Middy and Ensign
by G. Manville Fenn
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"Here, no more durian to-day, thank you," said Bob, handing the Kling a dollar. "And look here, you sir; don't let that fellow get whipping out his kris on any of our men, or he'll be hung to the yard-arm as sure as he's alive."

"He much angry, sahib," said the Kling, whose swarthy visage had turned of a dirty clay colour. "Soldier sahib hurt him much."

"Yes, but if we hadn't stopped him he'd have hurt my friend much more."

As he spoke Bob nodded shortly to the Kling, and leaped ashore. "Sahib not take his flowers," said the latter, and dipping them in the river, and giving them a shake, he left the boat and handed the beautiful blossoms to the young sailor, who directly after joined Tom Long, who looked, in spite of his sunburnt visage, rather "white about the gills," to use Bob's expression.

"That fellow ought to be shot. I shall report this case," cried the ensign angrily.

"I don't think I should," said Bob quietly. "You see you did upset the poor fellow, and they are an awfully touchy lot."

"It was all your fault for playing me that confounded trick," cried Tom Long, passionately.

"Trick? I played no trick," said Bob, indignant to a degree at the accusation.

"You did," cried Tom Long, "humbugging me into eating that filthy fruit."

"Why, it was delicious," cried Bob. "I should have gone on and finished mine if you hadn't made that upset."

"I don't care; it was a nasty practical joke," cried Tom Long, "and—I beg your pardon, Roberts," he said, suddenly changing his tone, and holding out his hand. "I believe you saved my life."

"Oh, nonsense!" said Bob. "He only meant to prick you with his kris."

"Heaven defend me from all such pricks!" said Tom Long, devoutly, as he held the middy's hand in his. "I say, Bob Roberts, I wish you and I could agree better."

"So do I," said Bob, giving the hand he held a hearty shake; "But we never shall. I always feel as if I wanted to quarrel with you, as soon as we meet."

"So do I," said Tom Long. "You are such an aggravating little beggar."

"It is my nature to," said Bob, laughing. "But you won't say anything about this affair, shall you? It will be a lesson how to deal with the natives."

"If you think I had better not, I won't," said Tom Long, thoughtfully. Then, with a shudder, "I say, I felt just as if I was going to have that horrid kris in me. I shall never forget this, Bob Roberts."

"Oh, stuff and nonsense! Here, I say, have one of these bunches of flowers, old fellow."

"No, no; I don't want them," said the ensign, colouring up.

"Yes, yes; take one. Quick, here are the ladies. I'm going to give my lotuses to Miss Sinclair," he said quietly. And as Tom Long's fingers closed upon the arums, the ladies, who were walking with the resident came close up.

"Ah, Mr Long," said the latter, "what a lovely bunch of arums!"

"Yes sir," said Tom, looking very red in the face; "they're for the mess table."

"Your lotuses are lovely, Mr Midshipman Roberts," said Miss Linton, smilingly greeting the frank-faced lad.

"Aren't they, Miss Linton?" said Bob. "I'm just going to send them aboard to the first luff; he's rather poorly."

They parted; and it was quite true, for after looking rather shame-facedly the one at the other, the ensign bore off his arums to the mess-room, and the lotuses were sent on board the "Startler" by the very next boat.

There was nothing more said respecting the adventure with the Malay boatman; but the two youths, who were a good deal puzzled in their own minds, as to whether they were friends or enemies, exchanged glances a day or two later, when stringent orders were issued respecting the behaviour of the Englishmen to the natives. The men of both services were warned to be very careful, especially as it was the custom for the Malays to carry the deadly kris. The character of the people too was enlarged upon, their pride and self-esteem; and strict orders were given, to be followed by severe punishment if disobeyed, that the people and their belongings were to be treated with the greatest respect.

Every one was as busy as could be, for there was an immense amount of labour necessary to get the place into a state satisfactory to the various officers. Great preparations were being made too for the first meeting with Sultan Hamet, though it was a matter of doubt whether he would come to the residency in state, or expect the English to call upon him in his palm-thatched palace.

"He's a rum sort of a chap," Dick the sailor said, freely giving his opinion. "Sultan, indeed! What call have they to say he's a sultan? Why, Sergeant Lund, Billy Mustard, and that sick chap Sim, who went ashore with despatches, come back last night, and they say it's no more a palace as he lives in than a pig-sty. It's for all the world like a big bamboo barn, thatched with leaves."

"What's that?" said Bob Roberts, coming up, with the young ensign, to where two or three of the sailors were, under the trees, talking to a group of soldiers.

"I was a telling of 'em about what Sergeant Lund told me, sir," said Dick, pulling his forelock, "that this here sultan as we've come here to protect lives in a place as is just like a big bamboo barn standing on stilts. And Lor' ha' mercy, they say it was a sight: with leaves, and cabbage stumps, and potato parings chucked about under the place!"

"Now come, Dick," cried the middy; "no yarns, please."

"Well sir, of course I don't mean real English cabbage stumps and potato parings, same as we has at home, but what answers for 'em here, and coky-nut huxes and shells, and banana rinds, and a nasty bad smelling kind o' fruit as they calls doorings."

Bob gave the ensign a comical look.

"Why Billy Mustard says—and this here's a fack—as the smell o' them doorings."

"Durians, Dick."

"All right, sir," said the old sailor; "that don't make 'em smell a bit better—the smell o' them things knocked him slap off his feet."

The men laughed, and old Dick went on—

"Everything about the place was as ontidy as a bilge hole; and when our ambassadors—"

"Our what?" said Bob.

"Well, them as carried the despatches, sir—got close up, they was told to wait because the sultan was asleep. When seeing as a reg'lar party of the Malays, every man with his bit of a toasting fork by his side, come round to stare at 'em, Sergeant Lund he says to himself, 'Lor'! what a pity it is as I haven't got Private Tomkins, or Private Binns, or two or three more nice smart, handsome chaps o' that kind with me, instead of such a scuffy couple o' fellows as Sim and Mustard.'"

Here, of course, there was a roar of laughter, for Privates Tomkins and Binns were amongst the listeners.

"Come away," said Tom Long, frowning. "I don't like mixing with our men."

"No, no: stop," cried Bob. "They won't think any the less of us; we're off duty now."

Tom Long wanted to hear what was said, so he remained.

"And one of our nice hansum young orficers," continued Dick, in the most solemn way, "and a middy and some smart Jacks."

"And Dick Dunnage," said one of the soldiers.

"Well, he did mention me, but I was too modest to say so."

Here there was another laugh.

"'How so be,'" continued Dick, "he sez; 'must make the best o' what material we got,' so he pulls his men together, squares their yards, and coils down all their ropes tidy, tightens the breechings o' their guns, and lets the poor benighted savages of niggers have their fill o' staring at real British sodgers. Then they turned civil, and brought 'em out drinks, and fruit, and pipes; and they was very comfortable, till some one come out and said as the sultan was awake, and wanted his cocks, so the chap as went as interpreter told them; and then there was a bustle, and some three or four chaps went and fetched some fighting-cocks, and took 'em inside the barn—I mean the palace; and our fellows was kept waiting till the sergeant hears a reg'lar cock-a-doodle-doo, just for all the world as if he was at home, and he know'd by that as one of the birds had won. Just about a minute after some one come and beckoned him, and he goes up the steps into the palace, as had bamboo floors, and carpets lying about; and there was the sultan up at one end, sitting on carpet, and all his wives and people about him."

"How many wives had he got, Dick?" said the midshipman.

"About a dozen, sir. But I'll just tell you how many he'd have had if my missus had been one on 'em."

"How many, Dick?"

"Just one, sir; she'd clear out all the others in a brace o' shakes. She wouldn't stand none o' that nonsense. Why, bless yer 'art, there was one had got a golden pestle and mortar—"

"Gently, Dick! gently!" said the midshipman.

"It's a fack, sir, and as sure as I stand here; and she was a bruising up betel-nuts for him to chew, and another was mixing up lime, and another spreading leaves, whilst—there, I dursn't hardly tell you this here, because you won't believe it."

"Let it off gently, Dick," said the middy, "and we'll try and bear it."

"Well, sir, hang me if one of his wives—the oldest and ugliest of 'em— wasn't sitting there holden a golden spittoon ready for him to use whenever he wanted."

