The Phantom Ship

Chapter Twenty-four

Frederick Marryat

IT WAS not until the day had dawned that Philip opened his eyes, and discovered Krantz kneeling at his side; at first his thoughts were scattered and confused; he felt that some dreadful calamity had happened to him, but he could not recall to mind what it was. At last it rushed upon him, and he buried his face in his hands.

“Take comfort,” said Krantz; “we shall probably gain the shore to-day, and we will go in search of her as soon as we can.”

“This, then, is the separation and the cruel death to her which that wretch Schriften prophesied to us,” thought Philip; “cruel indeed to waste away to a skeleton, under a burning sun, without one drop of water left to cool her parched tongue; at the mercy of the winds and waves; drifting about—alone—all alone—separated from her husband, in whose arms she would have died without regret; maddened with suspense and with the thoughts of what I may be suffering, or what may have been my fate. Pilot, you are right; there can be no more cruel death to a fond and doting wife. Oh! my head reels! What has Philip Vanderdecken to live for now?”

Krantz offered such consolation as his friendship could suggest, but in vain. He then talked of revenge, and Philip raised his head. After a few minutes’ thought, he rose us. “Yes,” replied he, “revenge!—revenge upon these dastards and traitors! Tell me, Krantz how many can we trust?”

“Half of the men, I should think, at least. It was a surprise.” A spar had been fitted as a rudder, and the raft had now gained nearer the shore than it ever had done before. The men were in high spirits at the prospect, and every man was sitting on his own store of dollars which in their eyes, increased in value in proportion as did their prospect of escape.

Philip discovered from Krantz, that it was the soldiers and the most indifferent seamen who had mutinied on the night before, and cut away the other raft; and that all the best men had remained neuter.

“And so they will be now, I imagine,” continued Krantz; “the prospect of gaining the shore has, in a manner, reconciled them to the treachery of their companions.”

“Probably,” replied Philip, with a bitter laugh; “but I know what will rouse them. Send them here to me.”

Philip talked to the seamen whom Krantz had sent over to him. He pointed out to them that the other men were traitors not to be relied upon; that they would sacrifice everything and everybody for their own gain; that they had already done so for money, and that they themselves would have no security, either on the raft or on shore, with such people; that they dare not sleep for fear of having their throats cut, and that it were better at once to get rid of those who could not be true to each other; that it would facilitate their escape, and that they could divide between themselves the money which the others had secured, and by which they would double their own shares. That it had been his intention, although he had said nothing to enforce the restoration of the money for the benefit of the Company, as soon as they had gained a civilised port, where the authorities could interfere; but that, if they consented to join and aid him, he would now give them the whole of it for their own use.

What will not the desire of gain effect? Is it therefore to be wondered at, that these men, who were indeed but little better than those who were thus in his desire of retaliation, denounced by Philip, consented to his proposal? It was agreed, that if they did not gain the shore, the others should be attacked that very night, and tossed into the sea.

But the consultation with Philip had put the other party on the alert; they too held council, and kept their arms by their sides. As the breeze died away, they were not two miles from the land, and once more they drifted back into the ocean. Philip’s mind was borne down with grief at the loss of Amine; but it recovered to a certain degree when he thought of revenge: that feeling stayed him up, and he often felt the edge of his cutlass, impatient for the moment of retribution.

It was a lovely night; the sea was now smooth as glass, and not a breath of air moved in the heavens; the sail of the raft hung listless down the mast, and was reflected upon the calm surface by the brilliancy of the starry night alone. It was a night for contemplation—for examination of oneself, and adoration of the Deity; and here, on a frail raft, were huddled together more than forty beings, ready for combat, for murder, and for spoil. Each party pretended to repose; yet each were quietly watching the motions of the other, with their hands upon their weapons. The signal was to be given by Philip: it was, to let go the halyards of the yard, so that the sail should fall down upon a portion of the other party, and entangle them. By Philip’s directions, Schriften had taken the helm, and Krantz remained by his side.

The yard and sail fell clattering down, and then the work of death commenced; there was no parley, no suspense; each man started upon his feet and raised his sword. The voices of Philip and of Krantz alone were heard, and Philip’s sword did its work. He was nerved to his revenge, and never could be satiated as long as one remained who had sacrificed his Amine. As Philip had expected, many had been covered up and entangled by the falling of the sail, and their work was thereby made easier.

Some fell where they stood: others reeled back, and sunk down under the smooth water; others were pierced as they floundered under the canvas. In a few minutes the work of carnage was complete. Schriften meanwhile looked on, and ever and anon gave vent to his chuckling laugh—his demoniacal “he! he!”

The strife was over, and Philip stood against the mast to recover his breath. “So far art thou revenged, my Amine,” thought he; “but, oh! what are these paltry lives compared to thine?” And now that his revenge was satiated, and he could do no more, be covered his face up in his hands, and wept bitterly, while those who had assisted him were already collecting the money of the slain for distribution. These men, when they found that three only of their side had fallen lamented that there had not been more, as their own shares of the dollars would have been increased.

There were now but thirteen men besides Philip, Krantz, and Schriften, left upon the raft. As the day dawned, the breeze again sprung up, and they shared out the portions of water, which would have been the allowance of their companions who had fallen. Hunger they felt not; but the water revived their spirits.

Although Philip had had little to say to Schriften since the separation from Amine, it was very evident to him and to Krantz that all the pilot’s former bitter feelings had returned. His chuckle, his sarcasms, his “He! he!” were incessant; and his eye was now as maliciously directed to Philip as it was when they first met. It was evident that Amine alone had for the time conquered his disposition; and that with her disappearance had vanished all the good will of Schriften towards her husband. For this Philip cared little; he had a much more serious weight on his heart—the loss of his dear Amine; and he felt reckless and indifferent concerning anything else.

The breeze now freshened, and they expected that in two hours, they would run on the beach, but they were disappointed; the step of the mast gave way from the force of the wind, and the sail fell upon the raft. This occasioned great delay; and before they could repair the mischief, the wind again subsided, and they were left about a mile from the beach. Tired and worn out with his feelings, Philip at last fell asleep by the side of Krantz, leaving Schriften at the helm. He slept soundly—he dreamt of Amine—he thought she was under a grove of cocoa-nuts, in a sweet sleep; that he stood by and watched her, and that she smiled in her sleep and murmured “Philip,” when suddenly he was awakened by some unusual movement. Half dreaming still, he thought that Schriften, the pilot, had in his sleep been attempting to gain his relic, had passed the chain over his head, and was removing quietly from underneath his neck the portion of the chain which, in his reclining posture, he lay upon. Startled at the idea, he threw up his hand to seize the arm of the wretch, and found that he had really seized hold of Schriften, who was kneeling by him, and in possession of the chain and relic. The struggle was short, the relic was recovered, and the pilot lay at the mercy of Philip, who held him down with his knee on his chest. Philip replaced the relic on his bosom, and, excited to madness, rose from the body of the now breathless Schriften, caught it in his arms, and hurled it into the sea.

“Man or devil! I care not which,” exclaimed Philip, breathless; “escape now, if you can!”

The struggle had already roused up Krantz and others, but not in time to prevent Philip from wreaking his vengeance upon Schriften. In few words, he told Krantz what had passed; as for the men, they cared not; they laid their heads down again, and, satisfied that their money was safe, inquired no further.

Philip watched to see if Schriften would rise up again, and try to regain the raft; but he did not make his appearance above water, and Philip felt satisfied.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-five

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