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contained an excellent portrait of herself.

"Oh, Alie," I cried, "how can I thank you? You have given me the one
thing of all others that I desired. Now, in my turn, I have a present
for you. This ring" (here I drew a ring from my finger) "was my poor
dead mother's last gift to me, and I want you to wear it."

I placed it on her finger, and having done so, took her in my arms and
kissed her on the lips. This time she offered no resistance.

Then we said good-bye, and I went up on deck. An hour later the _Lone
Star_ had faded away into the night, and I was aboard the _Pearl
Queen_ bound for Thursday Island and the Port of London.

When I came to think of it I could hardly believe that it was nearly
four months since Walworth had found me out in the Occidental Hotel,
Hong Kong, and induced me to become the servant and at the same time
the lover of the Beautiful White Devil.




CHAPTER XII.

THE FIRST OF MAY.


Arriving in Thursday Island, one of the hottest and quaintest little
spots on earth, I was fortunate enough to catch a British India mail
boat in the act of starting for Brisbane. I accordingly had my luggage
conveyed to her and was soon comfortably installed aboard her. The
voyage from Torres Straits, along the Queensland coast, inside the
Great Barrier Reef, though it boasts on one hand a rugged and almost
continuous line of cliffs marked with such names as Cape Despair and
Tribulation, and upon the other twelve hundred miles of treacherous
reef, is quite worth undertaking. I explored the different ports of
call, and, on reaching Brisbane, caught the train for Adelaide,
embarked on board a P. and O. mail boat there, and in less than six
weeks from the time of booking my passage was standing in the porch of
my own house in Cavendish Square, had rung the bell, and was waiting
for the front door to be opened to me.

It was a cold winter's afternoon; an icy blast tore through the Square
and howled round the various corners, so that all the folk whose
inclement destinies compelled them to be abroad were hurrying along as
if their one desire were to be indoors and by their fires again
without loss of time.

Presently my old housekeeper opened the door, and, though I had
telegraphed to her from Naples to expect me, pretended to be so
overwhelmed with surprise at seeing me as to be incapable of speech
for nearly a minute. I managed to get past her at last, however, and
went into what, in the days of my practice, had been my consulting
room. The fire was burning brightly, my slippers were toasting before
it, my writing table was loaded with books and papers as usual, and a
comfortable easy chair was drawn up beside it. Everything was exactly
as I had left it fourteen months before, even to the paper knife still
resting in a half cut book, and a hastily scrawled memo upon the
blotting pad. There was something almost ironical about this state of
stagnation when I thought of the changes that had occurred in my own
life since last I had used that knife and written that memorandum. I
told the old housekeeper to let me have my dinner at the usual hour,
and having done so, asked her the news of the Square. Her reply was
not important.

"James [her husband] an' me, sir," she said, "'ad the rheumatiz at the
beginning of the winter, the young postman with the red whiskers 'ave
got married to the parlour maid as burnt herself so bad three years
back, at number 99, and the little gal with the golden curls across
the way fell down the airey and broke her leg two months ago come next
Friday."

Such was the chronicle of the most important occurrences in that quiet
London Square during my absence.

After dinner I returned to my study, wrote two or three letters, and
then drawing my chair up to the fire, sat down to think. Outside the
wind howled and the rain dashed against my windows, but my thoughts
were very far away from Cavendish Square; they were flying across the
seas to an island, where lived a woman whom I had come to love better
than all the world. Closing my eyes, I seemed to see the yacht lying
in the little harbour under the palm clad hills; I went ashore,
threaded my way through the tangled mass of jungle, and passed up the
path to the bungalow on the hillside. There I found Alie moving about
her rooms with all her old queenly grace; then like a flash the scene
changed, and we were back on the yacht's deck in the typhoon. I saw
the roaring seas racing down upon us, heard the wind whistling and
shrieking through the straining cordage, noticed the broken bulwarks,
and by my side, Alie in her oilskins, with her sou-wester drawn tight
about her head, clinging to the rail with every atom of her strength.
But all that was past and over, and now for twelve months - nay, to be
exact, eleven, - I was to be the staid, respectable London householder
I had been before I visited the East. After that - but there, what was
to happen after that, who could tell?