There was another roar of laughter, and Dick exclaimed,—

"There, you ask Sergeant Lund if every word a'most I've said ain't quite true,"—which, with the exception of Dick's embellishment about the handsome sailors and soldiers, proved to be the case.



Doctor Bolter had been very proud of the cure he had effected in the case of Adam Gray, whom, from that day forward, he looked upon in quite a different light, obtaining his services as often as possible in carrying out what he called his measures for preserving the camp in health, and he was constantly sending Gray on missions to the major. But the doctor and his plans were set aside one morning, when there was an order for a general parade; and it was evident that there was something important on the way, for a good deal of bustle was visible on the deck of the steamer.

The news soon leaked out that the resident and officers were to make a state visit, full of ceremony, to the sultan; and in consequence there was a general turn out, in full review order, with the band. The sailors landed, and were drawn up on the shore, looking smart in their white, easy-fitting dress; and the steamer's cutters were soon after busy, landing the greater portion of the troops with their officers, in full uniform; while quite a crowd of Malays assembled on the beach, staring, some in wonderment, some manifestly in dislike, at the strangers.

The grand muster took place beneath the shade of some large trees, as far as was possible, for the heat was intense. Every one was in his best; and Ensign Long marched by Bob Roberts with a very bright sword beneath his arm, and putting on a pair of white kid gloves.

The middy tried to take matters coolly; but the thoroughly consequential air of his companion roused his ire, and he longed to do something to upset him.

That was, however, impossible, for the arrangements were complete; and the march inland, about a couple of miles, commenced with the Malays now drawing off into the woods, till—what looked rather ominous—the little force was left entirely alone.

The officers commented upon the fact, and felt a little suspicious, but their doubts were set aside by the appearance of a little party, of evidently some importance, for two, who seemed to be chiefs, were mounted upon small elephants, and these, by the voice of one of the party—a handsome, dark youth, in brilliant silk sarong and baju— announced themselves as coming from the sultan to act as guides.

This changed the state of affairs, and the idea that there might be treachery afoot was completely dismissed from the minds of all, save when, now and then, the gleam of a spear head was seen amidst the trees in the jungle; and Major Sandars pointed out how easily they might be led into an ambush.

Captain Horton was by his side, and that officer agreed that it would be easy; but, at the same time, gave it as his opinion that the best policy they could affect was an appearance of full confidence in the Malay potentate, while they kept strictly on their guard.

Farther back in the line of troops Private Gray was marching along, feeling anything but easy in his mind; for as he glanced now and then to his left, he kept making out the gleam of steel, or the white garments of some Malay amidst the trees; and at last, just as Captain Smithers was abreast, he pointed out to him the fact.

The captain felt disposed to resent it as a breach of discipline; but the young man's manner was so earnest, that he nodded, and watchfully turned his head in the same direction.

"What do you think then, Gray?" said the captain. "They are only people taking an interest in what is, to them, a great sight."

"I'm suspicious, sir, by nature," said Gray, "and I can't help feeling that we are living on the edge of a volcano."

"Do you always make use of such fine language, Gray?" said Captain Smithers with a sneer.

"I beg your pardon, sir," was the reply; "I was trying to speak respectfully to my officer," replied Gray.

Captain Smithers frowned, and felt annoyed with himself for his meanness.

"Yes, yes, of course, Gray," he said, hastily; "but there is nothing to fear."

"Nothing to fear!" thought Private Gray; "and we are trusting ourselves entirely to these people, who are known to be treacherous; and the ladies and the women of the regiment are all on that island, protected by only a weak force!"

Strangely enough, Captain Smithers had very similar thoughts to these as they rambled on, in tolerable coolness now, for they were beneath the trees.

They both thought afterwards that their fears were needless; and following the guides, they soon after were formed up in front of the sultan's house and those of his principal men, all of which, though certainly somewhat better than the sergeant's account to Dick Dunnage, would have led any one to expect, were of an extremely simple and lowly character.

Here the officers waited for their audience of the great man, Mr Linton being particularly anxious to make arrangements for carrying out the political business, upon which he was engaged; but after waiting half an hour, one of the principal chiefs came out to announce that the sultan was too unwell to receive them.

