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from them it was quite impossible to tell who they were, but from the
poise of her head and the shape of her beautiful arms and shoulders, I
felt convinced that the taller of the two was the woman I loved, and
whom I had all the afternoon been so anxiously expecting.

Seeing, however, that it was just possible I might be mistaken, and
remembering the instruction Alie had given me to let our meeting
appear accidental, I could not walk down the length of the room and
accost her, so I betook myself into the marble portico and waited for
them to come out. But, as it happened, Miss Sanderson and her friend
were the first to emerge, and the voluble young American took me by
storm at once. From what she told me I gathered two things, first,
that hitherto she had found her evenings dull, and, second, that on
this particular occasion there was to be an open-air concert on the
King's Plain, distant about a mile from the hotel. She and her friend
had intended going, if they could find an escort, and there and then
she asked me if I would officiate in that capacity. I did not know
what to say. They were women, and I could not be rude; and, moreover
as they had evidently set their hearts upon going, and I was not
positively certain that Alie had arrived, I felt I had no right to
decline the honour of escorting them. Accordingly I assented, and went
across the garden to get my hat. Five minutes later they met me at the
gates, and we strolled down the road together towards the plain.

There are few prettier places in the world than Batavia, and I have
met with few handsomer girls than the distinguished-looking American
by my side; but for all that I was not contented with my lot. I wanted
to be back in the verandah at the hotel watching for Alie.

Leaving a handsome street behind us we passed on to the plain, where a
large crowd of people were promenading to the strains of a military
band. At any other time the music would have been inspiriting, but, in
the humour I was in, the gayest marches sounded like funeral dirges.
For over an hour we continued to promenade, until I began really to
think that I should have to ask my friends to accompany me home or
remain where they were without me. But at last the concert came to an
end, and we once more turned our faces in the direction of our hotel.

"You have been very quiet this evening," said Miss Sanderson to me as
we left the turf and stepped on to the road again.

"I hope my being so has not spoilt your enjoyment," I said, trying to
beg the question.

"Oh; dear no!" Then, as if something had suddenly struck her, "Do you
expect to see anyone in Batavia? I have noticed that you scan every
lady we pass as if you were on the look-out for an acquaintance."

"I _did_ expect to see someone, I must confess," I answered. "You have
sharp eyes, Miss Sanderson."

"They have been trained in a sharp school," was her brief reply.

By this time we were within five minutes walk of home, and in the act
of crossing one of the numerous bridges that, in Dutch fashion, grace
Batavia's streets. We paused for a few moments and leaned over the
parapet to look down at the star-spangled water oozing its silent way
towards the sea. It was all very quiet, and as far as we could see we
had the street to ourselves. Suddenly Miss Sanderson dropped her
American accent, and said in quite a different voice -

"Dr. De Normanville, this has gone far enough. Do you know me now?"

_It was Alie!_

To say that I was taken by surprise would not be to express my
condition at all. I was simply overwhelmed with astonishment, and for
some seconds could only stand and stare at her in complete amazement.
Her disguise was so perfect, her American accent was so real, her
acting had been so wonderfully maintained, that I never for an instant
suspected the trick she had been playing upon me.

"You! Alie," I cried when at last I found my voice. "Is it possible
that Miss Sanderson has been a myth all the time?"

"Not only quite possible, but a fact," she answered, with a laugh.
"Yes! I am Alie, and no more Miss Sanderson, of New York, than you
are. Do me the justice to remember I warned you I was good at
disguising myself. My reason for not revealing my identity to you
before was that I wanted thoroughly to test the value of the part I
was playing, and since you, who know me so well, did not recognise me,
I am inclined to believe nobody else will."

"It is simply marvellous. If you had not declared yourself I should
never have known you. And your companion is therefore not Mrs.
Beecher, whose husband's patent double-action sofa springs are so
justly famous, any more than you are Miss Sanderson?"

"No, both the husband and the sofa springs are creations of my own

"But the incident you recalled to my memory. The bone in your throat
that I extracted at the Langham, how do you account for that?"

