By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
"You have hurt yourself," he said, that petty little fact bulking larger at the moment than any other; "and for me, my poor child."
"The joy in my heart," said the girl, laying one bruised palm beneath her tender breast, "when I saw you asleep and safe here, made me forget this."
"Why didn't you wake me?" asked the man, looking up at her.
"You were so tired," said the girl, laying her other maimed hand on his head.
He could feel her wince as she did so. He had opened a cocoanut the night before. The broken shell lay at hand. He lifted her up, carried her to the bank of the brook, set her poor, torn feet in the cool water, and, with the shell, laved her hands and knees. It was all he could do. He had nothing else. Then he bent and kissed her lips, her hands, her feet. He strained her to his breast.
"You shall not walk a step or carry a thing until those precious hands and feet are well."
"They are well now since you kissed them. See, I feel no pain."
She took him in her arms, in turn. What mattered that the white hands left little blood marks on his shoulder?
"First, you must eat," said the man, "and then you must tell me how you came."
He pressed upon her the cooked food and fruit which she herself had forced the islanders to provide.
"We may not get any more when this is gone," she said.
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," he quoted recklessly; "eat now."
She did not understand, but the command was simple, and she obeyed. Whatever her lover said was right, of course.
"Now, tell me," he said, when they had stayed their hunger, "how did you come here?"
"They put me in the house with the two women to guard me after they had lowered you down here. I was to be married to Hano today. I would have died rather than that. I had told you I would join you here. I persuaded the women. They like you, Beek-man. They don't like Hano. They let me escape. I went to your house, and brought the bright-tipped staff and the thing that cuts. I crept down the brook where you had come up."
"There was no watcher?"
"Did he let you pass?"
"He could not help it."
"What do you mean?"
"I struck him with the staff, and-" She shuddered and hid her face in her hands.
"Don't cry over that," said the man; "in all probability you only stunned him. He will be all right by now."
"I hope so. He had done nothing to me, but if the whole island had stood in my way, I was determined to come to you."
"I climbed over the rock wall. At first I thought I would push it down, but it was too much for me. Besides, the stones might have fallen upon you. I had a rope with a piece of wood at the end. I fastened the wood in the rock and came down. The rope cut my hands."
"And the staff and the knife?"
"I threw them over. You will find them there."
"Wait." He ran and brought them back.
"Arms," he said, shaking them exultingly before her. "With these we can defy everything."
Indeed, the boat-hook and the sheath knife would be invaluable should it come to a fight in the end.
"Yes," said Truda. "In all the days of my life there has been no anger, no bloodshed on this island; but since you came-"
"Are you sorry I came?"
"Glad. You have taught me life, love. They are worth the price we have paid."
"Always a price has to be paid for these things. Whether they are worth it or not is another matter."
The sun was well above the horizon now. Truda glanced upward, stopped, and pointed. In the ravine whence the brook fell, clustered against the wall, stood the islanders. Their cries came faintly into the vast gulf in which the two lovers stood. Their gestures of hatred and scorn were unmistakable, but they made no effort to come down. The rope was still fast. Presently, they observed it, for it was quickly drawn up, and, after a time, the islanders went away, leaving a watcher at the wall.
"This place is like the temple," said Truda; "it is taboo. I think none will come here."
"But you came."
"I would go anywhere for you," said the girl, simply.
"SO FARRE, SO FAST THE EYGRE DRAVE"
There was nothing they could do to better their condition, but if there had been, it was not in Beekman's mind to attempt it then. Their near touch with death, Truda's sleepless night, the condition of her hands and feet, the nervous reaction in him, warned Beekman that no demands upon her must be made yet. He decided that they should have one day of complete and utter happiness, whatever the future held for them; so he devoted himself to her.
Again and again he bathed her hands. He tore up the tattered remains of his shirt sleeves to make bandages for her feet. He compassed her with such sweet observances as he could achieve under such conditions. He told her how he loved her. He pictured what their life beyond the seas would be when they got away. He told her that they should escape, although he had no idea how. His determination was contagious. She thought nothing could he impossible, ultimately, to this god-like creature who had come from across the seas to enlighten her as to what love really was, and she believed him.
