The king was seated in a great chair of state, and many compliments were exchanged between him and the English. The king was now attired in his full state; having, from the waist to the ground, a robe of cloth of gold; with many rings of plated gold on his head, making a show something like a crown. On his neck he had a chain of perfect gold, the links very large. On his left hand were a diamond, an emerald, a ruby, and a turquoise, and on his right hand many beautiful gems. Thus it will be seen that the king of these islands was a potentate of no mean grandeur.
Most of the furniture and decorations of the court were obtained from the Portuguese, during the time that they inhabited the island. Had they not followed the tyrannous ways of their people, they might have remained there in fair comfort; but, desiring to obtain the entire authority, they had killed the late king. This cruelty, however, had brought about a different end to that which they had expected; for the people, headed by the king's eldest son, had risen against them in great force, had killed many, and had driven the rest from the island; placing the king's son upon the throne, who had become the deadly enemy of the Portuguese, and was now preparing an expedition to drive them from Tidore.
The religion of these people was that of the Mussulmans, and the rigor with which they fasted—it being, at the time of the English visit, one of their festivals—greatly astonished those who saw them; for, during the whole time, they would eat nothing between morning and night; but the appetite with which they devoured many meals, throughout the night, almost equally astonished the British.
While the Golden Hind lay in the harbor of Ternate, they received a visit from a Chinese gentlemen of high station, and who was assuredly the first Chinaman who ever came in contact with one of our race. His reason for being at the Moluccas was singular. He had been a man of great rank in his own country, but was accused of a capital crime; of which, though innocent, he was unable to free himself. He then implored the emperor to allow him to leave the country, placing the proof of his innocence in the hands of Providence; it being a bargain that, if he could bring back to the emperor strange and wonderful tidings of things new to him, such as he had never heard of, he should be restored to his place and honors, and held to be acquitted of that crime. If such news could not be gained by him he was to remain in exile, and to be accounted guilty of that of which he was accused.
Coming on board, he very earnestly entreated the admiral to give him the account of his adventures, from the time of leaving his country. This Captain Drake willingly did; and the Chinaman, in great delight, exclaimed that this was fully sufficient for him to bear back to the emperor. He gave a very warm and pressing invitation to Sir Francis to bring the ship to China, where he assured him of a welcome at the hands of the emperor.
Had Captain Drake been able to accede to this proposition, it is probable that our dealings with the East, on a large scale, might have begun some centuries earlier than they did; but the Golden Hind was much battered by the voyage she had gone through, being, indeed, not a new ship when she started. The crew, too, were all longing to get home, and the treasure which had been gathered from the Spaniards was ample for all their desires. The admiral, therefore, although truly he longed to see this country, and to open relations between it and the Queen, was yet forced to decline the invitation, and so to depart on his westward voyage.
The Golden Hind now made slow progress through the water, her bottom being foul with weeds and other things which had attached themselves to it during its long voyage. The captain therefore determined to enter the first harbor in an uninhabited island that he came to, for at none of the places at which he had hitherto touched had he ventured to take this step. However friendly the inhabitants might have appeared, some causes of quarrel might have arisen; and with the ship hauled up and bent over, it might have fallen into the hands of the natives, and so been destroyed, and all return to England cut off from him.
Five days after leaving Ternate he found such a place and, fetching up in a small harbor, the whole party landed, pitched tents, and entrenched themselves. Then they took the casks and water vessels ashore and thoroughly repaired them, trimmed the ship and scraped her bottom, and so put her in a state to perform the rest of the voyage.
Greatly here were the crew astonished by the first sight of fireflies, creatures which were new to them all. This island swarmed with crayfish, of a size sufficient to satisfy four hungry men at dinner. These creatures never went into the sea, but kept themselves on land, digging holes in the roots of the trees, and there lodging, numbers together. Strangely enough, too, these crayfish, when they found themselves cut off from their natural retreats, climbed up trees, and there concealed themselves in the branches.
On December the 12th they again set sail, being now among the Celebes, where they found the water shoal and coasting very dangerous. The wind, too, was high and contrary, and their difficulties greater than anything they had found. On January the 9th the wind, however, came aft, and they appeared to have found a passage out of these dangers, sailing then at full speed.
They were, at the first watch at night, filled with consternation at a crash, followed by silence; and the vessel was found to have run high upon a reef, of which the surface had presented no indication.
Not since the Golden Hind had left England had her strait been as sore as this. The force with which she had run upon the reef seemed to have carried her beyond all hope of extrication. All considered that death was at hand, for they hardly hoped that the ship could hold long together. The admiral at once, to still the confusion which reigned, ordered all to prayers; and the whole, kneeling on the deck, prayed for mercy, preparing themselves for imminent death. Presently, having finished praying, the admiral addressed them in a consoling speech; and then, their courage being much raised, all bestirred themselves to regard the position.
The pumps were first tried and the ship freed of water, and to their great joy they found that the leakage was no greater than before, and that the rocks had not penetrated through the planks. This appeared to all on board to be an absolute miracle, wrought in their favor; for it seemed impossible to them that, running at so high a rate of speed, the vessel could have failed to break herself against the rocks. It is probable that, in fact, the ship had struck upon a newly-formed coral reef; and that the coral—which, when first made, is not very hard—had crashed to pieces under the shock, and so she lay in safety upon the bed of pounded fragments.
Chapter 19: South Sea Idols.
When order and tranquility were perfectly restored, the admiral ordered a boat to be lowered and soundings to be taken, intending to put out the anchors ahead, and to get her off by working upon them with the windlass. It was found, however, that under the forefoot of the vessel the water deepened so rapidly that, at a distance of a few fathoms, no soundings could be obtained. This plan, therefore, was abandoned.
The prospect seemed dark, indeed. The ship's boats would, at most, only carry half the men on board; and if the ship had to be abandoned, the whole of her treasures must be lost, as well as many lives.
"There is an island far away to the south," the admiral said. "If the worst come, we must seek refuge on that. It will be well to send a boat to examine it, and see what capabilities it offers for the purpose. Then if the weather holds fair we can make several trips, and land our men, and a portion at least of our valuables."
"Will you let me go, sir, with my three friends?" Ned asked. "The canoe which we took from our last halting place will carry the four of us and, as she paddles swiftly, we may be back before many hours."
"The idea is a good one," Captain Drake said. "Make for the island. It is, I should say, fifteen miles off. When you have reached it, see if there be water, fuel, and other necessaries, and whether the landing be good. If you should come upon any natives, parley with them. Take a few articles as presents, and explain to them, if they will come out here with their canoes and aid to bring the things ashore, we will give them presents, which will make them wealthy beyond their grandest dreams.
"Be careful, my boys. I know that you will be brave, if necessary; but care and caution are the great things, and remember that our safety depends upon yours."
The young men speedily lowered the canoe, under the shelter of the lee side of the ship, took some beads, calicoes, and other articles, and then, seating themselves in the boat, paddled rapidly away. At first they felt a little awkward in using the paddles, in which they had had no practice, whatever. But being powerful men, and accustomed to the use of oars, they soon fell into regular stroke, and the light boat danced rapidly over the waters. The distance was further than Captain Drake had imagined, the clearness of the air making the land appear nearer than it really was; and it was only after three hours of hard work that they neared it.
It turned out to be an island of about a mile in length, so far as they could judge. A reef of coral ran round it. The center of the island was somewhat elevated, and was covered with coconut trees; and it was this, alone, which had enabled it to be seen, from so great a distance, from the deck of the Golden Hind.
Paddling round the reef, they came to an opening and, entering this, found themselves in perfectly smooth water, and were soon on shore.
"Our best way to look for water," Ned said, "will be to follow the beach all round the island. If there is any stream, we must then come upon it. We had better take our arms, and haul up the canoe."
Ned, although the youngest of the party, being an officer of the ship, was naturally in command.
"It will be hard," Reuben said, "if we do not meet with some adventure. This is the first time that I have been out with you, Ned. The others have had their share, and it will be hard upon me if, when I get home, I have not some tale to tell my friends."
"I hope that it will not be so," Ned said, "for more than story telling depends upon our success. I fear the Golden Hind is fixed fast, and that all the fruits of our expedition are lost, even if our lives be saved. Everything depends upon the report we may make when we return; and anything that should occur to delay us, or to prevent our bearing back tidings of this place to the admiral, would be bad fortune, indeed."
"I don't mean," Reuben said, "anything that would prevent our returning. But we might do something, and yet return safely."
A walk round the island showed no signs of water; nor, although they searched for some hours, walking backwards and forwards across it, could they find any sign of a pool. It was clear that there were no fresh-water springs on the island, and that the vegetation depended entirely upon the rain that fell in the regular season. But they discovered, from the top of the island, another and much larger one; lying, still again, some fifteen miles to the south.
After much deliberation, they determined to make for this; as it was of importance that they should have some news, of a place to which the goods could be transported, to carry back to the ship. This island was much higher, and there appeared every probability that water, and all they required, would be found there. Accordingly, taking their place in the canoe, they again paddled out through the entrance to the reef, and steered their course for their new discovery.
This was a large island, measuring at least, as they judged from the view of the one side, twenty miles round. The shores were steep, and they rowed for some time before they succeeded in finding a place where a landing could be effected. Then a deep bay suddenly opened out, and into this they rowed.
Scarcely had they fairly entered it when, from some bushes near the shore, two large war canoes, crowded with natives, shot out and made towards them. The lads at first grasped their muskets, but Ned said:
"Let the arms be. We are here to make peace with the natives, and must take our chance."
They stood up in the canoe, holding up their arms in token of amity. The canoes came alongside at racing pace, the natives uttering yells of joy. The canoe had evidently been seen approaching the island, and preparations had been made to seize it, immediately on its arrival.
Ned held up in his hands the beads and pieces of cloth. But the natives were too excited for pause or negotiation. In an instant the boys were seized and placed on board the canoes, two in each. They were tenderly handled, and were clearly objects of veneration rather than of hostility. The moment that they were on board, the contents of the canoe were transferred to the large boat; and it was then cast adrift, and the two war boats, at full speed, made out through the passage.
Ned endeavored, in vain, to attract the attention of the leaders of the savages to his gestures; and to explain to them that there was a vessel, from which he had come, at a short distance off; and that, if they would accompany him thither, they would obtain large quantities of the beads and cloth which he showed them. The natives, however, were too much excited to pay any attention to his efforts; and with a sigh of despair he sat down by the side of Reuben, who was in the same boat with him; as the canoes, on emerging from the bay, turned their heads to the southwest, and paddled steadily and rapidly away from the island.
"Whither can they be going to take us?" Reuben said.
"They must belong to some other island," Ned answered, "and be a war party, which has come on plundering purposes here. What a misfortune! What terribly bad luck! They have clearly never seen white men before, and regard us as superior beings; and so far as we are concerned, it is probable that our lives are safe. But what will the admiral think, when night comes on and we do not return? What will become of our comrades?"
And at the thought of their messmates, left without help in so perilous a position, Ned fairly broke down and cried.
For some hours the natives continued their course without intermission, and gradually an island, which had at first seemed like a low cloud on the horizon, loomed up nearer and nearer; and at last, just as night fell, they landed upon its shores. Here in a bay a village of huts, constructed of the boughs of trees, had been raised; and the arrival of the war canoes was greeted, with wild and prolonged cries, by the women and children. All prostrated themselves in wonder and astonishment when the white men, in their strange attire, were brought on shore; and Ned saw that his suspicions were correct, and that they were regarded by their captors as gods. Further proof was given of this when they were escorted to a large shed, composed of a roof of thatch supported on four upright posts, which stood in the center of the village.
Under this were placed some of the hideous effigies which the South Sea Islanders worship, and which are affixed to the prow of their boats; and may be seen in the British Museum, and in other places where collections of Indian curiosities are exhibited. These effigies were carved in the shape of human beings, with enormous goggle eyes, splashes of bright paint, and strange and immense headdresses of brilliant colors.
Here the lads were motioned to sit down, and the natives brought them offerings of cocoas, and other fruits. The boys could hardly help laughing at their strange position, surrounded by these hideous idols.
"You wanted an adventure, Reuben, and you have got one, indeed," Ned said. "You are translated into a heathen god and, if you ever get home, will have your story to tell, which will astonish the quiet firesides in Devonshire."
"Ought we not to refuse to accept this horrid worship?" Gerald said.
"I think not," Ned replied. "It can do no harm; and we are, at least, better than these wooden idols. So long at least as we are taken for gods, our lives are safe. But I would not say as much if they once became convinced, by our actions, that we are men like themselves."
"But we cannot sit here, all our lives, among these idols," Reuben said.
"I agree with you there, Reuben; but patience does wonders, and I am not troubled in the least about ourselves. Sooner or later, a way of escape will present itself; and when it does, be assured that we will use it. Patience is all that we require, now. It is of our poor shipmates that I am thinking."
As night fell, great bonfires were lighted. The natives indulged in wild dances round them, and feasting and festivities were kept up all through the night. Four watches were stationed, one at each post of the temple; and the boys saw that, for the present, at least, all thought of escape was out of the question. And therefore, stretching themselves at full length on the sand, they were speedily asleep.
For some days, the position remained unchanged. The boys were well fed, and cared for. Offerings of fruit, fish, and other eatables were duly presented. A perfumed wood which, according to the native ideas, personified incense, was burned in large quantities round the temple, and nearly choked the boys with its smoke.
Upon the fifth day, it was clear that some expedition was being prepared. Four large war canoes were dragged down and placed in the water; and the great idols, which stood in the bow of each, were removed and carried up to the temple, and placed there in position. Then the boys were motioned to come down to the beach.
"I do believe," said Tom, bursting into a shout of laughter, "that they are going to put us in the bows of their canoes, in place of their old gods."
The others joined in the laughter, for to act as the figurehead of a canoe was indeed a comical, if an unpleasant situation.
When they reached the boats, the boys saw that their suspicions were correct, and that the natives were preparing to lash them to the lofty prows; which rose, some twelve feet above the water, in a sweep inwards.
"This will never do," Tom said. "If we are fastened like that, our weight will cut us horribly. Let us show them how to do it."
Whereupon, with great gravity he took a large piece of flat wood, and motioned to the savages to lash this in front of the bow of one of the boats, at a height of three feet above the water, so as to afford a little platform upon which he could stand. The natives at once perceived the drift of what he was doing, and were delighted that their new deities should evince such readiness to fall in with their plans. The additions were made at once to the four canoes; but while this was being done, some of the leading chiefs, with every mark of deference, approached the boys with colored paints; and motioned, to them, that they would permit them to deck them in this way.
Again the boys indulged in a hearty laugh and, stripping off their upper garments, to the immense admiration of the natives. They themselves applied paint in rings, zigzags, and other forms to their white shirts; painted a large saucer-like circle round the eyes with vermilion, so as to give themselves something the appearance of the great idols; and having thus transmogrified themselves, each gravely took his place upon his perch; where, leaning back against the prow behind them, they were by no means uncomfortable.
"If these fellows are going, as I expect, upon a war expedition," Ned shouted to his friends, as the boats, keeping regularly abreast, rowed off from the island; amidst a perfect chaos of sounds, of yells, beatings of rough drums made of skins stretched across hollow trunks of trees, and of the blowing of conch shells; "our position will be an unpleasant one. But we must trust to circumstances to do the best. At any rate, we must wish that our friends conquer; for the next party, if we fall into their hands, might take it into their heads that we are devils instead of gods, and it might fare worse with us."
It was manifest, as soon as they started, that the object of the expedition was not the island upon which they had been captured, but one lying away to the south. It was a row of several hours before they approached it. As they did so, they saw columns of smoke rise from several points of the shore, and knew that their coming there was observed by the islanders.
Presently six canoes, equally large with their own and crowded with men, were observed pulling out, and yells of defiance came across the water.
"It is clear," Tom said, "that this island is stronger than our own; and that it is only on the strength of our miraculous presence that the islanders expect to conquer their foes; for they would never, with four canoes, venture to attack a place of superior force, unless they deemed that their victory was certain."
With wild yells, which were answered boldly from their own canoes, the enemy approached, and the combat began with a general discharge of arrows. Then the canoes rowed into each other, and a general and desperate hand-to-hand combat commenced. The enthusiasm with which the inmates of the boys' canoes were animated at first gave them the superiority, and they not only beat back the attacks of their foes but, leaping into their enemy's boats, succeeded in clearing two of them of their occupants. Numbers, however, told; and the enemy were, with very heavy clubs and spears, pointed with sharp shells, gradually forcing the adventurers back; when Ned saw that a little supernatural interference was desirable, to bring matters straight again. Giving the word to his friends, he stood up on his perch and, swinging himself round, alighted in the boat; giving as he did so a loud British cheer, which was answered by that of his comrades. Then, with his arms erect, he began to move along the benches of the canoe, towards the conflict which was raging on either side.
The sudden interference of the four deities, at the head of the boat, was received with a yell of terror by the natives who were attacking them; which was increased when the boys, each seizing a club from the hands of a native, jumped into the enemy's canoes, and began to lay about them with all their strength. This was, however, required but for a moment. The sight of so terrible and unexampled an apparition appalled the islanders; who, springing overboard with yells of despair, swam rapidly towards land, leaving their boats in the hands of the victors.
These indulged in wild yells of triumph, knelt before their good geniuses, and then, taking their places, paddled towards the shore. Before they had reached it, however, the defeated savages had landed and, running up to their village, had borne the news of the terrible apparitions which had taken part against them.
The conquerors, on reaching the village, found it deserted; plundered it of a few valuables; carried down all their enemy's gods in triumph into the canoes; and then, having fired the huts, started again, with the ten canoes, towards their own island.
Their triumphant arrival at the village was received with frantic excitement and enthusiasm. The sight of six canoes towed in, by the four belonging to the place, was greeted with something of the same feeling which, in Nelson's time, Portsmouth more than once experienced upon an English vessel arriving with two captured French frigates, of size superior to herself. And when the warriors informed their relatives of the interposition of the white gods in their favor, the latter rose to an even higher estimation in public opinion than before. They were escorted to their shrine with wild dancing and gesticulation, and great heaps of fruit, fish, and other luxuries were offered to them, in token of the gratitude of the people.
But this was not all. A few hours later a solemn council was held on the seashore, and after a time a great hurrying to and fro was visible in the village. Then, to the sound of their wild music, with dancing, brandishing of spears, and the emission of many wild yells, the whole population moved up towards the shrine.
"What can they be going to do now?" Tom said. "Some fresh piece of homage, I should guess. I do wish they would leave us alone. It is annoying enough to be treated as a god, without being disturbed by these constant worshippings."
When the crowd arrived before the shed they separated, and in the midst were discovered four girls. On their heads were wreaths of flowers, and their necks and arms were loaded with necklaces, and shells, and other ornaments.
"Don't laugh, you fellows," said Ned. "I do believe that they have brought us four wives, in token of their gratitude."
The lads had the greatest difficulty in restraining themselves from marring the effect of the solemnity by ill-timed laughter. But they put a great restraint upon themselves, and listened gravely while the chief made them a long harangue, and pointed to the four damsels; who, elated at the honor of being selected, but somewhat shy at being the center of the public gaze, evidently understood that the village had chosen them to be the wives of the gods.
Although the boys could not understand the words of the speaker, there was no question as to his meaning, and they consulted together as to the best steps to be taken, under the circumstances.
"We must temporize," said Tom. "It would never do for them to consider themselves slighted."
After a short consultation, they again took their places in a solemn row, in front of the shed. Reuben, who was the tallest and most imposing of the set, and who was evidently considered by the villagers to be the leading deity, then addressed a long harangue to the chief and villagers. He beckoned to the four girls, who timidly advanced, and one knelt at the feet of each of the whites.
Then Reuben motioned that a hut must be built, close to the shrine; and, pointing to the sun, he traced its way across the sky, and made a mark upon the ground. This he repeated fourteen times, signifying that the girls must be shut up in the hut and guarded safely for that time, after which the nuptials would take place.
"You are quite sure, Ned," he said, pausing and turning round to his friend, "that we shall be able to make our attempt to escape before the end of the fourteen days? Because it would be fearful, indeed, if we were to fail, and to find ourselves compelled to marry these four heathen women."
"We will certainly try before the fourteen days are up, Reuben; but with what success, of course we cannot say. But if we lay our plans well, we ought to manage to get off."
The villagers readily understood the harangue of Reuben, and without delay the whole scattered into the wood and, returning with bundles of palm leaves and some strong posts, at once began to erect the hut. Fires were lighted as the evening came on, and before they ceased their labor the hut was finished.
During this time the girls had remained sitting patiently in front of the shrine. The lads now offered them their hand, and escorted them with grave ceremony to the hut. The palm leaves which did service as a door were placed before it, and the boys proceeded to dance, one after the other in solemn order, fourteen times round the hut.
They then signified to the natives that provisions, fruit, and water must be daily brought for the use of their future wives; and having made another harangue, thanking the natives for their exertions, and signifying future protection and benefits, they retired under the shelter of the shed, and the village subsided to its ordinary state of tranquility.
"There are two difficulties in the way of making our escape," Ned said. "In the first place, it is useless to think of leaving this island, until we have a sufficient stock, of provisions and water to put in a canoe, to last us until we can get back to Ternate. Did we put into any island on the way, our position might be ten times as bad as it now is. Here at least we are well treated and honored and, did we choose, could no doubt live here in a sort of heathen comfort, for the rest of our lives; just as many white sailors on the western isles have turned natives, and given up all thought of ever returning to their own country.
"The Golden Hind was four days on her journey from Ternate to the place where she refitted; another two to the spot where she went on the reef. The wind was very light, and her speed was not above five knots an hour. We should be able to paddle back in the course of ten days, and must take provisions sufficient for that time.
"The first point, of course, will be to find whether the old ship is still on the reef. If she is not there she may have succeeded in getting off, or she may have gone to pieces. I trust however that the admiral, who is full of resource, has managed to get her off in safety. He will, no doubt, have spent a day or two in looking for us; but finding no signs of us, in the island to which we were sent, or in the other lying in sight to the southward, he will have shaped his way for the Cape.
"The first difficulty, then, is to procure sufficient provisions. The next is to make our escape unseen. The four natives who, night and day, watch at the corners of this shed, mean it as a great honor, no doubt; but, like many other honors, it is an unpleasant one. Our only plan will be to seize and gag them suddenly, each pouncing upon one.
"Then there is the fear that the natives, who are, I must say, the most restless sleepers I ever saw, may in their wanderings up to look at us find that we have gone, before we are fairly beyond reach of pursuit; for one of their great canoes will travel at least two feet to our one.
"Hitherto we have only taken such provisions, from the piles they have offered us, as were sufficient for our day's wants, and left the rest for them to take away again next morning. In future we had best, each day, abstract a considerable quantity; and place it conspicuously in the center of this shed. The people will perhaps wonder, but will probably conclude that we are laying it by, to make a great feast upon our wedding day.
"As to water, we must do with the calabashes which they bring the day before, and with the milk which the cocoas contain, and which is to the full as quenching as water. With a good number of cocoas, we ought to be able to shift for some days without other food; and there is, indeed, an abundance of juice in many of the other fruits which they offer us."
This programme was carried out. Every morning the lads danced in solemn procession round the hut, lessening their rounds by one each day. Daily the heap of fruit, dried fish, and vegetables under the shed increased; and the natives, who believed that their new deities were intent upon the thoughts of marriage, had no suspicion whatever of any desire, on their part, to escape.
Having settled how to prevent their escape being detected before morning, they accustomed themselves to go to sleep with the cloths, woven of the fiber of the palm with which the natives had supplied them, pulled over their heads.
Seven days after the fight with the other islanders, the lads judged that the pile of provisions was sufficiently large for their purpose, and determined upon making the attempt that night. A canoe of about the size that they desired, which had been used during the day for fishing, lay on the shore close to the water's edge.
They waited until the village was fairly hushed in sleep. An hour later they believed that the four guards—or worshipers, for it struck them that their attendants partook partly of both characters—were beginning to feel drowsy; and each of the boys, having furnished himself with a rope of twisted coconut fiber, stole quietly up to one of these men.
To place their hands over their mouths, to seize and throw them upon their faces, was but the work of a moment; and was accomplished without the least noise, the natives being paralyzed by the sudden and unexpected assault. A piece of wood was shoved into the mouth of each, as a gag; and secured by a string, passing round the back of the head, and holding it in its place. Their arms and legs were tied, and they were set up against the posts, in the same position they had before occupied.
Four of the great effigies were then taken from their places, and laid down upon the ground and covered over with the mats, so that to any casual observer they presented exactly the same appearance as the boys, sleeping there.
Then, loading themselves with provisions, the boys stole backwards and forwards, quietly, to the boat. Once they had to pause, as a sleepless native came out from his hut, walked up to the shrine, and bowed himself repeatedly before the supposed deities. Fortunately he perceived nothing suspicious, and did not notice the constrained attitude of the four guardians. When he retired the boys continued their work, and soon had the whole of the store of cocoas and other provisions in the canoe, together with some calabashes of water.
Then with some difficulty they launched the boat and, taking their places, paddled quietly away from the island. Once fairly beyond the bay, they laid themselves to their work, and the light boat sped rapidly across the waters. In order that they might be sure of striking the point where they had left the ship, they made first for the island where they had been captured, and when day broke were close beside it. They then shaped their course northwards, and after two hours' paddling were in sight of the low island, which they had first visited. By noon they reached the spot where, as they judged, the Golden Hind had gone on the reef; but no sign whatever of her was to be discovered. By the position in which the island they had left lay they were sure that, although they might be two or three miles out in their direction, they must be within sight of the vessel, were she still remaining as they had left her.
There had been no great storm since she had grounded; and it was unlikely, therefore, that she could have gone entirely to pieces. This afforded them great ground for hope that she had beaten off the reef, and proceeded on her voyage. Hitherto they had been buoyed up with the expectation of again meeting their friends; but they now felt a truly unselfish pleasure, at the thought that their comrades and admiral had escaped the peril which threatened the downfall of their hopes, and the termination of an enterprise fairly and successfully carried out, so far.
There was nothing now for them but to make for Ternate. They found no difficulty whatever in doing without water, their thirst being amply quenched by the milk of the cocoas, and the juice of the guavas and other fruits. They paddled for two days longer, working steadily all day and far into the night, and passed one or two islands.
In the course of the next day's passage they went within a short distance of another, and were horrified at seeing, from the narrow bay, a large war canoe put out, and make rapidly towards them.
They had already talked over what would be their best course in such a contingency, and proceeded at once to put their plans into execution. They had, at starting, taken with them a supply of the paints used in their decoration; and with these they proceeded to touch up the coloring on their faces and white shirts, and on the strange ornaments which had been affixed to their heads. Two of them now took their place, one at the stern and the other at the bow of the canoe. The other two stood up, and paddled very quietly and slowly along; and as the canoe approached rapidly, the four broke into a song—one of the old Devonshire catches, which they had often sung together on board ship.
The war canoe, as it approached, gradually ceased paddling. The aspect of this small boat, paddling quietly along and taking no heed of their presence, filled its occupants with surprise. But when the way on their canoe drifted them close to it, and they were enabled to see the strange character of the freight, a panic of astonishment and alarm seized them. That a boat, navigated by four gods, should be seen proceeding calmly along the ocean, alone, was a sight for which Indian legend gave them no precedent whatever; and after gazing for a while, in superstitious dread at the strange spectacle, they turned their boats' head and paddled rapidly back to shore.
For an hour or two the boys continued their course, in the same leisurely manner; but when once convinced that they were out of sight of their late visitors, they again sat down, and the four stretched themselves to their work.
On the evening of that day there was a heavy mist upon the water. The stars were with difficulty seen through it, and the lads were all convinced that a change of weather was at hand. Before nightfall had set in, an island had been seen at a short distance to the north, and they decided at once to make for this; as, if caught in mid ocean by a storm, they had little hope of weathering it in a craft like that in which they were placed; although the natives, habituated to them, were able to keep the sea in very rough weather in these little craft; which, to an English eye, appeared no safer than cockleshells.
The boys rowed with all their strength in the direction in which the island lay, but before they reached it sharp puffs of wind struck the water, and the steerage of the canoe became extremely difficult. Presently, however, they heard the sound of a dull roar, and knew that this was caused by the slow heaving swell, of which they were already sensible, breaking upon a beach.
Ten minutes later they were close to the shore. Had it been daylight, they would have coasted round the island to search for a convenient spot for landing; but the wind was already rising, so fast that they deemed it better to risk breaking up their canoe, than to run the hazard of being longer upon the sea.
Waiting, therefore, for a wave, they sped forward, with all their strength. There was a crash, and then they all leaped out together and, seizing the canoe, ran her up on the beach, before the next wave arrived.
"I fear she has knocked a great hole in her bottom," Reuben said.
"Never mind," Ned replied. "We shall be able to make a shift to mend it. The great point, now, is to drag it up so high among the bushes, that it will not be noticed in the morning by any natives who may happen to be about. Until this storm is over, at any rate, we have got to shelter here."
The canoe, laden as she still was with provisions, was too heavy to drag up; but the boys, emptying her out, lifted her on their shoulders and carried her inland; until, at a distance of some sixty or seventy yards, they entered a grove of coconut trees. Here they laid her down, and made two journeys back to the beach to fetch up their provisions, and then took refuge in the grove; thankful that they had escaped on shore in time, for scarcely had they landed when the hurricane, which had been brewing, burst with terrific force.
Seas of immense height came rolling in upon the shore. The trees of the grove waved to and fro before it, and shook the heavy nuts down, with such force that the boys were glad to leave it and to lie down on the open beach, rather than to run the risk of having their skulls fractured by these missiles from above. The sound of the wind deadened their voices, and even by shouting they could not make themselves heard. Now and then, above the din of the storm, was heard the crash of some falling tree; and even as they lay, they were sometimes almost lifted from the ground by the force of the wind.
For twenty-four hours the hurricane continued, and then cleared as suddenly as it had commenced. The lads crept back to the grove, refreshed themselves with the contents of two or three cocoas apiece, and then, lying down under the canoe, which they had taken the precaution of turning bottom upwards, enjoyed a peaceful sleep till morning.
Chapter 20: A Portuguese Settlement.
The day broke bright and sunny. The first care of the boys was to examine their canoe; and they found, as they had feared, that a huge hole had been made, in her bottom, by the crash against the rocks on landing. They looked for some time with rueful countenances at it; and then, as usual, turned to Ned, to ask him what he thought had best be done.
"There can be no doubt," he said, "that the natives make a sort of glue out of some trees or shrubs growing in these islands, and we shall have to endeavor to discover the tree from which they obtain it. We can, of course, easily pull off the bark from some tree, which will do to cover the hole. The great point is to find some substance which will make it water tight."
The grove was a very large one, and appeared to extend along the whole coast. Seaward, it was formed entirely of cocoa trees, but inland a large number of other trees were mingled with the palms. All day the boys attempted to find some semblance of gum oozing from these trees. With sharp pieces of shell they made incisions in the bark of each variety that they met with, to see if any fluid exuded which might be useful for this purpose, but in vain.
"If we can kill some animal or other," Ned said, "we might boil down its sinews and skin and make glue; as Tom and myself did, to mend our bows with, among the Indians on the pampas. But even then, I question whether the glue would stand the action of the water."
As to their subsistence they had no uneasiness. Besides the cocoas, fruit of all sorts abounded. In the woods parrots and other birds flew screaming among the branches at their approach, and although at present they had no means of shooting or snaring these creatures, they agreed that it would be easy to construct bows and arrows, should their stay be prolonged. This, however, they shrank from doing, as long as any possible method of escape presented itself. Were it absolutely necessary, they agreed that they could burn down a tree and construct a fresh canoe; but they were by no means sanguine as to their boat-building capabilities, and were reluctant to give up the idea of continuing their voyage in their present craft, as long as a possibility of so doing remained.
So they passed four days; but succeeded in finding no gum, or other substance, which appeared likely to suit their purpose.
"I should think," Reuben said one day, "that it would be possible to make the canoe so buoyant that she would not sink, even if filled with water."
"How would you do that?" Tom asked. "There are many light woods, no doubt, among the trees that we see; but they would have to remain a long time to dry, to be light enough to be of any use."
"I was thinking," Reuben said, "that we might use coconuts. There are immense quantities upon the trees, and the ground is covered with them, from the effects of the late gale. If we strip off the whole of the outside husk, and then make holes in the little eyes at the top and let out the milk, using young ones in which the flesh has not yet formed, and cutting sticks to fit tightly into the holes, they would support a considerable weight in the water. I should think that if we treated several hundred nuts in this way, put them in the bottom of the canoe, and keep them in their places by a sort of net, which we might easily make from the fibers of the cocoas, the boat would be buoyant enough to carry us."
The idea struck all as being feasible, and Reuben was much congratulated upon his inventive powers. Without delay, they set to work to carry out the plan. A piece of thin bark was first taken and, by means of a long thorn used as a needle, was sewn over the hole in the canoe, with the fibers of the cocoa. Then a large pile of nuts was collected, and the boys set to work at the task of emptying them of their contents. It took them some hours' work to make and fit the pegs. Another two days were spent in manufacturing a net, to stretch across the boat above them.
The nuts were then placed in the boat, the net put into shape and, choosing a calm night for their trial—for they feared, during the daytime, to show themselves beyond the margin of the forest—they placed it in the water, and paddled a short distance out.
They found that their anticipations were justified, and that the flotation of the cocoas was amply sufficient to keep the boat afloat. She was, of course, far lower in the water than she had before been, and her pace was greatly deteriorated. This, however, they had expected and, returning to shore, they watched for the next night. Then, taking in a load of provisions, they started at once upon their way.
It was weary work now, for the water-logged canoe was a very different boat to the light bark, which had yielded so easily to their strokes. Fortunately, however, they met with no misadventure. The weather continued calm. They were unseen, or at least not followed, from any of the islands that they passed on their way. But it was ten days after their final start before a large island, which they all recognized as Ternate, was seen rising above the water.
"Easy all," Ned said. "We may be thankful, indeed, that we have arrived safely in sight of the island. But now that we are close, and there is no fear of tempests, had we not better talk over whether, after all, we shall land at Ternate?"
"Not land at Ternate?" the others exclaimed in consternation; for indeed, the work during the last few days had been very heavy, and they were rejoicing at the thought of an end to their labors "Why, we thought it was arranged, all along, we should stop at Ternate."
"Yes, but we arranged that because at Ternate, alone, there seemed a certainty of a welcome. But, as you know, Tidore only lies twelve miles away from Ternate; and from the position we are now in, it will not be more than five or six miles farther.
"You see, when we were there, the king was preparing for a war with the Portuguese in Tidore, and he would certainly expect us to assist him, and probably to lead his fighting men."
"But we should have no objection to that," Reuben said.
"Not in the least," Ned replied. "But you see, if we are ever to get back to England, it must be through the Portuguese. Their ships alone are to be found in these seas, and were we to join the King of Ternate in an attack upon them, whether successful or not, we could never hope to be received in Portuguese ships; and should probably, indeed, be taken to Goa, and perhaps burned there as heretics, if we were to seek an asylum on board.
"What do you think?"
Viewed in this light, it certainly appeared more prudent to go to Tidore, and after some little discussion the boat's head was turned more to the west, and the lads continued their weary work in paddling the water-logged canoe. So slowly did she move that it was late at night before they approached the island. They determined not to land till morning, as they might be mistaken for natives, and attacked. They therefore lay down in the canoe and went to sleep, when within about a mile of the island; and the next morning paddled along its shore until they saw some canoes hauled up, together with an English boat, and supposed that they were at the principal landing place of the island.
On either side of the landing place the cliffs rose steeply up, at a short distance from the beach. But at this point a sort of natural gap existed, up which the road ascended into the interior of the island. There were several natives moving about on the beach as the boys approached, and one of these was seen, at once, to start at a run up the road. The lads had carefully removed all vestige of the paint from their faces and hands and, having put on their doublets, concealed the strange appearance presented before by their white shirts.
No resistance was opposed to their landing; but the natives motioned to them that they must not advance inland, until a messenger returned from the governor. The boys were only too glad to throw themselves down full length on the soft sand of the beach, and to dry their clothes in the sun; as for ten days they had been constantly wet, and were stiff and tired.
Presently a native came down at a run, and announced that the governor was at hand. Rising to their feet, and making the best show they could in their faded garments, the lads soon saw a Portuguese gentleman, attended by four soldiers, coming down the road between the cliffs.
"Who are you?" he asked in Portuguese, as he reached them, "and whence come you?"
"We are Englishmen," Ned said in Spanish. "We belong to the ship of Captain Drake, which passed by here in its voyage of circumnavigation. By an accident, we in the canoe were separated from the ship and left behind. We have come to seek your hospitality, and protection."
"We heard of an English vessel at Ternate," the governor said, sternly, "some weeks since; and heard also that its captain was making an alliance with the king there, against us."
"It was not so," Ned said. "The admiral stopped there for a few days to obtain supplies such as he needed; but we are not here either to make alliances or to trade. Captain Drake, on starting, intended to voyage round the coast of America; and to return, if possible, by the north. After coasting up the western shores of that continent, he found that it would be impossible to pass round the north, as the coast extended so rapidly toward the north of Asia. He therefore started to return by the Cape, and on his way passed through these islands.
"Had it been part of his plan to make alliances with the King of Ternate, or any other potentate, he would have stopped and done so; and would have given his armed assistance to the king. But his object was simply to return, as quickly as possible. Had there been any alliance made, we should naturally have made for Ternate, instead of this island. But as we have no relations with the king, and seek only means of returning to Europe, we preferred, of course, to come here, where we knew that we should find Christians; and, we hoped, friends."
There was palpable truth in what Ned said; and the governor, unbending, expressed his readiness to receive and help them. He then asked a few more questions about the manner in which they had become separated from their friends; and seeing no advantage in concealing the truth, and thinking perhaps that it would be well, if an opportunity should offer, that the governor should send a vessel to search among the islands near where the wreck took place, and see if any of the crew had sought refuge there, they told him frankly the circumstances under which they had left the Golden Hind.
