The Phantom Ship

Chapter Twenty-three

Frederick Marryat

I have then seen him,” said Philip, after he had lain down on the sofa in the cabin for some minutes to recover himself while Amine bent over him. “I have at last seen him, Amine! Can you doubt now?”

“No, Philip, I have now no doubt,” replied Amine, mournfully; “but take courage, Philip.”

“For myself, I want not courage—but for you, Amine—you know that his appearance portends a mischief that will surely come.”

“Let it come,” replied Amine, calmly; “I have long been prepared for it, and so have you.”

“Yes, for my self; but not for you.”

“You have been wrecked often, and have been saved—then why should not I?”

“But the sufferings!”

“Those suffer least who have most courage to bear up against them. I am but a woman weak and frail in body, but I trust I have that within me which will not make you feel ashamed of Amine. No, Philip, you will have no wailing; no expression of despair from Amine’s lips; if she can console you she will; if she can assist you she will; but come what may, if she cannot serve you, at least she will prove no burden to you.”

“Your presence in misfortune would unnerve me, Amine.”

“It shall not; it shall add to your resolution. Let fate do its worst.”

“Depend upon it, Amine, that will be ere long.”

“Be it so,” replied Amine; “but Philip, it were as well you showed yourself on deck; the men are frightened, and your absence will be observed.”

“You are right,” said Philip; and rising and embracing her, he left the cabin.

“It is but too true, then,” thought Amine. “Now to prepare for disaster and death; the warning has come. I would I could know more. Oh! mother, mother, look down upon thy child, and in a dream reveal the mystic arts which I have forgotten,—then should I know more; but I have promised Philip, that unless separated—yes, that idea is worse than death, and I have a sad foreboding; my courage fails me only when I think of that!”

Philip, on his return to the deck, found the crew of the vessel in great consternation. Krantz himself appeared bewildered—he had not forgotten the appearance of the Phantom Ship off Desolation Harbour, and the vessels following her their destruction. This second appearance, more awful than the former, quite unmanned him; and when Philip came out of the cabin he was leaning in gloomy silence against the weather-bulkhead.

“We shall never reach port again, sir,” said he to Philip, as he came up to him.

“Silence, silence; the men may hear you.”

“It matters not; they think the same,” replied Krantz.

“But they are wrong,” replied Philip, turning to the seamen. “My lads! that some disaster may happen to us, after the appearance of this vessel is most probable; I have seen her before more than once, and disasters did then happen; but here I am, alive and well, therefore it does not prove that we cannot escape as I have before done. We must do our best, and trust in Heaven. The gale is breaking fast, and in a few hours we shall have fine weather. I have met this Phantom Ship before, and care not how often I meet it again. Mr Krantz, get up the spirits—the men have had hard work, and must be fatigued.”

The very prospect of obtaining liquor appeared to give courage to the men; they hastened to obey the order, and the quantity served out was sufficient to give courage to the most tearful, and induce others to defy old Vanderdecken and his whole crew of imps. The next morning the weather was fine, the sea smooth, and the Utrecht went gaily on her voyage.

Many days of gentle breezes and favouring winds gradually wore off the panic occasioned by the supernatural appearance; and, if not forgotten, it was referred to either in jest or with indifference, he now had run through the straits of Malacca, and entered the Polynesian archipelago. Philip’s orders were to refresh and call for instructions at the small island of Boton, then in possession of the Dutch. They arrived there in safety, and after remaining two days, again sailed on their voyage, intending to make their passage between the Celebes and the island of Galago. The weather was still clear and the wind light; they proceeded cautiously, on account of the reefs and currents, and with a careful watch for the piratical vessels, which have for centuries infested those seas; but they were not molested, and had gained well up among the islands to the north of Galago, when it fell calm, and the vessel was borne to the eastward of it by the current. The calm lasted several days, and they could procure no anchorage; at last they found themselves among the cluster of islands near to the northern coast of New Guinea.