He carried her around the broken point of rock where she had never been; he showed her the wreck of the whaleboat which had brought him there. He made her a bed for the night in the niche of rocks, facing seaward. He covered her over with the mat he had made for himself. He sat down by her side, holding tenderly the bruised palm, which really appeared to be very much better; clean flesh, such as she had, healed quickly. She went to sleep with the trustfulness of a child, yet not with the emotions of one. Indeed, her strange feelings matched his own as he sat there on the sand by the woman who was his, body and soul.
Was he minded to take her? He prayed God, as he watched through the long hours, that whether he were minded or not, he might be given strength to treat this little child of nature as he would have treated the proudest woman of his own world. Let no man think that he had an easy task, or that he passed pleasant hours. When she was sound asleep he laid her hand gently, palm upward, on the sand, and walked away, pacing up and down the strip of beach the long night through.
It was well that he remained awake, for, just before sunrise, when the short dawn had already come, happening to pass the jutting rocks around which he must go to get into the harbor, he saw the outlines of a dark figure in the gloom; seen faintly against the brighter sand, the figure of a crouching man! Something bright and slender quivered in his hand. He was peering forward eagerly. Beekman snatched the boat-hook and the knife from the sand where he had laid them and ran toward the figure. It was Hano. He rose to his feet as the American approached. He lifted his arm. Something flew through the air and cut a gash along the side of Beekman's face and then struck the rock behind him with a metallic clang, later he found it was an old Dutch knife.
The next moment the American closed with him. Hano, mad with passion, struggled desperately, but he was as a child in the hands of the white man. Beekman broke his hold and dragged the man's arms from about him, lifted him in the air, threw him headlong on the beach. He lay sprawled in a heap, motionless, stunned, apparently, his head bleeding where he had struck an outlying stone on the sand. Beekman was sorry that it had happened. He could enter so fully into the feelings of the man that he could not blame him.
He turned back and awakened Truda. He gave her the knife and boat-hook and told her to watch the prostrate man until he went around the rocks and got the ropes with which he had been bound. He did not think that Hano was likely to recover consciousness, but, nevertheless, he had never gone so fast as he did then. Lightly binding the feet and hands of the man so that he could make no further mischief, he set himself to restore him to consciousness, which he presently accomplished.
Hano would say nothing, nor would he answer questions, not even to Truda. He turned his head away, and suddenly his eyes filled with tears. Otherwise, he was as silent as a stoic on the beach before them. After the two made their breakfast on the rapidly diminishing store of food, they brought a share for Hano. Beekman unbound his hands and stood over him while he ate and drank, then he lashed him again and drew him up into the niche where Truda had passed the night. Then he examined the wounded feet and hands of Truda, and found them in much better condition, but he did not allow the girl to walk over the rough and broken rocks. He picked her up in his arms and carried her into the bay, that they might have the benefit of the fresh water of the brook. Then, and not until then, did he take time to look at the sky and observe the weather, which, if he had been a more experienced sailor, he would not have deferred for so long a period.
He was alarmed beyond measure by what he saw. There was no sun visible, yet the sky did not seem heavily overcast. A strange, coppery light seemed to filter through an unusually thin but very absorbing mist that spread over the whole heavens. The sea had been very still throughout the night. Apparently, a calm had extended far and wide over the waters. There was always some slight motion on the shore, and the silken slithering of the waves on the barrier came to him very faintly. The absence of any wind at all had aroused no attention. There was no wind now, yet the surface of the deep was troubled.
After he had washed the girl's feet and hands and had set her down on the sand, his attention was attracted by a sudden resounding crash on that stretch of barrier that he could see through the entrance. It was as if some mighty heave had raised and lowered the surface of the ocean. As he stared seaward, he thought that the mist was thickening on the horizon. It was growing darker there. Indeed, on the line where the sky and sea would have met on the horizon, if he had been able to see, it was suddenly black dark. The sun was more than an hour high, he judged, although he could see nothing but the coppery light through the mist, and the mist was in rapid wraith-like motion far above his head and far beyond the reef. He could see that clearly enough, although even yet no wind came to him.
Presently, there was another of those long, swinging undulations, which broke with tremendous force on the barrier, sending a cloud of water and spray twenty feet into the air. It was uncanny. There was no cause for it. It was as if some subterranean monster had turned over in the depths and upheaved the surface. Truda joined him.
