Java is one of the oldest possessions of the Dutch in the East. It was captured from them by the English during the late war, and held by us from 1812 to 1816, during which time it was placed under the government of the justly celebrated Sir Stamford Raffles, a truly philanthropic and enlightened man. Java, from what I saw and heard of it, is one of the most fertile islands in the world; and Sir Stamford, with every argument he could employ, urged the British Government, both for the sake of the natives, and for Great Britain herself, not again to abandon it to the Dutch. His advice was not attended to; and a country which would have proved of equal value to any of our possessions, was totally excluded from commercial intercourse with us. It runs east and west, being in length about seven hundred miles, and varying in width from thirty to a hundred miles.
Batavia is the capital of the west end, and the largest town in the island; while Sourabaya is next in size, and may be looked upon as the capital of the east. A glance at the map will show its shape and position better than can any description of mine. A small part of Java still belongs to some of the native princes; the rest is governed under a very despotic system by the Dutch. The natives are said to look back with affection to the English rule under Sir Stamford Raffles, and often express a wish that the country again belonged to Great Britain. In the centre of the south side of the island is a tract of country nominally ruled by two native princes, with the high-sounding titles of Emperor or Sunan of Surakerta, and the Sultan of Yugyakerta. Madura is also divided between the Sultan of Bankalang and the Panambehan of Sumanap. But these princes, potent as from their titles they may be supposed to be, are completely under the influence of Dutch viceroys, or residents as they are called; and I doubt if even they can have the satisfaction of cutting off the heads of any of their subjects without leave. The remainder of the island is divided into about twenty districts, each of which is called a Residency, from being governed by an officer called a Resident. His residency is again divided into districts, over each of which is placed a native chief, called a Regent, and a European officer, called an Assistant-Resident, who has under him other Europeans, called Controllers. Each Resident has under him officers, called Widono or Demang, whose deputies are called Bukkel; while every village, or Kampong as it is called, has its little chief, styled Kapella Kampong, or head of the village.
In this way, like an army, the whole population is arranged under a series of officers, the inferiors being answerable to those above them for the conduct of those whom they govern. The people live in communities, every man being obliged to belong to and reside in one particular kampong, which is fenced in, is governed by its kapella or head man, has its constable or police officer, and is guarded at night by one or two sentinels, armed with spears, stationed at the gate. All the land is the property of the government; no native, whatever his rank, being allowed to have land of his own.
The Dutch have not, as far as I could learn, attempted to convert the Javanese to Christianity, nor do they take any interest in educating them in any way. Their policy seems simply so to govern them that their productions may be increased, and, consequently, as large an amount as possible of revenue raised. Their rule being paramount, they have left the natives in their original condition, to enjoy their own manners and customs, and to be governed by their own chiefs in almost the same despotic manner as formerly. The Javanese are Mohammedans, but are not strict in their religious duties; and their priests can often only just manage to read the Koran, while their mosques are distinguished only from their houses by having a roof with a double gable at each end. The native population amounts to nearly nine millions.
The Javanese are a very docile, amiable, and intelligent people; they are faithful and honest servants, and are brave and trustworthy in danger, when they can trust to their leaders. Domestic slavery still exists, though the slave trade is prohibited. No European or native can acquire property in land, nor can any foreigner reside in the country without leave of the governor, or acquire the right of citizenship in it till after a residence of ten years. The governor has the power of banishing any troublesome subject from the island: all political discussion in society seems carefully avoided, and the freedom of the press is strictly prohibited. They do not now tax the people to such an intolerable degree as formerly, when they created an outbreak of the whole population, which was not put down till after much fighting in 1830. To prevent a similar occurrence, they have erected a chain of strong fortresses about fifty miles apart, from one end of the island to the other.
As I dare say some of my young readers will one of these days become governors of provinces, or hold other offices in our possessions abroad, I wish to impress strongly on their minds that the only just or lawful way of governing a people—the only sure way, indeed, of maintaining authority over them—is to improve, to the utmost of our power, their religious, their moral and physical condition. Of course there may be prejudices to be overcome, and bad spirits to be dealt with; but let a people, however savage their natures, once understand that we are anxious to do them all the good in our power, they will from that time submit to our rule, and gladly avail themselves of all the advantages we offer.
We may point with heartfelt satisfaction to the manner in which Sir James Brooke has brought peace and prosperity among the savage tribes of Sarawak, in Borneo, and how, having by a few necessary examples shown the power of Great Britain, the influence of his name is now sufficient to repress piracy in those seas where it once reigned predominant, and to encourage the honest and industrious in perseverance and well-doing. But I must return to my own adventures. I will, however, first give a list of the Dutch possessions in the East, many of which I visited. My creed is, that God rules the world; that He bestows his permanent blessing only on those who do his work; and that his work is to spread the truths of his religion, by our precept and example, among all those of our fellow-creatures over whom we have influence, and to improve their moral and physical condition. I believe also what is the case with individuals is the case with nations; and that, to prove this, we have prominent examples before our eyes. See what has become of the mighty empire Spain once possessed round the circle of the globe; remark how utterly unable France is to colonise, notwithstanding all her efforts to establish her influence in various parts of the world. The Dutch possessions in the East Indies consist of:
1. Part of the island of Sumatra.
2. Almost the whole of Java.
3. The islands of Banca and Billiton.
4. The islands of Bintang and Linga.
5. Large parts of the northern portion of the island of Borneo, which have been recently incorporated into one or two regular residencies, and assimilated to their Javanese possessions.
6. The Macassar government, including parts of the islands of Celebes and Sumbawa.
7. The Molucca Islands, and some detached outlying posts on several other islands.
8. The south-west half of Timor, and the neighbouring small islands.
9. To these may be added the recent conquests in the island of Bali.
The above rapid sketch will enable my readers to judge of the amount of influence which the Dutch have the power of exerting in those regions; how great a blessing they might prove to thousands and thousands of their fellow-creatures, if they acted in accordance with the divine precepts of Christianity, and as civilised and enlightened men should act. Surely, if they do not, their kingdom will be taken from them and given to another.
The evening of our arrival, Fairburn and I drove out to see the city and its environs, in a sort of caleche, drawn by two ponies, and driven by a Javanese boy, in a round japanned hat, like a china punch-bowl. The roads are lined on either side with fine avenues of trees arching overhead. We passed numerous villages, or kampongs as they are called, and many country houses, of good size, lighted up with lamps. In front of most of them were parties of ladies and gentlemen drinking coffee or wine, or smoking, or chatting, or playing at cards. We met several carriages with ladies in them in full dress, passed over numerous wooden bridges, and were much struck with the brilliant fire-flies which were flitting about among the trees. On re-entering the town, we passed large arched gateways leading to particular quarters, and remarked in that inhabited by the Chinese, the grotesque-looking houses, lit up with large paper-lanterns, of gaudy colours, and Chinese inscriptions or monsters on them, and the long rows of Chinese characters up and down the door-posts, or over the windows. After the quiet of the sea, our senses were confused by the strange cries, and the Babel of languages which resounded in our ears from the crowds of people who swarmed along the streets in every variety of Eastern dress. There was the half-naked coolie; the well-clothed Citinese, in a loose white coat, like a dressing-gown; the Arab merchant, in his flowing robes; and the Javanese gentleman, in smart jacket and trousers, sash and sarong, or petticoat, a curious penthouse-like hat or shade, and a strange-handled kriss stuck in his girdle. We could scarcely help laughing, when in our drive we met our corpulent Chinese gentleman, in a white dressing-gown-looking affair, smooth head, and a long pigtail, weighing down one side of a very English-looking little pony gig, driven by a smart Javanese boy, with the usual china punch-bowl worn by postilions, on his head. The Chinese flock here, as they do everywhere in the East, where money is to be made, in spite of all obstacles; and numbers of coolies, or porters, are to be found ready to carry anything or to go anywhere. The lower class of Chinese frequently act as pedlars; and we met several of them with two wicker cases slung on a bamboo yoke, selling drapery, or fruit, and other eatables; sometimes with a portable stove to cook them, or keep them hot.
