Frederick Marryat.

The Phantom Ship online

. (page 25 of 32)
Online LibraryFrederick MarryatThe Phantom Ship → online text (page 25 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"I did not much admire the appearance of the Commandant; but I suppose
we shall know more to-morrow."

Here they were interrupted by the turning of the key, and the entrance
of a soldier with a chatty of water, and a large dish of boiled rice.
He was not the man who had brought them to the dungeon, and Philip
accosted him.

"You have had hard work within these last two days?"

"Yes, indeed! signor."

"The natives forced us to join the expedition, and we escaped."

"So I heard you say, signor."

"They lost nearly a thousand men," said Krantz.

"Holy St. Francis! I am glad of it."

"They will be careful how they attack Portuguese in a hurry, I expect,"
rejoined Krantz.

"I think so," replied the soldier.

"Did you lose many men?" ventured Philip, perceiving that the man was

"Not ten of our own people. In the factory there were about a hundred
of the natives, with some women and children; but that is of no

"You had a young European woman here, I understand," said Philip with
anxiety; "one who was wrecked in a vessel - was she among those who were

"Young woman! - Holy St. Francis. Yes, now I recollect. Why the fact
is - "

"Pedro!" called a voice from above; the man stopped, put his fingers to
his lips, went out, and locked the door.

"God of Heaven! give me patience," cried Philip; "but this is too

"He will be down here again to-morrow morning," observed Krantz.

"Yes! to-morrow morning but what an endless time will suspense make of
the intervening hours."

"I feel for you," replied Krantz; "but what can be done? The hours must
pass, though suspense draws them out into interminable years; but I hear

Again the door was unlocked, and the first soldier made his appearance.
"Follow me - the Commandant would speak with you."

This unexpected summons was cheerfully complied with by Philip and his
companion. They walked up the narrow stone steps, and at last found
themselves in a small room in presence of the Commandant, with whom our
readers have been already made acquainted. He was lolling on a small
sofa, his long sword lay on the table before him, and two young native
women were fanning him, one at his head, and the other at his feet.

"Where did you get those dresses?" was the first interrogatory.

"The natives, when they brought us prisoners from the island on which we
had saved ourselves, took away our clothes, and gave us these as a
present from their king."

"And engaged you to serve in their fleet, in the attack of this fort?"

"They forced us," replied Krantz; "for, as there was no war between our
nations, we objected to this service: notwithstanding which, they put us
on board, to make the common people believe that they were assisted by

"How am I to know the truth of this?"

"You have our word in the first place, and our escape from them in the

"You belonged to a Dutch East-Indiaman. Are you officers or common

Krantz, who considered that they were less likely to be detained if they
concealed their rank on board, gave Philip a slight touch with his
finger as he replied, "We are inferior officers. I was third mate, and
this man was pilot."

"And your captain, where is he?"

"I - I cannot say whether he is alive or dead."

"Had you no woman on board?"

"Yes! the captain had his wife."

"What has become of her?"

"She is supposed to have perished on a portion of the raft which broke a

"Ha!" replied the Commandant, who remained silent for some time.

Philip looked at Krantz, as much as to say, "Why all this subterfuge;"
but Krantz gave him a sign to leave him to speak.

"You say you don't know whether your captain is alive or dead?"

"I do."

"Now, suppose I was to give you your liberty, would you have any
objection to sign a paper, stating his death, and swearing to the truth
of it?"

Philip stared at the Commandant, and then at Krantz.

"I see no objection, exactly; except that if it were sent home to
Holland we might get into trouble. May I ask, Signor Commandant, why
you wish for such a paper?"

"No!" roared the little man, in a voice like thunder. "I will give no
reason, but that I wish it; that is enough; take your choice - the
dungeon, or liberty and a passage by the first vessel which calls."

"I don't doubt - in fact - I'm sure, he must be dead by this time,"
replied Krantz, drawling out the words in a musing manner. "Commandant,
will you give us till to-morrow morning to make our calculations?"

"Yes, you may go."

"But not to the dungeon, Commandant," replied Krantz; "we are not
prisoners certainly; and, if you wish us to do you a favour, surely you
will not ill-treat us?"

"By your own acknowledgment you have taken up arms against the most
Christian King; however, you may remain at liberty for the night -
to-morrow morning will decide whether or no you are prisoners."

Philip and Krantz thanked the little Commandant for his kindness, and
then hastened away to the ramparts. It was now dark, and the moon had
not yet made her appearance. They sat there on the parapet enjoying the
breeze, and feeling the delight of liberty even after their short
incarceration; but, near to them, soldiers were either standing or
lying, and they spoke but in whispers.

"What could he mean by requiring us to give a certificate of the
captain's death; and why did you answer as you did?"