After a while the termination of my pipe brought my reverie to an end,
so I took up a file of papers from the table and fell to scanning the
last few numbers. Suddenly a headline caught my eye and rivetted my
attention. It was a clipping from a Hong Kong paper, and read as
follows:

"THE BEAUTIFUL WHITE DEVIL AGAIN."

"After a silence of something like four months the Beautiful
White Devil has again done us the honour of appearing in
Eastern waters. On this occasion, however, her polite
attentions have been bestowed upon Singapore, from which
place she has abducted, with singular cleverness, a young
English doctor, whose acquaintance she had made in Batavia,
and with him a certain well-known resident by name
Ebbington. These two affairs were managed with that
dexterity which the Beautiful White Devil has taught us to
expect from her, the sequel, however, we have yet to learn.
Surely, and we say it for the fiftieth occasion, it is time
some definite steps were taken by Government to bring about
the capture of a woman who, while being a picturesque and
daring enough subject for a novel, has been a continual
menace and danger to the commerce of the East for a greater
number of years than the editorial chair cares to reckon."

I cut the paragraph out and, having placed it in my pocket-book,
turned to the next issue published a week later. Here I found another
quarter column devoted to her exploits. This one was also from the
Hong Kong paper and ran as follows:

"THE BEAUTIFUL WHITE DEVIL'S LATEST AND GREATEST EXPLOIT."

"Last week we described what may be considered two of the
cleverest and most daring exploits in the whole of the
Beautiful White Devil's extraordinary career. We refer to
the abduction of an English doctor, travelling in the East
in order to study Asiatic diseases, and a well-known figure
in Singapore society, Mr. Arthur James Ebbington, whose bay
pony, Cupid, it will be remembered, won the Straits
Settlement's Cup last year. The whereabouts of these two
gentlemen have not yet, so we learn, been discovered, but to
compensate for that we have to chronicle another, and
perhaps more serious, act of violence on the part of this
notorious character. The facts of the case are as follows:

"On Saturday morning last the mail steamer _Bramah_ left
Singapore for Hong Kong, having on board a number of
distinguished passengers, including the new admiral of the
China Station, Sir Dominic Denby, his flag lieutenant, Mr.
Hoskin, and a prominent new government official for Hong
Kong, Mr. Barkmansworth. There were also among the
passengers six gentlemen of unassuming appearance, who, as
far as could be judged, seemed to be total strangers to each
other. The names they booked under were, as we find by a
perusal of the shipping company's books, Matherson,
Calderman, Burns, Alderney, Braham, and Balder.

"The first described himself as a missionary, the second was
presumably a tourist, the third a tea merchant, the fourth
an English newspaper correspondent, the fifth an American
mill owner, and the sixth an Indian civilian on furlough. On
Sunday morning early, the officer of the watch sighted a
sail some few points off the starboard bow. From all
appearances it was a large schooner yacht, flying a distress
signal. On nearer approach it was seen that she had suffered
considerable damage, her topmasts appearing to have been
carried completely away.

"On inquiring her name it was elicited that she was the
schooner yacht _Sagittarius_, belonging to the Royal Cowes
Yacht Squadron, and owned by Lord Melkard, the well-known
Home Rule Peer, who was supposed, at the time, to be
cruising in these waters. Suspicion being thus entirely
diverted, Captain Barryman brought his steamer as close as
was prudent and signalled to the yacht to send a boat, which
request was immediately complied with. Meanwhile, however,
the attention of the officers on the bridge being rivetted
on the yacht, two of the men before enumerated, Matherson
the missionary, and Balder the Indian civilian, contrary to
rules, made their way on to the bridge and implored the
captain and chief officer to stand by the smaller vessel,
which they declared to be sinking. Then without warning, on
receiving a signal from below, these two, to all appearances
eminently peaceable gentlemen, drew revolvers from their
pockets and covered the astonished officers. The remaining
members of the gang by this time had posted themselves at
the entrances to the first and second saloons, the
engine-room, and the fo'c's'le, and refused to allow anyone
to come on to or to leave the deck.