"Easily! One day in your surgery at the settlement you casually
mentioned having extracted a fish bone from a young American lady's
throat at that hotel. I thought it unlikely, as it was the only time
you ever saw her, that you would remember her name or face, so I
assumed that character in order to try the effect of my disguise upon

"You are a wonderful actress; you would make your fortune on the

"Do you think so? What a sensation it would cause in the East. Under
the patronage of His Excellency the Governor of Hong Kong, the Admiral
and Commander-in-Chief, the Beautiful White Devil as Ophelia, or
Desdemona shall we say, why, what houses I should draw. But now to
business. As we may not have another opportunity, let us see that our
plans coincide. By the way, the French boat leaves to-morrow afternoon
for Singapore. You have booked your passage, of course?"

I nodded assent, and she continued -

"You must board her alone. We shall join just before she sails. When
we get to Singapore we must drive separately to the Mandalay Hotel,
and figure there in the light of casual travelling acquaintances.
Before you have been in the place half a day you will probably have
been introduced to Mr. Ebbington, the man we want. He will see you
talking to me, and by hook or crook you must introduce him to me.
Whatever you do, don't forget, however, that my name is Sanderson.
Having done this, leave the rest to me. Do you think you thoroughly


"That's right. Now let us be getting home. To-morrow we must be early

We continued our walk, and in five minutes had bade each other
good-night in the hotel gardens, and separated.

By sundown next day we were on board the Messageries Maritimes
Company's boat, steaming out of Tanjong Priok Harbour, bound for
Singapore. I joined the steamer some time before her advertised
sailing hour, but it was close upon the time of her departure when
Alie and her companion made their appearance.

In my capacity of casual acquaintance I raised my hat to them as they
came up the gangway, but did not do more. They went below, while I
stayed on deck, watching the business of getting under way.

Just as the last sign of the coast line disappeared beneath the waves
someone came up and stood beside me. On looking round I discovered
that it was Alie!

"So you managed to get on board safely," she said, after the usual
polite preliminaries had been gone through. "Our enterprise has now
fairly started, and if we have ordinary luck we ought to be able to
carry it through successfully."

"Let us hope we _shall_ have that luck then," I answered. "But I
confess I tremble when I think of the risk you are running in
appearing in a place like Singapore, where you have so many enemies."

"Even disguised as Miss Sanderson, the American heiress? No, you
cannot mean it. If you think that, what will you say to another plot I
am hatching?"

"Another? Good gracious! and what is this one to be?"

"Listen, and you shall learn. Three years ago, in a certain island of
the South Pacific, there was a man - an official holding a high office
under Government - who very nearly got into serious trouble. The charge
against him was that by his orders two native women had been flogged
to death. By some means he managed to disprove it and to escape
punishment, but the feeling against him was so bitter that it was
thought advisable to transfer him elsewhere. You would have imagined
that that lesson would have been enough for him. Not a bit. On the new
island he began his reign of tyranny again, and once more a death
occurred; this time, however, the victim was a man. The authorities at
home were immediately appealed to, with the result that an inquiry was
held and his retention on that island was also considered injudicious.
He was removed from his high estate. That was all; he had murdered, I
repeat it, deliberately murdered three people; in fact, flogged the
lives out of two women and one man, and the only sentence passed upon
him was that he should be transferred elsewhere. It makes my blood
boil to think of it."

"I can quite understand it."

"Yes. That was all, nothing more was done. The man went free. The poor
wretches were only natives, you must understand. And who cares about a
few natives? No one. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I am not. Now
it so happens that I have an agent living on that very island whom I
can perfectly trust. He was a witness on the inquiry commission, he
saw the flogging in question, and in due course he reported the facts
to me. I must also tell you that that man boasted publicly that if he
caught me he would - but there, I dare not tell you what he said he
would do. Now his friends have used their influence and he has been
appointed to a post in one of the treaty ports of China. I hear he is
a passenger on the mail boat touching at Singapore next week."

"And what do you intend to do?"

"It is my intention, if possible, to catch him, to punish him as he
deserves, and, by so doing, to teach him a lesson he will remember all
his life."



