The Phantom Ship

Chapter Twenty-six

Frederick Marryat

WE must for a time return to Philip, and follow his strange destiny. A few hours after he had thrown the pilot into the sea they gained the shore, so long looked at with anxiety and suspense. The spars of the raft, jerked by the running swell undulated and rubbed against each other, as they rose and fell to the waves breaking on the beach. The breeze was fresh, but the surf was trifling, and the landing was without difficulty. The beach was shelving, of firm white sand, interspersed and strewed with various brilliant-coloured shells; and here and there, the bleached fragments and bones of some animal which had been forced out of its element to die. The island was, like all the others, covered with a thick wood of cocoa-nut trees, whose tops waved to the breeze, or bowed to the blast, producing a shade and a freshness which would have been duly appreciated by any other party than the present, with the exception only of Krantz; for Philip thought of nothing but his lost wife, and the seamen thought of nothing but of their sudden wealth. Krantz supported Philip to the beach, and led him to the shade; but after a minute he rose, and running down to the nearest point, looked anxiously for the portion of the raft which held Amine, which was now far, far away. Krantz had followed, aware that, now the first paroxysms were past, there was no fear of Philip’s throwing away his life.

“Gone, gone for ever!” exclaimed Philip, pressing his hands to the balls of his eyes.

“Not so, Philip, the same providence which has preserved us, will certainly assist her. It is impossible that she can perish among so many islands many of which are inhabited; and a woman will be certain of kind treatment.”

“If I could only think so,” replied Philip.

“A little reflection may induce you to think that it is rather an advantage than otherwise, that she is thus separated—not from you, but from so many lawless companions whose united force we could not resist. Do you think that, after any lengthened sojourn on this island, these people with us would permit you to remain in quiet possession of your wife? No!—they would respect no laws; and Amine has, in my opinion, been miraculously preserved from shame and ill treatment, if not from death.”

“They durst not, surely! Well, but Krantz, we must make a raft and follow her; we must not remain here—I will seek her through the wide world.”

“Be it so, if you wish, Philip, and I will follow your fortunes,” replied Krantz, glad to find that there was something, however wild the idea, for his mind to feed on. “But now let us return to the raft, seek the refreshment we so much require, and after that we will consider what may be the best plan to pursue.”

To this, Philip, who was much exhausted, tacitly consented, and he followed Krantz to where the raft had been beached. The men had left it, and were each of them sitting apart from one another under the shade of his own chosen cocoa-nut tree. The articles which had been saved on the raft had not been landed, and Krantz called upon them to come and carry the things on shore—but no one would answer or obey. They each sat watching their money, and afraid to leave it, lest they should be dispossessed of it by the others. Now that their lives were, comparatively speaking, safe, the demon of avarice had taken full possession of their souls; there they sat, exhausted, pining for water, longing for sleep, and yet they dared not move,—they were fixed as if by the wand of the enchanter.

“It is the cursed dollars which have turned their brains,” observed Krantz to Philip; “let us try if we cannot manage to remove what we most stand in need of, and then we will search for water.”

Philip and Krantz collected the carpenter’s tools, the best arms, and all the ammunition, as the possession of the latter would give them an advantage in case of necessity; they then dragged on shore the sail and some small spars, all of which they carried up to a clump of cocoa-nut trees, about a hundred yards from the beach.

In half an hour they had erected an humble tent, and put into it what they had brought with them, with the exception of the major part of the ammunition, which, as soon as he was screened by the tent, Krantz buried in a heap of dry sand behind it; he then, for their immediate wants, cut down with an axe a small cocoa-nut tree in full bearing. It must be for those who have suffered the agony of prolonged thirst, to know the extreme pleasure with which the milk of the nuts were one after the other poured down the parched throats of Krantz and Philip. The men witnessed their enjoyment in silence, and with gloating eyes. Every time that a fresh cocoa-nut was seized and its contents quaffed by their officers, more sharp and agonising was their own devouring thirst—still closer did their dry lips glue themselves together—yet they moved not, although they felt the tortures of the condemned.

