After the meal was concluded, the captain said to the chief:
"Now, Hassan, we want to know how it was that you arrived at the nick of tim_o save my officers' lives."
"I had been watching for some days," the chief said quietly. "When I hear_hat many chiefs had joined Sehi Pandash, I said 'I must go and help my whit_rothers,' but I dared not take many men away from here, and as I had to hide,
the fewer there were with me the better; so I came down into the forest nea_ehi's town, and found the wood full of men. We had come down in sampans, s_hat I could send off messengers as might be required. One of these I sen_own to you, to warn you to be prepared for an attack. Other messengers I ha_ent before from here; but they must have been caught and killed, for I ha_een watched closely when they found that I would not join against you.
"When my last messenger returned, I was glad; I knew that you would be on you_uard, and would not be caught treacherously. Two of my men were in the tow_hen they began to fire on the ship, and I saw the town destroyed, an_ollowed Sehi to the place where the six prahus were lying, and crossed th_reek, and lay down in the woods near the village on the other side; for _hought that something might happen. One of my men went down in the night, an_rought me news that the ship was gone. As my messenger had told me that yo_ad questioned him as to the other entrance to the creek, I felt sure that yo_ad gone there; so I was not surprised when, just before daybreak, two gun_ere fired. We saw the fight, the sinking of two of their vessels, and th_ttack by the water pirates, and by the men of the rajah and the chiefs wit_im, and I feared greatly that my friends would be overpowered.
"I sent one of my men down to the mouth of the creek, to tell you how much ai_as wanted; but he saw the ship steaming up as he went, and so came back t_e. Then we heard the ship's great guns begin to fire, and soon all was quie_here the fight had been going on. Then I saw the other four boats start. On_f them sank before she was out of sight, and I soon heard that your ship ha_unk another, and that two had got away. It was not for another two days tha_ learned where they were, and then I heard that they had gone into a cree_wenty miles away; there one had sunk, and the other had been joined by th_wo prahus that had been far up the river; and I also learned that one o_ehi's men had gone into the village and let himself be captured, so that h_ight guide the ship's boats to the place where, as they thought, they woul_ind but one prahu, while three would be waiting for them. I was not sur_here the exact place was, for there are many creeks, but, with one of my men,
I rowed in a sampan all night, in hopes to arrive in time to warn the boats;
but it was not till I heard the firing that I knew exactly where they were.
"When I got there the fighting was over, and but one prahu had escaped, and _earned from the men who had swum ashore from those that had been sunk tha_ne of the English boats had been destroyed, and many men killed, but that tw_oats had gone down the creek again. It was also said that the white officer_nd sailors had boarded the boat that had escaped, and had been all killed. _hought it best to follow the prahu, so that I could send word to you wher_he was to be found. As there were many passages, it was difficult to fin_er, and I should have lost her altogether had I not heard where Sehi wa_iding, and guessed that she would go there. It was late when I arrived at th_illage. There one of my men learned that two young officers, who had bee_ounded, had been brought there, and that Sehi was sending word to you that,
unless you gave him the conditions he asked, they would be put to death.
"I did not know whether to send down to you, or to send up the river for help;
but I thought the last was best, for if you came in boats, then Sehi's me_ould hear you, and the officers would be killed; so I sent off my man wit_he sampan. I told him that he must not stop until he got here. He must tel_hem that all my men, except fifty old ones who were to guard the village,
were to start in their canoes, and paddle their hardest till they came withi_alf a mile of the village, and he was to come back with them to guide them,
and I was to meet them. As the prahus that had been up there were destroyed,
the river was safe for them to descend. I said that they must be at the poin_ named last evening. They were two hours late, though they had paddled thei_ardest. As soon as they disembarked I led them to the spot, and the rest wa_asy. I knew that the prisoners who had been taken were my two friends, for _aw them on the deck of the prahu; and glad indeed I was to be able to pay m_ebt to them."
"You have paid it indeed most nobly, Hassan," the captain said, holding ou_is hand, and grasping that of the chief, when, sentence by sentence, th_tory was translated to him. "Little did we think, when you were brought o_oard the Serpent, that your friendship would turn out of such value to us."
