The Phantom Ship

Chapter Thirty-eight

Frederick Marryat

WE must now return to Philip and Krantz. When the latter retired from the presence of the Portuguese Commandant, he communicated to Philip what had taken place, and the fabulous tale which he had invented to deceive the Commandant. “I said that you alone knew where the treasure was concealed,” continued Krantz, “that you might be sent for, for in all probability he will keep me as a hostage: but never mind that, I must take my chance. Do you contrive to escape somehow or other, and rejoin Amine.”

“Not so,” rejoined Philip; “you must go with me, my friend: I feel that, should I part with you, happiness would no longer be in store for me.”

“Nonsense—that is but an idle feeling: besides, I will evade him somehow or another.”

“I will not show the treasure unless you go with me.”

“Well, you may try it at all events.”

A low tap at the door was heard. Philip rose and opened it (for they had retired to rest), and Pedro came in. Looking carefully round him, and then shutting the door softly, he put his finger on his lips, to enjoin them to silence. He then in a whisper told them what he had overheard. “Contrive, if possible, that I go with you,” continued he; “I must leave you now; he still paces his room.” And Pedro slipped out of the door, and crawled stealthily away along the ramparts.

“The treacherous little rascal! But we will circumvent him if possible,” said Krantz, in a low tone. “Yes, Philip, you are right, we must both go, for you will require my assistance. I must persuade him to go himself. I’ll think of it—so, Philip, good night.”

The next morning Philip and Krantz were summoned to breakfast; the Commandant received them with smiles and urbanity. To Philip he was peculiarly courteous. As soon as the repast was over, he thus communicated to him his intentions and wishes:—

“Signor, I have been reflecting upon what your friend told me, and the appearance of the spectre yesterday, which created such confusion; it induced me to behave with a rashness for which I must now offer my most sincere apologies. The reflections which I have made, joined with the feelings of devotion which must be in the heart of every true Catholic, have determined me, with your assistance, to obtain this treasure dedicated to the holy church. It is my proposal that you should take a party of soldiers under your orders, proceed to the island on which it is deposited, and having obtained it, return here. I will detain any vessel which may in the mean time put into the roadstead, and you shall then be the bearers of the treasure and of my letters to Goa. This will give you an honourable introduction to the authorities, and enable you to pass away your time there in the most agreeable manner. You will, also, signor, be restored to your wife, whose charms had such an effect upon me; and for mention of whose name in the very unceremonious manner which I did, I must excuse myself upon the ground of total ignorance of who she was, or of her being in any way connected with your honourable person. If these measures suit you, signor, I shall be most happy to give orders to that effect.”

“As a good Catholic myself,” replied Philip, “I shall be most happy to point out the spot where the treasure is concealed, and restore it to the church. Your apologies relative to my wife I accept with pleasure, being aware that your conduct proceeded from ignorance of her situation and rank; but I do not exactly see my way clear. You propose a party of soldiers. Will they obey me? Are they to be trusted? I shall have only myself and friend against them, and will they be obedient?”

“No fear of that, signor, they are well disciplined; there is not even occasion for your friend to go with you. I wish to retain him with me, to keep me company during your absence.”

“Nay! that I must object to,” replied Philip; “I will not trust myself alone.”

“Perhaps I may be allowed to give an opinion on this subject?” observed Krantz. “I see no reason, if my friend goes accompanied within a party of soldiers only, why I should not go with him; but I consider it would be unadvisable that he proceed in the way the commandant proposes, either with or without me. You must recollect, commandant, that it is no trifling sum which is to be carried away; that it will be open to view, and will meet the eyes of your men; that these men have been detained many years in this country, and are anxious to return home. When, therefore, they find themselves with only two strangers with them—away from your authority, and in possession of a large sum of money—will not the temptation be too strong? They will only have to run down the southern channel, gain the port of Bantam and they will be safe; having obtained both freedom and wealth. To send, therefore, my friend and me, would be to send us to almost certain death; but if you were to go, commandant, then the danger would no longer exist. Your presence and your authority would control them; and; whatever their wishes or thoughts might be, they would quail before the flash of your eye.”

“Very true—very true,” replied Philip—“all this did not occur to me.”

Nor had it occurred to the commandant, but when pointed out, the force of these suggestions immediately struck him, and long before Krantz had finished speaking, he had resolved to go himself.