The English officers flushed up, and looked upon the message as an insult, and for the moment there seemed a disposition to resent it; but the wise counsels of Mr Linton prevailed, and the order was given to march back.

Just then the young chief who had acted as interpreter before, and who spoke very good English, approached the place where Bob Roberts and the ensign were standing.

"I am very sorry," he said; "I meant to ask you to refreshments. Will you take cigars?"

They had only time to thank the young chief for his courtesy and take their places, as the march back was commenced—this time without guides, for none came forward, which was looked upon as so ominous a sign that extra care was taken, the men marching with loaded arms.

The precautions were not unnecessary; for they had hardly effected half their march, when there was the loud beating of a gong heard upon their right, followed by the same deafening din on the left.

The men were steadied in the ranks, and every one was on the alert; but still there came nothing more to cause alarm till they had arrived within half a mile of their landing-place, when, as they were passing through a more open portion of the track, there was a shout, and a shower of limbings came whizzing past them. Again a shout, this time on their left, and another shower of the keenly-pointed spears whizzed by.

There was a short, sharp command or two as the soldiers faced outwards, and every other man fired, sending a ringing volley crashing through the forest.

There was another din, made by the beating of gongs, and a few more spears were thrown, one of which struck Ensign Long; and these were replied to by another sharp volley, which crashed through the trees, making the twigs and leaves rattle as they pattered down. Then there was a dead silence, as the troops waited for fresh orders.

Bob Roberts, who was close by the ensign, turned pale as ashes as he saw the ensign stagger back, to stand literally pinned to a tree, in which the blade of the limbing had buried itself. All feeling of jealousy had passed away, and, catching Long by the hand, he gazed earnestly in his face.

"Are you much hurt, old fellow?" he cried hoarsely, as he realised the fact that the keen spear had passed diagonally through the youth's breast before it buried itself in the soft endogenous tree.

"I don't know yet," said Tom Long quietly; "but the brutes have ruined my best tunic."

"Hang your tunic!" cried Bob, excitedly. "Here, fetch the doctor. No; help here to get Mr Long to the residency. Bring up a dhooly."

"I suppose I shall feel it when they draw out the spear," said Tom Long calmly.

"Do you feel faint?" cried the middy. "Here, who has a little rack?"

"Here's some water, sir, in my canteen," said Sergeant Lund. "Forward!" rang out from behind just then; and then the voice of Captain Smithers made itself heard,—

"Who's that down?"

"Ensign Long, sir," some one said.

"Poor lad! poor lad!" cried the captain. "Ah, Long, my dear boy, how is it with you? Good heavens! Quick, my lads; bring up a dhooly."

"Hadn't we better get the spear out, sir?" said Bob Roberts, anxiously.

"Yes, out of the tree, of course," said the captain; "but mind—steady! Here, let me. I won't hurt you more than I can help," he continued, as he drew the spear out of the palm, and then hesitated as to how they were to manage to carry the injured man, with the lengthy shaft passing through his chest.

Tom Long solved the question himself by taking hold of the spear handle with both hands and giving it a tug, while every one present gazed at him with horror, expecting to see the terrible stains that must follow.

Bob Roberts dragged out his handkerchief and rapidly doubled it, ready to form a pad to staunch the bleeding—rushing forward to clap it to the wound, as the ensign tore the spear from his breast.

"Open his tunic first," cried Captain Smithers; and he bore Tom Long back on to the ground, tearing open his scarlet uniform, while the injured object of his attentions began to work his left arm about.

"I say, gently," he said. "I don't think I'm much hurt."

"You don't feel it yet," cried Bob Roberts.

"Look out there!" cried a voice in authority somewhere behind; and then a couple of men ran up with a light hospital litter for wounded or sick men.

"It went—it went—" said Tom Long, slowly.

"Why, confound you, Long," said Captain Smithers; "you've not been scratched."

"No; I do not think I am," said the ensign, getting up, feeling himself carefully about the chest. "It went through my tunic and under my left arm."

"Why, you've got about six inches of padding in your coat," said Bob Roberts, whose hands were busy about the young man's breast.

"Yes," said Tom Long; "more or less."