There was now some discussion as to the proposed meeting of chiefs; and hal_n hour after, a dozen small canoes started with invitations to the variou_hiefs to meet the captain at Hassan's campong, with assurances that he wa_eady to overlook their share in the attack on the ship, and be on friendl_erms with them, and that the safety of each who attended was guaranteed,
whether he was willing to be on good terms with the English or not. Four day_ater, the meeting took place in the newly erected hall. Ten or twelve of th_hiefs attended; others, who had taken a leading part as Sehi's allies, di_ot venture to come themselves, but sent messages with assurances of thei_esire to be on friendly terms. A good deal of ceremonial was observed. Th_arines and bluejackets were drawn up in line before the hall, which wa_ecorated with green boughs; a Union jack waved from a pole in front of it.
The chiefs were introduced by Hassan to the captain. The former then addresse_hem, rehearsing the service that the English had done to them by destroyin_he power of the tyrant who had long been a scourge to his neighbors, and wh_ntended, without doubt, to become master of the whole district. As a proof o_he good will of the English towards the Malays, he related how the tw_nglish officers had leaped into the water to save his child, and how kindl_e himself had been treated. Then the captain addressed them through th_nterpreter. He told them that he had only been sent up the river by th_overnor in accordance with an invitation from Sehi, of whose conduct he wa_gnorant, to undertake the protectorate of his district; and that, on learnin_is true character, he at once reported to the Governor that the rajah was no_ proper person to receive protection, as not only did he prevent trade an_arass his neighbors, but was the owner of a number of piratical craft, tha_ften descended the river and plundered the coast.
"England," he went on, "has no desire whatever to take under her protectio_ny who do not earnestly desire it, and who are not willing, in return, t_romote trade, and keep peace with their neighbors; nor can she make separat_rrangements with minor chiefs. It was only because she understood that Seh_uled over a considerable extent of territory, and was all powerful in thi_art, that his request was listened to.
"I shall shortly return down the river," he said, "and have no thought o_ntention of interfering in any way with matters here. I wish to leave on goo_erms with you all, and to explain to you that it is to your interest to d_ll in your power to further trade, both by sending down your products to th_oast, and by throwing no hindrance in the way of the products of th_ighlands coming down the river, charging, at the utmost, a very small tol_pon each boat that passes up and down. It is the interest of all of you, o_he people of the hills, and of ourselves, that trade should increase. No_hat Sehi is dead and his people altogether dispersed and all his piratica_raft destroyed, with the exception of the one captured by Hassan, there is n_bstruction to trade, and you are free from the fear that he would one day ea_ou up.
"Be assured that there is nothing to be feared from us. You all know ho_reatly the States protected by us have flourished and how wealthy thei_ajahs have become from the increase of cultivation and the cessation o_ribal wars. If in the future all the chiefs of this district should desire t_lace themselves under English protection, their request will be considered;
but there is not the slightest desire on the part of the Governor to assum_urther responsibility, and he will be well satisfied indeed to know tha_here is peace among the river tribes, security for trade, and a larg_ncrease in the cultivation of the country and in its prosperity."
There was a general expression of satisfaction and relief upon the face of th_hiefs, as, sentence by sentence, the speech was translated to them; and, on_y one, they rose after its conclusion, and expressed their hearty concurrenc_ith what had been said.
"We know," one of them said, "that these wars do much harm; but if we quarrel,
or if one ill treats another, or encourages his slaves to leave him, o_avages his plantations, what are we to do?"
"That I have thought of," the captain said. "I have spoken with the chie_assan, and he has agreed to remove with his people to the spot where Sehi'_own stood. There, doubtless, he will be joined by Sehi's former subjects, wh_annot but be well pleased at being rid of a tyrant who had forcibly take_hem under his rule. He will retain the prahu that he has taken, and will us_t to keep the two rivers free of robbers, but in no other respect will h_nterfere with his neighbors. His desire is to cultivate the land, clear awa_he forest, and encourage his people to raise products that he can send dow_he river to trade with us. He will occupy the territory only as far as th_reek that runs between the two rivers. I propose that all of you shall com_o an agreement to submit any disputes that may arise between you to hi_ecision, swearing to accept his judgment, whichever way it may go. This i_he way in which the disputes are settled in our country. Both sides go befor_ judge, and he hears their statements and those of their witnesses, and the_ecides the case; and even the government of the country is bound by hi_ecision. I don't wish you to give me any reply as to this. I make th_uggestion solely for your own good, and it is for you to talk it over amon_ourselves, and see if you cannot all come to an agreement that will put _top to the senseless wars, and enable your people to cultivate the land i_eace, and to obtain all the comforts that arise from trade."
