Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 10

  • The next two days passed quietly. The lads were both a great deal better, an_greed that if—which would almost certainly not be the case—a means of escap_hould present itself, they would seize the chance, however hopeless it migh_e, for that at worst they could but be cut down in attempting it. No chance, however, presented itself. Two Malays always squatted near them, and thei_yes followed every movement.
  • "Some time tomorrow the messenger will return," Harry said. "It is clear to m_hat our only chance is to escape before morning. Those fellows will b_atchful till the night is nearly over. Now, I propose that, just before th_irst gleam of daylight, we throw ourselves upon them suddenly, seize thei_rises, and cut them down, then leap on shore, and dash into the jungle. Th_ight will be as dark as pitch, what with there being no moon and with th_ist from the swamps. At any rate, we might get out of sight before the Malay_new what had happened. We could either go straight into the jungle and craw_nto the thick bushes, and lie there until morning, and then make our start, or, what would, I think, be even better, take to the water, wade along unde_he bank till we reach one of those sampans fifty yards away, get in, an_anage to paddle it noiselessly across to the opposite side, lift the craf_ut of the water, and hide it among the bushes, and then be off."
  • "The worst of it is the alligators, Harry."
  • "Yes, but we must risk that. We shall have the krises, and if they seiz_ither of us, the other must go down and try and jab his kris into the beast'_yes. I know it is a frightfully dangerous business, and the chances are on_undred to one against our succeeding; but there is just a chance, and ther_s no chance at all if we leave it until tomorrow. Of course, if we succeed i_etting over to the other side, we must wait close to the water unti_aylight. We should tear ourselves to pieces if we tried to make through th_ungle in the dark."
  • "I tell you what would give us a better chance—we might take off two or thre_ards of that bandage of yours, cut the strip in half, and twist it into _ope; then when those fellows doze off a little, we might throw the thing_ound their necks, and it would be all up with them."
  • "But you see I have only one arm, Harry."
  • "Bother it! I never thought of that. Well, I might do the securing, one fello_irst, and then the other. You could get close to him, and if he moves, catc_p his kris and cut him down."
  • "Yes, I could do that. Well, anyhow, Harry, we can but try; anything is bette_han waiting here hour after hour for the messenger to come back with wha_ill be our death warrant."
  • They agreed to keep awake by turns, and accordingly lay down as soon as i_ecame dark, the Malays, as usual, squatting at a distance of a couple o_aces each side of them. It was about two o'clock in the morning when Dick, who was awake, saw, as he supposed, one of the crew standing up a few yard_way; he was not sure, for just at that moment the figure disappeared.
  • "What on earth could that fellow want to stand up for and lie down again? fo_ can swear he was not there half a minute ago. There is another farther on."
  • He pinched himself to make sure that he was awake. Figure after figure seeme_o flit along the deck and disappear. One of the guard rose and stretched hi_rms; put a fresh bit of some herb that he was chewing into his mouth; move_lose to the prisoners to see if they were asleep; and then resumed his forme_osition. During the time that he was on his feet, Dick noticed that th_henomenon which had so puzzled him ceased. A quarter of an hour later i_egan again. He touched Harry, keeping his hand on his lips as a warning to b_ilent. Suddenly a wild yell broke on the still air, and in an instant th_eck was alive with men; and as the two Malay watchers rose to their feet, both were cut down.
  • There were sounds of heavy blows, screams and yells, a short and confuse_truggle, and the fall of heavy bodies, while from the little village ther_ere also sounds of conflict. The midshipmen had started to their feet, hal_ewildered at the sudden and desperate struggle, when a hand was laid on eac_f their shoulders, and a voice said, "English friends, Hassan has come."
  • The revulsion of feeling was so great that, for a minute, neither could speak; then Dick said, "Chief, we thank you with all our hearts. Tomorrow we shoul_ave been killed."
  • The chief shook hands with them both warmly, having seen that mode o_alutation on board ship.
  • "Hassan glad," he said. "Hassan watch all time; no let Sehi kill friends.
  • Friends save Hassan's child; he save them."
  • Torches were now lighted. The deck was thickly encumbered with dead; for ever_ne of the crew of the prahu had been killed.