"It would be sad, indeed," said the Portuguese, "if so grand an expedition, under so noble a commander, should have been wrecked after accomplishing such a work. We in these parts are not friendly to any European meddling. His Holiness the pope granted us all discoveries on this side of the Cape, and we would fain trade in peace and quiet, without interference. But we can admire the great deeds and enterprise of your countrymen; and indeed," he said smiling—for the Portuguese are, as a rule, a very small race—and looking at the bulk of the four young men, which was, indeed, almost gigantic by the side of himself and his soldiers, "I am scarcely surprised, now I see you, at the almost legendary deeds which I hear that your countrymen have performed on the Spanish main.
"But now, follow me to my castle, and I will there provide you with proper appliances. What position did you hold in the ship?"
"We are gentlemen of Devonshire," Ned said, "and bore a share in the enterprise, sailing as gentlemen adventurers under Captain Drake. I myself held the rank of third officer in the ship."
"Then, senors," the Portuguese said, bowing, "I am happy to place myself and my house at your disposal. It may be that you will be able to render me services which will far more than repay any slight inconvenience or trouble to which I may be put, for we hear that the King of Ternate is preparing a formidable expedition against us; and as my garrison is a very small one, and the natives are not to be relied upon to fight against those of the other island, the addition of four such experienced soldiers as yourself will, in no slight degree, strengthen us."
The boys replied that their swords were at the service of their host; and, well content with the turn things had taken, they proceeded with him up the road into the interior of the island.
Upon gaining the higher land, they were surprised at the aspect of the island. In place of the almost unbroken forest which they had beheld, in other spots at which they had landed, here was fair cultivated land. Large groves of spice trees grew here and there, and the natives were working in the fields with the regularity of Europeans. The Portuguese method of cultivating the islands which they took differed widely from that of the English. Their first step was to compel the natives to embrace Christianity. Their second to make of them docile and obedient laborers, raising spice and other products, for which they received in payment calico, beads, and European goods.
The castle, which stood in the center of a small plain, was built of stone roughly hewn; and was of no strength which would have resisted any European attack, but was well calculated for the purpose for which it was designed. It consisted of a pleasant house standing in an enclosure, round which was a wall, some fifteen feet in height, with a platform running behind it, to enable its garrison to shoot over the top. A ditch of some ten feet in depth and fifteen feet wide surrounded it; so that, without scaling ladders to ascend the walls, or cannon to batter holes in them, the place could be well held against any attack that the natives might make upon it.
The garrison was not a formidable one, consisting only of some thirty Portuguese soldiers, whose appearance did not speak much for the discipline maintained. Their uniforms were worn and rusty in the extreme. They were slovenly in appearance, and wore a look of discontent and hopelessness. A large portion of them, indeed, had been criminals, and had been offered the choice of death or of serving for ten years, which generally meant for life, in the eastern seas. Ned judged that no great reliance could be placed upon this army of scarecrows, in the event of an attack of a serious character.
"My men would scarcely show to advantage at home," the governor said, noting the glance of surprise with which the boys had viewed them. "But in a country like this, with such great heat and no real occasion for more than appearances, it is hopeless to expect them to keep up the smartness which would, at home, be necessary. The natives are very docile and quiet, and give us no trouble whatever; and were it not for interference from Ternate, where the people are of a much more warlike nature, the guard which I have would be ample for any purposes. I am expecting a vessel which calls here about once in six months, very shortly, and anticipate that she will bring me some twenty more soldiers, for whom I wrote to the viceroy at Goa when she last called here."
"What is your latest news from Ternate?" Ned asked.
"I have no direct news," he said. "What we know we gather from the natives, who, by means of canoes and fishing boats, are often in communication with those of the opposite island. They tell me that great preparations are being made, that several of the largest-sized canoes have been built, and that they believe, when it is full moon, which is generally the era at which they commence their adventures, there will be a descent upon this island."
"Then you have seven days in which to prepare," Ned said. "Have you been doing anything to enable you to receive them hotly?"
"I have not," the governor said. "But now that you gentlemen have come, I doubt not that your experience in warfare will enable you to advise me as to what steps I had better take. I stand at present alone here. The officer who, under me, commanded the garrison died two months since; and I myself, who was brought up in a civil rather than a military capacity, am, I own to you, strange altogether to these matters."
Ned expressed the willingness of himself and his friends to do all in their power to advise and assist the governor; and with many mutual compliments they now entered the house, where a goodly room was assigned to them; some natives told off as their servants; and the governor at once set two native seamsters to work, to manufacture garments of a proper cut for them, from materials which he had in a storehouse for trading with the neighboring chiefs; who, like all savages, were greatly given to finery. Thus, by the end of the week, the boys were able once more to make a show which would have passed muster in a European capital.
At the governor's request, they had at once proceeded to drill the soldiers, Ned and Gerald taking each the command of a company of fifteen men, as they understood Spanish and could readily make themselves understood in Portuguese, whereas Tom and Reuben knew but little of the Spanish tongue.
"I think," Tom said the first morning to the governor, after the friends had discussed the prospect together, "it would be well to throw up some protection at the top of the road leading from the shore. I should order some large trees to be cut down, and dragged by a strong force of natives to the spot, and there so arranged that their branches will point downward and form a chevaux de frise in the hollow way; leaving until the last moment a passage between them, but having at hand a number of young saplings, to fill up the gap. There are, I suppose, other places at which the enemy could land?"
"Oh, yes," the governor said. "On the other side of the island the land slopes gradually down to the shore, and indeed it is only for a few miles, at this point, that the cliffs rise so abruptly that they could not be ascended. Yet even here there are many points which a native could easily scale; although we, in our accoutrements, would find it impossible."
While Ned and Gerald drilled their men with great assiduity, astonishing the Portuguese soldiers with their energy and authoritative manner, Tom and Reuben occupied themselves in superintending the felling of the trees; and their carriage, by means of a large number of natives, to the top of the road. Preparations were also made for blocking up the lower windows of the house so that, in case of the enemy succeeding in carrying the outer wall, a stout resistance could be made within. Large piles of provisions were stored in the building, and great jars of water placed there.
"Are you sure," Ned asked the governor one evening, "of the natives here? For I own that there appears to me to be a sullen defiance in their manner, and I should not be surprised to see them turn upon us, immediately those from the other island arrive. If they did so, of course our position at the top of the road would be untenable, as they would take us in the rear. However, if they do so, I doubt not that we shall be able to cut our way back to the castle, without difficulty.
"I think that it would be, in any case, advisable to leave at least ten men to hold the castle, while the rest of us oppose the landing."
There were in store four small culverins and several light wall pieces. Two of the culverins were placed on the cliff, one at each side of the path, so as to command the landing. Two others were placed on the roof of the castle, which was flat and terraced. The wall pieces were also cleaned, and placed in position at the corners of the walls; and the boys, having seen that the musketoons and arquebuses of the garrison were in excellent order, and ready for service, felt that all had been done that was possible to prepare for an attack.
The day before the full moon a sentinel was placed at the cliff, with orders to bring word instantly to the castle, in case any craft were seen coming from Ternate, the distance from the cliff to the house being about a mile. A short time after daybreak, next morning, the sentry arrived at full speed, saying that a great fleet of canoes was visible.
Hurrying to the spot with the governor, the lads made out that the approaching flotilla consisted of eighteen great war canoes, each of which, crowded as it was, might contain a hundred men; and in addition to these were a large number of smaller craft. The invading force, therefore, would considerably exceed two thousand men.
Reuben had the command of a gun at one side, Tom at the other, and these now loaded and sighted their pieces, so as to pour a volley of case shot into the canoes when they arrived within a quarter of a mile from shore.
The canoes came along in a dense body, as close together as they could paddle, their rowers filling the air with defiant yells. When they reached the spot upon which the guns had been trained Tom fired his piece, and its roar was answered by wild screams and yells from the crowded fleet. Reuben followed suit, and the destruction wrought by the gnus was at once manifest. Three of the great canoes were broken to pieces, and their occupants swimming in the water climbed into the others, among which also a great many men had been wounded.