A boat had been sent down to the ship, and this returned with a number of th_rticles that had been put on board her as presents for Sehi and other chiefs.
These were now distributed. A feast was then held, and the next morning th_hiefs started for their homes, highly gratified with the result of th_eeting. On the following day, the British boats also took their way down th_iver, followed by the prahu, with a considerable number of Hassan's men, wh_ere to clear away the ruins of Sehi's campong, to bury the dead still lyin_mong them, and to erect huts for the whole community. The Serpent remaine_or a week opposite the town; a considerable quantity of flour, sugar, an_ther useful stores being landed for the use of Hassan's people. Dr. Horsle_as gladdened by Hassan's promise that his people should be instructed t_earch for specimens of birds, butterflies, and other insects, and that thes_hould be treated according to his instructions, and should be from time t_ime, as occasion offered, sent down to him in large cases to Singapore. T_he two midshipmen the chief gave krises of the finest temper.
"I have no presents to give you worthy of your acceptance," he said; "but yo_now that I shall never forget you, and always regard you as brothers. _ntend to send twelve of my young men down to Penang, there to live for thre_ears and learn useful trades from your people. The doctor has advised me als_o send Bahi, and has promised to find a comfortable home for her, where sh_ill learn to read and write your language and many other useful things. It i_ard to part with her; but it is for her good and that of her people. If yo_ill write to me sometimes, she will read the letters to me and write letter_o you in return, so that, though we are away from each other, we may kno_hat neither of us has forgotten the other."
Bahi and twelve young Malays were taken to Penang in the Serpent, where th_octor found a comfortable home for her with some friends of his, to who_ayment for her board and schooling was to be paid by Hassan in blocks of tin,
which he would obtain from boats coming down from the hills in exchange fo_ther articles of trade. The Malays were placed with men of their own rac_elonging to the protected States, and settled as carpenters, smiths, an_ther tradesmen in Penang. Three years later, they and Bahi were all take_ack in the Serpent to their home.
The river was acquiring considerable importance from the great increase o_rade. They found Hassan's town far more extensive and flourishing than it ha_een in the time of its predecessor. The forest had been cleared for _onsiderable distance round it, the former inhabitants had returned, tobacco,
sugar canes, cotton, pepper, and other crops whose products were useful fo_rade purposes, were largely cultivated, while orchards of fruit trees ha_een extensively planted. Hassan reported that tribal wars had almost ceased,
and that disputes were in almost all cases brought for his arbitration. Owin_o the abolition of all oppressive tolls, trade from the interior had ver_argely increased, a great deal of tin, together with spices and othe_roducts, now finding its way down by the river. Hassan was delighted with th_rogress Bahi had made, and ordered that three or four boys should at once b_laced for instruction under each of the men who had learned trades at Penang.
There was much regret on both sides when the Serpent again started down th_iver; for it was known that she would not return, as in a few months sh_ould be sent to a Chinese station, and from there would go direct to England.
The composition of her crew was already somewhat changed. Lieutenant Ferguso_ad received his promotion for the fight with the prahus, and had bee_ppointed to the command of a gunboat whose captain had been invalided home.
Lieutenant Hopkins was now the Serpent's first lieutenant, and Morrison wa_econd. Harry Parkhurst was third lieutenant, Dick Balderson, to the regret o_oth, having left the ship on his promotion, and having been transferred a_hird lieutenant to Captain Ferguson's craft. Both have since kept up _orrespondence with Bahi, who has married a neighboring chief, and who tell_hem that the river is prospering greatly, and that, although he assumes n_uthority, her father is everywhere regarded as the paramount chief of th_istrict. From time to time each receives chests filled with spices, silks,
and other Malay products, and sends back in return European articles o_tility to the rajah, for such is the rank that Hassan has now acquired on th_iver.