Evening closed in; Philip had thrown himself down on the spare sails, and had fallen asleep, when Krantz set off to explore the island upon which they had been thrown. It was small, not exceeding three miles in length, and at no one part more than five hundred yards across. Water there was none, unless it were to be obtained by digging; fortunately, the young cocoa-nuts prevented the absolute necessity for it. On his return, Krantz passed the men in their respective stations. Each was awake, and raised himself on his elbow to ascertain if it were an assailant; but, perceiving Krantz, they again dropped down. Krantz passed the raft—the water was now quite smooth, for the wind had shifted off shore, and the spars which composed the raft hardly jostled each other. He stepped upon it, and, as the moon was bright in the heavens he took the precaution of collecting all the arms which had been left, and throwing them as far as he could into the sea. He then walked to the tent, where he found Philip still sleeping soundly, and in a few minutes he was reposing by his side. And Philip’s dreams were of Amine; he thought that he saw the hated Schriften rise again from the waters, and, climbing up to the raft, seat himself by her side. He thought that he again heard his unearthly chuckle and his scornful laugh, as his unwelcome words fell upon her distracted ears. He thought that she fled into the sea to avoid Schriften, and that the waters appeared to reject her—she floated on the surface. The storm rose, and once more he beheld her in the sea-shell skimming over the waves. Again, she was in a furious surf on the beach, and her shell sank, and she was buried in the waves: and then he saw her walking on shore without fear and without harm, for the water which spared no one, appeared to spare her. Philip tried to join her, but was prevented by some unknown power, and Amine waved her hand and said, “We shall meet again, Philip; yes, once more on this earth shall we meet again.”

The sun was high in the heavens and scorching in his heat, when Krantz first opened his eyes, and awakened Philip. The axe again procured for them their morning’s meal. Philip was silent; he was ruminating upon his dreams, which had afforded him consolation. “We shall meet again!” thought he. “Yes, once more at least we shall meet again. Providence! I thank thee.”

Krantz then stepped out to ascertain the condition of the men. He found them faint, and so exhausted, that they could not possibly survive much longer, yet still watching over their darling treasure. It was melancholy to witness such perversion of intellect, and Krantz thought of a plan which might save their lives. He proposed to them each separately, that they should bury their money so deep, that it was not to be recovered without time: this would prevent any one from attacking the treasure of the other, without its being perceived and the attempt frustrated, and would enable them to obtain their necessary food and refreshment without danger of being robbed.

To this plan they acceded. Krantz brought out of the tent the only shovel in their possession, and they, one by one, buried their dollars many feet deep in the yielding sand. When they had all secured their wealth, he brought them one of the axes, and the cocoa-nut trees fell, and they were restored to new life and vigour. Having satiated themselves, they then lay down upon the several spots under which they had buried their dollars, and were soon enjoying that repose which they all so much needed.

Philip and Krantz had now many serious consultations as to the means which should be taken for quitting the island, and going in search of Amine; for although Krantz thought the latter part of Philip’s proposal useless, he did not venture to say so. To quit this island was necessary; and provided they gained one of those which were inhabited, it was all that they could expect. As for Amine, he considered that she was dead before this, either having been washed off the raft, or that her body was lying on it exposed to the decomposing heat of a torrid sun.

To cheer Philip, he expressed himself otherwise; and whenever they talked about leaving the island, it was not to save their own lives, but invariably to search after Philip’s lost wife. The plan which they proposed and acted upon was, to construct a light raft, the centre to be composed of three water-casks, sawed in half, in a row behind each other, firmly fixed by cross pieces to two long spars on each side. This, under sail, would move quickly through the water, and be manageable so as to enable them to steer a course. The outside spars had been selected and hauled on shore, and the work was already in progress; but they were left alone in their work, for the seamen appeared to have no idea at present of quitting the island. Restored by food and repose, they were now not content with the money which they had—they were anxious for more. A portion of each party’s wealth had been dug up, and they now gambled all day with pebbles, which they had collected on the beach, and with which they had invented a game. Another evil had crept among them: they had cut steps in the largest cocoa-nut trees, and with the activity of seamen had mounted them, and by tapping the top of the trees, and fixing empty cocoa-nuts underneath, had obtained the liquor, which in its first fermentation is termed toddy, and is afterwards distilled into arrack. But as toddy, it is quite sufficient to intoxicate; and every day the scenes of violence and intoxication, accompanied with oaths and execrations, became more and more dreadful. The losers tore their hair, and rushed like madmen upon those who had gained their dollars; but Krantz had fortunately thrown their weapons into the sea, and those he had saved, as well as the ammunition, he had secreted.

