MoboReader> Literature > The Disentanglers

   Chapter 21 The Adventure of the Flora Macdonald

The Disentanglers By Andrew Lang Characters: 23109

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


'This is the point indicated, latitude so and so, longitude so and so,' said Mr Macrae. 'But I do not see a sail or a funnel on the western horizon. Nothing since we left the Fleet behind us, far to the East. Yet it is the hour. It is strange!'

Mr. Macrae was addressing Bude. They stood together on the deck of the Flora Macdonald, the vast yacht of the millionaire. She was lying to on a sea as glassy and radiant, under a blazing August sun, as the Atlantic can show in her mildest moods. On the quarter-deck of the yacht were piled great iron boxes containing the millions in gold with which the millionaire had at last consented to ransom his daughter. He had been negotiating with her captors through the wireless machine, and, as Logan could not promise any certain release, Mr. Macrae had finally surrendered, while informing Logan of the circumstances and details of his rendezvous with the kidnappers. The amassing of the gold had shaken the exchanges of two worlds. Banks trembled, rates were enormous, but the precious metal had been accumulated. The pirates would not take Mr. Macrae's cheque; bank notes they laughed at, the millions must be paid in gold. Now at last the gold was on the spot of ocean indicated by the kidnappers, but there was no sign of sail or ship, no promise of their coming. Men with telescopes in the rigging of the Flora were on the outlook in vain. They could pick up one of the floating giants of our fleet, far off to the East, but North, West and South were empty wastes of water.

'Three o'clock has come and gone. I hope there has been no accident,' said Mr. Macrae nervously. 'But where are those thieves?' He absently pressed his repeater, it tingled out the half-hour.

'It is odd,' said Bude. 'Hullo, look there, what's that?'

That was a slim spar, which suddenly shot from the plain of ocean, at a distance of a hundred yards. On its apex a small black hood twisted itself this way and that like a living thing; so tranquil was the hour that the spar with its dull hood was distinctly reflected in the mirror-like waters of the ocean.

'By gad, it is the periscope of a submarine!' said Bude.

There could not be a doubt of it. The invention of Napier of Merchistoun and of M. Jules Verne, now at last an actual engine of human warfare, had been employed by the kidnappers of the daughter of the millionaire!

A light flashed on the mind, steady and serviceable, but not brilliantly ingenious, of Mr. Macrae. 'This,' he exclaimed rather superfluously, 'accounts for the fiendish skill with which these miscreants took cover when pursued by the Marine Police. This explains the subtle art with which they dodged observation. Doubtless they had always, somewhere, a well-found normal yacht containing their supplies. Do you not agree with me, my lord?'

'In my opinion,' said Bude, 'you have satisfactorily explained what has so long puzzled us. But look! The periscope, having reconnoitred us, is sinking again!'

It was true. The slim spar gracefully descended to the abyss. Again ocean smiled with innumerable laughters (as the Athenian sings), smiled, empty, azure, effulgent! The Flora Macdonald was once more alone on a wide, wide sea!

Two slight jars were now just felt by the owner, skipper, and crew of the Flora Macdonald. 'What's that?' asked Mr. Macrae sharply. 'A reef?'

'In my opinion,' said the captain, 'the beggars in the submarine have torpedoed us. Attached torpedoes to our keel, sir,' he explained, respectfully touching his cap and shifting the quid in his cheek. He was a bluff tar of the good old school.

'Merciful heavens!' exclaimed Mr. Macrae, his face paling. 'What can this new outrage mean? Here on our deck is the gold; if they explode their torpedoes the bullion sinks to join the exhaustless treasures of the main!'

'A bit of bluff and blackmail on their part I fancy,' said Bude, lighting a cigarette.

'No doubt! No doubt!' said Mr. Macrae, rather unsteadily. 'They would never be such fools as to blow up the millions. Still, an accident might have awful results.'

'Look there, sir, if you please,' said the captain of the Flora Macdonald, 'there's that spar of theirs up again.'

It was so. The spar, the periscope, shot up on the larboard side of the yacht. After it had reconnoitred, the mirror of ocean was stirred into dazzling circling waves, and the deck of a submarine slowly emerged. The deck was long and flat, and of a much larger area than submarines in general have. It would seem to indicate the presence below the water of a body or hull of noble proportions. A voice hailed the yacht from the submarine, though no speaker was visible.

