The Phantom Ship

Chapter Thirty

Frederick Marryat

WE must now again return to Philip and Krantz, who had a long conversation upon the strange reappearance of Schriften. All that they could agree upon was, that he should be carefully watched, and that they should dispense with his company as soon as possible. Krantz had interrogated him as to his escape, and Schriften had informed him, in his usual sneering manner, that one of the sweeps of the raft had been allowed to get adrift during the scuffle, and that he had floated on it, until he had gained a small island; that on seeing the peroqua he had once more launched it, and supported himself by it, until he was perceived and picked up. As there was nothing impossible, although much of the improbable, in this account, Krantz asked no more questions. The next morning, the wind having abated, they launched the peroqua, and made sail for the island of Ternate.

It was four days before they arrived, as every night they landed and hauled up their craft on the sandy beach. Philip’s heart was relieved at the knowledge of Amine’s safety, and he could have been happy at the prospect of again meeting her, had he not been so constantly fretted by the company of Schriften.

There was something so strange, so contrary to human nature, that the little man, though diabolical as he appeared to be in his disposition, should never hint at, or complain of, Philip’s attempts upon his life. Had he complained—had he accused Philip of murder—had he vowed vengeance, and demanded justice on his return to the authorities, it had been different—but no—there he was, making his uncalled-for and impertinent observations with his eternal chuckle and sarcasm, as if he had not the least cause of anger or ill-will.

As soon as they arrived at the principal port and town of Ternate, they were conducted to a large cabin, built of palmetto leaves and bamboo, and requested not to leave it until their arrival had been announced to the king. The peculiar courtesy and good breeding of these islanders was the constant theme of remark of Philip and Krantz; their religion, as well as their dress, appeared to be a compound of the Mahometan and Malayan.

After a few hours, they were summoned to attend the audience of the king, held in the open air. The king was seated under a portico, attended by a numerous concourse of priests and soldiers. There was much company but little splendour. All who were about the king were robed in white, with white turbans, but he himself was without ornament. The first thing that struck Philip and Krantz, when they were ushered into the presence of the king, was the beautiful cleanliness which everywhere prevailed: every dress was spotless and white as the sun could bleach it.

Having followed the example of those who introduced them, and saluted the king after the Mahometan custom, they were requested to be seated; and through the Portuguese interpreters—for the former communication of the islanders with the Portuguese, who had been driven from the place, made the Portuguese language well known by many—a few questions were put by the king, who bade them welcome, and then requested to know how they had been wrecked.

Philip entered into a short detail, in which he stated that his wife had been separated from him, and was, he understood, in the hands of the Portuguese factory at Tidore. He requested to know if his majesty could assist him in obtaining her release, or in going to join her.

“It is well said,” replied the king. “Let refreshments be brought in for the strangers, and the audience be broken up.”

In a few minutes there remained of all the court but two or three of the king’s confidential friends and advisers; and a collation of curries, fish, and a variety of other dishes, was served up. After it was over, the king then said, “The Portuguese are dogs, they are our enemies—will you assist us to fight them? We have large guns, but do not understand the use of them as well as you do. I will send a fleet against the Portuguese at Tidore, if you will assist me. Say, Hollanders, will you fight? You,” addressing Philip, “will then recover your wife.”

“I will give an answer to you to-morrow,” replied Philip, “I must consult with my friend. As I told you before, I was the captain of the ship, and this was my second in command—we will consult together.” Schriften, whom Philip had represented as a common seaman, had not been brought up into the presence of the king.

“It is good,” replied the king; “to-morrow we will expect your reply.”

Philip and Krantz took their leave, and, on their return to the cabin, found that the king had sent them, as a present, two complete Mahometan dresses, with turbans. These were welcome, for their own garments were sadly tattered, and very unfit for exposure to the burning sun of those climes. Their peaked hats, too, collected the rays of heat, which were intolerable; and they gladly exchanged them for the white turban. Secreting their money in the Malayan sash, which formed a part of the attire, they soon robed themselves in the native garments, the comfort of which was immediately acknowledged. After a long consultation, it was decided that they should accept the terms offered by the king, as this was the only feasible way by which Philip could hope to re-obtain possession of Amine. Their consent was communicated to the king on the following day, and every preparation was made for the expedition.

And now was to be beheld a scene of bustle and activity. Hundreds and hundreds of peroquas, of every dimension, floating close to the beach, side by side, formed a raft extending nearly half a mile on the smooth water of the bay, teeming with men, who were equipping them for the service: some were fitting the sails; others were carpentering where required; the major portion were sharpening their swords, and preparing the deadly poison of the pine-apple for their creeses. The beach was a scene of confusion: water in jars, bags of rice, vegetables, salt-fish, fowls in coops, were everywhere strewed about among the armed natives, who were obeying the orders of the chiefs, who themselves walked up and down, dressed in their gayest apparel, and glittering in their arms and ornaments. The king had six long brass four-pounders, a present from an Indian captain; these, with a proportionate quantity of shot and cartridges, were (under the direction of Philip and Krantz) fitted on some of the largest peroquas, and some of the natives were instructed how to use them. At first, the king, who fully expected the reduction of the Portuguese fort, stated his determination to go in person, but in this he was overruled by his confidential advisers, and by the request of Philip, who could not allow him to expose his valuable life. In ten days all was ready, and the fleet, manned by seven thousand men, made sail for the island of Tidore.

