By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
"This," he said, "is Miss Truda Van Rooy, two hundred years ago of Amsterdam, Holland, and-"
"And today?" asked Stephanie, bewildered beyond measure and scarce knowing what she asked.
"Of the island at which your yacht has sought harbor."
REVELATIONS AND WITHHOLDINGS
The only acknowledgment Miss Truda Van Rooy vouchsafed to this amazing introduction was to sink to her knees by the side of Beekman and press her pretty lips to his hand. The introduction and the action startled Stephanie almost beyond the power of expression, but her surprise was instantly lost in another consideration.
Miss Truda Van Rooy on her native heath, clad only in a Polynesian petticoat and her native modesty, was entirely unexceptionably clothed, and no one would give a second thought to any possible deficiency in her raiment; but Miss Truda Van Rooy in the luxurious and very up-to-date cabin of the yacht, her delicate figure clearly discernible through French lingerie, was an entirely different proposition. Everyone, even Beekman, was acutely conscious of the situation except the girl herself. If she thought about it at all, it would be with a sense of discomfort begot by unusual draperies. For the rest, she made a lovely picture.
She had rebraided her hair, and Celeste's deft fingers had given a civilized touch to the twisted locks so gloriously crowning her lovely head. Celeste, herself, more scandalized or at least less restrained in her horror, stood in the doorway of the cabin, a picture of nervous dismay. Stephanie, realizing the situation at last, was quicker to act. She drew Truda to her feet, interposed her own person between the girl and the others, and sought gently to force her back to the room whence she had come; but Truda opposed this urging with a sudden fierce vigor, despite her smaller stature and slighter build, against which the American girl was more or less helpless. An unseemly struggle was only prevented by a word from Beekman.
"Go with her; I am in no danger," he said.
"And who, may I ask, is she?" asked Mr. Maynard as the three women disappeared in the cabin.
"She is the last descendant of a shipload of Dutch soldiers, sailors, and traders who were cast away on this island two hundred and fifty years ago, together with some Polynesians they had picked up and who had lived here ever since; 'the world forgetting-by the world forgot,'" he added, the quotation being so exquisitely apt, although he was not in a poetic mood.
"And her relation to you, if I may ask?"
"I have held her in as much respect as I have held your daughter, Mr. Maynard," returned Beekman haughtily, for the question irked him exceedingly, although he could not fail to recognize that it was natural and indeed inevitable. "Until the earthquake and the tidal wave yesterday," continued Beekman, "the barrier reef completely surrounded the island. The people on it lived in a sort of cup, crater of an old volcano, I think; very fertile and beautiful, but quite hidden from the sea, access to it from the beach being extremely difficult, almost impossible.
The earthquake changed all that." Beekman had noted through his cabin ports the situation of the yacht and the havoc wrought by the awful catastrophe. "Tomorrow I will show you the island and we will seek for survivors of the catastrophe. Have any been seen?"
"None," answered Maynard.
"Perhaps they have all perished," said Harnash, forcing himself to speak.
"A fitting end for an isolation of two centuries and a half," said Beekman mournfully.
"And how did you come to the island?"
"It's a long story," answered Beekman. "I'll tell it to you when we are all assembled. Meanwhile, if I could get some clothes-"
"You have only to choose from your own, Derrick," said Harnash. "At Stephanie's suggestion, when we started this search for you, we brought along some of your clothes."
"Good. And this beard-"
"My man will fix you up," said Maynard. "I'll send him to you. Are you hungry?"
"The steward has been feeding me what he thinks is proper."
"And your arm?"
"Sore and stiff, but it will be all right in a day or two. I suppose I should have stayed in the berth, but when I heard the name of the yacht and caught the sound of your voices-well, you know. I'll be back just as quickly as I can dress."
When Beekman returned to the cabin half an hour later he was completely metamorphosed. He laughed at his own fancy, but from the very complete wardrobe they had brought him he had chosen to attire himself in the same sort of a conventional dinner suit as Maynard and Harnash were wearing. The thick beard and mustache which had so worried him had disappeared under the deft manipulations of Mr. Maynard's man. Clean shaven, clothed, in his right mind, one might have thought that the adventures of the last year had passed over his head without a trace.