'You have no consort?' the voice yelled.

'For ten years I have been a widower,' replied Mr. Macrae, his voice trembling with emotion.

'Most sorry to have unintentionally awakened unavailing regrets,' came the voice. 'But I mean, honour bright, you have no attendant armed vessel?'

'None, I promised you so,' said Mr. Macrae; 'I am a man of my word. Come on deck if you doubt me and look for yourself.'

'Not me, and get shot by a rifleman,' said the voice.

'It is very distressing to be distrusted in this manner,' replied Mr. Macrae. 'Captain McClosky,' he said to the skipper, 'pray request all hands to oblige me by going below.'

The captain issued this order, which the yacht's crew rather reluctantly obeyed. Their interest and curiosity were strongly excited by a scene without precedent in the experience of the oldest mariner.

When they had disappeared Mr. Macrae again addressed the invisible owner of the voice. 'All my crew are below. Nobody is on deck but Captain McClosky, the Earl of Bude, and myself. We are entirely unarmed. You can see for yourself.' {406}

The owner of the voice replied: 'You have no torpedoes?'

'We have only the armament agreed upon by you to protect this immense mass of bullion from the attacks of the unscrupulous,' said Mr. Macrae. 'I take heaven to witness that I am honourably observing every article of our agreement, as per yours of August 21.'

'All right,' answered the voice. 'I dare say you are honest. But I may as well tell you this, that while passing under your yacht we attached two slabs of gun-cotton to her keel. The knob connected with them is under my hand. We placed them where they are, not necessarily for publication-explosion, I mean-but merely as a guarantee of good faith. You understand?'

'Perfectly,' said Mr. Macrae, 'though I regard your proceeding as a fresh and unmerited insult.'

'Merely a precaution usual in business,' said the voice. 'And now,' it went on, 'for the main transaction. You will lower your gold into boats, row it across, and land it here on my deck. When it is all there, and has been inspected by me, you will send one boat rowed by two men only, into which Miss Macrae shall be placed and sent back to you. When that has been done we shall part, I hope, on friendly terms and with mutual respect.'

'Captain McClosky,' said Mr. Macrae, 'will you kindly pipe all hands on board to discharge cargo?' The captain obeyed.

Mr. Macrae turned to Bude. 'This is a moment,' he said, 'which tries a father's heart! Presently I must see Emmeline, hear her voice, clasp her to my breast.' Bude mutely wrung the hand of the millionaire, and turned away to conceal his emotion. Seldom, perhaps never, has a father purchased back an only and beloved child at such a cost as Mr. Macrae was now paying without a murmur.

The boats of the Flora Macdonald were lowered and manned, the winches slowly swung each huge box of the precious metal aboard the boats. Mr. Macrae entrusted the keys of the gold-chests to his officers.

'Remember,' cried the voice from the submarine, 'we must have the gold on board, inspected, and weighed, before we return Miss Macrae.'

'Mean to the last,' whispered the millionaire to the earl; but aloud he only said, 'Very well; I regret, for your own sake, your suspicious character, but, in the circumstances, I have no choice.'

To Bude he added: 'This is terrible! When he has secured the bullion he may submerge his submarine and go off without returning my daughter.'

This was so manifestly true that Bude could only shake his head and mutter something about 'honour among thieves.'

The crew got the gold on board the boats, and, after several journeys, had the boxes piled on the deck of the submarine.

When they had placed the boxes on board they again retired, and one of the men of the submarine, who seemed to be in command, and wore a mask, coolly weighed the glittering metal on the deck, returning each package, after weighing and inspection, to its coffer. The process was long and tedious; at length it was completed.

Then at last the form of Miss Macrae, in an elegant and tasteful yachting costume, appeared on the deck of the submarine. The boat's crew of the Flora Macdonald (to whom she was endeared) lifted their oars and cheered. The masked pirate in command handed her into a boat of the Flora's with stately courtesy, placing in her hand a bouquet of the rarest orchids. He then placed his hand on his heart, and bowed with a grace remarkable in one of his trade. This man was no common desperado.

