The Phantom Ship
Captain Frederick Marryat
Part 1 out of 8
THE PHANTOM SHIP
CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT
_THE PHANTOM SHIP_ is the most notable of the three novels constructed
by Marryat on an historic basis, and like its predecessor in the
same category, _Snarleyyow_, depends largely for its interest on the
element of _diablerie_, which is very skilfully manipulated. Here,
however, the supernatural appearances are never explained away, and
the ghostly agencies are introduced in the spirit of serious, if
somewhat melodramatic, romance. Marryat's personal experience enabled
him, with little research, to produce a life-like picture of old Dutch
seamanship, and his powers in racy narrative have transformed the
Vanderdecken legend into a stirring tale of terror. The plot cannot
be called original, but it is more carefully worked out and, from the
nature of the material at hand, more effective than most of Marryat's
own. He has put life into it, moreover, by the creation of some
genuine characters, designed for nobler ends than to move the
Amine, indeed, as Mr Hannay points out, "is by far his nearest
approach to an acceptable heroine." Her romantic and curiously
superstitious disposition is admirably restrained by strength of will
and true courage. The scenes of the Inquisition by which she meets
her death are forcibly described. Philip Vanderdecken is a very
respectable hero; daring, impetuous, and moody, without being too
improbably capable. The hand of destiny lends him a dignity of which
he is by no means unworthy. Krantz, the faithful friend, belongs to a
familiar type, but the one-eyed pilot is quite sufficiently weird
for the part he has to play. For the rest we have the usual exciting
adventures by sea and land; the usual "humours," in this case
certainly not overdone. The miser Dr Poots; the bulky Kloots, his
bear, and his supercargo; Barentz and his crazy lady-love the _Vrow
Katerina_; and the little Portuguese Commandant provide the reader
with a variety of good-natured entertainment. It was an act of
doubtful wisdom, perhaps, to introduce a second group of spirits from
the Hartz mountains, but the story of the weir-wolves is told simply,
without any straining after effect.
The general success, however, is marred by certain obvious failures
in detail. The attempt to produce an historic flavour by making the
characters, during their calmer moments, talk in would-be old English
is more amusing than culpable; but the author's philosophy of the
unseen, as expounded by Amine or Krantz, is both weak and tiresome,
and his religious discourses, coloured by prejudice against the
Romanists, are conventional and unconvincing. The closing scene
savours of the Sunday-school.
But these faults are not obtrusive, and the novel as a whole must take
a high place among its author's second-best.
_The Phantom Ship_ appeared in _The New Monthly Magazine_, 1838, 1839.
It is here reprinted from the first edition, in three volumes. Henry
About the middle of the seventeenth century, in the outskirts of the
small but fortified town of Terneuse, situated on the right bank of
the Scheldt, and nearly opposite to the island of Walcheren, there was
to be seen, in advance of a few other even more humble tenements, a
small but neat cottage, built according to the prevailing taste of the
time. The outside front had, some years back, been painted of a deep
orange, the windows and shutters of a vivid green. To about three feet
above the surface of the earth, it was faced alternately with blue and
white tiles. A small garden, of about two rods of our measure of land,
surrounded the edifice; and this little plot was flanked by a low
hedge of privet, and encircled by a moat full of water, too wide to be
leaped with ease. Over that part of the moat which was in front of
the cottage door, was a small and narrow bridge, with ornamented
iron hand-rails, for the security of the passenger. But the colours,
originally so bright, with which the cottage had been decorated, had
now faded; symptoms of rapid decay were evident in the window-sills,
the door-jambs, and other wooden parts of the tenement, and many of
the white and blue tiles had fallen down, and had not been replaced.
That much care had once been bestowed upon this little tenement, was
as evident as that latterly it had been equally neglected.
The inside of the cottage, both on the basement and the floor above,
was divided into two larger rooms in front, and two smaller behind;
the rooms in front could only be called large in comparison with the
other two, as they were little more than twelve feet square, with but
one window to each. The upper floor was, as usual, appropriated to the
bedrooms; on the lower, the two smaller rooms were now used only as a
wash-house and a lumber-room; while one of the larger was fitted up as
a kitchen, and furnished with dressers, on which the metal utensils
for cookery shone clean and polished as silver. The room itself was
scrupulously neat; but the furniture, as well as the utensils, were
scanty. The boards of the floor were of a pure white, and so clean
that you might have laid anything down without fear of soiling it. A
strong deal table, two wooden-seated chairs, and a small easy couch,
which had been removed from one of the bedrooms upstairs, were all
the movables which this room contained. The other front room had been
fitted up as a parlour; but what might be the style of its furniture
was now unknown, for no eye had beheld the contents of that room for
nearly seventeen years, during which it had been hermetically sealed,
even to the inmates of the cottage.
The kitchen, which we have described, was occupied by two persons. One
was a woman, apparently about forty years of age, but worn down by
pain and suffering. She had evidently once possessed much beauty:
there were still the regular outlines, the noble forehead, and the
large dark eye; but there was a tenuity in her features, a wasted
appearance, such as to render the flesh transparent; her brow, when
she mused, would sink into deep wrinkles, premature though they were;
and the occasional flashing of her eyes strongly impressed you
with the idea of insanity. There appeared to be some deep-seated,
irremovable, hopeless cause of anguish, never for one moment permitted
to be absent from her memory: a chronic oppression, fixed and graven
there, only to be removed by death. She was dressed in the widow's
coif of the time; but although clean and neat, her garments were faded
from long wear. She was seated upon the small couch which we have
mentioned, evidently brought down as a relief to her, in her declining
On the deal table in the centre of the room sat the other person, a
stout, fair-headed, florid youth of nineteen or twenty years old. His
features were handsome and bold, and his frame powerful to excess; his
eye denoted courage and determination, and as he carelessly swung his
legs, and whistled an air in an emphatic manner, it was impossible
not to form the idea that he was a daring, adventurous, and reckless
"Do not go to sea, Philip; oh, promise me _that_, my dear, dear
child," said the female, clasping her hands.
"And why not go to sea, mother?" replied Philip; "what's the use of my
staying here to starve?--for, by Heaven! it's little better. I must do
something for myself and for you. And what else can I do? My uncle Van
Brennen has offered to take me with him, and will give me good wages.
Then I shall live happily on board, and my earnings will be sufficient
for your support at home."
"Philip--Philip, hear me. I shall die if you leave me. Whom have I in
the world but you? O my child, as you love me, and I know you _do_
love me, Philip, don't leave me; but if you will, at all events do not
go to sea."
Philip gave no immediate reply; he whistled for a few seconds, while
his mother wept.
"Is it," said he at last, "because my father was drowned at sea, that
you beg so hard, mother?"
"Oh, no--no!" exclaimed the sobbing woman. "Would to God--"
"Would to God what, mother?"
"Nothing--nothing. Be merciful--be merciful, O God!" replied the
mother, sliding from her seat on the couch, and kneeling by the side
of it, in which attitude she remained for some time in fervent prayer.
At last she resumed her seat, and her face wore an aspect of more
Philip, who, during this, had remained silent and thoughtful, again
addressed his mother.
"Look ye, mother. You ask me to stay on shore with you, and
starve,--rather hard conditions:--now hear what I have to say. That
room opposite has been shut up ever since I can remember--why, you
will never tell me; but once I heard you say, when we were without
bread, and with no prospect of my uncle's return--you were then half
frantic, mother, as you know you sometimes are--"
"Well, Philip, what did you hear me say?" enquired his mother with
"You said, mother, that there was money in that room which would save
us; and then you screamed and raved, and said that you preferred
death. Now, mother, what is there in that chamber, and why has it been
so long shut up? Either I know that, or I go to sea."
At the commencement of this address of Philip, his mother appeared
to be transfixed, and motionless as a statue; gradually her lips
separated, and her eyes glared; she seemed to have lost the power of
reply; she put her hand to her right side, as if to compress it, then
both her hands, as if to relieve herself from excruciating torture: at
last she sank, with her head forward, and the blood poured out of her
Philip sprang from the table to her assistance, and prevented her from
falling on the floor. He laid her on the couch, watching with alarm
the continued effusion.
"Oh! mother--mother, what is this?" cried he, at last, in great
For some time his mother could make him no reply; she turned further
on her side, that she might not be suffocated by the discharge from
the ruptured vessel, and the snow-white planks of the floor were soon
crimsoned with her blood.
"Speak, dearest mother, if you can," repeated Philip, in agony; "what
shall I do? what shall I give you? God Almighty! what is this?"
"Death, my child, death!" at length replied the poor woman, sinking
into a state of unconsciousness.
Philip, now much alarmed, flew out of the cottage, and called the
neighbours to his mother's assistance. Two or three hastened to the
call; and as soon as Philip saw them occupied in restoring his mother,
he ran as fast as he could to the house of a medical man, who lived
about a mile off--one Mynheer Poots, a little, miserable, avaricious
wretch, but known to be very skilful in his profession. Philip found
Poots at home, and insisted upon his immediate attendance.
"I will come--yes, most certainly," replied Poots, who spoke the
language but imperfectly; "but Mynheer Vanderdecken, who will pay me?"
"Pay you! my uncle will, directly that he comes home."
"Your uncle de Skipper Van Brennen: no, he owes me four guilders, and
he has owed me for a long time. Besides, his ship may sink."
"He shall pay you the four guilders, and for this attendance also,"
replied Philip, in a rage; "come directly, while you are disputing my
mother may be dead."
"But, Mr Philip, I cannot come, now I recollect; I have to see the
child of the burgomaster at Terneuse," replied Mynheer Poots.
"Look you, Mynheer Poots," exclaimed Philip, red with passion; "you
have but to choose,--will you go quietly, or must I take you there?
You'll not trifle with me."
Here Mynheer Poots was under considerable alarm, for the character of
Philip Vanderdecken was well known.
"I will come by-and-bye, Mynheer Philip, if I can."
"You'll come now, you wretched old miser," exclaimed Philip, seizing
hold of the little man by the collar, and pulling him out of his door.