Blows and bloodshed, therefore, were continual, but loss of life there was none, as the contending parties were separated by the others, who were anxious that the play should not be interrupted. Such had been the state of affairs for now nearly a fortnight while the work of the raft had slowly proceeded. Some of the men had lost their all, and had, by the general consent of those who had won their wealth, been banished to a certain distance that they might not pilfer from them. These walked gloomily round the island, or on the beach, seeking some instrument by which they might avenge themselves, and obtain repossession of their money. Krantz and Philip had proposed to these men to join them and leave the island, but they had sullenly refused.

The axe was now never parted with by Krantz. He cut down what cocoa-nut trees they required for subsistence, and prevented the men from notching more trees to procure the means of inebriation. On the sixteenth day all the money had passed into the hands of three men, who had been more fortunate than the rest. The losers were now by far the more numerous party, and the consequence was, that the next morning these three men were found lying strangled on the beach; the money had been re-divided, and the gambling had re-commenced with more vigour than ever.

“How can this end?” exclaimed Philip to Krantz, as he looked upon the blackened countenances of the murdered men.

“In the death of all,” replied Krantz. “We cannot prevent it. It is a judgment.”

The raft was now ready; the sand had been dug from beneath it, so as to allow the water to flow in and float it, and it was now made fast to a stake and riding on the peaceful waters. A large store of cocoa-nuts, old and young, had been procured and put on board of her, and it was the intention of Philip and Krantz to have quitted the island the next day.

Unfortunately, one of the men, when bathing, had perceived the arms lying in the shallow water. He had dived down and procured a cutlass: others had followed his example, and all had armed themselves. This induced Philip and Krantz to sleep on board of the raft and keep watch; and that night, as the play was going on, a heavy loss on one side ended in a general fray. The combat was furious for all were more or less excited by intoxication. The result was melancholy, for only three were left alive. Philip, with Krantz watched the issue; every man who fell wounded was put to the sword, and the three left, who had been fighting on the same side, rested panting on their weapons. After a pause two of them communicated with each other, and the result was an attack upon the third man, who fell dead beneath their blows.

“Merciful Father! are these thy creatures?” exclaimed Philip.

“No,” replied Krantz, “they worshipped the devil as Mammon. Do you imagine that those two, who could now divide more wealth than they could well spend if they return to their country—will consent to a division? Never—they must have all—yes, all!”

Krantz had hardly expressed his opinion, when one of the men, taking advantage of the other turning round a moment from him, passed his sword through his back. The man fell with a groan, and the sword was again passed through his body.

“Said I not so? But the treacherous villain shall not reap his reward,” continued Krantz, levelling the musket which he held in his hand, and shooting him dead.

“You have done wrong, Krantz; you have saved him from the punishment he deserved. Left alone on the island, without the means of obtaining his subsistence, he must have perished miserably and by inches, with all his money round him; that would have been torture indeed!”

“Perhaps I was wrong. If so, may Providence forgive me, I could not help it. Let us go ashore, for we are now on this island alone. We must collect the treasure and bury it, so that it may be recovered; and, at the same time, take a portion with us; for who knows but that we may have occasion for it. Tomorrow we had better remain here, for we shall have enough to do in burying the bodies of these infatuated men, and the wealth which has caused their destruction.”

Philip agreed to the propriety of the suggestion; the next day they buried the bodies where they lay; and the treasure was all collected in a deep trench, under a cocoa-nut tree, which they carefully marked with their axe. About five hundred pieces of gold were selected and taken on board of the raft with the intention of secreting them about their persons, and resorting to them in case of need.

The following morning they hoisted their sail and quitted the island. Need it be said in what direction they steered? As may be well imagined, in that quarter where they had last seen the raft with the isolated Amine.

The Phantom Ship - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-seven

Back    |    Words Home    |    Frederick Marryat Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback