CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.
As I sat in the cavern by the side of the dying pirate, his voice grew fainter and fainter, and his strength was evidently ebbing fast away. I observed that while he was speaking, his hand grasped a letter, well worn and crumpled.
"Ah that I had followed her advice, that I had listened to her entreaties, I should not have been brought to this pass!" he muttered to himself.
The letter was from his mother. For many years he had preserved it, and at his last moments it was not forgotten. I promised to write to her, and to tell her that he had died repentant. It is not, I hope, presumptuous in me to suppose, that it might have been owing to his kindness to Eva, to his one redeeming virtue, that he was allowed thus to die with one who could speak to him on matters of religion; or, perchance, a mother's earnest prayers might have been heard at the throne of grace. So earnestly was I talking, that I did not observe the change which had come over the heavens. Suddenly, to my surprise and horror, the pirate sat bolt upright—his hair stood on end—his eyeballs rolled terrifically—his hand pointed towards the ocean.
"I knew it! I knew it! They come! they come!" he exclaimed, in a hollow voice, trembling with fear. "Such as I could not die like other men. Oh! mercy! mercy!"
Dark rolling clouds in fantastic forms came rushing over the sky. His voice was drowned in the loud roar of the tempest as it swept over the rocks. One shriek of agony alone was heard joining with the wailing of the fierce blast, and the wretched being by my side fell back upon his rude couch a livid corpse.
It was long ere I could erase from my memory the agonised expression of his countenance, as I beheld it when I attempted to draw the lids over his starting eyeballs. The storm was as furious as it was sudden. Thunder in rattling peals rolled through the sky; vivid lightning darted from the clouds; and rain in deluges came down, and drove me for shelter to the farthermost corner of the cavern. I could just distinguish my schooner through the sheet of water which was falling before me. The squall struck her; she heeled over to it, and for an instant I feared she would never have risen again but answering her helm she paid off, and away she flew before the gale. When I looked again, she had run far out of sight, under bare poles. My position was very disagreeable; but as there were food and water in the island, it might have been much worse. My chief concern was for Prior, Fairburn, and the boat's crew. There had been plenty of time for them to get on board; but I questioned whether they had remained there, or endeavoured to return on shore before the gale came on. It suddenly occurred to me that they might have made the attempt, and that the boat might have been wrecked. No sooner did I think this, than, in spite of the rain, I started up and rushed down the rock towards the place where we had landed. I looked around on every side. There was no sign of the boat; but the wild waves were lashing the rocks with relentless fury, throwing up masses of foam to the topmost branches of the loftiest trees. To satisfy myself more thoroughly, I walked completely round the island; no boat, nor even a fragment, was to be seen; and at length I endeavoured to find the path to the cavern. I had some difficulty in discovering it, as it was now growing rapidly dark, the obscurity being increased by the dark masses of cloud floating in the sky. I fortunately found some plantains, which I plucked, as also a cocoa-nut; and with these in my hand I retraced my way back to the cavern. I would have selected any place to rest in rather than the one where the dead pirate lay; but I knew of no other where I could obtain shelter, and I did not like to turn the body out to be exposed to the tempest. He had collected a store of wood, and as I had my rifle with me, I easily kindled a fire. I was anxious to have a fire to dry my clothes, which were thoroughly drenched by the rain and exposure to the spray. This operation being performed, I began to feel the pangs of hunger; but as I had had but little practical experience of cookery, I was rather puzzled to know how to dress my plantains. I tried one under the ashes, but I burnt it to a cinder, and was obliged to stay my appetite by munching a piece of cocoa-nut, while I was making a fresh attempt.
I had a knife in my pocket, and by means of it I formed a toasting-fork out of a thin branch of a shrub, with which I more carefully roasted another plantain, very much to my satisfaction. It would doubtless have been better dressed in a more scientific way; but I was too hungry to be particular. The cocoa-nut served me as dessert; and the spring and some limes afforded me a most delicious and cooling draught. When my hunger was appeased, the strangeness of the scene, and the recollection of my own somewhat critical position, presented themselves to me with greater force than before. Unless, however, some accident had happened to the schooner, I felt very sure that she would return as soon as possible to my rescue.
The present, therefore, most oppressed me. I had no superstition; but yet I was not altogether free from a natural repugnance to being left with the dead pirate during the darkness of the night, while the storm was raging so furiously around. To sleep, I found, was impossible; so I sat up by the side of my fire, husbanding the wood with the greatest care, lest it should not last me till morning. Now and then a blast more furious than ordinary would come and almost sweep the fire out of the cavern.
In the intervals of the rain, while the lightning illuminated the dark abyss below my feet, I looked out to see if a glimpse could be caught of the schooner, as I pictured her trying to beat up to my rescue; but had I considered, I should have known that it would have been impossible for her so to do.
I had thrown a cloak I found over the body of the pirate, which I had drawn to the side of the cavern farthest from me; and as the flames cast their fitful light on it, I fancied that I saw the limbs moving. I watched—I was certain that they moved again.
"Can it be possible that he is not dead?" I thought. "Perhaps he is in a swoon, brought on by agitation and excessive weakness." Taking a brand from the fire, I approached the body, and lifted the cloak from his face. The features remained fixed and rigid as before. The stamp of death was there. My fancy had deceived me. Replacing the cloak, I returned to my seat by the fire. Never has a night appeared so long. At last my fuel was almost exhausted, and my watch told me that it wanted some time to sunrise. The storm had in no degree abated. I had scraped the leaves together, which had formed the pirate's bed, and I kept adding a few at a time to the fire. Whether the smoke they caused had any effect on me, I know not; but by degrees forgetfulness stole over me, and I sunk into a sound slumber. When I awoke, the storm had passed away, and the sun was shining brightly on the blue waters beneath me. Arousing myself completely, I offered up my morning prayers to Heaven, and then hurried out to take a survey around the island, in the hopes of discovering the Fraulein in the distance. I first looked to the south. She was not to be seen. I then climbed to the highest point, where the flag-staff was placed, when what was my surprise and no little dismay to see below me a fleet of prahus, which, from their size and the appearance of those on board them, I knew must belong to one of the neighbouring piratical communities! The cause of their presence was explained, when I observed that several of them had been driven on shore on the weather side of the island, the remainder having taken shelter to leeward of it. The wind which had blown the Fraulein off the coast, had, to my misfortune, blown them on it. I consoled myself with the hope that they might soon take their departure, and that I should have simply to undergo the inconvenience of lying hid in the cavern, and was about to hurry away from my conspicuous situation, when, to my dismay, I saw, from the gestures of some of those on the shore below, that I was perceived. Still I thought that I might reach the cavern before any of them could get up the hill, and that, should they possibly not take much trouble in searching for me, I might still escape discovery. I therefore hurriedly descended to it, and sat myself down in the most retired part to wait events. My rifle was by my side. I loaded it, and considered whether I should try and defend the post, should they appear to be hostile. I seldom missed my aim; and I felt that I could keep a number at bay, if I posted myself at the angle of the rock, where I could command a pathway, up which not more than one person at a time could proceed.
There was, however, unfortunately no spot whence I could watch them to judge of their disposition without being perceived. I therefore must be the aggressor against people who might not desire to injure me. At all events, I must sacrifice a good many lives, and should probably be overpowered in the end. Of course I could have no scruple about defending my life or my liberty; but I could not tell that the strangers wished to deprive me of either one or the other. While I was still undecided, I heard the voices of the Malays, shouting to each other as they climbed the hill in search of me.
As I had so easily discovered the cavern, so probably would they. "Come," I thought, "I will not be taken like a rat in a hole, crouching up here in the corner. They will think that I am afraid and despise me. That must not be." So, starting with my rifle carefully loaded, I went to the angle, whence I could observe them. As I stood listening, I judged by the sound of their voices that they were drawing near, and had probably already discovered the pathway to my place of concealment. Stepping out, therefore, with my rifle grasped in my left hand, ready to fire if necessary, I presented myself full in front of them. There were some twenty or thirty fellows; and savage-looking warriors they appeared, with head-dresses of feathers, and skins of wild animals on their shoulders, while they held their krisses in their hands ready to strike. I saw, from their active movements as they sprang up the rocks, that I should not have the slightest chance with them if we came to blows, and yet they did not seem like people with whom there was much chance of keeping on peaceable terms, if one happened to be the weakest party. I fortunately had a white handkerchief in my pocket; and on the instant I thought I would try what effect exhibiting a flag of truce would have. As soon as they saw the rifle, they stopped and held a consultation, evidently well knowing its powers of mischief. Probably they supposed that there might be several others behind it ready to pick them off as they advanced. When, however, they saw me holding out the handkerchief in my right hand, they suspected that I was not inclined for war, and their confidence immediately returning, they once more advanced towards me. I again presented my rifle and they halted. Their leader suspected that he should have a bullet sent through him, so he kept back the rest, who, not anticipating such a reception for themselves, were more induced to push on.
My readers will believe that I had good reason for my apprehensions, when I describe the fierce group winding up the pathway and scattered about the more distant rocks before me, where they had climbed when the front ranks came to a halt. Some I judged by their dress and features to be Malays; others were evidently Dyaks, or some of the native tribes of Borneo. The leader was a Malay apparently. He had on his head a turban of gay-coloured cloth, richly embroidered, twisted round a helmet of ancient form; his breast was guarded by a coat of plate armour, and the scabbard of his sword hung to a gold band across his shoulders. On his back he wore a scarlet coat, while a shawl, also embroidered, was fastened loosely round his waist, below which again appeared a sort of kilt, and loose trousers. His sword was ready in one hand and a spear in the other, so that he promised to be a formidable opponent at close quarters. But behind him came another, whose appearance was far more terrific, and whom I guessed was of the Dyak race, probably a chief among them.
Strange as it may seem, I was well able to observe him. On his head he wore a sort of crown or cap, of large size, made of monkey's skins, trimmed with feathers, and surmounted by two very long feathers of the Argus pheasant, hanging out on either side. From each of his ears were pendant two large rings of tin or lead, which weighed the lobes almost down to his shoulders, while the upper part of the ear had a tiger's tooth passed through it. He had on a long jacket of scarlet cloth, trimmed with yellow, and thickly padded to serve as armour; and a cloak of tiger's skin thrown over his shoulders, with the head of the animal hanging behind. A thick cloth girded his loins, and hung down before and behind like the tail of a coat, while into it was stuck his parang or broad-pointed sword. A spear was grasped in his left arm, which bore a long shield made of hard wood, and curved round, barely of width to cover the body at once; and in his right was his sumpitan or tube to blow out poisoned arrows, one of which he had ready to discharge at me, his followers imitating his very disagreeable example. His legs and feet were entirely bare. The handle of his sword, as also his quiver, were profusely ornamented with tufts of hair, which added to the wildness of his general appearance; indeed, altogether my assailants were as savage a band of warriors as a single man would wish to encounter.
As yet they were too far-off to send their arrows at me: at the same time, there was little chance of my rifle missing one of them; but then, had I fired, before I could again have loaded, the rest would have rushed on, and cut me down. I therefore, as my only resource, resolved to try what would be the effect of showing confidence in them. Accordingly I placed my rifle against the rock, and waving my handkerchief, advanced towards them. I own that my heart was beating tolerably quickly all the time, but I tried to look as brave as a lion. When they saw that I had laid aside my weapon, for which I had reason to suspect they thought me a great simpleton, their own courage returned, and then rushing forward, I was soon surrounded by their motley band, each man amusing himself, very much to his satisfaction though very little to mine, by thrusting the point of his sword or spear-head at me, to try whether I could bear the prick without flinching. As it would not now have done to have shown any signs of fear, I took no notice of their insults, and looked around with an air as unconcerned as I could assume.
I fear that I did not act my part sufficiently well to command their respect, for the chief seized my handkerchief, and putting it into his belt, proved that he had no respect for flags of truce; another got hold of my rifle, and, on examining the lock, pulled the trigger, and very nearly shot one of his companions. One then took off my jacket, and one appropriated my hat, not withstanding my significant entreaties to be allowed to retain it; indeed, I soon found that I had little chance of being treated with any ceremony.
Some had gone into the cavern, where they discovered the dead body of the pirate. Immediately they stripped it of its clothes, and hurled it over the precipice, to become a prey to the fowls of the air; so that I was unable, as I wished, to have bestowed burial on one who, miscreant as he might have been called, had, at all events, been the protector of my little sister.
When, on further examination, they found nothing else to carry off, they dragged me down to the shore, off which several of their prahus were lying at anchor. The rest of the people were busily engaged in collecting everything that was valuable from the wrecks of those which had been driven on shore; and I very soon found that, though they might spare my life, I was to be treated, not only as a prisoner, but as a slave; for a fellow having collected a load, without ceremony placed it on my back, and, giving me a poke with his spear, made a sign to me to carry it to a canoe floating close to the beach. The rest laughed, and seemed to think it a good joke. I tried hard to keep up my temper and courage; so, as soon as I had deposited the load in the canoe, I came back, and assiduously began to collect another, which in like manner I carried to the canoe. When, however, I had collected a third, rather heavier than the rest, seeing a fellow passing me without one, I very quietly placed it on his back, and giving him a shove, pointed to the canoe, as his countryman had done when he put the load on me. This seemed to tickle the fancies of the rest, and they all laughed immoderately, except the one on whom I had played the trick, and he immediately threw the burden down. On this I pretended to fancy that he was too weak to carry it, and making signs as if I commiserated him, I took it up and bore it off to the boat. By this sort of behaviour I believe that I gained considerably the good opinion of my captors, if I did not by it save my life. Had I been weak or obstinate, they might have killed me, as of no use to them; but from my willingness to work, they judged that I should make a useful slave, and valued me accordingly. Having collected all they wanted from the wrecks, and laid in a store of fruit and water, they began to go on board the prahus. I resolved to make an attempt to preserve my liberty, and putting out my hand, tried to shake hands with them and to bid them farewell, as if I expected to remain on the island. Alas! I speedily discovered that they had no intention to let me off. I endeavoured to explain that I had friends who would return and look for me, and would be grievously disappointed at not finding me. They probably did not understand my explanations; at all events they totally disregarded them, and the spears which were pointed at me convinced me that I had no resource but to step into the canoe towards which I was thus unpleasantly conducted.
We were soon on board one of the prahus, which, I learned, belonged to the chief who had captured me, and I was given to understand that I was his especial property. My rifle was given to the leader of the expedition, as a more valuable perquisite. I am not quite certain whether my jacket or I ranked next in consideration. I suspect that we were considered of about equal value. The prahu on which I was on board differed but little from those which composed the fleet by which it had been my chance before to be captured. The chief cabin extended farther forward, and was less substantially built; and the whole vessel was longer, and much more decorated with paint and carving. I was placed under the fighting deck among a quantity of booty, of which I found they had been pillaging some of the neighbouring islands. Fortunately there were plenty of slaves to work the oars, so that I was saved from a task which would have knocked me up completely. The wind being contrary, the oars were got out, and we pulled away to the northward. At first we proceeded at a moderate speed, but I then observed some little commotion on board, and the officers went round with thongs in their hands to urge the slaves to fresh exertions. As we cleared the island, and I managed to creep up so as to get a look astern, I discovered the cause. In the far distance was my own little craft, the Fraulein, beating up under all sail towards the island. I was certain it was she, and it was a satisfaction to know that she had escaped shipwreck in the gale; but it was indeed doubly tantalising to me to see my friends so near and unable to help me. What a change had a few short hours wrought in my circumstances! Yesterday I was on board my own vessel, with every one anxious to serve me; now I was a slave, surrounded by savages, who, without provocation, might any moment put an end to my existence. I remembered, however, the advice I have so often repeated. I resolved to keep up my spirits, and to make every exertion to escape, trusting that He who had hitherto been my Guardian would think fit still to preserve me. I watched the Fraulein anxiously; she had not yet reached the island to discover that I was no longer on it.
We had almost sunk the island when I saw her topgallant-sails come abreast of it. For some time they remained stationary, and then I saw her evidently standing after us. She pursued us under all sail, but we were pulling into the wind's eye, and had the advantage of her. At length the shades of evening shut her out from my view.
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.
Overcome with fatigue, wretched as I was, I fell fast asleep, surrounded by my savage companions, and was allowed to remain undisturbed all the night. When the morning dawned, we were running under sail, with the northern coast of Celebes on our larboard hand. I looked out for my dear little Fraulein, in the anxious hope that she might be following; but, alas! she was nowhere in sight; and with a sinking heart I felt that I was about to be carried into hopeless slavery. I did not doubt that my friends would search for me everywhere; but if I was transported into the interior of the country, I knew too well how almost impossible it would be for them to discover me.
The high land of the northern coast of Celebes remained in sight for some days, as we pursued our course to the westward; but the pirate fleet did not attempt to make any descent on it; indeed, their prahus had already as much cargo on board as they could well carry. One day we stood close in, and I observed ranges of lofty blue mountains, with rocks and precipices, and waterfalls, and groves of trees, and green fields, forming altogether a most enchanting and tempting prospect. We, however, stood off again; and whatever was the intention of the pirates, either to rob or to obtain water, it was frustrated. The inhabitants of Celebes are called Bugis. They are very enterprising and industrious, and are the chief traders in the Archipelago. They are said not to be altogether averse to a little piracy, when they can commit it without fear of opposition or detection. They are, at all events, far more civilised than any of the surrounding people, and they are in proportion deceitful and treacherous. As Celebes belongs to the Dutch, and they have a settlement on the north-eastern point, that of Mindanao, I was in hopes that some Dutch ship of war might encounter the fleet and rescue me from the hands of my captors; but day after day passed away, and no such good fortune, as I should then have called it, befell me. I had reason, afterwards, to be thankful for all that occurred to me. But I must not anticipate. Losing sight of the coast of Celebes, we crossed the Straits of Malacca, and sighted the lower shores of Borneo. The land was low and thickly fringed with mangrove trees of large growth but behind their dark foliage I observed blue mountain ranges rising in the distance, which gave the scenery a more inviting appearance. We soon entered the mouth of a broad river, up which we sailed in martial array—tom-toms beating, pipes sounding, men shouting and brandishing their weapons, and flags waving. I was at first doubtful whether they were preparing for war, or celebrating their victories on their return home. I found, at last, that all this noise and fuss was their mode of rejoicing and congratulating themselves on their success. At first I was inclined to think their custom very barbarous and ridiculous, till I remembered that we in England do precisely the same thing in our own way, only, as we are a more powerful people, we make more noise at a victory. We fire off much bigger guns, and more of them; we wave a greater number of larger flags; we light up our houses, which are much higher, with lamps; and our mob, who are more numerous, shout with hoarser voices. Indeed, when I came minutely to compare the habits and customs of barbarous people with ours, I found that there was a much greater similarity than I was at first inclined to suspect.
As we sailed on, the scenery much improved. Fine green fields, or meadow land, formed the banks, varied with gently sloping hills and knolls, or more rugged elevations, covered to their summits with the richest and most varied foliage. We passed two or three places where I observed the ruins of huts and stockades, and also that the fruit-trees were cut down. On these occasions the warriors flourished their swords more vehemently than ever, and seemed to threaten some invisible enemy, when I thought it advisable to keep out of their way, lest they should take me for a real one, and hew me to pieces. Higher up, considerable patches of cultivated ground appeared, and, scattered thickly along the banks, were to be seen the picturesque cottages, or rather huts, of the inhabitants. I afterwards learned that they were of the Sagai race—a tribe of the Dyaks—some of whom manned the prahu on which I was. As we proceeded, canoes assembled from each village to greet us, and others were seen coming down the river in large numbers for the same complimentary object. I was now placed on the most conspicuous part of the fighting deck, either as a trophy of war, or an object of curiosity to the assembled multitude, I could not tell which; but I was not flattered by the distinction, which was at all events excessively disagreeable.
At length we reached a town of some size, surrounded by a stockade, with a fort, mounting a number of old guns on one side. The town, I found, was inhabited chiefly by Malays, who live on friendly terms with the Sagais. The houses, unlike those of the Dyaks of the north coast, were built of one storey on the ground, chiefly of bamboo, neatly thatched and floored. The fleet having anchored before the town, and fired a salute, the admiral and his chief officers landed with me in their train, and marched towards the palace of the sultan, as the ruler of each petty state is called. We had not advanced far, when the victorious leader was met by a procession, with the prime minister in state, coming to do him honour. First marched a Malay, with a staff and a large flag waving above his head; then came two spearmen with their shields; and next the minister, another man holding above his head a canopy of state, a huge flat-topped umbrella, of scarlet silk, fringed with gold. Next followed a band of musicians, two with drums, and two with pipes; and last, a large body of spearmen, all habited in scarlet cloth.
The minister wore a silk handkerchief wound round his head, the end sticking out at the top, a silk vest, a richly embroidered coat, broad trousers with a deep fringe, and a handsome shawl round his waist, into which was stuck his sword and kriss, the end of which made his coat stick out very much behind. Such, indeed is the general dress of the Malays in those regions. After saluting the admiral, he turned round, and heading our line of march, we proceeded to the palace.
We found the sultan seated on his throne in a large room of bamboo, open on three sides, that behind him having a scarlet cloth curtain hanging before it. We all drew up in front of the throne, and a great many speeches were made by those present, very complimentary, I doubt not, to each other, and very much the contrary to their enemies; and then I was brought forward and examined, and turned round and round, till they were tired of looking at me. As they were aware that I did not understand a word of their language, or they of mine, they did not ask me any questions, which saved me a great deal of trouble. I was at last sent back to my original captor, whose property I evidently was. He kept me for three days in the town, where I was visited by an immense number of the inhabitants, who evidently considered me a curiosity, just as we in England would look on a Dyak if we had him to exhibit. He did not understand the art of a showman, so he did not attempt to make anything by me; but now, considering that it was time for me to commence gaining my own livelihood, and bringing him some profit into the bargain, he intimated to me that I was to accompany him into the interior on the following day. My master's name was Kaka, and he was, I believe, considered a great warrior and a first-rate navigator; at least, I know the Malay admiral put great confidence in him.
Early in the morning we set out, Kaka and some friends being on horseback, while I was compelled to trudge forward on foot, with a bundle, moreover, on my back. The scenery as we advanced was very beautiful, and the luxuriance and variety of the vegetation most magnificent. I was surprised at the immense number of cultivated trees, shrubs, and plants which surrounded the native villages. There were large groves of broad-leaved plantains and graceful cocoa-nut trees, the slender tapering betel-nut palm and elegant palmyras; while the showy-looking papaw, and here and there a rhambutan tree, or a dark-leaved guava, contrasted with the golden fruit of the shaddock, and the delicious mangustan and the curious-tasted durian were to be found in numbers among them.
I observed extensive groves of bamboo at the back of some of the houses, and pine-apple plantations luxuriating in the dark damp shady nooks. Then there are large fields of the most vivid hues; the bird's-eye pepper and tumeric are found growing like common weeds; while the piper betel, the leaf of which is chewed with ripe or green pieces of the areca-nut, is a most graceful plant, especially when loaded with its long spikes of fruit. Sometimes it runs like a creeper along the ground, and at others it climbs the stems of the palmyra and areca palms in little patches, which are carefully guarded by rough paling. Great attention is paid to the irritation of these spots, to insure a good flavour in the leaves.
The cultivation of these various productions of the earth was certainly very rude; but wherever I went I observed a greater approach to the arts of civilisation than I expected, but more especially I was struck with the immense resources of the country, the extreme fertility which Providence has so bountifully bestowed on it, and the great reciprocal advantages which the inhabitants would reap by a free commercial intercourse with civilised countries.
When I became better acquainted with the people, I felt convinced that, notwithstanding their many barbarous and cruel customs, they possessed dispositions which, if properly cultivated by the introduction of the true spirit and tenets of Christianity, and a firm and judicious government, would form them into prosperous and happy communities. They appeared to me, when I saw them unexcited by war, to be of a very mild character, and most anxious to act rightly and honestly, according to their notions, towards each other. Of course, I judged them by their own standard of right and wrong, as I conceive the only fair way to form a just estimate of the character of a people is to calculate the advantages they possess. Alas! I fear that, were the behaviour of Englishmen thus to be judged, their characters would often sink very very much below the standard at which, in our conceit, we are too proud of rating them.
We travelled on for several days into the interior. I tried to keep up my spirits and an appearance of indifference, as I knew that thus I should have a much better chance of being well treated by the natives, than if I had appeared sick or out of humour. I trudged on, singing when I could manage to screw my voice up to the proper pitch, sometimes chewing a piece of cocoa-nut, and at others whittling away, as the Americans call it, at a stick, which I had cut from the forest. I tried hard to make some of the inferior Sagais carry my load, by placing it on their shoulders; but, though they took the trick in good part, the man to whom I had given it passed it on to another, and very soon it was returned to me. Most of them, indeed, had loads of their own to carry. At last we arrived at the chief's residence. It was a neatly built cottage of bamboo, thatched with palm-leaves, and surrounded by a number of smaller cottages, the habitations of his relations and followers, the whole encircled by a palisade and trenches to serve as a fortification. I was at once introduced to the chief's wife, and made to understand that I was to obey her orders. She wore a large loose garment of native cloth, called a sarong, wrapped round her waist and descending some way down her legs, but not sufficiently long to impede her walking. She was really very good-looking, though rather stout; but her beauty was not increased by the enormous rings of tin which she carried in her ears. She seemed good-natured, and I determined to do my best to please her. She first set me to light the fire. To produce ignition, in the first place, she gave me a stick with a pointed end, which she showed me how to insert into a hole in a board, which led to a groove in the lower side, and by turning the stick round rapidly between the palms, the flame burst forth. She next gave me a quantity of rice or padi to pound for family consumption; and then putting a basket into my hand, made of straw so closely woven that it held water, she intimated that it was to get her from a rivulet a supply of that necessary article.
I was next employed in collecting the fruit of a species of bassia, or what I should call a butter tree. This she boiled down, and then poured the liquid into bamboo cases. When it had cooled it was taken out, and was of the colour and consistence of cheese. The larger quantity was intended for exportation; but she also, taking some strips of cotton, dipped them into the mass, and produced some apologies for candles. The flame was not bright; but the vegetable tallow has the advantage of remaining concrete, or hard, under the greatest tropical heat, white that produced from animal fat becomes too soft for the purpose. When she had no household work to give me, I was sent out with a number of other slaves, both black and brown, to cut wood for firing or building purposes, and to collect aromatic barks, such as the clove bark and the cinnamon. I never refused to perform any work she gave me, and went about it with so cheerful a countenance that I gained her approbation and confidence. I own that all the time my heart was very heavy, and that I was endeavouring to discover some means by which I might have a chance of escaping. At the great distance I was from the coast, I knew that to escape would be very difficult; but I notwithstanding resolved never to despair. Others had been rescued from equally hopeless situations; why should not I? though I could not see the means by which it was to be accomplished. My place of captivity was in the neighbourhood of a fine river, abounding with fish; and after a little time I was sent out to assist my master and his companions in catching them. Sometimes we used the root of a shrub found in the forests, which, being steeped in water, the juice was poured into the pools where the fish lay. This completely stupefied them, and made them float to the surface, where the natives dexterously transfixed them with their spears. They have, however, another and a very amusing way of catching them in the stream, which I think might be imitated to advantage in England. A number of model ducks are made of light wood, to imitate the real bird, and to their feet hangs a line with a hook and some tempting baits. These were set floating in the current, and watched at a little distance by a man in a canoe. Sometimes the ducks would swim tail first, contrary to the practice of all live ducks; but the fish, I supposed, did not observe the eccentricity, for they bit just as readily at the bait below. As soon as the fisherman perceived that a duck began to bob and dive, he paddled forward and secured the living prize beneath. I soon grew expert at this sort of fishing, which was very amusing; and as I set to work to manufacture the ducks, I sometimes had five or six dozen floating around me, and it was very exciting pulling here and there, when, by their movements, I saw they had made a capture.
Near the village, on the banks of the stream, were several podado trees, which are of a light-green foliage, and extremely elegant. They are the abode of fire-flies; and at night it was most beautiful to watch the thousands of those brilliant insects flitting about among their branches. Sometimes I have seen both banks of the river completely lit up as if by a display of fireworks.
I was rapidly gaining a knowledge of the language of my captors, which I diligently studied for the purpose of aiding my escape, and I thus was able to gain a great deal more about the people than I could otherwise have done. I have already slightly described their dress. It varied very much, each man seeming to follow his own taste. Some wore enormously large helmets of skins stretched out on canes, and ornamented with a variety of feathers; and when they wore skin cloaks, the head of the animal usually hung down behind, and had a very grotesque appearance. They wear corselets of leather, stuffed, and some large pearl-oyster shells, to serve as armour. Their sumpitans are most exactly bored, and look like Turkish tobacco-pipes. The inner end of the sumpit, or arrow, is run through a piece of pith fitting exactly to the tube, so that there is little friction as they are blown out of the tube by the mouth. The barb is dipped in a mixture, of which the chief ingredient is the sap of the upas tree; and, to increase its virulence, lime-juice is sometimes added. The poison, by its exposure to the air, loses its noxious qualities.
By-the-bye, I discovered that the deadly qualities of the upas tree are very much exaggerated. I climbed into the branches of one, and drank water from a stream passing near its roots, without suffering the slightest inconvenience; at the same time, perhaps, under some circumstances, it may be more hurtful.
The chief articles exported by my captors were bees' wax and camphor, honey, vegetable tallow, areca-nuts, trepang dawma, sharks' fins, tortoise-shell, edible birds' nests, and pearls. These are only a very small portion of the articles they might export under other circumstances.
The edible bird's nests are formed by a species of swallow, which builds them in the caves on the coast. They adhere in numbers to the rocks, very like watch-pockets to the head of a bed. They are either white, or red, or black, and are formed chiefly of agal-agal a marine cellular plant. The Chinese lanterns are made of netted thread, smeared over with the gum produced by boiling down this same plant, which, when dry, forms a firm pellucid and elastic substitute for horn.
The collecting of these nests, from the positions they occupy, is as dangerous as the samphire-gathering described by Shakespeare. I must return to my description of the people. The members of each tribe are usually divided into their fighting men, those who manufacture arms, and those who cultivate the ground and make ornaments for the women. Although addicted to warfare, they still cultivate the ground; they treat their women better than do most savages, always the mark of a superior grade in civilisation; they do not torture prisoners as do the North American Indians, although they cut off the heads of those they kill.
They believe in one God, and fancy that heaven is situated at the top of Kina Balow, their highest mountain, and that the pass is defended by a savage dog. It is curious that the North American Indians and the Greeks of old had a similar notion.
In their warfare they are as fierce and remorseless as the Red Indian, and, without the fair warning which he gives to his enemies, they attack them in the dead of night, and slay all they meet. I heard of a race of people who inhabited the woods in the interior, who go about entirely without clothing; they sleep under the overhanging branches of trees, make a fire to keep off the wild beasts and snakes, and, cover themselves with a piece of bark. When the children can take care of themselves, they quit their parents to pursue the same course. The Dyaks hunt them, and shoot their children in the trees with sumpits as they would monkeys. I had heard of these wild people; and one day in the woods, with another slave, we observed what I was convinced was one of them, standing before me with a huge stick in his hands; but instead of being without clothing, he had a well-made coat of skin on his shoulders. We were both unarmed; and as my companion instantly ran away, I was afraid that he might retaliate on me the injuries he had so often received. He looked at me fiercely for a minute, and then brandishing his stick, advanced towards me. I saw that I was not likely to escape by running, and fully expected to have my brains knocked out. Luckily a branch of a tree lay near me; I seized it, and rushed towards my antagonist. To my surprise he instantly threw down his stick, and began to climb a tree near him. I was now the assailant; and as my courage increased, his oozed out, and he climbed from branch to branch in an endeavour to make his escape. On nearer examination, what I took to be a coat was his natural skin; and I discovered that instead of a wild man, an enormous ourang-outang was before me. As I had no wish to molest him, I began to retreat; but as I did so, he came down from his tree and followed me. On this I turned again, when he instantly stopped, and as I advanced he began to climb.
I suspected, from this manoeuvre, that he intended me some treachery, and, coming to an open space, I set off and ran as hard as I could. He followed for some distance, when, growing tired of walking, he gave up the chase, and returned to his wood. I suspect that the wild people spoken of are no other than baboons. I advanced further in the good graces of my mistress by taking notice of her children, and by making them swings, and a variety of toys suited to their tastes, so that she was induced to indulge me more than the other slaves. I, however, still had to toil hard, and my master was as severe as at first. One day I had gone with a number of other slaves to collect cinnamon in a direction I had not before visited, when, as I was passing a cottage on my return homeward, I heard the sounds of a female voice singing a low and soft melody. The notes thrilled through my heart. They were not the sounds of a native woman's voice. I let my load drop at the risk of feeling my master's lash on my back, that I might stop and listen. How eagerly did I drink in these notes! I heard the words, too; yes—I could not be mistaken—they were English. Oh, what sensations did they create! I had an indistinct notion that I had heard them before in the days of my infancy. It was a gentle, plaintive air. Now I should never forget it. I longed to see who was the singer; but she was concealed inside the cottage, and I feared to enter; I dared not even delay longer to listen, for the lash of my master was about to descend on my shoulders. What wild fancies rushed into my brain! "Can it be Eva? Can she be so near me? I dare not think it," I kept repeating to myself, as I was urged on with my load. All night long I lay awake, that sweet voice sounding in my ear, while I meditated how I could discover the mystery.
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.
Several days passed away, and my constant and numerous occupations prevented me from returning to the neighbourhood of the cottage from whence the strains of music I had heard proceeded. Every effort I made was prevented. Alas! I felt too truly that I was a slave. Those who have once tasted the bitterness of slavery will know how to compassionate their fellow-creatures, whatever the hue of their skin, reduced to a like condition. Surely the heart of the white and black man is the same: yet such is the fate of thousands and thousands of human beings, not only of the sons of Africa, but of the inhabitants of these magnificent islands I am describing. To what nobler purpose could the power and influence of Great Britain be turned, than by putting a stop to such atrocities, and by bringing the blessings of Christianity and civilisation among a people so capable of benefiting by them?
But to return to my history. The natives of Borneo have a very just conception of the rights of property; they look upon certain lands and fruit-trees, or on other trees and shrubs useful to them, as also on their lakes and rivers for fishing purposes, as belonging to certain tribes or individuals; and any aggression thereon is the cause of quarrels and warfare. I had heard the people talking of an expedition some of them had made into the territory of a distant tribe, when they had cut down some cocoa-nut and palm-trees, and committed other mischief; but they spoke of their enemies as a weak and pusillanimous race, who were unable or unwilling to retaliate, and I thought no more of the matter. When sent into the woods to gather bark or gums, or the heads of the cabbage-palm, or to catch fish on the river or neighbouring lake, I used to be interested by the vast number of birds and insects— the beauty of the plumage of the one, and the brilliancy of the tints of the other.
I must not omit to mention the cabbage-palm. This tree is surrounded, at each girdle of growth, by a cincture of sharp thorns, which are more numerous and needle-shaped as we approach the leaves. The head contains, like all other palms, a soft spike, about the hardness of the core of the cabbage. This, when boiled, resembles the asparagus, or kale, and, uncooked, it makes an excellent salad. The interior of the tree is full of useless pithy matter. It is therefore split into four or more parts, the softer portion being cut away, and leaving only the outer rind of older wood, which is necessarily hard. These narrow, slightly-curved slabs form the principal flooring of the houses in Borneo, as well as the posts and rafters. In England it is constantly used for umbrella-sticks. The most interesting birds were the pigeons, with feathers of the richest metallic hues. The plaintive cooings of their notes as they issued from the solitude of the sombre woods, were mournful but soothing to my ear. Their air is full of softness, and their eyes of gentleness; the very turn of the neck and the carriage of the head are full of grace; every motion is elegant, and their forms of the most beautiful proportions. A kingfisher of considerable size, and splendid colouring, frequents the banks of the streams. A grey heron perches on the lower boughs of the trees, and fishes in the ponds. A small-winged woodpecker, and a large red-headed species, climb up and down the trees in sequestered places, and a thrush with a yellow beak and black head utters a sweet note among the bamboo groves and thickets; while owls, falcons, eagles and other birds of prey abound.
I was one day sent to fish in a lake in the direction of the cottage whence the music had proceeded which had so agitated me. Into the lake ran a clear rivulet, which passed, I thought likely, near the cottage. I was in a small canoe by myself, and, fortunately finding the fish abounding near the mouth of the rivulet, I separated myself from my companions, and, observing that I was not watched, I pulled a little way up it. My progress was soon stopped; but trees concealing me from view, I hauled up the canoe on the bank, and jumped on shore.
I listened to discover if any one was near; but no sound reaching my ear, I crept cautiously along the banks of the stream, looking between the trees for any sign of a habitation. After going some way, I came to a field of maize, and soon after, at the end of a forest glade, I beheld a cottage. I could not tell if it was the one for which I was in search, but I hoped it might be; and concealing myself among the bushes and behind the trunks of trees, I advanced towards it. I had got a very little way, however, before a female figure appeared from behind the cottage, with a basket on her head. She stopped an instant, as if to discover if any one was near, and then she came quickly along towards the very spot where I lay concealed. Oh, how my heart beat with emotion! Her quick and elastic step told me she was young,—as would her slight and small figure. Her dress, I saw, was not that of a native woman; for though her head was bare, a loose vest covered her neck and shoulders, and a gown came down to her feet. Soon, too, I saw that her skin was fair; that her hair, which hung in rich luxuriance over her shoulders, was light, and that her eyes were blue; and as she drew still nearer, I knew her features. I could not be mistaken in them; for although grown from infancy almost to womanhood, still they were those of my own sweet dear little sister Eva.
I was afraid of frightening her if I appeared suddenly, and still more so should any one be observing her; so I waited, my heart throbbing all the time, till she had reached the stream and filled her bucket with water. She then sat down on the bank, and seemed to be meditating over her sad fate. Then she began to sing the same plaintive air I had before heard. I echoed it, and repeated the words, increasing them in distinctness. At first she seemed to think that her imagination had been deceiving her; then she started up and advanced rapidly, with outstretched arms and eager look, towards where I lay concealed. I could no longer contain myself, but sprang up and rushed towards her. She instantly stopped, and uttering a faint cry, was about to fly from me—
"Eva, my own Eva! it is your brother Mark."
She instantly recognised my voice, and flying forward she threw herself into my arms, and sobbed as if her heart would break. I held her thus without being able to utter a word.
"Mark, my brother Mark! I can scarcely believe this; and yet my heart told me all along that you would come and search for me; that you would not believe that I was dead; that you would never rest till you found me;—and I have not been deceived."
"Indeed I would not, Eva, for we are all in all to each other," I replied.
There was a sheltered nook, where no one at a distance off could see us. I led her there, and we sat down; and, our hands clasped together, I told her all that I had done to discover her.
"And you see, Eva," I added, "what I at first thought the greatest misfortune that could have happened to me, has proved the blessing I could most have desired, as it has enabled me at last to discover you."
"But we are slaves," said Eva, sighing deeply.
"Yes, dear Eva; but we are together," I answered in a cheerful voice. "Together, too, we will escape. I am certain of it. I know not how it will be accomplished; but I have no doubt about the matter. I was certain I should discover you; and you see I have done so in a way I little expected."
"You are in spirits, Mark, at having discovered me, and so I ought to be also," she replied; "but do you know that I cannot shake off the feeling that some heavy calamity is about to happen, even greater than has yet befallen?"
"Do not let such an idea oppress you," I answered. "God never lets us foresee the future, though we may predict what is likely to happen, by close observation of past and present events. You have been exposed to so many dangers and horrors, that it is not surprising that your spirits should be low."
"Indeed I have," said Eva. "Not long ago a large war party came back, bringing with them thirty human heads, which they carried round the village with the most terrific shouts, and then, after baking them, hung them up in their head-house; when, for a whole month afterwards, they attended nightly singing and shouting at them. I have been every day expecting their enemies to retaliate; but they have not done so, and I hope have forgiven the outrage."
"Such scenes were sufficient, indeed, to make you low-spirited," I said; "but I want to know all about yourself—all your adventures, and how you came here."
On this, she rapidly ran over all that had occurred to her from the time she went on board the Emu. She told me, that when off the coast of Borneo, the master had been shot by some of the crew and thrown overboard, and that Kidd was then elected captain; that the brig entered a river in Borneo, where the people were very nearly cut off by the natives; but that they escaped and proceeded southward, when they commenced attacking vessels of all sorts indiscriminately.
At first they only plundered them of the lighter and more valuable portion of their cargoes, but at length the crews were frequently murdered, and the vessels sunk or burned. Mrs Clayton had, from the first, discovered the sort of persons into whose hands she had fallen; and it so preyed on her spirits that she sank rapidly under it. The crew had been disappointed at the amount of the dollars she had brought on board; and had it not been for Kidd, who told them that they could realise much more by her ransom some time or other, they would have treated her with but little ceremony. Sometimes they received volunteers out of the vessels they destroyed. Among those whose lives were spared was a young lad from Java, and he was kept to serve them in the cabin. He was very honest and faithful; and Mrs Clayton had employed him to try and sell a few jewels she had secreted, to bribe some of the crew to assist in her escape. They took the bribe, but she remained a prisoner. Kidd had shown some interest in Eva from the first, and this much increased on his observing a locket which she wore round her neck. She had never been deprived of it. He did not tell her the reason of this, but promised her that he would do so some day. He was ever afterwards very kind in his manner. When he looked fierce or unhappy, she used to sing to him and calm his spirits, till she not only lost all dread of him, but began to like and to compassionate him. He was always very wretched, and sometimes she used to hear him shriek out at night in his cabin, as if someone were murdering him; and she never saw him smile or laugh. Poor Mrs Clayton grew worse and worse; and when she died, she thought her heart would break, and she almost wished to die also. Her misery decreased, though she was very melancholy. Kidd did his utmost to arouse her, and promised her that she should some day have her rights, and go on shore, and live in a fine house, with plenty of people to attend on her, and a carriage to to move about in. Soon after this the schooner appeared, and was taken for a Dutch man-of-war, and the pirates thus found it necessary to be more cautious in their proceedings. When chased for the first time, they had run for the Pater Nosters, because they were a group with which Kidd was well acquainted; and immediately on entering, they had hauled in through a very intricate channel to the north, where, by warping rapidly on, they had got sufficiently onward to be concealed by the trees from our view. On the second occasion, chance, aided by skill, had helped them. They had been just outside the strongest part of the squall, and by shortening sail in time, they were able to make it again, and to get away before we had recovered from it. On the third time, they had run into a deep but narrow inlet, surrounded by high rocks and overhanging trees, where they lay concealed while we passed, or, had we attempted to enter, they might have thrown down fragments of the cliff from above, and crushed us. At last they were compelled to go into harbour, both to refit and to divide their booty. Here, while off their guard and carousing on shore, the brig was attacked, and she was seized. The assailants were Illanons from Sooloo, the boldest pirates of the Archipelago. She thought she should have died through fear when they rushed into the cabin. They carried her off with other booty; but as she was so small, and did not look able to do much work, they sold her to her present master for three cakes of vegetable tallow. She had got so accustomed to the life on board the brig, and had been so kindly treated by Kidd, that, though anxious to return to her friends and civilised life, she had learned to regard him with confidence, and almost with affection, and would gladly have returned. She was always kept below during all their attacks on vessels, so that she was not witness to the atrocities they committed. Her present master was an old chief, who had given up fighting, and she was employed to attend on his wife, who was much younger. The work she had to perform was not very hard, nor did it appear to injure her health; but still she was a slave, and as such she was treated; and till she saw me she was very miserable, unable even to form a conjecture of her future fate, and hopeless of escape. Such was her narrative. Much of it I had before heard from the pirate. She was much grieved when I told her of his death; but I assured her that his punishment had been great, and that I believed his repentance had been sincere. At length we remembered that it was time to separate.
We agreed to meet, if possible, at the same spot on the following day; and as it was the fishing season, I should have a good excuse for pulling across the lake. At last I was obliged to urge her to return; and after watching her till she reached the cottage, I hurried down the stream to the spot where I had left my canoe. I launched it, and paddled back to the part of the lake where I had quitted my companions. They had disappeared, and, by the lowness of the sun, I guessed that they must have returned home. It was a lovely evening, and the scene was one of the most perfect quiet and repose. The water of the lake was as smooth as glass, and over it sported thousands of the most brilliant-tinted dragon-flies, while birds of the brightest hues flitted in and out among the trees. In some spots were to be seen padi fields, looking beautifully green, and extensive bamboo groves, above which appeared the towering palm and plantain. There were also the cocoa-nut, the betel, the sago, and the gno or gomati: these are the four most useful palms to the natives. The pith of the sago furnishes food; and when that is extracted, the outer part serves for the floors of cottages. The leaf of the sago palm is also the best for roofing. From the gno is extracted fibre for manufacturing rope, and the toddy which forms their common beverage.
Scarcely had I left the canoe than it became dark. I took the precaution to mark the way I advanced, that I might at all events retrace my steps to sleep in the canoe. I was obliged to advance cautiously, and to consider every step I took, so as not to lose the pathway. I had marked the direction by the stars, as I left the canoe, and they assisted to guide me. I at length sat down to rest, believing myself some way from the village. I believe that I must have fallen asleep,—but how long I slept I know not,—when I was aroused by the most unearthly shrieks and yells imaginable. I was on a rising ground. I looked around to discover whence it could come, when I saw bright flames bursting forth close below me from some buildings which I recognised as the village or kampong to which I belonged. Among the burning cottages were some hundreds of warriors in their wildest war costume, their skin dresses, the bright-coloured feathers waving in their head dress, adding to the ferocity of their savage features, as with their short swords in their hands, shining with the light of the flames, they were cutting and hewing to pieces every person whom the fire drove from the shelter of their walls. A complete panic seemed to have seized the inhabitants—little or no resistance was offered— scarcely a warrior drew his sword in defence of his family. The fierce assailants seized their victims by the hair, and, with a stroke of their sharp parangs, added a fresh head to the horrid trophies of their prowess. Men, women, and children were indiscriminately slaughtered. My master and his whole family were destroyed. The bitterest revenge, not plunder, was the object of the assailants. Those who had lately been boasting of their own unprovoked attack on these very enemies, were now justly the sufferers. When the warriors had finished their work of blood, they hurried on to other villages, which bodies of their tribe had already attacked.
Prompted by a wish to save some who might have escaped death, I ran down into the village, but not a human being did I find alive. As I passed among the burning huts, their light fell on the blade of a sword. I seized it, feeling it might be useful, and stuck it in my girdle. Anxious to discover in which direction the warriors had gone, I returned to the hill. Flames rising up in every direction marked their progress. A horror came over me; for I observed that the fires were advancing in the direction where Eva lived. I marked the point on the lake where I had left the canoe, and then dashed down the hill towards it. I appeared to know the way by instinct. I had no fear of losing it. I rushed on, and finding the canoe, leaped into it. Just then shrieks and cries reached my ears coming across the tranquil water of the lake. I seized the paddles, and urged on the canoe faster than I had ever before made her go. A supernatural strength seemed to be given me. A village near the lake was already attacked. The flames cast their ruddy hue on the water. The dismayed population were offering but little or no opposition; and what could be expected of the aged inhabitants of the cottage where Eva lived?
I reached the mouth of the stream, and leaped on shore. As hurrying on, careless of concealment, I looked up a glade of the forest, my heart sunk with horror; for at that instant a bright flame burst from the roof of the cottage. The savages had already discovered it; nor was it to be exempt from their vengeance.
"Alas!" I exclaimed. "Why, when once I found you did I ever leave you, my sweet sister?"
I rushed on. Again I heard the savage warriors' dreadful whoops and yells, as they went about their work of destruction. The flames now burnt fiercely forth from the cottage, and by their light I saw a party of savages in front of the building, flourishing their swords over a kneeling group; while, at a little distance, an old man with grey hairs—he seemed also a warrior by his dress—was struggling desperately with an overwhelming body of assailants. He had already wounded several; but had evidently himself received many deep gashes in return, for I could see the blood dropping round him on the ground. Just then a cut disabled his sword arm, and with savage yells they threw themselves on him, and in an instant his head was fastened to their leader's girdle.
I could not help seeing this scene as I hurried on; but it was the group close to the cottage which attracted all my attention. The figure nearest to me was my sister Eva. A savage held her by her long hair, and with his sword lifted above her head, seemed but to wait the issue of the combat with the old chief to sever it from the body. I flew forward. My agonising fear was, that when he saw me coming he would complete his barbarous intention before he attempted to defend himself. I dared not shriek out; indeed my voice refused my feelings utterance. He was still gazing on the old warrior's gallant resistance, and did not observe my approach. Eva had prepared herself for death. She opened her eyes and beheld me. At that moment a blow from my weapon sent the sword of the Dyak into the air, while a wound on his left arm made him release his grasp, and springing up she threw herself into my arms.
"Eva, dearest, I am come to die with you," I whispered, holding her light form in my left arm, while with my sword I kept them at bay, as I saw the infuriated savages with brandished weapons close around us.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.
I fully believed that our last moments had arrived, and it was, I felt, a satisfaction to die with Eva; yet I endeavoured to retreat to prolong our lives, if I could not preserve them. My strength was fast failing me; the weapons of the savages were flashing in my eyes; every instant I expected to be disabled by a wound. I am convinced my dauntless bravery somewhat awed these wild natives, for, with that young girl to protect, no sensation of fear entered my bosom. At last they seemed ashamed at allowing one man, a mere stripling too, so to daunt them, and with loud yells and shrieks they threw themselves on me.
At that instant, when every hope of life had fallen, another warrior, he seemed, uttering still more unearthly cries than his companions, and dressed in a still more fantastic manner, rushed into the circle. At his appearance the rest drew back, and, as he stepped into the ring, I thought he was about to perform the part of executioner. Instead, however, of cutting off my head, after addressing a few words in the Dyak language to his savage followers, to my intense astonishment he exclaimed, in unmistakable English:
"It's all right, my fine fellow; neither you nor that little girl shall have a hair of your heads hurt while I have got a finger to wag in your defence."
On hearing these words, Eva lifted up her head, and crying out, "He is an Englishman! he is an Englishman! Oh! Mark, you are saved!" burst into tears.
"Don't be crying so, my dear young lady," said the pretended chief. "I promise you that both he and you are safe enough for the present; my pretty boys here won't hurt any of those whom I say are my friends."
"Indeed, sir, whoever you are, I am most grateful for your succour," I observed. "You have saved this dear young girl's life as well as my own."
"Oh, but Mark came just in time to save mine," interrupted Eva.
"Mark! Is that your name? I had a friend once of that name, but you are not a bit like him," exclaimed the stranger.
"The name I have always borne is that of Mark Seaworth," I answered, remembering that I had good reason to suppose that it was not my real one.
"Mark Seaworth! The very same; I ought to have known you at once; and I am delighted to find you, old fellow. I am, by Jerico, Seaworth!" exclaimed the stranger, grasping me by the arm, and wringing it till he almost dislocated my shoulder in the warmth of his feelings.
"I also am indeed delighted to meet an old friend," I returned; "but, for the life of me, in your present costume I cannot recall your features."
"Ah! I quite forgot; this rather uncommon rig for an English gentleman must somewhat have puzzled you," he answered, laughing. "Well, then, you remember Blount, at old Liston's. I am the same, I can assure you, Seaworth; rather transmogrified as to my outward man, I own." The voice and turn of expression instantly recalled my old friend Walter Blount to my recollection, and I returned his grasp with as hearty a shake as he had given me.
We had, however, as he observed, very little time for explanations, as it was necessary to beat a retreat before the allies of the tribe his friends had attacked were aroused and able to follow them. The warriors were now collecting from all parts, their work of vengeance being accomplished; and under the escort of Blount, who assisted me in supporting Eva, we proceeded towards the north in company with the advanced body. As we skirted the borders of the lake we found a canoe sufficiently large to contain three persons. As it would save Eva much fatigue, I proposed to Blount to take it and to pull to the end of the lake, where we might again place ourselves under the escort of the warriors. As we were paddling swiftly along, he gave me a brief outline of his history, after I had told him how I came to be in the position, in which I was.
"You know, Seaworth, I was always a very wild fellow, and you used to get me out of numbers of scrapes," he begun. "Well, at last I became tired of school, and I did nothing but bother my friends to send me to sea. I used to write round to every friend and relation I possessed, once a fortnight at least—to the more influential ones oftener; till, either to save their pockets the expense of postage, or because they saw that my heart was set on the life, they all met and consulted together, and agreed that I should be sent on board an Indiaman, where I should be more likely to make a fortune than in the Royal Navy, and should have no occasion to repeat the trick I had played them when I wanted my promotion. So I was fitted out with the proper number of shirts and socks, and sent on board the Hooghly.
"I made two voyages, but did not find life in an Indiaman anything like what I expected; so I left her, and hearing of a brig which had a roving commission to go wherever there was any trade to be done, I offered to join her. I especially liked the notion of the excitement and variety, and, as she was short of hands, my services were accepted on condition that I shipped as junior mate. I found that I had more work and less pay than any one on board; but I learned seamanship and practised navigation, which was considered an equivalent for my services.
"We touched at a great many places in these seas, disposing of some of our cargo, and collecting the produce of the country in return, when we managed to run the brig on a shoal off this coast, which was not correctly laid down on our chart. There was a very heavy sea, and the vessel struck violently, so that it was the opinion of most onboard that she would go to pieces. The master, who was of this opinion, and others, took to the boats, but were swamped, as I was afraid they would be. I stuck to the wreck, as, knowing her to be thoroughly built, I had an idea that she would stick together.
"I was in the after part of the vessel, but the rest of the people who remained were forward, and the sea, making a clean breach over the wreck, swept them all away. I with difficulty held on; and when the sea went down, and the morning returned, I discovered that I was the only person left alive. I found some cold meat and biscuits and plenty of spirits in the cabin, and a keg of water jammed into the companion hatch, so there was little fear of my starving for some time to come. When the sun rose, I saw the land a few miles off, and in the afternoon of the same day perceived a number of canoes coming off to the wreck. I knew that the people hereabouts do not make much ceremony about cutting off a fellow's head; so, determining that they should not have mine without plenty of trouble, I bound all the handkerchiefs I could find round my throat, till I appeared to have no more neck than a whale. As I was hunting about the cabin, I came upon the captain's medicine chest. I knew the properties and effects of some of the drugs, and besides them was a little book in the drawers to help me.
"'Come,' said I to myself, 'savages are apt to treat medical men with rather more respect than often do civilised people. I will pretend to be a doctor, and they will probably not attempt to hurt me.'
"As a precaution, I put on all the coats I could find, and buttoned them over to serve as armour, and stuck a brace of pistols in my pockets, to shoot a couple of them if they came to close quarters. However, when the canoes first came up, the savages, seeing me on board walking the deck with as much dignity as the officer of the watch, began blowing their sumpits at me till I was stuck all over like a porcupine. Luckily none hit my face, and seeing me take the matter so unconcernedly, they ceased blowing, to discover what I was made of. I thereon pulled out the arrows, and going to the side of the vessel, with a polite bow presented them to my assailants, at the same time, by significant gestures, inviting them on board. My conduct seemed to tickle their fancy amazingly; and when they climbed up the sides, instead of showing any fear, or attempting to resist them, I appeared delighted to see them, and in a minute we were perfectly good friends. I now led some of them into the cabin, and gave them everything which first came to hand, knowing very well that they would take it if I did not; besides, as I could scarcely consider the things my own, I could afford to be generous. With my aid, they soon loaded the canoes so full that they could carry no more; and then jumping into the principal one, which seemed to belong to a chief, I sat myself down beside him, and began talking away as if I was an old friend, and delighted to see him. By the by, he could not understand a word I said: but I made up for the want of meaning in the sounds by a profusion of signs. I found that they belonged to a tribe inhabiting a spot at the head of a long river, and that they were just about to return thither. I now tried to make them comprehend that if any of them were ill, I could cure them by means of a box which I carried under my arm. They, of course, thought that it was filled with charms, but had not the less respect for me on that account. I was delighted with the beauty of the scenery we passed going up the river, and the well-selected site of their village. When we arrived there, they gave me a house to myself, and would have allowed me to choose a wife had I been so disposed; but I declined the honour. I at once set to work to gain the good opinion of the ladies, and for this object divided my somewhat cumbrous neckcloth among them, while I doctored them and their children on every opportunity. My coats I divided among the men, except one suit which I kept for myself. I thought that I should still more ingratiate myself with them, if I dressed as they did; and as I was always somewhat of a dandy, I went to the extreme of Dyak fashion, except in the matter of putting those big rings in my ears, and chewing betel-nut; in fact I now take the lead in dress, and am looked upon as the very pink of perfection. I have learned their language, and adapted myself to their ways; but I have begun to get rather tired of this sort of life, and have been lately considering how I can best take my departure, and in what direction I shall steer my course."
"I hope that you will accompany us my dear fellow, and return again to civilised life," I observed. "But how could you encourage those people, in the savage work in which they were engaged?"
"I am not surprised at the question, Seaworth," he replied, gravely; "but you must not think so ill of me as to suppose that I encouraged them in murdering their countrymen. In the first place, you must understand that they had been previously attacked by this tribe, who carried off a number of heads, burnt their cottages, and cut down their fruit-trees. They believe retaliation to be justifiable,—so do civilised nations; and I knew that it would be hopeless to preach forbearance to them: so I accompanied them to doctor up any who were hurt, and to try and save the lives of their prisoners."
"I am sure that we ought not to find fault with Mr Blount, for he saved our lives, at all events," interposed Eva.
I agreed with her, and assured Blount, that under the circumstances he had described, he might, I thought, even have assisted his friends in punishing their enemies, not in a revengeful spirit, but as the only means of preventing a similar attack, and for preserving peace. We had now arrived at the end of the lake; and landing, we left the canoe to its fate. The war party had not arrived, and with some anxiety we waited for them, fearing that they might have gone by some other route; for Blount asserted that they had not yet passed that way. The moon had just risen in the sky, and was shedding a silvery light across the lake, by which we were enabled to see to the other extremity. We watched, fearing that some of the warriors of the enemy might have collected and set out in pursuit, and Blount began to regret having parted from his friends. My young sister was sadly worn and fatigued by the terror she had undergone, and was unable to proceed on foot; so Blount and I employed our time in manufacturing a sort of litter, on which she might be carried on the journey. She seemed much grieved at the death of the old chief and his wife, who had treated her kindly, and won her easily-gained affections. Blount and I were just completing our work when Eva called to us. She was seated on a rock close to the lake.
"I have been listening, and I am certain I hear the splash of paddles on the water," she said; "and see, are not these some black spots just under the moonbeams at the other end of the lake?"
We, too, were soon certainly convinced that she was right. "I see how matters stand," said Blount; "a war party have collected and embarked, to cross the lake and lie in ambush for my friends on their retreat. They have been so quick about it that there can only be a few of them, but they would do some mischief. It is fortunate that we came across the water. We must now try to find our friends to give them warning."
