IN a few minutes the vessel which Philip and Schriften had left was no longer to be discerned through the thick haze; the Phantom Ship was still in sight, but at a much greater distance from them than she was before. Philip pulled hard towards her, but although hove to, she appeared to increase her distance from the boat. For a short time he paused on his oars, to regain his breath, when Schriften rose up and took his seat in the stern-sheets of the boat. “You may pull and pull, Philip Vanderdecken,” observed Schriften; “but you will not gain that ship—no, no, that cannot be—we may have a long cruise together, but you will be as far from your object at the end of it, as you are now at the commencement.—Why don’t you throw me overboard again? You would be all the lighter—He! he!”
“I threw you overboard in a state of phrenzy,” replied Philip, “when you attempted to force from me my relic.”
“And have I not endeavoured to make others take it from you this very day?—Have I not—He! he!”
“You have,” rejoined Philip; “but I am now convinced that you are as unhappy as myself, and that in what you are doing, you are only following your destiny, as I am mine. Why and wherefore I cannot tell, but we are both engaged in the same mystery;—if the success of my endeavours depends upon guarding the relic, the success of yours depends upon your obtaining it, and defeating my purpose by so doing. In this matter we are both agents, and you have been, as far as my mission is concerned, my most active enemy. But, Schriften, I have not forgotten, and never will, that you kindly did advise my poor Amine; that you prophesied to her what would be her fate, if she did not listen to your counsel; that you were no enemy of hers, although you have been and are still mine. Although my enemy, for her sake I forgive you, and will not attempt to harm you.”
“You do then forgive your enemy, Philip Vanderdecken?” replied Schriften, mournfully, “for such I acknowledge myself to be.”
“I do, with all my heart, with all my soul,” replied Philip.
“Then have you conquered me, Philip Vanderdecken; you have now made me your friend, and your wishes are about to be accomplished. You would know who I am. Listen:—When your father, defying the Almighty’s will, in his rage took my life, he was vouchsafed a chance of his doom being cancelled, through the merits of his Son. I had also my appeal, which was for vengeance; it was granted that I should remain on earth, and thwart your will. That as long as we were enemies, you should not succeed; but that when you had conformed to the highest attribute of Christianity, proved on the holy cross, that of forgiving your enemy, your task should be fulfilled. Philip Vanderdecken, you have forgiven your enemy, and both our destinies are now accomplished.”
As Schriften spoke, Philip’s eyes were fixed upon him. He extended his hand to Philip—it was taken; and as it was pressed, the form of the pilot wasted as it were into the air, and Philip found himself alone.
“Father of Mercy, I thank thee,” said Philip, “that my task is done, and that I again may meet my Amine.”
Philip then pulled towards the Phantom Ship, and found that she no longer appeared to leave; on the contrary, every minute he was nearer and nearer and at last, he threw in his oars, climbed up her sides and gained her deck.
The crew of the vessel crowded round him.
“Your captain,” said Philip; “I must speak with your captain.”
“Who shall I say, sir?” demanded one, who appeared to be the first mate.
“Who?” replied Philip: “tell him his son would speak to him, his son, Philip Vanderdecken.”
Shouts of laughter from the crew followed this answer of Philip’s; and the mate, as soon as they ceased, observed with a smile.
“You forget, sir, perhaps you would say his father.”
“Tell him his son, if you please,” replied Philip; “take no note of grey hairs.”
“Well, sir, here he is coming forward,” replied the mate, stepping aside and pointing to the captain.
“What is all this?” inquired the captain.
“Are you Philip Vanderdecken, the captain of this vessel?”
“I am, sir,” replied the other.
“You appear not to know me! But how can you? you saw me but when I was only three years old; yet may you remember a letter which you gave to your wife.”
“Ha!” replied the captain; “and who, then, are you?”
“Time has stopped with you, but with those who live in the world he stops not; and for those who pass a life of misery, he hurries on still faster. In me behold your son, Philip Vanderdecken, who has obeyed your wishes; and, after a life of such peril and misery as few have passed, has at last fulfilled his vow, and now offers to his father the precious relic that he required to kiss.”
Philip drew out the relic, and held it towards his father. As if a flash of lightning had passed through his mind, the captain of the vessel started back, clasped his hands, fell on his knees, and wept.
“My son, my son!” exclaimed he, rising and throwing himself into Philip’s arms; “my eyes are opened—the Almighty knows how long they have been obscured.” Embracing each other, they walked aft, away from the men, who were still crowded at the gangway.
“My son, my noble son, before the charm is broken—before we resolve, as we must, into the elements, oh! let me kneel in thanksgiving and contrition: my son, my noble son, receive a father’s thanks,” exclaimed Vanderdecken. Then with tears of joy and penitence he humbly addressed himself to that Being, whom he once so awfully defied.
The elder Vanderdecken knelt down: Philip did the same; still embracing each other with one arm, while they raised on high the other, and prayed.
For the last time the relic was taken from the bosom of Philip and handed to his father—and his father raised his eyes to heaven and kissed it. And, as he kissed it, the long tapering upper spars of the Phantom vessel, the yards and sails that were set, fell into dust, fluttered in the air, and sank upon the wave. The mainmast, foremast, bowsprit, everything above the deck, crumbled into atoms and disappeared.
Again he raised the relic to his lips and the work of destruction continued—the heavy iron guns sunk through the decks and disappeared; the crew of the vessel (who were looking on) crumbled down into skeletons, and dust, and fragments of ragged garments; and there were none left on board the vessel in the semblance of life but the father and son.
Once more did he put the sacred emblem to his lips, and the beams and timbers separated, the decks of the vessel slowly sank, and the remnants of the hull floated upon the water; and as the father and son—the one young and vigorous, the other old and decrepit—still kneeling, still embracing, with their hands raised to heaven, sank slowly under the deep blue wave, the lurid sky was for a moment illumined by a lightning cross. Then did the clouds which obscured the heavens roll away swift as thought—the sun again burst out in all his splendour—the rippling waves appeared to dance with joy. The screaming sea-gull again whirled in the air, and the scared albatross once more slumbered on the wing. The porpoise tumbled and tossed in his sportive play, the albicore and dolphin leaped from the sparkling sea.—All nature smiled as if it rejoiced that the charm was dissolved for ever, and that “THE PHANTOM SHIP” WAS NO MORE.