The effect of this reception upon the valor of the natives was very speedy. Without a moment's delay they backed off, and were soon seen making out of range of the guns, like a troop of wild fowl scattered by the shot of a fowler.
"They have a horror of cannon," the governor said, exultingly, as he witnessed their departure. "If we had a few more pieces, I should have no fear of the result."
The dispersal of the canoes continued only until they thought that they were out of range; for although the lads now sent several round shot at them, these did not produce any effect, the canoes being but small objects to hit at a distance, when on the move, and the culverins being old pieces, and but little adapted for accurate shooting.
The fleet were soon seen to gather again, and after a little pause they started in a body, as before, along the coast.
"They are going to make a landing elsewhere," Ned said, "and we shall have to meet them in the open. It is a pity that we have no beasts of burden to which to harness our pieces; for as these are only ships' guns, it is impossible for us to drag them at a speed which would enable us to oppose their landing. Where are all the natives?"
At the first alarm a large body of the islanders had assembled upon the cliff, but in the excitement of watching the approaching enemy, their movements had not been noticed. It was now seen that the whole of them had left the spot, and not a single native was in sight.
"I think," Ned said, "we had better fall back and take up a position near the house, and repel their attack with the assistance of the guns mounted there. With muskets only, we should not have much chance of preventing their landing; and indeed they will row much faster along the coast than we could run to keep up with them."
The governor agreed in the justice of Ned's view, and the whole force were now ordered to fall back towards the castle. As they proceeded they saw large bodies of the natives. These, however, kept at a distance; but their exultant shouts showed that they must be considered to have gone over to the enemy.
"I will make you pay for this," the governor said, stamping his foot and shaking his fist angrily in their direction. "Each man shall have to furnish double the amount of spice for half the amount of calico, for the next five years. Ungrateful dogs! When we have done so much for them!"
Ned could scarcely help smiling to himself, at the thought of the many benefits which the Portuguese had bestowed upon these unfortunate islanders, whom they had reduced from a state of happy freedom to one which, whatever it might be called, was but little short of slavery.
It was late in the evening before great numbers of the enemy were seen approaching, and these, swelled as they were by the population of the island, appeared a formidable body, indeed, by the side of the handful of white men who were drawn up to defend the place. The enemy, numerous as he was, appeared indisposed to commence a fight at once, but began, to the fierce indignation of the governor, to cut down the groves of spice trees, and to build great fires with them.
"I don't think that they will attack until tomorrow," Ned said, "and it would be well, therefore, to withdraw within the walls, to plant sentries, and to allow the men to rest. We shall want all our strength when the battle begins."
"Do you think," the governor asked, when they were seated in his room, and had finished the repast which had been prepared, "that it will be well to sally out to meet them in the open? Thirty white men ought to be able to defeat almost any number of these naked savages."
"If we had horses I should say yes," Ned said, "because then, by our speed, we could make up for our lack of numbers; and, wheeling about, could charge through and through them. But they are so light and active in comparison to ourselves that we should find it difficult, if not impossible, to bring them to a hand-to-hand conflict. We have, indeed, the advantage of our musketoons; but I observed at Ternate that many of the men have muskets, and the sound of firearms would therefore in no way alarm them. With their bows and arrows they can shoot more steadily at short distances than we can, and we should be overwhelmed with a cloud of missiles, while unable to bring to bear the strength of our arms and the keenness of our swords against their clubs and rough spears. I think that we could hold the house for a year against them; but if we lost many men in a fight outside, it might go hard with us afterwards."
When morning dawned the garrison beheld, to their dismay, that the Indians had in the night erected a battery at a quarter of a mile in front of the gate, and that in this they had placed the culverins left on the cliff, and a score of the small pieces carried in their war canoes.
"This is the work of the two white men we saw at Ternate," Gerald exclaimed. "No Indian could have built a battery according to this fashion."
As soon as it was fairly light the enemies' fire opened, and was answered by the culverins on the roof of the house. The latter were much more quickly and better directed than those of the Indians, but many of the balls of the latter crashed through the great gates.
"Shall we make a sortie?" the governor asked Ned.
"I think that we had better wait for nightfall," he replied. "In passing across this open ground we should lose many men from the cannon shots, and with so small a force remaining, might not be able to resist the onrush of so great numbers. Let us prepare, however, to prop up the gates should they fall, and tonight we will silence their guns."
At nightfall the gates, although sorely bruised and battered, and pierced in many places, still stood; being shored up with beams from behind. At ten o'clock twenty of the garrison were let down by ropes at the back of the castle, for Ned thought that scouts might be lurking near the gates, to give notice of any sortie. With great precaution and in perfect silence they made a way round, and were within a hundred yards of the battery before their approach was discovered.
Then, headed by the governor, who was a valiant man by nature, and the four English, they ran at great speed forward, and were inside the battery before the enemy could gather to resist them. The battle was indeed a hard one; for the Indians, with their clubs, fought valorously. Reuben and Tom, having been furnished with hammer and long nails, proceeded to spike the guns; which they did with great quickness, their doings being covered, alike, by their friends and by darkness. When they had finished their task they gave the signal, and the Portuguese, being sorely pressed, fell back fighting strongly to the castle, where the gates were opened to receive them. In this sortie they lost eight men.
The next morning at dawn the natives, being gathered in large numbers, came on to the assault, uttering loud and fierce cries. The cannon on the roof, which were under the charge of Tom and Reuben, at once opened fire upon them, while the soldiers upon the walls shot briskly with their musketoons. The natives, however, appeared determined to succeed and, firing a cloud of arrows, pushed forward towards the gate. Among them were borne, each by some thirty natives, long trees; and this party, surrounded by the main body, proceeded rapidly towards the gate, which, damaged as it was, they hoped easily to overthrow.
The fire of the two culverins was, however, so deadly, and the concentrated discharge of the musketoons upon them as they advanced so fatal that, after trying several times to approach close to the gate, the natives dropped the great logs and fled.
Chapter 21: Wholesale Conversion.
That day and the three which followed passed without adventure. The natives were seen ravaging the fields, destroying the plantations, and doing terrible damage, to the intense exasperation of the Portuguese governor. But they did not show any signs of an intention to attack the castle.
"I believe," Ned said on the fourth day, "that they have determined to starve us out. They must know that, however large our stock of provisions, they will not last forever; and indeed they will have learned, from the men who bore them in, something of the amount of stock which we have. It will last, you say, for two months; which would be little enough, were it not that we are expecting the ship you spoke of. If that comes shortly we shall, with the additional force which it is bringing; and the crew, who will no doubt aid; be able to attack them in the open. But were it not for that, our position would be a bad one."
"I fear," Tom said, "that even when the ship arrives, evil may come of it."
"How is that, Tom?" Ned asked.
"The captain will know nothing of what is passing on shore; and if he lands his men incautiously upon the beach, and advances in this direction, the natives will fall upon them and, taking them by surprise, cut them to pieces; and our last hope will then be gone."
"But we might sally out and effect a diversion," Reuben said.
"Yes," Tom replied; "but, unfortunately, we should not know of the arrival of the ship until all is over."
It was clear to all that Tom's view was the correct one, and that the position was much more serious than they had anticipated. For some time the governor and the four young men looked at each other, blankly. The destruction of the reinforcements, which would be followed no doubt by the capture of the ship by the war canoes, and the massacre of all on board, would indeed be fatal to their hopes. After what they had seen of the determination with which the enemy had come up to attack the gate, they were sure that they would fight valiantly, outside.
The question of sallying forth was again discussed, and all were of opinion that, unequal as the fight would be, it were better to attempt to defeat the enemy than to remain quiet, and allow them to triumph over the coming reinforcements.
"Upon what day do you think the ship will arrive?" Ned said, after considerable thought.
