Guy Boothby.

The Beautiful White Devil online

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Town and Country

No. 215




12mo. Paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.00.

"Crowded to the covers with the mysterious, the startling,
and the supernatural." - _New York Mail and Express._

"A novel containing a more ingenious, exciting, and
absorbing romance has not appeared upon our book table this
season." - _Boston Courier._


12mo. Paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.00.

"Mr. Boothby never allows the interest of their doings to
drop from first page to last: and he tells his tale in a
pleasant, brisk fashion that carries the reader along, and
is as convincing a vehicle as could be chosen for the
relation of strange adventures such as befell the hero and
his friends." - _London Times._


12mo. Paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.00.

"Abounds in dramatic situations, and is bright in dialogue,
graphic in description, and subtle in character
analysis." - _Boston Advertiser._

"Crowded with incident yet perfectly natural throughout, the
story is one of the most charming that its author has yet
written." - _New York World._

New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.




























The night was sweltering hot, even for Hong Kong. The town clock had
just chimed a quarter-past ten, and though the actual sound of the
striking had died away, the vibration of the bells lingered for nearly
half a minute on the murky stillness of the air. In spite of the
exertions of the punkah coolie, the billiard-room of the Occidental
Hotel was like the furnace-doors of Sheol. Benwell, of the Chinese
Revenue cutter _Y-Chang_, and Peckle, of the English cruiser
_Tartaric_, stripped nearly to the buff, were laboriously engaged upon
a hundred up; while Maloney, of the San Francisco mail-boat, and I,
George De Normanville, looked on, and encouraged them with sarcasms
and utterly irrational advice. Between times the subdued jabbering of
a group of rickshaw coolies, across the pavement, percolated in to us,
and mingled with the click of the billiard balls and the monotonous
whining of the punkah rope; then the voice of a man in the verandah
upstairs, singing to the accompaniment of a banjo, drifted down, and
set us beating time with our heels upon the wooden floor.

The words of the song seemed strangely out of place in that heathen
land, so many thousand miles removed from Costerdom. But the wail of
the music had quite a different effect. The singer's voice was
distinctly a good one, and he used it with considerable ability:

"She wears an artful bonnet, feathers stuck all on it,
Covering a fringe all curled;
She's just about the neatest, prettiest, and sweetest
Donna in the wide, wide world.
And she'll be Mrs. 'Awkins, Mrs. 'Enry 'Awkins,
Got her for to name the day.
We settled it last Monday, so to church on Sunday,
Off we trots the donkey shay.

"Oh, Eliza! Dear Eliza! If you die an old maid
You'll only have yourself to blame.
D'ye hear Eliza - dear Eliza!
Mrs. 'Enry 'Awkins is a fust-class name."

Half a dozen other voices took up the chorus, and sent it rolling away
over the litter of sampans alongside the wharf, out to where the red
and blue funnel boats lay at anchor half a mile distant. The two
players chalked their cues and stopped to participate.

"Oh, Eliza! Dear Eliza! If you die an old maid
You'll only have yourself to blame.
Oh, Eliza! Dear Eliza!
Mrs. 'Enry 'Awkins is a fust-class name."

The music ceased amid a burst of applause.

"Sixee, sixee - sevenee-three," repeated the marker mechanically.

"Give me the rest, you almond-eyed lubber," cried Peckle with sudden
energy; "we'll return to business, for I'll be hanged if I'm going to
let myself be beaten by the bo'sun tight and the midshipmite of a
bottle-nosed, unseaworthy Chinese contraband."

Maloney knocked the ash off his cigar on his chair-arm and said, by
way of explanation, "Our friend Peckle, gentlemen, chowed last night
at Government House. He hasn't sloughed his company manners yet."

Benwell sent the red whizzing up the table into the top pocket, potted
his opponent into the right-hand middle, by way of revenge, and then
gave the customary miss in baulk.

"A Whitechapel game and be hanged to you," said Peckle contemptuously.
"I'll bet you a dollar I - - Hullo! who's this? Poddy, by all that's
human! Watchman, what of the night? Why this indecent haste?"

