Guy Boothby.

The Beautiful White Devil online

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This speech, following on top of what I had been thinking myself, put
me in a strange position, and for a minute I did not know how to
answer. Then a torrent of words and protestations rose upon my lips,
but I pressed them back, and to gain time for reflection asked a

"I hope that I have done my work to your satisfaction?"

"How can you ask such a thing?" she answered promptly. "You have
worked for us as few other men would ever have done. I cannot," - here
her voice trembled a little, and her beautiful eyes filled with
tears, - "I cannot ever thank you as I would wish to do."

Either her tear-laden eyes or this expression of her gratitude must
have deprived me of my self-control, for when she had finished
speaking, my presence of mind completely deserted me, and without more
ado I drew closer to her on the tree, and, taking her hand in mine,
said, almost without thinking of my words:

"Alie, cannot you see that there can be no question of thanks between
_us_? Cannot you see why I have worked so hard for you? Cannot you see
that I would give my own existence to save for you even the life of
the dog you loved? Have my actions not spoken for themselves?"

She rose to her feet, but I noticed that she turned her face away and
would not look at me. I could feel that she was trembling violently.
In spite of this I continued:

"Alie! You must see that I love you with my whole heart and soul. From
the moment I first saw you on your yacht's deck I have been your
slave. I know it is madness for a man like me to hope to win such a
queen among women as yourself; but I cannot help it. Send me away from
you if you will, but there is one thing beyond your power to do, and
that is to take away from me my love."

"Hush, hush! for pity's sake!"

"No, Alie; I cannot stop. I have gone too far now to draw back. Day by
day I have hidden away in my heart - I have tried to crush down and
stifle, this love of mine; but it will not be hidden, it will not be
crushed, it will not be stifled. Now the flood has risen, it has burst
its bonds and washed away all thought of prudence. You have learned my
secret. Alie, is there no hope at all for me? I know I am not worthy
of you, but I am an honest man, and I love you with my whole heart and

"Dr. De Normanville," she said slowly, turning her tear-stained face
towards me, "I am sorry, more sorry than you will ever guess, that you
should have told me this. Many men have let me know their love before
now, and I was able to tell them without pain to myself that it could
not be. Now, you love me, you who have been so true and so brave, and
I have to make you see that what you wish can never be possible. Do
not think I am insensible of the honour you have done me, for it would
honour any woman to be asked to be your wife. Do not think that it
does not pain me to hurt you so. But, oh, Dr. De Normanville, cannot
you see that I can be no man's wife, much less yours?"

"And why, in Heaven's name, not?"

All this time she had not attempted to withdraw her hand from mine.

"Because, according to your lights, I am not worthy. You have this
moment called yourself an honest man. Well, then, judged by your ideas
of honesty, I am not an honest woman. Look at your own career; look at
the name you have already created for yourself; think of your future;
then how can I - a woman, hunted by every nation, a woman on whose head
a price is set, who dares not show her face in a civilised
country - allow herself to share that name and that future with you.
Ask yourself that question, and answer it before you think of making
me your wife."

"I can have no future without you!"

"That is no answer to my question. No, Dr. De Normanville, I am sorry,
more sorry than you will ever know, that this trouble should have come
upon you. But when you have time to reflect, you will see, as clearly
as I do, that what you ask is impossible. It can never be!"

"One question before you say it cannot be!" I cried. "I will not
insult you by imploring you to tell me the truth. You will do that
without my asking. But we will suppose for the moment that you were
not the outlaw you declare yourself to be, and I asked you the same
question, will you tell me if you would give me the same answer,

"It is unfair of you to put it in that way," she said, toying with a
leaf. "But since you _do_ ask, I will tell you truthfully. If I were
in the position you describe, and you asked me to share your life with
you, I would give you this answer, that I would be your wife or the
wife of no other man."

"You love me then, Alie?"

My heart seemed to stop beating while I waited for her answer. When it
did pass her lips, it was so soft that I could hardly hear it.

"Yes, I do love you."

Before she could prevent me I had taken her in my arms, and rained
kisses upon her beautiful face. For a moment she did not resist. Then
she withdrew herself, panting, from my arms.

