The Kidnapped President - Guy Boothby - ebook

The Kidnapped President ebook

Guy Boothby

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Many changes, hesitations, lives at stake... It is not easy to put this story aside. It is unpredictable and full of action. When the presidents are fighting for a share of power, our hero can do everything to keep his honor and not get caught in the crossfire.

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Liczba stron: 338

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Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 1

I suppose to every man, at some period in his life, there comes some adventure upon which, in after life, he is destined to look back with a feeling that is very near akin to astonishment. Somebody has said that adventures are to the adventurous. In my case I must confess that I do not see how the remark applies. I was certainly fourteen years at sea, but in all that time, beyond having once fallen overboard in Table Bay, and, of course, the great business of which it is the purpose of this book to tell you, I cannot remember any circumstance that I could dignify with the title of an adventure. The sailor’s calling in these times of giant steamships is so vastly different from what it was in the old days of sailing ships and long voyages that, with the most ordinary luck, a man might work his way up the ratlines from apprentice to skipper with little less danger than would be met with in a London merchant’s office. Though I was not aware of it, however, I was destined to have an adventure, stirring enough to satisfy the most daring, before my seafaring life came to an end.

How well I remember the day on which I was appointed fourth officer of the ocean liner Pernambuco, running from London to South America. I should here remark that I held a second officer’s certificate, but I was, nevertheless, glad enough to take what I could get, in the hope of being able to work my way up to something better. It was not a bad rise, when all was said and done, to leave a ramshackle old tub of a tramp for the comparatively luxurious life of a mail boat; much jollier merely to run out to the Argentine and back, instead of dodging at a snail’s pace from port to port all round the world. Then again there was the question of society. It was pleasanter in every respect to have pretty girls to flirt with on deck, and to sit beside one at meals, than to have no one to talk to save a captain who was in an intoxicated state five days out of seven, a grumpy old chief mate, and a Scotch engineer, who could recite anything Burns ever wrote, backwards or forwards, as you might choose to ask him for it. When I had been six months on board the Pernambuco, I was made third officer; at the end of the year I signed my name on the pay-sheet as second. Eventually I got my Master’s Certificate, and became chief officer. Now everybody knows, or ought to know, that the duties of chief officer on board a big liner, and, for the matter of that, on any other boat, are as onerous as they are varied. In the first place, he is the chief executive officer of the ship, and is held responsible, not only for its appearance, but also for the proper working of the crew. It is a position that requires consummate tact. He must know when to see things and when not to see them, must be able to please the passengers, and yet protect the interests of his owners, must, and this is not the least important fact, be able to keep his men constantly employed, yet not earn for himself the reputation of being too hard a task-master. Finally, he has to see that all the credit for what he does is not appropriated by himself, but goes to increase the kudos of his commanding officer. If the latter is a gentleman, and can appreciate his officers’ endeavours at their real value, matters will in all probability go smoothly; on the other hand, however, if the captain is a bully, then the chief officer is likely to wish himself elsewhere, or at least that he was the holder of some other rank. This was my case on my last and most memorable voyage in the service of a particular Company that every one knows, but which, for various reasons, shall be nameless.

I had never met Captain Harveston until he joined us in dock on the day previous to sailing, but I had heard some scarcely complimentary remarks about him from men who had sailed with him. I must confess, therefore, that I was prepared to dislike him. In appearance he was as unlike a sailor as a man could well be, was a great dandy in his dress, and evidently looked upon himself as an undoubted lady-killer. So far as I was concerned, he had hardly set foot on the vessel before he commenced finding fault. A ship in dock, before the passengers come aboard, and while the thousand and one preparations are being made for a voyage, is seldom an example of tidiness. Surely a skipper, who had been at sea for thirty years, must have realized this; for some reason, however, best known to himself, it pleased Captain Harveston to inaugurate our acquaintance by telling me that he liked a “spic and span ship,” and that he judged his officers by what he saw of their work.

“You shall have nothing to complain of as soon as I get the workmen out, sir,” I replied, a bit nettled at being called over the coals upon such a trumpery matter.

