are not his enemy?—why, then, did you once attempt to deprive him of the mystic relic by which the mission is to be accomplished?”

“I would prevent his further search, for reasons which must not be told. Does that prove that I am his enemy? Would it not be better that he should remain on shore with competence and you, than be crossing the wild seas on this mad search? Without the relic it is not to be accomplished. It were a kindness, then, to take it from him.”

Amine answered not, for she was lost in thought.

“Lady,” continued Schriften, after a time, “I wish you well. For your husband I care not, yet do I wish him no harm. Now, hear me; if you wish for your future life to be one of ease and peace—if you wish to remain long in this world with the husband of your choice, of your first and warmest love—if you wish that he should die in his bed at a good old age, and that you should close his eyes, with children’s tears lamenting, and their smiles reserved to cheer their mother—all this I see, and can promise is in futurity, if you will take that relic from his bosom and give it up to me. But if you would that he should suffer more than man has ever suffered, pass his whole life in doubt anxiety, and pain, until the deep wave receive his corpse, then let him keep it. If you would that your own days be shortened, and yet those remaining be long in human suffering—if you would be separated from him, and die a cruel death—then let him keep it. I can read futurity and such must be the destiny of both. Lady, consider well; I must leave you now. To-morrow I will have your answer.”

Schriften walked away and left Amine to her own reflections. For a long while she repeated to herself the conversation and denunciations of the man, whom she was now convinced was not of this world, and was in some way or another deeply connected with her husband’s fate. “To me he wishes well, no harm to my husband, and would prevent his search. Why would he?—that he will not tell. He has tempted me tempted me most strangely. How easy ’twere to take the relic whilst Philip sleeps upon my bosom—but how treacherous! And yet a life of competence and ease, a smiling family, a good old age; what offers to a fond and doting wife! And if not, toil, anxiety, and a watery grave; and for me! Pshaw! that’s nothing. And yet to die separated from Philip, is that nothing? Oh, no, the thought is dreadful.—I do believe him. Yes he has foretold the future, and told it truly. Could I persuade Philip? No! I know him well; he has vowed, and is not to be changed. And yet, if the relic were taken without his knowledge, he would not have to blame himself. Who then would he blame? Could I deceive him? I, the wife of his bosom, tell a lie? No! no! it must not be. Come what will, it is our destiny, and I am resigned. I would that Schriften had not spoken! Alas! we search into futurity, and then would fain retrace our steps, and wish we had remained in ignorance.”

“What makes you so pensive, Amine?” said Philip, who some time afterwards walked up to where she was seated.

Amine replied not at first. “Shall I tell him all?” thought she. “It is my only chance—I will.” Amine repeated the conversation between her and Schriften. Philip made no reply; he sat down by Amine and took her hand. Amine dropped her head upon her husband’s shoulder. “What think you, Amine?” said Philip, after a time.

“I could not steal your relic, Philip; perhaps you’ll give it to me.”

“And my father, Amine, my poor father—his dreadful doom to be eternal! He who appealed, was permitted to appeal to his son, that that dreadful doom might be averted. Does not the conversation of this man prove to you that my mission is not false? Does not his knowledge of it strengthen all? Yet, why would he prevent it?” continued Philip, musing.

“Why I cannot tell, Philip, but I would fain prevent it. I feel that he has power to read the future, and has read aright.”

“Be it so; he has spoken, but not plainly. He has promised me what I have long been prepared for—what I vowed to Heaven to suffer. Already have I suffered much, and am prepared to suffer more. I have long looked upon this world as a pilgrimage, and (selected as I have been) trust that my reward will be in the other. But, Amine, you are not bound by oath to Heaven, you have made no compact. He advised you to go home. He talked of a cruel death. Follow his advice and avoid it.”

“I am not bound by oath, Philip; but hear me; as I hope for future bliss, I now bind myself.”

“Hold, Amine!”

“Nay, Philip, you cannot prevent me; for if you do now, I will repeat it when you are absent. A cruel death were a charity to me, for I shall not see you suffer. Then may I never expect future bliss, may eternal misery be my portion, if I leave you as long as fate permits us to be together. I am yours—your wife; my fortunes, my present, my future, my all, are embarked with you, and destiny may do its worst, for Amine will not quail. I have no recreant heart to turn aside from danger or from suffering. In that one point, Philip, at least, you chose, you wedded well.”

Philip raised her hand to his lips in silence, and the conversation was not resumed. The next evening, Schriften came up again to Amine. “Well, lady?” said he.

“Schriften, it cannot be,” replied Amine; “yet do I thank you much.”

“Lady, if he must follow up his mission, why should you?”

“Schriften, I am his wife—as for ever, in this world, and the next. You cannot blame me.”

“No,” replied Schriften, “I do not blame, I admire you. I feel sorry. But, after all, what is death? Nothing. He! he!” and Schriften hastened away, and left Amine to herself.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-two

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