“Well, signors,” replied he; “I am always ready to accede to your wishes; and since you consider my presence necessary and as I do not think there is any chance of another attack from the Ternate people just now, I will take upon myself the responsibility of leaving the fort for a few days under the charge of my lieutenant, while we do this service to holy Mother Church. I have already sent for one of the native vessels, which are large and commodious, and will, with your permission, embark to-morrow.”

“Two vessels will be better,” observed Krantz; “in the first place, in case of an accident; and next, because we can embark all the treasure in one with ourselves, and put a portion of the soldiers in the other; so that we may be in greater force, in case of the sight of so much wealth stimulating them to insubordination.”

“True, signor,” we will have two vessels; “your advice is good.”

Everything was thus satisfactorily arranged, with the exception of their wish that Pedro should accompany them on their expedition. They were debating how this should be brought on the tapis, when the soldier came to them, and stated that the commandant had ordered him to be of the party, and that he was to offer his services to the two strangers.

On the ensuing day everything was prepared. Ten soldiers and a corporal had been selected by the commandant; and it required but little time to put into the vessels the provisions and other articles which were required. At daylight they embarked—the Commandant and Philip in one boat; Krantz, with the corporal and Pedro, in the other. The men, who had been kept in ignorance of the object of the expedition, were now made acquainted with it by Pedro, and a long whispering took place between them, much to the satisfaction of Krantz, who was aware that the mutiny would soon be excited, when it was understood that those who composed the expedition were to be sacrificed to the avarice of the commandant. The weather being fine they sailed on during the night; passed the island of Ternate at ten leagues’ distance; and before morning were among the cluster of isles, the southernmost of which was the one on which the treasure had been buried. On the second night the vessels were beached upon a small island; and then, for the first time, a communication took place between the soldiers who had been in the boat with Pedro and Krantz, and those who had been embarked with the commandant. Philip and Krantz had also an opportunity of communicating apart for a short time.

When they made sail the next morning, Pedro spoke openly; he told Krantz that the soldiers in the boat had made up their minds, and that he had no doubt that the others would do so before night; although they had not decidedly agreed upon joining them in the morning when they had re-embarked. That they would despatch the commandant, and then proceed to Batavia, and from thence obtain a passage home to Europe.

“Cannot you accomplish your end without murder?”

“Yes, we could; but not our revenge. You do not know the treatment which we have received from his hands; and sweet as the money will be to us, his death will be even sweeter. Besides, has he not determined to murder us all in some way or another? It is but justice. No, no; if there was no other knife ready—mine is.”

“And so are all ours!” cried the other soldiers, putting their hands to their weapons.

One more day’s sail brought them within twenty miles of the island; for Philip knew his landmarks well. Again they handed, and all retired to rest, the commandant dreaming of wealth and revenge; while it was arranging that the digging up of the treasure which he coveted should be the signal for his death.

Once more did they embark, and the commandant heeded not the dark and lowering faces with which he was surrounded. He was all gaiety and politeness. Swiftly did they skim over the dark-blue sea, between the beautiful islands with which it was studded; and before the sun was three hours high, Philip recognised the one sought after, and pointed out to the commandant the notched cocoa-nut tree, which served as a guide to the spot where the money had been concealed. They landed on the sandy beach, and the shovels were ordered to be brought on shore by the impatient little officer; who little thought that every moment of time gained was but so much time lost to him, and that while he was smiling and meditating treachery, that others could do the same.

The party arrived under the tree—the shovels soon removed the light sand, and in a few minutes, the treasure was exposed to view. Bag after bag was handed up, and the loose dollars collected into heaps. Two of the soldiers had been sent to the vessels for sacks to put the loose dollars in, and the men had desisted from their labour; they laid aside their spades, looks were exchanged, and all were ready.

The commandant turned round to call to and hasten the movements of the men who had been sent for the sacks, when three or four knives simultaneously pierced him through the back; he fell, and was expostulating, when they were again buried in his bosom, and he lay a corpse. Philip and Krantz remained silent spectators—the knives were drawn out, wiped, and replaced in their sheaths.

“He has met his reward,” said Krantz.

“Yes,” exclaimed the Portuguese soldiers—“justice, nothing but justice.”

“Signors, you shall have your share,” observed Pedro; “shall they not, my men?”

“Yes! yes!”

“Not one dollar, my good friends,” replied Philip; “take all the money, and may you be happy; all we ask, is your assistance to proceed on our way to where we are about to go. And now, before you divide your money, oblige me by burying the body of that unfortunate man.”

The soldiers obeyed. Resuming their shovels, they soon scooped out a shallow grave: the commandant’s body was thrown in, and covered up from sight.

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