"Murder! murder!" cried Poots, as he lost his legs, and was dragged
along by the impetuous young man.
Philip stopped, for he perceived that Poots was black in the face.
"Must I then choke you, to make you go quietly? for, hear me, go you
shall, alive or dead."
"Well, then," replied Poots, recovering himself, "I will go, but I'll
have you in prison to-night: and, as for your mother, I'll not--no,
that I will not--Mynheer Philip, depend upon it."
"Mark me, Mynheer Poots," replied Philip, "as sure as there is a God
in heaven, if you do not come with me, I'll choke you now; and when
you arrive, if you do not do your best for my poor mother, I'll murder
you there. You know that I always do what I say, so now take my
advice, come along quietly, and you shall certainly be paid, and well
paid--if I sell my coat."
This last observation of Philip, perhaps, had more effect than even
his threats. Poots was a miserable little atom, and like a child
in the powerful grasp of the young man. The doctor's tenement was
isolated, and he could obtain no assistance until within a hundred
yards of Vanderdecken's cottage; so Mynheer Poots decided that he
would go, first, because Philip had promised to pay him, and secondly,
because he could not help it.
This point being settled, Philip and Mynheer Poots made all haste to
the cottage; and on their arrival, they found his mother still in the
arms of two of her female neighbours, who were bathing her temples
with vinegar. She was in a state of consciousness, but she could not
speak. Poots ordered her to be carried upstairs and put to bed, and
pouring some acids down her throat, hastened away with Philip to
procure the necessary remedies.
"You will give your mother that directly, Mynheer Philip," said Poots,
putting a phial into his hand; "I will now go to the child of the
burgomaster, and will afterwards come back to your cottage."
"Don't deceive me," said Philip, with a threatening look.
"No, no, Mynheer Philip, I would not trust to your uncle Van Brennen
for payment, but you have promised, and I know that you always keep
your word. In one hour I will be with your mother; but you yourself
must now be quick."
Philip hastened home. After the potion had been administered, the
bleeding was wholly stopped; and in half an hour, his mother could
express her wishes in a whisper. When the little doctor arrived, he
carefully examined his patient, and then went downstairs with her son
into the kitchen.
"Mynheer Philip," said Poots, "by Allah! I have done my best, but I
must tell you that I have little hopes of your mother rising from her
bed again. She may live one day or two days, but not more. It is not
my fault, Mynheer Philip," continued Poots, in a deprecating tone.
"No, no; it is the will of Heaven," replied Philip, mournfully.
"And you will pay me, Mynheer Vanderdecken?" continued the doctor,
after a short pause.
"Yes," replied Philip in a voice of thunder, and starting from a
reverie. After a moment's silence, the doctor recommenced.
"Shall I come to-morrow, Mynheer Philip? You know that will be a
charge of another guilder: it is of no use to throw away money or time
"Come to-morrow, come every hour, charge what you please; you shall
certainly be paid," replied Philip, curling his lip with contempt.
"Well, it is as you please. As soon as she is dead, the cottage and
the furniture will be yours, and you will sell them of course. Yes, I
will come. You will have plenty of money. Mynheer Philip, I would like
the first offer of the cottage, if it is to let."
Philip raised his arm in the air as if to crush Mynheer Poots, who
retreated to the corner.
"I did not mean until your mother was buried," said Poots, in a
"Go, wretch, go!" said Philip, covering his face with his hands, as he
sank down upon the blood-stained couch.
After a short interval, Philip Vanderdecken returned to the bedside
of his mother, whom he found much better; and the neighbours, having
their own affairs to attend to, left them alone. Exhausted with the
loss of blood, the poor woman slumbered for many hours, during which
she never let go the hand of Philip, who watched her breathing in
It was about one o'clock in the morning when the widow awoke. She had
in a great degree recovered her voice, and thus she addressed her
"My dear, my impetuous boy, and have I detained you here a prisoner so
"My own inclination detained me, mother. I leave you not to others
until you are up and well again."
"That, Philip, I shall never be. I feel that death claims me; and, O,
my son, were it not for you, how should I quit this world rejoicing!
I have long been dying, Philip,--and long, long have I prayed for
"And why so, mother?" replied Philip, bluntly; "I've done my best."
"You have, my child, you have: and may God bless you for it. Often
have I seen you curb your fiery temper--restrain yourself when
justified in wrath--to spare a mother's feelings. 'Tis now some days
that even hunger has not persuaded you to disobey your mother. And,
Philip, you must have thought me mad or foolish to insist so long, and
yet to give no reason. I'll speak--again--directly."
The widow turned her head upon the pillow, and remained quiet for some
minutes; then, as if revived, she resumed:
"I believe I have been mad at times--have I not, Philip? And God knows
I have had a secret in my heart enough to drive a wife to frenzy. It
has oppressed me day and night, worn my mind, impaired my reason, and
now, at last, thank Heaven! it has overcome this mortal frame: the
blow is struck, Philip,--I'm sure it is. I wait but to tell you
all,--and yet I would not,--'twill turn your brain as it has turned
"Mother," replied Philip, earnestly, "I conjure you, let me hear this
killing secret. Be heaven or hell mixed up with it, I fear not. Heaven
will not hurt me, and Satan I defy."
"I know thy bold, proud spirit, Philip,--thy strength of mind. If
anyone could bear the load of such a dreadful tale, thou couldst. My
brain, alas! was far too weak for it; and I see it is my duty to tell
it to thee."
The widow paused as her thoughts reverted to that which she had to
confide; for a few minutes the tears rained down her hollow cheeks;
she then appeared to have summoned resolution, and to have regained
"Philip, it is of your father I would speak. It is supposed--that he
was--drowned at sea."
"And was he not, mother?" replied Philip, with surprise.
"But he has long been dead, mother?"
"No,--yes,--and yet--no," said the widow, covering her eyes.
Her brain wanders, thought Philip, but he spoke again:
"Then where is he, mother?"
The widow raised herself, and a tremor visibly ran through her whole
frame, as she replied--
"IN LIVING JUDGMENT."
The poor woman then sank down again upon the pillow, and covered her
head with the bedclothes, as if she would have hid herself from her
own memory. Philip was so much perplexed and astounded, that he could
make no reply. A silence of some minutes ensued, when, no longer able
to beat the agony of suspense, Philip faintly whispered--
"The secret, mother, the secret; quick, let me hear it."
"I can now tell all, Philip," replied his mother, in a solemn tone of
voice. "Hear me, my son. Your father's disposition was but too like
your own;--O may his cruel fate be a lesson to you, my dear, dear
child! He was a bold, a daring, and, they say, a first-rate seaman.
He was not born here, but in Amsterdam; but he would not live there,
because he still adhered to the Catholic religion. The Dutch, you
know, Philip, are heretics, according to our creed. It is now
seventeen years or more that he sailed for India, in his fine ship
the _Amsterdammer_, with a valuable cargo. It was his third voyage to
India, Philip, and it was to have been, if it had so pleased God,
his last, for he had purchased that good ship with only part of his
earnings, and one more voyage would have made his fortune. O! how
often did we talk over what we would do upon his return, and how these
plans for the future consoled me at the idea of his absence, for I
loved him dearly, Philip,--he was always good and kind to me; and
after he had sailed, how I hoped for his return! The lot of a sailor's
wife is not to be envied. Alone and solitary for so many months,
watching the long wick of the candle, and listening to the howling of
the wind--foreboding evil and accident--wreck and widowhood. He had
been gone about six months, Philip, and there was still a long dreary
year to wait before I could expect him back. One night, you, my
child, were fast asleep; you were my only solace--my comfort in my
loneliness. I had been watching over you in your slumbers; you smiled
and half pronounced the name of mother; and at last I kissed your
unconscious lips, and I knelt and prayed--prayed for God's blessing on
you, my child, and upon him too--little thinking, at the time, that he
was so horribly, so fearfully CURSED."
The widow paused for breath, and then resumed. Philip could not speak.
His lips were sundered, and his eyes riveted upon his mother, as he
devoured her words.
"I left you and went downstairs into that room, Philip, which since
that dreadful night has never been re-opened. I sate me down and read,
for the wind was strong, and when the gale blows, a sailor's wife can
seldom sleep. It was past midnight, and the rain poured down. I felt
unusual fear,--I knew not why. I rose from the couch and dipped my
finger in the blessed water, and I crossed myself. A violent gust
of wind roared round the house, and alarmed me still more. I had a
painful, horrible foreboding; when, of a sudden, the windows and
window-shutters were all blown in, the light was extinguished, and
I was left in utter darkness. I screamed with fright; but at last I
recovered myself, and was proceeding towards the window that I
might reclose it, when whom should I behold, slowly entering at the
casement, but--your father,--Philip!--Yes, Philip,--it was your
"Merciful God!" muttered Philip, in a low tone almost subdued into a
"I knew not what to think,--he was in the room; and although the
darkness was intense, his form and features were as clear and as
defined as if it were noon-day. Fear would have inclined me to recoil
from,--his loved presence to fly towards him. I remained on the spot
where I was, choked with agonising sensations. When he had entered the
room, the windows and shutters closed of themselves, and the candle
was relighted--then I thought it was his apparition, and I fainted on
"When I recovered I found myself on the couch, and perceived that
a cold (O how cold!) and dripping hand was clasped in mine. This
reassured me, and I forgot the supernatural signs which accompanied
his appearance. I imagined that he had been unfortunate, and had
returned home. I opened my eyes, and beheld my loved husband and threw
myself into his arms. His clothes were saturated with the rain: I
felt as if I had embraced ice--but nothing can check the warmth of a
woman's love, Philip. He received my caresses, but he caressed
not again: he spoke not, but looked thoughtful and unhappy.
'William--William,' cried I! 'speak, Vanderdecken, speak to your dear
"'I will,' replied he, solemnly, 'for my time is short.'
"'No, no, you must not go to sea again: you have lost your vessel, but
you are safe. Have I not you again?'
