Guy Boothby.

The Beautiful White Devil online

. (page 11 of 19)
Online LibraryGuy BoothbyThe Beautiful White Devil → online text (page 11 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

would not be in his shoes for all the gold of India."

"You would never have acted as he has done," she answered softly,
turning her head away.

This was the opportunity for finding out what she intended concerning
myself, so I drew a little closer to her.

"Alie," I said, "the time has now come for me to ask you when you wish
to say 'good-bye' to me. I have done my professional work for you, and
on Friday I shall have assisted you to the very best of my ability in
the matter of this wretched fellow. What am I to do then? Am I to say
farewell to you here, or what?"

Her voice had almost a falter in it as she replied:

"Oh, no! we will not say 'good-bye' here. Cannot you return with me? I
have been counting so much on that." Here she paused for a moment.
"But no! Perhaps I ought not to ask you - you have your work in life,
and, seeing what you have already done for us, I should be the last to
keep you from the path of duty."

"If you wish me to come back with you, Alie," I answered quickly, "I
will come with a glad heart. I have no duty to consider, and as I
have given up my practice, I have no patients to give me any concern.
But how shall I get back to England later on?"

"I will arrange that you shall be sent down to Torres Straits, and you
can go home via Australia, if that will suit you. Never fear, I will
attend to that part of it when it becomes necessary."

"Then I will go with you."

"I thank you. Good-night!"

I bade her good-night, and she left me to go to her room. As, however,
I was in no humour for sleeping myself, I stayed in the verandah,
looking down the quaint lamp-lit street, along which only an
occasional belated foot passenger, a Sikh policeman or two, and a few
tired rickshaw coolies wended their way. I was thinking of the
strangeness of my position. When I came to work it out, and to review
the whole chain of events dispassionately, it seemed almost
incredible. I could hardly believe that George De Normanville the
staid medical man, and George De Normanville the lover of the
Beautiful White Devil, and assistant in a scheme for abducting one of
Singapore's most prominent citizens, were one and the same person.
However, I was thoroughly content; Alie loved me, and I wanted nothing

Next morning, after breakfast, I discovered that Miss Sanderson and
her companion were setting off for a day's pleasuring, and that Mr.
Ebbington was to be their sole conductor and escort. It was noticeable
that he had donned a new suit of clothes in honour of the occasion,
and I saw that he wore a sprig of japonica in his buttonhole. From his
expression I concluded that he was very well satisfied with himself,
but whether he would have been quite so confident had he known who his
fair friends really were was quite another matter, and one upon which
I could only conjecture.

They returned in time for tiffin, and during the meal Ebbington
confided to me the fact that the heiress had been most gracious to
him. From what he said I gathered that, unless somebody else
interfered and spoiled sport, he felt pretty confident of ultimately
securing her.

"Take care your friend the Beautiful White Devil, or whatever you call
her, doesn't get jealous," I said with a laugh, wishing to get him on
to delicate ground in order to see how quickly he would wriggle off it

"Don't mention them in the same breath, for goodness' sake," he
answered. "Miss Sanderson and that woman - - Why, man alive, they're
not to be compared!"

"Ah!" I thought to myself, "if you only knew, my friend, if you only

"Don't you wish you were in my place?" he said with a smile, as he
rose to go.

"No; if you wish me to be candid," I answered, "I cannot say that I

He thereupon left me and went out into the verandah. We spent the
afternoon with the ladies in the garden, and at their request remained
to take tea with them. During this _al fresco_ meal, which was
presided over by Miss Sanderson herself, my companion stated that it
was his desire to arrange something a little out of the common for the
ladies' amusement.

"What shall it be?" he asked, with the magnificence of an Oriental
potentate to whom all things are possible. "A picnic? But that is not
much fun here. A dance? But it's too hot for that. What would you

Alie seemed to reflect for a few moments, and then she said, with an
appearance of animation:

"Do you really want to give us a treat, Mr. Ebbington? Then I reckon
the nicest thing you can possibly do, on these hot nights, would be to
take us for a trip on the water. I know Mrs. Beecher thinks so too.
Now, you just get us a launch and trot us round. I guess that'll be
real delightful."

