YEARS have passed away since we related Amine’s sufferings and cruel death; and now once more we bring Philip Vanderdecken on the scene. And during this time, where has he been? A lunatic—at one time frantic, chained, coerced with blows; at others, mild and peaceable. Reason occasionally appeared to burst out again, as the sun on a cloudy day, and then it was again obscured. For many years there was one who watched him carefully, and lived in hope to witness his return to a sane mind; he watched in sorrow and remorse—he died without his desires being gratified. This was Father Mathias!
The cottage at Terneuse had long fallen into ruin; for many years it waited the return of its owners, and at last the heirs-at-law claimed and recovered the substance of Philip Vanderdecken. Even the fate of Amine had passed from the recollection of most people; although her portrait over burning coals, with her crime announced beneath it, still hangs—as is the custom in the church of the Inquisition—attracting from its expressive beauty, the attention of the most careless passers-by.
But many, many years have rolled away—Philip’s hair is white—his once powerful frame is broken down—and he appears much older than he really is. He is now sane; but his vigour is gone. Weary of life, all he wishes for is to execute his mission—and then to welcome death.
The relic has never been taken from him: he has been discharged from the lunatic-asylum, and has been provided with the means of returning to his country. Alas! he has now no country—no home—nothing in the world to induce him to remain in it. All he asks is—to do his duty and to die.
The ship was ready to sail for Europe; and Philip Vanderdecken went on board—hardly caring whither he went. To return to Terneuse was not his object; he could not bear the idea of revisiting the scene of so much happiness and so much misery. Amine’s form was engraven on his heart, and he looked forward with impatience to the time when he should be summoned to join her in the land of spirits.
He had awakened as from a dream, after so many years of aberration of intellect. He was no longer the sincere Catholic that he had been; for he never thought of religion without his Amine’s cruel fate being brought to his recollection. Still he clung on to the relic—he believed in that—and that only. It was his god—his creed—his everything—the passport for himself and for his father into the next world—the means whereby he should join his Amine—and for hours would he remain holding in his hand that object so valued—gazing upon it—recalling every important event in his life, from the death of his poor mother, and his first sight of Amine, to the last dreadful scene. It was to him a journal of his existence, and on it were fixed all his hopes for the future.
“When! oh when is it to be accomplished?” was the constant subject of his reveries. “Blessed indeed will be the day when I leave this world of hate, and seek that other in which the weary are at rest.”
The vessel on board of which Philip was embarked as a passenger was the Nostra Senora da Monte, a brig of three hundred tons, bound for Lisbon. The captain was an old Portuguese, full of superstition, and fond of arrack—a fondness rather unusual with the people of his nation. They sailed from Goa, and Philip was standing abaft, and sadly contemplating the spire of the cathedral, in which he had last parted with his wife, when his elbow was touched, and he turned round.
“Fellow-passenger, again!” said a well-known voice—it was that of the pilot Schriften.
There was no alteration in the man’s appearance; he showed no marks of declining years; his one eye glared as keenly as ever.
Philip started, not only at the sight of the man, but at the reminiscences which his unexpected appearance brought to his mind. It was but for a second, and he was again calm and pensive.
“You here again, Schriften?” observed Philip. “I trust your appearance forebodes the accomplishment of my task.”
“Perhaps it does,” replied the pilot; “we both are weary.”
Philip made no reply; he did not even ask Schriften in what manner he had escaped from the fort; he was indifferent about it; for he felt that the man had a charmed life.
“Many are the vessels that have been wrecked, Philip Vanderdecken, and many the souls summoned to their account by meeting with your father’s ship, while you have been so long shut up,” observed the pilot.
“May our next meeting with him be more fortunate—may it be the last!” replied Philip.
“No, no! rather may he fulfil his doom, and sail till the day of judgment!” replied the pilot, with emphasis.
“Vile caitiff! I have a foreboding that you will not have your detestable wish. Away!—leave me! or you shall find, that although this head is blanched by misery, this arm has still some power.”
Schriften scowled as he walked away; he appeared to have some fear of Philip, although it was not equal to his hate. He now resumed his former attempts of stirring up the ship’s company against Philip, declaring that he was a Jonah, who would occasion the loss of the ship, and that he was connected with the Flying Dutchman. Philip very soon observed that he was avoided; and he resorted to counter-statements, equally injurious to Schriften, whom he declared to be a demon. The appearance of Schriften was so much against him, while that of Philip, on the contrary, was so prepossessing, that the people on board hardly knew what to think. They were divided: some were on the side of Philip—some on that of Schriften; the captain and many others looking with equal horror upon both, and longing for the time when they could be sent out of the vessel.
The captain, as we have before observed, was very superstitious, and very fond of his bottle. In the morning he would be sober and pray; in the afternoon he would be drunk and swear at the very saints whose protection he had invoked but a few hours before.
