Authors: Philip Wylie
Tags: #Science Fiction, #General, #Fiction
What the story is about--
The Savage Gentleman was a full six feet two inches tall, and weighed a hundred and ninety pounds. His hair was bronze, his eyes turquoise, his skin mahogany. He was a magnificent man. When he laughed his voice poured from deep and resonant lungs. This young man 'came to New York never having seen a woman: he came to New York finding himself the owner of a great string of American papers, although he had never read a newspaper through. This was the young man who was told by his father: "Never, never, never believe a woman. Women are ruin. Love is a myth. Marry when you are over forty-five and marry someone you don't love." This is the story of what happened to a man who had been trained on an island remote from civilization to be a perfect physical specimen and a perfect gentleman, when he encountered the mad world of today and the modern girl-and did he pack a wallop!
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A NOVEL OF ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE
THE SAVAGE GENTLEMAN
By PHILIP WYLIE
Author of "Night unto Night,"
"Footprint of Cinderella,"
"Corpses at Indian Stones," etc.
THE SAVAGE GENTLEMAN
Copyright, MCMXXXII, by Philip Wylie.
Reprinted by arrangement with Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., New York, N. Y.
List of Exciting Chapters--
I. The Shipwreck
II. The Isolation
III. The Stockade
IV. The Explorers
V. The Questions
VI. The Menace
VII. The Yearning
VIII. The Hopelessness
IX. The Miracle
X. The Savage
XI. The Gentleman
XII. The Woman
XIII. The Challenge
XIV. The Recall
XV. The Gunmen
XVI. The Holocaust
WITHIN the triangle that is formed by Ceylon, Tasmania and Madagascar, on a pitch-black night, shortly before the turn of the last century, a steam yacht beat its way against massive seas.
It was a storm-worn vessel. The sails reefed close to its spars were dark and patched. Its brasswork was not bright. Hot sun had blistered its paint, and salt water had stripped it away. Yet these ravages could not conceal the ship's jaunty lines or eradicate the impression of an original luxury--a luxury now being ignored for stern use.
It carried no lights, except the dim radiation on the hurricane bridge. The sharp bow lifted and plunged. The single screw beat the black water to foam, turned in the air, and bit again in fresh swirls of phosphorus-flecked froth.
The light on the bridge sharply illuminated a compass and was reflected upon the countenance of a man at the wheel.
He was a tall, hawk-like man. His face was seamed and tan, and the dim illumination glinted on eyes that were like jewels in dark pockets. He wore a heavy ulster and his chin jutted over its collar. He swung with the working of the ship but his stiffly planted feet did not budge. His hands were tight on the wheel. They were white and long-fingered; the man had a seeming of former luxury like that of the yacht.
Eight bells rang on a small ship's clock.
The man leaned forward and peered through the deck housing.
He saw nothing.
Then, abruptly, he began to see. He was looking at the mauled deck before he realized the fact. His horizon expanded with rapidity.
The tumultuous scene became visible around him--long ranges of ominous mountains, white-capped and ponderously advancing, and a low-hanging sky that scudded darkly across the other half of his world.
The man's face was statuesque in the fantastic dawn. His lips were taut. His hair was a dark and rugged forest. In his rigidity, he \vas the image of relentless and unshakable purpose.
He seemed not a man in thought, but one whose thoughts had become stonily transfixed, a man with a grim deed to do, a soldier shot through the heart and still moving forward.
Below decks, in a dim stateroom, a baby cried to the unanswering storm and struggled aimlessly with the rungs which kept it from being thrown to the floor.
A man in an oily cap dozed on a braced kitchen chair that had been placed beside a pounding engine.
A giant Negro opened his eyes and rose, fully dressed. He tottered to the galley and began the difficult operation of preparing coffee.
There was no one else aboard the hell-bound vessel. Green water washed itself from the name on its stern.
It was the
Its port was New York.
The man at the wheel moved his lips. He scrutinized the compass. His gaze was no longer introverted; with every rise of the bridge it scanned the horizon.
The Negro appeared, coffee in a metal bottle; he pulled the door shut against the wind.
"Morning, Mr. Stone."
The man nodded.
The pilot took the bottle, held it for the Negro to uncork, and drank slowly.
"Mighty bad weather, sir."
That was all. The door opened again. Wind fanned through the enclosed bridge.
The Negro fought his way back toward the galley. He went from there by a companionway to look at the baby. He stood over it for a while, shaking his head.
At eleven o'clock the wind died. A patch of blue appeared in the clouds and their color changed from purple-black to gray and white. At noon the sun shone.
Stone rang to the engine room and the man who bad been there joined him.
"Take the wheel, Mr. McCobb."
The Scotchman complied. He bit his down-turned pipe and glanced occasionally at his employer. Stone shot the sun and scrawled on a board.
"Four points east," he said.
At two he came up from a visit to the infant and took the wheel.
"You can go, Mr. McCobb."
An expanding of the lips that was not a smile came on Stone's face when he saw the island. It was, at first, little different from the waves on the remote water--the summit of a blue and vegetated hill. A lost, mist-hung oasis in the desert of the ocean.
The baby slept.
The Negro made sandwiches.
The Scot sat dully beside his engine.