"I never saw anything like that before, and I have seen the sea ever since I was a child," she said. "The waves broke on the rocks, but not like this. It is so still. Oh, look."
Another of the great undulations struck the reef, and a gust of wind from nowhere, apparently, and gone almost as quickly as it had come, carried the spray across the lagoon and into the still harbor. They saw it patter upon the smooth surface. They marked the wide circles spread, interlace, break. It was a warning to the man, at least.
"Some terrible storm is brewing," he said. "If it equals the promise of these waves, it will flood this gulf. We must seek shelter."
Now he had marked before-indeed, in his first exploration he had essayed to get to the top by it-a broad shelf of rock fifty or more feet above the level of the sea. It was inconceivable that any tide or storm could ever reach that shelf.
"We must go there and wait," he said.
The ascent was not particularly difficult for a man alone, but burdened as he was with the girl, it was almost impossible. He carried her up in his arms as far as he could that way and then set her down.
"You can leave me here," she urged.
"Nonsense; I'll have to take you the rest of the way on my back."
So, in the old-fashioned way by which children were carried pick-a-back, her arms and legs tight around him to leave his hands free to help him climb, he scrambled up to the shelf with his burden. It took some time to get her there, and the labor was tremendous. Although there was a strange chill in the air, sweat bedewed his brow.
"It was wonderful," said the girl. "I didn't know you were so strong. No man on the island could have done that."
"Well, we shall be safe here," said Beekman. "Look yonder."
They were directly opposite the entrance. As he pointed seaward the black clouds on the horizon were torn by flashes of lightning. There was a deep sigh of wind in the air, and the next moment, with a terrific roar, the strange and terrible storm broke. Truda shrank closer to the man. She was still sufficiently a child of nature to be awed by this display of its terrible force.
"It's worse than I thought it would be," said Beekman.
They were still more or less sheltered from the wind, and conversation was not yet difficult.
"I must go down again."
"I forgot Hano."
"He tried to kill you."
"Yes; but he is lying there, bound hand and foot. He would have no chance at all if the water came flooding in."
"Is that the white man's way?" asked the girl.
"It is the way of the white man's God."
"Has He told you to do this?"
"I think so."
He kissed her and climbed down the declivity until he reached the sand. It was already covered. The tide was at full flood and the wind was now driving into the gulf with increasing force. The barrier was a mass of white mist and spray shining eerie and ghost-like against the black horizon, torn with lightning, fast merging into the copper-misted sky above.
He must hurry. He scrambled over the rocky promontory with reckless haste. Hano was lying where he had left him. The waves were sliding over the little mound of sand into the hollow. His face was grey with terror. As Beekman bent over him with the sheath-knife, he shrieked, but what he feared did not occur. His lashings were cut. Beekman dragged him to his feet. He pointed to the sea and upward to the rocks. He took him by the hand and started to lead him, but Hano broke away and ran in the other direction. There were ledges of rock there, and, dumbly and dimly alive to the danger, he chose to go that way. Beekman followed, but he could not prevail upon the islander to go with him.
His own position was becoming precarious. The wind was beating upon him with amazing power. The waves were sweeping over the barrier as if it were not there. He must think of Truda. She would be mad with anxiety. He even feared she might attempt to descend if he did not return. He waved his hand at Hano, whom he saw climbing up the rocks, and turned back to the harbor. As he had suspected, Truda had started to come down. She stopped when he appeared, and waited until he joined her. He brought up what he could carry in his hands of the provisions which he had stored in the rock.
"I was coming for you. Where is Hano?" asked the girl as he drew himself up by her side.
"He climbed the cliff and went the other way. I tried to bring him here, for this is the better place."
"He is in the hands of his god," said the girl.
"As we are in the hands of ours," answered Beekman.
He turned toward her, and for a moment his back was to the sea.
"Look," she cried, peering over his shoulder.
He turned his head. What had happened before was child's play to what met them now.
"My God!" cried Beekman, staring into the white mist, appalled by what he saw.
A wall of water thirty feet high, although, to the man, it looked to be a hundred, was rolling in from seaward with the speed of an express train. Its top was curling, the spray whipping from it, but it was yet an unbroken mass. The thoughts of men take strange turns in such emergencies. It reminded him, for a second, of the pictures in his mother's Bible of the passage of the Red Sea, the waters a curling wall, concave over the heads of the pursuing Egyptians, about to break.
