By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
"Who is she? What is she?" asked her father.
"She didn't say a word. She must be a Polynesian, although she looks strangely like a European, especially since we clothed her for the night."
"Didn't she say anything at all?"
"Not a word. She seemed frightened. On a wild venture I tried her in English, Italian, French, and even German. She made no response, yet she seemed to understand. Incidentally, she's one of the most beautiful girls I ever looked at."
The two men stared at each other.
"Didn't your man say anything at all?" asked Stephanie, no suspicion at all in her mind.
"Not a thing. He muttered continuously and more or less unintelligibly, but he is not sane yet," answered her father.
"Does he look like a South Sea islander?"
"He isn't one."
"What is he, then?"
The two men looked at each other again. Neither answered the question. Stephanie stared, greatly surprised, and not in the least understanding.
"Why don't you answer? What is the mystery?" she asked, obviously somewhat annoyed by their inexplicable hesitancy.
"He is an American," observed Maynard, slowly.
"It's Beekman," said Harnash.
THEY COMFORT EACH OTHER
The three seekers after Beekman were spared the necessity for immediate decision as to the telling of the story they had come so far to relate, for Dr. Welch came from the cabin on the heels of Harnash's startling revelation and reported that the patient was already quite composed and that he would soon be asleep. He guaranteed that he would awaken refreshed, in his right mind, and, save for the wound in his right arm, as well as ever. More careful examination disclosed that the wound was more superficial than otherwise. It would yield rapidly to treatment, the surgeon declared. Then having looked at his other patient, and finding her also fast asleep, Dr. Welch discreetly left the trio to their own devices.
"Of course," said Stephanie, relentlessly, "as soon as possible he will have to be told that our engagement is broken, and why."
"Yes," added Harnash, mournfully, "and as soon as he wakes up I shall tell him that I alone am responsible for his whole sorry plight."
"On the contrary," put in Maynard, sagely, "while I have no doubt that Welch is right, that Beekman will be much better when he does come to, yet he won't be completely himself. It takes more than a few hours of sleep to recover from such an experience as he must have passed through, and that torn arm is going to give him some trouble, at any rate. How he is going to receive both announcements no one can tell."
"He has a just right to be angry with me," said Stephanie.
"And much more with me," confessed Harnash.
There was a community of responsibility and blame, which, if anything were necessary, bound the two lovers more closely together than before, and, in answer to a common impulse, a human craving for sympathy, they approached each other to supplement invisible commiseration with something more tangible.
Mr. Maynard looked away while George kissed Stephanie softly. When Maynard turned his head back they were standing side by side, while George was supporting Stephanie, who really needed no physical assistance whatever, by clasping her firmly about her waist.
"I never appreciated before as I do now what an infernal scoundrel I was and what a dastardly thing I did," said Harnash, in bitter self-scorn.
Stephanie was too honest and too clear eyed not to realize the truth of his words. She was too acutely conscious, however, of a certain share in his guilt, at least constructively, and too much in love to let him affect her in the least degree, except, perhaps, to fill her heart with compassion and tenderness for her lover at the terrible task imposed upon him. She patted the hand upon her waist and nestled a little closer to him, if that were possible.
"We won't go into that any more," she began, gently. "It was awful, as I have always said, but it was as much my fault as yours, and you have done everything you could to atone."
Harnash sighed deeply.
"He may not forgive me for all that," he said, doubtfully; "I don't see how he can."
"He must when he knows how you have repented and what you have done since then," continued Stephanie, firmly. "Why, if it hadn't been for you and the sailors, father and I never would have been here, would we, father?"
Mr. Maynard had his own views as to that, but he saw no reason for obtruding then upon these two lovers. With wise discretion and ready tact he nodded acquiescently.
"And there is one thing," went on Harnash, repeating himself, "that he cannot possibly condone."
"And what is that?" asked Stephanie, swiftly.
"The loss of you."
"Well, he can't blame you for that, at least. That's my fault entirely. I never should have promised to marry him in the first place. I never should have continued to let him think I would marry him in the second place. As soon as I found out I loved you I should have told him. If I had, what trouble and sorrow might have been avoided."
This time it was Harnash who attempted to comfort her, tritely enough, too.
"You acted for the best, of course," he said. "You were the soul of honor."