"Philip Vanderdecken, that I have often thought of the fate of your
beautiful wife, you may imagine; and when I heard that she was brought
here, I then trembled for her. What must she appear, lovely as she is,
when placed in comparison with the women of this country? And that
little Commandant - is he not the very person who would be taken with her
charms? I denied our condition, because I thought he would be more
likely to allow us our liberty as humble individuals, than as captain
and first-mate; particularly as he suspects that we led on the Ternate
people to the attack; and when he asked for a certificate of your death,
I immediately imagined that he wanted it in order to induce Amine to
marry him. But where is she? is the question. If we could only find
out that soldier, we might gain some information."

"Depend upon it, she is here," replied Philip, clenching his hands.

"I am inclined to think so," said Krantz; "that she is alive, I feel

The conversation was continued until the moon rose, and threw her beams
over the tumbling waters. Philip and Krantz turned their faces toward
the sea, and leant over the battlements in silence; after some time
their reveries were disturbed by a person coming up to them with a
"_Buenos noctes, signor_."

Krantz immediately recognised the Portuguese soldier, whose conversation
with him had been interrupted.

"Good night, my friend! We thank Heaven that you have no longer to turn
the key upon us."

"Yes, I'm surprised!" replied the soldier, in a low tone. - "Our
Commandant is fond of exercising his power; he rules here without
appeal, that I can tell you."

"He is not within hearing of us now," replied Krantz. "It is a lovely
spot this to live in! How long have you been in this country?"

"Now thirteen years, signor, and I'm tired of it. I have a wife and
children in Oporto - that is, I _had_ - but whether they are alive or not,
who can tell?"

"Do you not expect to return and see them?"

"Return - signor! no Portuguese soldier like me ever returns. We are
enlisted for five years, and we lay our bones here."

"That is hard indeed."

"Hard, signor," replied the soldier in a low whisper; "it is cruel and
treacherous. I have often thought of putting the muzzle of my arquebuse
to my head; but while there's life there's hope."

"I pity you, my good fellow," rejoined Krantz; "look you, I have two
gold pieces left - take one; you may be able to send it home to your poor

"And here is one of mine, too, my good fellow," added Philip, putting
another in his hand.

"Now may all the saints preserve you, signors," replied the soldier,
"for it is the first act of kindness shown to me for many years - not
that my wife and children have much chance of ever receiving it."

"You were speaking about a young European woman when we were in the
dungeon," observed Krantz, after a pause.

"Yes, signor, she was a very beautiful creature. Our commandant was
very much in love with her."

"Where is she now?"

"She went away to Goa, in company with a priest who knew her, Father
Mathias, a good old man; he gave me absolution when he was here."

"Father Mathias!" exclaimed Philip; but a touch from Krantz checked him.

"You say the commandant loved her?"

"Oh yes: the little man was quite mad about her; and had it not been for
the arrival of Father Mathias, he would never have let her go, that I'm
sure of, although she was another man's wife."

"Sailed for Goa, you said?"

"Yes, in a ship which called here. She must have been very glad to have
got away, for our little commandant persecuted her all day long, and she
evidently was grieving for her husband. Do you know, signors, if her
husband is alive?"

"No, we do not; we have heard nothing of him."

"Well, if he is, I hope he will not come here; for should the commandant
have him in his power, it would go hard with him. He is a man who
sticks at nothing. He is a brave little fellow, _that_ cannot be
denied; but to get possession of that lady, he would remove all
obstacles at any risk - and a husband is a very serious one, signors.
Well, signors," continued the soldier, after a pause, "I had better not
be seen here too long - you may command me if you want anything;
recollect, my name is Pedro - good night to you, and a thousand thanks,"
and the soldier walked away.

"We have made one friend, at all events," said Krantz, "and we have
gained information of no little importance."

"Most important," replied Philip. "Amine then has sailed for Goa with
Father Mathias! I feel that she is safe, and in good hands. He is an
excellent man, that Father Mathias - my mind is relieved."

"Yes; but recollect you are in the power of your enemy. We must leave
this place as quick as we can - to-morrow we must sign the paper. It is
of little consequence, as we shall probably be at Goa before it arrives;
and even if we are not, the news of your death would not occasion Amine
to marry this withered piece of mortality."

"That I feel assured of; but it may cause her great suffering."

"Not worse than her present suspense, believe me, Philip; but it is
useless canvassing the past - it must be done. I shall sign as Cornelius
Richter, our third mate; you, as Jacob Vantreat - recollect that."

"Agreed," replied Philip, who then turned away, as if willing to be left
to his own thoughts. Krantz perceived it, and lay down under the
embrasure, and was soon fast asleep.


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

"To the beautiful Amine Vanderdecken!" cried Krantz, tossing off his

"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

"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,

"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

"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.


"Thus are all our hopes wrecked," said Philip, mournfully; "what chance
have we now of escaping from this little tyrant?"

"Chances turn up," replied Krantz; "at present, the prospect is not very
cheering. Let us hope for the best. I have an idea in my head which
may probably be turned to some account," continued Krantz, "as soon as
the little man's fury is over."

"Which is?"

"That, much as he likes your wife, there is something which he likes

Online LibraryFrederick MarryatThe Phantom Ship → online text (page 25 of 32)