The crew pulled off, and at that moment, to the horror of all who were on the Flora's deck, two slight jars again thrilled through her from stem to stern.

Mr. Macrae and Bude gazed on each other with ashen faces. What had occurred? But still the boat's crew pulled gallantly towards the Flora, and, in a few moments, Miss Macrae stepped on deck, and was in her father's arms. It was a scene over which art cannot linger. Self-restraint was thrown to the winds; the father and child acted as if no eyes were regarding them. Miss Macrae sobbed convulsively, her sire was shaken by long-pent emotion. Bude had averted his gaze, he looked towards the submarine, on the deck of which the crew were busy, beginning to lower the bullion into the interior.

To Bude's extreme and speechless amazement, another periscope arose from ocean at about fifty yards from the further side of the submarine! Bude spoke no word; the father and daughter were absorbed in each other; the crew had no eyes but for them.

Presently, unmarked by the busy seamen of the hostile submarine, the platform and look-out hood of another submarine appeared. The new boat seemed to be pointing directly for the middle of the hostile submarine and at right angles to it.

'Hands up!' pealed a voice from the second submarine.

It was the voice of Merton!

At the well-known sound Miss Macrae tore herself from her father's embrace and hurried below. She deemed that a fond illusion of the senses had beguiled her.

Mr. Macrae looked wildly towards the two submarines.

The masked captain of the hostile vessel, leaping up, shook his fist at the Flora Macdonald and yelled, 'Damn your foolish treachery, you money-grubbing hunks! You have a consort.'

'I assure you that nobody is more surprised than myself,' cried Mr. Macrae.

'One minute more and you, your ship, and your crew will be sent to your own place!' yelled the masked captain.

He vanished below, doubtless to explode the mines under the Flora.

Bude crossed himself; Mr. Macrae, folding his arms, stood calm and defiant on his deck. One sailor (the cook) leaped overboard in terror, the others hastily drew themselves up in a double line, to die like Britons.

A minute passed, a minute charged with terror. Mr. Macrae took out his

watch to mark the time. Another minute passed, and no explosion.

The captain of the pirate vessel reappeared on her deck. He cast his hands desperately abroad; his curses, happily, were unheard by Miss Macrae, who was below.

'Hands up!' again rang out the voice of Merton, adding, 'if you begin to submerge your craft, if she stirs an inch, I send you skyward at least as a preliminary measure. My diver has detached your mines from the keel of the Flora Macdonald and has cut the wires leading to them; my bow-tube is pointing directly for you, if I press the switch the torpedo must go home, and then heaven have mercy on your souls!'

A crow of laughter arose from the yachtsmen of the Flora Macdonald, who freely launched terms of maritime contempt at the crew of the pirate submarine, with comments on the probable future of the souls to which Merton had alluded.

On his desk the masked captain stood silent. 'We have women on board!' he answered Merton at last.

'You may lower them in a collapsible boat, if you have one,' answered Merton. 'But, on the faintest suspicion of treachery-the faintest surmise, mark you, I switch on my torpedo.'

'What are your terms?' asked the pirate captain.

'The return of the bullion, that is all,' replied the voice of Merton. 'I give you two minutes to decide.'

Before a minute and a half had passed the masked captain had capitulated. 'I climb down,' he said.

'The boats of the Flora will come for it,' said Merton; 'your men will help load it in the boats. Look sharp, and be civil, or I blow you out of the water!'

The pirates had no choice; rapidly, if sullenly, they effected the transfer.

When all was done, when the coffers had been hoisted aboard the Flora Macdonald, Merton, for the first time, hailed the yacht.

'Will you kindly send a boat round here for me, Mr. Macrae, if you do not object to my joining you on the return voyage?'

Mr. Macrae shouted a welcome, the yacht's crew cheered as only Britons can. Mr. Macrae's piper struck up the march of the clan, 'A' the wild McCraws are coming!'

'If any of you scoundrels shoot,' cried Merton to his enemies, 'up you will all go. You shall stay here, after we depart, in front of that torpedo, just as long as the skipper of my vessel pleases.'

Meanwhile the boat of the Flora approached the friendly submarine; Merton stepped aboard, and soon was on the deck of the Flora Macdonald.

