Guy Boothby.

The Beautiful White Devil online

. (page 18 of 19)
Online LibraryGuy BoothbyThe Beautiful White Devil → online text (page 18 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"If you will be so kind," I answered.

The necessary manoeuvre was thereupon executed, and presently the
two yachts lay less than half a mile apart.

"What a lovely craft that is," said Janet, who had just come on deck
and was watching her with increasing admiration.

"That is the _Lone Star_," said Alie, putting her arm round Janet's
waist in her usual affectionate manner. "The boat which is to carry us
to our home, dear Janet! May you be as happy on board as I have been."

"I think," I said, taking the opportunity of a pause in their
conversation to make a practical suggestion, "if you ladies will allow
me to say such a thing, it would be as well if we facilitated our
transhipping by getting our luggage ready. If I mistake not,
Patterson is piping a couple of boats away even now!"

I was right, for as we looked the boats were descending from the port

"George is ever practical, is he not, Alie?" said Janet in a teasing
tone. "I fear there is not much romance in his constitution!"

"I am not quite so sure of that," said Alie, with a roguish glance at
me, "and, all things considered, I think I may claim to be a very good

"If I am to get the worst of it in this fashion," retorted Janet, with
a great pretence of anger, "I shall go below and look after my

"Let us all go," said Alie, and down we accordingly went.

By the time the necessary work was accomplished and the crew had
conveyed our luggage to the deck, the boats from the _Lone Star_ were
alongside. They were in charge of Gammel, the third officer, who, when
he came aboard, raised his hat respectfully to Alie; in return she
shook him warmly by the hand and expressed the joy it was to her to
see the _Lone Star_ again. The luggage was then conveyed down the
gangway and put aboard one boat, which immediately set off for the
schooner. At Alie's desire I then called the captain aft.

"Captain Brown," I said, "before we leave the yacht I should very much
like with your permission to say a few words to your crew."

My request was granted, and the hands were immediately summoned aft.
Then, having descended to the cabin for something I wanted, I prepared
to make a little speech.

"Captain Brown," I said, "officers and crew of this yacht, before we
leave you to join yonder craft I wish, in my wife's name and my own,
to thank you for the manner in which you have performed your
respective duties. A pleasanter time than we have had aboard this
yacht during the past six weeks no one could desire, and now that we
are leaving you I desire to hand you some little souvenirs of our
acquaintance. Accordingly I am presenting to your captain a sum of
money which will allow each man of you five pounds when he arrives in
England, and to the captain and his chief officer these two gold
chronometers, which I hope will remind them of our short but intimate

When I had finished and had made the presentations, the captain, on
behalf of the ship's company, replied, and then, amid hearty cheers,
we descended the gangway, took our places in the boat, and set off for
the _Lone Star_.

When we came alongside we discovered the whole ship's company drawn up
to receive us. Patterson was at the gangway, and, to my surprise,
welcomed us with more emotion than I had previously thought his
character capable of exhibiting. I did not know until afterwards that
he had become aware by cable of the dangerous situation from which we
had rescued his leader.

As soon as we were safely on board, the boats were hoisted to the
davits, sail was made, and after an exchange of salutations between
the two yachts we separated, each proceeding on our different ways.

Of the voyage across the Indian Ocean there is little or nothing to be
told; for the greater part of the distance fine weather accompanied
us. We sat on deck or in the saloon, read, related our experiences,
"fought our battles o'er again," and watched the ever-changing ocean.

It was our intention not to risk the China Sea, but to pass up through
the Straits of Lombok and Macassar to the settlement.

Just before sunset one evening, the dim outlines of the coast of Bali,
with Agung Peak towering aloft, was sighted ahead, then Lombok Peak,
on the island of the same name, came into view, and before darkness
fell we were in the Straits themselves, choosing the eastern channel
between Penida Island and the Cape of Banko as the safer of the two.
Hereabouts the tides run very strong, and between us and the land
there was such a show of phosphorescent water that night as I never
remember to have seen elsewhere. We entered the straits at eight
o'clock and were clear of them again by eleven.

All next day we were occupied crossing the Java Sea, the water still
as smooth as glass, and the sun glaring down fiercely upon us.
Naturally we were all most keen to arrive at the settlement and truly
rejoiced next day when Patterson informed us that by the evening of
the day following we should be within easy reach of it.