"Forward!" shouted Captain Smithers; and the march was resumed, with Tom Long looking very woeful about the two holes that had been made in his scarlet tunic, and gradually growing terribly annoyed, as he saw Bob Roberts pretending to stifle his laughter; while the men, in spite of the danger on either side, tittered and grinned as they kept catching sight of the young officer's scarlet cloth wounds.

Major Sandars was equally anxious with the resident to get back to the island, for a feeling of dread had risen up that the residency might have been attacked during their absence. In fact, it seemed now that they had been out-generalled; and if their fort, and provisions, and stores should be in the hands of the Malays, their position would be perilous in the extreme.

As Bob Roberts went on, he found the men eagerly discussing the matter, not from a feeling of fear, but of love of excitement; and, among others, Private Sim was saying in a low voice, that if he had only been well and strong, nothing would have pleased him better than fighting his way back through the jungle, "anywheres—to the world's end if they liked."

Meanwhile, though it was evident that there was a large body of Malays on their right, the answer they had got to their first attack had kept them off, and the long line of troops and blue-jackets went on unmolested by their enemies. Every precaution was taken; and in some of the denser portions of the jungle they regularly felt their way with advance guards and flankers, who, poor fellows, had a most tough job to force their way through the tangled creepers and undergrowth.

At length, however, the river was reached, and it was evident, to the great delight and relief of all, that the island was safe, and the steamer lay in its old position, unmolested by prahu or attack from the shore.

Every man breathed more freely on seeing this; and the boats coming off, the whole party were rapidly transferred to steamer and to isle, where a council was called, and the situation discussed.

It was a peculiar position for the little force which had been sent up the country to help and protect Sultan Hamet, who, in return,—had refused to see Her Majesty's representative, and allowed them to be attacked by his people on their way back.

The question to decide was, whether, after such an insult as they had received, the little force ought not to at once retire from their position, though the bolder spirits were in favour of holding it at all costs, and trying to read the sultan such a lesson as should scare his people from venturing to molest the English any more.

The council was interrupted by an embassy of a couple of chiefs from the sultan himself, who solved the difficulty by announcing that the attack was not made by their ruler's people, but by a certain rajah, whose campong, or village, was a few miles up the river. This chief was a respecter of no one, but levied black mail of all who passed down the stream. Every boat laden with slabs of tin or bags of rice had to pay toll for permission to pass on in peace; and if resistance was offered, he had guns mounted upon his stockade, and a couple of well-armed prahus, whose crews liked nothing better than confiscating any boat whose owner endeavoured to resist the rajah's demands.

Any doubts as to the truth of this story were set aside by the sultan's earnest request that the English officers should at once proceed up the river and severely punish this rajah, who was a thorn in Hamet's side.

With the promise that the matter should have proper consideration, the two chiefs took their departure; and the rest of the evening was spent in examining different Malays from the village, all of whom told the same story, that it was Rajah Gantang who had made the attack, and that he was a perfect scourge to the people round.

The next day further investigations were made; and had any doubt remained, it was chased away by the appearance of two long war prahus, pulled by a large number of rowers, and crammed with Malays.

These vessels were allowed to float gently down with the stream, stern foremost, when, as much out of bravado as anything, several shots were fired from the small brass swivel guns on board, the little balls rattling through the steep roof of the men's quarters; while before a gun could be brought to bear, the oars rapidly plashed the water, and the two prahus were swept back round a wooded point up stream, well out of sight.

This was sufficient for the officers in command, who issued such orders as placed all the men in a state of the most intense excitement, for it was evident that there was to be an expedition up the river to punish the audacious chief, who was probably in profound ignorance of the strength of the power he had braved.



It seems a curious thing to a man of peace that a man of war should be in a state of high delight at the prospect of an engagement wherein he may lose his life; but the fact is, that when two or three hundred men are bound to attack some enemy, each single individual knows full well that somebody will be wounded, perhaps killed, but believes that it will not be himself.

So it was then that on board the "Startler" there was no little excitement. The grindstone was in full use to sharpen cutlasses, and in addition there was a great demand made on the armourer for files to give to the lethal weapons a keener edge, one which was tried over and over again, as various messmates consulted together as to the probability of taking off a Malay's head at a blow.