For a moment poor Truda was hard put to recognize in this new man the one she had loved and who had won her heart. On her part the change was even more striking, albeit in a different direction. She was now completely covered up. With exquisite taste, Stephanie and Celeste had arrayed her in a soft, rich silken garment of mandarin blue fantastically embroidered in delicate gold thread, a product of one of the most famous looms of ancient China. It was confined about her waist by a sash of cloth of gold, and fell in loose folds to her feet. The two women had got stockings on her feet, but the ordinary slipper was impossible. Soft footwear of Turkish leather met the situation. The broad mandarin sleeves of the coat, or kimono, fell back when she lifted her hands, revealing her exquisitely proportioned rounded arm. The garment was cut low at the throat and held by a brooch of pearls, and, to please her fancy, as one adorns a doll or child, Stephanie's famous pearl necklace was clasped about Truda's warm, brown neck. From this mass of blue and gold and white her lovely head with its golden crown rose magnificently. Poor Truda had been as clay in the hands of the potter. She had suffered everything silently without resistance. It had been his will and she was his property. She had possessed all the beauty of wild and lovely nature before. Without losing much of that appeal, she now exhibited it in conjunction with an ancient oriental civilization, albeit to occidental eyes half barbaric.
Looking not unlike a lamb dressed for the slaughter, Truda sat by the side of Stephanie, who seemed to the untutored eyes of the semi-savage not unlike a goddess. The table had been cleared of all save the after-dinner coffee and the decanters. Later, Beekman found himself amazed at the ease with which he took up the customs of civilization and its refinements after so long and so violent a break therewith. For the moment he could only stare at Truda, and she returned the stare with interest. Who was this radiant creature to whom the delights of color had been added? he asked himself. Who was this godlike figure of man in the awesome and yet enhancing raiment? she questioned. It was not until Beekman smiled and spoke to her, using instinctively the familiar Polynesian dialect, that she could catch her breath and feel her heart resume its beat. He used the Polynesian because somehow it was more intimate, because he could say in it what he liked to her without the others being privy to his communication; and, finally, because he instinctively divined that in her agitation, which was obvious, her birth-language, which she had used from childhood, would be more soothing and agreeable to her. Naturally, his first question was as to her condition.
"How do you feel after all we have been through?"
"Well; and you?" said the girl, and all who listened so closely never suspected that Truda knew any other language than that Beekman used, and they were amazed at the music in her voice, the soft syllables falling through her lips entrancingly.
"I'm all right, save for this bruised arm, and that be well in a day or so."
Then Truda herself struck at him with a question.
"This beautiful woman. You know her?"
That seemed perfectly natural to Truda. She had no idea of the size of the world. All of these godlike beings must know one another as a matter of course.
"And you love her?"
"I did once, but not now."
"Is she the woman you told me of on the island?"
"If you don't take me and keep me," said Truda, suddenly passionate, her face flaming, "I shall die. You might better have let me go in the waves yesterday."
Beekman crossed the cabin and stopped by her side. He laid his hand on her head and turned her face up to him.
"You're the one woman for me, Truda," he said simply. Then realizing his obligations to the rest, he turned to them. "You will be anxious to know what we were talking about. I asked her how she was, and she told me she was well and asked in her turn for my welfare."
It was obvious to Stephanie at least that his translation by no means represented the sum total of the conversation that had passed between the two, but having her own ends to serve, like a wise woman, she gave no voice to her suspicions.
"Now, if you feel like it, we should like to hear the whole story," said Maynard.
"To begin with," said Beekman, "as George has probably told you, I guess we had a glass too many on that last night in New York, although we really drank so little that I have been inclined to the belief that there must have been foul play somewhere. At any rate, all I really know is that I woke up twenty-four hours or so later in the forecastle of an old-fashioned sailing ship called the Susquehanna."
"We learned that much ourselves," said Mr. Maynard. He pressed an electric button on the bulkhead by his side, and to the steward who answered he directed the boatswain to be summoned. "Just a moment, Beekman," he said; "we have an old friend of yours aboard, and here he is," he added as the weather-beaten, grizzled head of James Gersey was cautiously projected around the door-jamb. "Come in, Bo's'n," he exclaimed heartily.
The next instant Beekman caught him by the hand.
"How did you come here, Gersey?" he cried, "and how are Templin and the rest of the men?"
