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   Chapter 10 No.10

Among Malay Pirates By G. A. Henty Characters: 15356

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

The next two days passed quietly. The lads were both a great deal better, and agreed that if-which would almost certainly not be the case-a means of escape should present itself, they would seize the chance, however hopeless it might be, for that at worst they could but be cut down in attempting it. No chance, however, presented itself. Two Malays always squatted near them, and their eyes followed every movement.

"Some time tomorrow the messenger will return," Harry said. "It is clear to me that our only chance is to escape before morning. Those fellows will be watchful till the night is nearly over. Now, I propose that, just before the first gleam of daylight, we throw ourselves upon them suddenly, seize their krises, and cut them down, then leap on shore, and dash into the jungle. The night will be as dark as pitch, what with there being no moon and with the mist from the swamps. At any rate, we might get out of sight before the Malays knew what had happened. We could either go straight into the jungle and crawl into the thick bushes, and lie there until morning, and then make our start, or, what would, I think, be even better, take to the water, wade along under the bank till we reach one of those sampans fifty yards away, get in, and manage to paddle it noiselessly across to the opposite side, lift the craft out of the water, and hide it among the bushes, and then be off."

"The worst of it is the alligators, Harry."

"Yes, but we must risk that. We shall have the krises, and if they seize either of us, the other must go down and try and jab his kris into the beast's eyes. I know it is a frightfully dangerous business, and the chances are one hundred to one against our succeeding; but there is just a chance, and there is no chance at all if we leave it until tomorrow. Of course, if we succeed in getting over to the other side, we must wait close to the water until daylight. We should tear ourselves to pieces if we tried to make through the jungle in the dark."

"I tell you what would give us a better chance-we might take off two or three yards of that bandage of yours, cut the strip in half, and twist it into a rope; then when those fellows doze off a little, we might throw the things round their necks, and it would be all up with them."

"But you see I have only one arm, Harry."

"Bother it! I never thought of that. Well, I might do the securing, one fellow first, and then the other. You could get close to him, and if he moves, catch up his kris and cut him down."

"Yes, I could do that. Well, anyhow, Harry, we can but try; anything is better than waiting here hour after hour for the messenger to come back with what will be our death warrant."

They agreed to keep awake by turns, and accordingly lay down as soon as it became dark, the Malays, as usual, squatting at a distance of a couple of paces each side of them. It was about two o'clock in the morning when Dick, who was awake, saw, as he supposed, one of the crew standing up a few yards away; he was not sure, for just at that moment the figure disappeared.

"What on earth could that fellow want to stand up for and lie down again? for I can swear he was not there half a minute ago. There is another farther on." He pinched himself to make sure that he was awake. Figure after figure seemed to flit along the deck and disappear. One of the guard rose and stretched his arms; put a fresh bit of some herb that he was chewing into his mouth; moved close to the prisoners to see if they were asleep; and then resumed his former position. During the time that he was on his feet, Dick noticed that the phenomenon which had so puzzled him ceased. A quarter of an hour later it began again. He touched Harry, keeping his hand on his lips as a warning to be silent. Suddenly a wild yell broke on the still air, and in an instant the deck was alive with men; and as the two Malay watchers rose to their feet, both were cut down.

There were sounds of heavy blows, screams and yells, a short and confused struggle, and the fall of heavy bodies, while from the little village there were also sounds of conflict. The midshipmen had started to their feet, half bewildered at the sudden and desperate struggle, when a hand was laid on each of their shoulders, and a voice said, "English friends, Hassan has come."

The revulsion of feeling was so great that, for a minute, neither could speak; then Dick said, "Chief, we thank you with all our hearts. Tomorrow we should have been killed."

The chief shook hands with them both warmly, having seen that mode of salutation on board ship.

"Hassan glad," he said. "Hassan watch all time; no let Sehi kill friends. Friends save Hassan's child; he save them."

Torches were now lighted. The deck was thickly encumbered with dead; for every one of the crew of the prahu had been killed.