"'Alas! no--be not alarmed, but listen, for my time is short. I have
not lost my vessel, Catherine, BUT I HAVE LOST!!! Make no reply, but
listen; I am not dead, nor yet am I alive. I hover between this world
and the world of Spirits. Mark me.
"'For nine weeks did I try to force my passage against the elements
round the stormy Cape, but without success; and I swore terribly.
For nine weeks more did I carry sail against the adverse winds and
currents, and yet could gain no ground; and then I blasphemed,--ay,
terribly blasphemed. Yet still I persevered. The crew, worn out
with long fatigue, would have had me return to the Table Bay; but I
refused; nay, more, I became a murderer,--unintentionally, it is true,
but still a murderer. The pilot opposed me, and persuaded the men to
bind me, and in the excess of my fury, when he took me by the collar,
I struck at him; he reeled; and, with the sudden lurch of the vessel,
he fell overboard, and sank. Even this fearful death did not restrain
me; and I swore by the fragment of the Holy Cross, preserved in that
relic now hanging round your neck, that I would gain my point in
defiance of storm and seas, of lightning, of heaven, or of hell, even
if I should beat about until the Day of Judgment.
"'My oath was registered in thunder, and in streams of sulphurous
fire. The hurricane burst upon the ship, the canvas flew away in
ribbons; mountains of seas swept over us, and in the centre of a deep
o'erhanging cloud, which shrouded all in utter darkness, were written
in letters of livid flame, these words--UNTIL THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.
"'Listen to me, Catherine, my time is short. _One Hope_ alone remains,
and for this am I permitted to come here. Take this letter.' He put a
sealed paper on the table. 'Read it, Catherine, dear, and try if you
can assist me. Read it and now farewell--my time is come.'
"Again the window and window-shutters burst open--again the light was
extinguished, and the form of my husband was, as it were, wafted in
the dark expanse. I started up and followed him with outstretched arms
and frantic screams as he sailed through the window;--my glaring eyes
beheld his form borne away like lightning on the wings of the wild
gale, till it was lost as a speck of light, and then it disappeared.
Again the windows closed, the light burned, and I was left alone!
"Heaven, have mercy! My brain!--my brain!--Philip!--Philip!" shrieked
the poor woman; "don't leave me--don't--don't--pray don't!"
During these exclamations the frantic widow had raised herself from
the bed, and, at the last, had fallen into the arms of her son. She
remained there some minutes without motion. After a time Philip felt
alarmed at her long quiescence; he laid her gently down upon the bed,
and as he did so her head fell back--her eyes were turned--the widow
Vanderdecken was no more.
Philip Vanderdecken, strong as he was in mental courage, was almost
paralysed by the shock when he discovered that his mother's spirit had
fled; and for some time he remained by the side of the bed with his
eyes fixed upon the corpse, and his mind in a state of vacuity.
Gradually he recovered himself; he rose, smoothed down the pillow,
closed her eyelids, and then clasping his hands, the tears trickled
down his manly cheeks. He impressed a solemn kiss upon the pale white
forehead of the departed, and drew the curtains round the bed.
"Poor mother!" said he, sorrowfully, as he completed his task, "at
length thou hast found rest,--but thou hast left thy son a bitter
And as Philip's thoughts reverted to what had passed, the dreadful
narrative whirled in his imagination and scathed his brain. He raised
his hands to his temples, compressed them with force, and tried to
collect his thoughts, that he might decide upon what measures he
should take. He felt that he had no time to indulge his grief. His
mother was in peace: but his father--where was he?
He recalled his mother's words--"One hope alone remained." Then there
was hope. His father had laid a paper on the table--could it be there
now? Yes, it must be; his mother had not had the courage to take it
up. There was hope in that paper, and it had lain unopened for more
than seventeen years.
Philip Vanderdecken resolved that he would examine the fatal
chamber--at once he would know the worst. Should he do it now, or wait
till daylight?--but the key, where was it? His eyes rested upon an old
japanned cabinet in the room: he had never seen his mother open it in
his presence: it was the only likely place of concealment that he was
aware of. Prompt in all his decisions, he took up the candle, and
proceeded to examine it. It was not locked; the doors swung open, and
drawer after drawer was examined, but Philip discovered not the object
of his search; again and again did he open the drawers, but they were
all empty. It occurred to Philip that there might be secret drawers,
and he examined for some time in vain. At last he took out all the
drawers, and laid them on the floor, and lifting the cabinet off its
stand he shook it. A rattling sound in one corner told him that in all
probability the key was there concealed. He renewed his attempts to
discover how to gain it, but in vain. Daylight now streamed through
the casements, and Philip had not desisted from his attempts: at last,
wearied out, he resolved to force the back panel of the cabinet; he
descended to the kitchen, and returned with a small chopping-knife and
hammer, and was on his knees busily employed forcing out the panel,
when a hand was placed upon his shoulder.
Philip started; he had been so occupied with his search and his wild
chasing thoughts, that he had not heard the sound of an approaching
footstep. He looked up and beheld the Father Seysen, the priest of the
little parish, with his eyes sternly fixed upon him. The good man had
been informed of the dangerous state of the widow Vanderdecken, and
had risen at daylight to visit and afford her spiritual comfort.
"How now, my son," said the priest: "fearest thou not to disturb thy
mother's rest? and wouldst thou pilfer and purloin even before she is
in her grave?"
"I fear not to disturb my mother's rest, good father," replied Philip,
rising on his feet, "for she now rests with the blessed. Neither do I
pilfer or purloin. It is not gold I seek, although if gold there were,
that gold would now be mine. I seek but a key, long hidden, I believe,
within this secret drawer, the opening of which is a mystery beyond my
"Thy mother is no more, sayest thou, my son? and dead without
receiving the rites of our most holy church! Why didst thou not send
"She died, good father, suddenly--most suddenly, in these arms, about
two hours ago. I fear not for her soul, although I can but grieve you
were not at her side."
The priest gently opened the curtains, and looked upon the corpse. He
sprinkled holy water on the bed, and for a short time his lips were
seen to move in silent prayer. He then turned round to Philip.
"Why do I see thee thus employed? and why so anxious to obtain that
key? A mother's death should call forth filial tears and prayers for
her repose. Yet are thine eyes dry, and thou art employed upon an
indifferent search while yet the tenement is warm which but now held
her spirit. This is not seemly, Philip. What is the key thou seekest?"
"Father, I have no time for tears--no time to spare for grief or
lamentation. I have much to do and more to think of than thought can
well embrace. That I loved my mother, you know well."
"But the key thou seekest, Philip?"
"Father, it is the key of a chamber which has not been unlocked for
years, which I must--will open; even if--"
"If what, my son?"
"I was about to say what I should not have said. Forgive me, Father; I
meant that I must search that chamber."
"I have long heard of that same chamber being closed; and that thy
mother would not explain wherefore, I know well, for I have asked
her, and have been denied. Nay, when, as in duty bound, I pressed the
question, I found her reason was disordered by my importunity, and
therefore I abandoned the attempt. Some heavy weight was on thy
mother's mind, my son, yet would she never confess or trust it with
me. Tell me, before she died, hadst thou this secret from her?"
"I had, most holy father."
"Wouldst thou not feel comfort if thou didst confide to me, my son? I
"Father, I would indeed--I could confide it to thee, and ask for thy
assistance--I know 'tis not from curious feeling thou wouldst have it,
but from a better motive. But of that which has been told it is not
yet manifest--whether it is as my poor mother says, or but the phantom
of a heated brain. Should it indeed be true, fain would I share the
burthen with you--yet little you might thank me for the heavy load.
But no--at least not now--it must not, cannot be revealed. I must do
my work--enter that hated room alone."
"Fearest thou not?"
"Father, I fear nothing. I have a duty to perform--a dreadful one, I
grant; but I pray thee, ask no more; for, like my poor mother, I feel
as if the probing of the wound would half unseat my reason."
"I will not press thee further, Philip. The time may come when I may
prove of service. Farewell, my child; but I pray thee to discontinue
thy unseemly labour, for I must send in the neighbours to perform the
duties to thy departed mother, whose soul I trust is with its God."
The priest looked at Philip; he perceived that his thoughts were
elsewhere; there was a vacancy and appearance of mental stupefaction,
and as he turned away, the good man shook his head.
"He is right," thought Philip, when once more alone; and he took up
the cabinet, and placed it upon the stand. "A few hours more can make
no difference: I will lay me down, for my head is giddy."
Philip went into the adjoining room, threw himself upon his bed, and
in a few minutes was in a sleep as sound as that permitted to the
wretch a few hours previous to his execution.
During his slumbers the neighbours had come in, and had prepared
everything for the widow's interment. They had been careful not to
wake the son, for they held as sacred the sleep of those who must
wake up to sorrow. Among others, soon after the hour of noon arrived
Mynheer Poots; he had been informed of the death of the widow, but
having a spare hour, he thought he might as well call, as it would
raise his charges by another guilder. He first went into the room
where the body lay, and from thence he proceeded to the chamber of
Philip, and shook him by the shoulder.
Philip awoke, and, sitting up, perceived the doctor standing by him.
"Well, Mynheer Vanderdecken," commenced the unfeeling little man, "so
it's all over. I knew it would be so, and recollect you owe me now
another guilder, and you promised faithfully to pay me; altogether,
with the potion, it will be three guilders and a half--that is,
provided you return my phial."
Philip, who at first waking was confused, gradually recovered his
senses during this address.
"You shall have your three guilders and a half, and your phial to
boot, Mr Poots," replied he, as he rose from off the bed.
"Yes, yes; I know you mean to pay me--if you can. But look you,
Mynheer Philip, it may be some time before you sell the cottage. You
may not find a customer. Now, I never wish to be hard upon people who
have no money, and I'll tell you what I'll do. There is a something
on your mother's neck. It is of no value, none at all, but to a good
Catholic. To help you in your strait, I will take that thing, and then
we shall be quits. You will have paid me, and there will be an end of
Philip listened calmly: he knew to what the little miser had
referred,--the relic on his mother's neck--that very relic upon which
his father swore the fatal oath. He felt that millions of guilders
would not have induced him to part with it.