"What you've got to do, my lads," said old Dick, "is to keep 'em off. You as has rifles and bagnets always show 'em the pynte; and you as fights with your cutlashes, keep 'em well away off your sword arm; then you'll be all right."

Capital advice if it could be acted upon, and a way of avoiding all kris wounds, but useless against the Malays' other dangerous weapon, the limbing or lance.

All the preparations were made over-night, so that long before daybreak the expedition could be well on the way, the object being to surprise the stockade and its defenders, and burn the bamboo fortification and the prahus.

The force was to consist of fifty soldiers, twenty-five marines, and fifty blue-jackets, who were to embark in the steamer's boats, two of which were provided with small breech-loading pieces running on slides, and under the charge of the sailors.

Water, provisions, plenty of spare ammunition, all were handed down, and two hours after midnight, the boats that were to convey the soldiers ranged up alongside the landing-place, and in due time the embarkation took place, the soldiers being under the command of Captain Smithers, the sailors under that of the first lieutenant of the "Startler."

A guide had been found in the person of a native fisherman, who, upon coming to the island the day before, had been detained, so that he should not communicate with the shore, and so give warning of the expedition. Not that there was any fear, for the Malay was in a high state of delight at the idea of the rajah meeting his match.

From this man they learned that for many years past Rajah Gangtang had been a perfect scourge to the river. He was famous for his piracies and his daring. Sultan Hamet dreaded him; and it was only to strengthen his position against the warlike rajah, who was too strong for him, that Hamet had entered into his alliance with the British, and invited the presence of a resident and the troops.

This was satisfactory, for the idea of the sultan proving treacherous was a suggestion of a complicated knot that it would take no end of policy to undo. Whereas, if it was all true about Rajah Gantang, his defeat and the breaking up of his power would be hailed with delight, and work greatly towards the pacification of a country terribly broken up by petty quarrels, strengthen Hamet's position, and give inimical chiefs a lesson on the power of the British forces that they were not likely to forget.

It was soon after two o'clock that the soldiers were mustered down to the boats, and silently took their places, just as through the mist, and with muffled oars, three more boats came slowly abreast of them, and after a brief colloquy moved off, with instructions that there should be no talking on board.

Fortunately for the expedition, though it was misty it was not so dark but that the leaders could follow the little light sampan of the Malay fisherman, who, apparently without any difficulty, sent his frail boat onward against the stream.

It was a weird procession through the mist, which gave the boats a fantastic, unreal appearance, while the shores looked, where the fog broke or floated up, strange, dark, and full of mystery. Every now and then there was a low echoing splash in the water, which told of some great reptile disturbed from its resting-place upon a muddy bank. Then those in the boats heard strange cries coming from a distance in the jungle, to be answered by other calls, some farther distant, some near at hand, telling that the various nocturnal creatures were busy securing food before the sun should drive them to their hiding-places in the darkest recesses of the forest.

"What's that?" whispered Bob Roberts to old Dick, who was beside him in the foremost boat.

"Sounds like something swimming, sir. There, you can hear it blowing."

"Do you think one of the boats has upset," whispered Bob, excitedly, as he leaned over the gunwale and tried to pierce the mist.

"'Taint likely, sir. Wouldn't they shout if they was turned up! Leastwise our chaps would; there's no counting for what soldiers might do, though. I shouldn't say as they'd let their selves drown without a squeak. That there's a tiger swimming 'crost the river, that's what that is."

"Get out," exclaimed the middy; "just as if a great cat would take to the water. Hist! I say, Doctor Bolter!"

"Yes," was whispered back from the next boat.

"Would tigers swim?"

"Yes. There's one trying to cross the river now."

"What did I tell you, Mr Roberts?" growled old Dick, softly.

"Here, give me your rifle, marine;" said Bob, excitedly. "I should like a shot at a tiger."

"Silence in that boat!" said Captain Smithers sharply; and the oars went on dipping softly, while Bob Roberts sat and listened till the panting noise of the swimming creature died away.

"I wonder whether Ensign Long's in the expedition?" said Bob, after a pause.