Mr. Macrae welcomed him with all the joy of a father re-united to his daughter, of a capitalist restored to his millions.

Bude shook Merton's hand warmly, exclaiming, 'Well played, old boy!'

Merton's eyes eagerly searched the deck for one beloved form. Mr. Macrae drew him aside. 'Emmeline is below,' he whispered; 'you will find her in the saloon.' Merton looked steadfastly at the millionaire, who smiled with unmistakable meaning. The lover hurried down the companion, while the Flora, which had rapidly got up steam, sped eastward.

Merton entered the saloon, his heart beating as hard as when he had sought his beloved among the bracken beneath the cliffs at Castle Skrae. She rose at his entrance; their eyes met, Merton's dim with a supreme doubt, Emmeline's frank and clear. A blush rose divinely over the white rose of her face, her lips curved in the resistless ?ginetan smile, and, without a word spoken, the twain were in each other's arms.

* * * * * *

Half an hour later Mr. Macrae, heralding his arrival with a sonorous hem! entered the saloon. Smiling, he embraced his daughter, who hid her head on his ample shoulder, while with his right hand the father grasped that of Merton.

'My daughter is restored to me-and my son,' said the millionaire softly.

There was silence. Mr. Macrae was the first to recover his self-possession. 'Sit down, dear,' he said, gently disengaging Emmeline, 'and tell me all about it. Who were the wretches? I can forgive them now.'

Miss Macrae's eyes were bent on the carpet; she seemed reluctant to speak. At last, in timid and faltering accents, she whispered, 'It was the Van Huytens boy.'

'Rudolph Van Huytens! I might have guessed it,' cried the millionaire. 'His motive is too plain! His wealth did not equal mine by several millions. The ransom which he demanded, and but for Tom here' (he indicated Merton) 'would now possess, exactly reversed our relative positions. Carrying on his father's ambition, he would, but for Tom, have held the world's record for opulence. The villain!'

'You do not flatter me, father,' said Miss Macrae, 'and you are unjust to Mr. Van Huytens. He had another, he said a stronger, motive. Me!' she murmured, blushing like a red rose, and adding, 'he really was rather nice. The submarine was comfy; the yacht delightful. His sisters and his aunt were very kind. But-' and the beautiful girl looked up archly and shyly at Merton.

'In fact if it had not been for Tom,' Mr. Macrae was exclaiming, when Emmeline laid her lily hand on his lips, and again hid her burning blushes on his shoulder.

'So Rudolph had no chance?' asked Mr. Macrae gaily.

'I used rather to like him, long ago-before-' murmured Emmeline.

A thrill of happy pride passed through Merton. He also, he remembered of old, had thought that he loved. But now he privately registered an oath that he would never make any confessions as to the buried past (a course which the chronicler earnestly recommends to young readers).

'Now tell us all about your adventures, Emmie,' said Mr. Macrae, sitting down and taking his daughter's hand in his own.

The narrative may have been anticipated. After Blake was felled, Miss Macrae, screaming and struggling, had been carried to the boat. The crew had rapidly pulled round the cliff, the submarine had risen, to the captive's horrified amazement, from the deep, she had been taken on board, and, yet more to her surprise, had been welcomed by the Misses Van Huytens and their aunt. The brother had always behaved with respect, till, finding that his suit was hopeless, he had avoided her presence as much as possible, and-

'Had gone for the dollars,' said Macrae.

They had wandered from rocky desert isle to desert isle, in the archipelago of the Hebrides, meeting at night with a swift attendant yacht. Usually they had slept on shore under canvas; the corrugated iron houses had been left behind at 'The Seven Hunters,' with the champagne, to alleviate the anxiety of Mr. Macrae. Ample supplies of costume and other necessaries for Miss Macrae had always been at hand.

'They really did me very well,' she said, smiling, 'but I was miserable about you,' and she embraced her father.

'Only about me?' asked Mr. Macrae.

'I did not know, I was not sure,' said Emmeline, crying a little, and laughing rather hysterically.

'You go and lie down, my dear,' said Mr. Macrae. 'Your maid is in your cabin,' and thither he conducted the overwrought girl, Merton anxiously following her with his eyes.

