By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
"Oh, don't go," she whispered. "It is taboo."
"Nonsense," answered Beekman, sinking his voice to meet hers, "there's nothing here to hurt us. Have I not told you of the power of my God?"
"Yes, yes, but He is far away in the sky; our God is here."
"Wherever He is He can protect me and you," he said as one may humor a child. He unclasped her arms and slipped his own arm about her waist, whereat she took some comfort. "Come, we shall see," he added.
He half led, half carried the girl toward the pile of stone until he stopped before it. The light from the moon came stronger. He saw the tall object, the top of which had been in the shadow now fully revealed.
"Why, it is a cross!" he exclaimed, under his breath, greatly surprised at this sacred emblem of religion.
"What is a cross?"
"The sign of my God. This is His house."
"Then your God and my God are the same," whispered the girl.
"I believe so. You see," he continued, "nothing has happened to us." He laid his hand on the altar, "this must have been a place where your people who came from beyond the sea worshipped God."
It was, indeed, obvious that this was the primitive church of those first settlers upon the island where they had performed their simple rites, the simulacrum of which in uncomprehended words of prayer had alone survived the centuries of isolation and separation from their kind.
Beekman marveled that he had not thought of it before; but who could have expected to find a Christian church on an unvisited island in the South Seas, even though it was obvious that some, at least, of the present denizens thereof were white people, or had white blood in their veins? That ruined tower-like structure topping the front gable, at which he had wondered, had evidently been a belfry, and perhaps it too had carried a cross. Well, that cross-like tower had fallen away, but here, on what was surely a rude altar, in a fair state of preservation, stood the rudely fashioned symbol of the faith, even though it was made of frailer, more perishable wood.
Beekman was not a religious man, but even an atheist might have succumbed to the influences of such a place. He felt the cross reverently with a tender touch, confirming his eyesight; and then, where old Kobo knelt uncomprehendingly, following the customs of the past, he reverently knelt down. He rested his hands on that altar and bowed his head to it. After a moment, awe-struck Truda followed his example and knelt by his side.
What did he pray knowingly? What did the woman pray ignorantly? The man, that he might have strength to be a clean man, still to cherish and be faithful to high ideals in a land of no ideals; to observe the laws of God in this place where there were no laws of man, to act honorably toward this sweet and trusting child by his side; to take no advantage of her ignorance, her innocence, her devotion. Yes, he prayed for strength, and he prayed for deliverance from the island, that he might take her back to her own kind, that he might add to the graces she naturally enjoyed the refinements and good things of a civilization which he alone, ragged, tattered castaway that he was, had enjoyed and knew the meaning of.
And he did not forget to pray that his hands might be cleansed of the blood of man that was upon them.
The woman had not been taught to pray, that is, not meaningly. She knew of few material things for which to ask in that island so bountifully provided by nature, and the spiritual was still vague and voiceless in her heart; but for one thing she could petition whatever power there was above her, who somehow to her untutored mind seemed present and about her. She prayed that the man she loved might love her and use her well-the natural prayer of woman!
After a little time Beekman rose in better heart than he had been since he had been cast upon the island. He drew Truda to her feet, and there before the altar, confronting the cross, he kissed her, not with the passion and fire of the night before, or of the warm, languorous afternoons when they wandered amid flowers and blossoms 'neath groves of palm. There was something sacramental in the touch of his lips. There, that night, at that hour, in that temple so sacred to her, the girl became a woman. With quick apprehension she felt the difference which she could not explain.
"Your God is a very great God,", she whispered, breaking the seal of that kiss. "He shall be my God." She laid his hand upon her heart under the soft, sweet round of her immature, innocent breast. "I feel here that He has spoken."
"May His blessing be upon you, and may He deal with me as I with you," said Beekman, deeply moved.
"We must go," said the girl at last, her heart voicing the "amen" she knew not how to speak.
"Wait, I must examine these," returned the man, releasing her.
He bent toward the dark objects on the altar. The first touch of his hand told him what they were-books! The light was too dim for him to make out what books, yet as he lifted the cover and turned the leaves of the one on the right he decided that it was a printed volume. He examined the one on the left in the same way and decided that it was a manuscript volume. One would be the Bible, of course; the other, longer and thinner, less bulky, the manuscript volume that would tell the story.