The anchor was dropped, and the sails furled for the night; a drizzling small rain came on, the weather was thick, and watches were stationed in every part of the ship, that they might not be surprised by the pirate proas, for the current ran past the ship at the rate of eight or nine miles per hour, and these vessels, if hid among the islands, might sweep down upon them unperceived.

It was twelve o’clock at night, when Philip, who was in bed, was awakened by a shock; he thought it might be a proa running alongside, and he started from his bed and ran out. He found Krantz, who had been awakened by the same cause, running up undressed. Another shock succeeded, and the ship careened to port. Philip then knew that the ship was on shore.

The thickness of the night prevented them from ascertaining where the were, but the lead was thrown over the side, and they found that they were lying on shore on a sandbank, with not more than fourteen feet water on the deepest side, and that they were broadside on with a strong current pressing them further up on the bank; indeed the current ran like a mill-race, and each minute they were swept into shallow water.

On examination they found that the ship had dragged her anchor which, with the cable, was still taut from the starboard bow, but this did not appear to prevent the vessel from being swept further up on the bank. It was supposed that the anchor had parted at the shank, and another anchor was let go.

Nothing more could be done till daybreak, and impatiently did they wait till the next morning. As the sun rose, the mist cleared away, and they discovered that they were on shore on a sandbank, a small portion of which was above water, and round which the current ran with great impetuosity. About three miles from them was a cluster of small islands with cocoa-trees growing on them, but with no appearance of inhabitants.

“I fear we have little chance,” observed Krantz to Philip. “If we lighten the vessel the anchor may not hold, and we shall be swept further on, and it is impossible to lay out an anchor against the force of this current.”

“At all events we must try; but I grant that our situation is anything but satisfactory. Send all the hands aft.”

The men came aft, gloomy and dispirited.

“My lads!” said Philip, “why are you disheartened?”

“We are doomed, sir; we knew it would be so.”

“I thought it probable that the ship would be lost—I told you so; but the loss of the ship does not involve that of the ship’s company—nay, it does not follow that the ship is to be lost, although she may be in great difficulty, as she is at present. What fear is there for us, my men?—the water is smooth—we have plenty of time before us—we can make a raft and take to our boats—it never blows among these islands, and we have land close under our lee. Let us first try what we can do with the ship; if we fail we must then take care of ourselves.”

The men caught at the idea and went to work willingly; the water-casks were started, the pumps set going, and everything that could be spared was thrown over to lighten the ship; but the anchor still dragged, from the strength of the current and bad holding-ground; and Philip and Krantz perceived that they were swept further on the bank.

Night came on before they quitted their toil, and then a fresh breeze sprung up and created a swell, which occasioned the vessel to heat on the hard sand; thus did they continue until the next morning. At daylight the men resumed their labours, and the pumps were again manned to clear the vessel of the water which had been started, but after a time they pumped up sand. This told them that a plank had started and that their labours were useless; the men left their work, but Philip again encouraged them and pointed out that they could easily save themselves, and all that they had to do was to construct a raft which would hold provisions for them, and receive that portion of the crew who could not be taken into the boats.

After some repose the men again set to work; the top-sails were struck, the yards lowered down, and the raft was commenced under the lee of the vessel, where the strong current was checked. Philip, recollecting his former disaster took great pains in the construction of this raft, and aware that as the water and provisions were expended there would be no occasion to tow so heavy a mass, he constructed it in two parts, which might easily be severed, and thus the boats would have less to tow, as soon as circumstances would enable them to part with one of them.

Night again terminated their labours, and the men retired to rest the weather continuing fine, with very little wind. By noon the next day the raft was complete; water and provisions were safely stowed on board; a secure and dry place was fitted up for Amine in the centre of one portion; spare robes, sails, and everything which could prove useful in case of their being forced on shore, were put in. Muskets and ammunition were also provided, and everything was ready, when the men came aft and pointed out to Philip that there was plenty of money on board, which it was folly to leave, and that they wished to carry as much as they could away with them. As this intimation was given in a way that made it evident they intended that it should be complied with, Philip did not refuse; but resolved, in his own mind, that when they arrived at a place where he could exercise his authority, the money should be reclaimed for the Company to whom it belonged. The men went down below, and while Philip was making arrangements with Amine, handed the casks of dollars out of the hold, broke them open and helped themselves—quarrelling with each other for the first possession, as each cask was opened. At last every man had obtained as much as he could carry, and had placed his spoil on the raft with his baggage, or in the boat to which he had been appointed. All was now ready—Amine was lowered down, and took her station—the boats took in tow the raft which was cast off from the vessel, and away they went with the current, pulling with all their strength to avoid being stranded upon that part of the sandbank which appeared above water. This was the great danger which they had to encounter, and which they very narrowly escaped.

They numbered eighty-six souls in all: in the boats there were thirty-two; the rest were on the raft, which, being well-built and full of timber, floated high out of the water, now that the sea was so smooth. It had been agreed upon by Philip and Krantz, that one of them should remain on the raft and the other in one of the boats; but at the time the raft quitted the ship, they were both on the raft, as they wished to consult, as soon as they discovered the direction of the current, which would be the most advisable course for them to pursue. It appeared, that as soon as the current had passed the bank, it took a more southerly direction towards New Guinea. It was then debated between them whether they should or should not land on that island, the natives of which were known to be pusillanimous, yet treacherous. A long debate ensued, which ended, however, in their resolve not to decide as yet, but wait and see what might occur. In the mean time, the boats pulled to the westward, while the current set them fast down in a southerly direction.

Night came on and the boats dropped the grapnels with which they had been provided; and Philip was glad to find that the current was not near so strong, and the grapnels held both boats and raft. Covering themselves up with the spare sails with which they had provided themselves, and setting a watch, the tired seamen were soon fast asleep.

“Had I not better remain in one of the boats?” observed Krantz. “Suppose, to save themselves, the boats were to leave the raft.”

“I have thought of that,” replied Philip, “and have, therefore, not allowed any provisions or water in the boats; they will not leave us for that reason.”

“True, I had forgotten that.”

Krantz remained on watch, and Philip retired to the repose which he so much needed. Amine met him with open arms.

“I have no fear, Philip,” said she; “I rather like this wild, adventurous change. We will go on shore and build our hut beneath the cocoa-trees, and I shall repine when the day comes which brings succour, and releases us from our desert isle. What do I require but you?”

“We are in the hands of One above, dear, who will act with us as He pleases. We have to be thankful that it is no worse,” replied Philip. “But now to rest, for I shall soon be obliged to watch.”

The morning dawned with a smooth sea and a bright blue sky; the raft had been borne to leeward of the cluster of uninhabited islands of which we spoke, and was now without hopes of reaching them; but to the westward were to be seen on the horizon the refracted heads and trunks of cocoa-nut trees, and in that direction it was resolved that they should tow the raft. The breakfast had been served out, and the men had taken to the oars, when they discovered a proa, full of men, sweeping after them from one of the islands to windward. That it was a pirate vessel there could be no doubt; but Philip and Krantz considered that their force was more than sufficient to repel them, should an attack be made. This was pointed out to the men; arms were distributed to all in the boats, as well as to those on the raft; and that the seamen might not be fatigued, they were ordered to lie on their oars, and await the coming up of the vessel.

As soon as the pirate was within range, having reconnoitred her antagonists, she ceased pulling, and commenced firing from a small piece of cannon, which was mounted on her bows. The grape and langridge which she poured upon, them wounded several of the men, although Philip had ordered them to lie down flat on the raft and in the boats. The pirate advanced nearer, and her fire became more destructive, without any opportunity of returning it by the Utrecht’s people. At last it was proposed, as the only chance of escape, that the boats should attack the pirate. This was agreed to by Philip; more men were sent in the boats; Krantz took the command; the raft was cast off, and the boats pulled away. But scarcely had they cleared the raft, when, as by one sudden thought, they turned round, and pulled away in the opposite direction. Krantz’s voice was heard by Philip, and his sword was seen to sash through the air; a moment afterwards he lunged into the sea, and swam to the raft. It appeared that the people in the boats, anxious to preserve the money which they had possession of, had agreed among themselves to pull away and leave the raft to its fate. The proposal for attacking the pirate had been suggested with that view, and as soon as they were clear of the raft, they put their intentions into execution. In vain had Krantz expostulated and threatened; they would have taken his life; and when he found that his efforts were of no avail he leaped from the boat. “Then are we lost, I fear,” said Philip. “Our numbers are so reduced, that we cannot hope to hold out long. What think you, Schriften?” ventured Philip addressing the pilot who stood near to him.