The newcomer was a short podgy man, with a clean-shaven red face,
white teeth, very prominent eyes, large ears, and almost
marmalade-coloured hair. He was in a profuse perspiration, and so much
out of breath that for quite two minutes he was unable to answer their

"Poddy is suffering from a bad attack of suppressed information," said
Benwell, who had been examining him critically. "Better prescribe for
him, De Normanville. Ah, I forgot, you don't know one another. Let me
introduce you - Mr. Horace Venderbrun, Dr. De Normanville. Now you're
acquent, as they say in the farces."

"Out with it, Poddy," continued Peckle, digging him in the ribs with
the butt of his cue. "If you don't tell us soon, we shall be
sorrowfully compelled to postpone our engagements to-morrow in order
to witness your interment in the Happy Valley."

"Well, in the first place," began Mr. Venderbrun, "you must know - - "

"Hear, hear, Poddy. A dashed good beginning!"

"Shut up, Peckle, and give the minstrel a chance. Now, my Blondel,
pipe your tuneful lay."

"You must know that the _Oodnadatta_ - - "

"Well - well, Skipper - Perkins, martinet and teetotaller; chief
officer, Bradburn, otherwise the China Sea Liar! What about her? She
sailed this evening for Shanghai?"

"With a million and a half of specie aboard. Don't forget that! Went
ashore in the Ly-ee-moon Pass at seven o'clock. Surrounded by junks
instantly. Skipper despatched third officer in launch full steam for
assistance. Gunboat went down post haste, and, like most gunboats,
arrived too late to be of any use. Apologies, Peckle, old man! Skipper
and ten men shot, chief officer dirked, first saloon passengers of
importance cleaned of their valuables and locked up in their own
berths. The bullion room was then rifled, and every red cent of the
money is gone - goodness knows where. Now, what d'you think of that for

"My gracious!"

"What junks were they?"

"Nobody knows."

"The Ly-ee-moon Pass, too! Right under our very noses. Criminy! Won't
there be a row!"

"The Beautiful White Devil again, I suppose?"

"Looks like it, don't it? Peckle, my boy, from this hour forward the
papers will take it up, and - well, if I know anything of newspapers,
they'll drop it on to you gunboat fellows pretty hot."

"If I were the British Navy I'd be dashed if I'd be beaten by a

"Hear, hear, to that. Now for your defence, Peckle."

"Go ahead; let me have it. I'm down and I've got no friends; but it's
all very well for you gentlemen of England, who sit at home in ease,
to sneer. If you only knew as much as we do of the lady you wouldn't
criticise so freely. Personally, I believe she's a myth."

"Don't try it, old man. We all know the Lords Commissioners will stand
a good deal, but, believe me, they'll never swallow that. They've had
too many proofs to the contrary lately."

I thought it was time to interfere.

"Will somebody take pity on a poor barbarian and condescend to
explain," I said. "Since I've been in the East I've heard nothing but
Beautiful White Devil - Beautiful White Devil - Beautiful White Devil.
Tiffin at Government House, Colombo - Beautiful White Devil; club chow,
Yokohama - Beautiful White Devil; flagship, _Nagasaki_ - Beautiful White
Devil; and now here. All Beautiful White Devil, and every yarn
differing from its predecessor by miles. I can tell you, I'm beginning
to feel very much out of it."

Each of the four men started in to explain. I held up my hand in

"As you are strong, be merciful," I cried. "Not all at once."

One of the silent-footed China-boys brought me a match for my cigar,
and held it until I had obtained a light. Then, throwing myself back
in the long cane chair, I bade them work their wicked wills.

"Let Poddy tell," said Peckle. "He boasts the most prolific
imagination. Go on, old man, and don't spare him."