The next night passed, and sun-time (mid-day) once more came round.
The heat was still intense, the brass work was too hot to touch, and
the pitch fairly bubbled in the seams. All the morning we panted in
our deck chairs, and only left them to go below to lunch. One thing
was remarkable; now that we were almost within touch of safety, Alie
had grown strangely nervous, so much so that I felt compelled to
remonstrate with her.

"I cannot tell you why I am so frightened," she answered, "but do you
remember that night on which we first met when we watched the moon
rise and talked of the sea?"

"Of course, I remember it perfectly," I replied, "but why do you
allude to it now?"

"Because I have that same feeling to-night about my fate being mixed
up with the sea. I told you I should die at sea, and I have a strange
foreboding that, successful as this escape has proved so far, it will
yet end in disaster."

"My darling," I cried. "You must not talk like that. What on earth has
put such a notion into your head. No, no, my wife; having brought us
safely through so much, our luck will not desert us now."

But she was still unconvinced, and no argument on the part of Janet or
myself could raise her spirits. Wonderful is the instinct of danger in
the human mind; for in a measure what Alie prophesied actually did
come true, as will be seen.

Next morning, just after daylight, I was awakened by a loud thumping
at my cabin door.

"Who is there?" I cried.

"Walworth! We want you on deck at once."

Pyjama clad though I was, I thrust my feet into slippers and ran up
the companion ladder. I found Patterson there anxiously awaiting me.

"What is the matter?" I asked breathlessly. "Why did you send for me?"

"If you want my reason," he said, pointing over our starboard side,
"look there."

I looked, and to my horror saw ahead of us, commanding the whole
strait, two enormous men-of-war. They were within six miles of us, and
were evidently making preparations for stopping us.

"What's to be done?" I cried. "Another quarter of an hour and they'll
blow us into atoms if we don't heave-to."

"Will you inform your wife, and then, perhaps, we had better hold a
council of war," answered Patterson.

Without another word I went below and told Alie. In the presence of
this definite danger she was a new woman.

"I will dress and come on deck at once," she said.

I went off to my own cabin and, hastily clothed myself; having done so
I returned to the deck to find Patterson looking through his glass at
something astern.

"We're nicely caught," he said on becoming aware of my presence.
"There's another of them behind us."

I took the glass and looked for myself; what he reported was quite
correct. We were caught like rats in a trap. Just as I returned the
glass to him Alie appeared and joined our group.

"This is bad news, gentlemen," she said quite calmly. "I suppose there
can be no doubt they _are_ after us. What have you to suggest?"

"It is difficult to say," answered Patterson. "Two things, however,
are quite certain."

"What are they?"

"The first is that unless we are prepared to run the schooner ashore,
we must go backwards or forwards. There is no middle course. In either
case the result will be the same."

"Have you sent word to the engine-room to get up steam?"

"We have had a full pressure this hour past."

Alie turned to me.

"What do you advise, my husband?"

"There is nothing else for it," I answered, "but to run the gauntlet
of them. We must try and get through."

"Very good, then - run it shall be! Are you satisfied, Mr. Patterson?"

"Quite. I agree with Dr. De Normanville it is our only chance."

"Then let us get as close to them as we can, and directly their
signals go up, race for it! We shall probably be hit, but we mustn't
mind that."

The wind was blowing from the most favourable quarter, and every
moment was bringing us nearer to our enemies. So far they had made no
sign, but it was evident now that they were drawing closer to each

When we were within easy range the second officer reported that the
larger of the two cruisers was signalling.

"What does she say?" asked Patterson.

The officer put up his glass again and, having looked, studied the
Admiralty book lying upon the hatchway.

"Heave-to and let me examine you."

"Very kind, indeed," said Alie. "But we're not to be caught in that
way. No, no! my friend, if you want us you will have to use sterner
measures than that."

Patterson gave an order and presently a stream of bunting was flying
from our own gaff end.

"What are you saying?" I asked when the signals had unrolled and
caught the wind.

"I'm asking him why he wants to stop us?" answered Patterson.