I agreed with him; and placing Eva on the litter to carry her between us, in spite of her assurance that she could walk very well, we were about to set forward, when Blount recollected that the canoe would betray us. It had fortunately not drifted away from the shore; so hauling it up, we hid it among the bushes, and trusted that our pursuers would not land at that very spot. We proceeded in a direction so as to intersect the line of march of the Dyaks, Blount carefully listening for their approach.
"We must not go farther," he observed, "or they may pass us;" so we put down our light burden, and sat down by her side. The moonbeams here and there struggled through the thick foliage of the trees, but in most places it was very dark; and we could only depend on our sense of hearing, though the moon enabled us to steer our course. Near us was an open glade, and, for a minute perhaps, neither had been looking towards it, when by chance turning our heads, it appeared as if by magic filled with human beings. The moon lighted up the spot, and her beams fell on their savage features, their fantastic dresses of skins and feathers, or gaily-coloured clothes, and the bloody trophies which so many bore at their waists, as they crept onward with the stealthy step habitual to them on such expeditions. Eva trembled, for she could not tell whether they were friends or foes; but Blount recognised them, and jumping up, presented himself before them. They seemed delighted to meet him. They told him that they had fallen in with another village of their enemies, and that they had stopped to destroy it. Short work as they had made of it, the delay would have cost them dear, had we not observed the enemy crossing the lake, and been able to give them notice of the circumstance. The party were led, it appeared, by a young chief over whom Blount had some influence, and, to prevent further bloodshed, he strongly advised him not to molest the ambush, but to turn off on one side to avoid them. This advice was not palatable to the young warrior, and he insisted on his right to kill those who had come to kill him. We proceeded, therefore, in the original direction. Several of the Dyaks at once volunteered to carry Eva on her litter, and Blount and I walked by her side as her bodyguard. I observed that considerable precautions were taken in the advance. The main body kept in close order, while an advanced guard was sent forward to feel the way, and skirmishers were thrown out on either side to guard the flanks from attack. Scouts also were sent ahead, stealthily picking their way amongst the most sheltered paths, in order to discover the ambush. We had not proceeded far, when two of the scouts came in, and reported that a body of the enemy lay in ambush among some rocks at the entrance of a ravine leading up from the lake. On hearing this, the young chief divided his force into three bodies. He was to lead one to the hill above the ambush; a second was to proceed over the hills on the opposite side of the ravine, to get ahead of the enemy; while a third was to block up the entrance, so as to prevent their escape in that direction. Eva accompanied the second body, which I thought was less likely to be engaged. The dispositions were quickly made, and we had scarcely descended again into the ravine after evading the ambush, than the loud war-shrieks, disturbing the calm serenity of the night, told us that the work of death was going on. A few unfortunate wretches fled up the ravine, and were immediately killed by our party, while the main body and those at the entrance of the ravine destroyed the rest; so that of the whole ambush, who, intending to surprise us, were themselves surprised, not one escaped. Indeed, the tribe itself was very nearly annihilated by that night foray. There was no time to cut down the fruit-trees, or to destroy the fields of maize and rice, as is usually done on like occasions. We marched on all night and some part of the morning before a halt was called, so unwilling were the Dyaks to stop till they were out of the reach of the allies of those they had attacked. At last they lay down to sleep in the shade of some wide-spreading trees. I observed that each man remained with his sword in one hand and his sumpitan, with a dart in it, ready to discharge, in the other; and every now and then one of them would lift up his head and look about him, so accustomed are they to be on the watch, and so uncertain when they may be attacked.
In the afternoon we again resumed our march. At sunset we again halted for repose; but as soon as the moon arose, we were once more on foot. Each man was provided with a number of short spears, which Blount informed me, were for the purpose of sticking into the ground behind them when hotly pursued, so that their enemies get checked, and often severely wounded. The only food provided for the army was a sticky sort of rice, boiled in bamboos, each person carrying sufficient for himself in a small basket at his back. No fires were lighted, lest their light might betray our position to any lurking enemies. So rapidly did we march, and so little sleep or rest did any of us enjoy, that I was almost knocked up; and Eva would have been unable to proceed, had she not been borne on a litter. I ought to have said that each warrior who had killed one or more of the enemy, carried their heads hung by a line round his neck, keeping it there even at night while he slept, and caressing it in the most affectionate manner. Poor little Eva! It was a sad sight for her; and I kept her as much out of the way of the heroes of the party as I could. Some of them had three or four heads dangling round their necks, as they walked onward with proud steps, exulting in their prowess. They felt certain, too, of gaining the smiles of the most lovely damsels of their tribe; for the Dyak women are great admirers of bravery.
At length we arrived at the village of the conquerors, when, as they had no muskets to fire or cannons to discharge, they set up the most terrific yells I ever heard, to announce their arrival and victory. The shouts were answered by the people of the village, who rushed out to meet them and welcome them with every demonstration of joy. Blount instantly set to work to have a cottage prepared for Eva and me. A very neat one was provided, situated on a sloping bank above a running stream, and backed by a grove of palm-trees. It was built partly of the wood of the Nibong palm, and partly of bamboo, and was thatched with palm-leaves. It was indeed a very light and pretty structure, and perfectly clean. The furniture consisted simply of a quantity of beautifully-made mats, to answer the purpose of tables and chairs, carpets, beds, and bedding, while gourds of many sizes, and pieces of bamboo, supplied us with our cooking and mess utensils. Eva surveyed our abode with unfeigned delight.
"We might be perfectly happy here, I am sure, all the days of our lives," she exclaimed. "Don't you think so, my dear Mark?"
"Indeed, Eva, I do not," I answered. "We are glad at length to be at rest; but we should very soon get tired of the companionship of savages, and I have a notion that man is not born to vegetate; he should be up and doing. It is a question every man should ask himself constantly: What have I done lately to benefit my fellow-creatures? Have I played my part as an educated intellectual man in advancing the moral and social condition of my less-favoured fellow-men? or have I merely considered how I can best amuse myself, without a thought for their welfare? O Eva, I used, even as a boy, to be so disgusted when in England, and also in India, I saw men so capable of better things, employing their time in shooting, fishing, and hunting, or in the most frivolous pursuits, worthy only of uneducated savages, who must so occupy themselves to live, and all the time not in the slightest degree aware that they were actually sinning—that they were hiding their talents—that they were useless beings—that they might better not have been born."
"Oh, but then, my dear Mark, we may do a great deal of good here, I am sure," exclaimed Eva, interrupting me. "We may civilise these fierce savages—we may teach them Christianity—we may show them how much happier they may be by living peaceably, than by going to war, and cutting off each other's heads."
"Ah, Eva, that indeed would be a noble occupation," I answered, enthusiastically. "And worthy of all honour would be the man who would devote himself to so great and glorious a cause."
When we arrived at the village, I observed that the warriors did not bring in the heads with them, but deposited them at some little distance outside the stockade. The truth was, I found, that the entrance of such trophies was considered far too important to take place without the observance of due ceremony. A temporary shed had been erected for them, under which they were hung up and carefully watched by a party of young men, habited in their finest costume.
The next morning there was a loud beating of gongs in the kampong, or village, and shouting and shrieking from the whole population, as the warriors were seen approaching, each carrying his bloody trophy before him, and dancing and singing at the same time. As they entered the kampong, they were met by the women, who crowded round the heads, and put ciri and betel-nut in the gaping mouths. In this way they were carried round from house to house, and then hung up in a large open shed to dry for several days. Here the heads were watched by young boys of from six to ten years old, who, for the whole time the process of drying occupied—from seven to ten days—were never allowed to step out of the hall, or neglect their sacred trust. This was the commencement of their initiation in the endurance of hardships, that they also might become warriors. Night after night the men used to meet in front of the hall, dancing and singing, and beating their gongs. They used to address their heads, taunting them, telling them that they were their slaves, and that they must send the rest of their tribe to be treated in the same manner. These very men, however, savage as they were, treated us with great kindness, and seemed anxious to do all they could to please us. Blount spent the greater part of every day with us, and gave me much information about the country. I told him that I was very anxious to obtain tidings of my schooner, and the friends on board her, and equally so to get away.
"So, my dear fellow, am I," he answered, making a long face; "but the truth is, my friends here are so fond of us they will not let us go. I have tried on several occasions to escape; but they always gave me a strong hint to stop."
"How was that?" I asked.
"Why, they shut me up, and would not let me out till I promised to be good."
"Then you really think we are prisoners here!" I exclaimed.
"Indeed I do," he answered. "I did not mention it before, because there is a good deal in the fancy of the thing. When you thought that you were waiting for a vessel to carry you off, you were content; now that you discover that you are likely to be detained by force, you grow indignant."