"Let me go," she gasped; "you must not do this. No, no, no! What am I
telling you. Oh, why cannot you see that what you wish is impossible?"

"As I live," I cried in return, "it is not impossible, and it never
shall be! Since you own yourself that you love me, I will not live
without you. I love you as I verily believe man never loved woman
before. If I were a poet instead of a prosaic doctor, I should tell
you, Alie, that to me your smile is like God's sunshine; I would tell
you that the wind only blows to carry to the world the story of my
love for you; I would tell you all this and more - yes, a thousand
times more. But I am no poet, I am only a man who loves you for your
own beautiful self, for your sweetness, your loneliness, your
tenderness to those about you. What does fame mean for me! I want
only you. Let me have you for my companion through life, and I will go
with you where you wish, stay here with you, if you please, or go
away, just as you may decide; I have but one ambition, and that is to
be worthy of you, to help you to do good. All I ask is to be allowed
to live the life you live yourself!"

"And you think that I would let you make this sacrifice for me? No!
no! Oh, why cannot you see that it is impossible?"

Again I attempted to take her in my arms. But this time she eluded me,
and with a choking sob fled through the scrub towards the camp. Seeing
that it was useless to attempt to reason with her in her present
state, I followed more leisurely, reaching the huts just as the gong
was sounding for dinner. As soon as my ablutions were performed, I
sought the dining hut, but my hostess was not there. I waited, and
presently the servant arrived to inform me that she was not well, and
would dine in her own apartment.

I was not prepared for this, and my thoughts during my solitary meal,
and when I was smoking on the plateau before the huts afterwards, were
by no means pleasant. Glad though I was that I had made her aware of
my sentiments towards her, I almost began to wish, if she were going
to avoid me, that I had deferred my explanation until we had reached
the settlement again. But I was destined to see her that night after

About ten o'clock, just as I was thinking of retiring to my own hut, I
heard a footstep behind my chair, and a moment later Alie, accompanied
by her dog, stood before me.

"Dr. De Normanville," she said softly, "I cannot imagine what you must
think of me? I have come to tell you that I felt I could not sleep
until I had apologised to you."

Her penitence sat so prettily upon her that it was as much as I could
do to prevent myself taking her in my arms and telling her so. But I
managed somehow to keep myself within bounds, and only said in reply:

"You must not say a word about it. I was equally to blame. Great as is
my love for you, I should not have forced it upon you in that unseemly

"No! No! Don't say that. I want you really to understand my gratitude.
That I love you, I have said. Perhaps I ought not to have confessed
it. But seeing that I have done so, and have told you exactly what my
position in the world is, you must see that it is that very love which
keeps me from giving myself to you as I should like to do. I don't
make my meaning very clear, but can you understand that?"

"I think I do," I said. "But it does not alter my position. I love you
as I shall never love any other woman. As I told you this afternoon,
my whole life is bound up in you. It remains for you to say whether I
shall be the happiest or the most miserable of men. Remember, save for
my sister, I am alone in the world. Therefore, as she is amply
provided for, I have only myself to think of. If you will have me, I
will give my life to you to do as you please with."

"This generosity is like yourself. Will you let me make a bargain with

"What is it?"

"It is this. First, you shall promise not to speak of this to me again
until I give you permission."

"I will promise that. And on your part?"

"I will promise to give you my answer at the end of twelve months. In
the meantime, you will go back to England, live your own life, and on
the first day of May next year, if you still love me, and are as
anxious then to make your sacrifice as you are now, I will meet you
again and be your wife as soon as you please. What do you say?"

For a few moments I could answer nothing; then, though I am not
theatrically inclined as a general rule, I fell on my knee, and taking
her hand kissed it, saying in a voice I hardly recognised as my own:

"My queen and my wife!"

"You are content to abide by that?"

"Since you wish it, I am _more_ than content," I answered, my heart
overflowing with happiness.

"Then let us say no more on the subject. Good-night! and may God bless

She turned and left me without another word, and when I had seen her
disappear into her hut, I too sought my couch, to dream, as I hoped,
of the happiness that the future had in store for me.



But though I went to bed to sleep, and was sufficiently romantic to
hope that I should dream of the future I was to spend with Alie, I was
destined to be disappointed. My mind was in such a state of excitement
that no sort of rest was possible to me. Hour after hour I tossed and
tumbled upon my couch, now hovering on the borderland of sleep, now
wide awake, listening to the murmur of the stream beyond the camp, and
the thousand and one noises of the night. When at last I did doze off,
my dreams were not pleasant, and I awoke from them quite unrefreshed.
Springing out of bed I went to the door to look out. It was broad
daylight, and the sun was in the act of rising. To go back to bed was
impossible, so, as breakfast was still some hours ahead, I dressed
myself, took a rifle from the stand, and slipping a dozen or so
cartridges into the pocket of my shooting coat, procured a few
biscuits from the dining-hut, and strolled across the open space into
the forest beyond. It was a glorious morning for a hunting excursion,
and before I had gone half a mile I had secured a fine deer for the
camp's commissariat. Fixing the spot where I had left it, and feeling
certain some of the natives would soon be on my trail after hearing
the report, I plunged further into the jungle, capturing here and
there a beetle, a butterfly, or a bird, as they chanced to fall in my

While I walked my brain was busily occupied, but dominating all was
the remembrance that Alie - the wonderful, the beautiful, the
mysterious Alie - loved me. What cared I for the sort of life she led?
What did it matter to me, since I had seen and grasped her real
character for myself, what other people might say of her? Had I not
observed her courage in moments of extreme peril? had I not witnessed
her tenderness by the bedside of dying men and women? had I not noted
her devotion to what she considered her duty? Yes, and better than all
was the knowledge that she had promised to be my wife if I would wait
a year for her. Would I wait? Why, of course I would - ten years,
twenty, nay a lifetime, if only I could secure her at the end.

With these thoughts in my mind, I trudged briskly on, keeping both
eyes open for any specimens, botanical or otherwise, that might come
in my way. Then leaving the little stream, whose course we had
followed on the previous day, behind me, I struck out towards the
west, and presently forsook the forest, to emerge on to an open plain
about a mile long by half that distance wide. To the northward lay a
high cane brake, to the south a deep ravine, and on the open between
them a large herd of deer was feeding quietly. Remembering that I had
been told on the previous day that the cook was short of fresh meat, I
resolved to see how many I could bring to book. The only way to stalk
them was, of course, to approach them upwind, and in order to do this
it was necessary that I should cross a stony ridge which ran parallel
with the edge of the ravine mentioned above. As there would not be a
vestige of cover between us the chances were a hundred to one that I
should reveal my presence to them while passing over the open space
and then the herd would give one look and be off like the wind.
However, I was going to chance that, so throwing myself down flat upon
my stomach, I wriggled myself up the side of the little eminence,
pausing now and again to take breath, until I reached the summit,
thence made my way out on to the bare face of the hill until, at the
end of twenty minutes, I was within a thousand paces of them.

The herd still fed on, though once I saw an old buck raise his head
and look round as if he scented danger. But as I remained quiet for a
few moments he resumed his feeding, and when he had done so I
continued my painful crawl. But the worst part of the business was
still to come, for having got up to them against the wind I had now,
unless I was content to chance a long shot, to descend the hillock
again on to the plain. This was a piece of work which would
necessitate wriggling myself down a steep incline, head first, and
promised to be a most unpleasant experience.

Once on the flat I lay still to recover my wind, and then taking
advantage of every tuft and stone, began to approach my quarry. At the
end of three-quarters of an hour's hard work, counting from the time I
had first seen them, I was near enough to get a shot, and accordingly
I took a cartridge from my pocket and slipped it into the breech of
the rifle. As I did so my elbow overturned a large stone, which rolled
down into the ravine; instantly half a dozen of the herd lifted their
heads, including my old friend the big buck, who on nearer approach,
turned out to be a really magnificent animal.