  • "Sehi killed too," the chief said, "come and see." He swung himself on shore; the boys followed his example, two of the Malays helping Dick down. They wen_o the village, where a number of Malays were moving about; torches had bee_rought from the ship, and a score of these soon lit up the scene. Two of th_ajah's men had been killed outside their huts, but the majority had falle_nside. The chief asked a question of one of his followers, who pointed to _ut.
  • This they entered, and by the light of the torches saw the rajah lying dea_pon the ground. Hassan said something to one of his men, who, with a singl_low, chopped off the rajah's head.
  • "Send to chiefs," Hassan said. "If not see, not think dead. Much afraid o_im. When know he dead, not fight any more; make peace quick."
  • One of the men asked a question, and the lads' limited knowledge of th_anguage was sufficient to tell them that he was asking whether they shoul_ire the village. Hassan shook his head. "Many men," he said, waving his ar_o the forest, "see fire; come fight. Plenty of fight been; no need for more."
  • For a time he stood with them in front of the pool. A series of splashes i_he water told what was going on. The prahu was being cleared of its load o_ead bodies; then several men filled buckets with water, and handed them up t_he deck. The boys knew that an attempt was being made to wash away the blood.
  • The process was repeated a dozen times. While this was going on, the pool wa_gitated in every direction. The lads shuddered as they looked, and remembere_hat they had proposed to wade along the edge. The place swarmed wit_lligators, who scrambled and fought for the bodies thrown over, until th_umber was so great that all were satisfied, and the pool became comparativel_uiet, although fresh monsters, guided by the smell of blood, kept arriving o_he scene.
  • At last the chief said, "Come," and together they returned to the prahu. Th_orning was now breaking, and but few signs remained of the terrible conflic_f the night. At the chief's order, a large basket of wine, that had bee_ound in the rajah's hut, was brought on board, together with another, full o_ananas and other fruit.
  • "Well," Harry said, laughing, "we little thought, when we saw the champagn_anded over to the rajah, that we were going to have the serving of it."
  • Hassan joined them at the meal. He had been given wine regularly by th_octor, and although he had evinced no partiality for it, but had taken i_imply at the doctor's orders, he now drank a little to keep the other_ompany. In a short time the whole of the chief's followers were gathered o_eck, and the boys saw that they were no more numerous than the prahu's crew, and that it was only the advantage of surprise that had enabled them t_vercome so easily both those on board the prahu and the rajah's followers i_he village. The oars were got out, and the prahu proceeded up the creek, i_he opposite direction to which it had entered it. "Going to ship?" Harr_sked, pointing forward.
  • Hassan shook his head. "Going home," he said. "Sent messenger sampan tel_aptain both safe. Sehi killed, prahu taken. Must go home. Others angr_ecause Hassan not join. May come and fight Hassan. Ask captain bring ship u_iver; messenger show channel, tell how far can go, then come in boats, hol_reat meeting, make peace."
  • The lads were well satisfied. They had a longing to see Hassan's home, and, perhaps, to do some shooting; and they thought that a few days' holiday befor_ejoining would be by no means unpleasant. They wished, however, that they ha_nown that the sampan was leaving, so that they could have written a line t_he captain, saying what had taken place, and that they could not rejoin.
  • There was at first some splashing of the oars, for many of Hassan's men ha_ad no prior experience except with sampans and large canoes. However, it wa_ot long before they fell into the swing, and the boat proceeded at a rapi_ace. Several times, as they went, natives appeared on the bank i_onsiderable numbers, and receiving no answer to their hails, sent showers o_ances. Harry, however, with the aid of two or three Malays, soon loaded th_uns of the prahu.
  • "No kill," Hassan said. "We want make friends. No good kill."
  • Accordingly the guns were fired far over the heads of the assailants, who a_nce took to the bushes. After three hours' rowing they entered the river, an_ontinued their course up it until long into the night, for the rowers were a_nxious as was Hassan himself to reach their village. They were numerou_nough to furnish relays at the oars, and the stroke never flagged until, a_our before midnight, fires were seen burning ahead, as they turned a bend o_he river. The Malays raised a yell of triumph, which was answered from th_illage, and in a few minutes the prahu was brought up to the bank. A crowd, composed mostly of women and children, received them with shouts of welcom_nd gladness. Hassan at once led the midshipmen to a large hut that ha_vidently been prepared in readiness for them. Piles of skins lay in two o_he corners, and the lads, who were utterly worn out, threw themselves down, and were almost instantly asleep.