"Yes, sir; please I see him," said one of the sailors. "He got into one of the boats, wrapped up in a big grey great-coat."

"I hope he won't get wounded this time," said Bob. And the men all laughed; for Ensign Long's wound was a subject that afforded them no little amusement.

Then the procession went on, the boats gliding along in wonderful silence. Sometimes a glimpse of the dark foliage told them that they were a little too near either bank, but on the whole the Malay led them a very correct course along the centre of the stream, which wound here and there, sometimes contracting its banks, sometimes widening out, but always running swift, deep, and strongly, downward towards the sea.

The mist grew thicker, and hung so low down upon the water that at last the boats had to proceed very slowly, a rope being paid out from one to the other, so that there should be no mistake, otherwise it was quite within the range of possibility that one or the other would go astray, and be wanting at some critical time. A similar plan was carried out with the sampan, during the latter part of the journey, for it was often invisible; and so at last they felt their way onward in silence, till the Malay allowed his sampan to drift alongside the bows of the leading boat, and whispered to the interpreter his conviction that they were close up to the stockade.

"Might be anywhere," muttered the midshipman.

"Yes, sir, it's a thick 'un," growled old Dick; "and if I was in command o' this here expedition, I should give orders for all the Jacks to out cutlashes and cut the fog in pieces, while the sogers and marines forked it over with their bay'nets."

"Silence, there!" came from one of the officers, just as a faint breeze began to spring up, as if to solve the difficulty; breaking the fog into patches, and then forcing a way right through, so that it was swept to right and left of the river, passing under the trees.

The change was almost magical, for at the end of ten minutes the river was quite clear, and by the glittering starlight they could see the stockade on their right, while moored in front of it were two large prahus.

The boats closed in for the officer in command to give his final orders for the attack, and every man's heart beat fast with excitement, as he clutched his weapons.

They had no knowledge of the enemy's strength; but trusting to a night surprise, they felt satisfied of being able to put him to flight; so two boats were sent to board the prahus, while the three others made for the stockade, one to attack in front, while the others landed on either side, to take it in the rear, expecting an easy task, for there was not a sign of life as far as they could see.

But if the leaders of the expedition counted upon trapping the Malays asleep, they were mistaken. There is too much of his native tiger in the Malays' nature for such a march to be stolen upon them; and, just as the boats separated, and began rapidly to advance, the silence was broken by the deafening clangour of a gong, lights appeared suddenly in the stockade and in both the prahus, and to the astonishment of the attacking force, there was the flashing of muskets, the louder roar of the lelahs or small brass guns, and the surface of the river was splashed up in all directions by the bullets.

Fortunately the aim was bad, and the boats had separated, so that no one was injured, as, with a loud cheer, the sailors made their oars bend, the waters lapped and splashed beneath the bows of the boats, and soldier and marine waited eagerly for the command to fire.

But this was not given; for Captain Smithers felt that if the task was to be done, it must be achieved at the point of the bayonet; so, bidding his men be steady, he waited till the boat he was in crashed amongst the thick reeds and grass growing along the water's edge; and then leaping out, lead his little company through the dense undergrowth, round to where he expected to find the entrance to the stockade, from which a lively fire was now being kept up, while a deep-toned roar told that the large gun in the boat attacking the face of the stockade, had begun to speak.

The party Ensign Long was with, under one of the lieutenants, had to make for the other side of the stockade, while the boat in which was Bob Roberts, being manned entirely by sailors and marines, had to attack the largest prahu.

The men were sanguine and full of spirit, their only regret being that they had so far to go before they could reach the sides of the long prahu, which they found now on the move, her anchor having been slipped, so that she was slowly floating down the stream, as she kept up a lively fire against the boat.

It seemed long, but not a minute could have elapsed before the boat was alongside, the bowman driving a Malay head over heels with the boat-hook, and then making fast, while the sailors let their well-secured oars swing, seized their rifles, and began to spring up the sides.

"Up with you, my lads," roared Bob Roberts, who was armed with a cutlass far too large for him to handle in comfort. But it was easy enough to say, "Up with you!" while it was excessively difficult to obey. Man after man tried to climb the side of the prahu, but only to slip back into the boat; while those who had better success found it impossible to surmount the stout bamboo basket-work or matting, with which the sides were protected from assault.