“Lost—but not lost by the pirates—no harm there! He! he!”

The remark of Schriften was correct. The pirates, imagining that in taking to their boats the people had carried with them everything that was valuable, instead of firing at the raft immediately gave chase to the boats. The sweeps were now out and the proa flew over the smooth water, like a sea-bird, passed the raft, and was at first evidently gaining on the boats but their speed soon slackened, and as the day passed, the boats and then the pirate vessel disappeared in the southward; the distance between them being apparently much the same as at the commencement of the chase.

The raft being now at the mercy of the wind and waves Philip and Krantz collected the carpenter’s tools which had been brought from the ship, and selecting two spars from the raft, they made every preparation for stepping a mast and setting sail by the next morning.

The morning dawned, and the first objects that met their view were the boats pulling back towards the raft, followed closely by the pirate. The men had pulled the whole night, and were worn out with fatigue It was presumed that a consultation had been held, in which it was agreed that they should make a sweep, so as to return to the raft, as, if they gained it, they would be able to defend themselves, and moreover obtain provisions and water, which they had not on board at the time of their desertion. But it was fated otherwise; gradually the men dropped from their oars, exhausted, into the bottom of the boat and the pirate vessel followed them with renewed ardour. The boats were captured one by one; the booty found was more than the pirates anticipated, and it hardly need be said that not one man was spared. All this took place within three miles of the raft, and Philip anticipated that the next movement of the vessel would be towards them, but he was mistaken. Satisfied with their booty, and imagining that there could be no more on the raft, the pirate pulled away to the eastward, towards the islands from amongst which she had first made her appearance. Thus were those who expected to escape, and who had deserted their companions, deservedly punished; whilst those who anticipated every disaster from this desertion discovered that it was the cause of their being saved.

The remaining people on board the raft amounted to about forty-five; Philip, Krantz, Schriften, Amine, the two mates, sixteen seamen, and twenty-four soldiers, who had been embarked at Amsterdam. Of provisions they had sufficient for three or four weeks; but of water they were very short, already not having sufficient for more than three days at the usual allowance. As soon as the mast had been stepped and rigged, and the sails set (although there was hardly a breath of wind), Philip explained to the men the necessity of reducing the quantity of water, and it was agreed that it should be served out so as to extend the supply to twelve days, the allowance being reduced to half a pint per day.

There was a debate at this time, as the raft was in two parts, whether it would not be better to cast off the smaller one and put all the people on board the other; but this proposal was overruled, as, in the first place, although the boats had deserted them, the number on the raft had not much diminished, and moreover, the raft would steer much better under sail, now that it had length, than it would do if they reduced its dimensions and altered its shape to a square mass of floating wood.

For three days it was a calm, the sun poured down his hot beams upon them, and the want of water was severely felt; those who continued to drink spirits suffered the most.