Knowing that if their suspicions were once thoroughly aroused they
would not stop until they had put miles between us, I sighted for five
hundred yards and fired. The buck leaped into the air and fell on his
knees. I thought I had got him, and was going to jump up and run
towards him, when I saw that I was counting my chickens before they
were hatched. He had certainly fallen, but a second later he was on
his feet again and off after the others. I was certain, however, that
I had wounded him, and pretty severely, too.

My belief proved to be a correct one, for about a hundred yards
further on he fell again, and seeing this I picked up my rifle and ran
after him. But even now he was not done for, for after laying still a
moment he rose to his feet again and hobbled into the jungle on the
other side of the plain, at the same spot where the rest of the herd
had disappeared. I followed as swiftly as I could, and, when I had
gained the cover, descried him lying upon the ground near the edge of
a deep but dry water-course. Needless to say I did not lose very much
time in coming up with him, taking the precaution to load my rifle as
I went. When I did I was able to appreciate the majesty of my kill.

He must have been about three years old, and when I saw that he was
not quite dead, I drew my hunting-knife and knelt down beside him to
bestow the _coup de grace_. This done, I wiped my knife on the grass,
and was preparing to rise again when I felt a heavy hand laid upon my
shoulder. Knowing that there was not a soul within five miles of me,
my surprise may be better imagined than described. But it was nothing
to the terror that seized me when I looked round to discover who my
friend really was.

Standing behind me, and seeming to fill the whole universe, was an
enormous orang-outang - the largest I have ever seen or heard of. His
wicked eyes gleamed down at me, his teeth protruded ferociously from
beneath his bluey gums, while his great hairy arms, more powerful than
any coal-heaver's, were opened as if to embrace me. I looked once, and
then - how I managed it I shall never be able to tell - wriggled myself
out of his clutches like an eel, and, leaving my gun behind me, took
to my heels. But before I had proceeded ten yards the great beast was
after me, rolling from side to side in his stride like a drunken
sailor on a pavement. So close was he behind me that it seemed as if I
could almost feel his breath upon the short hair of my poll. One thing
is very certain - I ran then as I had never run in my life before, and
as I shall probably never run again. Hardly conscious where I was
going, knowing only that I must get out of his reach, I fled across
the open space with the intention of making for the plain where I had
stalked my deer; but the ape headed me off, and would have caught me
had I not stopped at a tree and dodged quickly round it. Then back I
went in the direction I had just come, making this time for the
opposite jungle. But once more he headed me off and drove me back on
my tracks. My agony was intolerable, my breath was almost spent, and I
had begun to give myself up for lost, when I espied a tree on the
further side, with a branch close to the ground. Putting forth a new
effort I made for this, dodged round it, and, once on the other side,
swung myself into it with, I flatter myself, as much dexterity as the
most accomplished gymnast could have shown. In that instant I seemed
to live my whole life over again. All the events of my career, even
those connected with my earliest childhood, flashed through my brain.
But the activity of my thoughts did not detract from the quickness of
my legs, and I mounted the tree as fast as I could go. No sailor could
have climbed a mast in better style. Then down I crouched amid the
branches. Through the leaves I could see my tormentor standing looking
stupidly about him, puzzled to know what had become of me. Presently a
trembling of the leafy canopy above him must have attracted his
attention, for he clutched the lowest bough and began to mount the
tree in search of me. Seeing this, I was at a loss to know what to do.
To climb higher would only be to cut off all chance of retreat, and
would inevitably mean capture or a leap which would, in all human
probability, break my neck. In the space of a second I reasoned it all
out, and as he approached on one side I descended on the other. Seeing
this he descended too, and with such amazing rapidity that, although I
had a considerable start, we both landed on the ground at the same
instant. Then the old game of catch-who-catch-can commenced. First I
dodged this way, then I dodged that, but my dexterity was as useless
as it was desperate. He was evidently well accustomed to the sport,
and I felt, with despair, that another five minutes would certainly
see the end of my career unless something unexpected intervened to
prevent it.