"Yes, I suppose so. But unless one acts in the right way, the fact that one's desires are for the best is of little moment; besides," she went on, after a little pause, which no one broke, so weighty and grave were the responsibilities and possibilities of the situation, "I don't believe he ever really cared very much for me, after all."
"It's impossible," protested Harnash, with a conviction which was a delight to her soul, "that anybody could come in close and intimate association with you without-caring."
"You say that because you love me, but lots of other men have known me very well, and-"
"It strikes me that the conversation is becoming rather purposeless," interrupted Mr. Maynard, a little impatiently. He had quite forgotten that the airy nothings of lovers true are much the most purposeful things which can engage their attention, when they are in the mood. "It is settled that we shall not tell him until he is better able to sustain the shock. For one thing, if what Captain Weatherby fears comes to pass, we shall all be so busy saving our lives that these love affairs will be of little moment." Again Mr. Maynard blinked the fact that love affairs are of infinitely greater moment to lovers even than the saving of life. "Of course," he went on, "whether he is still in love with Stephanie or not, Beekman is going to be frightfully indignant and resentful over the outrage, of which he was the victim. But we knew that when we started. We knew the engagement was broken. We knew that you and George had to face the music, Stephanie, and now that the time has come, face it, that's all. As for me, I'm going on deck." He paused at the foot of the companion ladder and looked back at the other two. "I wonder what sort of a relationship subsists between Beekman and that woman we picked up with him," he added as he ascended.
"I wonder, too," said Stephanie, turning to Harnash, a gleam of surprise in her eyes.
"It would solve everything beautifully if he had fallen in love with her," returned Harnash, optimistically.
"What, Derrick Beekman in love with a savage!"
"Well-er-not exactly in the way in which I love you."
"Do you mean to tell me he would fall in love any other way with any respectable woman?" flashed out the girl, changing her tactics to the great bewilderment of the more conventional man.
"Well, I don't wish to say anything about this island person, of course, but-"
"George," said the girl, "she's as beautiful as a dream, much more beautiful than I am."
This was a statement which Harnash could not allow to pass uncontradicted, and he denied it in the most effective way, which interrupted further speech, if only for a moment.
"Nonsense, impossible!" exclaimed he, when the kiss was finished.
"Did you get a glimpse of her?"
"I only saw a limp, drenched figure being hoisted aboard. I noticed she was whiter than the people of the islands we have visited."
"Why, her skin, save for the touch of the sun, is whiter and finer than mine. Her figure, which has obviously never known the restraints of-of-civilization is absolutely perfect. Her hair is like spun gold, and there's enough of it to cover half her beautiful little body."
"What you say is very interesting," observed Harnash, indifferently, "but it doesn't particularly concern me. The only type of woman that appeals to me is your type."
He emphasized this statement in truly appropriate, if somewhat conventional, fashion, and Stephanie received statement and emphasis alike with obvious satisfaction.
"There's another thing," she went on, when this second kiss had also run its course, "she doesn't look in any way-form or color or feature-like a South Sea islander. In these weary months of cruising and visiting island after island we have seen a great many, and not one of them has been as she."
"What does she look like?"
"A European. Our kind of people. She has white race somehow stamped all over her."
"Do you think she can be European?"
"Who knows? She didn't answer to any European language at my command. There wasn't a thing on her save the remains of a belt that seemed to have held some kind of a native skirt."
"After coming through that tidal wave the surprise is not that she had nothing on, but that they were alive at all. Beekman was in about the same case. Indeed, I don't think he had anything on, either. Probably the suit he wore when he went adrift was pretty old and could not stand much weathering. It was a happy thought of yours to have me bring some of Beekman's clothes with us in case we did find him. He couldn't have worn your father's or even mine now. He seems to have grown broader somehow. He looked as though he were a head taller than I am and he seemed in splendid bodily condition."
"The girl is shorter than I," said Stephanie, "but on a pinch she can wear my clothes."
"If she's an islander you'll find it difficult to get her into-er-many of the things civilized people wear."
"I shan't try," said Stephanie, smiling at her lover's sudden hesitancy. "I've got all sorts of neglig?es and kimonos that she can wear without-"
"So you can break her into the harness of civilization gradually," laughed George.
"Yes, including shoes."
"I'm sure she'd never get your dainty slippers on," went on the fatuous lover, and Stephanie, looking down with him at her small, exquisitely shod feet, agreed with him.