"Sehi killed too," the chief said, "come and see." He swung himself on shore; the boys followed his example, two of the Malays helping Dick down. They went to the village, where a number of Malays were moving about; torches had been brought from the ship, and a score of these soon lit up the scene. Two of the rajah's men had been killed outside their huts, but the majority had fallen inside. The chief asked a question of one of his followers, who pointed to a hut.

This they entered, and by the light of the torches saw the rajah lying dead upon the ground. Hassan said something to one of his men, who, with a single blow, chopped off the rajah's head.

"Send to chiefs," Hassan said. "If not see, not think dead. Much afraid of him. When know he dead, not fight any more; make peace quick."

One of the men asked a question, and the lads' limited knowledge of the language was sufficient to tell them that he was asking whether they should fire the village. Hassan shook his head. "Many men," he said, waving his arm to the forest, "see fire; come fight. Plenty of fight been; no need for more." For a time he stood with them in front of the pool. A series of splashes in the water told what was going on. The prahu was being cleared of its load of dead bodies; then several men filled buckets with water, and handed them up to the deck. The boys knew that an attempt was being made to wash away the blood. The process was repeated a dozen times. While this was going on, the pool was agitated in every direction. The lads shuddered as they looked, and remembered that they had proposed to wade along the edge. The place swarmed with alligators, who scrambled and fought for the bodies thrown over, until the number was so great that all were satisfied, and the pool became comparatively quiet, although fresh monsters, guided by the smell of blood, kept arriving on the scene.

At last the chief said, "Come," and together they returned to the prahu. The morning was now breaking, and but few signs remained of the terrible conflict of the night. At the chief's order, a large basket of wine, that had been found in the rajah's hut, was brought on board, together with another, full of bananas and other fruit.

"Well," Harry said, laughing, "we little thought, when we saw the champagne handed over to the rajah, that we were going to have the serving of it."

Hassan joined them at the meal. He had been given wine regularly by the doctor, and although he had evinced no partiality for it, but had taken it simply at the doctor's orders, he now drank a little to keep the others company. In a short time the whole of the chief's followers were gathered on deck, and the boys saw that they were no more numerous than the prahu's crew, and that it was only the advantage of surprise that had e

nabled them to overcome so easily both those on board the prahu and the rajah's followers in the village. The oars were got out, and the prahu proceeded up the creek, in the opposite direction to which it had entered it. "Going to ship?" Harry asked, pointing forward.

Hassan shook his head. "Going home," he said. "Sent messenger sampan tell captain both safe. Sehi killed, prahu taken. Must go home. Others angry because Hassan not join. May come and fight Hassan. Ask captain bring ship up river; messenger show channel, tell how far can go, then come in boats, hold great meeting, make peace."

The lads were well satisfied. They had a longing to see Hassan's home, and, perhaps, to do some shooting; and they thought that a few days' holiday before rejoining would be by no means unpleasant. They wished, however, that they had known that the sampan was leaving, so that they could have written a line to the captain, saying what had taken place, and that they could not rejoin. There was at first some splashing of the oars, for many of Hassan's men had had no prior experience except with sampans and large canoes. However, it was not long before they fell into the swing, and the boat proceeded at a rapid pace. Several times, as they went, natives appeared on the bank in considerable numbers, and receiving no answer to their hails, sent showers of lances. Harry, however, with the aid of two or three Malays, soon loaded the guns of the prahu.

"No kill," Hassan said. "We want make friends. No good kill."

Accordingly the guns were fired far over the heads of the assailants, who at once took to the bushes. After three hours' rowing they entered the river, and continued their course up it until long into the night, for the rowers were as anxious as was Hassan himself to reach their village. They were numerous enough to furnish relays at the oars, and the stroke never flagged until, an hour before midnight, fires were seen burning ahead, as they turned a bend of the river. The Malays raised a yell of triumph, which was answered from the village, and in a few minutes the prahu was brought up to the bank. A crowd, composed mostly of women and children, received them with shouts of welcome and gladness. Hassan at once led the midshipmen to a large hut that had evidently been prepared in readiness for them. Piles of skins lay in two of the corners, and the lads, who were utterly worn out, threw themselves down, and were almost instantly asleep.

The sun was high when the mat at the entrance was drawn aside, and Hassan entered, followed by four of his followers. One carried a great water jar and two calabashes, with some cotton cloths and towels; the other brought fruit of several varieties, eggs, and sweetmeats, together with a large gourd full of steaming coffee.

"Hassan come again," the chief said, and left the hut with his followers. The lads poured calabashes of water over each other, and felt wonderfully refreshed by their wash, which was accomplished without damage to the floor, which was of bamboos raised two feet above the ground. When they were dressed they fell to at their breakfast, and then went out of doors. Hassan had evidently been watching for them, for he came out of his house, which was next to that which they occupied, holding his little girl's hand. She at once ran up to them, saluting them by their names.

"Bahi very glad to see you," she said, "very glad to see good, kind officers." The child had picked up, during her month on board the ship, a great deal of English, from her constant communication with the officers and crew.

"Bad men wound Dick," she went on pitifully. "Wicked men to hurt him."

"Bahi, will you tell your father how much we are obliged to him for having come to our rescue. We should have been killed if he had not come."

The child translated the sentence. The chief smiled.

"Tell them," he said, "that Hassan is glad to have been able to pay back a little of the obligation he was under to them. Besides, Sehi Pandash was my enemy. Good thing to help friends and kill enemy at the same time. Tell them that Hassan does not want thanks; they did not like him to thank them for saving you."

The child translated this with some difficulty. Then he led the midshipmen round the village, and showed them the strong palisade which had evidently just been erected, and explained, through the child, that it had only been built before he left, as but fifteen men were available for guarding the place in his absence.

The next four days were spent in shooting expeditions, and although they met with no wild beasts, they secured a large number of bird skins for the doctor. On the fifth day a native ran in and said that boats with white men were coming. The midshipmen ran down to the bank, and saw the ship's two cutters and a gig approaching. The captain himself was in the stern of the latter, and the doctor was sitting beside him. A minute or two later they were shaking hands with the officers, and saying a few words to the men, who were evidently delighted to see them again. Just as the greetings were over, Hassan, in a rich silk sarong and jacket, came down towards them. He was leading his little daughter, and six Malays followed them.

"Welcome, Captain," he said gravely. "Hassan very glad to see you. All come right now."

"Thank you, chief. We have learned from your messenger how gallantly you have rescued my two officers, and put an end to our troubles by killing the Rajah Sehi, and capturing the last of the piratical craft."

This was too much for Hassan, and had to be translated by Soh Hay. Since the chief's return, a number of his men had been occupied in constructing bamboo huts for the use of the captain, officers, and men, also a large hall to be used for councils and meetings; and to this he now led the captain and his officers. When they were seated, he made a speech of welcome, saying what gladness it was to him to see there those who had been so kind to him. Had he known when they would arrive, food would have been ready for them; and he assured them that, however long they might stay, they would be most heartily welcome, and that there should be no lack of provisions. They had done an immense service to him, and to all the other chiefs on the river, by breaking up the power of one who preyed upon all his neighbors, and was a scourge to trade. As there were still several bottles of the rajah's wine left, champagne was now handed round.

"It makes my heart glad to see you, Doctor," the chief said. "See, I am as strong and as well as ever. Had it not been for you, my arm might now have been useless, and my ribs have grown through the flesh."

"I don't think it would have been as bad as that," the doctor replied: "but there is no doubt that it was fortunate that you were able to receive surgical treatment so soon after the accident. And it has been fortunate for us, too, especially for our young friends here."

Conversation became general now, and the interpreter was kept hard at work, and Bahi divided her attention between the officers and the men, flitting in and out of the hall, and chattering away to the sailors and marines who were breakfasting outside on the stores they had brought up, supplemented by a bountiful supply of fruit, which grew in abundance round the village. It was not long before a meal was served to the officers, fowl having been hastily killed as soon as the boats were seen approaching; several jungle fowl had been brought in that morning; plaintains and rice were boiled, and cakes baked. Tea was forthcoming from the boats' stores, and a hearty meal was eaten.

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