Having tried the north, south, and east sides of the plain I now went
for the west; that is to say, towards the dry river bed I have already
mentioned. By the time I reached it I was completely done for, and the
shock of discovering at least a sixty-foot jump on to the big stones
at the bottom did not give me any additional strength. To jump would
mean almost certain mutilation, and possibly, if not probably, a long
lingering death; while to remain where I was, and be caught by my
horrible pursuer, who had now hemmed me in and had got me at his
mercy, meant _certain_ death. There was one consolation, however; in
those great arms - death, if it would be nothing else, would be swift.
I stood on the very edge of the precipice, revolving these two fates
in my mind, and every moment my assailant was coming nearer. There was
no hope for it now, so I closed my eyes and waited. As I did so, I
could hear the thud-thud of his steps drawing closer. I almost felt
the arms entwine me. Then a voice I should have recognized in the roar
of battle or in the silence of the grave called to me frantically,
"Spring to your right!" As if by instinct I sprang, and, at the very
second that I did so, I heard the great loathsome beast go by me. Even
at that moment, when life and death trembled in the balance, my
curiosity got the upper hand and I opened my eyes and looked.

A wonderful sight it was that I beheld. On the edge of the ravine,
swaying to and fro to recover his balance, stood the orang-outang, and
at his feet, crouched ready for a spring, was the bulldog Beelzebub,
his teeth bared, and his whole body quivering with rage. A second
later he leapt into the air, and then a desperate battle ensued. The
terrified monkey fought with all the courage he possessed, but the dog
had got him firmly by the throat and was holding on with all the dread
tenacity of his breed. Added to this, it must be remembered that the
orang-outang had to preserve his balance on the edge. Without thinking
of my own peril I stood and watched the fight.

Then I heard the same voice, this time steady as of old, order the dog
to let go. With his usual obedience he did as he was commanded, and
crawled out of reach. The great mass above him stood for a moment
bewildered, blood spurting from either side of his throat. Then a
rifle cracked, and, with a cry like a soul in torment, the beast fell
forward on to the ground, shot through the heart.

I waited for a moment, and then, seeing that he was dead, looked
towards the spot by the tree where, a moment before, Alie had stood.
She was not there. Then a bit of white skirt caught my eye among the
bracken, and, running across, I found her stretched out upon the
ground, unconscious.

To fly to a pool close by, to dip my cap into the water, and return
with it to her side was only the work of an instant. In three or four
minutes I had brought her back to consciousness, and she was able to
sit up.

"You are safe?" she gasped, as soon as she could speak. "You are quite
sure you are not hurt? I thought that dreadful beast had caught you."

A shudder passed over her as she spoke, and she threw her little hands
up and covered her face with them. I assured her as emphatically as I
was able that, so far as I knew, I was without even as much as a
scratch, and then we went across the little plain to where the ugly
brute lay dead.

It was with a curious feeling that I stood and looked down upon that
great mass of inanimate flesh and reflected how near he had been to
terminating my own existence. From a contemplation of his ugliness I
turned to the dog, who, at his mistress' command, had saved my life.
Two ugly red gashes seamed his sides, and these I could only suppose
had been made by the talons of the ape.

"Old man," I said to him, as I stooped and patted his ugly head, "you
and I will have to be better friends than ever after this. You have
saved my life to-day and I am grateful to you." Then turning to his
mistress I continued, "Alie, how on earth did you manage to come up
just in the nick of time, like that?"

"I heard your first shot," she answered, "and thought I would follow
you. Thank Heaven I did, for if I had been five minutes longer on the
road I should have been too late. Now we must be getting back to the
camp as fast as we can go. Breakfast will be ready, I expect, and at
twelve I want to send a messenger back to the settlement with

Accordingly we set off at a good pace on our return, reaching the huts
in something under three-quarters of an hour.

As we approached the plateau we saw a man on horseback enter it from
the jungle on the other side. He pulled up before the dining-hut, and
then I saw that it was my old friend Walworth, covered with dust and
showing all the signs of having ridden in great haste. On seeing Alie
he dismounted and removed his helmet, waiting respectfully for her to

"Have you bad news, Mr. Walworth," she said, "that you come in such

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