On arrival at Singapore we took rickshaws and drove direct from the
wharf to the Mandalay Hotel, a palatial white building of two stories,
boasting vivid green shutters on every window, and broad luxurious
verandahs on every floor. I was the first to reach it, and,
remembering my position of casual acquaintance, I booked a room for
myself, leaving Miss Sanderson and her companion to follow my example
when they should arrive.

It was then late in the afternoon, and by the time we had thoroughly
settled in night had fallen, and the preliminary dressing gong had
sounded for dinner. So far, I had seen nothing of the person of whom
we were in search, but I did not doubt that at the evening meal I
should become acquainted with his whereabouts, even if I did not
actually meet the man himself.

The dining-room at the Mandalay is at the rear of the hotel, and looks
out upon a charmingly arranged garden. Immediately upon my entering it
a waiter came forward and conducted me to my place at a table near the
window. On my left was seated a portly, red-faced gentleman, whom, I
discovered later, was an English merchant of considerable standing in
the place. The chair on my right was vacant, but before we had
dismissed the first course it was taken by a man whom my instinct told
me was none other than Mr. Ebbington himself. Why I should have come
to this conclusion I cannot explain, but that I did think so, and that
I was right in so thinking, I discovered a minute or two later, when a
question was addressed to him by an acquaintance on the other side of
the table. I continued the course without betraying my excitement, and
when my plate was removed, sat back and casually took stock of him.

From Alie's account, and some kind of preconceived notion as to what
sort of appearance such a dastardly traitor should present, I had
expected to see a small, shifty-eyed, villainous type of man, wearing
on his face some token of his guilt. But in place of that I discovered
a stout, well set-up, not unhandsome man of about forty years of age.
His complexion was somewhat florid; his eyes were of an uncertain hue,
between gray and steely blue; he had a pronounced nose, and a heavy,
almost double, chin. Indeed, had it not been for his hesitating mode
of speech, I should have been inclined to put him down for a military

During the progress of the meal I found an opportunity of doing him
some small service, and on this meagre introduction we fell into a
desultory conversation, which embraced Singapore, the latest news from
England, and the prospects of a war between China and Japan. When
dinner was over I rose and followed him into the verandah, offered him
a cheroot, which he accepted, and seated myself in a lounge chair
beside him. We had not been smoking five minutes before my sweetheart
and her companion passed close to where we sat, _en route_ to their
rooms. As she came opposite to me, Alie stopped.

"Good-evening, Dr. De Normanville!" she said; "isn't this hotel

I rose and uttered an appropriate reply, at the same time noticing
that Ebbington was taking thorough stock of her. Then, after another
commonplace or two, she bowed and passed on her way. I resumed my
seat, and for nearly a minute we smoked in silence. Then my companion,
who had evidently been carefully thinking his speech out, said, with
that peculiarly diffident utterance which, as I have said, was
habitual to him:

"You'll excuse what I am going to say, I hope, but a friend and I were
having a little discussion before dinner. The proprietor tells me Miss
Sanderson, the American heiress, is staying in the house. I do not
wish to be impertinent, but might I ask if the lady to whom you have
just been speaking is Miss Sanderson?"

"Yes, she is Miss Sanderson," I replied. "You do not know her, then?"

"Never saw her before in my life," was his reply. "Pieces of good
fortune like that don't often occur in Singapore. If they did, few of
us would be here very long, I can assure you. But perhaps I am talking
in too familiar a strain about your friend? If so, you must forgive

"Indeed no!" I answered. "Don't trouble yourself on that score. I
travelled up with them from Batavia in the French boat that arrived
this afternoon. From what little I have seen of her she seems very
pleasant, and, as you may have observed, is evidently inclined to be

"There is no doubt about the money, I suppose?" he continued. "Since
Vesey, of Hong Kong, was so completely taken in by the Beautiful
White Devil, we have been a little sceptical on the subject of
heiresses down this way."

"On that point, I'm afraid I cannot inform you," I said laughingly.
"She seems, however, to travel in very good style, and evidently
denies herself nothing. But you spoke of the Beautiful White Devil. I
am most interested in what I have heard of that personage. Are you
well up in the subject?"

