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.