TIRED out with the fatigue of the day before, Philip had laid himself down by Krantz and fallen asleep; early the next morning he was awakened by the sound of the commandant’s voice, and his long sword rattling as usual upon the pavement. He rose, and found the little man rating the soldiers—threatening some with the dungeons, others with extra duty. Krantz was also on his feet before the commandant had finished his morning’s lecture. At last, perceiving them, in a stern voice he ordered them to follow him into his apartment. They did so, and the commandant, throwing himself upon his sofa, inquired whether they were ready to sign the required paper, or go back to the dungeon. Krantz replied that they had been calculating chances and that they were in consequence so perfectly convinced of the death of the captain, that they were willing to sign any paper to that effect; at which reply, the commandant immediately became very gracious, and having called for materials, he wrote out the document, which was duly subscribed to by Krantz and Philip. As soon as they had signed it, and he had it in his possession, the little man was so pleased, that he requested them to partake of his breakfast.
During the repast, he promised that they should leave the island by the first opportunity. Although Philip was taciturn, yet, as Krantz made himself very agreeable, the commandant invited them to dinner. Krantz, as they became more familiar, informed him that they had each a few pieces of gold, and wished to be allowed a room where they could keep their table. Whether it was the want of society or the desire of obtaining the gold, probably both, the commandant offered that they should join his table, and pay their proportion of the expenses; a proposal which was gladly acceded to. The terms were arranged, and Krantz insisted upon putting down the first week’s payment in advance. From that moment the commandant was the best of friends with them, and did nothing but caress them whom he had so politely shoved into a dungeon below water. It was on the evening of the third day, as they were smoking their Manilla cheroots that Krantz, perceiving the commandant in a peculiarly good humour, ventured to ask him why he was so anxious for a certificate of the captain’s death; and in reply was informed, much to the astonishment of Philip, that Amine had agreed to marry him upon his producing such a document.
“Impossible!” cried Philip, starting from his seat.
“Impossible, signor,—and why impossible?” replied the commandant, curling his mustachios with his fingers, with a surprised and angry air.
“I should have said impossible too,” interrupted Krantz, who perceived the consequences of Philip’s indiscretion, “for had you seen, commandant, how that woman doated upon her husband, how she fondled him, you would with us have said, it was impossible that she could have transferred her affections so soon; but women are women, and soldiers have a great advantage over other people; perhaps she has some excuse, commandant.—Here’s your health, and success to you.”
“It is exactly what I would have said,” added Philip, acting upon Krantz’s plan: “but she has a great excuse, commandant, when I recollect her husband, and have you in my presence.”
Soothed with the flattery, the commandant replied, “Why, yes, they say military men are very successful with the fair sex.—I presume it is because they look up to us for protections and where can they be better assured of it, than with a man who wears a sword at his thigh?—Come, signors we will drink her health. Here’s to the beautiful Amine Vanderdecken.”
“To the beautiful Amine Vanderdecken!” cried Krantz, tossing off his wine.
“To the beautiful Amine Vanderdecken,” followed Philip. “But, commandant, are you not afraid to trust her at Goa, where there are so many enticements for a woman, so many allurements held out for her sex?”
“No, not in the least—I am convinced that she loves me—nay, between ourselves, that she doats upon me.”
“Liar!” exclaimed Philip.
“How, signor! is that addressed to me?” cried the commandant, seizing his sword, which lay on the table.
“No, no,” replied Philip, recovering himself; “it was addressed to her. I have heard her swear to her husband, that she would exist for no other but him.”
“Ha! ha! Is that all?” replied the commandant; “my friend, you do not know women.”
“No, nor is he very partial to them either,” replied Krantz, who then leant over to the commandant and whispered, “He is always so when you talk of women. He was cruelly jilted once, and hates the whole sex.”
“Then we must be merciful to him,” replied the little officer: “suppose we change the subject.”
When they repaired to their own room, Krantz pointed out to Philip the necessity for his commanding his feelings, as otherwise they would again be immured in the dungeon. Philip acknowledged his rashness, but pointed out to Krantz, that the circumstance of Amine having promised to marry the commandant, if he procured certain intelligence of his death, was the cause of his irritation. “Can it be so? Is it possible that she can have been so false?” exclaimed Philip; “yet his anxiety to procure that document seems to warrant the truth of his assertion.”
“I think, Philip, that in all probability it is true,” replied Krantz, carelessly; “but of this you may be assured, that she has been placed in a situation of great peril, and has only done so to save herself for your sake. When you meet, depend upon it she will fully prove to you that necessity had compelled her to deceive him in that way and that if she had not done so, she would, by this time, have fallen a prey to his violence.”
“It may be so,” replied Philip, gravely.
“It is so, Philip, my life upon it. Do not for a moment harbour a thought so injurious to one who lives but in your love. Suspect that fond and devoted creature! I blush for you, Philip Vanderdecken.”
“You are right, and I beg her pardon for allowing such feelings or thoughts to have for one moment overpowered me,” responded Philip; “but it is a hard case for a husband who loves as I do, to hear his wife’s name bandied about, and her character assailed by a contemptible wretch like this commandant.”
“It is, I grant; but still I prefer even that to a dungeon,” replied Krantz, “and so, good night.”
For three weeks they remained in the fort, every day becoming more intimate with the commandant, who often communicated with Krantz, when Philip was not present, turning the conversation upon his love for Amine and entering into a minute detail of all that had passed. Krantz perceived that he was right in his opinion, and that Amine had only been cajoling the commandant, that she might escape. But the time passed heavily away with Philip and Krantz, for no vessel made its appearance.
