"It will never do to remain here," I said. "We must forthwith find some means of escaping."
"I have been considering the same subject very seriously, I can assure you," said Blount in a cheerful voice. "In the meantime let us make ourselves as comfortable as we can—I always do; I never heard of any man gaining anything by fretting."
My friend's reasoning was so sound that I could not but agree with him. We found the chiefs and the people very civil, and the women seemed very much inclined to be kind to Eva.
"Come," said Blount, one evening as we sat talking in the cottage; "there is to be a dance at the house of the chief in honour of the victory. It is worth seeing, and will amuse you and your sister, if she is prepared for a little shrieking and brandishing of swords."
We both agreed, and following him, walked to the house of the chief, at the farther end of the kampong. We entered a large room, with seats arranged round it, and lighted up with dama torches. We had places reserved near the chief; and the room soon began to fill, till it was crowded with eager spectators. There were musicians ready, who played on the tom-tom, or drum, and the gong, which they beat either slow or fast, according to the measure of the dance.
The people were dressed, it must be remembered, in their gayest costume—in scarlet jackets, in coats of shell armour, with cloaks of skin, and caps of feathers, or turbans of gay-coloured native cloth, their spears being in their hands, and their swords, with ornamented handles, by their sides. The dancers, however, outshone them all in the gayness of their costume.
The first dance performed was called the Mancha, or sword dance. Two swords were placed on a mat in the centre of the room. The music began to play very slowly, and two men advanced from opposite sides in time, now bending the body, now turning round to watch and listen, now lifting one leg, now the other, then the arms, in grotesque but not ungraceful attitudes. One then moved to the right, the other to the left, and thus they moved round and round the room, till at last they approached, and each seized a sword. As they did so, the music began to play a brisker measure; the warriors passed and repassed each other, now cutting, now crossing swords, retiring and advancing, one kneeling as though to defend himself from the assaults of his adversary, at times stealthily waiting for an advantage, and quickly availing himself of it.
The measure throughout was admirably kept, and the frequent turns were simultaneously made by both dancers, accompanied by the same eccentric gestures. At each successful pass, the screams of delight uttered by the spectators, and their shouts of applause, rang through the room, exciting the performers to fresh exertions; the noise increased by the loud clang of the musical instruments, as the musicians, excited by the scene, beat time with great vehemence.
At length, wearied out, the first two dancers retired, and were succeeded by a single man, with a spear poised high above his head. He, as had the others, stepped forward slowly, turning round and round, now advancing, now retiring, now brandishing it furiously, now pretending to hurl his weapon at his enemies. This dance is called the Talambong.
The next set of dancers used shields in addition to their swords, and went through very similar movements. These dances, I understood, are very similar to those performed by the South Sea Islanders, and I suspect that they differ but little from those practised in the present day in the Shetland Islands and Norway, at the other side of the globe.
Although we were obliged to consider ourselves as prisoners, we were not treated as slaves; indeed the chief sent a little black girl from the coast of New Guinea, to attend on Eva. The child proved not only useful, but a source of great interest to her. She had been captured at a very early age, with her mother, and a brother and sister, by the piratical prahus of a neighbouring tribe; and those to whose share she fell, sold her to her present owner for some bees' wax and a few bundles of rattans. Her figure was short, and her features very flat; but she was so intelligent and lively that she was a general favourite. We called her "Little Nutmeg," the name she bore sounding exactly like that word; and she answered at once to it. Eva used to try and teach her English; and the child was so anxious to learn the language, that she rapidly gained a knowledge of it.
The people among whom we found ourselves, although they spent much of their time in amusing themselves, when necessary were very industrious. They cultivated a considerable quantity of rice, which not only formed their chief support, but which they were enabled to export. The rice is very white, and of excellent flavour. They first clear a spot of the jungle, and irrigate it well; and as soon as they consider its primitive richness is exhausted, they commence on fresh ground. Their mode of grinding the rice clear of the husk is simple. The trunk of a tree is sawn through, and two circular pieces of wood are selected, fitting to each other; the upper portion is hollow, the lower solid; small notches are cut where those two pieces fit, and handles are attached to the upper part, which being filled with padi, and kept turning round, the husk is detached, and escapes by the notches. The Dyaks understand thoroughly the manufacture of iron. The forge is composed of the hollow trunks of two trees, placed side by side; the fire is of charcoal; the pipes of the bellows are of bamboo, led through a clay bank; and the bellows are two pistons, with suckers made of cock's feathers, and which a man pumps from the top of a tree. We found no want of provisions in the country; and wild hogs especially abounded. There were a few cattle, and plenty of fowls. I could not understand why the natives were so anxious to detain us, till Blount explained, that they valued us, because they fancied that we should be able to counsel them in time of peace how to become rich, and to assist them in time of war.
"The fact is," he added, laughing, "when I interposed, and saved your life and your sister's, I was obliged to say all I could in your favour; so I told my friends that you were a very wonderful personage, and that you knew more than a whole army of wise men: if they kept you, they would be certain to conquer all their enemies; but if they killed you, that your friends would be certain to come and revenge your death."
"An honour truly I am glad to have avoided," I answered. "As I, however, have entered into no engagement to devote to them my services, I shall feel myself at liberty to escape as soon as I can."
"So, indeed, shall I," he said. "We are, however, a long way from the coast; and unless we can persuade our hosts to aid our departure, our escape will be almost impossible."
"Such wonderful things have happened to us, that I shall never despair," observed Eva, whose spirits were returning rapidly, as she recovered from the effects of her terror and fatigue.
I need scarcely say that this was the subject on which we most frequently conversed, but still we could strike out no plan which promised any prospect of success. I proposed appealing to the chief, and promising to make him handsome presents, if he would get us all conveyed to Singapore, or put on board the Fraulein; but when Blount spoke to him on the subject, he replied most politely, that our society was far more valuable than any present we could make him. Partly to amuse myself, and partly to throw my captors off their guard, I used to practise the various accomplishments I had learned when I was a slave. The pleasantest was that of fishing from a canoe, by both spearing the fish, and catching them with the wooden ducks. If I could make an excuse to take Eva and Blount with me, we might be able to pull down the river, and get a long start, before we were suspected and pursued. Two months thus passed away; and had our stay been voluntary, I should have been far from unhappy, as I had a sister and an old friend as companions. The climate was delightful, and the natural productions most interesting, and the scenery beautiful, while I had a comfortable house as a residence, and a sufficiency of wholesome food.
The tribe were not satisfied with their late victory, and soon again prepared for another war excursion, insisting that Blount and I should accompany them. Hoping to find some means of escaping, we did not refuse; and nearly five hundred men were collected from the neighbouring kampongs, to form the invading army. All were clothed in their most terror-inspiring attire, with as great a proportion of feathers and skins as could be mustered. Their arms consisted of sumpitans, spears and swords, daggers, with shields and padded jackets for their defensive armour, while each man carried his provisions in a basket on his back. This time they proposed attacking a tribe some way to the north, with whom they had a long-standing quarrel.
Eva was very unhappy at the thought of our departure; but there appeared to be no help for it, though never did two more reluctant heroes set out on a warlike expedition than did Blount and I. We had proceeded two days' journey, when, on the afternoon, as we were marching alongside the chief, at the head of his forces, through a wood, our ears were saluted with the sound of a bird singing on our left. The chief instantly called a halt, and I observed a little red-breasted bird hopping merrily from branch to branch.
"Ah, that is the papow!" exclaimed Blount. "They think it a sacred bird, and that its appearing on the left hand is a signal for them not to proceed to-day. Had it appeared on the right, they would have thought the omen good, and have proceeded; and when it sings in front, they fancy the enemy is near, and that it summons them to certain victory."
While we were encamped at night, I remember hearing the short note of an insect like a cricket, coming, apparently, from the south. The next morning, at daybreak, every man was on foot; and, with dejected countenances, they commenced their homeward march. I found from Blount that the insect which gave forth the note was called the Kunding, and the omen was considered of such ill augury, that the expedition was given up entirely, not a little to our satisfaction.
Eva was much surprised at seeing our return, and very much delighted, for she had expected to have been left alone for many days, dreading the dangers to which we might be exposed, and with only Little Nutmeg as her companion, and an occasional visit from the women of the kampong, I judged, from the circumstance I have mentioned, that the people were very superstitious; indeed I have invariably found that the smaller the knowledge of religion possessed by a people, the greater and more absurd is their superstition. These people, after they have sown a field with grain, should any dead animal be found on it, will not use the crop. If anything has been stolen, in order to discover the thief, they make up a little ciri, and turning to the quarter they suspect, they throw it forward, and call out for an insect they believe will inform them. If the insect respond from that direction, the theft is charged to the tribe so pointed out; but if it does not answer, they try another quarter. I did not hear that marriages are ever forced as they are in civilised countries; but, on the contrary, the young people are left to choose those they like best. Generally the lady will not accept a lover till he has brought her the head of a man as a proof of his bravery. If the young would-be husband cannot get the head of an enemy, he is sometimes tempted, if he is very much in love, to kill the first person of any tribe not his own whom he meets, which is, of course, considered so high a compliment to the lady, that she rarely after that refuses him. The man then makes presents to the parents of the bride, and gives a feast to his tribe, which lasts several days. A curious ceremony is observed on these occasions. A mixture is made of saffron, a little gold dust, and fowl's blood, which is smeared over the chest, forehead, and hands. The gentleman and lady each must take a fowl, and passing it seven times across the chest, kill it. A small string of beads being attached to the right wrist of either party, the ceremony is complete. They believe that there is a good spirit called Tupa, who resides in the clouds; but they do not pray or sacrifice to him. They bury their dead with various articles he possesses, such as his spear, clothes, rice ciri betel, and the first head he gained in his youth. Some tribes burn their dead with their valuables. I must observe that the customs of the various tribes differ considerably. They believe that the spirits of the dead go to Labyan, a region under the earth, but not a place of punishment. From the accounts I have given, it will be seen that the aboriginal inhabitants of Borneo are a very singular people; and I hope that my readers will make themselves further acquainted with their habits and customs.
I now continue my history. As Eva had nothing to do, and no books to amuse her, she found the time, when I was absent, hang very heavily on her hands. The village was situated at the source of a river, which was navigable, for canoes, a very short distance from it. Near the river was a forest where I used to spend much of my time with Blount in search of game. He had an old fowling-piece which he had saved from the wreck, and he was able to purchase gunpowder from the Bugi traders who came to the mouth of the river. I was one day in the forest, Blount being at some distance from me, when I was startled by hearing a rustling in the leaves near me. I turned, holding a spear I always carried ready for defence, besides a thick club, expecting to see some wild animal. The leaves parted, and sure enough there appeared the face of a monkey grinning among them.
"What are you prying here for, old gentleman?" I exclaimed, expecting to see him run away; but instead of that, what was my surprise to find that he sat observing me with the greatest gravity and attention, his body still hidden by the leaves!
As soon as I spoke, he began to chatter in return, and springing out of his cover, he ran and jumped towards me. He was a little dark fellow, without a tail, just like Ungka. I could scarcely believe that I was awake, when the monkey, springing forward, jumped up into my arms, and threw his round my neck. I could not be mistaken, wonderful as it seemed,—it was no other than Ungka himself. How he had come there was a question I could not get answered; for though he chattered a great deal with delight, I could gain no information from him. I was in hopes, however, that his presence betokened that other more communicative friends were not far-off. I hunted about in every direction with Ungka by my side, but no traces of any one could I find; and Blount coming up soon afterwards, and several natives appearing, prevented me from pursuing the search.
Ungka, intelligent as he looked, did nothing to assist me, and at last I was obliged to return home, carrying him, as he insisted on it, in my arms. The people were very much astonished to see a monkey so speedily tamed; but Blount accounted for the circumstance, by telling them that I knew the language of monkeys in all its dialects; and if they wished it, that I would teach them. Eva was highly pleased at seeing Ungka, and he seemed to fancy she was little Maria Van Deck, for he instantly ran up to her, and they very soon became great friends. We were all in high spirits, for we could not account for the appearance of Ungka in any other way than by supposing that the Fraulein was on the coast, and that he had by some means escaped from her. How he had got so far into the country was a mystery, for I could scarcely suppose that the animal's instinct would have enabled him to find me out.
At our evening meal, he sat himself down by my side with the greatest gravity, as he used to do on board the schooner, and appeared to be perfectly at home, eating whatever was given him. His manners had become so refined from associating with gentlemen, that he never attempted to seize anything till it was offered him, though he cast a wistful eye at some nuts and fruit, and seemed much pleased when they were placed before him. His appearance, of course, gave us ample subject for conversation, and he every now and then would look up with a glance of the most extraordinary intelligence, and would chatter away for some minutes without cessation, till Eva declared that she could not help fancying he was giving us a full explanation of all we wanted to know. Little Nutmeg stood by, her large white eyes rolling round with astonishment, and of course entirely believing that the story Blount had told of my understanding the monkey's language was perfectly true. She accordingly reported through the village that the monkey and I had been carrying on a most animated conversation for the whole evening; and I do not know which gained most credit,—he for being able to speak, or I for understanding him. Some of the natives came in to hear him; and as he happened at the time to have perched himself on the top of a roll of matting, as we were all lying down, I was the most elevated of the party, and Eva declared that it looked as if he was some pigmy chief, holding a divan, and that we were his attendants and counsellors. He most certainly seemed fully to feel his importance. When our guests had retired, he jumped down from his throne, and coiled himself away to sleep in a basket, which stood in the corner of the room. Eva and her little attendant retired into an inner chamber devoted to her use, and Blount and I continued talking over the subject which most occupied her thoughts. We should have talked on, without arriving at any just conclusion, till the return of daylight, had we not been startled by hearing the bamboo window-shutter forced open, and by seeing a head protruding itself into the room, followed by a pair of shoulders and a body.
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.
Blount and I were, as may be supposed, not a little astonished at the apparition which appeared at the window, and we both instinctively seized the implements nearest at hand, to defend ourselves, should he have come with any hostile intent. Just then the torch, which burned in the centre of the room, flared up, and, as much to my satisfaction as to my surprise, I recognised the features of Kalong the Dyak. He had on but scanty clothing, and he looked travel-worn and weary. Before speaking, he carefully closed the shutters, and then, rushing forward, he took my hand and covered it with kisses. Though Blount was a stranger to him, seeing that he was a white man, he was not alarmed.
"Kalong, is it you, indeed!" I exclaimed. "How, my friend, have you been able to discover me?"
"It is a long story, Massa; and to tell the truth, I cannot say much till I have eaten something; for we have had a weary journey, and have for many days past been looking about for you. It was necessary to be cautious; for, had we been discovered, we should certainly have lost our heads."
"When you speak of we, Kalong, do you mean yourself and Ungka?" I asked.
"Oh no, Massa; I mean Hassan also. He is near, but watching the canoe; and when I have eaten, I must take some food to him. You and the other massa must then follow for, we have no time to lose."
"What do you mean by no time to lose?" I again asked.
"Oh Massa, give me some food, and then I will tell you all!" cried the poor fellow.
I saw that he was famishing, so I restrained my curiosity till I had placed some rice and pork and Indian corn bread before him. When he had eaten a good meal, and stowed away a quantity more in a basket he carried at his back he signified that he was prepared to give me the information I required. I nodded my head, and he spoke to the following effect:—
"You know, Massa, when squall come on, schooner almost capsize, then drive a long way to leeward; next morning come back to the rock, and when not find Massa there, sail after the prahus. At night lose sight of them; look everywhere; no find them; then come back to the rock. There I and Hassan look at the wrecks on the shore; and Ungka, too, Massa; and we know, from build and many things scattered about, where they come from; so we go and tell Massa Fairburn that we go and look for you. He say we get killed, lose him head. We say we no mind that, we find you, or we no come back. He then say he go with ship's company and big guns, and fight, and make people give you up. We say, No good. People cut off your head if they see the big guns, and then what good look for you? We say, No, no; let schooner not come near the coast; but we go in some other vessel, and no say what we come for. We at last go on shore in Celebes—that is, Hassan, Ungka, and I; wait some time, then find a Bugis trader going to Borneo; so we no tell what we want, but go on board. We sometimes say that Ungka very wise monkey; the son of sultan of the monkeys; and that we go about with him to show him the world. This make many people think we great men, so they no cut off our heads to hang round him necks. We go from kampong to kampong to find Massa, but no see him. At last we hear that one tribe, long way off, come to a kampong near Gunnung Taboor, and carry away many people, and that one white man among them. Then we learn when him come, and what him like, and we say, That is Massa. Then we know where to find Massa if him head still on shoulders; so we walk long way, and we take canoe at one river, and we pull up river every night, and in day we go to sleep, till we come here. Then we see Massa in wood, and Ungka run away and jump in him arms. So we say, All right now; Massa alive and well; we get back to schooner some day, and be very jolly. But, Massa, me have one more thing to say. When we at Gunnung Taboor, we hear that the people there very angry at the people here do so much harm, and they say, We go there some night, and cut off all him heads; so we make all haste, lest they cut off Massa's head too. Now, Massa, we go back to poor Hassan; him very hungry; and Massa, be ready to start to-morrow night."
I fear that I have ill succeeded in giving an idea of Kalong's mode of expressing himself. In an artless way he exhibited his affection for me, and described the dangers and hardships he and Hassan had endured to discover me. Having described where the canoe was to be found, and arranged that as soon as the inhabitants of the kampong had gone to sleep on the following evening, we should start, he took his departure. Once more I was full of hope, for I felt that though many difficulties were to be encountered, our deliverance was at hand. Eva had been awakened by the sound of the stranger's voice, and we communicated the joyful intelligence to her; and, as may be supposed, she was but little inclined again to go to sleep, so she came in and joined our council-board. Blount was anxious to warn the people of the intended attack, and so was I; for although they had kept us prisoners, they had treated us with humanity and kindness in other respects. Our difficulty was to do so without betraying our friends, till at last Blount suggested that the people might be made to suppose that our knowledge was derived from Ungka, who would, of course, in consequence, gain immense credit among them. It was settled, therefore, that on the following morning the people should be called together, and informed of the danger threatening them.
"Now come, it is time to try and take some sleep, for we shall get but little rest to-morrow night," I exclaimed as I arose, and opening the window-shutters, looked out on the calm night-scene before me. The air was hushed; the only sounds were the rippling of the stream over its rocky bed below the cottage, and the chirrup of some insects in the neighbouring wood. The stars shone brightly forth from the intense blue sky, their light just glancing on the mimic waves of the rivulet, while the tall trees and wild rocks on either side were thrown into the darkest shade.
Scarcely had I spoken, when the silence was interrupted by wild shrieks and cries. We all full well knew the meaning of those sounds. The ruthless enemy had surprised the village, and burning to avenge their late defeat, would spare no one they encountered.
"We must fly!" I exclaimed.
"I am prepared," said Eva calmly, though her cheek grew pale at the recollection of the dreadful scenes she had before witnessed.
To collect some provisions in baskets was the work of a minute. We aroused Ungka, who seemed perfectly to comprehend the state of the case, and perched himself on my left shoulder, while, supporting Eva on my right arm, I sallied forth, followed by Blount, who took charge of Little Nutmeg. Our great fear was lest the enemy should have surrounded the village, in which case our retreat would have been cut off. The stream I have spoken of ran down to the river, and we now followed a path which led along its banks. Not a moment was to be lost. The wild shouts of the enemy seemed to come nearer every instant; but as yet we did not hear them in front of us. Eva behaved with great courage; she did not tremble, or even utter an exclamation of fear, but exerted all her strength to proceed. For an instant I looked back. Part of the village was already on fire, but the enemy had not yet reached our cottage. My fear was, that when they did so, we should be pursued. At length, by the turnings of the stream, we lost sight of it, and the noise of the dreadful tumult sounded fainter in our ears. Still we pushed on without stopping; we had to force our way through a thick wood, and then to cross a broad open space, where I was much afraid, should the enemy be watching for us, of being seen; but there was no help for it, so we dashed on. Fortunately both Blount and I had so frequently wandered in that direction, that we had a tolerably correct idea of the way we were to go; but still we found a great difference between passing through a wood in broad daylight, and traversing it in darkness. Our chief guide was a star which we could see through the tops of the trees, and which Blount had fixed on as we were setting out. We found it of much service when we lost the sound of the stream, by which we otherwise directed our course. The cries of the enemy were in our rear; we rushed across the open space. I looked anxiously over my shoulder. I saw no one, and we in safety reached the shelter of the wood. At length the broader channel of the river appeared below us. Our next difficulty was to find the canoe; but we judged that Hassan and Kalong, hearing the tumult in the village, and well knowing its cause, would be on the watch for us. We had got thus far, when the sound of voices, as if from people in pursuit, met our ears. My hope was that they could not tell the exact way we had taken. We all drew close together, in the shade of some thick trees, where we were perfectly concealed, while Blount offered to go out by himself to search for the canoe.
He was on the point of leaving our cover, when we heard the sound of footsteps approaching, and directly afterwards we saw the figure of a man cautiously making his way among the trees. He might be an enemy, the precursor of others; but our fears on that score were soon set at rest by finding Ungka leap off my shoulder, and, running towards him, jump into his arms.
"Ah! Massa not far-off," said a voice, which I recognised as that of Hassan the Malay. We soon made ourselves known to him, to his great delight. He told us that the canoe was close at hand, but that Kalong had become alarmed at hearing the signal of the attack, and, at the risk of his life, had gone back to look for us. Grateful as I was to the faithful creature, the delay was very vexatious. Of course, however, we had no remedy but to wait for him. In the meantime we launched the canoe, and placed Eva and Nutmeg in the centre, with our provisions. Ungka jumped in after them. Blount and I were to use the two middle paddles, Hassan was to steer, and Kalong was to use the bow paddle. The rest got in, and I held on the painter, to be in readiness to shove off the moment he returned.
Several minutes thus passed, during which time our ears were assailed by the dreadful sounds of the conflict. They grew louder and louder, as if the pursued and the pursuing were approaching us. I began at length to fear that Kalong, in his anxiety to serve me, had ventured too far, and had been cut off by the enemy. Every moment was increasing our risk of discovery. The time might have been so advantageously employed in paddling down the river, and, for Eva's sake, I was doubly anxious to be off. I was almost despairing of his return, when the long feathery leaves of the shrubs near me were pushed aside, and, breathing with haste, Kalong appeared. In an instant he perceived how matters stood, and, making a sign to me to take my seat in the canoe, he stepped in after me, and, seizing a paddle, shoved her head off from the bank. He then began to ply it most energetically, and Blount and I followed his example, while Hassan steered her down the stream.
There had been no time to lose, for the scouts of a number of people on the bank showed that he had been hotly pursued. He did not stop to explain what had happened; and for half an hour or more we paddled on in perfect silence, keeping always in the centre of the stream. By degrees the shrieks and cries of the combatants grew fainter on our ears, till they ceased altogether.
Kalong then for a moment ceased paddling, and drew a deep breath, which seemed much to relieve his heart. He then explained briefly, that he had gone up to our cottage, and that, finding it already sacked, and seeing nothing of us, he was about to return, when he was seen, and pursued by the attacking party. He dashed on, and was just in time to reach the canoe and escape them.
"And now, Massa, pull away again, or some of them black fellows follow and kill us," he exclaimed, suiting the action to the word. All night long we paddled on, and to such good purpose, that we entirely distanced any enemies who might have been following us. Whenever a village appeared; we crossed over to the other side of the stream, and as the night was dark, and we kept perfect silence, we were unobserved. Sometimes, for miles together, there were no signs of human habitations, the dark forest clothing either bank of the stream, so that we were able to converse without fear of betraying ourselves.
Hassan then told us that he hoped we might reach the sea in two days, by paddling on during all the hours of darkness, and remaining concealed while it was light.
"And what do you propose doing when we get to the sea?" I asked.
"Then, Massa," said Kalong, "we will pull away from the land, and trust to Providence, you sometime tell me about—we fall in with the schooner, or some other craft—or we go over to coast of Celebes. No good to trust to people about here. As Massa say, if we do all we can, Providence do all the rest."
Kalong, I found, had not forgotten the instruction I had attempted to bestow on him while on board the Fraulein.
Blount and I agreed, that although the canoe was small, we had seen many, less fit for the work, living in a very heavy sea, when properly handled, and that it would be better to risk the passage to Celebes than to trust to the tender mercies of the Malays or Dyaks of the coast.
Dawn beginning to appear, we ran the canoe into a small bay, completely shut in by trees, where, by a little management, we might remain concealed without fear of discovery.