Venderbrun pulled himself together, signed for silence, and, having
done so, began theatrically: "Who is the Beautiful Devil? Mystery.
Where did she first hail from? Mystery. What is her name, I mean her
real name, not the picturesque Chinese cognomen? Mystery. As far as
can be ascertained she made her first appearance in Eastern waters in
Rangoon, July 24, 18 - . Got hold of some native prince blowing the
family treasure and blackmailed him out of half a million of dollars.
A man would never have come out of the business alive, but she did,
and what is more, with the money to boot. Three months later the
_Vectis Queen_ went ashore, when forty-eight hours out of Singapore,
junks sprang up out of nowhere, boarded her in spite of stubborn
resistance on the part of the ship's company, looted her bullion room
of fifty thousand pounds and her passengers of three thousand more."

"But what reason have you for connecting the Beautiful White Devil
with that affair?"

"White yacht hanging about all the time. Known to be hers. Signals
passed between them, and when the money was secured it was straightway
carried on board her."

"All right. Go on."

"Quite quiet for three months. Then the Sultan of Surabaya chanced to
make the acquaintance in Batavia of an extraordinarily beautiful
woman. They went about a good deal together, after which she lured him
on board a steam yacht in Tanjong Priok, presumably to say good-bye.
Having done so, she coaxed him below, sailed off with him there and
then, kept him under lock and key until he had paid a ransom of over
four hundred thousand guilders, when he was put ashore again. Two
months later, Vesey - you know Vesey - of Johore Street, probably the
richest man in Hong Kong, met a woman staying at this very hotel. She
pretended to be just out from home, and no end innocent. Well, Vesey
was so awfully smitten that he wanted to marry her - bad as all that.
She took him in hand, and one day got him to take her for a cruise in
his yacht. Of course he jumped at the chance, and off they sailed. Out
at sea they were met by a white schooner. I believe Vesey was in the
middle of protesting his undying love, and all that sort of thing, you
know, when my lady clapped a revolver to his head, and bade him
heave-to. A boat put off from the stranger, and both lady and friend
boarded her. The long and the short of it was, when Vesey was released
he had signed a cheque for fifty thousand pounds, and, by Jove, the
money was paid on the nail. Chinese Government have a score against
her for abducting a Mandarin of the Gold Button. They tried to catch
her but failed. English cruiser went after her for two days and lost
her near Formosa. Silence again for three months, then new Governor
and wife, Sir Prendergast Prendergast, were coming out here on the
_Ooloomoo_. Her ladyship, whom you know was mixed up in that
Belleville business, had her famous diamonds with her - said to be
worth thirty thousand pounds. There was also eighty thousand in gold
going up to Shanghai. It is supposed that the purser must have been
bribed and in the business; at any rate when they arrived at Hong Kong
both bullion, diamonds, and purser were mysteriously missing. Couldn't
find a trace of 'em high or low. Whether they went overboard in a fog,
whether they were still stowed away on board, nobody ever knew. They
were gone, that was enough. The Governor was furious, and worried the
Admiralty so with despatches that two cruisers were sent off with
instructions to look for her. They pottered about, and at last sighted
and chased her to the Philippines, where they lost her in a fog. Those
are the principal counts against her, I believe. Rum story, ain't it?"

"Extraordinary. Has anybody ever seen her?"

"I should just think so. Sultan of Surabaya, Vesey, Native Prince, and
all the people staying at this house when she was here."

"What description do they give of her?"

"Quite a young woman - eight-and-twenty at most. Tall and willowy.
Beautiful features, clear cut as a cameo - exquisite complexion and
rippling golden hair - a voice like a flute, figure like Venus, and
eyes that look through yours into the uttermost depths of your soul."

"Bravo, Poddy! The little man's getting quite enthusiastic."

"And isn't she worth being enthusiastic about? By Jove! I'd like to
know her history."

"And do you mean to tell me that with the English, American, French,
German, Chinese, and Japanese fleets patrolling these waters, it's
impossible to catch her?"

"Quite - up to the present. Look at the facts of the case. She's here
to-day, and gone to-morrow. White yacht seen near Singapore
to-day - copper-coloured off Macassar on Thursday - black with white
ports near Shanghai the week following. The police and the poor old
Admiral are turning gray under the strain."