"Leave the house," answered he abruptly. "Leave it immediately. Your
money shall be paid."
Now, Mynheer Poots, in the first place, knew that the setting of the
relic, which was in a square frame of pure gold, was worth much more
than the sum due to him: he also knew that a large price had been paid
for the relic itself, and as at that time such a relic was considered
very valuable, he had no doubt but that it would again fetch a
considerable sum. Tempted by the sight of it when he entered the
chamber of death, he had taken it from the neck of the corpse, and it
was then actually concealed in his bosom, so he replied--
"My offer is a good one, Mynheer Philip, and you had better take it.
Of what use is such trash?"
"I tell you, no," cried Philip, in a rage.
"Well, then, you will let me have it in my possession till I am paid,
Mynheer Vanderdecken--that is but fair. I must not lose my money. When
you bring me my three guilders and a half and the phial, I will return
it to you."
Philip's indignation was now without bounds. He seized Mynheer Poots
by the collar, and threw him out of the door. "Away immediately,"
cried he, "or by--"
There was no occasion for Philip to finish the imprecation. The doctor
had hastened away with such alarm, that he fell down half the steps
of the staircase, and was limping away across the bridge. He almost
wished that the relic had not been in his possession; but his sudden
retreat had prevented him, even if so inclined, from replacing it on
The result of this conversation naturally turned Philip's thoughts to
the relic, and he went into his mother's room to take possession of
it. He opened the curtains--the corpse was laid out--he put forth his
hand to untie the black ribbon. It was not there. "Gone!" exclaimed
Philip. "They hardly would have removed it--never would--. It must
be that villain Poots--wretch; but I will have it, even if he has
swallowed it, though I tear him limb from limb!"
Philip darted down the stairs, rushed out of the house, cleared the
moat at one bound, and without coat or hat, flew away in the direction
of the doctor's lonely residence. The neighbours saw him as he passed
them like the wind; they wondered, and they shook their heads. Mynheer
Poots was not more than half-way to his home, for he had hurt his
ankle. Apprehensive of what might possibly take place should his theft
be discovered, he occasionally looked behind him; at length, to his
horror, he beheld Philip Vanderdecken at a distance bounding on in
pursuit of him. Frightened almost out of his senses, the wretched
pilferer hardly knew how to act; to stop and surrender up the stolen
property was his first thought, but fear of Vanderdecken's violence
prevented him; so he decided on taking to his heels, thus hoping to
gain his house, and barricade himself in, by which means he would be
in a condition to keep possession of what he had stolen, or at least
make some terms ere he restored it.
Mynheer Poots had need to run fast, and so he did; his thin legs
bearing his shrivelled form rapidly over the ground; but Philip, who,
when he witnessed the doctor's attempt to escape, was fully convinced
that he was the culprit, redoubled his exertions, and rapidly came up
with the chase. When within a hundred yards of his own door, Mynheer
Poots heard the bounding step of Philip gain upon him, and he sprang
and leaped in his agony. Nearer and nearer still the step, until at
last he heard the very breathing of his pursuer, and Poots shrieked in
his fear, like the hare in the jaws of the greyhound. Philip was not
a yard from him; his arm was outstretched, when the miscreant dropped
down paralysed with terror, and the impetus of Vanderdecken was so
great that he passed over his body, tripped, and after trying in vain
to recover his equilibrium, he fell and rolled over and over. This
saved the little doctor; it was like the double of a hare. In a second
he was again on his legs, and before Philip could rise and again exert
his speed, Poots had entered his door and bolted it within. Philip
was, however, determined to repossess the important treasure; and as
he panted, he cast his eyes around, to see if any means offered for
his forcing his entrance into the house. But as the habitation of the
doctor was lonely, every precaution had been taken by him to render
it secure against robbery; the windows below were well barricaded and
secured, and those on the upper story were too high for anyone to
obtain admittance by them.
We must here observe, that although Mynheer Poots was, from his
known abilities, in good practice, his reputation as a hard-hearted,
unfeeling miser was well established. No one was ever permitted to
enter his threshold, nor, indeed, did any one feel inclined. He was as
isolated from his fellow-creatures as was his tenement, and was only
to be seen in the chamber of disease and death. What his establishment
consisted of no one knew. When he first settled in the neighbourhood,
an old decrepit woman occasionally answered the knocks given at the
door by those who required the doctor's services; but she had been
buried some time, and, ever since, all calls at the door had been
answered by Mynheer Poots in person, if he were at home, and if not,
there was no reply to the most importunate summons. It was then
surmised that the old man lived entirely by himself, being too
niggardly to pay for any assistance. This Philip also imagined; and as
soon as he had recovered his breath, he began to devise some scheme by
which he would be enabled not only to recover the stolen property, but
also to wreak a dire revenge.
The door was strong, and not to be forced by any means which presented
themselves to the eye of Vanderdecken. For a few minutes he paused
to consider, and as he reflected, so did his anger cool down, and
he decided that it would be sufficient to recover his relic without
having recourse to violence. So he called out in a loud voice:--
"Mynheer Poots, I know that you can hear me. Give me back what you
have taken, and I will do you no hurt; but if you will not, you must
take the consequence, for your life shall pay the forfeit before I
leave this spot."
This speech was indeed very plainly heard by Mynheer Poots, but the
little miser had recovered from his fright, and, thinking himself
secure, could not make up his mind to surrender the relic without a
struggle; so the doctor answered not, hoping that the patience of
Philip would be exhausted, and that by some arrangement, such as
the sacrifice of a few guilders, no small matter to one so needy as
Philip, he would be able to secure what he was satisfied would sell at
a high price.
Vanderdecken, finding that no answer was returned, indulged in strong
invective, and then decided upon measures certainly in themselves by
no means undecided.
There was part of a small stack of dry fodder standing not far from
the house, and under the wall a pile of wood for firing. With these
Vanderdecken resolved upon setting fire to the house, and thus, if he
did not gain his relic, he would at least obtain ample revenge. He
brought several armfuls of fodder and laid them at the door of the
house, and upon that he piled the fagots and logs of wood, until the
door was quite concealed by them. He then procured a light from the
steel, flint, and tinder, which every Dutchman carries in his pocket,
and very soon he had fanned the pile into a flame. The smoke ascended
in columns up to the rafters of the roof while the fire raged below.
The door was ignited, and was adding to the fury of the flames, and
Philip shouted with joy at the success of his attempt.
"Now, miserable despoiler of the dead--now, wretched thief, now you
shall feel my vengeance," cried Philip, with a loud voice. "If you
remain within, you perish in the flames; if you attempt to come out
you shall die by my hands. Do you hear, Mynheer Poots--do you hear?"
Hardly had Philip concluded this address when the window of the upper
floor furthest from the burning door was thrown open.
"Ay,--you come now to beg and to entreat; but no--no," cried
Philip--who stopped as he beheld at the window what seemed to be an
apparition, for, instead of the wretched little miser, he beheld
one of the loveliest forms Nature ever deigned to mould--an angelic
creature, of about sixteen or seventeen, who appeared calm and
resolute in the midst of the danger by which she was threatened. Her
long black hair was braided and twined round her beautifully-formed
head; her eyes were large, intensely dark, yet soft; her forehead high
and white, her chin dimpled, her ruby lips arched and delicately
fine, her nose small and straight. A lovelier face could not be well
imagined; it reminded you of what the best of painters have sometimes,
in their more fortunate moments, succeeded in embodying, when they
would represent a beauteous saint. And as the flames wreathed and the
smoke burst out in columns and swept past the window, so might she
have reminded you in her calmness of demeanour of some martyr at the
"What wouldst thou, violent young man? Why are the inmates of this
house to suffer death by your means?" said the maiden, with composure.
For a few seconds Philip gazed, and could make no reply; then the
thought seized him that, in his vengeance, he was about to sacrifice
so much loveliness. He forgot everything but her danger, and seizing
one of the large poles which he had brought to feed the flame, he
threw off and scattered in every direction the burning masses, until
nothing was left which could hurt the building but the ignited door
itself; and this, which as yet--for it was of thick oak plank--had not
suffered very material injury, he soon reduced, by beating it, with
clods of earth, to a smoking and harmless state. During these active
measures on the part of Philip, the young maiden watched him in
"All is safe now, young lady," said Philip. "God forgive me that I
should have risked a life so precious. I thought but to wreak my
vengeance upon Mynheer Poots."
"And what cause can Mynheer Poots have given for such dreadful
vengeance?" replied the maiden calmly.
"What cause, young lady? He came to my house--despoiled the dead--took
from my mother's corpse a relic beyond price."
"Despoiled the dead!--he surely cannot--you must wrong him, young
"No, no. It is the fact, lady,--and that relic--forgive me--but that
relic I must have. You know not what depends upon it."
"Wait, young sir," replied the maiden; "I will soon return."
Philip waited several minutes, lost in thought and admiration: so fair
a creature in the house of Mynheer Poots! Who could she be? While thus
ruminating, he was accosted by the silver voice of the object of his
reveries, who, leaning out of the window, held in her hand the black
ribbon to which was attached the article so dearly coveted.
"Here is your relic, sir," said the young female; "I regret much that
my father should have done a deed which well might justify your anger:
but here it is," continued she, dropping it down on the ground by
Philip; "and now you may depart."
"Your father, maiden! can he be your _father_?" said Philip,
forgetting to take up the relic which lay at his feet.
She would have retired from the window without reply, but Philip spoke
"Stop, lady, stop one moment, until I beg your forgiveness for my
wild, foolish act. I swear by this sacred relic," continued he, taking
it from the ground and raising it to his lips, "that had I known that
any unoffending person had been in this house, I would not have done
the deed, and much do I rejoice that no harm hath happened. But there
is still danger, lady; the door must be unbarred, and the jambs, which
still are glowing, be extinguished, or the house may yet be burnt.
Fear not for your father, maiden, for had he done me a thousand times
more wrong, you will protect each hair upon his head. He knows me well
enough to know I keep my word. Allow me to repair the injury I have
occasioned, and then I will depart."