On the following day I stopped one of these pedlars, who had, besides his cutlery, a display of ordinary jewels and female ornaments to sell. I was induced to do so, as I wished to purchase some trifle to give to little Maria as a parting gift. While I was looking over his stores, my eye fell on a brooch which was evidently of English workmanship. It struck me that it would answer my purpose by serving to fasten my young friend's shawl, so I took it up to examine it more carefully. As I held it in my hand, I could not help fancying that I had seen it before. The idea grew stronger as I dwelt on it—my memory rushed back in an instant to the days of my childhood, and scenes long forgotten rose up before my eyes—my feelings grew intense—my heart beat quick—I gasped for breath. Yes, I was certain that very brooch which I held in my hand I had remembered since my infancy. Often had I gazed at it with delight. It was a cameo of exquisite workmanship, representing the three Graces, and had belonged to my kind friend, Mrs Clayton. I used to call one of the figures Mrs Clayton, another Ellen Barrow, and the third I said must be my mother. The pedlar's eyes opened wider than any Chinese eyes were opened before, as he gazed at me with astonishment. He began to think that the jewel was some charm which had bewitched me, or that I was going into a fit. He, of course, could not guess the cause of my agitation; and I recovered my presence of mind in sufficient time to avoid telling him. I found that he set but slight value on the ornament, and infinitely preferred to it some glittering stores with gay tints. I looked over the remainder of his stores, keeping my eye constantly on the brooch to see that he did not remove it; but I did not find anything else which I could recognise. I then bought a bracelet for Maria, and a ring of trifling value, and next asked him carelessly for how much he would sell the brooch in case I wished to buy it. My coolness made him lower the price from what, when he first discovered the curiosity with which I regarded it, he intended to ask. He demanded a very moderate sum, which I paid him, and calmly put the jewel in my pocket. Had our conversation been carried on in a language I spoke fluently, I should certainly have betrayed the secret of my agitation by some hasty exclamation; but having to stop and consider the meaning of each word before I used it, gave me time to grow calm. The time had now come for me to put the inquiries I longed to make.
"By-the-bye, my friend, that jewel looks as if it were made in a country I have visited. How did you obtain it?" I asked with an unconcerned manner.
He looked at me with his keen eyes, as he replied, "I bought it with others to stock my cases."
"Were there many others of the same description?" I inquired.
"Why do you ask?" he said, eyeing me sharply.
"Because it is an unusual ornament to see in this part of the world," I replied.
"Yes, I bought a few other things, rings and other ornaments, and some European cutlery and arms, made in the land you come from," he answered. "Your countrymen are very great in arms, and knives, and bales of cotton goods; and if we had not these dreadful taxes, we should purchase a large quantity from them."
"That is very true," I remarked. "But as you were saying, you have not had the jewels many months; tell me, how did you procure them?"
"I bought them in the way of trade," he answered briefly.
"I suppose so; but when, and from whom, I am curious to know," I asked. He was determined not to give me the information I required in a hurry.
"What makes you wish to know?" he said.
My patience was sorely tried; and I began to fear that he had some reasons for not telling me. I tried, however to disguise my feelings.
"People take fancies into their heads sometimes," I said. "Now, I have taken a fancy to trace where that same brooch, which I have just bought of you, came from; and as I always repay those who gratify my whims, I do not think you will be the loser if you tell me."
"My answer is, that I bought it in the fair way of trade, and I can say no more," he replied, preparing, with an obstinate look, to put his bamboo yoke over his shoulder, and to walk away.
"Then you will lose a good customer for your folly," I observed, feeling now that the more anxiety I displayed the less likely he would be to give me a true answer.
"However, if you think better of it, come to me to-morrow at my hotel, and perhaps I may be disposed to make some more purchases of you. But, my friend, remember a wise merchant takes a good offer when it is made to him."
"You have not made me an offer," he observed.
"What! do you expect to be paid simply for giving me a bit of information which cost you nothing, and cannot benefit you to keep?" I said, laughing. "However, as you value it so highly, I will give you the price of the brooch if you enable me in any way to trace where it came from." The fellow, cunning as he was, was for a moment outwitted, and did not suspect the trembling anxiety with which I waited for his account.
"Well, then, you must know that two months ago I sailed from hence in a trading schooner to visit the island of Timor, where I wished to transact some mercantile business with the Portuguese. I can sometimes drive a bargain with them when I fail with the Dutch, who are very keen—too keen to please me. Have you ever been to Timor?"
"No," I answered, with some little impatience; "no; but go on with your story."
"I thought not," he continued, with provoking slowness. "Timor is a large island, and a fine island, but not so large or so fine as Java. The Dutch have possessions in some part of it, as well as the Portuguese, and a good many of my countrymen are found there. It produces, too, a clever race of little horses—very clever little horses."
"But what has that to do with the brooch?" I exclaimed, foolishly losing all my patience. "Go on with your story without further delay." The fellow saw by the expression of my countenance that I was really anxious about the matter; and hoping, probably, to get better paid for his information another day, he pretended to remember that he had his goods to sell, and shouldering his bamboo, with his cases hanging at either end of it, off he marched, uttering aloud his cries to attract customers. I called him back; I felt inclined to rush after him—to seize him—to force the information from him; but he would not listen, and he was soon lost among the motley crowd I have described. I felt almost sure that he would come back the next day but in the meantime I was left in a state of the most cruel anxiety. Here was the best clue I had yet met with almost within my grasp, to guide me in my search for Eva and Mrs Clayton, and I was not allowed to reach it. The time had arrived for me to join Mr Scott, who had invited me to accompany him to his country house, about three miles from the town. The road led us past numerous kampongs and country houses, all the way being under lofty trees, which were made to arch overhead, and to afford a most grateful shade.
On our way, I mentioned my meeting with the pedlar.
"Should you know him again?" he asked.
"Among a hundred others," I replied.
"Oh, then, there will be little difficulty in making him tell the truth," he observed, with a smile. "If he does not do so of his own accord, I will get the resident to interfere, and he has wonderful methods of making a dumb Chinaman open his mouth. We will see about it the first thing to-morrow; for I agree with you, that the fellow's information may be of great value."
So it was arranged, and my mind was somewhat tranquillised. My new friend's residence was like most country houses built by the Dutch in the island—long and low, and consisting only of one storey. In the centre was the chief room, of good size, opening both in front and behind, by two large door-ways, into spacious verandahs, as large as the room itself, and supported by pillars. In each of the wings were three good bedrooms. It stood in an enclosure of about an acre, with coach-house, stables, and servants' houses and offices. The floors were formed of tiles, and in the principal room a cane matting was used. As it grew dusk, several people came in, some in carriages, and some on foot, and we had a good deal of amusing conversation, while cigars were smoked, and coffee, wine, and liqueurs were handed round. The Javanese were described as an excellent and faithful race of people, patient, good-tempered, faithful, and very handy and ingenious. A man who is a carpenter one day, will turn a blacksmith next, or from a farmer will speedily become a sailor; and a gentleman told me of a servant who, after having lived with him many years, begged to be allowed to go to sea, giving as his only reason, that he was tired of seeing the same faces every day. I partook of a curious fruit, of which the natives are very fond, called the Durinan. It required some resolution to overcome my repugnance to the scent, which is most powerful. The flavour is very peculiar; and I can best describe it as like rich custard and boiled onions mixed together.
There are about 60,000 inhabitants in Sourabaya. The lower orders of Javanese are a broadly built race of people, seldom above the middle height. The men, when actively employed, have on generally no other garment than a tight cloth round the loins; but at other times they wear a sarong, which is a long piece of coloured cotton wrapped round the waist, and hanging down to the knee. They sometimes add a jacket of cloth or cotton. The women seem to delight most in garments of a dark-blue colour, in shape something like a gown and petticoat; but the neck and shoulders are frequently left bare, and the sarong or gown is wrapped tightly under the armpits and across the bosom.
Both men and women wear their hair long, and turned up with a large comb, so that at a distance it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. The latter have no covering for the head, but the men wear conical hats, made of split bamboo.
A Javanese gentleman usually wears a handkerchief round his head, a smart green or purple velvet or cloth jacket with gold buttons, a shirt with gold studs, loose trousers and sometimes boots, and a sarong or sash, in the latter of which is always carried a kriss ornamented with gold and diamonds. The Chinese, as elsewhere, are a plump, clean, and good-tempered-looking people; they, as well as other people from the neighbouring countries, are under charge of a captain or headman, who is answerable for their good conduct. The Dutch troops, dressed in light-blue and yellow uniforms, and mustering upwards of two thousand infantry, besides artillery and cavalry, consist of Javanese, Madurese, and Bugis, with Negroes and Europeans, frequently Dutch convicts who, to escape punishment at home, have volunteered to serve in the army in Java. What can one think of the character of an army composed of such men? and how much more calculated must they be to injure and demoralise than to protect the people, and to maintain order, which is the only legitimate object of a military body! I hope that my readers are not tired with my long account of the Javanese. The next morning I returned to the town with Mr Scott, and immediately set out in search of the pedlar. I was not long in finding him, for he was hovering about the hotel in hopes of having another deal with me. He did not suspect that I had friends who could apply to the authorities to make him give me the information I required. I had my young Javanese guide watching, who instantly ran off to call Mr Scott, while I held the pedlar in close conversation. On Mr Scott's appearance, the impudent look of the man instantly changed to one of submissive respect.
"I thought you were a wise man, Chin Fi," began my friend, who appeared to know him. "Here is a gentleman offers you a handsome reward for a bit of trifling information, and you refuse to give it him; how is this?"
"Though the information is trifling, the young gentleman seemed very eager to get it," answered Chin Fi, recovering himself. "But I am a reasonable man, and was about to give it when he interrupted me yesterday."
"Continue your story, then," said Mr Scott, aware, however, that he was not speaking the truth. "You were in the island of Timor when you procured the brooch in question."
"I observed that I went to the island of Timor; but I did not say that I got the brooch there," answered Chin Fi.