Having secured the canoe, we cut down a quantity of boughs, which we fastened round her, so that a person passing quite close would not have suspected that several human beings lay hid behind them, though we, looking through the branches, enjoyed a view across and down the stream for some distance. We had, as I said, brought a supply of provisions. These we husbanded carefully; and Kalong said that he hoped to be able to get some cocoa-nuts and other fruit from some of the gardens we might pass at night. I did not like the idea of robbing the poor people, but we had no means of paying for the fruit; and, under the circumstances, we were justified in taking it. Having made our arrangements, we lay down to sleep, one at a time remaining on foot to keep watch, with the rifle loaded ready for use. The after part of the canoe was appropriated to Eva and her attendant. Blount and I stretched ourselves in the bow; while Hassan, Kalong, and Ungka climbed up into a neighbouring tree, by the leaves of which they were perfectly concealed, at the same time that they obtained a wider look-out than we could below. I had slept, I suppose, about four hours, when I was awakened by the howling of a dog, and, looking through the boughs, I observed a small canoe on the opposite side of the river, with four men in her, busily employed about something or other. While I was watching their proceedings, Kalong slid down the tree and came near me.
"See, Massa," he said, "have some fun soon."
I now observed that the people had erected a sort of stage, and on the top of it they had secured an unhappy dog, whose voice had first awakened me. Near the stage was a long stick, hanging over the water, and loosely attached to it was a thick rope, with a dead monkey at one end and a rattan at the other. Kalong explained that a strong piece of stick was placed alongside the monkey, with the end of the rope secured to the middle of it. The canoe shortly paddled away down the stream, greatly to our satisfaction; for we were afraid she might have come near us, when the consequences might have been disagreeable. The poor dog howled for some time, and the dead monkey floated on the surface of the water, till our attention was attracted by an object coming down the stream towards us. As it approached, we perceived the long snout and black scaly back of a huge crocodile. The monster eyed us, as we thought, with a malicious look, as if he contemplated attacking us, and, from his appearance, we judged that he would have made one hearty meal of us all, and perhaps swallowed up the canoe into the bargain. To prepare for him, I grasped Blount's rifle, with the intention of shooting him through the eye, should he begin to molest us; but, of course, I would only have fired in a case of extreme necessity. Either he had not noticed us, or he thought he would first swallow the monkey, which was all ready for him, and then come back and have a nibble at us; so, to our satisfaction, away he swam across the river. He first rubbed his nose against the monkey to smell it, and then began sucking away very leisurely, thus to enjoy the morsel to the utmost. When he had got it down, he swam on a little, and that gave a jerk to the rope, which pulled the stick across his inside, so that by no possibility could it come out again. This seemed to inconvenience him excessively, for he plunged under the water, and then swam across from one side of the river to the other, the rattan at the end of the rope always showing his whereabouts. As he swam about, he approached disagreeably near to us, and we were not a little afraid that a whisk of his tail might stave in our canoe. Fortunately, he again turned, and he did not seem to wish to eat, the stick in his inside having probably spoiled his appetite. At last, when he found it was impossible to get free from this inconvenient ornament in the water, he scrambled on shore, where he lay hid among the reeds, not far from the spot where he had swallowed the bait, the rattan, which remained in the water, pointing out his position. In about an hour the canoe returned, accompanied by three others, with an equal number of men in each. They first got hold of the rattan, and then, landing, they gently drew him forth from his hiding-place. He offered no resistance, merely wagging his tail backwards and forwards, and I could scarcely persuade myself that he was a monster capable of eating a man at a meal. The Dyaks first made a strong lashing fast round his mouth, to prevent him from biting, and then secured his legs over his back, so that he was perfectly helpless. After haranguing him for some time, though what they said I could not tell, they dragged him again into the water, and towed him off at the stern of their canoes in triumph.
Kalong declared that they were carrying him away to worship him. This I could scarcely believe; but I have heard that they look upon the crocodile as the sultan, or rajah, of animals.
Fortunately, the people in the canoes were so much occupied that they did not observe us. No other adventure occurred; and as soon as it was dark, we issued forth from our leafy hiding-place, and paddled away down the stream. We passed a village where a number of torches were burning, and people were singing and beating their tom-toms, Kalong asserted, in honour of the captured crocodile. We were yet some way from the sea, when towards the morning we again sought a place of concealment. All day we rested, preparing for the work of the morrow. We endeavoured to fit our frail canoe, better to encounter the waves, by fastening strips of bark round her sides, and by decking over the bow and after part with the same material. We also filled a number of gourds we had collected with water; and Kalong foraged with considerable success in every direction for provisions, so that we had little fear of suffering from hunger, unless we should be kept out longer than we expected. At night we again proceeded, and I shall never forget the refreshing smell of the sea air as we first inhaled it on approaching the mouth of the river. It renewed our strength and courage; and when the morning broke, we were dancing on the ocean waves—the land was astern—no sail was in sight, and we felt at length that once more we were free.
CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.
For two days we had been at sea, steering to the southward of east, for the purpose of making the coast of Celebes should we not fall in with the Fraulein, or some Bugis trader, which might carry us to Singapore. The water providentially continued smooth, and the wind was light and favourable; but as we had no sail, that was of little service to us, and we made, therefore, but slow progress. We had all begun to suffer much from fatigue, so we agreed that two should row while the other two stretched themselves at the bottom of the canoe to rest. Kalong and I took one watch, while Hassan and Blount took the other, Eva and Nutmeg acting as look-outs. Eva was very anxious to take a paddle to assist; but her strength was not great, and I feared it would only uselessly exhaust her; but Little Nutmeg did not wait for permission, and as soon as Blount laid down his paddle she seized it, and showed that she could make use of it to very good effect. Kalong and I were paddling, and Eva was scanning the horizon in every direction, in the hopes of seeing the Fraulein, when she cried out:—
"Look there—look there, brother Mark! I see either an island or a huge whale, or the hull of a ship; but I cannot make out exactly what it is."
I looked in the direction, she pointed at to leeward, and a little on our larboard bow, and though I kept my eyes fixed on the spot attentively, I was unable to determine what the object was. We could not tell why we had not before seen it; but we supposed this was owing to the different direction, in which the rays of the sun struck it. It was stationary, for as we paddled on we neared it.
"Me know what it is," said Kalong. "Chinese junk without masts."