"Templin an' some others of us shipped aboard this yacht, Mr. Maynard makin' the proposition an' Captain Weatherby bein' agreeable. We wanted to hunt you up, an' bein' as we'd seed the last of you when we set you adrift, 'twas thought we know'd more about you than anybody else an' could be the best help."
"Wonder of wonders!" exclaimed Beekman. "I guess your story comes before mine, Mr. Maynard."
"Well, to make it short," said Harnash, after a glance from Maynard, "the Susquehanna caught fire and was burned at sea. Captain Fish went down with her, refusing to leave the bridge. The mate's boat was lost. Gersey's boat was picked up and brought into Honolulu, and from him we learned the whole story of your adventures on the ship. As soon as we heard them we decided to search for you, in the hope that you might have landed on some of these islands, or have been cast away, which has proved to be the case, and here we are."
"You know the unfortunate cause of my leaving the ship?" asked Beekman, his brow darkening.
"Of course; we have the log book of the Susquehanna."
"And I must face a charge of murder when I get back?"
"You needn't worry about that," said Maynard quickly. "Manuel made a deposition saying it was in self-defense. The testimony of the men was added. You'll never hear from it again."
"Thank God for that!" said Beekman fervently.
"Go on with your story."
Rapidly and graphically Beekman put them in possession of the wondrous romance of which he had been a part. Without reserve he told them everything that had happened, except one thing-his love for Truda. He suppressed that most carefully, and Truda, who sat silently listening, her wits sharpened by love and jealousy, understanding much more than he or anyone dreamed, noted that fact with a horrible sinking of the heart. In her simplicity she could not believe that anyone could love her after seeing Stephanie.
Now, Beekman purposely left out of the conversation that feature of his life. His relations with Stephanie were still, to all intents and purposes, what they had been. As he reflected upon it while dressing, it seemed to him that she had offered him the greatest evidence of devotion to him by coming on the cruise to search for him. That any other motive was back of her action naturally did not occur to him. He inferred that she was more in love with him than he had dreamed. He recognized that her presence added to her claim upon him. It was a situation fraught with difficulty.
It was evidence to his own heart of the depth and sincerity of his feeling for Truda that the presence of Stephanie only disquieted him, and that even her lovely perfection did not move him one bit. He could not, however, as he was a gentleman, blurt out the fact that he no longer loved her, did not want to marry her, and would not marry her. Hence the constraint and restraint with which he told the story. It was a tale sufficiently thrilling in itself, such as Sindbad the Sailor might have told to some auditory in the Arabian Nights, and their arrival at that very island after that tremendous, titanic convulsion of nature which had brought them together, was not the least wonderful feature of the whole situation.
When he was finished they questioned him. Especially were they interested in the history of the people of the Good Intent, whom they had followed into the harbor after a lapse of two hundred and fifty years.
"I have no doubt that the earthquake shock, which was sufficient to tear away one side of the island wall and this harbor, as you have seen-for, before, every side was as sheer as the side off to port yonder-has wrought terrible damage to the settlement; but we shall find that out tomorrow."
"Meanwhile," observed Maynard, "I think we have had quite enough excitement for the day."
"And our interest in your story has caused us to forget the awful strain you have sustained, to say nothing of this dear girl here," said Stephanie.
She patted Truda's hand as she spoke, and smiled at her kindly. She had hoped that in Truda lay the solution of the tangled relations between Beekman and herself, and her natural kindliness of heart was thereby intensified. And, besides, with a thought for her lover, she was glad for a postponement of the inevitable disclosure.
"We must all turn in," chimed in the wretched Harnash, thankful for a further respite of a few hours. "Captain Weatherby will want us out of the ship in the morning, anyway."
"Exactly," said Maynard, with the same thought as the others. "After another night's rest you will be in better condition to show us everything we are so anxious to see."
"Before we separate," continued Harnash, "I want to tell you, Derrick, that our business affairs are in the best condition. On your behalf and my own, I have entered into a business relation with Mr. Maynard. We have been unusually successful, and our own investments have about doubled, I think."
"That's good," said Beekman.
"I'll take you in with me and Harnash, who has already proved invaluable," said Mr. Maynard, "on the same terms, Derrick, so your future will be assured."
This was good news to Beekman, but it was bad news, too, for it added to the obligations of the engagement. He put a good face upon the matter, however, and thanked Maynard cordially.