"What is it?" screamed the girl.
"A tidal wave."
The words meant nothing to her, but the voice of the man told her that there was death in the moving water.
"Whatever happens, don't let go of me," he shouted.
He stooped and kicked off his heavy shoes, clasped an arm around the girl's waist. Her arms met around his neck. He was staring seaward, ready for a plunge. Woman-like, she kissed him, and then the wave struck the island-wall of water meeting wall of rock. For a second, Beekman thought he could feel the massive cliff on which he stood quivering. The next moment the great bore tore its way into the harbor. It leaped and surged through the narrow entrance in a madly foaming, green avalanche. Constricted by the walls, it rose and rose. He had one glimpse of the mighty wave towering above his head where he stood fifty feet above the sea level, and the next moment it broke, and, with a crash like a thousand thunderbolts, fell upon them.
THE INDOMITABLE EGO
The crest of the wave was traveling faster than its middle section, which had been retarded by the land. That fact, and that alone, saved the lives of the two poor mites upon whom it fell, for, instead of being dashed back against the rock wall by the terrific surge of the inward sweeping sea, the wave curling above their heads struck the wall a second in advance of the great body of water. It broke, fell upon them, swept them from the shelf, plunged them into the depths with such force and violence that it was the return thrust of the water which finally caught them-the backward undertow, rather than the inward rush.
Beckman had never heard so deafening a roar in all his life. He had, on one occasion, felt a great superdreadnaught roll and quiver under the simultaneous discharge of her own principal batteries under actual service conditions. It was child's play to this. Not that he had any thought about it now. He was only conscious of the roaring in his ears, the awful pressure upon his body, as he was driven down, down, down, until it seemed as if the bowels of the earth had opened before him and swallowed him up; as if he would never be lifted again out of the great deep which had sucked him under.
He held his breath instinctively, of course, but it seemed as if his lungs and heart would burst. His whole being was merged in two frantic desires: to keep on holding his breath, and not to let go of the woman who clung to him. Mercifully, although his body had shielded hers, she had almost lost consciousness. There remained to her only the desperate instinct to cling. She twined her arms and legs about him. He drew her closer and closer, although the tremendous thrust of the sea seemed to be striving to tear them apart as well as draw them under. Thus linked into a human warp and woof, they were hurled down and down, out and out.
Just when he had come to the conclusion that further resistance was impossible, that he must breathe or die, or breathe and die, the two interwoven figures, caught in a mad whirl of the torrent, were thrown upward. Their movements were arrow-like in their swiftness; or, better, they were driven as a stone from a mighty catapult. Swimming was impossible. There was no effort that could be made. There was nothing that he or the woman could do but to cling tighter and tighter. To hold on, that was all!
Truda's grass petticoats were torn to pieces in an instant. The water, in its awful churning, stripped Beekman to his bare skin. It would have torn his shoes off if he had been wearing them. Nothing that he had ever imagined equalled the force, the pressure, the stripping, ripping suction; the driving, beating, thrusting of the sea, unless it was a full-fledged western tornado. He had met such on the plains. Of course, these comparisons did not occur to him then. All he thought of when they were thrown out of the water and into the spray-laden air, which made seeing difficult, but not impossible, was to breathe, to breathe quickly and deep so as to be prepared for the next buffet of fortune.
As soon as he struck the air he opened his eyes. They were still in the very midst of the deep, cylindrical harbor, its dark walls seen vaguely through the spray uptossed by the broken bore. His brain registered impressions almost faster than the afferent and efferent nerves could carry them. The swiftness with which the two bodies, still clinging together, were whirled about in the maelstrom caused by the introduction of these titanic forces within the narrow confines of this gulf alone kept them from sinking. Beekman could not have made a stroke for any reason. He was incapable even of movement of his own.
In the first place, he was so bruised and beaten and exhausted by the tremendous pressure of the water that every muscle was almost useless. In the second place, he could not let go of the girl, even with one arm. He had held her only by a superhuman effort of will and strength which must have been met and equalled by a similar determination on her part. Even to free one hand, meant parting. It flashed into his mind that death was at hand; that no human beings could live in such a sea; that the next second would find them cast beyond the whirling periphery of the vortex and hurled against the rocks. At least, they could, and would, die together.скачать книгу бесплатно