We found he was right; and as we drew near, a very curious appearance she presented. Her masts were gone, though she seemed in every other respect to be uninjured; but not a living person could we discover on board. She was a merchant vessel, and might have measured some two hundred tons. Her head and stern rose considerably above the waist. At the after part were a succession of poop decks, one above another, narrowing towards the top, so that the highest was very small. It sloped very much from the stern, and on it was a windlass used to lift the huge rudder. On either side of the next deck were two cabins, with a roof in front of them made of bits of mother-of-pearl instead of glass. What is called the nettings ran from aft round the greater part of the vessel. The beams of the deck projected beyond the sides, and each butt-end was ornamented with an ugly face carved and painted. Every face was different, and ugly as the others. Some were of beasts, and some like human beings, and others of monsters which have no existence. The bow was perfectly flat, the stem scarcely coming out of the water. There was a topgallant forecastle, and on it rested two enormous anchors made of wood of a heavy nature, which sinks like metal. Above the forecastle was a narrow gallery, with a flight of steps leading to it. On the top of the bulwarks were arranged a row of jingalls, or swivel guns of very rough manufacture, and a number of shields made of straw, which, though they might ward off a spear, would be treated with little ceremony by a bullet. In the racks against the forecastle were a number of spears, and an instrument with a spear in the centre, and a sort of half-moon, the points turning out, which serves to thrust as well as to ward off a blow. In the centre of the poop, right aft, was a little shrine, in which sat ensconced a very ugly-looking deity, surpassing the other on deck in size and ugliness. The rudder was one of the things most remarkable about the vessel. It was in shape like that of a common barge; it was hung so that it could be raised or let down by means of the windlass, as required; and it was secured below by two ropes, which led along the keel forward, and being brought on to the forecastle, were hove tight by means of another windlass placed there. The crew slept in cabins under the forecastle; their caboose, or cooking-house, was on one side of the deck. There was a stove of brick, and some large pots for boiling. On one side was a tank for water, and above it lockers for stowing provisions and mess utensils.
We ran alongside and got on board. Blount suggested that the people might all have died of plague; and for a moment he persuaded me from moving from the spot where I stood; but as we saw no dead person, we soon got over our fears on that score.
A flight of steps led into the main cabin, which was completely open at one end, so that a sea coming on board would have swamped her. On going below, and examining the lockers, we discovered a store of provisions, and, what was of the greatest consequence, an abundance of good water in the tank. We had little doubt how she came to have no crew on board, for the hold had been completely ransacked, the work, evidently, of pirates, who had doubtlessly carried them off as slaves. She had, we concluded, come thus far south to collect a cargo of edible birds' nests, trepang, and other articles, for the Chinese market.
It is extraordinary how far away from land these unwieldy craft will venture, and how they contrive to live in a heavy sea, which one would suppose would inevitably swamp them. The Malays had cut away her masts, probably to employ in some of their own craft.
"Now we are here, let us try and make ourselves comfortable," exclaimed Blount, walking about the deck. "Let us have a good dinner, a sound sleep, and let us stretch our legs, and then we will consider what is next to be done."
His suggestion was so good, that it was adopted. Hassan was a fair cook, and he made a very nutritious basin of soup with some of the birds' nests we found on board. We had all gone through so many adventures that it scarcely appeared strange to find ourselves floating about on the Indian Ocean in a Chinese junk. It was so much more pleasant, indeed, than being cramped up in a canoe, that we felt no inclination to leave her; and no one seemed more delighted than Ungka, who scrambled about and poked his nose into every hole and corner. However, at a cabinet council which I called, consisting of the whole of our party, including Ungka, who, though he said nothing, looked very wise, it was resolved, that although it might be very pleasant living on board the junk, yet as she had no sails, and did not move, we might never get to the end of our voyage, we should, after a night's rest, again take to our canoe, and endeavour to reach the coast of Celebes. Before night we hauled up the canoe on deck, and endeavoured rather better to fit her for sea, by heightening and strengthening her sides, and by nailing matting over the bow and stern.
The main cabin was devoted to Eva and Nutmeg. Blount and I took up our berths in the two little cabins on the highest part of the poop, and Hassan and Kalong went forward. We divided ourselves into four watches. It was prudent to have one person awake, in case anything should happen; at the same time, that one was sufficient. The night came on, and we retired to our respective sleeping-places. Each of us was to watch for about four hours. Blount took the first watch, Kalong took the next, and I was called about midnight.
The reader will recollect how, in the early part of my history, Eva and I, when infants, were rescued from the shattered boat, just before the storm which overwhelmed it came on. As I walked the deck, I was thinking of the account I had heard of that circumstance, and of the many extraordinary events of my life, when I had been so providentially preserved from the dangers which threatened me. "Yes, indeed," I uttered aloud, "God has been merciful to me. He truly is everywhere." A deep whispering voice seemed to come across the dark ocean—"And will protect to the end those who trust in Him," were the words I fancied I heard. While I kept my watch, the wind began to rise in fitful gusts, and the uneasy rolling of the unwieldy junk showed that the sea was getting up. Thick gathering clouds obscured the sky; and the waves, like huge monsters from the deep, began to leap up on every side. I watched for some time, not liking to disturb the rest of the party unnecessarily. At last the junk gave a roll more violent than before, and nearly threw me off my legs. "Hillo! what's the matter now, shipmates?" I heard Blount exclaiming, as he merged from his lofty berth, roused up by the jerk.
"Why, Seaworth, we must get her before the wind, or we shall have the seas tumbling on board us without leave."
Accordingly we turned up the hands, except Eva and her attendant, whom I begged to remain quietly below. The stump of the foremast remained, and to it we lashed some spars we found on deck, and with a quantity of matting we discovered below, we manufactured a sail, which we managed to set. The helm was then put up, and to our great satisfaction the junk paid off before the wind. It was now daylight; a heavy gale was blowing, and the sea was running very high. As the sun rose, a break in the sky, through which he appeared, showed us the direction in which we were going; for we had no compass, and we found that our course was somewhat to the northward of east, which we calculated would carry us free of the coast of Celebes. The question then was, where should we be blown to? I believe none of us had any fears about the matter. How could we, when we had been so signally preserved? for we felt, had we remained in the canoe, in all probability we should have been engulfed by the waves. Every moment they rose higher and higher, and as the junk was rolled and pitched by them in her onward course, they seemed to follow after, as if eager to overwhelm her. We had to hold on to keep the deck, though, notwithstanding the way she tumbled about, no seas actually came on board the vessel. Eva took her post in front of one of the cabins on the raised deck, and there she sat like a true heroine, watching the raging ocean without a feeling approaching to fear.
