The Phantom Ship

Chapter Twenty-five

Frederick Marryat

WHAT pen could portray the feelings of the fond and doting Amine, when she first discovered that she was separated from her husband? In a state of bewilderment, she watched the other raft as the distance between them increased. At last the shades of night hid it from her aching eyes, and she dropped down in mute despair.

Gradually she recovered herself, and turning round, she exclaimed, “Who’s here?”

No answer.

“Who’s here!” cried she in a louder voice; “alone—alone—and Philip gone. Mother, mother, look down upon your unhappy child!” and Amine frantically threw herself down so near to the edge of the raft, that her long hair, which had fallen down, floated on the wave.

“Ah me! where am I?” cried Amine, after remaining in a state of torpor for some hours. The sun glared fiercely upon her, and dazzled her eyes as she opened them—she cast them on the blue wave close by her, and beheld a large shark motionless by the side of the raft, waiting for his prey. Recoiling from the edge, she started up. She turned round and beheld the raft vacant, and the truth flashed on her. “Oh! Philip, Philip!” cried she, “then it is true and you are gone for ever! I thought it was only a dream: I recollect all now. Yes—all—all!” And Amine sank down again upon her cot which had been placed in the centre of the raft, and remained motionless for some time.

But the demand for water became imperious; she seized one of the bottles, and drank. “Yet why should I drink or eat? why should I wish to preserve life?” She rose, and looked round the horizon. “Sky and water, nothing more. Is this the death I am to die—the cruel death prophesied by Schriften—a lingering death under a burning sun, while my vitals are parched within? Be it so! Fate, I dare thee to thy worst—we can die but once—and without him, what care I to live? But yet I may see him again,” continued Amine, hurriedly, after a pause. “Yes, I may—who knows? then welcome life; I’ll nurse thee for that bare hope—bare indeed, with naught to feed on. Let me see—is it here still?” Amine looked at her zone, and perceived her dagger was still in it. “Well, then, I will live since death is at my command, and be guardful of life for my dear husband’s sake.” And Amine threw herself on her resting-place that she might forget every thing. She did: from that morning till the noon of the next day she remained in a state of torpor.

When she again rose, she was faint; again she looked round her—there was but sky and water to be seen.

“Oh! this solitude—it is horrible! death would be a release—but no, I must not die—I must live for Philip.” She refreshed herself with water and a few pieces of biscuit, and folded her arms across her breast. “A few more days without relief, and all must be over. Was ever woman situated as I am, and yet I dare to indulge hope? Why, ’tis madness! And why am I thus singled out: because I have wedded with Philip? It may be so; if so, I welcome it. Wretches! who thus severed me from my husband; who to save their own lives, sacrificed a helpless woman! Nay! they might have saved me, if they had had the least pity;—but no, they never felt it. And these are Christians! The creed that the old priests would have had me—yes! that Philip would have had me embrace. Charity and good-will! They talk of it, but I have never seen them practise it! Loving one another!—forgiving one another!—say rather hating and preying upon one another! A creed never practised: why, if not practised of what value is it? Any creed were better—I abjure it, and if I be saved, will abjure it still for ever. Shade of my mother! is it that I have listened to these men—that I have to win my husband’s love, tried to forget that which thou taughtest, even when a child at thy feet—that faith which our forefathers for thousands of years lived and died in—that creed proved by works, and obedience to the prophet’s will—is it for this that I am punished? Tell me, mother—oh! tell me in my dreams.”

The night closed in, and with the gloom rose heavy clouds; the lightning darted through the firmament, ever and anon lighting up the raft. At last, the flashes were so rapid, not following each other—but darting down from every quarter at once, that the whole firmament appeared as if on fire, and the thunder rolled along the heavens, now near and loud, then rumbling in the distance. The breeze rose up fresh, and the waves tossed the raft, and washed occasionally even to Amine’s feet, as she stood in the centre of it.

“I like this—this is far better than that calm and withering heat—this rouses me,” said Amine as she cast her eyes up, and watched the forked lightning till her vision became obscured. “Yes, this is as it should be. Lightning, strike me if you please—waves, wash me off and bury me in a briny tomb—pour the wrath of the whole elements upon this devoted head—I care not, I laugh at, I defy it all. Thou canst but kill, this little steel can do as much. Let those who hoard up wealth—those who live in splendour—those that are happy—those who have husbands, children, aught to love—let them tremble; I have nothing. Elements! be ye fire, or water, or earth, or air, Amine defies you! And yet—no no, deceive not thyself. Amine, there is no hope; thus will I mount my funeral bier, and wait the will of destiny.” And Amine regained the secure place which Philip had fitted up for her in the centre of the raft, threw herself down upon her bed and shut her eyes.

The thunder and lightning was followed up by torrents of heavy rain, which fell till daylight; the wind still continued fresh, but the sky cleared, and the sun shone out. Amine remained shivering in her wet garments: the heat of the sun proved too powerful for her exhausted state, and her brain wandered. She rose up in a sitting posture, looked around her, saw verdant fields in every direction, the cocoa-nuts waving to the wind—imagined even that she saw her own Philip in the distance hastening to her; she held out her arms strove to get up, and run to meet him, but her limbs refused their office; she called to him, she screamed, and sank back exhausted on her resting-place.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-six

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