"No, no; don't trust him," said Mynheer Poots, from within the
"Yes, he may be trusted," replied the daughter; "and his services are
much needed, for what could a poor weak girl like me, and a still
weaker father, do in this strait? Open the door, and let the house be
made secure." The maiden then addressed Philip--"He shall open the
door, sir, and I will thank you for your kind service. I trust
entirely to your promise."
"I never yet was known to break my word, maiden," replied Philip; "but
let him be quick, for the flames are bursting out again."
The door was opened by the trembling hands of Mynheer Poots, who then
made a hasty retreat upstairs. The truth of what Philip had said was
then apparent. Many were the buckets of water which he was obliged to
fetch before the fire was subdued; but during his exertions neither
the daughter nor the father made their appearance.
When all was safe, Philip closed the door, and again looked up at the
window. The fair girl made her appearance, and Philip, with a low
obeisance, assured her that there was then no danger.
"I thank you, sir," replied she--"I thank you much. Your conduct,
although hasty at first, has yet been most considerate."
"Assure your father, maiden, that all animosity on my part hath
ceased, and that in a few days I will call and satisfy the demand he
hath against me."
The window closed, and Philip, more excited, but with feelings
altogether different from those with which he had set out, looked at
it for a minute, and then bent his steps to his own cottage.
The discovery of the beautiful daughter of Mynheer Poots had made a
strong impression upon Philip Vanderdecken, and now he had another
excitement to combine with those which already overcharged his bosom.
He arrived at his own house, went upstairs, and threw himself on the
bed from which he had been roused by Mynheer Poots. At first, he
recalled to his mind the scene we have just described, painted in his
imagination the portrait of the fair girl, her eyes, her expression,
her silver voice, and the words which she had uttered; but her
pleasing image was soon chased away by the recollection that his
mother's corpse lay in the adjoining chamber, and that his father's
secret was hidden in the room below.
The funeral was to take place the next morning, and Philip, who, since
his meeting with the daughter of Mynheer Poots, appeared even to
himself not so anxious for immediate examination of the room, resolved
that he would not open it until after the melancholy ceremony. With
this resolution he fell asleep; and exhausted with bodily and mental
excitement, he did not wake until the next morning, when he was
summoned by the priest to assist at the funeral rites. In an hour all
was over; the crowd dispersed, and Philip, returning to the cottage,
bolted the door that he might not be interrupted, and felt happy that
he was alone.
There is a feeling in our nature which will arise when we again find
ourselves in the tenement where death has been, and all traces of
it have been removed. It is a feeling of satisfaction and relief at
having rid ourselves of the memento of mortality, the silent evidence
of the futility of our pursuits and anticipations. We know that we
must one day die, but we always wish to forget it. The continual
remembrance would be too great a check upon our mundane desires and
wishes; and although we are told that we ever should have futurity in
our thoughts, we find that life is not to be enjoyed if we are not
permitted occasional forgetfulness. For who would plan what rarely
he is permitted to execute, if each moment of the day he thought of
death? We either hope that we may live longer than others, or we
forget that we may not.
If this buoyant feeling had not been planted in our nature, how little
would the world have been improved even from the deluge! Philip walked
into the room where his mother had lain one short hour before, and
unwittingly felt relief. Taking down the cabinet, he now recommenced
his task; the back panel was soon removed, and a secret drawer
discovered; he drew it out, and it contained what he presumed to be
the object of his search,--a large key with a slight coat of rust upon
it, which came off upon its being handled. Under the key was a paper,
the writing on which was somewhat discoloured; it was in his mother's
hand, and ran as follows:--
"It is now two nights since a horrible event took place which has
induced me to close the lower chamber, and my brain is still bursting
with terror. Should I not, during my lifetime, reveal what occurred,
still this key will be required, as at my death the room will be
opened. When I rushed from it I hastened upstairs, and remained that
night with my child; the next morning I summoned up sufficient courage
to go down, turn the key, and bring it up into my chamber. It is now
closed till I close my eyes in death. No privation, no suffering,
shall induce me to open it, although in the iron cupboard under the
buffet farthest from the window, there is money sufficient for all my
wants; that money will remain there for my child, to whom, if I do not
impart the fatal secret, he must be satisfied that it is one which it
were better should be concealed,--one so horrible as to induce me to
take the steps which I now do. The keys of the cupboards and buffets
were, I think, lying on the table, or in my workbox, when I quitted
the room. There is a letter on the table, at least I think so. It
is sealed. Let not the seal be broken but by my son, and not by him
unless he knows the secret. Let it be burnt by the priest,--for it
is cursed;--and even should my son know all that I do, oh! let him
pause,--let him reflect well before he breaks the seal,--for 'twere
better he should know NO MORE!"
"Not know more!" thought Philip, as his eyes were still fixed upon the
paper. "Yes, but I must and will know more! so forgive me, dearest
mother, if I waste no time in reflection. It would be but time thrown
away, when one is resolved as I am."
Philip pressed his lips to his mother's signature, folded up the
paper, and put it into his pocket; then, taking the key, he proceeded
It was about noon when Philip descended to open the chamber; the sun
shone bright, the sky was clear, and all without was cheerful and
joyous. The front door of the cottage being closed, there was not much
light in the passage when Philip put the key into the lock of the
long-closed door, and with some difficulty turned it round. To say
that when he pushed open the door he felt no alarm, would not be
correct; he did feel alarm, and his heart palpitated; but he felt more
than was requisite of determination to conquer that alarm, and to
conquer more, should more be created by what he should behold. He
opened the door, but did not immediately enter the room: he paused
where he stood, for he felt as if he was about to intrude into the
retreat of a disembodied spirit, and that that spirit might reappear.
He waited a minute, for the effort of opening the door had taken away
his breath, and, as he recovered himself, he looked within.
He could but imperfectly distinguish the objects in the chamber, but
through the joints of the shutters there were three brilliant beams of
sunshine forcing their way across the room, which at first induced him
to recoil as if from something supernatural; but a little reflection
reassured him. After about a minute's pause, Philip went into the
kitchen, lighted a candle, and, sighing deeply two or three times
as if to relieve his heart, he summoned his resolution, and walked
towards the fatal room. He first stopped at the threshold, and, by the
light of the candle, took a hasty survey. All was still: and the
table on which the letter had been left, being behind the door, was
concealed by its being opened. It must be done, thought Philip: and
why not at once? continued he, resuming his courage; and, with a firm
step, he walked into the room and went to unfasten the shutters. If
his hands trembled a little when he called to mind how supernaturally
they had last been opened, it is not surprising. We are but mortal,
and we shrink from contact with aught beyond this life. When the
fastenings were removed and the shutters unfolded, a stream of light
poured into the room so vivid as to dazzle his eyesight; strange to
say, this very light of a brilliant day overthrew the resolution of
Philip more than the previous gloom and darkness had done; and with
the candle in his hand, he retreated hastily into the kitchen to
re-summon his courage, and there he remained for some minutes, with
his face covered, and in deep thought.
It is singular that his reveries at last ended by reverting to the
fair daughter of Mynheer Poots, and her first appearance at the
window; and he felt as if the flood of light which had just driven
him from the one, was not more impressive and startling than her
enchanting form at the other. His mind dwelling upon the beauteous
vision appeared to restore Philip's confidence; he now rose and boldly
walked into the room. We shall not describe the objects it contained
as they chanced to meet the eyes of Philip, but attempt a more lucid
The room was about twelve or fourteen feet square, with but one
window; opposite to the door stood the chimney and fireplace, with a
high buffet of dark wood on each side. The floor of the room was not
dirty, although about its upper parts spiders had run their cobwebs
in every direction. In the centre of the ceiling, hung a quicksilver
globe, a common ornament in those days, but the major part of it had
lost its brilliancy, the spiders' webs enclosing it like a shroud.
Over the chimney piece were hung two or three drawings framed and
glazed, but a dusty mildew was spotted over the glass, so that little
of them could be distinguished. In the centre of the mantel-piece was
an image of the Virgin Mary, of pure silver, in a shrine of the same
metal, but it was tarnished to the colour of bronze or iron; some
Indian figures stood on each side of it. The glass doors of the
buffets on each side of the chimney-piece were also so dimmed that
little of what was within could be distinguished; the light and heat
which had been poured into the room, even for so short a time, had
already gathered up the damp of many years, and it lay as a mist and
mingled with the dust upon the panes of glass: still here and there a
glittering of silver vessels could be discerned, for the glass doors
had protected them from turning black, although much dimmed in lustre.
On the wall facing the window were other prints, in frames equally
veiled in damp and cobwebs, and also two bird-cages. The bird-cages
Philip approached, and looked into them. The occupants, of course, had
long been dead; but at the bottom of the cages was a small heap of
yellow feathers, through which the little white bones of the skeletons
were to be seen, proving that they had been brought from the Canary
Isles; and, at that period, such birds were highly valued. Philip
appeared to wish to examine everything before he sought that which
he most dreaded, yet most wished, to find. There were several chairs
round the room: on one of them was some linen; he took it up. It was
some that must have belonged to him when he was yet a child. At last,
Philip turned his eyes to the wall not yet examined (that opposite the
chimney-piece), through which the door was pierced, and behind the
door as it lay open, he was to find the table, the couch, the workbox,
and the FATAL LETTER. As he turned round, his pulse, which had
gradually recovered its regular motion, beat more quickly; but he made
the effort, and it was over. At first he examined the walls, against
which were hung swords and pistols of various sorts, but chiefly
Asiatic bows and arrows, and other implements of destruction. Philip's
eyes gradually descended upon the table, and little couch behind it,
where his mother stated herself to have been seated when his father
made his awful visit. The workbox and all its implements were on the
table, just as she had left them. The keys she mentioned were also
lying there, but Philip looked, and looked again; there was no letter.