"It may appear extraordinary, my dear Mark," she said, smiling, when I went up to her; "but having you with me, and being once more at liberty, I feel far happier than I have ever done in my life."
We sighted the land on the starboard hand, which we judged was that of Celebes; but we could not have hauled in for it, had not even the risk of shipwreck been too great to allow us to do so.
The whole day we ran on; the night at length came without any change in the weather, except that the wind shifted rather to the west, which compelled us to steer a more easterly course; for it must be understood that, with any regard for our safety, we could only keep directly before the wind. The tempest increased; and it was truly awful, as we felt that without chart or compass we were steering in almost total darkness through an unknown sea. We kept a look-out ahead, but to little purpose; while the tempest raged, we could do nothing but fly on before it. As I strained my eyes to try and pierce the obscurity, I fancied that I could see objects on either side of us, and sometimes land ahead; but still on we went, and I suspected that my imagination had deceived me. Eva had retired at dark to the cabin. Blount was at the helm, assisted by Hassan. We were almost worn out by steering, for the exertion was very great. I went aft to relieve him.
"Don't you feel rather a different motion in the craft?" he said. "It may be fancy; but I cannot help thinking that she does not go along as lively as before. Take the helm, and I will go and see if my suspicions are correct."
Saying this, he left me, and I took his place. In about five minutes he returned.
"Seaworth," he said, "you must be prepared for bad news; it is as I suspected. The junk, with all this straining, has sprung a leak, and her hold is already half full of water. She may swim for some time longer; but I doubt if we shall ever again see the daylight."
This was indeed sad news.
"We will do our best," I answered. "We have the canoe, and we must make a raft."
"Neither would be of any use in this sea," he observed.
As he gave me the information, I instantly thought of Eva; and before forming any plan, I rushed below to bring her on deck, so that, should the junk sink, she might have a chance of escaping. I found her sleeping on a sofa in the cabin, in spite of the rolling of the vessel, while the little black girl lay on a mat below her. My sweet sister looked so calm and happy, as the light from the lantern, which hung from above, fell on her countenance, that I could scarcely bring myself to awake her to a consciousness of the danger which threatened her. At last I knelt down by her side and kissed her cheek to arouse her. She smiled, and looking up, asked me if I was come to take her on shore.
"I was dreaming, dear Mark, that we had arrived at a green and beautiful country, and that you told me it was England, and that all our dangers were over."
I by degrees informed her of the true state of the case.
"You are with me, dear Mark, and all will be well," she answered, as, supporting her in my arms, and followed by Nutmeg, I carried her to the upper cabin. Having deposited her there, I rushed back to learn what progress the water had made. It had already reached the floor of the cabin, and I fancied that I could even see it rising during the few minutes I stood there. At first I thought we might keep the vessel afloat by bailing. As two of us only could be spared for the work, I soon saw how futile such an attempt must prove. With a sad heart I returned on deck. I told Blount the state of affairs, and we agreed that our only chance of being preserved was to form a raft, and to lash ourselves to it, so that, when the junk went down, we might have something to keep us afloat. Not a moment was to be lost; so he and Hassan, as the most expert, set to work, while Kalong and I went to the helm. Neither of us could be spared, for, as it was, we had the greatest difficulty in steering. A couple of hatchets had been discovered, and with these they cut away all the planking most easily got at, and lashed it to a few spars remaining on deck. I could now feel the difference perceptibly in the motion of the junk; and as she sank lower in the water, I feared that the waves would leap over the decks, and thus more speedily bring on the catastrophe we expected. The time appeared very long, though Blount and Hassan worked as hard as they could.
I was hoping that the raft was finished, when Blount sprang up the ladder to me. "We have not a moment to lose," he exclaimed; "the water is almost awash with the deck, and the junk cannot swim a minute longer."
"Take the helm, then, while I bring out my sister," I answered. Eva was prepared, and I was about to descend with her to the deck, where we expected to find the yet unfinished raft, when a huge wave, rising alongside, swept over the vessel, and I saw a large object carried away on its crest.
"There goes the raft!" cried Blount, with almost a shriek of despair. Another huge wave followed, and the whole centre of the junk seemed to be under water.
"She is sinking!—she is sinking!" burst from the lips of all; "Heaven have mercy on us!"
I clasped Eva in my arms, and fully expected that our last moment had arrived.
CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.
At the very moment that I had given up all hope of preservation, as if to confirm our worst anticipations, a huge wave came rolling up alongside. The junk rushed onward—a tremendous blow was felt—again she lifted, and was dashed forward—the rudder was knocked away, and the jury-mast fell overboard. Instantly the junk broached to. On a sudden, almost as rapidly as I take to tell it, the violent motion ceased, and a grating sound was heard, as if she had run upon a sandy beach. The seas struck her, but their force was evidently broken by some reef outside, though it continued too dark to enable us to discover where we were. The junk held together; and as the cabin on the poop for the present seemed a place of safety, we agreed to remain there till the return of day. The light at length came; and as I looked out from the cabin door, I found that we were in a small bay, with a sandy shore, and rich tropical vegetation beyond it, while what was my surprise to see directly outside of us, fast stuck on a reef of rocks, another vessel severely shattered by the waves!
My exclamation of surprise called the rest of the party from the cabins. No sooner did Eva see the vessel, than, pressing my arm, she observed, with a voice full of agitation:
"That vessel, Mark, is the Emu! I am certain of it; and if the dreadful men who form the crew are here, it were better that the sea had engulfed us."
I could say nothing, for I could not help entering into her fears. It was high water when we were driven on shore; and as the tide had now fallen, we found that we could without difficulty lower ourselves on to the sand. In case the pirates should be wandering about the island, (for we concluded we had been driven on one), Blount offered to go and explore, and to try to enter into terms with them, while Hassan and Kalong remained with me to guard Eva. In about an hour he returned, and reported that he had seen no human beings.
"The pirates can no longer do us or any one else harm," he remarked. "As I wandered along the shore, I found the remains of several men washed up on the beach, and who, by their clothes, I have no doubt were the crew of the Emu."