He picked them both up and tucked them under his arm. Truda had told him that the church would not be entered until another month had passed and the full moon came again. He could replace them in good time. He must examine them at his leisure.
"Do you think it well to take those things from your God?" whispered the girl.
"One," said the man, "is His story. In it He tells us of Himself."
"And do those things speak?" she asked, wonderingly.
"To him who understands, yes."
"And do you understand?"
"But I cannot."
"I shall teach you. Come."
Quietly as they had come, they descended to the chamber of entrance and made their way without. They separated in the shadow of the church, and this time Beekman did not offer to kiss her; but the maiden took no discomfort or grief from that. She understood. He pressed her hand in farewell, and the warm splendid vigor of his clasp she carried away with her. Indeed, she lifted the hand that he had grasped to her cheek. She laid her head upon that hand when she gained her hut, where she soon fell asleep to dream of him.
He had got the precious books. He was consumed with curiosity and interest, but there was no light by which he could read them. He would not dare to stand out in the moonlight, which was bright enough at least to enable him to identify the books. Someone might see him. He must wait until the morning. He hid the books in a heap of dry fern and rushes that made his bed, and lay awake for a long time longing for the day.
THE MESSAGE OF THE PAST
The next morning so soon as day broke he turned to his treasure trove. He could do this without fear, since one of the customs of the island, which had never been broken save the first time that he had been summoned from slumber, was an inviolable respect for the dwelling places of the islanders. None entered another's hut unbidden. The curtain dropped before the door was a sign that the dweller would be alone, and it was as strong a barrier to alien entrance as the taboo about the temple. Was the instinctive protection of privacy a heritage of the past, too?
The larger, more bulky book was, as he had suspected. an ancient Bible printed in old Dutch which he could make shift to read largely because what he was reading was more or less familiar to him. It was leather-bound, brass-clasped, and, though it was mildewed and decayed, the stout paper and the honest ink and the clear type had resisted the ravages of time in a way that would not be possible even in the best bound and printed of modern books.
He laid the Bible reverently aside after quick examination and turned to the other volume. This also was leather-bound, its pages written over in the same old-fashioned Dutch. It was much harder to read, but a glance told him what it was. It was a ship's log book. There were weather records, observations, nautical comments, and remarks; he glanced at these and then fell to the story. In it he knew would be found the solution of the mystery of the presence of Truda and all the rest on the island.
It was with beating heart that he pored over the first page. In after years Derrick Beekman made a fair translation of that wonderful volume which he had printed upon the finest parchment paper at the most exclusive printery in the land in a limited edition for his friends and his descendants, and he presented some of the copies to the great libraries of the world, where the curious can inspect them and read the story in full. It is sufficient now to say that this was the log of the ship Good Intent, which Beekman decided to be the English equivalent of the quaint Dutch name. The Good Intent had belonged to the Dutch East India Company, and early in the seventeenth century had set sail from Holland with a good crew commanded by Captain Adrian Harpertzoon Van Rooy. With him, according to the enumeration, came his brother, Jacobus Van Rooy, and a number of other sailors, with a few soldiers and a supercargo, Hendrick Handen. The soldiers were to garrison a factory in the East Indies, and they were accompanied by their wives; and it further appeared that Captain Van Rooy had brought with him his wife, Gertrude.
The long voyage to the Indian Ocean had been made without untoward events until a storm had dismasted the ship and she had sprung a leak, after tremendous and uncontrolled rolling. They had patched up the leak, rigged a jury mast, and had driven before the wind-their only way of sailing. They had picked up, near one of the islands, a native canoe containing nearly a score of Polynesian men and women. The canoe was in bad shape and about to founder. Captain Van Rooy had charitably received the natives aboard his own almost wrecked ship. It was impossible for him to land them in that storm, and they had wit enough to see that their only chance lay in going with him or sinking.