It was a beautiful sight, to behold the blue rippling sea, covered with nearly six hundred of these picturesque craft, all under sail, and darting through the water like dolphins in pursuit of prey; all crowded with natives, whose white dresses formed a lively contrast with the deep blue of the water. The large peroquas, in which were Philip and Krantz, with the native commanders, were gaily decorated with streamers and pennons of all colours, that flowed out and snapped with the fresh breeze. It appeared rather to be an expedition of mirth and merriment, than one which was proceeding to bloodshed and slaughter.

On the evening of the second day they had made the island of Tidore, and run down to within a few miles of the Portuguese factory and fort. The natives of the country, who disliked, though they feared to disobey, the Portuguese, had quitted their huts near the beach and retired into the woods. The fleet, therefore, anchored and lay near the beach, without molestation, during the night. The next morning, Philip and Krantz proceeded to reconnoitre.

The port and factory of Tidore were built upon the same principle as almost all the Portuguese defences in those seas. An outer fortification, consisting of a ditch, with strong palisades embedded in masonry, surrounded the factory and all the houses of the establishment. The gates of the outer wall were open all day for ingress and egress, and closed only at night. On the seaward side of this enclosure was what may be termed the citadel, or real fortification; it was built of solid masonry, with parapets, was surrounded by a deep ditch, and was only accessible by a drawbridge, mounted with cannon on every side. Its real strength, however, could not well be perceived, as it was hidden by the high palisading which surrounded the whole establishment. After a careful survey, Philip recommended that the large peroquas with the cannon should attack by sea, while the men of the small vessels should land and surround the fort, taking advantage of every shelter which was afforded them to cover themselves while they harassed the enemy with their matchlocks, arrows, and spears. This plan having been approved of, one hundred and fifty peroquas made sail; the others were hauled on the beach, and the men belonging to them proceeded by land.

But the Portuguese had been warned of their approach, and were fully prepared to receive them; the guns mounted to the seaward were of heavy calibre and well served. The guns of the peroquas, though rendered as effectual as they could be, under the direction of Philip, were small, and did little damage to the thick stone front of the fort. After an engagement of four hours, during which the Ternate people lost a great number of men, the peroquas, by the advice of Philip and Krantz, hauled off, and returned to where the remainder of the fleet was stationed; and another council of war was held. The force, which had surrounded the fort, on the land side, was, however, not withdrawn, as it cut off any supplies or assistance; and, at the same time, occasionally brought down any of the Portuguese who might expose themselves—a point of no small importance, as Philip well knew, with a garrison so small as that in the fort.

That they could not take the fort by means of their cannon was evident; on the sea side it was for them impregnable: their efforts must now be directed to the land. Krantz, after the native chiefs had done speaking, advised that they should wait until dark, and then proceed to the attack in the following way. When the breeze set along shore, which it would do in the evening, he proposed that the men should prepare large bundles of dry palmetto and cocoa-nut leaves; that they should carry their bundles and stack them against the palisades to windward, and then set fire to them. They would thus burn down the palisades, and gain an entrance into the outer fortification; after which they could ascertain in what manner they should next proceed. This advice was too judicious not to be followed. All the men who had not matchlocks were set to collect fagots; a large quantity of dry wood was soon got together, and before night they were ready for the second attack.

The white dresses of the Ternates were laid aside: with nothing on them but their belts, and scimitars, and creeses, and blue under-drawers, they silently crept up to the palisades, there deposited their fagots, and then again returned, again to perform the same journey. As the breastwork of fagots increased, so did they more boldly walk up, until the pile was completed; they then, with a loud shout, fired it in several places. The flames mounted, the cannon of the fort roared, and many fell under the discharges of grape and hand-grenade. But stifled by the smoke, which poured in volumes upon them, the people in the fort were soon compelled to quit the ramparts to avoid suffocation. The palisades were on fire, and the flames mounting in the air, swept over, and began to attack the factory and houses. No resistance was now offered, and the Ternates tore down the burning palisades, and forced their way into the intrenchment, and with their scimitars and creeses put to death all who had been so unfortunate as not to take refuge in the citadel. These were chiefly native servants, whom the attack had surprised, and for whose lives the Portuguese seemed to care but little, for they paid no attention to their cries to lower the drawbridge, and admit them into the fort.

The factory, built of stone, and all the other houses, were on fire, and the island was lighted up for miles. The smoke had cleared away, and the defences of the fort were now plainly visible in the broad glare of the flames. “If we had scaling-ladders,” cried Philip, “the fort would be ours; there is not a soul on the ramparts.”