"By Jove! I'd like to see her."

"Don't say that or you will. Nobody ever knows where she'll turn up
next. It is certain that she has agents everywhere, and that she's in
league with half the junk pirates along the coast. Glad I'm not a man
worth abducting."

"But in spite of what you say, I can hardly believe that it's possible
for a woman to carry on such a trade. It's like a romance."

"It's not _like_ it, it _is_ a romance, and a pretty unpleasant one
too. Sultan of Surabaya and poor old Vesey were glad enough to see the
final chapter of it, I can assure you. You should just hear the
latter's description of the yacht and its appointments. He used to
make us creep when he told us how this woman would sit on deck,
looking him through and through out of her half closed eyes till he
began to feel as if he'd have to get up and scream, or sit where he
was and go mad. He saw two or three things on board that boat that he
says he'll never forget, and I gathered that he doesn't want any more
excursions in the lady's company."

"He must be a man without imagination."

"He's a man blessed with good sound common sense. That's what he is."

"All the same, as I said before, I'd like to see her."

"Well, I shouldn't be surprised if your wish is gratified before long.
They're simply bound to catch her; the wonder to me is that they
haven't done so months ago."

"It seems incredible that she should have escaped so long."

Peckle took up his cue again.

"Hear, hear, to that. And now, Benwell, my boy, if you don't want to
go to sleep in that chair, turn out and finish the drubbing you've
begun. I must be getting aboard directly."

Benwell rose, and went round the table to where his ball lay under the
cushion. The imperturbable marker called the score as if there had
been no pause in the game, and the match was once more getting under
way, when the swing doors opened and an elderly man entered the room.
He was dressed in white from top to toe, carried a big umbrella, and
wore a broad-brimmed solar topee upon his head. Once inside, he paused
as if irresolute, and then, looking round on its occupants, said

"Forgive my intrusion; but can you tell me where I can find a
gentleman named De Normanville?"

"I am that person!" I said, rising from my chair.

"I hope you will not think me rude," he continued, "but if you could
allow me the honour of five minutes' conversation with you I should be

"With pleasure."

I crossed the room to where he stood, and signed him to a seat near
the door.

"Pardon me," he said, "but the business about which I desire to
consult you is of a highly important and confidential nature. Is
there any room in the hotel where we can be alone?"

"Only my bedroom, I'm afraid," I answered. "We shall be quite free
from interruption there."

"That will do excellently. Let us go to it."

With that we went upstairs. All the way I was puzzling my brains to
think what he could want with me. The man was so mysterious, and yet
so palpably desirous of pleasing, that I was becoming quite
interested. One thing was certain - I had never seen him before in my

Arriving at my room, I lit a candle and pushed a chair forward for
him; having done so I took up my position beside the open window. Down
in the street below I could hear the subdued voices of the passers-by,
the rattle of rickshaws, and the chafing of sampans alongside the
wharf. I remember, too, that the moon was just rising over the
mainland, and to show how unimportant things become engraved upon the
memory, I recollect that it struck me as being more like the yolk of a
hard-boiled egg than ever I remember to have thought it before.
Suddenly I remembered the laws of hospitality.

"Before we begin business, may I offer you some refreshment?" I
asked - "B. and S.? Whisky?"

"I am obliged to you," he answered. "I think I will take a little
whisky, thank you."

I put my head out of the door. A servant was passing.

"Boy, bring two whisky pegs."

Then returning to my guest, I said: "Do you smoke? I think I can give
you a good cigar."

He took one from the box and lit it, puffing the smoke luxuriously
through his nose. Presently the pegs were forthcoming, and when I had
signed the _chit_ I asked his business.

"You are a stranger in Hong Kong, I believe, Dr. De Normanville?" he

"Not only in Hong Kong, but you might say in the East generally," I
answered. "I am out on a tour to study Asiatic diseases for a book I
am writing."

"You have achieved considerable success in your profession, I believe.
We have even heard of you out here."