He now advanced nearer, examined closely--there was none that he could
perceive, either on the couch or on the table--or on the floor. He
lifted up the workbox to ascertain if it was beneath--but no. He
examined among its contents, but no letter was there. He turned over
the pillows of the couch, but still there was no letter to be found.
And Philip felt as if there had been a heavy load removed from his
panting chest. "Surely, then," thought he, as he leant against the
wall, "this must have been the vision of a heated imagination. My poor
mother must have fallen asleep, and dreamt this horrid tale. I thought
it was impossible, at least I hoped so. It must have been as I
suppose; the dream was too powerful, too like a fearful reality,
partially unseated my poor mother's reason." Philip reflected again,
and was then satisfied that his suppositions were correct.
"Yes, it must have been so, poor dear mother! how much thou hast
suffered! but thou art now rewarded, and with God."
After a few minutes (during which he surveyed the room again and
again with more coolness, and perhaps some indifference, now that he
regarded the supernatural history as not true), Philip took out of his
pocket the written paper found with the key, and read it over--"The
iron cupboard under the buffet farthest from the window." "'Tis well."
He took the bunch of keys from off the table, and soon fitted one to
the outside wooden doors which concealed the iron safe. A second
key on the bunch opened the iron doors; and Philip found himself in
possession of a considerable sum of money, amounting, as near as he
could reckon, to ten thousand guilders, in little yellow sacks. "My
poor mother!" thought he; "and has a mere dream scared thee to penury
and want, with all this wealth in thy possession?" Philip replaced the
sacks, and locked up the cupboards, after having taken out of one,
already half emptied, a few pieces for his immediate wants. His
attention was next directed to the buffets above, which, with one
of the keys, he opened; he found that they contained china, silver
flagons, and cups of considerable value. The locks were again turned,
and the bunch of keys thrown upon the table.
The sudden possession of so much wealth added to the conviction, to
which Philip had now arrived, that there had been no supernatural
appearance, as supposed by his mother, naturally revived and composed
his spirits; and he felt a reaction which amounted almost to hilarity.
Seating himself on the couch, he was soon in a reverie, and as before,
reverted to the lovely daughter of Mynheer Poots, indulging in various
castle-buildings, all ending, as usual, when we choose for ourselves,
in competence and felicity. In this pleasing occupation he remained
for more than two hours, when his thoughts again reverted to his poor
mother and her fearful death.
"Dearest, kindest mother!" apostrophised Philip aloud, as he rose from
his leaning position, "here thou wert, tired with watching over my
infant slumbers, thinking of my absent father and his dangers, working
up thy mind and anticipating evil, till thy fevered sleep conjured up
this apparition. Yes, it must have been so, for see here, lying on the
floor, is the embroidery, as it fell from thy unconscious hands,
and with that labour ceased thy happiness in this life. Dear, dear
mother!" continued he, a tear rolling down his cheek as he stooped to
pick up the piece of muslin, "how much hast thou suffered when--God of
Heaven!" exclaimed Philip, as he lifted up the embroidery, starting
back with violence, and overturning the table, "God of Heaven and of
Judgment, there is--there _is_," and Philip clasped his hands, and
bowed his head in awe and anguish, as in a changed and fearful tone he
muttered forth--"the LETTER!"
It was but too true,--underneath the embroidery on the floor had lain
the fatal letter of Vanderdecken. Had Philip seen it on the table when
he first went into the room, and was prepared to find it, he would
have taken it up with some degree of composure; but to find it now,
when he had persuaded himself that it was all an illusion on the part
of his mother; when he had made up his mind that there had been no
supernatural agency; after he had been indulging in visions of future
bliss and repose, was a shock that transfixed him where he stood, and
for some time he remained in his attitude of surprise and terror. Down
at once fell the airy fabric of happiness which he had built up during
the last two hours; and as he gradually recovered from his alarm, his
heart filled with melancholy forebodings. At last he dashed forward,
seized the letter, and burst out of the fatal room.
"I cannot, dare not, read it here," exclaimed he: "no, no, it must be
under the vault of high and offended Heaven, that the message must be
received." Philip took his hat, and went out of the house; in calm
despair he locked the door, took out the key, and walked he knew not
If the reader can imagine the feelings of a man who, sentenced
to death, and having resigned himself to his fate, finds himself
unexpectedly reprieved; who, having recomposed his mind after the
agitation arising from a renewal of those hopes and expectations which
he had abandoned, once more dwells upon future prospects, and indulges
in pleasing anticipations: we say, that if the reader can imagine
this, and then what would be that man's feelings when he finds that
the reprieve is revoked, and that he is to suffer, he may then form
some idea of the state of Philip's mind when he quitted the cottage.
Long did he walk, careless in which direction, with the letter in his
clenched hand, and his teeth firmly set. Gradually he became more
composed: and out of breath with the rapidity of his motion, he sat
down upon a bank, and there he long remained, with his eyes riveted
upon the dreaded paper, which he held with both his hands upon his
Mechanically he turned the letter over; the seal was black. Philip
sighed.--"I cannot read it now," thought he, and he rose and continued
his devious way.
For another half-hour did Philip keep in motion, and the sun was not
many degrees above the horizon. Philip stopped and looked at it till
his vision failed. "I could imagine that it was the eye of God,"
thought Philip, "and perhaps it may be. Why then, merciful Creator, am
I thus selected from so many millions to fulfil so dire a task?"
Philip looked about him for some spot where he might be concealed from
observation--where he might break the seal, and read this mission from
a world of spirits. A small copse of brushwood, in advance of a grove
of trees, was not far from where he stood. He walked to it, and sat
down, so as to be concealed from any passers-by. Philip once more
looked at the descending orb of day, and by degrees he became
"It is thy will," exclaimed he; "it is my fate, and both must be
Philip put his hand to the seal,--his blood thrilled when he called
to mind that it had been delivered by no mortal hand, and that it
contained the secret of one in judgment. He remembered that that one
was his father; and that it was only in the letter that there was
hope,--hope for his poor father, whose memory he had been taught to
love, and who appealed for help.
"Coward that I am, to have lost so many hours!" exclaimed Philip; "yon
sun appears as if waiting on the hill, to give me light to read."
Philip mused a short time; he was once more the daring Vanderdecken.
Calmly he broke the seal, which bore the initials of his father's
name, and read as follows:--
"One of those pitying spirits whose eyes rain tears for mortal
crimes has been permitted to inform me by what means alone my
dreadful doom may be averted.
"Could I but receive on the deck of my own ship the holy relic
upon which I swore the fatal oath, kiss it in all humility, and
shed one tear of deep contrition on the sacred wood, I then might
rest in peace.
"How this may be effected, or by whom so fatal a task will be
undertaken, I know not. O Catherine, we have a son--but, no, no,
let him not hear of me. Pray for me, and now, farewell.
"Then it is true, most horribly true," thought Philip; "and my father
is even now IN LIVING JUDGMENT. And he points to me--to whom else
should he? Am I not his son, and is it not my duty?
"Yes, father," exclaimed Philip aloud, falling on his knees, "you have
not written these lines in vain. Let me peruse them once more."
Philip raised up his hand; but although it appeared to him that he had
still hold of the letter, it was not there--he grasped nothing. He
looked on the grass to see if it had fallen--but no, there was no
letter, it had disappeared. Was it a vision?--no, no, he had read
every word. "Then it must be to me, and me alone, that the mission was
intended. I accept the sign.
"Hear me, dear father,--if thou art so permitted,--and deign to hear
me, gracious Heaven--hear the son who, by this sacred relic, swears
that he will avert your doom, or perish. To that will he devote his
days; and having done his duty, he will die in hope and peace. Heaven,
that recorded my rash father's oath, now register his son's upon
the same sacred cross, and may perjury on my part be visited with
punishment more dire than his! Receive it, Heaven, as at the last I
trust that in thy mercy thou wilt receive the father and the son! and
if too bold, O pardon my presumption."
Philip threw himself forward on his face, with his lips to the sacred
symbol. The sun went down, and twilight gradually disappeared; night
had, for some time, shrouded all in darkness, and Philip yet remained
in alternate prayer and meditation.
But he was disturbed by the voices of some men, who sat down upon the
turf but a few yards from where he was concealed. The conversation he
little heeded; but it had roused him, and his first feeling was to
return to the cottage, that he might reflect over his plans; but
although the men spoke in a low tone, his attention was soon arrested
by the subject of their conversation, when he heard the name mentioned
of Mynheer Poots. He listened attentively, and discovered that they
were four disbanded soldiers, who intended that night to attack the
house of the little doctor, who had, they knew, much money in his
"What I have proposed is the best," said one of them; "he has no one
with him but his daughter."
"I value her more than his money," replied another; "so, recollect
before we go, it is perfectly understood that she is to be my
"Yes, if you choose to purchase her, there's no objection," replied a
"Agreed; how much will you in conscience ask for a puling girl?"
"I say five hundred guilders," replied another.
"Well, be it so, but on this condition, that if my share of the booty
does not amount to so much, I am to have her for my share, whatever it
"That's very fair," replied the other; "but I'm much mistaken if
we don't turn more than two thousand guilders out of the old man's
"What do you two say--is it agreed--shall Baetens have her?"
"O yes," replied the others.
"Well, then," replied the one who had stipulated for Mynheer Poots'
daughter, "now I am with you, heart and soul. I loved that girl, and
tried to get her,--I positively offered to marry her, but the old
hunks refused me, an ensign, an officer; but now I'll have revenge. We
must not spare him."
"No, no," replied the others.
"Shall we go now, or wait till it is later? In an hour or more the
moon will be up,--we may be seen."
"Who is to see us? unless, indeed, some one is sent for him. The later
the better, I say."
"How long will it take us to get there? Not half an hour, if we walk.
Suppose we start in half an hour hence, we shall just have the moon to
count the guilders by."
"That's all right. In the meantime I'll put a new flint in my lock,
and have my carbine loaded. I can work in the dark."
"You are used to it, Jan."