'We are neglecting Lord Bude,' said Mr. Macrae. 'Come on deck, Tom, and tell us how you managed that delightful surprise.'

'Oh, pardon me, sir,' said Merton, 'I am under oath, I am solemnly bound to Logan and others never to reveal the circumstances. It was necessary to keep you uninformed, that you might honourably make your arrangement to meet Mr. Van Huytens without being aware that you had a submarine consort. Logan takes any dishonour on himself, and he wished to offer Mr. Van Huytens-as that is his name-every satisfaction, but I dissuaded him. His connection with the affair cannot be kept too secret. Though Logan put me forward, you really owe all to him.'

'But without you, I should never have had his aid,' said Mr. Macrae: 'Where is Lord Fastcastle?' he asked.

'In the friendly submarine,' said Merton.

'Oh, I think I can guess!' said Mr. Macrae, smiling. 'I shall ask no more questions. Let us join Lord Bude.'

If the reader is curious as to how the rescue was managed, it is enough to say that Logan was the cousin and intimate friend of Admiral Chirnside, that the Admiral was commanding a fleet engaged in naval man?uvres around the North coast, that he had a flotilla of submarines, and that the point of ocean where the pirates met the Flora Macdonald was not far west of the Orkneys.

On deck Bude asked Merton how Logan (for he knew that Logan was the guiding spirit) had guessed the secret of the submarine.

'Do you remember,' said Merton, 'that when you came back from "The Seven Hunters," you reported that the fishermen had a silly story of seeing a dragon flying above the empty sea?'

'I remember, un dragon volant,' said Bude.

'And Logan asked you not to tell Mr. Macrae?'

'Yes, but I don't understand.'

'A dragon is the Scotch word for a kite-not the bird-a boy's kite. You did not know; I did not know, but Mr. Macrae would have known, being a Scot, and Logan wanted to keep his plan dark, and the kite had let him into the secret of the submarine.'

'I still don't see how.'

'Why the submarine must have been flying a kite, with a pendent wire, to catch messages from Blake and the wireless machine at Castle Skrae. How else could a kite-"a dragon," the sailor said-have been flying above the empty sea?'

'Logan is rather sharp,' said Bude.

'But, Mr. Macrae,' asked Merton, 'how about the false Gianesi?'

'Oh, when Gianesi came of course we settled his business. We had him tight, as a conspirator. He had been met, when expelled for misdeeds from Gianesi's and Giambresi's, by a beautiful young man, to whom he sold himself. He believed the beautiful young man to be the devil, but, of course, it was our friend Blake. He, in turn, must have been purchased by Van Huytens while he was lecturing in America as a poet-Fenian. In fact, he really had a singular genius for electric engineering; he had done very well at some German university. But he was a fellow of no principle! We are well quit of a rogue. I turned his unlucky victim, the false Gianesi, loose, with money enough for life to keep him honest if he chooses. His pension stops if ever a word of the method of rescue comes out. The same with my crew. They shall all be rich men, for their station, till the tale is whispered and reaches my ears. In that case-all pensions stop. I think we can trust the crew of the friendly submarine to keep their own counsel.'

'Certainly!' said Merton. 'Wealth has its uses after all,' he thought in his heart.

* * * * * *

Merton and Logan gave a farewell dinner in autumn to the Disentanglers-to such of them as were still unmarried. In her napkin each lady of the Society found a cheque on Coutts for 25,000l. signed with the magic name Ronald Macrae.

The millionaire had insisted on being allowed to perform this act of munificence, the salvage for the recovered millions, he said.

Miss Martin, after dinner, carried Mr. Macrae's health in a toast. In a humorous speech she announced her own approaching nuptials, and intimated that she had the permission of the other ladies present to make the same general confession for all of them.

'Like every novel of my own,' said Miss Martin, smiling, 'this enterprise of the Disentanglers has a HAPPY ENDING.'

Footnotes:

{232} Part III. No. I, 1896. Baptist Mission Press. Calcutta, 1897.

{242} See also Monsieur Henri Junod, in Les Ba-Ronga. Attinger, Neuchatel, 1898. Unlike Mr. Skertchley, M. Junod has not himself seen the creature.

{406} Periscope not necessary with conning tower out of water. Man could see out of port.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares