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Unseen of the two, for the moment so absorbed in each other, the Hollander has come from the house. He has been standing near enough to overhear Erik's last sentences; the significance of these seems scarcely ambiguous, his inference is natural. It is a lovers' meeting which he has chanced upon. Whatever her reasons for accepting him, the Hollander,--it is clear that this young huntsman has a claim on the girl who declared so glibly that the law of truth was written in her soul.
The two are interrupted by a wail. "Lost! Oh, lost! To all eternity lost!" They turn and start in horror at sight of the Hollander.
"Farewell, Senta," he cries, and with the precipitation of despair is making straight for the boundless deep. Senta throws herself across his path. "Stay, O unfortunate!" But the Hollander pushes past. "To sea! To sea! To sea until the end of time!--It is at an end with your truth! At an end with your truth and my salvation!
Farewell, I would not bring about your ruin!" Erik, catching sight of his face, the face of a lost soul, shudders at the measureless woe in his eyes. "Stay," Senta implores, "stay, you shall never depart!" Disregarding her, the Hollander blows a shrill note on his whistle and shouts to his crew: "Hoist sail! Lift anchor! For ever and ever bid farewell to the land!"
There is struggle for a long moment among the three: hers to prevent the Hollander; Erik's to keep back her, caught, as he believes, in the claws of Satan; the Hollander's to leave. Since her faith is turned to mockery, he, forced to doubt her, has fallen to doubting G.o.d himself. There is no faith more on earth. Away, then, forever away! "Learn the fate from which I save you!" he finally turns to her, as if softened by her pleading to the point of wishing her to know that he leaves not in hate and anger, but very pity for her feminine frailty; and he states plainly the threatening fate of which we heard him give but a warning before. "Condemned am I to the most dreadful of dooms. Tenfold death would be to me yearned-for bliss. A woman alone can deliver me, a woman who shall keep her faith to me even until death. You, it is true, had sworn truth to me, but not as yet before the Almighty, and that it is which saves you. For know, unhappy woman, the fate which overtakes her who breaks her vow of eternal constancy to me: Everlasting d.a.m.nation is her portion. Innumerable have been the victims already, through me, of that dread sentence. But you--you shall be saved.
Farewell, then, and farewell, to all time, salvation!" Again he turns sh.o.r.eward. "Indeed, indeed, I know you," Senta follows still; "Full well I know your fate. From the first moment of seeing you I knew you. The end is at hand of your torture! I am she through whose fidelity you shall find salvation!"
Erik, in terror for Senta, has called wildly toward the house, toward the ship, for help to save her. Daland, Mary, and the young girls have come hurrying from the house, the Norwegian sailors from the ship. "No, no, you know me not!" the Hollander is saying; "No suspicion have you who I am! Inquire of the seas of every zone, inquire of the seaman overscoring the main--Behold"--he points at the ship whose blood-red sails are set and whose ghastly crew show uncannily active in preparations for departure; "Behold and recognise this ship, terror of every pious soul.... The Flying Dutchman I am called!"
With lightning rapidity he has gone aboard. Instantly the weird ship is under way and amid the cavernous Yohohoes of its seamen making for the open sea.
Senta struggles to follow. Her father, Erik, her nurse, all forcibly hold her back. But she is suddenly stronger than them all. She tears herself free and rushing from them climbs a rock projecting into the deep water. With all her strength she calls after the departing Hollander, "Praise be to your angel and his decree! Here am I, faithful to you until death!" and springs into the sea.
Upon the instant, the red-sailed ship, with all its crew, sinks. A great wave heaves high and falls again eddying, burying the whole.
Above the drifting wreckage, in the rosy light, fore-shine of sunrise, are seen the transfigured and glorified forms of Senta and the Hollander rising from the sea, clasped in each others' arms, and floating heavenward.
We are always touched in this old world of daily wickedness and pettiness to come upon stories which seem statements of a popular ineradicable a.s.surance that love has power to save. It is perhaps oftenest the love of a woman, clinging pertinaciously to her affection; but there are legends, too, of men,--who do not save, however, that we remember, by long fidelity, but by ardour rather in overcoming obstacles. They kiss the fair enchanted one in the form of a hideous dragon and she is restored to beauty. One sees the simple philosophy of such folk-tales. The evil doom is usually the punishment for sin. The one who loves the person so doomed is innocent. If then she makes the fate of the sufferer her own, she suffers unjust punishment, and G.o.d, who inclines to mercy, must sooner pardon the sinner for her sake than condemn the innocent.