"Yes, I am,--and I intend this ball to go through the old rascal's
"Well, I'd rather you should kill him than I," replied one of the
others, "for he saved my life at Middleburgh, when everyone made sure
Philip did not wait to hear any more; he crawled behind the bushes
until he gained the grove of trees, and passing through them, made
a detour, so as not to be seen by these miscreants. That they were
disbanded soldiers, many of whom were infesting the country, he
knew well. All his thoughts were now to save the old doctor and his
daughter from the danger which threatened them; and for a time he
forgot his father, and the exciting revelations of the day. Although
Philip had not been aware in what direction he had walked when he set
off from the cottage, he knew the country well; and now that it was
necessary to act, he remembered the direction in which he should find
the lonely house of Mynheer Poots: with the utmost speed he made his
way for it, and in less than twenty minutes he arrived there, out of
As usual, all was silent, and the door fastened. Philip knocked, but
there was no reply. Again and again he knocked, and became impatient.
Mynheer Poots must have been summoned, and was not in the house;
Philip therefore called out, so as to be heard within. "Maiden, if
your father is out, as I presume he must be, listen to what I have to
say--I am Philip Vanderdecken. But now I overheard four wretches who
have planned to murder your father, and rob him of his gold. In one
hour or less they will be here, and I have hastened to warn and to
protect you, if I may. I swear upon the relic that you delivered to me
this morning that what I state is true."
Philip waited a short time, but received no answer.
"Maiden," resumed he, "answer me, if you value that which is more dear
to you, than even your father's gold to him. Open the casement above,
and listen to what I have to say. In so doing there is no risk; and
even if it were not dark, already have I seen you."
A short time after this second address, the casement of the upper
window was unbarred, and the slight form of the fair daughter of
Mynheer Poots was to be distinguished by Philip through the gloom.
"What wouldst thou, young sir, at this unseemly hour? and what is it
thou wouldst impart, but imperfectly heard by me, when thou spokest
this minute at the door?"
Philip then entered into a detail of all that he had overheard, and
concluded by begging her to admit him, that he might defend her.
"Think, fair maiden, of what I have told you. You have been sold
to one of those reprobates, whose name I think they mentioned, was
Baetens. The gold, I know, you value not; but think of thine own dear
self--suffer me to enter the house, and think not for one moment that
my story's feigned. I swear to thee, by the soul of my poor dear
mother, now, I trust, in heaven, that every word is true."
"Baetens, said you, sir?"
"If I mistook them not, such was the name; he said he loved you once."
"That name I have in memory--I know not what to do or what to say--my
father has been summoned to a birth, and may be yet away for many
hours. Yet how can I open the door to you--at night--he is not at
home--I alone? I ought not--cannot--yet do I believe you. You surely
never could be so base as to invent this tale."
"No--upon my hopes of future bliss I could not, maiden! You must not
trifle with your life and honour, but let me in."
"And if I did, what could you do against such numbers? They are four
to one--would soon overpower you, and one more life would be lost."
"Not if you have arms; and I think your father would not be left
without them. I fear them not--you know that I am resolute."
"I do indeed--and now you'd risk your life for those you did assail. I
thank you--thank you kindly, sir--but dare not open the door."
"Then, maiden, if you'll not admit me, here will I now remain; without
arms, and but ill able to contend with four armed villains; but still,
here will I remain and prove my truth to one I will protect against
any odds--yes, even here!"
"Then shall I be thy murderer!--but that must not be. Oh! sir--swear,
swear by all that's holy, and by all that's pure, that you do not
"I swear by thyself, maiden, than all to me more sacred!"
The casement closed, and in a short time a light appeared above. In a
minute or two more the door was opened to Philip by the fair daughter
of Mynheer Poots. She stood with the candle in her right hand, the
colour in her cheeks varying--now flushing red, and again deadly pale.
Her left hand was down by her side, and in it she held a pistol half
concealed. Philip perceived this precaution on her part but took no
notice of it; he wished to reassure her.
"Maiden!" said he, not entering, "if you still have doubts--if you
think you have been ill-advised in giving me admission--there is yet
time to close the door against me: but for your own sake I entreat you
not. Before the moon is up, the robbers will be here. With my life I
will protect you, if you will but trust me. Who indeed could injure
one like you?"
She was indeed (as she stood irresolute and perplexed from the
peculiarity of her situation, yet not wanting in courage when, it was
to be called forth) an object well worthy of gaze and admiration. Her
features thrown into broad light and shade by the candle which at
times was half extinguished by the wind--her symmetry of form and
the gracefulness and singularity of her attire--were matter of
astonishment to Philip. Her head was without covering, and her long
hair fell in plaits behind her shoulders; her stature was rather
under the middle size, but her form perfect; her dress was simple but
becoming, and very different from that usually worn by the young women
of the district. Not only her features but her dress would at once
have indicated to a traveller that she was of Arab blood, as was the
She looked in Philip's face as she spoke--earnestly, as if she would
have penetrated into his inmost thoughts; but there was a frankness
and honesty in his bearing, and a sincerity in his manly countenance,
which reassured her. After a moment's hesitation she replied--
"Come in, sir; I feel that I can trust you."
Philip entered. The door was then closed and made secure.
"We have no time to lose, maiden," said Philip: "but tell me your
name, that I may address you as I ought."
"My name is Amine," replied she, retreating a little.
"I thank you for that little confidence; but I must not dally. What
arms have you in the house, and have you ammunition?"
"Both. I wish that my father would come home."
"And so do I," replied Philip, "devoutly wish he would, before these
murderers come; but not, I trust, while the attack is making, for
there's a carbine loaded expressly for his head, and if they make
him prisoner, they will not spare his life, unless his gold and your
person are given in ransom. But the arms, maiden--where are they?"
"Follow me," replied Amine, leading Philip to an inner room on the
upper floor. It was the sanctum of her father, and was surrounded with
shelves filled with bottles and boxes of drugs. In one corner was an
iron chest, and over the mantel-piece were a brace of carbines and
"They are all loaded," observed Amine, pointing to them, and laying on
the table the one which she had held in her hand.
Philip took down the arms, and examined all the primings. He then took
up from the table the pistol which Amine had laid there, and threw
open the pan. It was equally well prepared. Philip closed the pan, and
with a smile observed,
"So this was meant for me, Amine?"
"No--not for you--but for a traitor, had one gained admittance."
"Now, maiden," observed Philip, "I shall station myself at the
casement which you opened, but without a light in the room. You may
remain here, and can turn the key for your security."
"You little know me," replied Amine. "In that way at least I am not
fearful; I must remain near you and reload the arms--a task in which I
am well practised."
"No, no," replied Philip; "you might be hurt."
"I may. But think you I will remain here idly, when I can assist one
who risks his life for me? I know my duty, sir, and I shall perform
"You must not risk your life, Amine," replied Philip; "my aim will not
be steady, if I know that you're in danger. But I must take the arms
into the other chamber, for the time is come."
Philip, assisted by Amine, carried the carbines and pistols into the
adjoining chamber; and Amine then left Philip, carrying with her the
light. Philip, as soon as he was alone, opened the casement and looked
out--there was no one to be seen; he listened, but all was silent. The
moon was just rising above the distant hill, but her light was dimmed
by fleecy clouds, and Philip watched for a few minutes; at length he
heard a whispering below. He looked out, and could distinguish through
the dark the four expected assailants, standing close to the door of
the house. He walked away softly from the window, and went into the
next room to Amine, whom he found busy preparing the ammunition.
"Amine, they are at the door, in consultation. You can see them now,
without risk. I thank them, for they will convince you that I have
told the truth."
Amine, without reply, went into the front room and looked out of the
window. She returned, and laying her hand upon Philip's arm, she
"Grant me your pardon for my doubts. I fear nothing now but that my
father may return too soon, and they seize him."
Philip left the room again, to make his reconnaissance. The robbers
did not appear to have made up their mind--the strength of the door
defied their utmost efforts, so they attempted stratagem. They
knocked, and as there was no reply, they continued to knock louder and
louder: not meeting with success they held another consultation, and
the muzzle of a carbine was then put to the keyhole, and the piece
discharged. The lock of the door was blown off, but the iron bars
which crossed the door within, above and below, still held it fast.
Although Philip would have been justified in firing upon the robbers
when he first perceived them in consultation at the door, still there
is that feeling in a generous mind which prevents the taking away of
life, except from stern necessity; and this feeling made him withhold
his fire until hostilities had actually commenced. He now levelled one
of the carbines at the head of the robber nearest to the door, who was
busy examining the effect which the discharge of the piece had made,
and what further obstacles intervened. The aim was true, and the
man fell dead, while the others started back with surprise at the
unexpected retaliation. But in a second or two a pistol was discharged
at Philip, who still remained leaning out of the casement, fortunately
without effect; and the next moment he felt himself drawn away, so as
to be protected from their fire. It was Amine, who, unknown to Philip,
had been standing by his side.
"You must not expose yourself, Philip," said she, in a low tone.
She called me Philip, thought he, but made no reply.
"They will be watching for you at the casement now," said Amine. "Take
the other carbine, and go below in the passage. If the lock of the
door is blown off, they may put their arms in perhaps, and remove the
bars. I do not think they can, but I'm not sure; at all events, it is
there you should now be, as there they will not expect you."
"You are right," replied Philip, going down.
"But you must not fire more than once there; if another fall, there
will be but two to deal with, and they cannot watch the casement and
force admittance to. Go--I will reload the carbine."
Philip descended softly and without a light. He went up to the door
and perceived that one of the miscreants, with his arms through the
hole where the lock was blown off, was working at the upper iron bar,
which he could just reach. He presented his carbine, and was about to
fire the whole charge into the body of the man under his raised arm,
when there was a report of fire-arms from the robbers outside.
"Amine has exposed herself," thought Philip, "and may be hurt."
The desire of vengeance prompted him first to fire his piece through
the man's body, and then he flew up the stairs to ascertain the state
of Amine. She was not at the casement; he darted into the inner room,
and found her deliberately loading the carbine.
"My God! how you frightened me, Amine. I thought by their firing that
you had shown yourself at the window."