“May holy Saint Antonio preserve us, and keep us from temptation,” said he, on the morning after a conversation with the passengers about the Phantom Ship. “All the saints protect us from harm,” continued he, taking off his hat reverentially and crossing himself. “Let me but rid myself of these two dangerous men without accident, and I will offer up a hundred wax candles, of three ounces each, to the shrine of the Virgin, upon my safe anchoring off the tower of Belem.” In the evening he changed his language.
“Now, if that Maldetto Saint Antonio don’t help us, may he feel the coals of hell yet! damn him, and his pigs too; if he has the courage to do his duty, all will be well; but he is a cowardly wretch, he cares for nobody, and will not help those who call upon him in trouble. Carambo, that for you!” exclaimed the captain, looking at the small shrine of the saint at the bittacle, and snapping his fingers at the image; “that for you, you useless wretch, who never help us in our trouble. The pope must canonise some better saints for us, for all we have now are worn out. They could do something formerly, but now I would not give two ounces of gold for the whole calendar; as for you, you lazy old scoundrel—“ continued the captain, shaking his fist at poor Saint Antonio.
The ship had now gained off the southern coast of Africa, and was about one hundred miles from the Lagullas coast; the morning was beautiful, a slight ripple only turned over the waves, the breeze was light and steady, and the vessel was standing on a wind at the rate of about four miles an hour.
“Blessed be the holy saints,” said the captain, who had just gained the deck; “another little slant in our favour, and we shall lay our course. Again, I say, blessed be the holy saints, and particularly our worthy patron, Saint Antonio, who has taken under his peculiar protection the Nostra Senora da Monte. We have a prospect of fine weather; come, signors, let us down to breakfast, and after breakfast, we enjoy our cigarros upon the deck.”
But the scene was soon changed; a bank of clouds rose up from the eastward with a rapidity that to the seamen’s eyes was unnatural, and it soon covered the whole firmament; the sun was obscured, and all was one deep and unnatural gloom; the wind subsided, and the ocean was hushed. It was not exactly dark, but the heavens were covered with one red haze, which gave an appearance as if the world was in a state of conflagration.
In the cabin the increased darkness was first observed by Philip, who went on deck; he was followed by the captain and passengers, who were in a state of amazement. It was unnatural and incomprehensible. “Now, holy Virgin, protect us!—what can this be?” exclaimed the captain in a fright “Holy Saint Antonio, protect us!—but this is awful.”
“There—there!” shouted the sailors, pointing to the beam of the vessel. Every eye looked over the gunnel to witness what had occasioned such exclamations. Philip, Schriften, and the captain, were side by side. On the beam of the ship, not more than two cables’ length distant, they beheld slowly rising out of the water the tapering masthead and spars of another vessel. She rose, and rose, gradually; her topmasts and topsail yards, with the sails set, next made their appearance; higher and higher she rose up from the element. Her lower masts and rigging, and, lastly, her hull showed itself above the surface. Still she rose up, till her ports, with her guns, and at last the whole of her floatage was above water and there she remained close to them, with her main yard squared, and hove-to.
“Holy Virgin!” exclaimed the captain, breathless; “I have known ships to go down, but never to come up before. Now will I give one thousand candles, of ten ounces each, to the shrine of the Virgin, to save us in this trouble. One thousand wax candles! Hear me, blessed lady, ten ounces each! Gentlemen,” cried the captain to the passengers, who stood aghast; “why don’t you promise?—promise, I say; promise, at all events.”
“The Phantom Ship—the Flying Dutchman,” shrieked Schriften; “I told you so, Philip Vanderdecken; there is your father—he, he!”
Philip’s eyes had remained fixed on the vessel; he perceived that they were lowering down a boat from her quarter. “It is possible,” thought he, “I shall now be permitted!” and Philip put his hand into his bosom and grasped the relic.
The gloom now increased, so that the strange vessel’s hull could but just be discovered through the murky atmosphere. The seamen and passengers threw themselves down on their knees, and invoked their saints. The captain ran down for a candle, to light before the image of St. Antonio, which he took out of its shrine and kissed with much apparent affection and devotion, and then replaced.
Shortly afterwards the splash of oars was heard alongside, and a voice calling out, “I say, my good people, give us a rope from forward.”
No one answered, or complied with the request. Schriften only went up to the captain, and told him that if they offered to send letters they must not be received, or the vessel would be doomed, and all would perish.
A man now made his appearance from over the gunnel, at the gangway. “You might as well have let me had a side-rope, my hearties,” said he, as he stepped on deck; “where is the captain?”
“Here,” replied the captain, trembling from head to foot. The man who accosted him appeared a weather-beaten seaman, dressed in a fur cap and canvas petticoats; he held some letters in his hand.
