The Phantom Ship

Chapter Twenty-two

Frederick Marryat

THE UTRECHT sailed from Gambroon, touched at Ceylon, and proceeded on her voyage in the Eastern seas. Schriften still remained on board; but since his last conversation with Amine he had kept aloof, and appeared to avoid both her and Philip; still there was not, as before, any attempt to make the ship’s company disaffected, nor did he indulge in his usual taunts and sneers. The communication he had made to Amine had also its effect upon her and Philip; they were more pensive and thoughtful; each attempted to conceal their gloom from the other; and when they embraced, it was with the mournful feeling that perhaps it was an indulgence they would soon be deprived of: at the same time, they steeled their hearts to endurance and prepared to meet the worst. Krantz wondered at the change, but of course could not account for it. The Utrecht was not far from the Andaman Isles, when Krantz, who had watched the barometer, came in early one morning and called Philip.

“We have every prospect of a typhoon, sir,” said Krantz; “the glass and the weather are both threatening.”

“Then we must make all snug. Send down top-gallant yards and small sails directly. We will strike top-gallant masts. I will be out in a minute.”

Philip hastened on deck. The sea was smooth, but already the moaning of the wind gave notice of the approaching storm. The vacuum in the air was about to be filled up, and the convulsion would be terrible; a white haze gathered fast, thicker and thicker; the men were turned up, everything of weight was sent below, and the guns were secured. Now came a blast of wind which careened the ship, passed over, and in a minute she righted as before; then another and another, fiercer and fiercer still. The sea, although smooth, at last appeared white as a sheet with foam, as the typhoon swept along in its impetuous career; it burst upon the vessel, which bowed down to her gunnel and there remained; in a quarter of an hour the hurricane had passed over, and the vessel was relieved, but the sea had risen, and the wind was strong. In another hour the blast again came, more wild, more furious than the first, the waves were dashed into their faces, torrents of rain descended, the ship was thrown on her beam ends, and thus remained till the wild blast had passed away, to sweep destruction far beyond them, leaving behind it a tumultuous angry sea.

“It is nearly over, I believe, sir,” said Krantz. “It is clearing up a little to windward.”

“We have had the worst of it, I believe,” said Philip.

“No! there is worse to come,” said a low voice near to Philip. It was Schriften who spoke.

“A vessel to windward scudding before the gale,” cried Krantz.

Philip looked to windward, and in the spot where the horizon was clearest, he saw a vessel under topsails and foresail, standing right down. “She is a large vessel; bring me my glass.” The telescope was brought from the cabin, but before Philip could use it, a haze had again gathered up to windward, and the vessel was not to be seen.

“Thick again,” observed Philip, as he shut in his telescope; “we must look out for that vessel, that she does not run too close to us.”

“She has seen us, no doubt, sir,” said Krantz.

After a few minutes the typhoon again raged, and the atmosphere was of a murky gloom. It seemed as if some heavy fog had been hurled along by the furious wind; nothing was to be distinguished except the white foam of the sea, and that not the distance of half a cable’s length, where it was lost in one dark grey mist. The storm-stay-sail, yielding to the force of the wind, was rent into strips and flogged and cracked with a noise even louder than the gale. The furious blast again blew over, and the mist cleared up a little.

“Ship on the weather beam close aboard of us,” cried one of the men.

Krantz and Philip sprang upon the gunwale, and beheld the large ship bearing right down upon them, not three cables’ length distant.

“Helm up! she does not see us, and she will be aboard of us!” cried Philip. “Helm up, I say, hard up, quick!”

The helm was put up, as the men, perceiving their imminent danger, climbed upon the guns to look if the vessel altered her course; but no—down she came, and the head-sails of the Utrecht having been carried away, to their horror they perceived that she would not answer her helm, and pay off as they required.

“Ship ahoy!” roared Philip through his trumpet—but the gale drove the sound back.

“Ship ahoy!” cried Krantz on the gunwale, waving his hat. It was useless—down she came, with the waters foaming under her bows, and was now within pistol-shot of the Utrecht.

“Ship ahoy!” roared all the sailors, with a shout that must have been heard: it was not attended to: down came the vessel upon them, and now her cutwater was within ten yards of the Utrecht. The men of the Utrecht, who expected that their vessel would be severed in half by the concussion, climbed upon the weather gunwale, all ready to catch at the ropes of the other vessel, and climb on board of her. Amine, who had been surprised at the noise on deck, had come out, and had taken Philip by the arm.

“Trust to me—the shock—,” said Philip. He said no more; the cutwater of the stranger touched their sides; one general cry was raised by the sailors of the Utrecht,—they sprang to catch at the rigging of the other vessel’s bowsprit, which was now pointed between their masts—they caught at nothing—nothing—there was no shock—no concussion of the two vessels—the stranger appeared to cleave through them—her hull passed along in silence—no cracking of timbers—no falling of masts—the foreyard passed through their mainsail, yet the canvas was unrent—the whole vessel appeared to cut through the Utrecht, yet left no trace of injury—not fast, but slowly, as if she were really sawing through her by the heaving and tossing of the sea with her sharp prow. The stranger’s forechains had passed their gunwale before Philip could recover himself. “Amine,” cried he at last, “the Phantom Ship!—my father!”

The seamen of the Utrecht, more astounded by the marvellous result than by their former danger, threw themselves down upon deck; some hastened below, some prayed, others were dumb with astonishment and fear. Amine appeared more calm than any, not excepting Philip; she surveyed the vessel as it slowly forced its way through; she beheld the seamen on board of her coolly leaning over the gunwale, as if deriding the destruction they had occasioned; she looked for Vanderdecken himself, and on the poop of the vessel, with his trumpet under his arm she beheld the image of her Philip—the same hardy, strong build—the same features—about the same age apparently—there could be no doubt it was the doomed Vanderdecken.

“See, Philip,” said she, “see your father!”

“Even so—Merciful Heaven! It is—it is!” and Philip, overpowered by his feelings, sank upon deck.

The vessel had now passed over the Utrecht; the form of the elder Vanderdecken was seen to walk aft and look over the taffrail; Amine perceived it to start and turn away suddenly—she looked down, and saw Schriften shaking his fist in defiance at the supernatural being! Again the Phantom Ship flew to leeward before the gale, and was soon lost in the mist but, before that, Amine had turned and perceived the situation of Philip. No one but herself and Schriften appeared able to act or move. She caught the pilot’s eye, beckoned to him, and with his assistance Philip was led into the cabin.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-three

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