G. A. (George Alfred) Henty.

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panion of a Dutch Boor, his ' roer,' (or gun
and by the by, the weapon of that sort used
by the ' Africaner ' is no plaything, being of
a make between a blunderbuss and a musket),


he had absolutely nothing offensive, or de-
fensive in his possession, but the before-men-
tioned ' sarabok/

In figure he was tall and massy, his car-
riage erect ; his cheeks of a deep ruddy
bloom, but so fleshy as to afford little room
for that play of muscle about the mouth,
which helps to indicate the character, while
the forehead was buried by the overhanging
hat; and it was difficult to say, if the sly
twinkle of the eyes, that flashed beneath it,
betokened fun or mischief.

The more Van Riesbeck contemplated the
stranger's outward man, the less was he in-
clined to feel at ease with himself!

His smuggling transactions were all carried
on at the vineyard; and as the emissaries of
the outlaws had been strictly prohibited from
visiting the boarding-house at Cape Town, he
concluded that the stranger was at best a
spy, and determined to conduct himself with
all due precaution.


The mutual silence had perhaps continued
for a minute or so longer, but that the
stranger, having taken up a bottle of choice
frontigniac, and dashed off a tumbler of its
sparkling contents at a draught, was on the
point of dispatching a second, when Van
Riesbeck, on whose valour the loss of the
wine exerted a most stimulating effect, placed
his hand on the half emptied flask, and having
moderately filled a wine-glass, lifted it with
the utmost gravity towards his lips, saying

" To what name shall I have the pleasure
of drinking?"

" To that you may chance to fancy best,"
replied the stranger " 'Faith, the wine's so
good, that if a name's its passport, that of
Beelzebub would slip down my throat glib
as honey !"

" Young man !" said the incensed Van
Riesbeck " Young man you may do well
to remember that you are in the house and
presence of as substantial a Burgher as any in


Gape Town, and that if we townsmen pay
harbour dues and all sorts of imposts, to
support the dignity of his Excellency, the
Governor, it is not without having in return
a sure protection for our persons and pro-
perty !

" Yes, young Sir! we have a ' Tronk,'
or house of bondage for those who transgress
our legal quiet, ay, and no want of con-
stables to save us the trouble of laying hands
on violent and unseemly persons, if there be
need !"

This prosing harangue might have lasted
much longer, had not the stranger at this
juncture broke through it with a most obstre-
perous burst of laughter, and even after this
had subsided, it was evidently with great
difficulty that he commanded the powers of
utterance so far as to speak distinctly.

" Why, Mynheer," cried he, " on the faith
of a true man, you should head the hypocrites,
who at a fast bewail their iniquities most


loudly when sighing most deeply for ' the
flesh-pots of Egypt!' and yet I guess that
your hankering just now is rather for milking
than preaching!"

The enigmatical turn of the last remark
produced an almost magical effect on the
offended host. His heavy features, which had
previously been pursed up into an expression of
the most acetic contempt, at once lost all their
foreboding pomposity, and, relaxing into the
waggish drollery of their native humour,
suffered a long and violent concussion, but
one of which their owner, who had no easy
faculty of giving outward utterance to such
ebullitions of joy, had afterwards to lament
with aching sides, and watery eyes.

The fit being past, he began uncorking
another bottle, and, while the flask was yet
between his knees, as if to throw the stranger
off his guard, he said abruptly,

" Do the cows on the banks of the
Keiskamma give milk that is white?"


" Look and see !" the stranger replied
as quickly and, with the word, taking a
blank leaf from a memorandum book, he
presented it, with an air of importance, to
Van Riesbeck. The latter, having laid aside
the wine, took the blank paper with avidity,
and immediately added, " The milk is white,
but how shall it be tried ?"

" Roast it, and the fire shall find a
voice !"

" By the foot of Pharaoh !" said the
Dutchman, " thou'rt an excellent fellow,
and I can never make thee amends for such
unkind suspicions. Why, the pass words of
the dread Makanna fall from thy young
lips like oracles."

" Pooh !" rejoined the stranger,
" Light up the charcoal, and test the milk."