"How should I be?" he answered, as I thought, a little quickly. "Of
course I know what every other man in the East knows, but no more.
Thank goodness she has never done me the honour of abducting me as she
did the Sultan of Surabaya and those other Johnnies. But with regard
to Miss Sanderson, I wonder if I should be considered impertinent if I
asked you to give me the pleasure of an introduction."

Of course I did not tell him that it was the very thing of all others
that I desired to do, but at the same time I could hardly conceal my
exultation. I had, however, to keep my delight to myself for fear lest
he should suspect; so I relit my cigar, which had gone out, and then
said, with as much carelessness as I could assume:

"I don't know altogether whether I'm sufficiently intimate with her to
take the liberty of introducing you; but, as I said just now, she
seems a jolly sort of girl, and not inclined to be stand-offish, so if
ever I get an opportunity I don't mind risking it. Now, I think, if
you'll excuse me, I'll say good-night. That wretched old bucket of a
steamer rolled so all the way up from Tanjong Priok that I have hardly
had a wink of sleep these three nights past."

"Good-night, and thank you very much for your company. Glad to have
met you, I'm sure."

I reciprocated, and, having done so, left him and went to my room,
where I turned into bed to dream that I had abducted Alie, and could
never remember in what part of the world I had hidden her.

Next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, I went down into the
town, shopping. When I returned about eleven o'clock I discovered Alie
and her chaperone sitting in the verandah, waiting for a double
rickshaw which one of the hotel boys had gone out to procure.
Ebbington was seated in a chair near by, and evidently seemed to
consider this a good opportunity for effecting the introduction he had
proposed the night before. I entered into conversation with him for a
few moments, and then, crossing the verandah, asked the ladies in
which direction they contemplated going.

"Where do you think?" said Alie, with her best New York accent. "Well,
first I guess we're going to look for a dry goods store, and then I
reckon we'll just take a _pasear_ round the town."

"You should go and see Whampoa's Garden," I said, hoping she would
understand what I was driving at. "They tell me it's one of the sights
of the place."

"But how do you get there?" asked Alie, her quick perception telling
her my object. "We must know the way, I reckon, before we start, or
we'll just get lost, and then you'll have to call out all the town to
find us."

"One moment and I'll inquire."

Ebbington, having overheard what had passed between us, as I intended
he should do, had risen, and now approached us. I turned to him and

"My friends want to find the way to Whampoa's Garden, Mr. Ebbington.
Could you direct them? But first, perhaps, I ought to introduce you.
Mr. Ebbington - Mrs. Beecher - Miss Sanderson."

They bowed politely to each other, and then Ebbington, having begged
the ladies' permission, gave instructions in Malay to the rickshaw
coolie, who by this time had drawn up at the steps. Tendering their
thanks to him they stepped into their conveyance and were drawn away.

When they had disappeared round the corner, Ebbington crossed the
verandah, and sitting down beside me favoured me with his opinions.
Even in this short space of time the charm of the heiress seemed to
have impressed itself upon him. Though inwardly writhing at the tone
he adopted, I had to pretend to be interested. It was a difficult
matter, however, and I was more relieved than I can say, when he
remembered business elsewhere, and betook himself off to attend to it.
So far all had gone well. The bait was fixed, and it would be
surprising now if the victim did not walk into the trap so artfully
contrived for him.

That evening after dinner I fell into casual conversation with the
proprietor of the hotel, and it was not until nearly half an hour
later that I managed to escape from him and get into the verandah.
When I did, to my surprise, I found the ladies reclining in their
chairs listening to the conversation of Mr. Ebbington. He was regaling
them with a highly-coloured account of his experiences in the East,
and from the attention his remarks were receiving it was evident he
was doing ample justice to his subject. I pulled a chair up beside
Alie and listened. Within five minutes, however, of my arrival he
introduced Mr. Vesey's name, and instantly she stopped him by saying:

"Now, where have I heard that name before? It seems, somehow, to be
very familiar to me."

"Perhaps you've heard the story of his abduction by the Beautiful
White Devil," said Ebbington, who saw that I was about to speak and
was anxious to forestall me.

"No, I guess not," answered Alie. "I reckon I was thinking of Klener
W. Vesey, of Wall Street, who operates considerable in pork. But tell
me, who is this Beautiful White Devil one hears so much about,

There was a pause, but I held my peace and let Ebbington's tongue run
riot with him.

"Ah! there you have me at a disadvantage," he began, pluming himself
for the big speech I could see was imminent. "Some say she's a
European lady of title gone mad on Captain Marryat and Clarke Russell.
Others aver that she's not a woman at all, but a man disguised in
woman's clothes. But the real truth, I'm inclined to fancy, is that
she's the daughter of a drunken old desperado, once an English naval
man, who for years made himself a terror in these seas."

When I heard him thus commit himself, I looked across at Alie, half
expecting that she would lose control of herself and annihilate him
upon the spot. But save a little twitching round the corners of her
mouth, she allowed no sign of the wrath that I knew was raging within
her breast to escape her. In a voice as steady as when she had
inquired the way to Whampoa's Garden that morning, she continued her

"I'm really quite interested. And pray what has this, what do you call
her, Beautiful White Devil, done to carry on the family reputation?"

Again Ebbington saw his chance, and, like the born yarn-spinner he
was, took immediate advantage of it.

"What has she not done would be the best thing to ask. She has
abducted the Sultan of Surabaya, the Rajah of Tavoy, Vesey of Hong
Kong, and half a dozen Chinese mandarins at least. She has robbed the
_Vectis Queen_, the _Ooloomoo_ - and that with the Governor of Hong
Kong on board; stopped the _Oodnadatta_ only three months ago in the
Ly-ee-moon Pass, when she went through the bullion-room to the extent
of over a million and a half, almost under the cruisers' noses."

"But what mission does she accomplish with this vast wealth when she
has accumulated it, do you think, Mr. Ebbington?" said the quiet voice
of Mrs. Beecher from the depths of her chair. "Does she do no good
with it at all?"

"Good!" that wretched being replied, quite unconscious of the trouble
he was heaping up for himself. "Why, she never did a ha'porth of good
in her life. No, I'll tell you what she _does_ do with it. It is well
known that she has a rendezvous somewhere in the Pacific, a tropical
island, they say, where scenes are enacted between her cruises that
would raise blushes on the cheeks of an Egyptian mummy."

"You are evidently very much prejudiced against her," I answered
hotly. "Now _I_ have heard some very different stories. And with all
due respect to you, Mr. Ebbington - - "

But fortunately at this juncture my presence of mind returned to me,
and, a servant approaching to take our empty coffee cups, I was able
to seize the opportunity and bring my riotous tongue to a halt. When
the boy had gone, Alie turned the conversation into another channel,
and after that all was plain sailing once more. To add to our
enjoyment, about ten o'clock another servant came to inform Mr.
Ebbington that a gentleman desired to see him in the smoking-room, and
accordingly, bidding us good-night, he went off to interview him. Mrs.
Beecher then made an excuse and retired to her room, leaving us alone

"Alie," I said reproachfully, "if anything had happened just now you
would have had only yourself to blame for it. That man's insolent
lying was more than I could stand. In another moment, if that servant
had not come in, I believe I should have lost all control of myself,
and, ten chances to one, have ruined everything. Why did you do it?"

"Because I wanted to find out how he was in the habit of talking about
me. That was why."

"But do you think he was really in earnest? May it not have been only
a mask to prevent anyone from suspecting that he is your agent in this

"No. He meant it. Of that there can be no doubt. The man, I can see,
for some inscrutable reason hates the real _me_ with his whole heart
and soul, and the treachery he is preparing now is to be his revenge.
Couldn't you hear the change, the grating, in his voice when my name
occurred? Ah, Mr. Ebbington, my clever man, you will find that it is a
very foolish policy on your part to quarrel with me."

"When do you mean to make the attempt to capture him?"

"On Friday evening; that is the day after to-morrow. The new admiral
will be here on Saturday morning at latest, and I must anticipate him,
for I have learned that Ebbington received a note from the authorities
this morning, definitely fixing the hour for the interview at eleven
o'clock. He need make no arrangements, however, for he won't be

"It will be an awful moment for him when he realises who you are. I

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Online LibraryGuy BoothbyThe Beautiful White Devil → online text (page 10 of 19)