“I trust I shall not,” he answered superciliously, and then strutted down the bridge to his own cabin, which was just abaft the chart-room.

As it turned out, the Isle of Wight was scarcely astern before the trouble began. Young Herberts, our second officer, was the first to get a wigging, and Harrison, the fourth, quickly followed suit. I felt sure my time would not be long in coming, and I was not wrong. On the second day out, and during my watch below, I was talking to the purser in his cabin, when the fourth officer appeared to inform me that the captain wished to see me on the promenade deck. Thither I made my way, to find him seated there with a number of lady passengers round him.

“Surely he is not going to be nasty before these ladies,” I said to myself as I approached him.

I discovered, however, that this was exactly what he was going to do.

“Mr. Helmsworth,” he began, “I am told that you have refused the passengers the use of the bull-board.”

“Indeed, sir, I have not,” I replied. “I informed one of the gentlemen who spoke to me about it that I would have it brought up directly we were clear of the Channel. As a rule we never produce it until we’re out of the Bay. I had Captain Pomeroy’s instructions to that effect.”

“I am captain of this vessel now,” he returned. “Please see that the board is brought on deck at once. I must ask you for the future to do all that lies in your power to promote the pleasure of the passengers. It is a duty I have a right to expect of my officers.”

“Very good, sir,” I answered and walked away.

From that day forward I saw that my service under Captain Harveston was likely to be a short one, and, indeed, by the time we reached Buenos Ayres, I felt as if I could throw up my appointment altogether. He was never satisfied, never pleased, and did nothing but grumble and find fault from morning until night.

After the usual fortnight’s stay at the capital of the Argentine, we commenced our homeward voyage. Our first port of call was Rio, where Harveston and the third officer came to loggerheads. By this time the whole ship’s company had taken his measure, and I fancy he must have known it. Being of a petty disposition, he attributed this to me, and accordingly laid himself out to make my life aboard as disagreeable as it was possible for him to do. How bitterly I regretted the loss of my old skipper, who had been kindness and consideration itself, I must leave you to imagine.

And now I must turn from a narration of my own misfortunes during that miserable voyage to give you a description of a man, whose personality is destined to play such an important part in my narrative. He joined us at Rio, and was one of the last passengers to come aboard. He was a Spaniard, and, as could be seen at a glance, a well-bred one at that. He called himself Don Guzman de Silvestre. He was very tall; I should say some inches over six feet, with the darkest of dark eyes and hair, aquiline features, and a small pointed beard, that he had a habit of stroking when thinking. Taken altogether, a more romantic personality could scarcely be imagined, and as he came up the gangway, I told myself that he was the best figure of a man I had seen for some considerable time. When he asked me at what hour we should sail, I noticed that he spoke English perfectly, and in a musical voice that was very pleasant to listen to. Before we had been many days at sea, he and I had had several talks upon all sorts of subjects, considerably to Captain Harveston’s annoyance, for the latter did not approve of his officers being on anything like friendly terms with the passengers. Having no desire to quarrel with my chief, I endeavoured, as far as possible, to keep out of his way, but for some reason this only had the effect of incensing him more against me.

We were a full ship on the homeward voyage, and, as we generally did a lot of painting between Barbadoes and Madeira, I found my time pretty well taken up. It was in connection with this painting that the climax came. We had left the West Indies behind us, and at the time were steering a straight course for Madeira. The men, when the incident I am about to describe happened, were at work on the port rails of the promenade deck. One of them, who had been outside the rail, climbed over, pot in hand, to obey an order I had given him. At the moment that he did so, the long Atlantic swell caused the vessel to give a big roll, and before he could save himself, he was flying across the deck towards a chair in which a lady was seated. They came into violent collision, with the result that the pot of white paint was deposited in her lap. I hastened to her assistance, and did all that was possible at the moment to remedy the mishap. Fortunately for the man, who was overcome by the magnitude of the catastrophe, she took the accident in excellent part.

“You must not blame the man,” she said to me. “It was not his fault. I shall have to sue the ocean for damages.”

Then with a laugh she went below to change her attire.

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