“What do you want?” at last screamed the captain.
“Yes—what do you want?” continued Schriften, “He! he!”
“What, you here, pilot?” observed the man—“well—I thought you had gone to Davy’s locker, long enough ago.”
“He! he!” replied Schriften, turning away.
“Why, the fact is, captain, we have had very foul weather and we wish to send letters home; I do believe that we shall never get round this cape.”
“I can’t take them,” cried the captain.
“Can’t take them! well, it’s very odd; but every ship refuses to take our letters. It’s very unkind; seamen should have a feeling for brother seamen, especially in distress. God knows, we wish to see our wives and families again; and it would be a matter of comfort to them if they only could hear from us.”
“I cannot take your letters—the saints preserve us!” replied the captain.
“We have been a long while out,” said the seaman, shaking his head.
“How long?” inquired the captain, not knowing what to say.
“We can’t tell; our almanack was blown overboard, and we have lost our reckoning. We never have our latitude exact now, for we cannot tell the sun’s declination for the right day.”
“Let me see your letters,” said Philip, advancing and taking them out of the seaman’s hands.
“They must not be touched!” screamed Schriften.
“Out, monster!” replied Philip; “who dares interfere with me?”
“Doomed—doomed—doomed!” shrieked Schriften, running up and down the deck, and then breaking into a wild fit of laughter.
“Touch not the letters,” said the captain, trembling as if in an ague fit.
Philip made no reply, but held his hand out for the letters.
“Here is one from our second mate to his wife at Amsterdam who lives on Waser Quay.”
“Waser Quay has long been gone, my good friend; there is now a large dock for ships where it once was,” replied Philip.
“Impossible!” replied the man; “here is another from the boatswain to his father, who lives in the old market-place.”
“The old market-place has long been pulled down, and there now stands a church upon the spot.”
“Impossible!” replied the seaman; “here is another from myself to my sweetheart, Vrow Ketser—with money to buy her a new brooch.”
Philip shook his head. “I remember seeing an old lady of that name buried some thirty years ago.”
“Impossible! I left her young and blooming. Here’s one for the house of Slutz and Company, to whom the ship belongs.”
“There’s no such house now,” replied Philip; “but I have heard that, many years ago, there was a firm of that name.”
“Impossible! you must be laughing at me. Here is a letter from our captain to his son—“
“Give it me,” cried Philip, seizing the letter. He was about to break the seal, when Schriften snatched it out of his hand and threw it over the lee gunnel.
“That’s a scurvy trick for an old shipmate,” observed the seaman. Schriften made no reply, but catching up the other letters which Philip had laid down on the capstan, he hurled them after the first.
The strange seaman shed tears, and walked again to the side. “It is very hard—very unkind,” observed he, as he descended; “the time may come when you may wish that your family should know your situation.” So saying, he disappeared. In a few seconds was heard the sound of the oars retreating from the ship.
“Holy St. Antonio!” exclaimed the captain. “I am lost in wonder and fright. Steward, bring me up the arrack.”
The steward ran down for the bottle; being as much alarmed as his captain, he helped himself before he brought it up to his commander. “Now,” said the captain, after keeping his mouth for two minutes to the bottle, and draining it to the bottom, “what is to be done next?”
“I’ll tell you,” said Schriften, going up to him: “that man there has a charm hung round his neck; take it from him and throw it overboard, and your ship will be saved; if not, it will be lost, with every soul on board.”
“Yes yes, it’s all right, depend upon it,” cried the sailors.
“Fools,” replied Philip, “do you believe that wretch? Did you not hear the man who came on board recognise him, and call him shipmate? He is the party whose presence on board will prove so unfortunate.”
“Yes, yes,” cried the sailors, “it’s all right; the man did call him shipmate.”
“I tell you it’s all wrong,” cried Schriften; “that is the man: let him give up the charm.”
“Yes, yes; let him give up the charm,” cried the sailors; and they rushed upon Philip.
Philip started back to where the captain stood. “Madmen, know ye what ye are about? It is the holy cross that I wear round my neck. Throw it overboard if you dare, and your souls are lost for ever;” and Philip took the relic from his bosom and showed it to the captain.
“No, no, men;” exclaimed the captain, who was now more settled in his nerves; “that won’t do—the saints protect us.”
The seamen, however, became clamorous; one portion were for throwing Schriften overboard, the other for throwing Philip; at last, the point was decided by the captain, who directed the small skiff hanging astern to be lowered down, and ordered both Philip and Schriften to get into it. The seamen approved of this arrangement, as it satisfied both parties. Philip made no objection; Schriften screamed and fought, but he was tossed into the boat. There he remained trembling in the stern-sheets, while Philip, who had seized the sculls, pulled away from the vessel in the direction of the Phantom Ship.