All this time we were creeping up between them. Once more a signal
broke out, and again the officer reported. This time it ran, "Heave-to
and I'll send a boat." But this was equally unregarded.

For ten minutes there was no change save that we had now come up level
with them. Then down fluttered the string of flags, and at the same
instant a flash of fire came from the nearest vessel followed by a
cloud of white smoke. Almost at the same instant a sharp report
reached our ears.

"A blank cartridge to show that they mean business," I answered.

"Hadn't we better go ahead?" Alie remarked.

"I think so," said Patterson, and rang the telegraph. The needle flew
round to "Full steam ahead," and off we went.

"Give her every ounce she can carry," shouted Patterson down the
speaking tube, and the engineers proved fully equal to the occasion.
Before very long the whole fabric of the vessel trembled under the
pressure. She quivered like a frightened stag, and cut through the
green water at a furious pace. Then, seeing our ruse, the cruiser
fired. But, either intentionally or because they had not accurately
gauged our distance, the ball went wide.

"We're in for it now," said Alie; "this looks as if it will be the
most exciting flight in the _Lone Star's_ history."

"If only we could give them one in return," I said longingly.
"However, we can't stop for that. So go on, little barkie!" I cried
enthusiastically, patting the bulwark with my hand, as if to encourage
her, "you know how much depends upon you."

As if she were really aware of it, the gallant little craft dashed
on - throwing off the foam in two great waves from her cutwater, and
sending the spray in clouds above her bows. The pace was terrific, and
it seemed already to have dawned upon the cruisers that if they wanted
to catch us they must be quick about it. By this time we had run
between them, and therefore they had to turn round before they could
pursue us, which meant a start for us that was of the utmost
importance in our race for freedom.

Before they attempted to turn, however, both decided on letting us
know their tempers, and two guns crashed out almost simultaneously.
Again the ball from the bigger of the two fell wide, but that from her
consort was more scientifically aimed, and our foretop mast came down
with a crash.

"That's the first blood drawn," I said to Alie, as the crew sprang
aloft to clear away the raffle. "I wonder what the next will be."

"If we can continue this pace we shall soon be out of range," she

"But can we continue it?" I asked. "The strain must be enormous. Do
you feel how every timber is quivering under it?"

As I spoke Alie turned and I saw that Janet had come on deck. With a
white face she looked at the two vessels behind us and asked what
their presence meant.

"It means," said Alie, going to her and assuming possession of her
hand, "that England is determined to try and have the Beautiful White
Devil after all."

"But she shan't," said Janet loyally, "not if I have to keep her off
with my own hands."

"Bravo, my sister," I cried enthusiastically, "that's the sort of
spirit we boast aboard this boat. Never fear, we'll slip them yet;
won't we, Alie?"

The girl answered me with a smile that went to my heart, so brave and
yet so sad was it.

By this time the men-of-war had turned and were in full pursuit of us;
but we had the advantage of a start and were momentarily increasing
our lead. Again one ship fired, but as we were all steaming too fast
for correct aiming, the ball did no damage. After that they saved
their powder, and concentrated all their energies on the task of
catching us. All the morning we steamed on, and by three o'clock were
a good ten miles ahead.

"If we can only keep this pace up till dusk I think we may manage to
give them the slip after all," said Alie, going to the taffrail and
looking behind her at the pursuing ships.

Their commanders seemed to realise this too, for they once more began
to try long shots at us. But though two fell very close, no harm was

About half-past three Patterson left the bridge and came down to where
we were sitting aft. He held a chart in his hand, and when he came up
with us he knelt down and pinned it to the deck.

"May I draw your attention to this chart?" he said, as soon as his
preparations were complete. "You will remember that the first time we
were ever chased, it was in this very place! Well, on that occasion we
managed to escape by taking this channel between these two reefs. Our
pursuer, as doubtless you have not forgotten, drew too much water and
could not follow us. Now, if you are willing to chance it, we might
try the same plan again."

"What do you think?" asked Alie, turning to me. "It is a desperate
risk to run, but then we must remember that we are in a desperate

I knelt down upon the deck and carefully examined the chart. It showed
a long, straggling reef shaped something like a wriggling snake with
an opening in the middle, just wide enough, if the measurements were
to be depended upon, to permit our vessel to pass through. One fact
was self-evident, and that was that if we did get through we should be

"I am for chancing it," I said, after I had given the matter proper

"Then we will follow your advice," said Alie. "We will try the

"Very good," Patterson answered quietly, and, having rolled up the
chart, returned to the bridge.

