The Gentle Buccaneers - Fred M. White - ebook

The Gentle Buccaneers ebook

Fred M White



The Gentle Buccaneers – a gang of four pirates. They were a good company, physically, if not intellectually, although Endellion himself, the leader of the expedition and the owner of the yacht, was a classic scholar and passionate admirer of Marcus Aurelius, whose philosophy he loved to translate. They liked to pose as people who were disfigured in a battle for peace. However, it soon became harder to show up in public. Everyone is starting to pay attention to them.

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THE Gentle Buccaneers were lounging on the deck of the Gehenna in the moonlight after dinner. They might have been just four very proper and gallant gentlemen, taking their ease after the pleasures of the day, and, indeed, they were something like that; but thereby hangs a tale.

There were four of them altogether–the Honorable Roger Endellion, commonly called Jolly Roger as a delicate compliment to him, as the leading spirit of the great adventure; Jimmy Graydon, alias Truthful James, one time a mighty “Rugger” international three-quarter, and St. John Wallace, commonly called the Brigadier, seeing that for a brief space he had been a soldier; all some time at Eton, and now citizens of the world. The fourth man, Peter Shacklock, generally hailed as the Prodigal Son, was pure American, and, as his nickname might imply, a backslider from a commercial point of view, and a veritable thorn in the flesh of a businesslike father with perhaps more millions (dollars) than he knew how to count.

They were a fine company, physically, if not intellectually, though Endellion himself, the leader of the expedition and owner of the yacht, was by way of being a classical scholar and a passionate admirer of Marcus Aurelius, whose philosophy he was fond of translating with a wide margin.

Now it pleased the Gentle Buccaneers to regard themselves as something between Drake and Kidd. In other words, pirates in the South Pacific Seas, though, nathless, their piracy, like Ariel’s spiriting, was done gently. They liked to pose as men who have been badly mauled in the battle of the world, and as regards two of them, at least, this was substantially true. The others had gone into the business in the pure spirit of adventure. But Endellion, at least, had a real enough grievance. As he was fond of putting it, what use was that large fortune of his, inherited from a kindly godmother, seeing that it was impossible for him to show his face either in the park or on “the sweet shady side of Pall Mall.” There had been a time, not so long ago when he had been quite persona grata in Society, but that was before he had fallen in love with a woman of considerable personal attractions and slim morality who had somehow got entangled in a card scandal of some magnitude. In his fine quixotic way Endellion had taken all the blame upon himself and confessed of a social crime of the blackest type–the one unforgivable sin, in fact.

He had not been blind. No one had known better than he that the object of his misplaced affections had no business to be playing for such a high stakes, despite the fact that she was a fine exponent, and depended upon her skill to pay most of her obligations. But Endellion had not stopped to count the cost. He was most absurdly in love, and it had seemed to him that with his ample means he and the lady in question might live happily ever afterwards, in spite of the social ostracism which would inevitably be handed out to him. And therefore he stood confessed for her sake, and then, when she was enjoying the sympathy of everybody, she turned her back upon Endellion and married someone else.

Endellion immediately disappeared from his familiar haunts, and from time to time rumors reached his old friends to the effect that he was leading a riotous sort of life in the South Pacific Seas on board a luxurious yacht in company with a few other black sheep he had scraped together from various parts of the globe. He had gone headlong to the devil. Sooner or later he would be picked up by some patrolling gunboat, and then there would be an end to his career.

And so it came about that Endellion was sitting there with his companions, on the deck of his own yacht in the glorious moonlight, off a little spit of an island inhabited, for the most part by other black sheep and a trader or two in copra and mother o’ pearl. They did not know even the name of the island and had drifted there in the mere spirit of adventure. They had been on shore for an hour or two taking in water and one or two odd things, and now seated on the deck round a little table on which stood an electric light, smoking their cigars and talking idly over coffee and liquers.

They might have been no more than four idle gentlemen, prospecting around for sheer amusement. From where they sat they could see the foam creaming on the white sand and a waving fringe of palms swaying gently in the evening breeze. It was a peaceful picture of sea and sky and brilliant moon and far enough remote apparently in the way of crime or violence.

“What manner of place is this?” Endellion asked. He had not been ashore. “What do you make of it, Jimmy?”

“Oh, just the usual,” Graydon replied. “Two or three huts, a general store, and a poisonous little saloon, of course. Same old game. A handful of white traders steadily drinking themselves to death in the intervals of business, and the inevitable remittance man propped up against the bar. It’s a lovely spot, of course, but a God-forsaken hole, all the same. Not much sign of adventure here.”

The Prodigal Son, otherwise Peter U. Shacklock, chuckled quietly to himself.

“I don’t know about that, sonny,” he said. “There’s a girl on the island. A real peach, too.”