  • The sun was high when the mat at the entrance was drawn aside, and Hassa_ntered, followed by four of his followers. One carried a great water jar an_wo calabashes, with some cotton cloths and towels; the other brought fruit o_everal varieties, eggs, and sweetmeats, together with a large gourd full o_teaming coffee.
  • "Hassan come again," the chief said, and left the hut with his followers. Th_ads poured calabashes of water over each other, and felt wonderfull_efreshed by their wash, which was accomplished without damage to the floor, which was of bamboos raised two feet above the ground. When they were dresse_hey fell to at their breakfast, and then went out of doors. Hassan ha_vidently been watching for them, for he came out of his house, which was nex_o that which they occupied, holding his little girl's hand. She at once ra_p to them, saluting them by their names.
  • "Bahi very glad to see you," she said, "very glad to see good, kind officers."
  • The child had picked up, during her month on board the ship, a great deal o_nglish, from her constant communication with the officers and crew.
  • "Bad men wound Dick," she went on pitifully. "Wicked men to hurt him."
  • "Bahi, will you tell your father how much we are obliged to him for havin_ome to our rescue. We should have been killed if he had not come."
  • The child translated the sentence. The chief smiled.
  • "Tell them," he said, "that Hassan is glad to have been able to pay back _ittle of the obligation he was under to them. Besides, Sehi Pandash was m_nemy. Good thing to help friends and kill enemy at the same time. Tell the_hat Hassan does not want thanks; they did not like him to thank them fo_aving you."
  • The child translated this with some difficulty. Then he led the midshipme_ound the village, and showed them the strong palisade which had evidentl_ust been erected, and explained, through the child, that it had only bee_uilt before he left, as but fifteen men were available for guarding the plac_n his absence.
  • The next four days were spent in shooting expeditions, and although they me_ith no wild beasts, they secured a large number of bird skins for the doctor.
  • On the fifth day a native ran in and said that boats with white men wer_oming. The midshipmen ran down to the bank, and saw the ship's two cutter_nd a gig approaching. The captain himself was in the stern of the latter, an_he doctor was sitting beside him. A minute or two later they were shakin_ands with the officers, and saying a few words to the men, who were evidentl_elighted to see them again. Just as the greetings were over, Hassan, in _ich silk sarong and jacket, came down towards them. He was leading his littl_aughter, and six Malays followed them.
  • "Welcome, Captain," he said gravely. "Hassan very glad to see you. All com_ight now."
  • "Thank you, chief. We have learned from your messenger how gallantly you hav_escued my two officers, and put an end to our troubles by killing the Raja_ehi, and capturing the last of the piratical craft."
  • This was too much for Hassan, and had to be translated by Soh Hay. Since th_hief's return, a number of his men had been occupied in constructing bambo_uts for the use of the captain, officers, and men, also a large hall to b_sed for councils and meetings; and to this he now led the captain and hi_fficers. When they were seated, he made a speech of welcome, saying wha_ladness it was to him to see there those who had been so kind to him. Had h_nown when they would arrive, food would have been ready for them; and h_ssured them that, however long they might stay, they would be most heartil_elcome, and that there should be no lack of provisions. They had done a_mmense service to him, and to all the other chiefs on the river, by breakin_p the power of one who preyed upon all his neighbors, and was a scourge t_rade. As there were still several bottles of the rajah's wine left, champagn_as now handed round.
  • "It makes my heart glad to see you, Doctor," the chief said. "See, I am a_trong and as well as ever. Had it not been for you, my arm might now hav_een useless, and my ribs have grown through the flesh."
  • "I don't think it would have been as bad as that," the doctor replied: "bu_here is no doubt that it was fortunate that you were able to receive surgica_reatment so soon after the accident. And it has been fortunate for us, too, especially for our young friends here."
  • Conversation became general now, and the interpreter was kept hard at work, and Bahi divided her attention between the officers and the men, flitting i_nd out of the hall, and chattering away to the sailors and marines who wer_reakfasting outside on the stores they had brought up, supplemented by _ountiful supply of fruit, which grew in abundance round the village. It wa_ot long before a meal was served to the officers, fowl having been hastil_illed as soon as the boats were seen approaching; several jungle fowl ha_een brought in that morning; plaintains and rice were boiled, and cake_aked. Tea was forthcoming from the boats' stores, and a hearty meal wa_aten.