"Come, come, you are taking up our time uselessly. Where did you get it then?" exclaimed Mr Scott. "I must take other means of learning if you longer delay." And he looked in the direction of the Resident's house.
The Chinese guessed his intentions, and observed, "Well, if the gentleman will give me the price he offered, I will afford him all the information I possess. Knowledge is of value; and I am a poor man, and cannot give it without a return."
On his saying this, I took out the proposed sum and put it into Mr Scott's hands, who gave it him, saying, "Now remember, Chin Fi, if you wish to prosper, tell all you know about the matter."
"I will," said the pedlar, finding that he would gain nothing by further delay. "You must know that while I was in Timor, I was engaged in purchasing such merchandise as I thought would suit the taste of the people of this country. To obtain a passage back, I went to the Dutch settlement of Coupang. One day, having just transacted some affairs with a merchant, I was walking along the quay by the water's side, when I observed a young Javanese lad following me. I happened to have remarked him while I was speaking to the merchant. He continued following me till I got into a narrow lane, where no one else happened to be; and he then came up to me, and said he had something to sell if I was inclined to buy. I asked him to show me his goods, and he pulled out a handkerchief from his breast, with some rings, a gold chain, and two brooches, one of which I sold yesterday to this gentleman. I purchased them of him, and asked him if he had any more. He said that he could not tell me; and I then inquired how he procured them. He answered it was a matter about which I had nothing to do, and being of his opinion I questioned him no further; but as I wished to have more dealings with him, I resolved to try and find out where he went. When he parted from me he took the way to the quay; and as from his dress and the look of his hands I suspected that he belonged to one of the vessels in the harbour, I went and hid myself in a spot where I could watch every part of the landing-place.
"I had waited about a couple of hours, when a boat came on shore from a European brig, lying outside all the other vessels, and presently two Englishmen or Americans, with two or three Malays, came down in company with the young Javanese lad, who was staggering under a heavy load of yams, shaddocks, bananas, cocoa-nuts, and other fruit and vegetables. It is odd, I thought, that this boy who has so much money at his command, should be made to do the work of a slave. I suspected that there was something irregular, and that the lad had either stolen the jewels or was selling them for some one else. I made inquiries about the brig, and found that she was an American, and had put in for water and provisions; but for her name, I can neither remember it, nor pronounce it, probably, if I did. I expected next day to find that the brig had gone, and to hear no more about the matter; but there she still was, and who should I meet but the Javanese lad walking by himself in a disconsolate manner near the quay? I beckoned him to me, and asked him if he had any more jewels to sell; but he answered, No; and that he wished he had not sold those, as it had done no good."
"I inquired what he meant; but for some time he would not answer, till I persuaded him that I was his friend, and that I by chance knew some of his relatives. He then told me that the jewels had belonged to an English lady, who was kept on board the brig against her will, and that she had employed him to sell them, in the hopes of being able to bribe some one to help her to escape, or to carry intelligence of her position to the authorities of any port at which the brig might touch. The lad, who seemed in many respects very simple-minded and honest, said that he wanted to get away, but dared not—that he had not originally belonged to the brig, but was taken out of another vessel, and made to work on board her, his chief employment lately being to attend on the lady in the cabin."
While he was speaking, several seamen came out of an arrack shop some way off. He caught sight of them and hurried off to the quay. They all jumped into the boat, and pulled away for the brig as fast as their oars could send her through the water. Instantly the vessel's sails were loosed, her anchor was weighed, and she stood out to sea. Soon afterwards, a Dutch ship of war came in, and a boat from the shore going out to meet her, without dropping her anchor she made sail in the direction the brig had taken.
"Did she overtake the brig?" I inquired eagerly.
"I do not know," replied the pedlar. "I came away before the man-of-war's return, and had not again thought of the circumstances till your inquiries recalled them to my memory."
Believing that the Chinese had given me a faithful account, I further rewarded him, and dismissed him, highly satisfied with the transaction. It must not be supposed that he used the words I have written, for I have given a very free translation of his story, which was in very flowery language, and occupied much more time than mine will to read. I cross-questioned him also about Eva; but he had heard nothing of a little girl, nor had he suspected that the brig was a pirate.
Mr Scott, however, agreed with me that there was every probability of her having been the Emu, and that my first point of inquiry should be at Timor, while I also should endeavour to fall in with the man-of-war which had chased her. It was suggested that I might most likely hear of the man-of-war at Batavia, and that I should endeavour to touch there. Oh, how I longed to have my schooner ready for the enterprise!
Mr Scott accompanied me to the house of the Resident, that I might state my case; and on our way we met Captain Cloete, who volunteered to join us. The Resident received me most kindly, and promised to do all in his power to facilitate my object. He said that strict enquiries should be made on board all vessels coming to the port, whether a brig answering the description of the Emu had been met with; and he also engaged that the same inquiries should be made in Batavia and throughout all the ports belonging to the Dutch.
I was much indebted to the influence of my friends, and the warm interest they took in me, and for the alacrity displayed by the Resident; but I felt that this was no reason why I should in any way relax in my own exertions. The schooner could not be got ready for sea in less than three weeks, in spite of all Fairburn's exertions; and I considered how I could best employ the time to forward my object. It must not be supposed that I had forgotten the widow Van Deck and little Maria. Fairburn and I had still our duty to perform, in seeing them placed in safety with their friends; but as his presence was essential in attending to the fitting out of the vessel, I resolved to undertake the office of their conductor, having already engaged to pay their expenses. They were both now sufficiently recovered to undertake the journey up the country, to a place where an uncle of the widow resided, as Assistant Resident.
I was, however, very unwilling to leave Sourabaya in the chance of obtaining any further news of the Emu, and had hopes of being able to send to their relations to induce some one to come down and receive them, when the point was decided for me. The heat and excitement of the town was already telling on me, and Mr Scott made me consult a medical man, who urged me at once to go up to the highlands of the interior, to regain my strength before I went to sea.
The widow Van Deck expressed herself much satisfied with the arrangement, and very grateful for the care taken of her, while little Maria seemed highly delighted at finding that I was to accompany them on the journey. Captain Cloete's first lieutenant, Mr Jeekel, also arranged to join the party, of which I was very glad, as he was a very well informed man, and a most amusing companion. We engaged a carriage, with two inside seats for the widow and Maria, and two outside for Mr Jeekel and me. Mr Scott kindly urged me to take care of myself and get well. Fairburn promised to get on with the schooner's outfitting; and just as we were starting, Captain Cloete came and put a sum of money into the hands of the widow.
"There," he said, "sailors should always help each other; so I and a few other friends have collected that little sum to defray the expenses of your journey; so that you need not feel yourself a burden to your young friend here, while you will have something in your purse when you present yourself to your relatives."
The tears came into the widow's eyes as she received this unexpected kindness, and her feelings almost checked her expressions of thanks.
The evening before our departure, as I was sitting with the widow and little Maria, the former observed—"You may be surprised, Mr Seaworth, at my thinking it necessary to give you so much trouble about my return to my relations; but I must confess to you that I offended them very much by marrying Captain Van Deck, whom they looked upon as my inferior in rank, and I am full of doubts as to my reception. Had he been alive, I should not have ventured to return; but now that he is in his grave, I trust that their anger may be softened. I have no one else to depend on. I cannot obtain my own livelihood; but they would not, I trust, allow a relation to beg in the streets. If they will once receive me, I hope, by my conduct, to gain their affection, which before I married I did not, through my own fault, possess; and I therefore do not in any way complain of their treatment of me. I have had, I assure you, a great struggle with the rebellious spirit within me; but I have conquered, and am happier even than I ever expected to be." In reply, I assured her that I thought her relations would, after she had spent a little time with them, rejoice at her return; for in the frame of mind to which she had brought herself, I felt sure she would very soon gain their regard; and I thought that little Maria could not fail of attaching to herself every one who knew her.
I have not space to afford a full account of our journey. Indeed, I cannot do more than give the general result of my observations. We had passports, without which we could not have proceeded; and we were obliged to obtain leave from each Resident to pass through his district. We had four good little horses; and for many miles proceeded along the plain, on a fine broad hard road, raised two or three feet above the level of the country. The post houses are about six miles apart, and at each of them there is a large wooden shed, stretching completely across the road, to shelter the horses and travellers from the sun while the horses are changed. The country, as we proceeded, became very rich and highly cultivated; and between the groves of cocoa-nuts and areca palms, and other trees, which bordered the road, we got glimpses of a fine range of mountains, which increased its interest. The crops were sugar-cane, and maize and rice. The rice-fields are divided into many small plats or pans, about ten yards square, with ridges of earth eighteen inches high, for the purpose of retaining the water, which is kept two or three inches deep over the roots of the grain, till it is just ready to ripen. A number of little sheds stood in the fields, with a boy or girl stationed in each, who kept moving a collection of strings, radiating in every direction, with feathers attached to them, for the purpose of keeping off the flights of those beautiful little birds, called Java sparrows, hovering above. From these plots the rice, or paddy, as it is called, is transplanted into the fields, each plant being set separately. How our English farmers would stare at the idea of transplanting some hundred acres of wheat! Yet these savages, as they would call them, set them this worthy example of industry. We passed a market crowded with people. There were long sheds, in some of which were exposed European articles, such as cutlery and drapery; in others, drugs or salt-fish, or fruit and confectionery; while at some open stalls the visitors were regaling themselves with coffee, boiled rice, hot meat, potatoes, fruit, and sweetmeats. We stopped at a large town on the coast, called Probolingo, where there was an excellent hotel. There was also a square in it, with a mosque on one side, the house of the Resident on another, a range of barracks on the third, and a good market-place, where I saw piles of magnificent melons, for which the neighbourhood is celebrated. It is a place of some trade; and we were told that there were in the storehouses coffee and sugar sufficient to load twenty large ships. Broad roads, bordered by fine trees, with native villages, and large European houses, surround the town.