From the sea the island emerged. It presented a narrow promontory, but the rise of hills inland indicated that it was of considerable extent. Immense evergreens grew upon it, interspersed with palms. Its coastline, which the
presently skirted, was rocky and precipitous. The water around it was blue, brilliant blue beneath a sun now hot and white.
Stone steered in shirt sleeves. His eves followed the coast. He signaled for half speed.
In the engine room the Scotchman jumped at the jangle of the bells. Half speed.
meant--what? A caprice of the ship's master? Danger?
He did not think of land. In that latitude, no one thought of land.
Stone swung toward an indentation. When he seemed on the verge of colliding with the rocky shore, he swung again.
The outbent greenery almost touched the decks of the yacht. In a moment a broad and long harbor opened before the entering vessel. It was a wild, natural, unpopulated expanse of water. A green bird came as an escort from the forest and sat upon the bulwarks.
The bell jangled for full speed. The
gathered momentum and its course was toward a golden beach.
There was no expression in Stone's irrevocable eyes. When he was five boat lengths from shore he summoned the engineer to the speaking tube. "On deck, McCobb.
We're going aground. You've only a few seconds." The interval of plate-glass water between ship and shore diminished.
hit, part of her bottom went out. Deep furrows of sand turned up on both sides of the bow.
Stone was pressed against the wheel. The splintering crash shook boughs in the jungle and echoed from crystalline escarpments on the hills. The baby was thrust against the head of its padded crib and it woke, crying. Steam began to issue' from broken pipes with a velvety roar and water rushed into the boiler room.
McCobb had gained the deck in time to discover the yacht in full motion across an unexpected harbor. He saw the oncoming shore and braced himself.
After the shock, he lit his pipe and stared methodically at all parts of the unsalvageable wreck which had been the
Then he walked to the bridge.
Stone was gazing at the island, with his arms spread in exultation. The mold of his long mood had been scorched away. He was like a Crusader who stood at last before the walls of Jerusalem.
McCobb regarded him attentively, breathlessly. He knew that the beaching of the
represented the attainment of a goal for the ship's master.
But what goal?
Stone's lips moved. "We're here !"
The Scot found himself repeating dully, "Here?"
Then he gripped himself. Everything was trance-like. The spell had been broken and yet its effect lingered. He cleared his throat and tapped his pipe on the ledge of a window.
"We're here, Mr. Stone, wherever here is. And we're here to stay. Stranded. I'm not a curious man by nature-but I think that since I'm mixed up in this--I should have an explanation. I trust you'll pardon plain speaking ?"
McCobb calculated that his words would jolt Stone into his senses--unless they had been lost irretrievably. But the
owner merely took his arm and led him to the open bridge.
The sun poured on them and the island lay like jade on all sides of the wreck.
"It's beautiful," Stone whispered. "Beautiful, beautiful."
McCobb squinted his steel eyes. "It's pretty. And I can believe it's dangerous.
These islands sometimes are."
Stone turned. His transfiguration departed somewhat.
"Sorry, McCobb. My soul is overwrought. I'll explain--as much as I can explain."
At that moment they heard Jack's voice and, turning toward the stern, they saw him. He was clinging to the rail, his great arms knotty with muscular effort.
"I see you," he wailed. "You're not there, but I see you. I done crossed over Jordan. I done looked at the promised land."
"Jack!" Stone called.
The Negro presented a melancholy face. "I hear you, too, boss. We'se dead."
"Nonsense. We've run aground on an island. Talk to him, McCobb. I'm going to have a look at the baby."
The engineer went down to the deck. He stood beside Jack, and Jack seemed as tall again as he.
"It's all right Jack. We just hit shore here."
The Negro shook his head. "I don' know. I don' know. Mr. Stone must of been mighty restful to run into so much of something after going so long on so little of nothing." The ellipsis of the observation pleased Jack; he laughed involuntarily.
A smile came and went on McCobb's face. "At any rate, we're safe.
"You better get lunch ready--or breakfast."
McCobb went below.
Water had filled the coal bunkers, water had flooded the boiler room-water that would rise and fall with the tides, bringing corrosion and sand and sea urchins. The
would never again move.
The forward hatches were dry--or fairly so. The pens which contained the five goats that furnished milk for the baby, and the chickens which occasionally laid eggs for the crew of three, were intact The goats. blaa-ed and the chickens cackled. McCobb wondered if they could smell the land.
He did not understand the deliberate smashing of the ship, but he had a feeling that he should understand it, that the clues to comprehension were in his possession. It was certainly more than a gesture, assuredly a plan. It explained why Stone had sailed from Aden with but two men aboard.
McCobb finished his survey. The sound of steam was dying. The danger of fire had passed. He returned to the bridge and opened a large book of charts. His eye transferred the position Stone had marked on a small map to the general map of the Indian Ocean.
He located the island, roughly. Then he looked for trade routes. There was a route from Albany to Aden. One from Ceylon to Cape Town. One from Cape Town to Batavia.
None came within two days' steaming of this remote speck of land. He had expected that.
McCobb had followed marine engines through the seven seas for twenty years, and he would have heard of this isle if any man had heard of it, if any ship had been in the place, if there were a reason to take a ship there or a hope that a ship might go that \-vay.