No answer was returned by Van Ries-
beck, who immediately kindled a fire in a
brasier; and when the flames had subsided,
and the embers were reduced to an equal



state of glowing redness, he took the blank
leaf of paper, and holding it stretched out
at a safe distance before the fire in such a
way, that an equal and steady heat per-
vaded the whole surface, began to " roast the
milk !"

These words may sound odd, but they
are nevertheless literally correct. The appa-
rently blank paper had been previously
written over with a pen charged with new
milk, which, having been dried in the shade,
remained as white as the paper ; but now,
under the influence of the fire, these milky
characters appeared, and, changing rapidly
from a faint to a deep brown, were at last
as legible as if the words had been written


with common ink.

The operation being completed, Van Ries-
beck receded a few steps, and read the
document apparently twice with earnest at-
tention, and at last, having regarded it with
that stern expression of aroused energy, with


which bold men are wont to face a coming
evil, he suddenly crushed the half-scorched
paper between the palms of his hands. It
was reduced to dust, and a single breath
dispersed it for ever !

" The chaff of danger is given to the
winds, but the seed lies here," said the
Dutchman, striking his bosom, " and it may
yet bear bitter fruit."

" The more reason for qualifying it with
a little of this delicious life-inspiring nectar !"
said the stranger, again quaffing an ample
measure of the frontigniac.

" They had, at least, a fair excuse for not
intrusting the perilous contents of that page
to the ear of one whose tongue may out-
gallop his wit," replied Van Riesbeck, some-
what sarcastically, but, at the same time,
in the undertone of a man who is full of

" Come, my good friend, we must visit
my vineyard without delay ; pass off to the


right from the house, and I will overtake
you, for we must not be seen in company.

"Hush! There are two English officers
above stairs, who should not even breathe
the very air which has been tainted with
what we have to say. Yes, pocket that
bottle, an' another if thou wilt, but go at
once, and I will follow.' 1



"The stars from broader beams begin to creep
And lift their shining eyelids from the deep,
The purpling ocean owns the coming sun,
But, ere he break, a deed is to be done."


SOME three or four hours had quietly elapsed
since the occurrence of that hairbreadth
escape, which had preserved the lovely
Bertha from the miserable fate of beinp-


murdered in her sleep, when the desperado,
whose still more infamous project was, as he
thought, on the point of explosion, came on

The moon was down, and the sombre


curtains of the night yet hung so heavily on
the dark surface of the ocean, from whose
sullen bosom the fitful wind at intervals
came fraught with hollow moans, that the
dim reflection of the Ganges was hardly to
be discerned amid the pervading blackness of
the scene.

The inward thoughts of the Boatswain
were as oppressive as the state of the
elements around him. Ruffian as he was,
the crime of deliberate murder was beyond
his experience, and conscious that the guilty
intention had made him no better than the
blood-stained monster mankind unite in exe-
crating, he felt degraded in his own esteem.

The reckless audacity of the ready com-
batant, prodigal of life, and wooing danger
as a bride, was exchanged for the remorse
of the baffled assassin ; and, cold and
heartless, he stole about the ship as if the
evil genius of her fate.

In so rugged a nature, such feelings are


as little connected with repentance, as they
are intolerable, and the Boatswain's first care
was to drown them in some new excitement.
For a man so rudely nurtured, he had
hitherto entertained a strange antipathy
towards intoxicating fluids, but now their
very novelty gave them a claim on his
moody fancy. The means were easily at
hand, and, glass after glass of unslaked
spirit did the rough seaman drain, as if they
had been water.

The invisible fire of the alcohol gave a
fresh impulse to his blood, and although
not a better man, he felt himself a bolder.
Meanwhile, in his attention to the necessary
duties of the vessel, it was evident from his
unconscious laugh and hurried movements,
that although not unequal to the common
practical duties of navigation, any unforeseen
emergency would render him a perfect im-

The enormities of the past midnight now


crossed his distempered imagination, as some-
thing between a reality and a dream : and
then, he would be speaking, as if he
wondered that the Captain had not been on
deck to inspect the morning watch ; or
listening at the companion, to catch any
unusual sound that might issue from the
cabins underneath. This last trouble was,
however, in vain, for the interior of the ship
remained as silent as the night without, and
not a sound was heard, except the ceaseless
rippling of the waters closing aft, and the
creakings of the steerage gear.

The time of dawning drew nigh, and the
offing gradually heaved up darker, and
sharper, against a misty wilderness of clouds.
With the sudden chill of day-break, the
Boatswain's disjointed jokes became less fre-
quent, the yawnings that followed them more
hollow and abrupt, while it grew evident that
his faculties began to be wrapt in a vague
but intense anxiety.


The mariners from below were now mus-
tering on the deck, to catch a mouthful of the

O '

fresh breathings of the dawn, and the absent
formality with which their old messmate met
their noisy greetings, excited wonder and

" The Boatswain shall teach the next
monkey I keep to cringe and scrape a leg
like a dancing master," said one.

" The Captain takes his sleep as easy
as a Port Admiral," said another.

" Lend me a bar shot," replied a third,
" and I'll beat such a larum on the cuddy
gratings, as should wake the seven sleepers !"

" Leave it alone, Fred," cried a fourth,
" 'twould be a pity to scare the women from
their morning dreams/'

The Boatswain started, and seemed about
to speak, but, with a second recollection,
turned away. Much eager conversation then
ensued, as to the risk of a second visit from
the Goshawk, and as to the probability of
K 2


their ultimate escape. Topics so interesting
soon led to another still more directly im-
portant ; the present route and trim of the

The very strange absence of the Captain
at such an hour seemed to inspire the crew
with a most unusual fluency of speech, and
an equal precipitance of judgment; and on
the before mentioned subjects, ticklish as they
were, every man seemed to have his own sage
plan for a change, while not any two united
in the same expedient, though all were agreed
in being utterly disgusted with the present

The Boatswain heard their varied opi-
nions, and self-conceited upbraidings, in dog-
ged silence, and with somewhat of that
contemptuous spleen with which a statesman
listens to the spoutsman of a mob.

His own thoughts, nevertheless, were not
of the most comfortable nature. He remem-
bered Laroon's late anxious labour at the


charts, and he knew that the Captain had
not intended to keep the vessel long on
the present tack ; but what should be the
change, or when it was to take place, he had
not the most remote idea. He remembered,
too, at starts, and with a horror which, at the
instant, awakened all his faculties, that even
if his accursed drug worked safely, the
Captain would not be sufficiently calm for
hours to look after the navigation of the ship,
while the consequences of delay might be

The disputes among the crew grew move
and more vociferous ; quarrels ensued, and
stabs had followed, had not some peculiar
indications in the eastern heavens attracted
their attention.

Instead of that golden fringe on the verge
of the offing, and those cheering beamings of
radiant light, which, in such tranquil weather,
might have been expected to mark the up-
rising of the glorious orb of day, that portion


of the sky at the crisis of the dawn became
suddenly obscured.

No sun appeared ; but in its stead arose,
with slow and solemn motion, an immense
mass of luminous vapour. It crept gradually
forward, on the surface of the water, and
stretched itself around the horizon in a dense
and fast increasing curtain.

The hue of this vapoury shroud, as it
closed rapidly on the eye, was, at first, a faint
rosy glare, softening to a silvery gray ; but, as
the dawn became matured, the aerial tint
deepened, until both sea and sky were clothed
in dusky red : and then, too, the lone vessel,
in hull, and masts, and sails, with every
tapering spar, and all her tracery of cordage,
seemed dyed with a deep and bloody stain.

Rendered anxious by the previous pecu-
liarities of their situation, the mariners
watched this not very rare phenomenon of
the Indian ocean with a dumb and heart-
misgiving awe ; and as the hot air seemed


growing thick around them, each looked
wistfully in his comrade's face for comfort,
but to little purpose, for the same strange
sanguine tint flushed every feature, and each
desponding eye gleamed like a flickering

For five minutes, at least, this sickening
silence had prevailed so far, that to these
sea-worn men the very heaving of their breath
seemed a sound unnatural, and the mere
flapping of a sail struck on their guilty hearts
as if it had been a funeral knell.

At last the Boatswain broke the charm, by
exclaiming " Now, messmates ! show me the
man who would not rather be clinging to
the bare bottom of our water-logged-schooner
yes, and drifting without a biscuit, than
fill the snuggest birth in this doomed hull ?

" And then such a proper hint as was
sarved out for I, not to venture afloat !

" The oars were in the ro'locks, and the
Cockswain swearing like thunder, (for the


ship had tript her anchor) when I lugged out
my 'bacca-box, just as a keepsake for my
Kate. Now a better brass snapper than that-
ere was never knocked out o' mettle, and
what with a seven month's cruise in the
pouch of my waistcoat, it was rubbed down
to a gold polish, and as for the hinge 'twas
solid and sure as that of a church gate.

" Now, as the box glistened in the sun,
says I to my Kate, poor wench, ' Kate,'
says I, 'keep thy thimble here, girl, and
think o' me.' With that I just put a finger
to slue up the lid, when, without a touch,
the hinge parted, and down it fell in the

" ' There !' cried Kate, with a screech !
* that box is just a coffin without a lid and
a proper token to keep thee on shore, lad.'

" I knew the omen, too and poor Kate
piped her eye, and all that. Well, the jolly
dogs in the boat laughed, the Cockswain
mocked with the tip of his finger to his


nose ; and I that had no need to wet a shoe,
jumpt into her stern-sheets, and before Kate
could find a voice, they'd pull'd off like wink-
ing, and we were tumbling through the surf

"Peace! Peace!" exclaimed a dozen
voices at once.

" A sail ! a sail ! to leeward !"

The Boatswain looked westward, but the
next instant shrunk back aghast his teeth
chattered, his knees smote together, and
clutching a main-stay for support, he faltered

"The Weird Craft! a speedy death!
The Lord be merciful ! for who is fit to
meet it?"

Every eye became rivetted on the mys-
terious stranger, which appeared swinging
forward under easy sail, and right abreast
of the Ganges!

She was a ship perfect to the sight in
all her trim, but those who gazed upon her
shuddered, for ever and anon, she shrunk into


a thin and spectral shade, and then again
the moving fabric grew dark and massy, and
all the while bore onward, although her hull
raised not a ripple in the water.

To the guilty and superstitious, such a
phenomenon could not but be in every sense
appalling, and had the crew heard the philoso-
phical explanation which resolves the " Phan-
tom Ship," like the well known " Spectre of
the Hartz," into a natural arrangement of
shadow and reflection, it would not have
reassured them for a moment: What then
was their consternation, when piercing shrieks
and a peal of heavy knocking resounded from
below. Not a word was spoken ; the Steward
and Boatswain exchanged glances of guilty
cognizance, but the rest continued to gaze on
the shadowy ship, now fading like a drift of
cloud in the far distance, and to whose myste-
rious influence they attributed these unex-
plained cries, with increased dread.

The aerial visitation being at last wholly


dissipated, the Steward brought on deck a huge
leathern jack of brandy, and served it round
in ample doses to his shipmates.

At first the drams were drained as- silently
as the wine at a funeral, when relatives are
present ; but scarcely was the sparkling liquor
a second time in circulation, than the courage
and loquacity of the crew revived, and each
was eager to relate some preposterous conceit
in reference to the ghostly visitant, which
might apologize for the symptoms of cowardice
he had before exhibited.

Nor was there much intentional delusion
in the matter; for so great had been their
fears, and so highly were their imaginations
excited, that not one in ten could distinguish
between the image which had actually ap-
peared, and the mental phantasmagoria to
which his own heated fancy had given being.

Thus one related, that, on looking nar-
rowly, he had observed, that instead of can-


vass, her sails were nothing less than human
skins stitched carefully together. Another
was no less certain that her hull was filled
with liquid fire, having seen, as he said, with
his " own eyes," the blue burning sulphur
trickling from her scuppers. A third would
doubtless have communicated some fact, not
less authentic, had not a repetition of the
clamour below aroused them to more imme-
diate objects.

Female outcries were again ringing in their
ears, and three or four were starting off to
ascertain their meaning, when the Boatswain,
throwing wide his arms, sung out,

" Starn, all !" The crew receded as he
added with a wink, " Gently, gentlemen all,
what, can't his Honour be spliced without a
dozen of th' like o' you clattering down to
scare the bride in her blushings."

The noise within arising again, he paused,
and turning somewhat pale, continued in a


husky tone, " I guess th' parson ha' shut
his book, for the clerk's amen was louder than
a trumpet hail."