As we continued our journey on the following day, we began to meet with coffee plantations, which are neatly fenced in, and consist of some twenty acres each. They are pleasant-looking spots, as the shrubs are planted in rows, with tall trees between each row to shelter them from the sun. Sometimes, too, we came upon a species of Banian tree, a noble, wide-spreading tree, with drooping branches, under which might be seen a waggon laden with paddy, and a group of people with their oxen resting by its side. I remarked that coffee was carried in large hampers on the backs of ponies. We used to lunch sometimes at the bamboo provision stalls, under the shade of tall trees near the kampongs, where we found hot tea and coffee, sweet potatoes, rice cakes, and a kind of cold rice pudding.
The Javanese delight in a sort of summer-house, which is called a pondap; it is built to the height of sixteen feet or so on stout pillars, with a raised floor, and covered with a thatch made of the leaves of the palm. It is open at the sides, except a railing of netting three feet high, and sometimes blinds of split cane are rolled up under the eaves, and can be let down to exclude the sun or rain.
I must describe a "passangerang," or guest-house, at several of which we stopped for the night. It was a large bamboo-house, standing on a raised terrace of brick, and with a broad verandah running all round it. There was a centre hall to serve as the grand saloon, and several well-furnished bedrooms on either side. The view was very beautiful. The ground on every side undulated agreeably: on one side it sloped down to a shining lake, bordered by a thick belt of wood, with a silvery brook escaping from a narrow ravine, foaming and leaping into it; while beyond arose the stately cone of the burning mountain of the Lamongan, some four thousand feet in height, a wreath of white smoke curling from its summit, from its base a green slope stretched off to the right, whence, some twenty miles distant, shot up still more majestically the lofty cone of the Semiru, a peak higher than that of Teneriffe; then, again, another irregular ridge ran away to the north, among which is the volcano of the Bromo. On another side could be seen the sea gleaming in the far distant horizon, while over all the country near was a lovely variety of cultivated fields, and patches of wood, and slopes of the alang-alang, a long green grass with a very broad leaf, and here and there a native kampong half concealed by its groves of fruit-trees. Everything, both in form and colour, looked beautiful as it glittered in the hot sunshine, while a fresh breeze from the south tempered the heat, and reminded me of a summer day in England. A table was spread in the verandah with a snow white tablecloth, and all the conveniences of glass, plate, and cutlery, and covered with dishes of poultry, and meats, and rice, and curries, pilaus, and soups, all well cooked, with attendants doing their best to please us.
Little Maria was enchanted—she had seen nothing in her life before like it; and all the sickness and perils she had gone through were forgotten. Lieutenant Jeekel and I were much pleased also; and had I not had my important enterprise in view, I should have liked to have spent many days there. As we strolled out in the evening at dusk, we found two men following us with spears; and when we inquired the reason of their attendance, they said that they came to defend us from tigers. We laughed at this, but they assured us that tigers were very abundant, and that they often carried off men to eat them, and sometimes even came into the houses when hard pressed by hunger. No one will venture out at night without torches to keep them at a distance. We afterwards found that their fears were not exaggerated, for a man from a village close to us going out to work before daybreak was carried off by a tiger from between two companions, who in vain endeavoured to save him. After this we took care not to expose ourselves to the chance of forming a supper for a tiger. The next evening I was nearly stepping on a snake, the bite of which is said to be certain death. I mention these circumstances merely to show that, fertile as is the country and magnificent the scenery, it has its drawbacks. While we were in the high country, it rained generally from two till four o'clock, and then the weather became as fine as ever. It always rained in earnest, and never have I seen more downright heavy pours. The inhabitants of the mountains are far superior in stature and independence of manners to those of the plains. Their houses are, however, inferior in many respects; they are built of planks roughly split from trees with a wedge, while their posts are formed of the camarina equally roughly squared. The roof is composed of reeds or shingles. The interior consists of but one room, with a square fireplace of brick at one end, and seats round it; the bed-places of the family are on either side; and overhead are racks to hold spears and agricultural instruments, the whole blackened with the constant smoke, which has no other outlet besides the door and window. The houses of the peasantry on the plains are composed almost entirely of bamboo; the posts and beams of the stoutest pieces of that plant, and the walls of split bamboo woven into mats, the roof being covered with leaves of the hissah palm.
We were now approaching the end of our journey, and the widow began to be very nervous as to the reception she was likely to meet with from her relations. The lieutenant, especially, tried to keep up her spirits; and it appeared to me, whatever the arguments he used, that he succeeded very well.
I am afraid that, in my descriptions, I have not done full justice to the beauty of the scenery, the high state of cultivation of the country, the excessive politeness of the people—I might almost call it slavish, were not the natural impulses of the Javanese so kind—the luxurious provisions, the comfort of the passangerangs or guest-houses, the purity of the air, and the deliciousness of the climate of the hills. We did not encounter a beggar of any description, and we saw no people in a state of what could be called poverty; so, although the Dutch rule most despotically, this system apparently tends to secure the creature comforts of the lower orders. But, as I have already observed, it does no more—it regards these frail bodies, but totally neglects their immortal souls.
One day we turned off from the high road, and took a path apparently but little used, as it was a complete carpet of short green turf, which led us across a gently undulating champaign country; passing now through patches of beautiful forest, now through open rice-fields or small plains of alang-alang. Here and there was a rocky isolated hill crowned with clumps of noble trees, while sparkling brooks and rills seemed to cool the air, while they refreshed our sight, their murmuring sound reaching constantly our ears. Many of the rills were artificial, leading from one rice field to another. The industrious inhabitants were guiding their ploughs or otherwise in their fields, while here and there a grove of fruit-trees, with cocoa-nuts, areca palms, and clusters of bamboos rising among them, showed the situation of the villages. Nearly surrounding this beautiful country swept a semicircle of magnificent mountains of the most picturesque description, one out-topping the other, while in the far distance the stately Semiru raised his lofty cone into the blue sky.
As we had now arrived close to the residence of the widow's relations, we thought it advisable to forward a letter, which the lieutenant undertook to write, giving an outline of what had occurred, and announcing our arrival. The letter was composed, but we were not quite satisfied with it; and at last our worthy friend volunteered to ride forward himself to prepare the way, suggesting that his rank, and his acquaintance with a large number of people, might have some little influence in softening matters. We in the meantime remained at the passangerang awaiting his return. Two hours passed away and he did not appear, and the widow began to be anxious; a third had elapsed, and no Lieutenant Jeekel was to be seen.
"My uncle and his family are away, or he may be dead, or he will not listen to our friend," sighed the widow.
We were sitting in a sort of raised summer-house, in the shape of a tower, built of bamboo. From our elevated perch we commanded a view of the road.
"No, I feel that I am discarded for ever, and must be content to live on the charity of strangers," continued the widow, soliloquising. "For myself I care not; but for you, my sweet child, it is a hard lot."
"Do not vex yourself about me, my dear aunt," answered little Maria. "But ah! see, who is that coming along the road?"
We all looked out of the balcony, and observed two horsemen, with long spears glittering in the sun, advancing slowly towards us. A little beyond them was a larger party, one of whom was evidently a chief with his officers, from the turbans on their heads, their blue cloth jackets, and rich shawls round their waists, with highly ornamented krisses stuck in them; the blue and red cloth over their saddles, and the silver trappings to their horses. Two Europeans were with them: one we soon recognised as the lieutenant; the other, a middle-aged, gentlemanly-looking man, was a stranger to me; but the widow, as she watched him, exclaimed—
"It is—yes, it must be my uncle!"
The Javanese seemed to pay him great respect. He threw himself from his horse, which one of them held, and with the lieutenant ascended the stairs. On entering the room he hurried up to the widow, and to her no little surprise gave her a warm embrace.
"Well, my dear niece, I am glad to hear from your friend here, that you placed reliance on the affection of your relatives," he began, as he handed her to a chair in an affectionate manner. "Let the past be forgotten; and now let me ask you to make me known to the young gentleman who has acted so generously to you. Mr Seaworth, I understand."
Whereupon I shook hands, and made a suitable answer; and then little Maria was introduced, and we were all in a few minutes on the best terms possible. I thought Mr Jeekel's eye twinkled, but he said nothing; and I was somewhat surprised, after all the difficulties we expected to experience, at the facility with which the reconciliation had been accomplished. But the cause was soon explained.