"When the boat came alongside Mr. Barkmansworth, the
official before described, who had just had his bath and was
completing his toilet in his cabin, was called up from below
and ordered to descend into her. After some argument, and a
considerable amount of threatening, he complied with the
request and was pulled over to the yacht. Once there, he was
seized, stripped to the skin, dragged up to a triangle, and
remorselessly flogged. He was then sent bleeding and almost
unconscious back to the steamer, where he was immediately
placed under the doctor's care. On the return of the boat
alongside, the six desperadoes, who had all the time been
mounting guard, as before described, entered it and were
conveyed to the yacht, which immediately steamed off in a
southwesterly direction.

"That this last insult to the Powers-that-Be will have the
result of inducing them to take more effective action
against this notorious woman is too much to expect. But with
a reckless confidence somewhat unusual to us, we are now
pinning our faith on the newly arrived naval authority, the
more so as he was himself a witness of the whole disgraceful
affair. We can only point out one fact, and that is, that
unless this woman be soon brought to justice, travelling by
mail boat in Eastern waters will be a thing of the past.
When steamers are stopped, and well known and respected
government officials publicly flogged in mid-ocean, it is
evident that affairs are coming to too atrocious a pass
altogether."

Putting this criticism into my pocket-book with the other, I took a
glimpse at my locket and went to bed.

Next morning, immediately after breakfast, I donned the orthodox top
hat and frock coat and set off to walk to South Kensington to call
upon my sister Janet - who, by the way, was a widow, her husband having
died of malarial fever when with his regiment on the west coast of
Africa.

I found her in the morning-room in the act of writing a note of
welcome to me. She greeted me with all her old sisterly affection, and
when she had done so, made me sit down before the fire and tell her
all my adventures.

"We have heard the most wonderful tales about you," she said, with a
smile. "How you were captured by a sort of female Captain Kidd of
fabulous beauty, who carried you off to an island in the Pacific,
where you were made to dig sufficient gold to pay your ransom."

"Indeed?"

"It has been recopied into all sorts of papers," she continued. "But
I've no doubt it was a mass of mere fabrication. Own the truth now,
wasn't it?"

"Every bit," I answered candidly. "I have been very much annoyed by
those stupid newspaper paragraphs. It is just like the rabid craving
of the age for sensationalism. But before I go any further, Janet, I
want to tell you something. I am going to be married."

"You! George! Why, you always used to say you had made up your mind
never to do anything so foolish."

"So I did; but you see I have changed my mind."

"So it would appear. And now, who is she? Tell me where you met her
and all about her."

This was what I dreaded, but it had to be met and faced.

"Well, in the first place, her name is Alie. She is twenty-seven years
of age and an orphan. Her father was a captain in the English navy,
but is now dead. She is very sweet, very accomplished, and very
beautiful; and I feel sure, Janet, if only for my sake, you will offer
her a hearty welcome when she comes home."

"You know me well enough to be sure of that, don't you, dear old
George? And is anything settled yet? How soon does she come home? and
when are you going to be married?"

"To your first question I can only answer, as soon after the first of
May as possible. On the first Alie will arrive in England. Now will
you wish me happiness, Janet?"

"With all my heart and soul. But I am dying to know more; tell me
where you met her, and indeed all about your adventures; remember, you
have been away a whole year."

I told her as much as I thought prudent without revealing Alie's
identity, and when my story was ended, we sat chatting on till lunch
time.

When I left the house in the afternoon, I knew I had insured a kind
reception for Alie when she should arrive in England.

Now I must skip the greater part of a year and come to the middle of
the last week in April, just three days, in fact, before I knew I
might expect my darling. It would be impossible for me to tell you how
I spent the time. I don't think I know myself. I was in such a fever
of impatience that each minute seemed an hour, each hour a day, and
each day a year. And the nearer the time came the greater became my
impatience. I even scanned the shipping lists with feverish
earnestness, though I knew they could not possibly tell me anything I
wanted to know.