“True, true,” replied Krantz, “but even as it is, the factory walls will prove an advantageous post for us after the fire is extinguished; if we occupy it, we can prevent them showing themselves while the ladders are constructing. To-morrow night we may have them ready, and having first smoked the fort with a few more fagots, we may afterwards mount the walls, and carry the place.”

“That will do,” replied Philip, as he walked away. He then joined the native chiefs, who were collected together outside of the intrenchment, and communicated to them his plans. When he had made known his views, and the chiefs had assented to them, Schriften, who had come with the expedition unknown to Philip, made his appearance.

“That won’t do; you’ll never take that fort, Philip Vanderdecken. He! he!” cried Schriften.

Hardly had he said the words when a tremendous explosion took place, and the air was filled with large stones, which flew and fell in every direction, killing and maiming hundreds. It was the factory which had blown up, for in its vaults there was a large quantity of gunpowder, to which the fire had communicated.

“So ends that scheme, Mynheer Vanderdecken. He! he!” screamed Schriften; “you’ll never take that fort.”

The loss of life and the confusion caused by this unexpected result occasioned a panic, and all the Ternate people fled down to the beach where their peroquas were lying.

It was in vain that Philip and their chiefs attempted to rally them. Unaccustomed to the terrible effects of gunpowder in any large quantities, they believed that something supernatural had occurred, and many of them jumped into the peroquas and made sail, while the remainder were confused, trembling, and panting, all huddled together, on the beach.

“You’ll never take that fort, Mynheer Vanderdecken,” screamed the well-known voice.

Philip raised his sword to cleave the little man in two, but he let it fall again. “I fear he tells an unwelcome truth,” thought Philip; “but why should I take his life for that?”

Some few of the Ternate chiefs still kept up their courage, but the major part were as much alarmed as their people. After some consultation, it was agreed that the army should remain where it was till the next morning, when they should finally decide what to do.

When the day dawned, now that the Portuguese fort was no longer surrounded by the other buildings, they perceived that it was more formidable than they had at first supposed. The ramparts were filled with men, and they were bringing cannon to bear on the Ternate forces. Philip had a consultation with Krantz, and both acknowledged, that, with the present panic, nothing more could be done. The chiefs were of the same opinion, and orders were given for the return of the expedition, indeed, the Ternate chiefs were fully satisfied with their success; they had destroyed the large fort, the factory, and all the Portuguese buildings; a small fortification only was uninjured; that was built of stone, and inaccessible, and they knew that the report of what had been done would be taken and acknowledged by the king as a great victory. The order was therefore given for embarkation, and in two hours the whole fleet, after a loss of about seven hundred men, was again on its way to Ternate. Krantz and Philip this time embarked in the same peroqua, that they might have the pleasure of each other’s conversation. They had not, however, sailed above three hours when it fell calm, and, towards the evening, there was every prospect of bad weather. When the breeze again sprung up, it was from an adverse quarter, but these vessels steer so close to the wind, that this was disregarded: by midnight however the wind had increased to a gale, and before they were clear of the N.E. headland of Tidore, it blew a hurricane and many were washed off into the sea from the different craft, and those who could not swim, sank, and were drowned. The sails were lowered, and the vessels lay at the mercy of the wind and waves, every sea washing over them. The fleet was drifting fast on the shore, and before morning dawned, the vessel in which were Philip and Krantz was among the rollers on the beach off the northern end of the island. In a short time she was dashed to pieces, and every one had to look out for himself. Philip and Krantz laid hold of one fragment, and were supported by it till they gained the shore; here they found about thirty more companions, who had suffered the same fate as themselves. When the day dawned, they perceived that the major part of the fleet had weathered the point, and that those who had not, would in all probability escape, as the wind had moderated.

The Ternate people proposed, that as they were well armed, they should, as soon as the weather moderated, launch some of the craft belonging to the islanders, and join the fleet but Philip, who had been consulting with Krantz, considered this a good opportunity for ascertaining the fate of Amine. As the Portuguese could prove nothing against them, they could either deny that they had been among the assailants, or might plead that they had been forced to join them. At all risks, Philip was determined to remain, and Krantz agreed to share his fate; and seeming to agree with them, they allowed the Ternate people to walk to the Tidore peroquas, and while they were launching them, Philip and Krantz fell back into the jungle and disappeared. The Portuguese had perceived the wreck of their enemies, and, irritated by the loss they had sustained, they had ordered the people of the island to go out and capture all who were driven on shore. Now that they were no longer assailed, the Tidore people obeyed them, and very soon fell in with Philip and Krantz, who had quietly sat down under the shade of a large tree, waiting the issue. They were led away to the fort, where they arrived by nightfall. They were ushered into the presence of the Commandant, the same little man who had made love to Amine, and as they were dressed in Mussulman’s attire, he was about to order them to be hung, when Philip told him that they were Dutchmen, who had been wrecked, and forced by the king of Ternate to join his expedition; that they had taken the earliest opportunity of escaping, as was very evident, since those who had been thrown on shore with them had got off in the island boats, while they chose to remain. Whereupon the little Portuguese Commandant struck his sword firm down on the pavement of the ramparts, looked very big, and then ordered them to prison for further examination.

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