"I conclude, my dear niece," said her uncle to her on a sudden, "you have received due notice of the good fortune which has befallen you."
"No!" answered the widow, surprised, as well she might. "I have been prepared only for misfortunes. What do you mean?"
"Allow me then to congratulate you sincerely," he replied. "I have great satisfaction in being the first to announce to you that your great-uncle, M. Deikman, who died a year ago, has left you heiress to all his property, amounting to twenty thousand rupees a year; and you may at once take possession of it."
I will not stop to describe the contentment of the widow at her change of fortune, the joy of little Maria, and the satisfaction of the lieutenant. I spent four days at the house of her uncle, who was very attentive to me; and I need scarcely say that, when the time for my departure arrived, I was very sorry to leave her with the prospect of never again seeing her; and still more so my young friend Maria. I am happy to say that prosperity did not appear to have made the widow forget the good resolutions she had formed in adversity. She insisted on repaying me the money I had spent on her account; and I had reason afterwards to know that she was not ungrateful. It was arranged that Lieutenant Jeekel was to accompany me, and that we were to travel on horseback, by which mode we should be able to diverge oftener from the high road, and to see more of the country than we had been able to do coming. Little Maria cried very much as I wished her good-bye.
"You are going away, and I shall never—never—see you again, my dear, dear Mr Seaworth!" she exclaimed, as she held my hands, and looked up affectionately into my face. "Now, promise me, if you succeed in finding your dear little Eva—and I am sure you will find her—that you will come back and show her to me. I so long to see her, and to love her, and to tell her how kind you have been to me. I will pray every night and morning that she may be restored to you, and that she may live to reward you for all your trouble in looking after her. You will promise then, my dear Mr Seaworth; I know you will."
"Indeed, I should be very sorry if I thought I was not to see you again," I replied, completely won by her artless manner. "If I possibly can—if I am so blessed as to find my sister—I will come and introduce her to you."
With this answer the little girl was satisfied. At length we started. I had a very pleasant journey, and collected a great deal of information as to the manners and customs of the Javanese. We saw several tigers, and deer, and wild hogs, and monkeys innumerable, and snakes and other reptiles; but had no adventure worth recording, and reached Sourabaya in safety.
We entered Sourabaya in the evening, when the streets were still crowded with the mixed population of the town, in their varied and picturesque dresses, each speaking their own language, or uttering the various cries of their respective trades. I directly rode to the hotel in the hopes of finding Fairburn there, as I was eager to learn how he was progressing with the schooner. He had not returned; and I was setting off to the docks when I met him coming in.
"How do you get on?" I exclaimed, as soon as I saw him. "Are we likely soon to be able to start?"
"We have gone ahead more rapidly than I expected," he answered. "What by good wages and encouragement, and constant supervision, the carpenters and riggers have got on so well, that I expect she will be ready for sea in a few days. The more I see of the little craft, the more I like her; for she is a beauty, I can assure you, and will sail well too."
"I am delighted to hear it, and thank you for all your exertions in my cause," I answered. "I long to be fairly under weigh. But have you gained any more information about the Emu?"
"Nothing of importance," he answered. "A Dutch merchantman came in here a few days ago, and she reports that some months since, on her outward voyage, she was chased by a strange brig, which showed no colours; but, by carrying all sail, she got away from her. If that was the Emu, it shows that she has taken regularly to piracy, and that we must be prepared to encounter her."
To this I agreed; but the thought that my sister and Mrs Clayton were among wretches who were pursuing such a course made me feel very wretched. The next morning I accompanied Fairburn down to the vessel. I was indeed surprised with the appearance she presented. Indeed, she required little more than to get her sails bent and her stores on board to be ready for sea. She mounted four carronades, and one long brass gun amidships, besides numerous swivels on her bulwarks, to enable her to contend in every way with any piratical prahus we might encounter. Besides these, her arm-chests contained a good supply of muskets, pistols, and cutlasses.
"I have engaged also the best part of our crew," said Fairburn. "They are all staunch fellows, or I am much mistaken. It is important that we should be well manned. There are eight Englishmen, four Dutchmen, two Americans, and six Javanese. The last are fine fellows, and, well treated, will labour hard; and if well led, and they can see that they may trust to their officers, they will prove as brave as any men in the world. See how they all go about their work. If I was a stranger to them, I should say they were the men to trust to. They have found out already that I chose all good men, and that there are no skulkers among them."
We were standing on the quay at the time, and as he spoke he pointed to the schooner where all hands were actively employed in various avocations, setting up the rigging, bending sails, and hoisting in stores.
"And what sort or officers have you engaged?" I asked.
"Two; and both good. One is a Dutchman, and the other is English. I had some difficulty in arranging the papers, and in getting permission to carry arms but, thanks to the assistance of Mr Scott and the kindness of the Resident, the affair has been settled. I cannot however, go as master of the schooner."
"You not master!" I exclaimed. "Who, then, is to be?"
"The Dutchman, M. Van Graoul. He is a very good fellow in spite of his name," he answered, laughing. "The fact is, he is nominally captain, and is answerable for our good behaviour—that we will not turn pirates, or commit any other little irregularities. I am to have charge of the vessel, and he is to obey me in all things lawful; indeed, he is to act as my mate except on certain occasions, when we are to change places. The arrangement is perfectly understood between us, and is not at all unusual."
I replied that I was satisfied if he was, and thought that the arrangement would not inconvenience him.
"You are aware, also, that you must sail under the Dutch flag," he continued. "It is better known than the English in these seas, and so far that is an advantage; but I daresay you would rather, as I should when it comes to fighting, have our own glorious standard waving over our heads."
I agreed with him there also; but I found that I was much indebted to the Dutch authorities, as so very strict is the government in all matters of the sort, that it was only in consequence of the peculiar circumstances of the case that I was allowed to fit out the vessel at all, many regulations being relaxed in my favour. I forgot to say that the schooner was called the Fraulein, which is the Dutch, or rather German, of young lady; and I thought the name pretty and appropriate. Behold me, then, the owner of the schooner Fraulein, Captain Van Graoul, just ready for sea, and as complete a little man-of-war as ever floated. I was going to call her a yacht; but she was fitted more for fighting than pleasure, except that there was one cabin which, with a confidence I scarcely had a right to, I had had prepared for Eva and Mrs Clayton.
Our papers were all in order, and we had cleared out regularly. I had taken leave of the Resident and other authorities, and thanked Mr Scott to the utmost of my power for his liberality and confidence in me; and I had wished all the other friends I had formed good-bye, except Lieutenant Jeekel, who told me he intended to come and see the last of me on board. I felt that I had at length commenced my enterprise; my hopes rose with the occasion. There was an elasticity in my spirits, a buoyancy in my step, which I had never before experienced, as I walked the deck of the Fraulein, as she lay in the roads just before getting under weigh.
"There is a loaded boat coming off, and I think I see Lieutenant Jeekel in her," said Captain Van Graoul, who had been looking through his glass towards the shore.
He was right; in a short time my friends came alongside in a boat laden with provisions and fruits, and luxuries of every kind and description which the country could produce. While I was welcoming him on board, the things were being handed up on deck.
"Oh, you must not thank me for anything there," he exclaimed, with a smile, as he saw me looking at what was going forward. "I have but performed a commission for a friend of ours, who charged me to see it executed, or not to venture into her presence again."
"Oh, I understand," I replied, laughing significantly. "Pray, whenever you are tempted back to her neighbourhood, express my gratitude, and assure her and Maria that I will not forget them, or the last mark of their kindness."
I suspected that it would not be long before my message was delivered, if the lieutenant could get leave from his ship, which was then refitting. He gave me also a satisfactory piece of intelligence, to the effect, that as soon as his brig was ready for sea, she was to be sent to cruise in search of the Emu, should her piratical career not yet have terminated.
I was very unwilling to have to go so far out of my way as Batavia; for I felt certain that my search should be carried on among the wilder and less frequented islands lying to the east of Java, where the pirates would have little fear of being surprised. At the same time, I might obtain important information at Batavia; and I knew the necessity of beginning my search systematically.
Everybody on board was in high spirits, and they all having had the object of the cruise explained to them, seemed to enter into it with a zeal and alacrity which was highly gratifying to me. We had a complete little Babel, as far as a variety of tongues are concerned, in the Fraulein; but, thanks to Fairburn's admirable arrangements, aided by Van Graoul, perfect harmony instead of discord was produced.
I have not yet described Van Graoul. He was a stout man with a placid, good-humoured expression of countenance, and was content, provided he could enjoy his well-loved pipe, and an occasional glass of schiedam, to let the world take its way without complaining. He wore light-blue trousers, with enormous side-pockets, into which his hands were always thrust; a nankeen jacket, and a wide-brimmed straw hat, with a bright yellow handkerchief round his neck. He was a very good seaman in most respects; and was so perfectly cool in danger, that it was difficult to believe he was aware of the state of affairs. He did not, however, make a good master, as he was subject to fits of absence, when he was apt to forget the object of his voyage. The junior mate was a young Englishman, of the name of Barlow, a very steady, trustworthy person. Then, there was a boatswain, a gunner, a carpenter, and other petty officers; and I must not forget to mention Hassan, the young Malay, and Kalong the Dyak, who considered themselves our immediate attendants, while Ungka was a favourite with all.