After sailing many days, the Good Intent was run into the vast cuplike harbor. Evidently there had been an opening through the barrier reef at that time. They had beached her and made their way to the top of the island, which they found uninhabited, but fertile and teeming with plant life. They had stripped the ship of her cargo and equipment, and it had been Captain Van Rooy's intention to build a boat out of her when his heterogeneous company had recovered from the hardships of the terrible voyage, during the latter part of which they had suffered greatly from the dreadful scourge of scurvy; but some catastrophe had swept the hulk out of the harbor and had blocked up the opening in the reef. Beekman could not gather what it was, an earthquake or a tidal wave. Whatever it was, Captain Van Rooy had been marooned with a dozen surviving Dutch soldiers and sailors and his brother and mate Jacobus; Handen, the supercargo; with eight women, the wives of as many soldiers, and the captain's own wife, together with half a dozen Polynesian men and twice as many women.1
There is historic parallel to this incident in a similar settlement of Dutch and natives on the little Island of Kissa, where they were left unvisited and forgotten for over two hundred years. – C.T.B.
The book described in detail the building of the settlement. The stone was easily quarried. They were solid and substantial people, these Dutchmen. They had built their houses in that way. They had built a church, too; had endeavored to act as civilized, God-fearing Christians should. The counting of time had soon been lost. Entries in the log book, at first very full, grew more and more infrequent. There was, indeed, little to note. Nothing happened. Life was as monotonously pleasant then as now. They had saved seeds and plants, and some European animals such as dogs and pigs-the animals multiplied; the seeds, being planted, grew and offered a welcome supplement to the fruits of the tropic island.
By and by the entries were confined to records of marriages, births, deaths. The Polynesian men appeared to have died first. Captain Van Rooy, while he lived, had acted as the schoolmaster and the spiritual leader of the inhabitants. He had married them in due and proper form. Their marriages were recorded in the log book. The births of their children were entered. He had allotted to these records a section of the book which was even yet not full. It was possible to trace the lines of descent of different families for as many as six generations.
When he had died, others, obviously less skillful with the pen, less well informed, but with good intent, took up the task of keeping the records. Beekman afterwards made calculations based upon the probable duration of lives, and found that they had managed to keep the record, although more and more imperfectly, until the birth of old Kobo, the present patriarch of the island, who was Truda's grandfather-descendant of the first Jacobus, certainly. Of course all of these things did not come to Beekman at once, but gradually. As the summary of his investigations is alone necessary for this history, they are set down.
He discovered that old Captain Van Rooy had alone among the Dutchmen apparently been proud of his line, and had kept his children and grandchildren from any intermarriage with those who had Polynesian blood in them. Evidently the custom, or his habit, had become a fetish for his descendants; for in so far as it was possible, and Beekman noted this with delight, in one family at least the pure Dutch blood had been maintained. It was not possible to avoid all admixture, but there was less of it in Jacobus and Truda than in any other dwellers upon the island, and next to her and old Jacobus in the purity of blood was Hano of the supercargo's line, although his strain did not compare with that of the woman.
The records of the first fifty years on the island were fairly complete, but after that there was only the register of marriages, births, and deaths among these people whom the world forgot, and by whom it was soon apparent the world itself was forgotten.
The joy which filled Beekman's heart as he disentangled the story from the confusions of the blurred, faded, time-worn records of the past which he had discovered, indicated to the man the depth of his feeling for Truda. He had to the full the white man's pride in and sense of superiority to any other race, and the unpleasant thought that the woman who was so impregnably entrenching herself in his heart had any large admixture of Polynesian blood had been one against which he had struggled, with not a great deal of success. To be sure, that objection did not bulk very large upon an unknown island in the South Seas; it would be no bar whatever to any irregular connection, which would have been natural enough with most men under the strange circumstances in which he found himself. But Beekman was of a different breed. He honestly loved the girl with a passion which was sufficiently great to consider her future before his own gratification. Inevitably, while pondering any real and lasting future relationship with her, he realized that her purity of blood-white blood, that is-would be a much more important consideration when they got back to civilization, if they ever did. And in the case of children, if any ever came, a preponderance of Polynesian blood might create an almost unbearable situation.
Beekman had not a particle of the spirit of the beachcomber. The good blood of decent, God-fearing America at its best pulsed in his veins. Nothing would have induced him to settle down in some lotus-eating, non-moral life of dolce far niente on some golden South Sea strand with his wild, primitive goddess for a moment longer than he could help. He wanted her for a wife, and a wife of whom he could be proud even before the men and women of his kind.