"Her feet, while they are not large, are larger than mine, but beautifully shaped, and I dare say they have never been bound up in a shoe."
"I feel that this is to be our last happy day," said Harnash, irrelevantly.
"We'll hope not," said Stephanie. "Indeed, I'm sure it won't be."
And so they babbled on, forgetful for the moment of all the facts of the case and the demands of the situation, not the least of which was Captain Weatherby's firm conviction that unless he got the ship ashore in a very short time, they would be adrift on whatever makeshift support they could compass.
It came into Harnash's mind, as he thought of what was laid upon him, that such a catastrophe might not be the worst thing to which to look forward. At least, he and Stephanie would die together, and if contrition, sincere repentance, and an earnest purpose of confession and amendment availed, they would be together in some future, where there might be no giving in marriage, but where there would be love and joy and the communion of soul with soul in ways scarcely to be apprehended by poor humanity.
THE ISLAND HAVEN
The two patients, aided thereto by the doctor's wise regimen and skillful prescription, slept quietly on through the long day. Celeste watched the maiden most of the time, but she was relieved on occasion by Stephanie, who did not tire of studying the innocent, charming, and beautiful face and figure of the girl, so quietly sleeping; the mirror which had so frightened and fascinated her lying near to the cheek that it so beautifully reflected.
Harnash and Maynard visited Beekman's cabin from time to time, but his slumber was even more profound. The doctor found that the nascent fever had been broken, and that nature, good health, splendid constitution, and the medicine were doing exactly what he had prophesied they would.
It was late in the afternoon when the yacht drew near the island. The very best charts of the South Seas were in the chart room, and Captain Weatherby had mastered all they told about this unknown, unvisited island. He was greatly surprised, when the sluggish ship drew near enough for those on deck to make things out, to find that the formidable barrier, which was reported on every chart to be continuous, was obviously broken. They could see the white water above the encircling reef on either side, but right in front, opposite what appeared to be a deep circular harbor, embayed and surrounded by enormous and towering cliffs, the sea ran smooth!
Of course, the encircling reef might continue below the surface without showing above, but after carefully studying the smooth water through the glass, Captain Weatherby did not think so. Furthermore, an inspection of the cliffs that surrounded the harbor showed wide differences of color. A part of the cliff wall was dark and weather-stained, as if it had mellowed for ages under the assaults of sun and wind and sea. Other parts were lighter and the wall sharper. Points of rock freshly jagged and serrated, as if the erosions of time had not softened them, rose on one side where a brook now tumbled down a rather gentle incline from the upland to the harbor.
"What do you make of that, sir?" asked the captain of Mr. Maynard, who was also examining the island with his own powerful glass.
"If I know anything about it," was the answer, "it is freshly broken rock. See how much lighter and sharper it is to starboard than that black towering mass to port."
"What would have broken it?"
"Perhaps it was the earthquake."
"It is more than likely."
"There is still argument about these tidal waves, sir, but the consensus of the best opinion is that they are caused by subsea earthquake shocks. Such a shock may have struck the island, broken the barrier, torn down the cliff wall."
"Is this the island that has sheltered Beekman?"
"Must have been. There is no other hereabouts."
"It will be uninhabited, then."
"That's as may be," answered the old sailor, lifting his glance to take in the upland, which was now clearly visible through the enormous rift, which looked as if it might have been made by an avalanche or landslide, and down which the tumbling, dashing stream of water sparkled like silver in the light of the declining sun.
"I don't see any smoke or any evidence of life," observed Maynard, following his example.
"If the charts are true, this island hasn't been visited in the memory of man, and a ship as near as this one is would be a sight to arouse the curiosity of any native. They ought to be on the cliffs watching for us if there are any," said the captain.
"On the other hand, they might think it is some kind of god or devil and be in hiding."
"Well, we will soon know," said the captain.
"What do you mean to do?"
"I'm going straight through that dark space where the barrier is broken, and, if the way is clear, right into that harbor. Off to starboard there's a stretch of sand. I'll beach the ship there. It is high tide. We will go on easily. Then I will send a diver down and see what is to be done. Have you anything to suggest, Mr. Maynard?" he continued, turning to the owner.
"Nothing. The job is yours," answered Maynard.
"If I had a boat I'd send her in ahead to take soundings, but as it is we must depend upon ourselves. For'ard there," he shouted, "Mr. Gersey?"