On the fourth day the breeze sprung up favourably, and the sail was filled; it was a relief to their burning brows and blistered backs; and as the raft sailed on at the rate of four miles an hour, the men were gay and full of hope. The land below the cocoa-nut trees was now distinguishable, and they anticipated that the next day they could land and procure the water which they now so craved for. All night they carried sail, but the next morning they discovered that the current was strong against them, and that what they gained when the breeze was fresh, they lost from the adverse current as soon as it went down; the breeze was always fresh in the morning, but it fell calm in the evening. Thus did they continue for four days more, every noon being not ten miles from the land, but the next morning swept away to a distance, and having their ground to retrace. Eight days had now passed, and the men, worn out with the exposure to the burning sun, became discontented and mutinous. At one time they insisted that the raft should be divided, that they might gain the land with the other half; at another, that the provisions which they could no longer eat should be thrown overboard to lighten the raft. The difficulty under which they lay was the having no anchor or grapnel to the raft, the boats having carried away with them all that had been taken from the ship. Philip then proposed to the men that, as everyone of them had such a quantity of dollars, the money should be sewed up in canvas bags, each man’s property separate; and that with this weight to the ropes they would probably be enabled to hold the raft against the current for one night, when they would be able the next day to gain shore; but this was refused—they would not risk their money. No, no—fools! they would sooner part with their lives by the most miserable of all deaths. Again and again was this proposed to them by Philip and Krantz, but without success.

In the mean time Amine had kept up her courage and her spirits, proving to Philip a valuable adviser and a comforter in his misfortunes. “Cheer up, Philip,” would she say; “we shall yet build our cottage under the shade of those cocoa-nut trees, and pass a portion, if not the remainder of our lives in peace; for who indeed is there who would think to find us in these desolate and untrodden regions?”

Schriften was quiet and well-behaved; talked much with Amine, but with nobody else. Indeed, he appeared to have a stronger feeling in favour of Amine than he had ever shown before. He watched over her and attended her; and Amine would often look up after being silent and perceive Schriften’s face wear an air of pity and melancholy which she had believed it impossible that he could have exhibited.

Another day passed; again they neared the land, and again did the breeze die away, and they were swept back by the current. The men now arose, and in spite of the endeavours of Philip and Krantz, they rolled into the sea all the provisions and stores, everything but one cask of spirits and the remaining stock of water; they then sat down at the upper end of the raft with gloomy, threatening looks and in close consultation.

Another night closed in; Philip was full of anxiety. Again he urged them to anchor with their money, but in vain; they ordered him away, and he returned to the after part of the raft, upon which Amine’s secure retreat had been erected; he leant on it in deep thought and melancholy, for he imagined that Amine was asleep.

“What disturbs you, Philip?”

“What disturbs me? The avarice and folly of these men. They will die, rather than risk their hateful money. They have the means of saving themselves and us, and they will not. There is weight enough in bullion on the fore part of the raft to hold a dozen floating masses such as this, yet they will not risk it. Cursed love of gold, it makes men fools, madmen, villains! We have now but two days’ water—doled out as it is drop by drop. Look at their emaciated, broken-down, wasted forms, and yet see how they cling to money, which probably they will never have occasion for, even if they gain the land. I am distracted!”

“You suffer, Philip, you suffer from privation, but I have been careful; I thought that this would come; I have saved both water and biscuit—I have here four bottles;—drink, Philip, and it will relieve you.”

Philip drank; it did relieve him, for the excitement of the day had pressed heavily on him.

“Thanks, Amine—thanks, dearest! I feel better now.—Good Heaven! are they such fools as to value the dross of metal above one drop of water in a time of suffering and privation such as this?”

The night closed in as before; the stars shone bright, but there was no moon. Philip had risen at midnight to relieve Krantz from the steerage of the raft. Usually the men had lain about in every part of the raft, but this night the majority of them remained forward. Philip was communing with his own bitter thoughts, when he heard a scuffle forward? and the voice of Krantz crying out to him for help, he quitted the helm, and seizing his cutlass ran forward, where he found Krantz down, and the men securing him. He fought his way to him, but was himself seized and disarmed. “Cut away—cut away,” was called out by those who held him; and, in a few seconds, Philip had the misery to behold the after part of the raft, with Amine upon it, drifted apart from the one on which he stood.

“For mercy’s sake! my wife—my Amine—for Heaven’s sake, save her!” cried Philip, struggling in vain to disengage himself. Amine also, who had run to the side of the raft held out her arms—it was in vain—they were separated more than a cable’s length. Philip made one more desperate struggle, and then fell down deprived of sense and motion.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-four

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