"I cannot say to a day," the governor replied; "but she should be here this week. There is no exact time, because she has to touch at several other islands. She leaves Goa always on a certain day; but she takes many weeks on her voyage, even if the wind be favorable She might have been here a week since. She may not be here for another fortnight. But unless something unforeseen has occurred, she should be here by that time; for the winds are steady in these regions, and the rate of sailing regular."
"The one chance appears to me," Ned said, after thinking for some time, "is to give them warning of what is happening here."
"But how is that to be done?" asked the governor.
"The only possible plan," Ned said, "would be for one of us—and I should be ready to accept the duty, knowing more perhaps of the ways of natives than the others—to steal forth from the castle, to make for the shore, and to lie concealed among the woods until the vessel is in sight. If then I could find a canoe, to seize it and paddle off to the ship; if not, to swim."
The other lads eagerly volunteered to undertake the work; but Ned insisted that he was better suited to it, not only from his knowledge of the natives, but from his superior powers in swimming.
"I may have," he said, "to keep myself up in the water for a long time, and perhaps to swim for my life, if the natives see me. It is even desirable, above all things, that whosoever undertakes the work should be a good swimmer; and although you have long ago given up calling me The Otter, I do not suppose that my powers in the water have diminished."
After long consultation, it was agreed that this plan offered more chances of success than any other.
"It would be most desirable," Gerald said, "that we should have some notice, here, of the ship being in sight; in order that we might sally out, and lend a hand to our friends on their arrival. I will, therefore, if you will allow me, go with Ned; and when the ship is in sight, I will make my way back here, while he goes off to the vessel."
"But it will be impossible," Ned said, "to make your way back here in the daytime. I can steal out at night, but to return unnoticed would be difficult, indeed."
"But when you see the ship, Ned, and get on board, you might warn them to delay their landing until the next morning; and in the night I might enter here with the news, and we might sally out at daybreak."
This plan appeared to offer more advantages than any other; and it was agreed, at last, that the two lads should, having darkened their skins and put on Indian dress, steal out that night from the castle and make for the shore. Tom and Reuben regretted much that they could not take part in the enterprise; but the governor assured them that, even were it desirable that four should undertake the mission, they could not be spared, since their presence would be greatly needed in the castle should the natives, before the arrival of the ship, make an attack upon it.
That night Ned and Gerald, according to the arrangement, stole out from the castle. Their skins had been darkened from head to foot. Round their waists they wore short petticoats, reaching to their knees, of native stuff. They had sandals on their feet; for, as Ned said, if they were seen close by the natives they were sure to be detected in any case, and sandals would not show at a short distance, while they would enable them to run at full speed, which they certainly could not do barefooted. They took with them a bag of provisions, and each carried a sword. Reuben had pressed upon them to take pistols also; but Ned said that, if cut off and detected, pistols would be of no use, as nothing but running would carry them through; while should a pistol be fired inadvertently, it would call such a number of assailants upon them that their escape would be impossible. A thrust with a sword did its work silently, and just as well as a pistol bullet.
The natives apparently had no fear of any attempt at a sally from the castle, for there was nothing like a watch set round it; although near the entrance a few men were stationed, to give warning should the garrison sally out to make a sudden attack upon the invaders. The natives were, for the most part, scattered about in small parties, and once or twice the lads nearly fell in with these; but by dint of keeping their ears and eyes open they steered through the dangers, and arrived safely upon the coast, at a point two miles to the west of the landing place.
Here the cliff had nearly sloped away, the height being only some twenty or thirty feet above the water, and being practicable in many cases for descent; while behind lay a large wood in which concealment was easy, except in the case of an organized search, of which they had no fear, whatever.
The next morning they made along the shore as far as the point where the native war canoes had been pulled up, in hopes of finding some canoe small enough for Ned to use for rowing off to the ship. But none of them rowed less than twelve or fourteen paddles, and so cumbrous a boat as this would be overtaken in a very short time, should it be seen making out from shore. Ned therefore determined to swim out, especially as they observed that a watch was kept, both day and night, near the canoes.
Five days passed in concealment. The coconuts afforded them both food and drink. Occasionally they heard the boom of the culverins at the castle, and knew that the natives were showing within range; but as these shots were only heard at times, they were assured that no persistent attack was being made.
It was late in the afternoon of the fifth day that the lads observed a sail in the distance. It was indeed so far away that, as the light was fading, they could not say with absolute certainty that it was the longed-for ship. They both felt convinced, however, that they had seen a sail; and watched intently, as night darkened, for some sign of its passage.
It was four hours later when they saw, passing along at a distance of about half a mile, a light on the ocean which could be no other than that on board a ship.
"Now is the time," Ned said. "I will keep along the shore, under the cliff, until I get nearly to the landing; and will then strike out. Do you make for the castle, and tell them that the ship has arrived, and that we will attack tomorrow; but not at daybreak, as we proposed, but at noon."
As Ned proceeded on his way along the shore, he saw suddenly blaze up, far ahead at the landing place, a small bonfire.
"Ah!" he muttered to himself. "The natives have seen the ship, too; and are following the usual custom, here, of making a fire to show them where to land. I trust that they will not fall into the snare."
When, however, he had reached within a quarter of a mile of the landing, he saw a small boat come suddenly within its range of light, and two white men step out of it. They were received, apparently, with much respect by the natives assembled there, and at once advanced up the road; while the boat, putting off, disappeared in the darkness.
"They will be murdered," Ned said to himself, "before they have gone a hundred yards. The natives were crafty enough to allow them to land without hindrance, in order that no suspicion might arise among those on board ship."
In the stillness of the night he thought that he heard a distant cry. But he was not sure that his ears had not deceived him. Far out he could see a faint light and, knowing that this marked the place where the ship was moored, he prepared to strike out for it.
It was a long swim, and further than he had expected; for in the darkness the captain, unable to see the land, had prudently anchored at a considerable distance from it. Even, however, had it been several times as far, Ned could have swum the distance without difficulty; but the whole way he could not forget that those seas swarmed with sharks, and that any moment he might have to encounter one of those hideous monsters. He had left his sword behind him, but carried a dagger and, as he swam, kept his eyes in all directions, in order that he should not be attacked unprepared.
The ocean was however, fortunately, at that time deserted by these beasts; or if they were in the neighborhood, the quiet, steady, noiseless stroke of the swimmer did not reach their ears.
As he neared the ship his heart rose, and he sang out blithely, "Ship ahoy!"
"Hullo!" was the reply. "Where are you? I cannot see your boat."
"I am swimming," Ned answered. "Throw me a rope, to climb up the side. I have a message from the governor for the captain of the ship."
A minute later Ned stood upon the deck of the Portuguese vessel, the soldiers and sailors looking on wonderingly at him, his body being white, but his face still colored by the preparation.
The captain himself soon appeared.
"I am the bearer of a message to you, senor, from the governor," Ned said. "It is here in this hollow reed. He gives you but few particulars, but I believe tells you that you may place every confidence in me, and that I have detailed instructions from him."
The captain split open the little reed which Ned handed to him, and taking out a paper coiled within it, opened it, and by the light of a lantern read:
"We are in a very critical position, and it will need at once courage and prudence to come out of it. I have sent my friend Don Eduardo Hearne, an English gentleman of repute, to warn you against the danger which threatens, and to advise you on your further proceedings. He will give you all particulars."
The captain invited Ned to follow him to his cabin and, calling in the officers, asked for an explanation of this singular visit. Ned briefly entered into an account of the landing of the natives of Ternate, and of the present situation; and the captain rejoiced at the escape, which he had had, from falling into an ambuscade. This he would assuredly have done, had he landed the troops in the morning as he had intended, and marched them inland, fearing no danger, and unprepared for attack.
Ned explained that the plan was that the troops on board the ship should land, and fight their way into the interior; and that, simultaneously, the garrison should sally out and attack the natives in the rear; and fight their way towards each other, until they effected a junction. They could then retire into the castle, where their future plans could be arranged.