“When shall I see her again?” soliloquised Philip one morning, as he lolled over the parapet, in company with Krantz.
“See who?” said the commandant, who happened to be at his elbow.
Philip turned round and stammered something unintelligible.
“We were talking of his sister, commandant,” said Krantz, taking his arm, and leading him away.—“Do not mention the subject to my friend, for it is a very painful one, and forms one reason why he is so inimical to the sex. She was married to his intimate friend and ran away from her husband: it was his only sister; and the disgrace broke his mother’s heart, and has made him miserable. Take no notice of it, I beg.”
“No, no, certainly not; I don’t wonder at it: the honour of one’s family is a serious affair,” replied the commandant.—“Poor young man, what with his sister’s conduct, and the falsehood of his own intended, I don’t wonder at his being so grave and silent. Is he of good family, signor?”
“One of the noblest in all Holland,” replied Krantz;—“he is heir to a large property, and independent by the fortune of his mother; but these two unfortunate events induced him to quit the States secretly, and he embarked for these countries that he might forget his grief.”
“One of the noblest families?” replied the commandant;—“then he is under an assumed name—Jacob Vancheat is not his true name, of course.”
“Oh, no,” replied Krantz;—“that it is not, I assure you; but my lips are sealed on that point.”
“Of course, except to a friend who can keep a secret. I will not ask it now. So he is really noble?”
“One of the highest families in the country, possessing great wealth and influence—allied to the Spanish nobility by marriage.”
“Indeed!” rejoined the commandant, musing—“I dare say he knows many of the Portuguese as well.”
“No doubt of it, they are all more or less connected.”
“He must prove to you a most valuable friend, Signor Richter.”
“I consider myself provided for for life as soon as we return home. He is of a very grateful, generous disposition, as he would prove to you, should you ever fall in with him.”
“I have no doubt of it; and I can assure you that I am heartily tired of staying in this country. Here I shall remain probably for two years more before I am relieved, and then shall have to join my regiment at Goa, and not be able to obtain leave to return home without resigning my commission. But he is coming this way.”
After this conversation with Krantz, the alteration in the manner of the Portuguese commandant, who had the highest respect for nobility, was most marked. He treated Philip with a respect which was observable to all in the fort; and which was, until Krantz had explained the cause, a source of astonishment to Philip himself. The commandant often introduced the subject to Krantz, and sounded him as to whether his conduct towards Philip had been such as to have made a favourable impression; for the little man now hoped, that through such an influential channel, he might reap some benefit.
Some days after this conversation, as they were all three seated at table, a corporal entered, and saluting the commandant, informed him that a Dutch sailor had arrived at fort, and wished to know whether he should be admitted. Both Philip and Krantz turned pale at this communication—they had a presentiment of evil but they said nothing. The sailor was ordered in, and in a few minutes, who should make his appearance but their tormentor, the one-eyed Schriften. On perceiving Philip and Krantz seated at the table, he immediately exclaimed, “Oh! Captain Philip Vanderdecken, and my good friend Mynheer Krantz, first mate of the good ship Utrecht, I am glad to meet you again.”
“Captain Philip Vanderdecken!” roared the commandant, as he sprung from his chair.
“Yes, that is my captain, Mynheer Philip Vanderdecken and that is my first mate, Mynheer Krantz; both of the good ship Utrecht: we were wrecked together, were we not. Mynheer? He! he!”
“Sangue de—Vanderdecken! the husband! Corpo del diavolo—is it possible!” cried the commandant, panting for breath, as he seized his long sword with both hands and clenched it with fury.—“What, then, I have been deceived, cajoled, laughed at!” Then, after a pause—the veins of his forehead distending so as almost to burst—he continued, with a suppressed voice, “Most noble sir, I thank you; but now it is my turn.—What, ho! there! Corporal—men, here, instantly—quick!”
Philip and Krantz felt convinced that all denial was useless. Philip folded his arms and made no reply. Krantz merely observed, “A little reflection will prove to you, sir, that this indignation is not warranted.”
“Not warranted!” rejoined the commandant with a sneer, “you have deceived me; but you are caught in your own trap. I have the paper signed, which I shall not fail to make use of. You are dead, you know, Captain; I have your own hand to it, and your wife will be glad to believe it.”
“She has deceived you, commandant, to get out of your power, nothing more,” said Vanderdecken. “She would spurn a contemptible withered wretch like yourself, were she as free as the wind.”
“Go on, go on; it will be my turn soon. Corporal, throw these two men into the dungeon: a sentry at the door till further orders. Away with them! Most noble sir, perhaps your influential friends in Holland and Spain will enable you to get out again.”
Philip and Krantz were led away by the soldiers, who were very much surprised at this change of treatment. Schriften followed them; and as they walked across the rampart to the stairs which led to their prison, Krantz, in his fury, burst from the soldiers, and bestowed a kick upon Schriften, which sent him several feet forward on his face.
“That was a good one—he! he!” cried Schriften, smiling and looking at Krantz as he regained his legs.
There was an eye, however, which met theirs with an intelligent glance, as they descended the stairs to the dungeon. It was that of the soldier Pedro. It told them that there was one friend upon whom they could rely, and who would spare no endeavour to assist them in their new difficulty. It was a consolation to them both; a ray of hope which cheered them as they once more descended the narrow steps, and heard the heavy key turned which again secured them in their dungeon.