As it was impossible to say where the Emu might be, we were constantly on the look-out for any vessel answering her description. It was agreed that if we did fall in with her, we must endeavour to take her by surprise, or to capture her by boarding, as, were we to fire at her, our round shot might injure those we were in search of. We had a very short passage to Batavia, and anchored in the roadstead. The town being built on a swamp, and planted with trees, was entirely concealed from our view. I immediately went on shore, my boat being tracked up the river against a strong current.
I was struck by the immense number of alligators which infest the river. They are held sacred by the Javanese, who will not destroy them; and it is said that they treat their brown skins with equal respect, but have no compunction about eating a white man. They live upon the number of dead animals and offal which come floating down the river. They are useful as acting the part of scavengers to the stream they inhabit. The streets of Batavia run for the most part in a north or south direction, are kept in neat order, regularly watered, and planted with rows of trees in the Dutch style. Formerly canals intersected the streets in all directions, rendering the city the most pestilential place within the tropics; but by the orders of Sir Stamford Raffles, while the English had possession of the island, they were all filled up, except the Grand Canal and its tributaries. The city is still far from healthy, and no one who can help it remains there; the government officers and merchants all going out to their country houses in the afternoon. My stay in Batavia was so short, that I had not time to make many remarks about the place. In consequence of the recommendations I had received from Sourabaya, the Resident forwarded my views in every way, giving me passes to facilitate my search throughout all the Dutch settlements I might visit.
Fairburn and Van Graoul were in the meantime making inquiries among the masters of all the trading vessels in the harbour, whether they had seen or heard of a vessel which might prove to be the Emu. They, however, could only obtain rumours of her, and no one was met who had actually been attacked by her. For some time past it appeared that she had not even been heard of; and the opinion was, either that her career had by some means or other been brought to a close, or that she had altogether quitted those seas and gone to commit her depredations in another quarter of the globe. This last idea was the most distressing, because, if such was the case, I could not tell for what length of time my search might be prolonged. As, however, Timor was the last place she had been known to touch at, I determined to proceed there, and thence to steer a course as circumstances might direct.
We were once more at sea. It is very delightful to sail over the ocean when the breeze is fresh, and sufficiently strong to send the vessel skimming along over the water, and yet not sufficiently so to throw up waves on the surface. Many such days I remember, and many nights, when the moon, in tranquil majesty was traversing the pure dark-blue sky, her light shed in a broad stream of silver across the purple expanse, on which the vessel floated, a mere dot it seemed in the infinity of space. Had I been free from anxiety, the life I spent on board the Fraulein would have been most delightful; but my mind was always dwelling on Eva, and thinking how she was situated; and my anxiety to rescue her prevented me from enjoying the present.
We had been two weeks at sea, having experienced chiefly calms and light winds, when one morning at daybreak, while on the right of the island of Lombok, the lofty cone of its volcano rising blue and distinct against the sky, a square-rigged vessel was descried in the north-east quarter. She was apparently standing on a bowline to the southward, so that, by continuing our course, we should just contrive to get near enough to speak her. There was considerable excitement on board, for we had not spoken any vessel since we were out. She might give us some information respecting the Emu; or it was just possible that she might be the Emu herself. We stood on till we made her to be a low black brig, with a somewhat rakish appearance. This answered the description of the Emu. We had now to consider how to approach the stranger without exciting her suspicions. We first hoisted the Dutch ensign, and out flew, in return from her peak, the stars and stripes of the United States.
"He is not afraid of showing his colours," said Van Graoul, looking at the brig through his glass. "But ah! see there! He does not like our look. He has put his helm up, and away he goes before the wind."
So it was. The stranger altered her course, and away she stood to the eastward, pretty briskly setting her studding-sails and royals; by which we calculated that she had a good many hands on board. This behaviour of the stranger increased our suspicions of her character; and we accordingly made all sail in chase. We were now to try the speed of the little Fraulein. The breeze freshened, and away she flew over the water; but the brig was much larger, and soon showed us that she had a fast pair of heels. Do all we could, indeed, we could only continue to hold our own with her. Sometimes we even fancied that she was distancing us, and then after an hour had passed, we did not appear to have sunk her hull in the water.
"Oh that we could but come up with her!" I exclaimed. "My sweet little Eva, we would soon liberate you from the power of these ruffians."
Van Graoul had his eyes upon the brig, as he said quite calmly, as if he had been thinking over the matter, "Has it not struck you, Mr Seaworth, that yonder stranger may have as bad an opinion of us as we have of her; and that seeing a piccarooning little craft, no offence to the Fraulein, standing towards her, she thought the safest thing she could do would be to keep out of our way?"
This was one mode of accounting for the flight of the stranger; still I did not like the idea of giving up the chase. Van Graoul's notion might be correct; but yet it was possible that she was, after all, the Emu. At last the sun went down; but the night was so clear that we could still see the chase, and most perseveringly we followed her. The morning dawned, and there she was just ahead of us; and so well defined did every spar and sail appear in the clear atmosphere, that I could scarce persuade myself that she was far beyond the range of our guns. She had, indeed, rather increased than diminished her distance from us. At the same rate, unless the breeze failed her, and favoured us, she must finally escape from us. Approaching the evening, some low wooded land appeared ahead, towards which she was steering.
"What can she intend to do now?" I asked of Fairburn.
"She intends to run between a number of low coral islands, which form the land you see ahead, and so expects to escape us," he answered. "The navigation is very difficult, and very dangerous for a stranger; but Van Graoul knows them well, and if she goes in we can follow."
"By all means, let us follow them," I exclaimed. "Everything makes me think that must be the Emu."
"I wish that I could be certain," said Fairburn. "We have a longer cruise before us."
I asked Van Graoul the name of the islets scattered about in a long line before us.
"They are called the Pater Nosters, because strangers are apt to say their Pater Nosters when they happen to find themselves among them in bad weather," he answered.
The day was clear and the sea smooth; but I could suppose that in thick weather they must be very dangerous. The brig stood boldly on, with all sail set; and as we saw her, she seemed about to run directly on shore. Our glasses were continually fixed on her. One moment she was before us—the next she had disappeared. An exclamation of surprise escaped from many of the crew.
"Hello! where's the stranger?" cried one.
"Why, if she don't beat the Flying Dutchman!" exclaimed another.
"I thought no good of her when I saw her up-helm and run away from us as she did," said a third, a Yankee, who was one of the oracles of the crew.
Van Graoul laughed. "We shall soon get a sight of her again," he said; "she will get becalmed among the trees, or will find the wind baffling, when we, with our fore and aft sails shall have the advantage."
The breeze still held, and my heart beat quick at the thoughts of what was going to occur. At last we approached the land, or rather the islands. They stretched away for miles before us on either side, for we appeared to be near the centre of the group. The highest were not more than five or six feet out of the water; but the greater number were only two or three feet, and some were scarcely as many inches above it, and it seemed extraordinary that the waves should not wash completely over them. That they did not do so, even in rough weather, was evident from the thick groves of cocoa-nut, palm, and other tropical trees, which grew on them, while a bright sand, on which were strewed numberless beautiful shells, fringed their borders.
Van Graoul now showed some of his good qualities. Hands were stationed at the bowsprit end, each fore-yard arm, and the mast-head, to keep a bright look-out for the coral ridges, which had not yet shown themselves above water, while he stood forward where he could be seen by the helmsman, ready to direct him in the devious course we were about to pursue. I had had too recent a lesson of the dangers of coral reefs not to feel anxious as I found myself again among them. Coral islands have always struck me as one of the most interesting curiosities of nature. A minute marine insect builds up from the bottom of the sea the solid foundation. The waves break the summit into sand. The birds of the air come and rest there, and bring seeds, which in time spring up and decay, till a soil is formed to give nourishment to more lofty trees, such as we now saw before us. We shot in between a narrow opening with the water of the deepest blue on either side. All hands were at their stations. Fairburn acted as quarter-master, ready to repeat our pilot's signals. It was a nervous time: now we seemed rushing on against a bank of trees, and directly we turned to the right hand or to the left, through another opening, the termination of which was completely hidden from our sight; and had I not felt confidence in Van Graoul, I should have fancied that we were running into a blind passage, without another outlet. On looking out astern, I found that we had completely lost sight of the sea, and thus were on every side surrounded by trees and reefs. A stranger would, indeed, have found no little difficulty in getting out of the place, had he ever by any wonderful chance managed to get into it. Still on we flew.
"Now," exclaimed Van Graoul triumphantly, "we shall see directly; and if I mistake not, we shall not be far astern of her."
Soon after he spoke we shot past a thickly-wooded point, and emerged into open, lake-like expanse. I saw his countenance fall. The stranger was nowhere to be seen.