"Indeed I did not; but I thought that when you fired through the door
they might return your fire, and you be hurt; so I went to the side of
the casement and pushed out on a stick some of my father's clothes,
and they who were watching for you fired immediately."
"Indeed, Amine! who could have expected such courage and such coolness
in one so young and beautiful?" exclaimed Philip, with surprise.
"Are none but ill-favoured people brave, then?" replied Amine,
"I did not mean that, Amine--but I am losing time. I must to the door
again. Give me that carbine, and reload this."
Philip crept downstairs that he might reconnoitre, but before he had
gained the door he heard at a distance the voice of Mynheer Poots.
Amine, who also heard it, was in a moment at his side with a loaded
pistol in each hand.
"Fear not, Amine," said Philip, as he unbarred the door, "there are
but two, and your father shall be saved."
The door was opened, and Philip, seizing his carbine, rushed out; he
found Mynheer Poots on the ground between the two men, one of whom
had raised his knife to plunge it into his body, when the ball of the
carbine whizzed through his head. The last of the robbers closed with
Philip, and a desperate struggle ensued; it was, however, soon decided
by Amine stepping forward and firing one of the pistols through the
We must here inform our readers that Mynheer Poots, when coming home,
had heard the report of fire-arms in the direction of his own house.
The recollection of his daughter and of his money--for to do him
justice he did love her best--had lent him wings; he forgot that he
was a feeble old man and without arms; all he thought of was to gain
his habitation. On he came, reckless, frantic, and shouting, and
rushed into the arms of the two robbers, who seized and would have
despatched him, had not Philip so opportunely come to his assistance.
As soon as the last robber fell, Philip disengaged himself and went to
the assistance of Mynheer Poots, whom he raised up in his arms, and
carried into the house as if he were an infant. The old man was still
in a state of delirium from fear and previous excitement.
In a few minutes Mynheer Poots was more coherent.
"My daughter!" exclaimed he--"my daughter! where is she?"
"She is here, father, and safe," replied Amine.
"Ah! my child is safe," said he, opening his eyes and staring. "Yes,
it is even so--and my money--my money--where is my money?" continued
he, starting up.
"Quite safe, father."
"Quite safe--you say quite safe--are you sure of it?--let me see."
"There it is, father, as you may perceive, quite safe--thanks to one
whom you have not treated so well."
"Who--what do you mean?--Ah, yes, I see him now--'tis Philip
Vanderdecken--he owes me three guilders and a half, and there is a
phial--did he save you--and my money, child?"
"He did, indeed, at the risk of his life."
"Well, well, I will forgive him the whole debt--yes, the whole of it;
but--the phial is of no use to him--he must return that. Give me some
It was some time before the old man could regain his perfect reason.
Philip left him with his daughter, and, taking a brace of loaded
pistols, went out to ascertain the fate of the four assailants. The
moon having climbed above the banks of clouds which had obscured her,
was now high in the heavens, shining bright, and he could distinguish
clearly. The two men lying across the threshold of the door were quite
dead. The others, who had seized upon Mynheer Poots, were still
alive, but one was expiring and the other bled fast. Philip put a few
questions to the latter, but he either would not or could not make any
reply; he removed their weapons and returned to the house, where he
found the old man attended by his daughter, in a state of comparative
"I thank you, Philip Vanderdecken--I thank you much. You have saved my
dear child, and my money--that is little, very little--for I am poor.
May you live long and happily!"
Philip mused; the letter and his vow were, for the first time since he
fell in with the robbers, recalled to his recollection, and a shade
passed over his countenance.
"Long and happily--no, no," muttered he, with an involuntary shake of
"And I must thank you," said Amine, looking inquiringly in Philip's
face. "O, how much have I to thank you for!--and indeed I am
"Yes, yes, she is very grateful," interrupted the old man; "but we are
poor--very poor. I talked about my money because I have so little,
and I cannot afford to lose it; but you shall not pay me the three
guilders and a half--I am content to lose that, Mr Philip."
"Why should you lose even that, Mynheer Poots?--I promised to pay you,
and will keep my word. I have plenty of money--thousands of guilders,
and know not what to do with them."
"You--you--thousands of guilders!" exclaimed Poots. "Pooh, nonsense,
that won't do."
"I repeat to you, Amine," said Philip, "that I have thousands of
guilders: you know I would not tell you a falsehood."
"I believed you when you said so to my father," replied Amine.
"Then perhaps, as you have so much, and I am so very poor, Mr
But Amine put her hand upon her father's lips, and the sentence was
"Father," said Amine, "it is time that we retire. You must leave us
for to-night, Philip."
"I will not," replied Philip; "nor, you may depend upon it, will I
sleep. You may both to bed in safety. It is indeed time that you
retire--good-night, Mynheer Poots. I will but ask a lamp, and then I
leave you--Amine, good-night."
"Good-night," said Amine, extending her hand, "and many, many thanks."
"Thousands of guilders!" muttered the old man, as Philip left the room
and went below.
Philip Vanderdecken sat down at the porch of the door; he swept his
hair from his forehead, which he exposed to the fanning of the breeze;
for the continued excitement of the last three days had left a fever
on his brain which made him restless and confused. He longed for
repose, but he knew that for him there was no rest. He had his
forebodings--he perceived in the vista of futurity a long-continued
chain of danger and disaster, even to death; yet he beheld it without
emotion and without dread. He felt as if it were only three days
that he had begun to exist; he was melancholy, but not unhappy. His
thoughts were constantly recurring to the fatal letter--its strange
supernatural disappearance seemed pointedly to establish its
supernatural origin, and that the mission had been intended for him
alone; and the relic in his possession more fully substantiated the
It is my fate, my duty, thought Philip. Having satisfactorily made up
his mind to these conclusions, his thoughts reverted to the beauty,
the courage, and presence of mind shown by Amine. And, thought he,
as he watched the moon soaring high in the heavens, is this fair
creature's destiny to be interwoven with mine? The events of the last
three days would almost warrant the supposition. Heaven only knows,
and Heaven's will be done. I have vowed, and my vow is registered,
that I will devote my life to the release of my unfortunate
father--but does that prevent my loving Amine?--No, no; the sailor on
the Indian seas must pass months and months on shore before he can
return to his duty. My search must be on the broad ocean, but how
often may I return? and why am I to be debarred the solace of a
smiling hearth?--and yet--do I right in winning the affections of one
who, if she loves, would, I am convinced, love so dearly, fondly,
truly--ought I to persuade her to mate herself with one whose life
will be so precarious? but is not every sailor's life precarious,
daring the angry waves, with but an inch of plank 'tween him and
death? Besides, I am chosen to fulfil a task--and if so, what can hurt
me, till in Heaven's own time it is accomplished? but then how soon,
and how is it to end? in death! I wish my blood were cooler, that I
might reason better.
Such were the meditations of Philip Vanderdecken, and long did he
revolve such chances in his mind. At last the day dawned, and as he
perceived the blush upon the horizon, less careful of his watch he
slumbered where he sat. A slight pressure on the shoulder made him
start up and draw the pistol from his bosom. He turned round and
"And that pistol was intended for me," said Amine, smiling, repeating
Philip's words of the night before.
"For you, Amine?--yes, to defend you, if 'twere necessary, once more."
"I know it would--how kind of you to watch this tedious night after so
much exertion and fatigue! but it is now broad day."
"Until I saw the dawn, Amine, I kept a faithful watch."
"But now retire and take some rest. My father is risen--you can lie
down on his bed."
"I thank you, but I feel no wish for sleep. There is much to do. We
must to the burgomaster and state the facts, and these bodies must
remain where they are until the whole is known. Will your father go,
Amine, or shall I?"
"My father surely is the more proper person, as the proprietor of the
house. You must remain; and if you will not sleep, you must take some
refreshment. I will go in and tell my father; he has already taken his
Amine went in, and soon returned with her father, who had consented
to go to the burgomaster. He saluted Philip kindly as he came out;
shuddered as he passed on one side to avoid stepping over the dead
bodies, and went off at a quick pace to the adjacent town, where the
Amine desired Philip to follow her, and they went into her father's
room, where, to his surprise, he found some coffee ready for him--at
that time a rarity, and one which Philip did not expect to find in the
house of the penurious Mynheer Poots; but it was a luxury which, from
his former life, the old man could not dispense with.
Philip, who had not tasted food for nearly twenty-four hours, was not
sorry to avail himself of what was placed before him. Amine sat down
opposite to him, and was silent during his repast.
"Amine," said Philip at last, "I have had plenty of time for
reflection during this night, as I watched at the door. May I speak
"Why not?" replied Amine. "I feel assured that you will say nothing
that you should not say, or should not meet a maiden's ear."
"You do me justice, Amine. My thoughts have been upon you and your
father. You cannot stay in this lone habitation."
"I feel it is too lonely; that is, for his safety--perhaps for
mine--but you know my father--the very loneliness suits him, the price
paid for rent is little, and he is careful of his money."
"The man who would be careful of his money should place it in
security--here it is not secure. Now hear me, Amine. I have a cottage
surrounded, as you may have heard, by many others, which mutually
protect each other. That cottage I am about to leave--perhaps for
ever; for I intend to sail by the first ship to the Indian seas."
"The Indian seas! why so?--did you not last night talk of thousands of
"I did, and they are there; but, Amine, I must go--it is my duty. Ask
me no more, but listen to what I now propose. Your father must live in
my cottage; he must take care of it for me in my absence; he will do
me a favour by consenting; and you must persuade him. You will there
be safe. He must also take care of my money for me. I want it not at
present--I cannot take it with me."
"My father is not to be trusted with the money of other people."
"Why does your father hoard? He cannot take his money with him when
he is called away. It must be all for you--and is not then my money
"Leave it then in my charge, and it will be safe; but why need you go
and risk your life upon the water, when you have such ample means?"
"Amine, ask not that question. It is my duty as a son, and more I
cannot tell, at least at present."
"If it is your duty, I ask no more. It was not womanish curiosity--no,
no--it was a better feeling, I assure you, which prompted me to put
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