“Oh, come off it,” Wallace said. “Do you mean there’s a lady tied up on this gob of sand?”

“I do that,” Shacklock replied. “I saw her when the hands were filling up the water casks. Tall, dark, with violet eyes and a walk like a goddess. Quite young too. Now I wonder who the deuce she is.”

“That will do,” Endellion put in. “None of that, my boy. No woman here. Now, what does Marcus Aurelius say about woman and her man friends?”

“Oh, come off with your Marcus Aurelius,” Shacklock went on. “I tell you there is a mystery here. Now, what on earth is a woman–and a lady, mind–doing here, where there isn’t a clean white man within a thousand miles? When I say a lady I mean it. The real thing.”

“It sounds interesting,” Wallace said thoughtfully. “A prisoner, perhaps. I will just have a stroll round in the morning––”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” Endellion said. “I am going to have no woman mixed up with this expedition. It will mean the break up of our friendship. I am glad you told me about this, Shacklock. We will sail at dawn.”

“Yes, but look here,” Shacklock protested. “You can’t leave a white woman, and a lady at that, a prisoner in a place like this. And if ever I saw a woman in trouble the is one.”

“Oh, don’t drag me into it,” Endellion said bitterly. “I have finished with the sex. I wouldn’t walk a yard across the deck to help one of them.”

Endellion spoke cynically enough; there was a hard look on that clean cut, smoothly shaven face of his, and yet at the same time a yearning expression in his eyes. The others looked at one another and shrugged their shoulders, knowing well enough that there was no moving the owner of the Gehenna when he was in his present mood. His was no secret to them, the only three men in the world who really knew the truth.

They sat there for a few moments in silence, looking out over the silver track of the moon, whilst Endellion frowned moodily, and, for once in his life, failing to quote something apposite from his favourite author. Then there was a sound of oars alongside the yacht, and a moment later a woman came up the ladder and stood there, in the little ring of electric light, looking timidly at the four figures seated at the table.

“May–may I speak to you?” she faltered timidly. “I–I am in very great trouble.”

Endellion rose to his feet instantly, and brought his heels together. At once the cynic had been merged into the gentleman, so that a moment later the girl with the violet eyes and the white pleading face found herself looking at four wholesome Englishmen. The mere sight of them brought the tears into her eyes.

“Anything we can do for you?” Endellion began.

“You are very good,” the girl murmured. “But I have not the courage to tell all of you at once. May I speak alone with the owner of the yacht?”

Three men turned away simultaneously, leaving the woman-hater face to face with the foe. Endellion could hear Shacklock chuckle as he vanished into the darkness.

“I say, what price Marcus Aurelius now?” Shacklock whispered to his companions. “Guess our St. Anthony is going to catch it under the fifth rib all right. Say, boys, we’re going to get our adventure yet.”

All of which, fortunately, was not audible to the man on the deck. He was looking down into a pleading pair of limpid violet eyes that were turned trustingly upon him, and, sooth to say, that hardened misogynist was not altogether displeased. There was something in this implicit confidence that appealed to him strongly. Because, you see, he was a young man and this girl was good to look upon. Moreover, the prodigal son’s description had not been in the least exaggerated. Here was a lady beyond all question, one to the manner born and speaking the little refined shibboleths of Society. And, moreover, she was in trouble. It was useless for Endellion to fall back upon the little platitudes and epigrams behind which he had tried to shield himself in the face of beauty in distress, and, moreover, beauty with a crystal purity of gaze and openness of expression that would have disarmed cynicism itself.

And, on her side, this intruder with the crimson checks and blooming eyes was looking into the face of perhaps the handsomest man she had ever seen. Nor did she know that he was smiling down upon her with that instinctive protection that every woman appreciates whether she admires it or not.

“Won’t you sit down?” Endellion said.

“I would rather not,” the girl replied. “My name is Audrey Croxton, at least––”

“At least, that’s the name you want me to address you by,” Endellion smiled. “Isn’t that so?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” the girl replied. “That is not my name, but it is my father’s name, if you understand me.”

“Yes, I think I have got that,” Endellion said. “There are reasons why you do not want me to know who you really are. Well, it doesn’t in least matter. Go on.”

“It is good of you to try and make it easy for me,” the girl said gratefully. “You see, my father lived on the island. He has been here for–for so many years.”

Endellion nodded. A remittance man, no doubt, one of those men who, in the conventional phrase, has done something wrong, and who is kept at arms’ length across the world and subsidised by his relations so long as he stays in the outer darkness. In his experience Endellion had met scores of these, but that one of them should be so far gone as to keep a child of his in that outlandish region was something almost beyond comprehension.

“And may I ask how long you have been here?” Endellion said. “It is not curiosity––”

“Oh, I quite understand that. I have been here nearly two years.”

“And you want to get away?”

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.