She clapped her hands and appeared to be so pleased with the idea
that, whatever he may himself have thought of it, there was nothing
for Ebbington to do but to assent.

"We'll take some supper," she continued, as if a new idea had struck
her, "and you gentlemen shall bring your cigars, and we'll spend a
delightful evening. I'm fonder of the sea than you can think. But I do
just wish you could see New York Harbour. You should see Newport, too,
where my papa's got a cottage. It's real fine."

After dinner that evening Ebbington reported that he had engaged a
steam launch, and also that he had ordered the supper. Thereupon, to
encourage him, Miss Sanderson professed herself to be looking forward
to the trip more than she had ever done to anything else in her life.

Accordingly next evening, immediately after dinner, we saw that our
charges were carefully wrapped up, chartered rickshaws, and set off
for the harbour. It was a lovely night, with a young moon just
showing like a silver sickle above the roofs. We were all in the
highest spirits, although, I must confess, my own were not unmixed
with a slight dash of nervousness as to what the upshot of our
excursion would be.

Arriving at the harbour side, we found the launch in waiting. She was
a smart, serviceable little craft, manned by two native sailors and an
engineer. We descended the wharf steps in single file, and, as I was
nearest to her, I stepped on board and gave Alie my hand to assist her
to embark. She squeezed it gently, by way of wishing me good luck of
our enterprise, sprang aboard, and when we had taken our places aft
the order was given and we pushed off.

The harbour was densely crowded with craft of all nationalities and
descriptions, and in and out among them we threaded our way, now
dodging under the bows of a Messageries Maritime mail boat, now under
the stern of a P. and O. steamer, or a Norwegian timber boat, between
native praus and dingy ocean tramps, steam launches, and small fry
generally, and finally out into the open sea.

Inside the water was as smooth as a mill pond, but when we left the
shelter of the high land and passed outside, the complexion of affairs
was somewhat altered. But as our party were all good sailors, the
tumbling and tossing we endured hardly mattered. For over an hour we
steamed up and down, and then, pausing in the shelter of the harbour
again, cast about us for a suitable spot to have our supper.

I had noticed all through the evening, and, for the matter of that,
throughout the day, that Ebbington's manner towards Alie was every
moment growing more unpleasantly familiar. By the time he had
completed his first bottle of champagne at supper, it was about as
much as I could stand; indeed, twice he called her by her assumed
Christian name, and once he tried to take her hand. Remembering,
however, what would follow later, I kept a tight rein upon myself, and
did not allow any expression of my feelings to escape me.

"After all, give me American girls," our hero was saying, with an
insolent freedom for which I could have kicked him, as he lit his
cigar. "There's none of that stand-offishness about them that there is
with our English women. You can say more to them without their being
offended and wanting to call their fathers in to you."

"You mean, perhaps, that we are more good-natured," said Alie. "I'm
afraid, however, we're sometimes unwise enough to permit people to
become familiar on a three days' acquaintance, and that's a very
foolish thing."

"Oh, come now, Miss Sanderson," said our host, uncorking another
bottle of champagne, filling up Alie's glass, and then helping himself
liberally. "I think that's a little severe, isn't it? One thing I
know, though, you don't mean it, do you?"

"I am not so certain of that," she replied. "It's just possible that I
may be compelled to do so. But let us talk of something else. What a
lovely night it is, isn't it? I think this harbour's just delightful
by moonlight. Say, Mr. Ebbington, couldn't we come on to-morrow
morning for a while, about eleven o'clock. Just to oblige me, don't
you think you could manage it?"

Knowing that eleven was the hour at which he was to see the admiral, I
waited to hear what answer he would make. It was easy to see that he
was a little nonplussed, for he expressed his sorrow that, through an
important business engagement, he would be quite unable to comply with
her request, and for some time sat in sulky silence. Just as he was
going to speak again, however, we descried a boat pulling across
towards us from the wharves on the other side. As it approached the
shore Alie signed to me, and, divining her intention, I went down to
inquire its errand. The boat having grounded, a native waded ashore,
and handed me a large packet and a letter, which I immediately
conveyed to Alie. She took it, and then turning to Ebbington, who had
been surveying the scene with no small astonishment, said:

"I'm afraid, Mr. Ebbington, this means some business which will
necessitate our going back to the hotel at once. Do you mind so very

"Not at all," he answered promptly; then, as if he thought he might
turn it to account, continued, "You know that my only ambition is to
serve you."

Disregarding this polite speech, which was uttered with a leer that
made my fingers itch to be alongside his head, Alie led the way up the
plank and on board the launch again. We pushed off from the shore and
began to steam ahead. Then Alie nodded to me, and I tapped the
engineer on the shoulder and signified that he should stop. He looked
surprised, but obeyed. Ebbington, however, did not like this
interference on my part, and sprang to his feet.

"Why did you tell that man to stop?" he cried, angrily. "I'll trouble
you to remember that I'm - - "

"And I'll just trouble you to sit down where you are and hold your
tongue, Mr. Ebbington," said Alie, dropping her American accent
altogether, and drawing a revolver from beneath her cloak. "The game
is over as far as you are concerned, so you may as well submit with as
good a grace as possible."

"What does this mean, Miss Sanderson?" he cried excitedly.

"Sit down there, as I tell you," she answered, "and don't make any
noise, or you'll get into trouble. I shall answer no questions, but if
you attempt to move I promise you I'll shoot you there and then."

He said no more, but sat between us trembling like the arrant coward
he was. Alie went forward to the engineer and said something in Malay;
then, after a moment's conversation with one of the crew, she returned
aft, took the tiller, and steered for the open sea. The little craft
fumed and fussed on her way for an hour or so, tossing the foam off
either bow, and covering the distance in first-rate style.

Suddenly the look-out, posted forrard, uttered a cry, and next moment
we saw ahead of us a green light. It was obscured and revealed three
times. This, I knew, was the yacht's signal, and in less than a
quarter of an hour we were alongside, had hitched on, and were safely
aboard. The launch's crew were then suitably rewarded and sent back to

As we reached the deck Ebbington must have read the yacht's name on a
life-buoy, and realised into whose hands he had fallen. For a moment
he stood rooted to the spot, then he staggered a pace forward,
clutched at a stay, and, missing it, fell upon the deck in a dead
faint. As I stooped to see what was the matter with him I felt the
tremor of the screw. Our errand was accomplished. Singapore was a
thing of the past. We were on our way back to the island once more.



After the exciting events in which I had been a participator that
evening, it may not be a matter for surprise that, on going to bed, my
night was a troubled one. Hour after hour I tumbled and tossed in my
bunk, and with the first sign of day, finding sleep still impossible,
dressed and went on deck. It was as lovely a morning as any man could
wish to see, with a pale turquoise sky overhead, across which clouds
of fleecy whiteness sped with extraordinary rapidity. A fine breeze
hummed in the shrouds, and the peculiar motion of the schooner,
combined with one glance over the side, was sufficient to convince me
that a brisk sea was running. I walked aft, said "Good-morning!" to
the officer of the watch, who was the same taciturn individual, with
the scar upon his face, I have described earlier in the story, and
then, partly from curiosity and partly from force of habit, took a
squint at the compass card. Our course was N. N. E. exactly, but as I
did not know whether or not this was a bluff of some kind, such a
circumstance told me but little. I therefore leaned against the
taffrail, looked up at the canvas, bellying out like great balloons
above my head, and resigned myself to my thoughts. It had an
exhilarating, yet for some reason bewildering, effect upon me, that
stretch of canvas standing out so white against the clear blue sky,
the chasing clouds, the bright sunshine, the dancing, rolling sea, and
the splashing of the water alongside. The schooner was evidently in a
playful mood, for one moment she would be aiming her jib-boom at the
sun and the next be dipping her nose down into the trough and sending
a shower of spray rattling on the fo'c's'le like hail. Not a sail was
in sight, though it was evident from the presence of a lookout in the
fore-top, and the constant scrutiny of the southwestern horizon
maintained by the officer of the watch, that one was momentarily

I had seen nothing of Alie since I had said good-night to her the
previous evening, nor did I receive an invitation to visit her until
breakfast had been over some time. Then Walworth entered my cabin.

"Her ladyship," he said, taking a seat on my locker, "has sent me to
say that she would be glad to see you aft, if you could spare a few
moments. Before you go, I want to explain the situation to you. The
matter on hand, as you may guess, is the case of that scoundrel
Ebbington, and, as he will be present, she thinks it best that a
little precaution should be observed."

"In what way do you mean?" I answered. "Of course I am ready to do
anything she may wish, but I'd like to have my instructions clearly
explained to me first."

"Well, I have been commissioned to inform you that she thinks it would
be better, in case of accident, that Ebbington should suppose she has
abducted you as well as himself. That is to say, instead of being her
guest on board the schooner, you are her prisoner. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly! She is afraid lest any harm should occur to me, when I
leave her yacht, by reason of my association with her! It is like her

"Shall we go?"

I signified my assent, and we set off.

When we reached Alie's cabin, we found her reclining on a couch at the
further end, the bulldog, as usual, at her feet. She held a packet of
papers in her hand which, previous to our arrival, it was evident she
had been perusing. At the other end, near the companion-ladder, but on
the starboard side, between two sailors, stood the prisoner,
Ebbington. He looked, as well he might, hopelessly miserable. He
opened his eyes in astonishment when he saw me enter. I, however,
crossed the cabin with Walworth and stood on the port side without
letting him see that I recognised him. Then solemn silence fell upon
us all for nearly a minute. While it lasted Alie sat with her chin on
her hand staring steadfastly at Ebbington. Under her gaze, he lowered
his eyes, and when I noticed that his fingers twined convulsively over
and round each other, I could imagine the state of his mind. The
fellow was plainly as frightened as it was possible for him to be.
Then Alie lifted her head and spoke in a voice as soft as a kitten's

"Mr. Ebbington," she said, "do you know me?"

He did not answer, but I saw the first finger and thumb of his right
hand clutch at his trouser leg and hold it tight. That action was more
significant than any words. Again she spoke:

"Mr. Ebbington," she said, "my trusted servant, my faithful friend, my
honourable agent, I ask you again, do you know me?"

Once more he refused to answer.

"You seem undecided. Well, then, let me trespass upon your time and
tell you a little story, which will, perhaps, help you to remember.
You may listen, Dr. De Normanville, if you please. You must know, Mr.
Ebbington, that once upon a time there was a woman, who, for no fault
of her own, found herself at enmity with the world. She had
necessarily to be continually moving from place to place, and to be
always on her guard against betrayal. The better, therefore, to
conduct her business, she engaged a man to reside in a certain place
and to supply her, from time to time, with certain important
information. The man was poor, she made him rich; he had nothing, she
gave him everything; he was despised, she made him honoured; he was in
trouble, she saved him, not once, but twice, and made him happy. You,
Mr. Ebbington, who are such an honourable man, would think that that
man would have been grateful, wouldn't you? Well, he pretended to be,
and perhaps for a little time he really was. But his feelings soon
underwent a change towards his benefactress. When he had money he
wanted more; he knew his employer's secret, and at last, as a
brilliant finale, he resolved to trade upon it. Then what idea do you
think came into that faithful servant's mind? You will never guess.
Why! neither more nor less than the betrayal of his benefactress to
her enemies. And for what reward, think you? Millions? A million? For
half a million? A quarter? No! no! For the miserable sum of five
thousand pounds. It seems incredible that a man could be so foolish
and so base, doesn't it? But, nevertheless, it is true. Perhaps he
thought the woman, having escaped so often, must inevitably be caught
before long, and, being a business man, he remembered the old adage
that 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.' At any rate, he
went to the authorities, - this noble, trustworthy, grateful man, - and
like Judas, proffered his perfidy for a price. But he was bargaining
without his host - or hostess. For if he could be so clever, the woman
could be cleverer still. She was warned in time, and thereupon hatched
a counterplot for his destruction. How well that plot has succeeded, I
don't think I need tell you, Mr. Ebbington. Dr. De Normanville, I am
exceedingly sorry that you should have been drawn into it too. But,
under the circumstances, you will see that it was quite impossible for
me to leave you behind to give evidence against me. You need have no
fear, however. If you will pass your solemn word to me that you will
reveal nothing concerning me or my actions when you go back to
civilisation, I will trust you so far as to give you your freedom
again, and on the first possible opportunity. Do you think you can let
me have that promise?"

I saw the part I was expected to play, and at once fell in with it.
Affecting to take time to consider, I presently said:

"What can I do? I am in your hands entirely, and it would be worse
than useless for me to resist. I will give you that promise, of

"Very good. Then I will let you go."

She turned from me to Ebbington.

"As for you, sir, I hardly know what punishment is severe enough for
you. Even death seems too good for such a contemptible creature. Let
me tell you that only three months ago I hanged a man for murder - a
far less serious offence in my eyes than yours. Why should I spare
you? If I were vindictively disposed, I should recollect how you spoke
of me the other evening. Do you remember?"

"I did not know to whom I was speaking," the wretched man answered

"That is a very poor excuse," Alie replied, with withering scorn.
"Think of the baseness of what you said! However, it shall be counted
as an extenuating circumstance that you did not know me. Now - - "

But whatever she was about to say was stopped by a hail from the deck.
On hearing it Alie immediately rose.

To the men guarding Ebbington she gave an order in their own tongue,
and they at once removed their prisoner. Then turning to Walworth, she

"The mail boat is evidently in sight. Were your instructions explicit
to the men on board her? Do you think they thoroughly understand what
work they have to do?"

"Thoroughly," he answered, "I schooled them myself! There will be no
bungling, you may rest assured. Matheson is in command, and he has
never failed us yet."

"In what capacities did they ship?"

"Matheson as a missionary bound for Shanghai, Calderman as a tourist
for Nagasaki, Burns as a tea merchant for Fu-Chow, Alderney as a
newspaper correspondent to the East generally, Braham as an American
mill owner travelling home via Yokohama and San Francisco, Balder as
an Indian civilian on furlough visiting Japan."

"Very good. And your instructions to them?"

"Will be rigidly carried out. As they come up with the yacht, after
seeing our signal of distress, Matheson and Balder will make an excuse
and get upon the bridge; once there they will cover the officer of the
watch with their revolvers, and do the same for the skipper if he is
there, or directly he comes on deck. They will then compel him to
heave to. Burns by this time will have taken his station at the first
saloon companion ladder, Alderney doing the same at the second;
Calderman will be at the engine-room door, and Braham at the
fo'c's'le; then we shall send a boat and take off our man."

"That will do, Mr. Walworth. You have arranged it admirably, and I am
sincerely obliged to you."

A flush of pleasure rose on the man's usually sallow cheek. He did not
answer, however, only bowed and went on deck. Then Alie turned to me.

"Dr. De Normanville," she said, "I have not yet thanked you for your
help in this last adventure; without your assistance I don't know
whether I could possibly have brought it to such a successful issue."

"You must not thank me," I answered. "Is it possible that you can
imagine I would have let that scoundrel betray you? Alie, you know how
much I - - But there, I have given you my promise, so I must not say
what I want to do."

She took my hand and looked into my face with a sweet smile that was
very different to the one she had worn when she talked to Ebbington.

"Not yet," she said very softly. "Some day you shall say it as often
as you please. In the meantime we must get to business. Will you come
on deck and see this comedy played out, or would you rather remain
down here?"

"I should like to go on deck with you," I answered, and we accordingly
went up the companion ladder together. When we emerged from the hatch,
what a change was there! I looked, and could hardly believe my eyes.
Aloft, where only an hour before the two well-stayed masts had reared
their graceful heads, now hung a raffle of broken timber and
disordered cordage. Forrard of the foremast the port bulwark was
completely broken down, or appeared to be, while over the side from it
hung another display of broken gear. In spite of the gay awning aft,
and the R.C.Y.S. burgee at the gaff end, the _Lone Star_ presented the
appearance of a complete wreck. But the meaning of it all was what
puzzled me. However, I had not very long to wait before I received

Alie had gone aft, and was now leaning against the port bulwark
watching, with a glass, the movements of a large steamer fast rising
on the horizon. I strolled up just in time to hear her say to Walworth
and the officer of the watch, who were both watching it:

"She is steering directly for us. Run up the English ensign to
half-mast, Mr. Patterson, and, when you think she's near enough, throw
out more urgent signals for assistance."

Her orders were carefully obeyed, and before very long the vessel was
near enough for us to distinguish her answering pennant. The wind had

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryGuy BoothbyThe Beautiful White Devil → online text (page 11 of 19)