The information that there were probably no savage inhabitants, or any pirates alive, to injure us, were satisfactory, though we could not help feeling a horror at the fate of those cut off in the midst of their career of crime. We had now to consider what was to be done. The junk, after having been forced over the reef, had, what seamen call, fetched headway again, and had been driven stem first up a gulf or narrow bay, one side of which completely protected her from the sea, so that she lay as secure as in a dock. As the sun rose, the gale also abated; and I considered that there would be no danger in leaving Eva and the little black girl on board, while the rest of us went farther to explore the country. We had found an abundance of provisions in the junk, so that we had no fear of starving, even should fruits not be discovered in the island, to support us till we could get away. How to get away was the question. The obvious means was by building a boat; but we could find no tools, and we were obliged to confess that our skill was inadequate to the work. Hassan and Kalong, however, asserted that they would be able, in time, to construct a large canoe. Our first excursion was to the wreck, which we found we could reach by wading at low tide along the top of the reef. On further examination, not a doubt remained on our minds that she was the Emu; and Eva, when she saw her, confirmed our opinion by recognising some of the cabin furniture, which had been washed out of her. We now set out to explore the woods. We had not got far when I came upon the body of a man, or rather a skeleton, covered with clothes. A few paces on was another; and not far-off we found a rude hut, with a blackened spot, where a fire had been lit before it. In the hut were two more bodies, and we afterwards found several more, but there was neither food nor water near them. There could be no doubt that they were the remnant of the pirate crew, whom at length retributive justice had overtaken. The rest were probably drowned and washed out to sea. How the catastrophe had occurred, the shattered wreck and those ghastly remains could alone tell us. At midnight, perhaps, during the raging of a storm, amid thunder and lightning, without hope of succour, the blood-stained pirates had met their just doom. We dragged them to a hole we found near at hand, and covered them up with stones and bushes, so that Eva should not be shocked by seeing them.
The island was a very large one; and after marching some miles into the interior, we came upon some cocoa-nut trees and plantains, among which were some sago trees, from which we collected an abundant supply of food. On our return along the coast, we found a high hill, on the top of which we proposed to erect a flag-staff; and discovering a spring of water near it, as also the means of building a hut, we resolved to take up our quarters there, in the hopes of being seen by any passing ship. Close to it, also, Kalong found a tree, which he and Hassan pronounced well adapted to serve as the foundation of a canoe. It must be remembered that we had no tools of any sort, except some clasp-knives, and some boarding-spikes found in the junk; but they proposed forming their hatchets and all their instruments out of flint stones and shells. "Give us time," they answered, "and we will do it," when Blount and I expressed a doubt of their success.
Having made the arrangements, we hastened back to the junk. We found Eva standing on the highest part of the poop, and waving a handkerchief, while she pointed eagerly seaward. I soon climbed up and joined her; and there I beheld what was indeed sufficient to make my heart beat quick with hope. About a mile off, having just rounded a headland, appeared my own schooner, the Fraulein. The rocks before had concealed her from our sight. Kalong and Hassan immediately recognised her, and so, they declared, did Ungka, who seemed to share our agitation and excitement. Such occurrences are difficult to describe. Our chief aim was to attract her attention. To do this, our first thought was to make a fire; so cutting away some dry wood from the junk, we formed a pile of it on the rocks. We trusted that the smoke or the junk herself would be observed. At first we thought she was standing away; then, to our delight, we saw her shorten sail, and running closer inshore, she dropped her anchor, and a boat was lowered. It pulled towards us; Fairburn and Prior were in it. We rushed down to the rocks to meet them. I need scarcely describe the rest. In another half hour I was on board my own vessel, with my sweet sister in safety, and all the work which at one time appeared so hopeless accomplished. There lay the pirate vessel a wreck on the rocks, and near her the tombs of those who had worked us so much mischief. Fairburn told me that they had run under the lee of the island during the gale, and were about to return to the coast of Borneo to watch for me. We bade an affectionate farewell to the junk, which had proved to us an ark of safety, and we carried away a number of relics of her. My crew received us with loud cheers, and not the least welcome, after all his adventures, was, I suspect, Ungka the ape, who quickly made himself at home.
"Where shall we steer for?" asked Fairburn.
"For Java," I replied. "I must not forget my promise to the widow Van Deck and little Maria."
I must now bring my adventures to a close. We reached Sourabaya in safety, and were heartily welcomed, not by the widow Van Deck, but by the wife of Lieutenant Jeekel, for she had made the honest officer happy by marrying him. As they were anxious to go to Europe, I offered them a passage as far as Calcutta in the Fraulein, and little Maria accompanied them. I need not say that she and Eva became very great friends.
I can scarcely describe the pleasure my return with Eva afforded our kind friends the Northcotes, or the sensation our romantic history created wherever it was known. Every assistance was given me to prove my identity, and with a variety of documents I sailed for England. I was very sorry to part with some of my friends, who could not accompany me. I presented the Fraulein to Fairburn, and Blount sailed with him, carrying Prior to Manilla. They all ultimately, by energy and perseverance, made themselves independent. When I reached England, I put my affair into the hands of a clever lawyer, and I found that I had few difficulties to contend with. All those who had been instrumental in the abduction of my sister and me were dead. A few days only before our arrival, the papers had announced the death of a Sir Reginald Seaton, without any claimant to his title or estates. He had once been blessed with a large family, but one after the other they had been laid in their graves, and he alone had been left a solitary and decrepit old man. Thus Heaven had proved the avenger of crime, and prevented the guilty ones from enjoying the profits of their guilt. The papers I possessed clearly proved that I was the rightful heir; and as there was no one to oppose my claim, I was, without much difficulty, allowed to take possession of the property. I did so with gratitude, but without any undue exuberance of spirits; for I felt all the heavy responsibilities which I at the same time took upon myself, and I humbly prayed Heaven to enable me to fulfil them faithfully.
I had the very great satisfaction of assembling at my house, within two years of the time I speak of, not only my Dutch friends, including that honest fellow Van Graoul, who had the command of a fine ship; but Fairburn, Prior, and Blount, as also Hassan and Kalong, who were undergoing a course of instruction to aid them in civilising their countrymen on their return home, were also of the party; while Ungka, now the most refined of travelled apes, had his usual seat by my side.
I must now wish my readers farewell. I hope that they will ever firmly believe, as I have been taught to do by the occurrences of my life, that in whatever peril we may be placed, God is at hand to protect us, and that whatever apparent misfortunes may occur to us, He orders them for our ultimate and permanent benefit. If I have succeeded in inculcating these important truths, I shall be satisfied that the adventures of Mark Seaworth have not been written in vain.