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Let two of the best men take soundings with the hand leads."
By this time everybody on the yacht was on deck, except the castaways and their watchers. Two leadsmen on either side leaned far out from the ship and as she swept slowly through the somewhat narrow opening between the jagged jaws of the barrier on either hand, they began to heave their leads. The water shoaled rapidly, but not alarmingly. Indeed, bottom was the thing that Captain Weatherby wanted most of all to feel under his water-laden ship. The engines were stopped. The ship under its own momentum moved slowly across the lagoon into the smooth, still waters of the great cylindrical harbor. The deep silence was broken only by the rippling splash of the bow wave and by the long-drawn musical calls of the leadsmen in the chains. So she drifted through the entrance beyond the wall over which Beekman had so often clambered, and the whole wonderful harbor burst into view.
Beekman would not have known one side of it, for one side of it was gone. The rocks still rose as of old upon the other side. The heaven-kissing cliff where he had first seen Truda in the glory of the morning, still stood, and the unbroken rocks ran around the left hand, but the other side was changed. Where the brook had plunged over precipitous cliffs it now rolled down a long, easy slope, terribly broken, to be sure, but quite different from the mighty rampart of old.
The narrow beach whereon he had lain had somehow been lifted up and extended out at a very gentle angle far into the harbor. The eye of the captain took it all in. There was his resting place. His hand sought the Chadburn signal. The throb of the engines broke the silence. The man at the wheel put the helm to port. The sluggish yacht gathered additional way, swung heavily to starboard, and finally slipped through the shallow seas, glided up on the sloping sand, and came to a dead stop.
Providence had favored the sailor, as it often does and has done. The Stephanie was safe, exactly in the position in which her captain desired her to be. He turned to Mr. Maynard.
"The tide is at full flood. We are fast aground. If we can't make her seaworthy now, I'll forfeit my head."
His eyes sparkled. He gave orders for carrying out anchors to moor the ship, for rigging tackle, for getting the diver's uniform ready for an under-water inspection of the hull; at the same time he directed the capable engineers, now that there was no more steam needed for the engine, to turn every ounce of power into the pumps, and, if possible, to rig others temporarily to clear the ship of water and keep it down, hoping that perhaps they could come at the leak from within as well as from without.
It was so late in the evening before the ship was safely moored that it was not practicable for any of her people to go ashore that night. Captain Weatherby thought that at low tide the next day the sandy beach would be largely uncovered and with a very little ferriage they could make most of the journey on foot.
There was not the slightest evidence below in the sumptuous cabin that night at dinner of the sorry condition of the yacht. Her fittings and appointments had not been damaged. The napery and silver and glass were shining as usual under the electric light. The service was as perfect, the food as delectable, as if the ship was not lying on a sand bank embayed in a cavernous harbor in front of a deserted island, leaking; a ship which they might or might not be able to render seaworthy.
It was characteristic of the two men and of the young woman that they all dressed for dinner as was their custom. And although Beekman and his story and theirs were uppermost in everybody's mind, because there was nothing new that could be said about either under the circumstances, they talked at dinner of other things entirely-the ship, the probabilities of Captain Weatherby's getting control of the leak and making the necessary repairs, the island they would inspect tomorrow, the wonderful adventure they had gone through. In the middle of the dinner they heard voices raised in the cabin in which Beekman had been sleeping. They recognized his own deep tones expostulating with the steward; they even caught the sound of a little struggle. In her agitation, Stephanie arose from the table as the door opened and Beekman, clad in a set of his own pajamas, stood staring at the party.
"Stephanie!" he exclaimed. "Thank God!" He made a step forward. "Just as soon as the steward told me the name of the yacht and her owner, I couldn't remain in the cabin. What happy fortune brought you here?"
"We've been searching for you. Thank God, we've found you!"
"And Truda?" asked Beekman, his eye taking in the cabin and overlooking Harnash, who sat on the opposite side, his face as white as linen, fingering the tablecloth nervously. "Truda?" he raised his voice.
Truda was awake. At the sound of the voice of the man she loved she brushed by the scandalized Celeste, and, clad only in Stephanie's nightgown of diaphanous linen, she appeared in the doorway with extended arms. Beekman, who seemed strangely oblivious to the fact that he too was not arrayed in clothes appropriate to a dinner party, instantly crossed the cabin and took her hand.скачать книгу бесплатно