After that for nearly half-an-hour we raced on at full speed, the
warships coming after us as fast as their steaming capabilities would

Then our pace began somewhat to abate, and looking ahead I could
distinguish in the gathering dusk what looked like an unbroken line of
breakers stretching away for miles to port and starboard, from far out
in the open sea almost to the ragged coast line on our left. Our
course had long since been altered and now we were steering directly
for the troubled water. The pace was still terrific, but we were
slowing down perceptibly.

"We are close to the opening now," said Alie, leading the way up onto
the bridge. "If we make a mistake and touch, we shall go to pieces in
five minutes. Let us therefore keep together, husband mine."

We stood to windward of the binnacle and watched what was about to
happen. The breakers were scarcely half a mile ahead, the warships
perhaps six miles astern.

Then two men crawled into the chains and set the leads going - the
second officer was sent forrard to reconnoitre and Patterson,
dismissing the steersman, took the wheel himself. The third officer
was stationed at the telegraph.

Suddenly Patterson drew himself up, spun the spokes with a
preliminary twist to see that all was in working order, and then
turned to his subordinate at the telegraph.

"Stop her!" he cried.

The bell tinkled in the engine-room and answered on the bridge. The
throbbing of the propeller ceased as if by magic, and next moment we
were only moving forward by our own impetus. Almost before one could
think, we were among the breakers, but still going forward. I glanced
at Patterson out of the corner of my eye. He was standing as erect and
passionless as a marble statue, looking straight before him. On both
sides the breakers dashed and roared - the spray rising into our faces
and falling upon the decks like rain. There was a slight grinding
noise for a second or two, and then Patterson gave a shout:

"Full steam ahead!"

The bell answered like magic and instantly the schooner shot forward.
_Next moment we were through the reef in smooth water, and safe._

Looking behind us we could see that the cruisers had stopped and
turned, they knew too well what the result would be if they attempted
to follow us.

An hour later a large island hid us from sight of the reef and our
pursuers. But still, in the gathering gloom, we steamed ahead as fast
as our propellers could drive us.

At seven o'clock the gong sounded for dinner, and after a last look
round we went below to it. When we remembered how hopeless it had
appeared at the beginning, it was difficult to believe that we had
emerged so safely from our awkward scrape.

During the meal I could hardly eat for looking at Alie and thinking of
all the events which had occurred since first I sat at that table with
her. She must have been thinking something of the same kind, for at
the end of dinner, just as we were about to go on deck, she bade the
steward charge our glasses and proposed this toast:

"I drink to the _Lone Star_ and those who have saved us to-day."

We drank the toast with enthusiasm and set our glasses down again. But
just as we did so, there was a loud crash, a trembling of the entire
vessel, a curious pause, and then another awful crash.

"We have struck something!" I cried, springing to my feet. Then, as if
by instinct, I said, "Run to your cabins and get your shawls!"

They did so, and, by the time they emerged again, the hubbub was
deafening; the sound of rending and tearing could only be described as
awful. Then there was sudden and complete silence which was almost
worse than the noise. We ran on desk and made our way as fast as we
could to the bridge.

"What has happened?" I cried to Patterson, who was issuing orders as
fast as his tongue could utter them.

"We have struck a rock that is not on my chart," he said. "And I have
reversed the engines to pull her off."

I could see that we were going astern - but even a child could have
told by the way the schooner moved that it was a hopeless case with

Even while he was speaking she was sinking perceptibly.

"There is no hope," he said at last, "we must leave her."

All the hands by this time were at their stations, and the boats were
lowered with exquisite care and precision. Fortunately they had been
that very day uncovered and equipped, in case of accident, so that
there was no possible cause for delay.