Everybody on board experienced a feeling of blank disappointment, as in vain we looked in the hopes of seeing the royals of the brig appearing above the trees. Either Van Graoul had miscalculated her distance from us, or she had taken some other passage; or, as Dick Harper the Yankee seaman observed, she was in truth the Flying Dutchman. At all events it appeared that we had run into a most dangerous position, to very little purpose. Should the brig be the pirate, and still be concealed somewhere in the neighbourhood—if we brought up, she might at night attack us with her boats; and though we might beat them off, we might not escape loss, and at the same time be as far from our object as ever. We had no time for deliberation—our course must now be ahead, so we stood across the lake-like expanse I have spoken of, where as much caution as before was necessary; for it was full of reefs, and in another quarter of an hour we were again threading the labyrinth-like canals, from which we had before emerged. Every instant I hoped to come upon the chase, but still as we sailed on she eluded us.
His attention was too much occupied to allow me to keep him in conversation and I saw he was as much vexed as I was at the escape of the stranger. Little Ungka seemed the most surprised of any one at finding himself among trees; but he showed no disposition to quit his friends on board the schooner, even for the sake of being lord of all he surveyed. For two hours we stood on; sometimes the channels between the islands widened, and here we crossed broad sounds, but did not attempt to go down any of them, as their entrances, Van Graoul said, were full of dangerous shoals. We glided on; and I began to think that we were never to be clear of this wooded labyrinth; for, curious and beautiful as it might be under other circumstances, I wanted once more to have a clear sight around me.
"Starboard!" cried Fairburn, as our pilot waved his hand on one side, and the head of the schooner deviated to the left.
"Port it is," repeated the helmsman, and her head turned towards a channel to the right. The wind now came on her quarter, now on her beam, according to the turnings of the channels; and I was afraid, sometimes, that it would come ahead. It, however, never baffled us; and at length, at the end of a broader passage than usual, the unbroken line of the horizon appeared before us. The seamen welcomed it almost with a shout, for few like this sort of navigation. I proposed to Van Graoul that we should anchor before we emerged altogether from among the islands, so as to explore them more carefully in the boats, in case the brig should be still hid among them. Fairburn approved of my idea; and shortening sail immediately, we brought up in a little bay among the trees, by which the vessel was completely hid. Fairburn and the second mate, Barlow, volunteered for this service; and urged me so strongly to remain on board with Van Graoul that I consented.
Fairburn first pulled out to sea, so that he might take a look all round; but coming back, he reported that there was no appearance anywhere of a sail to the southward; so that, if the stranger had gone through the group, she must have passed out somewhere to the northward. While the boats were away we sent a hand to watch from the highest tree at the farthest point of land to the south, if any vessel made her appearance from among the islands. Hour after hour passed away, and the boats did not return. The sun went down, and darkness came on; and at last I began to grow anxious about them. Van Graoul lighted his pipe, and sat on the deck, puffing away with more energy than usual.
"There is no fear," he remarked. "I did not expect them before morning; and if the brig is where I advised Fairburn to look for her, there is better chance of finding her in the dark than in the daylight without their being discovered."
Of course I could not turn in. Van Graoul and I held each other in conversation, while we kept a bright look-out on every side. It was the morning watch, when I heard a hail—it seemed like the voice of a stranger; it came nearer; there was another hail, and to my great satisfaction Fairburn and Barlow pulled alongside. They had seen nothing of the brig; and we were all very much puzzled to know what had become of her. The next morning we weighed, and stood out to sea. Never was a brighter look-out kept for a prize than we kept for the reappearance of the stranger; but to little purpose, beyond convincing ourselves that there was no probability of her appearing. For two days we cruised in the neighbourhood of the islands, clear of the reefs, and at length once more stood on our course.
There was much discussion on board as to what the stranger was—where she had come from—where she was going—and why, if she was honest, she ran away from us. The general notion among the crew was that she was something strange and supernatural.
"If not the Flying Dutchman, which could scarcely be the case seeing the latitude we are in," said Dick Harper with oracular authority, "she's near akin to the chap, that you may depend on, for no other would have been for to go for to play us such a trick as he has been doing; and for that matter, messmates, look ye here—he may be the Dutchman himself; for if he can cruise about as they say he does, I don't see no reason why he shouldn't take it into his head just to come down into these parts to have a look at some of his kindred, instead of knocking eternally off and about the Cape, which no longer belongs to them, d'ye see. To my mind, it's just as well we had nothing to do with the fellow; he'd have played us some scurvy trick, depend on't."
This most philosophical explanation seemed to satisfy the ship's company; and as the officers had no better one to offer, except that the stranger had got into the open sea again by some passage unknown to them, they said nothing on the subject.
It served as a matter of discussion for a long time afterwards. We made but little progress, for the wind was light, and often it fell almost calm, while the weather became very hot and sultry.
One morning, when I came on deck, I found that we were lying becalmed. The sea was as smooth as glass, but it could not be called level; for ever and anon there came a slow rising swell, which made the little craft rock from side to side, and the sails flap with a loud irregular sound against the masts, as if they were angry at having nothing to do, and wished to remind the wind to fulfil its duty. The sun shone out of the sky, without a cloud to temper its heat, and its rays made one side of the ocean shine like molten gold. Every one was suffering more or less from the lassitude produced by excessive heat; the pitch was bubbling up from the seams of the deck; a strong, hot, burning smell pervaded the vessel; the chickens in the hencoops hung their heads and forgot to cackle; the ducks refused to quack, and sat with their bills open, gasping for breath; the pig lay down, as if about to yield up the ghost; and even Ungka, who generally revelled in a fine hot sun, and selected the warmest place on board, now looked out for a shady spot, and sat with his paws over his head to keep it cool. The bulkheads groaned, the booms creaked against the masts, every particle of grease being speedily absorbed; while, if the hand touched a piece of metal, it felt as if heated by the fire. Two of the youngsters of the crew were actually amusing themselves by frying a slice of meat on a bit of tin exposed to the sun. As one looked along the deck, one could see the heat-mist playing over every object, on which the eye rested. If it is hot thus early in the day, what will it become by noon, we thought, unless a breeze spring up to cool us? However, no breeze did spring up, and hotter and hotter it grew, if possible, till Dick Harper declared we should all be roasted, and become a fat morsel for one of the big sea-serpents which were known to frequent those seas. We got an awning spread, and breakfasted on deck, for below it was insupportable; and though we none of us starved ourselves, we were unable to do the ample justice we generally did to the viands. Van Graoul lighted his pipe, and leaning back in his chair, watched the smoke, with calm composure, ascending in a perpendicular column above his nose. Fairburn kept his eye carefully ranging round the horizon, to look out for any signs of coming wind; for we could not but suspect that this calm was the forerunner of a hurricane, or a gale of wind of some sort. I tried to read; but I found that reading was impossible. It was even difficult to carry on a conversation with any degree of briskness. Hour after hour slowly passed away, and there was no change in the weather, when a sound struck our ears which suddenly aroused us all from our apathy.
"A gun!" exclaimed Fairburn; "and a heavy one too—"
"There's another—and another," we repeated in chorus.
"De pirates of Sooloo or Borneo attacking some merchant vessel," observed Van Graoul.
"Can it be the Emu engaged with a man-of-war, by any possibility?" I asked, my thoughts always naturally recurring to her.
"There are too many guns, and the firing is too brisk for that," remarked Fairburn. "More likely some Dutch men-of-war, or perhaps some of the Company's cruisers engaged with a fleet of prahus."
"Where do you make out the firing to come from?" I asked, rather puzzled myself to say from what direction the sounds proceeded.
"From the southward," he answered. "Some of the sounds seem so loud, that if it were night, I should say we ought to see the flashes; but that arises, I expect, from the peculiar state of the atmosphere."
"I wish we had a breeze, to be able to get up to see what it is all about," I exclaimed.
"It is one great puzzle," observed Van Graoul sagaciously, as he re-lit his pipe, and puffed away as before.
Again all was quiet for the space of an hour; and we, of course, fancied that the engagement had been concluded, and that we should have no chance of helping our friends. The general opinion was, that a large force of Malay pirates had been attacked by some European ships of war. While we were discussing the matter, we were again startled by a louder report than ever, followed by several others in rapid succession.
"Did you not fancy that you felt the vessel shake under our feet?" I asked; for, soon after the loudest report, I thought the schooner was lifted up and let down suddenly, in a very unusual way.
"Yes; if I did not know that we were in deep water, I should have thought she had struck on a shoal," replied Van Graoul.
"Are you certain that we are in deep water?" asked Fairburn with emphasis. "We'll see what the lead says."
Van Graoul smiled. "I am not offended, Fairburn, though some might be; but you'll find I'm right."
"I hope so," replied Fairburn; "but a current might be drifting us faster than we expected." The lead was hove, deep water was found all round. "I cannot make it out," exclaimed Fairburn.
"Nor I," said Van Graoul, as he puffed away with his pipe. "Some ship blown up; or perhaps a score of prahus."
Again the sound of firing was heard rolling away in the distance.
"It must be off Sourabaya, or Lombok, or perhaps as far away as Bali," remarked Fairburn, listening attentively. "Sometimes I fancy it comes from the eastward, and may be away at Combobo, or Floris. Over a calm sea sounds travel a great distance."
"I cannot help thinking that there must be some engagement on shore between the Dutch troops and the natives of some of those islands. They now and then are fond of making a disturbance," said Barlow, the second mate.
"No, no; there was no chance of anything of the sort," answered Van Graoul. "That firing, if firing it is, comes from the sea, I tell you."
The evening was now approaching, and still the mystery was not solved. At distant intervals, we continued to hear the sound of firing; but when darkness came on, we could nowhere see the flashes of the guns, as we expected. A light breeze at length sprung up from the eastward; but it was still hot and oppressive, and it in no way refreshed us. Anxious to discover, if possible, the cause of the firing, we trimmed sails and stood to the southward; but with the light air there was blowing we made but little way. The night appeared very long. I turned in for a couple of hours, but the heat soon again drove me on deck. When daylight appeared, we were on the look-out, almost expecting to see some of the vessels which had been engaged the previous day; but as the sun arose there was nothing in sight but the deep blue silent sea on three sides, and to the south the lofty hills of a large island, and at one end the peaks of a mountain towering over the rest. There was, instead of the bright, pure, clear atmosphere which generally exists at that hour, a very peculiar lurid glare, which, as the sun rolled upwards in his course, increased in intensity, till the sky became of almost a copper hue. Fairburn had gone aloft with his glass, to satisfy himself more fully as to there being anything in sight from the point where the firing had proceeded. He now returned on deck.
"I cannot make it out," he remarked. "After all, I am not so certain that it was firing we heard. Away to the southward, there is a dense black cloud which seems rising rapidly, as if it would cover all the sky."
We looked in the direction he indicated; and there, even while he was speaking, we observed the approach of a cloud, or rather I should call it a dense mist, so completely without break of any sort did it occupy the whole horizon. It looked like an opaque mass of some substance, borne onward by some invisible power towards us. Van Graoul, whose equanimity nothing extraordinary could disturb, likened it to the wall of China painted black, and taking a cruise to the southward.
"Is there any wind in it, do you think?" asked Fairburn. "It does not seem to ruffle the surface."
"No wind, I think," said Van Graoul; "but better shorten sail; the canvas does no good."
Such also was Fairburn's opinion, and accordingly the schooner was made snug to meet the hurricane should it arrive.
The crew were clustering in groups on deck watching the strange appearance, and in suppressed voices asking each other what it could mean. The more nervous already began to give way to fear; and the bravest were not altogether free from apprehension that some awful catastrophe was about to occur. The Javanese declared that it portended great convulsions in their country, and perhaps the overthrow of the ruling powers. Some of the more credulous of the seamen began to connect it, in some way or other, with the sudden disappearance of the strange brig.
"I knowed it would be so," muttered Dick Harper. "I never yet heard of any one coming across those fly-away, never-find-me sort of chaps we met t'other day, but what was sure to get into mischief afore long."
These, and similar observations, according to the temper and the natural prejudices of the speakers, by degrees spread an undefined apprehension of evil among all the crew; and fellows who, I believe, would have faced any known danger, and struggled manfully with death to the last, were now full of fear, and ready to be startled at the sound of a gun, or even the flap of a sail. On came the dark mass, as it approached assuming a dusky red appearance, which much increased its terrors. In a short time it covered the whole sky, and a darkness deeper than night came on. There was only one clear space, just like a gleam of light, seen at the end of a cavern, and that was away to the eastward, whence the light wind then blowing came; and even that was growing narrower and narrower. The darkness increased; the hearts of all of us, I believe, sunk; the light in the east, our last ray of hope, which till now had tended somewhat to cheer our spirits, totally disappeared, and we all began to feel that death, in some horrible, undefined shape, might speedily be our lot. It was dark before, as dark as night, but still we might have made out a vessel at the distance of a quarter of a mile; now we could scarcely see the length of the schooner. We were, when the darkness began, to the best of our knowledge, some distance from any land, or reefs, or shoals, and we trusted that no current might be carrying us towards any dangers, for we were utterly unable to protect ourselves against them.
The vessel's head was now put about, that we might stand off, the sail being reduced so as to leave sufficient only to give her steerage way, that, should any heavy wind overtake us, we might be prepared to receive it. Our light was utterly unavailing, for darker and darker still grew the atmosphere, till, without exaggeration, we were unable to see our hands held up before our faces; and it was through our voices alone that we were able to recognise each other.
"Is there a chance of any wind?" I asked of Fairburn, near whom I was standing. I thought how awful a storm would be in such darkness.
"It is possible, I think," he replied. "At the same time, I fear no storm with this little craft."
We were still in doubt as to the cause of the awful phenomenon which was taking place, when, as I happened to touch the companion hatch, I found that it was gritty, as if covered with dust, while our lips and eyes informed us that a shower of light subtle ashes was falling—the deck being soon covered with a thick coating of them.
"What do you now think causes the darkness?" demanded Fairburn of Van Graoul; for we were all three standing together round the companion hatch.
"One burning mountain. It is Tomboro, in Sumbawa; the land we saw in the morning away to the south," he replied in his usual calm tone. "I thought so some time ago; but I said nothing, because I was not certain."
"A burning mountain!" I exclaimed. "Could ashes have caused the intense darkness which hangs over us?"
"Oh yes; but we shall have something worse before long," he observed coolly. "Ah, I thought so, here it comes."
Even while he was speaking, a loud rushing noise was heard—the sea seemed to be bubbling and foaming up around us, and in an instant the schooner heeled over to her bulwarks, and appeared to be driving furiously onward over the water, as if she was about to go over never to rise again. Fairburn seized his speaking-trumpet, and shouted forth his orders to the crew. The helm was put up; the after-sail was taken off the vessel, and the jib shown for an instant.
"She pays off! she pays off!" was shouted by the crew, as her head was felt to turn away from the wind, and she once more rose on an even keel. Then on she flew, like a sea-bird before the furious blast, through the darkness.
"Where are we driving to?" we asked ourselves. "While we had abundance of sea-room we were safe. Now, who can say what will be our fate?"
Fairburn ordered a lamp for the binnacle; a sickly light was thrown on the compass. He rushed below. A glance at the chart showed that we were then driving towards the western end of Sumbawa. Van Graoul and I followed him.
"Can we weather it and get into Allass Straits?" I asked, as I pointed to the chart.
The Dutchman shook his head. "There are rocks and islands off there which we cannot see; we may slip through them by chance, but we must not reckon on it," he answered.
We returned on deck. The wind blew more furiously than ever, the darkness also seemed increased. We stood prepared for our fate. We had done all that men could do. Then I remembered the last words of my kind guardian, "Never despair, for God is everywhere." I repeated it to my companions. It gave us courage and confidence, for we felt that we were in His hands. From mouth to mouth it was passed with reverence along the decks; and even the rough seamen, unaccustomed to pray, felt its force and truth. On, on we drove, the water dashed and foamed around us, the wind howled through the rigging. For an instant there was a lull, then down again came the blast upon us. The compass told that it had again shifted, and was now blowing from the north. If it held so, it would shorten the time before the catastrophe must occur. Every moment the sea became more agitated, and the broken waves leaped up and washed over our decks, as if we were running through a troubled race.
"How far-off are we from the shore, think you?" I asked of Fairburn, in as calm a voice as I could command.
"Still some distance," he replied vaguely. "The wind may shift before we reach it."
I cannot hope to convey a distinct idea of the inky blackness of the atmosphere, the howling of the whirlwinds, and the roaring of the waves, as, utterly unable to help ourselves, we drove furiously onward. In a few hours, or in a few minutes even, where should we be? Again, before we could answer the question, the wind changed, with redoubled force it seemed. It came off the land, whirling us round before it. Its force seemed to drive back the waves to their proper level. On a sudden, without a moment's warning, the topsail gave a flap against the mast, the schooner rocked to and fro in the yet troubled sea, and then all was still, and the schooner floated calmly, as in a sheltered harbour, on the water.
"This is wonderful. What is going to occur next?" I exclaimed.
"Perhaps the wind is just taking a rest," observed Van Graoul.
We waited in expectation of again feeling the fury of the blast, and anxiously looked at the compass to see from what quarter it came. While our eyes were trying to pierce the darkness, as if we could discover the coming danger, a bright light burst on them from the south. Never was a spectacle of a like nature, more awful yet more magnificent, beheld. The darkness for an instant cleared away, and we saw, but a few miles distant it seemed, a lofty mountain. From its broad summit there burst forth three distinct columns of flame. They thus rose to an enormous height, and then, their summits uniting in one, they seemed to contend with each other, twisting and intertwining together, till their crests broke into a mass of fiery foam, and expanded over the heavens. Now and then a still larger quantity of flame would burst forth, and darting upwards for many thousand feet, would fall in burning streams to the earth. Other streams also burst forth and flowed down the sides of the mountain, till the whole side towards us seemed one mass of liquid fire.