The sudden realization that the woman he loved was a meet and fitting mate for him, not only in beauty and intellect, but in blood as well, was wonderfully stimulating. Naturally, he had often thought of escape from the island, but he had never considered it before as he would consider it hereafter. He did not see any way as yet, but he was persuaded that a way would be opened eventually. He had confidence enough in his own ability to devise it, he thought, as soon as it was necessary. Meanwhile he had another task, and that was to complete, or to continue-for the completion would be long deferred-the finely progressing education of Truda-Gertrude Van Rooy, as she undoubtedly was.
And he could hardly wait for the moment when he could tell her of his discovery. It would not mean much to her then, of course. She was not troubled with scruples as to relationships or any future complications. In that matter she was neither moral nor immoral. That question did not enter her mind at all. It was simply non-existent. But two facts counted. He loved her and she loved him. Nothing else mattered. In his own good time he would take her, and she would be glad to be possessed. Of course, that ceremony, so meaningless to them all, but to which as a sacred tradition from their mysterious past they all adhered, would take place, and then they would go and live together after the simple primitive way of the island, where the human beings mated almost like the animals. Artlessly she longed for the day that was to be, but she was content to await his pleasure.
He knew all this. He realized, being neither blind nor a fool, that he need only will to have, take to enjoy. And it made his restraint the harder. If he had resigned himself to life indefinitely on the island, it might, it would have been different. He might not have been able to find the strength to resist temptation so freely, so innocently, yet so passionately presented to him. But he was always seeing her in a different environment. He was always dreaming of another life in another land. He wanted her for a wife and nothing else. Some day she would thank him for this. Now she only wondered, sometimes with a touch of disappointment.
THE WATCHER ON THE ROCKS
The day after their visit to the church, or temple, he had imparted the story to her, explaining carefully, so she could grasp at least the salient points of the narrative, how she and those who survived came to that island. It was difficult to make her understand. She had few abstract notions as yet. The concrete alone appealed to the primitive. But she had developed amazingly, and by repetition and explanation over and over again she began to appreciate the truth. When he told her that she differed from the rest of the inhabitants of the island, she could understand that better, for she too possessed, albeit it had been latent, a full measure of the pride of the white race. She had gloried that her skin was fairer, her hair brighter, her eyes bluer even than those of Hano and Kobo, much more than those of any of the others. Now she began to catch a glimpse of the reason why, not only for her personal difference, but for her instinctive joy in it as well.
"Then I am like you," she said at last, "of your people."
"Yes; of my race, of my blood," answered the man, and the joy and satisfaction she felt in his voice thrilled her, and satisfied her, too; for what pleased him pleased her even more.
"What is to be done now?" asked the woman as they retraced their steps from some island haunt where they loved to linger in the cool of the evening of that day of revelations.
She spoke English. Her mind, like her body, was virgin. She was excessively quick to respond to the stimulus of his teaching, and she possessed a rare faculty for language, he discovered. Conversation was easy and unrestrained; she could use Dutch words if necessary to supplement her English, and even on occasion revert to the island dialect, and he could easily understand both.
"I am going to teach you to understand the message of the books."
"The words of your God and mine?"
"And where, and when, and how?"
"Listen; I have thought of a plan. I don't know what they would do to us or to me if they caught me with the books."
The girl shook her head with grave foreboding.
"They might kill you," she said, "but I don't know. The things of the God-what do you call them? – books, have never been taken from the taboo house."
"Church," he corrected.
"The church," she repeated, endeavoring with considerable success to form the unaccustomed sound. "I can't tell what they would do, but old Kobo would be terribly angry and afraid. They are all afraid of that house, as I was until you showed me a better way. And Hano hates you, anyway."
"Of course. Personally, I don't fear the lot of them," said the man, smiling and quite confident in his splendid vigor, "but I don't want to have any trouble. I don't want to be the means of introducing bloodshed and hatred into this little paradise."
He spoke unwittingly, not realizing for the moment that wherever human passions enter, even the highest and holiest, they usually make a way through which others that come not in the same category follow. His arrival upon the island, the unconscious supremacy he assumed as related to the rest, the love that had sprung up between him and this fair child of Europe, and of the nurture of the tropic seas, had brought jealousy and hate and envy in their train. There had been no crime committed on that island perhaps since it had been discovered, certainly not for generations, but now-well, he would see. He went on in natural unconsciousness of all that while the obsessed woman hung upon his words-скачать книгу бесплатно