At last the evening of the 30th of April arrived, a warm spring night
with the promise of a lovely morrow. I kept myself busily occupied
after dinner, and went to bed counting the hours till morning should
appear. But try how I would I could not sleep - the memory of the joy
that awaited me on the morrow kept me wide awake, devising plans for
Alie's happiness. Slowly the hours went by. I heard one, two, three,
four, and five o'clock strike, and still sleep would not come to me.
At last I could stand it no longer, so I rose, dressed myself, and
went out into the silent Square. Then I set myself for a walk, taking
care, however, to return home in time to receive my letters from the
postman. They were three in number, two from friends, the third a
circular, but not one from Alie. The disappointment was almost more
than I could bear. But I put it behind me, and resolved to wait for
the next delivery, which would take place about an hour after
breakfast. Again the postman came round the Square - but this time he
had nothing at all to deliver when he reached my door. Once more I was
disappointed.

The morning rolled slowly on and lunch time came and went without any
communication. The early afternoon delivery brought me no news, and by
tea time I had almost lost hope. Could Alie have forgotten her promise
or had she met with an accident which prevented her from coming? The
latter thought redoubled my anxiety.

But I had her own assertion that she would be in England on the first
of May and I had never known her fail to keep her word. Just as that
thought passed through my brain there was a ring at the bell, and a
few seconds later my man brought up a telegram on a salver. With
fingers trembling with eagerness I tore the envelope open and read the
following message:

Arrived this morning. Bundaberg House, Surbiton. Come
quickly.

ALIE.

That little slip of paper transformed my dismal world into a second
heaven. There and then I ran out of the room, gave the telegraph boy
in the porch half a crown for his trouble, seized my hat and stick,
hailed a hansom, and bade the cabman drive me with all possible speed
to Waterloo. The man was a smart whip, and as he possessed a good
horse we covered the ground in grand style. When we reached the
station I paid him off, purchased my ticket, and ran on to the
platform just in time to catch the 6.15 express. Punctually at five
and twenty minutes to seven I left the train again at Surbiton, and
proceeding into the station yard called another cab.

"Do you know Bundaberg House?" I asked the man, as I took my place in
the vehicle.

He shook his head and called to one of his mates.

"Where's Bundaberg House, Bill?"

"Out on the Portsmouth Road nearly to Thames Ditton," was the reply.
"That big house with the long brick wall next to Tiller's."

"I know now, sir!" said the man, climbing on to his box.

"Very well, then! An extra shilling if you hurry up," I cried, and
away he went.

At the end of a short drive we pulled up before a pair of massive iron
gates. A passer by threw them open for us and we drove in, passed
round a shrubbery, and pulled up at the front door. I paid the cabman
off and then, having watched him drive down and through the gates
again, rang the bell. Next moment the door opened and a trim maid
servant, without inquiring my name, invited me to enter. The front
door opened on to a nicely built and furnished hall and from it I
passed into a handsome drawing-room. It was empty but, before I had
time to look round, the folding doors on the other side were thrown
back and Alie entered the room.

I must leave you to imagine our greeting. I can only say that it sends
a tremor through me to this day to remember it. I know that while I
held Alie, who seemed more beautiful than ever, in my arms she
whispered:

"You are still of the same mind, George?"

"Doesn't this look as if I am, darling?" I whispered. "Yes, I love you
more fondly than ever, and I have come to-night to claim the
fulfilment of your promise."

"You have been very patient, George!"

"It was because I loved and believed in you, Alie!" I replied. "But
come, darling, I want my answer."

"And you shall have it," she said softly. "There it is!"

As she spoke she raised her beautiful white hand and pointed to the
ring I had given her, saying as she did so, "It has never left my
finger since you placed it there!"

"My best of girls," I cried, raising the little hand to my lips and
kissing it fondly, "I am the very happiest man in the world. And now I
must hear all your doings; tell me how you got home!"

"There is little to tell," she answered. "I followed your route via
Thursday Island, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. I stayed in the
latter place for nearly a month, and while there advertised for a
companion. The result was Mrs. Barker, a nice, amiable little person,
whom you will shortly see. When we reached Naples I happened to see an
advertisement concerning this furnished house in an English paper,
telegraphed about it, received an answer in Paris, engaged it, and
arrived here this morning."