Just at that moment, Maldrake, after a
long sleep induced by his previous watchings,
was come on deck, and having heard the
Boatswain's ambiguous address, became filled
with indignation and alarm.

To feel angry and act wisely, is a degree
of perfection with which but few poor mortals
are endowed, and Maldrake's present conduct
was no exception on the brighter side of the
question. Without regarding the temper of
the crew, he made a dash to pass the Boat-
swain, and failed ; not that the dexterity, or
force of the latter, were brought into play ; the
brandy had not left him sufficiently his own
man for that; but the crew, who did not
understand the meaning of either, interfered,
to obtain such an explanation as might satisfy
their own curiosity. Maldrake's fears when
mentioned were derided, and the Boatswain's


hints remained so broken and disjointed, that
the whole ship's company became equally

A scene of indescribable uproar and con-
fusion now ensued, but still there was no
actual fighting ; and after a while, the result
seemed to be, that if the Boatswain's autho-
rity was sunk past recovery, he was no less
become an object of indifference in the far
more dangerous feelings that then began to
be awakened.

Without their consciousness, and even
while in another sense offensive, the honour-
able conduct of Laroon towards Miss Falkland
had hitherto restrained the licentious habits
of the crew. This delicate and invisible bond
was now torn, and as the hints just dropped
led them to believe, that their captain had
thrown the bridle on the neck of lawless pas-
sion, they felt but too much inclined to follow
his example, and were not particularly nice
as to any offence he might feel, from their


putting in an unexpected claim to a share of
the plunder, which, as they imagined, he had
so unceremoniously appropriated.

The pleadings of prudence as to the future,
and the fear of present danger from their
ignorance of navigation, at another time, might
have restrained them even then, though led

' O

to the brink, from any direct act of mutiny
but now with brains bewildered with liquor,
and blood boiling from the irritation of the
recent quarrel, all such considerations were
forgotten or unheeded.

The awful aspect of the elements around,
and that strange sight which their super-
stitious fears had so grossly exaggerated ;
these, appalling as they were, in the madness
of the hour, served only to render them the
more restless, and desirous of a change ; and
now, a few armed men having been posted
fore-and-aft, to prevent any possible trouble
from the Malays, with shouts and execrations,
they rushed below.


* At this crisis, had the Boatswain been
perfectly himself, his strength and vigilance,
with the assistance of Maldrake, might pro-
bably have been successfully opposed to their
headlong sally. No chance of this sort,
however, remained, and both these men
merely followed the rest from that blind
impulse which gives motion to a crowd, whe-
ther of sheep, or of men ; and the Steward,
who was too much the poltroon to fight in
any cause, sneaked at their heels.

The doors which have been alluded to,
as fastened by the Boatswain, gave way at
once, beneath the weight of numbers, and
thus without opposition they had reached
the quarter gallery, which had been the former
post of Maldrake, and in which the solitary
light was still burning, when their course
was for a moment stopped.

This suspension in their march did not
arise from any substantial impediment, but
rather from the want of it ! The ruffians


had expected to meet their Captain at this
point, and, although a life or so might have
paid for their insolent temerity, it would in
their estimation have been as nothing, com-
pared with the perfect silence and open space
before them.

They knew the courage and ready re-
sources of their leader too well, to imagine
that he would at any time be overpowered
without a struggle of the most tremendous
character, and they now dreaded some stra-
tagem, which might render his resistance far
more fatal than they had anticipated.

The folding doors of the state room were
closed, and conceiving that darkness would
add to their safety, one of the foremost con-
trived to unship the battle lantern with a
boarding pike.

The light being extinguished, the muti-
neers passed silently forward with the inten-
tion of forming a close rank immediately
behind the folding doors, which, at a pre-


concerted signal, were to be burst open by
a simultaneous rush.

With the uncertainty as to how many
victims might fall in the assault, it was yet
deemed tolerably sure that whoever stood
in the centre, so as to be first discovered
on the giving way of the doors, would in-
evitably be cut down. The more prudent of
the crew were by no means ambitious of this
honourable post, and, by closing in on both
sides, contrived to force the Boatswain pre-
cisely into this enviable spot.

The cutlasses were most securely grasped,
and every finger on its appointed trigger, when
the Boatswain, in half drunken indolence,

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