By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and West

Brady Cyrus Townsend
By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and West

CHAPTER XXIX
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."

"Exactly."

"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.

"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."

 

CHAPTER XXX
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?"

"Yes."

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?"

Beekman smiled.

"I did once, but not now."

"Is she the woman you told me of on the island?"

Beekman nodded.

"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.

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