I modestly held my tongue. But so pitiful is the vanity of man that
from this time forward I began to look upon my companion with a more
friendly air than I had hitherto shown him.

"Now, forgive my impertinence," he continued, "but how long do you
contemplate remaining in the East?"

"It is very uncertain," I replied; "but I almost fancy another six
weeks will find me upon a P. and O. boat homeward bound."

"And in that six weeks will your time be very importantly occupied?"

"I cannot say, but I should rather think not. So far as I can tell at
present my work is accomplished."

"And now will you let me come to business. To put it bluntly, have you
any objection to earning a thousand pounds?"

"Not the very least!" I answered with a laugh. "What man would have?
Provided, of course, I can earn it in a legitimate manner."

"You have bestowed considerable attention upon the treatment of
small-pox, I believe?"

"I have had sole charge of two small-pox hospitals, if that's what you

"Ah! Then our informant was right. Well, this business, in which a
thousand pounds is to be earned, has to do with an outbreak of that

"And you wish me to take charge of it?"

"That is exactly what I am commissioned to negotiate."

"Where is the place?"

"I cannot tell you!"

"Not tell me? That's rather strange, is it not?"

"It is all very strange. But with your permission I will explain
myself more clearly."

I nodded.

"It is altogether an extraordinary business. But, on the other hand,
the pay is equally extraordinary. I am commissioned to find a doctor
who will undertake the combating of an outbreak of small-pox on the
following terms and conditions: The remuneration shall be one thousand
pounds; the doctor shall give his word of honour not to divulge the
business to any living soul; he shall set off at once to the affected
spot, and he shall still further pledge himself to reveal nothing of
what he may have heard or seen when he returns here again. Is that
clear to you?"

"Perfectly. But it's a most extraordinary proposition."

"I grant you it is. But it is a chance that few men would care to let

"How is the person undertaking it to find the place?"

"I will arrange that myself."

"And how is he to return from it again?"

"He will be sent back in the same way that he goes."

"And when must he start?"

"At once, without delay. Say twelve o'clock to-night."

"It is nearly eleven now."

"That will leave an hour. Come, Dr. De Normanville, are you prepared
to undertake it?"

"I don't really know what to say. There is so much mystery about it."

"Unfortunately, that is necessary."

I paced the room in anxious thought, hardly knowing what answer to
give. Should I accept or should I decline the offer? The thousand
pounds was a temptation, and yet, supposing there were some treachery
lurking behind it, that, in my innocence of the East, I could not
fathom - what then? Moreover, the adventurous side of the affair, I
must own, appealed to me strongly. I was young, and there was
something supremely fascinating about the compliment and the mystery
that enshrouded it.

"Look here," I said at length. "Pay me half the money down before I
start, as a guarantee of good faith, and I'm your man!"

"Very good. I will even meet you there!"

He put his hand inside his coat and drew out a pocket-book. From this
he took five one hundred pound Bank of England notes, and gave them to

"There, you have half the money."

"Thank you. Really, I must beg your pardon for almost doubting you,
but - - "

"Pray say no more. You understand the conditions thoroughly. You are
not to divulge a detail of the errand to any living soul now or when
you return."

"I will give you my word I will not."

"Then that is settled. I am much obliged to you. Can you arrange to
meet me on the wharf exactly at midnight?"

"Certainly. I will be there without fail. And now tell me something of
the outbreak itself. Is it very severe?"

"Very. There have already been nearly a hundred cases, out of which
quite fifty have proved fatal. Your position will be no sinecure. You
will have your work cut out for you."

"So it would appear. Now, if you will excuse me, I will go out and
endeavour to obtain some lymph. We shall need all we can get."

"You need not put yourself to so much trouble. That has been attended
to. To prevent any suspicion arising from your asking for such a
thing, we have laid in a stock of everything you can possibly need."

"Very well, then. I will meet you on the wharf."

"On the wharf at twelve o'clock precisely. For the present, adieu!"

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Online LibraryGuy BoothbyThe Beautiful White Devil → online text (page 1 of 19)