Keeping Alie and Janet by my side I descended to the boat allotted to
us and we took our seats in the stern. By the time we had pulled to a
distance of about a hundred yards, the deck of the yacht was level
with the water. Five minutes later the gallant but ill-fated _Lone
Star_ tipped up on end, gave a sullen plunge, and disappeared beneath
the waves to be no more seen by mortal man. I slipped my arm round
Alie's waist and drew her closer to my side. She was trembling

"Be brave, dear love," I whispered. "For all our sakes, be brave."

She turned her head in the direction where the poor yacht had
disappeared and said, almost under her breath:

"Good-bye, _Lone Star_, good-bye."

Then she stooped forward and buried her face in her hands.

To divert her thoughts, I turned to the boat nearest us, which was
commanded by Patterson, and asked what he thought we had better do.

"Sail up the coast as fast as we can," he answered. "My boat will take
the lead, the rest had better follow in single file. If this wind
holds we shall fetch the settlement, or be somewhere thereabouts, by

The wind _did_ hold and we _did_ make the settlement by the time he
specified. Then passing behind the great doors which, as I have said
before, concealed the entrance to the canal so cleverly that even from
the close distance of a mile I had not been able to detect where the
imitation began and the real cliff ended, we pulled inside. Then, to
cheer us, standing before them all, I unbared my head, and cried,
perhaps a trifle theatrically:

"Gentlemen! the queen has come back to her own again!"

As the cheers that greeted my announcement died away we left the canal
and entered the little landlocked harbour.


Three years have passed since the wreck of the schooner _Lone Star_,
and to-day is the third anniversary of our return to the settlement.
It is a lovely morning, and I am sitting in the verandah of our
bungalow on the hillside, pen in hand, waiting for a step whose music
grows every day more welcome to my ears. My patience is rewarded when
a woman, to whose beauty Time has but added, turns the corner, closely
followed by an enormous white bull-dog, and comes towards me. When she
reaches me she sets down the rosy toddling infant she carries in her
arms, and, taking a seat beside me, says:

"What news had you by the mail this morning, my husband?"

"Nothing of very much moment, Alie," I answer. "The negotiations in
England are still proceeding, and Brandwon confidently hopes, in view
of certain considerations, that he will be able to carry out his plans
and win a free pardon for a certain beautiful lady of my

"Then it is all as satisfactory as we could wish?" she says. "I am
thankful for that! And now I have some news for you!"

"Are you going to tell me that I am the happiest husband in the world?
or that that boy, playing with old Bel yonder, whom we both worship a
good deal more than is good for him, is being spoiled by the entire
population of the settlement?"

"Neither of those things! No, it has to do with your sister Janet."

"Ah! then I can guess. She is so enraptured with the settlement that
she is willing to prolong her stay indefinitely."

"How did you guess?"

"Have I not eyes, my wife? You don't mean to tell me that you think
you alone have seen the outrageous court Walworth has been paying her
these six months past?"

"You have no objection, I hope?"

"Not the very slightest. She is a good woman, if ever there was one,
and he is certainly a man after my own heart. If they marry and are
destined to be as happy as we are, then they'll be lucky people;
that's all I can say, my wife."

"Can you truthfully affirm that you have never regretted giving up so
much for me?"

"Regretted! How can you ask me such a question? No, my darling; rest
assured, if there is one thing for which I am grateful to Providence
it is - - "

Here I placed my arm round her neck and drew her lovely head down to

"What is it?" she whispered.

"That I was permitted to be the husband of the Beautiful White Devil."




1. _The Steel Hammer._ By LOUIS ULBACH.
2. _Eve._ A Novel. By S. BARING-GOULD.
3. _For Fifteen Years._ A Sequel to The Steel Hammer. By LOUIS
4. _A Counsel of Perfection._ A Novel. By LUCAS MALET.
5. _The Deemster._ A Romance. By HALL CAINE.
5½. _The Bondman._ (New edition.) By HALL CAINE.
6. _A Virginia Inheritance._ By EDMUND PENDLETON.
7. _Ninette_: An Idyll of Provence. By the author of Véra.
8. "_The Right Honourable."_ By JUSTIN MCCARTHY and Mrs.
9. _The Silence of Dean Maitland._ By MAXWELL GRAY.
10. _Mrs. Lorimer_: A Study in Black and White. By LUCAS MALET.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18

Online LibraryGuy BoothbyThe Beautiful White Devil → online text (page 18 of 19)