"Now we'll bid you good-night," said Stephanie, rising, Truda following her example.
She had extended her hand to Beekman. He had made no previous effort to kiss or embrace her, of course, although their engagement would have abundantly warranted him in such affectionate greetings. Now he took her hand, however, and kissed it tenderly. Poor little Truda lifted her face up toward him in turn, but the necessities of the situation made Beekman turn away, which added to the girl's heart-break, for she could not know of the pang his refusal gave him. She could not understand why the parting that night was so different from other partings which had taken place on the island. He had always kissed her before, why not now? It must be because of this new and glorious woman. She had felt, after the terrible hazards they had survived, that nothing could possibly come between them; but that something had was obvious. She stifled her feelings with the stoicism of a savage, which is exactly paralleled by the repression of civilization, and turned and followed Stephanie to her cabin.
She refused the bed in the cabin. She even shook her head at the luxurious sofa opposite, which was offered her. She piled some cushions on the floor, divested herself of her clothing, as was her primitive habit, drew a rug over her as a concession to the civilization she was dimly beginning to comprehend, and at once feigned sleep. So also did Stephanie, and the two women lay awake a long time, waiting with anxious hearts for the day.
Of the two, Truda was the sadder, because she thought she was losing her lover; while Stephanie, in spite of her anxiety, was confident that things would work out right in the end for all of them.
VI ET ARMIS
The next morning Captain Weatherby was glad indeed to be rid of his passengers. His divers had already found the leak. It was now his opinion that the broken plate could be replaced and the leak made tight, or controlled, until they could get to a dry dock in some civilized port, without careening the ship. If all went well, in two days the Stephanie would be ready to leave the island. Of course they would have to get her off the sand, but she had been so beached that with the numerous crew she carried the captain could improvise a cofferdam and dig her out, if necessary, although that would naturally be the last resort. It was probable that ground tackle and her own extra-powerful engines would do the trick. Meantime there was much work for all hands, and the idlers were better away.
After breakfast, which was a trying meal for Truda, since she had no knowledge whatever of the utensils and equipment of civilization, the two women and the three men, accompanied by Dr. Welch, who had pronounced both patients well on the way to recovery, but who thought best to keep them under observation while he visited and examined the island from a scientist's point of view, were ferried over on an improvised raft to the strand, whence they found it not a difficult climb to the upland.
Horrible indeed had been the destruction by the storm that had followed the earthquake. What had been a paradise was now devastated. A few of the animals were still alive, but not a single human being was seen. The little settlement was in ruins. Every house had been leveled to the ground. A deep crevice had opened in the basic rock. It ran underneath the ruin of the church. Beneath the great heaps of stone on either side of this gulf they could see the crushed bodies of the islanders. It was easy to reconstruct the scene and to realize what had happened. The storm had given them plenty of warning. It was of so unusual a character that they had had an abundance of time to choose their places of shelter. Moved by such a mental stimulus, as can easily be imagined, they had chosen to assemble in the taboo house. The taboo had been broken, anyway. The god was angry with them. This was the form of his punishment. What was more natural than that they should turn to him? Perhaps they had some idea of prayer; it may be some lingering remains of Christian faith, which would have led them to assemble in the church in time of peril, had been added to the consciousness that the taboo was broken. At any rate, the men, women, and children all of them had crowded into the church. It was the largest and most substantial of all the buildings, and the earthquake had thrown it down upon them.
The huge rift that had been opened in the island had engulfed many of them, evidently. Whatever the case, not one of them was alive. The rift had divided the ruin into two parts. Most of the people evidently had remained near the door. Old Kobe's body was found in the opening in the rail, his hand stretched out to the broken altar upon which the mouldering cross still stood. They found the two precious books without much difficulty, and that was all.
Truda had disappeared. She presently rejoined them, clad in her usual way in one of the grass or fiber petticoats which she had resurrected from one of the houses of the women which had not been completely demolished. She had laid aside the light garments which Stephanie had put on her, and she seemed a different woman. They noticed it, of course, but made no comment. And now Dr. Welch, easily realizing that the friends would rather be alone, made his excuses and wandered away, out of hearing, at any rate, while he busied himself in observation and interesting studies.
"I'll have Captain Weatherby send a party of men to clear this away and give the bodies decent burial," said Maynard, breaking the solemn pause.скачать книгу бесплатно