"And how did you leave the settlement? And, by the way, where is Mr.
'Beelzebub'?"

"The settlement was very well when I came away. They were busy
building the new Communal Hall I used to talk to you about. And poor
old Bel is left at the bungalow. I was afraid he might excite remark
and possibly draw suspicion upon me."

"Alie, do you think you are safe in London?" I cried in alarm, all my
old fears rushing back upon me at the mention of that one word
_suspicion_. "What ever should I do if any one suspected you?"

"You need have no fear on that score, dear," my intrepid sweetheart
answered, "there is no one in England who could possibly recognize me,
and the only people in the whole world who could do so are Vesey of
Hong Kong, the Sultan of Surabaya, the Rajah of Tavoy, Barkmansworth,
and that lieutenant and midshipman. The first is dead; the second
never leaves his own territory, the third is in bad odour with the
English Government just at present and little likely to come home.
Barkmansworth is, I presume, still in Hong Kong, and the lieutenant
and his junior are with their ship in the China Sea."

"All the same, I shall not be satisfied until we are safely out of
Europe again, Alie."

"You say _we_, then you mean to come away with me, George?"

"Of course, with whom else should I go? Hark! somebody is coming!"

"It is Mrs. Barker, my duenna. Now we must be matter of fact folk once
more."

As she spoke, Mrs. Barker, a dapper little lady with silver gray hair
and a very pleasant expression, entered the room.

"Let me introduce Dr. De Normanville to you," said Alie, rising from
her chair and going forward to meet her. "Dr. De Normanville, Mrs.
Barker."

I bowed and Mrs. Barker did the same, then we went in to dinner. What
happened during that very pleasant meal, how Mrs. Barker found
occasion to require something from her bedroom afterwards, and so left
us alone in the drawing-room together, I need not relate; suffice it
that when I got home about twelve o'clock I was the happiest, and, at
the same time, the most nervous, man in England.

Next morning I called for Janet and, willy nilly, carried her off
there and then to call on Alie. We found her walking in her garden,
which led down to the river, and I must be excused if I say that,
proud as I was of my darling, I was infinitely prouder as I noticed
the look of astonishment and admiration that came into Janet's face
when she was introduced to her. Alie's radiant beauty and charming
manners were irresistible, and before they had been together half an
hour the two women were on the best of terms. It was Alie's earnest
desire that we should remain to luncheon, and she herself walked to
the railway station with us when we at last took our departure.

"Now, what do you think of my sweetheart?" I asked, as we steamed out
of the station.

"I think that she is a very beautiful and charming girl," was my
sister's immediate reply, "and, if I know anything of my sex, she is
as good as she's beautiful."

This pleased me, as you may be sure, and when Janet went on to tell me
that she had invited Alie and Mrs. Barker to spend a few days with
her, and that the visit would commence the following afternoon, my
opinion of my sister's kindness became even more exaggerated than
before.

And so that week went by, and another after it, till Alie had
thoroughly settled down among us and nearly all the preparations for
our wedding were complete. By that time, you may be sure, she had won
golden opinions on every side. On each occasion that I saw Janet she
was more and more profuse in her praises of her, until I had really to
tell her that unless she moderated them a little I should soon become
insufferably conceited about my good fortune.

One morning, when I was beginning to think of getting up, the
following note was brought to me with my shaving water. It was from my
sister, and had evidently been written the previous evening:

SOUTH KENSINGTON, MONDAY EVENING.

DEAR OLD GEORGE:

I have succeeded in inducing Alie and Mrs. Barker to prolong
their visit to me until Saturday. On Wednesday evening we
hope to witness the new play at Drury Lane. Alie, you know,
has never seen a spectacular melodrama. We shall of course
want a gentleman to escort us. Would you care for the
position, or must we look elsewhere? On that occasion we
dine at 6.30, and, unless I hear from you to the contrary, I
shall lay a place for you.

In haste.
Your affectionate sister,
JANET.

Need it be said that I accepted? or that on Wednesday evening I was
proud of my charges as they took their seats in the box Janet had been


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