Through this, spear after spear was thrust; and after several ineffectual attempts to reach the deck, the sailors and marines began to retaliate by thrusting bayonet and cutlass through in return. A few shots were fired, but there was nothing to aim at; though the Malays were not of that opinion, for they kept loading and firing the two lelahs on board, making a great deal of noise, but necessarily doing no mischief.

"Back into the boat, my lads," cried the lieutenant in command, as they floated down with the prahu, which evidently swarmed with men; "we'll try round the other side."

"Let me board them first, Mr Johnson," cried Bob excitedly.

"No, no, my lad," was the reply. "What the men cannot do, you cannot."

In the excitement of the men firing and making a fresh effort, as the boat was worked round the stem of the prahu, the lieutenant lost sight of Bob Roberts, who, after feeling terribly alarmed for the first few inmates, had become accustomed to the firing and shouting, and then grown so excited and angry that he felt as if he could not stay in his place. Getting hold of a rifle, laid down by one of the men who tried to board the prahu, he had given vent to some of his excitement by loading and firing as fast as he could, sending bullet after bullet whistling through the tough screen, but doing no mischief to a soul; and still the prahu floated steadily down the stream, getting farther and farther away from where the firing was on the increase; the boats' guns sending an echoing report to roll along the surface of the water, and giving ample notice to those at the residency, that the business was going on.

As the boat Bob Roberts was in reached the other side of the prahu, the Malays, uttering loud yells, rushed over, and once more there was a desultory attack kept up and repelled; for do all they could, not a sailor was able to surmount the tall screen.

Several wounds had been received from the limbings, and the men believed that they had pretty well retaliated with the bayonet, but they could see nothing; and checked as they had been, again and again, they were growing disheartened, and thinking what else they could do, when a loud yelling from the prahu, and the reports of several muskets, told of something fresh.

"Where's Mr Roberts?" said the lieutenant, suddenly.

"Here he is, sir," replied old Dick; and in the same breath, "No he ain't, sir. He was here just now."

"Look out, my lads! Seize those sweeps," said the lieutenant, as several long oars were now thrust out beneath the bamboo screen, and the Malays stabbed at the boat with them, trying to drive a hole through her bottom.

Several of the sailors seized the long oars on the instant, and hung on, while some of their messmates tried to fire through the holes, with the result that long spears were now thrust through, and desperate stabs made at the attacking party.

It was a wretched desultory fight, and the lieutenant was almost at his wits' end, for his spirit forbade his giving up, and all the time, no matter how bravely his men tried, they could not get on board the prahu.

Just then it was observed by the men who held on by the sweeps, that a brass lelah was being thrust through a hole, and brought to bear upon them, when the result would have been death to several, and the sinking of the boat, if it was fired. The danger was, however, averted by old Dick, who seized a boat-hook, and hitching it on the prahu's side, gave so sturdy a haul that he drew the boat some six feet along, and closer alongside.

He was just in time, for as the boat grated against the prahu there was a sharp ringing report, and the water was thrown up close astern.

A sharp volley from the boat replied to this, probably with as good results; and then thrusting with spear and bayonet went on in the darkness.

"Confound it all, my lads! we must get aboard her somehow," cried the lieutenant, stamping his foot with rage, as he stood up in the boat. "Here, make ready some of you, and follow me. Dick Dunnage, you keep her fast with the boat-hook."

As he spoke the lieutenant parried a thrust with his sword, and replied to it with a shot from his revolver, letting both weapons then hang from his wrists by sword-knot and lanyard as, seizing one of the sweeps, he began to clamber up, followed by a dozen of the men. There was a confused roar of shouts, yells, and cheers mingled, as those left in the boat ceased firing, so as not to injure the boarding party, who made a desperate effort now to climb over the bamboo screen, little thinking that the missing midshipman had boldly climbed up, a little ahead of where they were, mounted to the great bamboo spar that held up the screen, and then with a miserably ineffective weapon, to wit, his pocket-knife, set to work as he sat astride it, and sawn away at the rattans that held it up.

It was a brave act, but an unlucky one. He had nearly succeeded in getting through, and he would have shouted out a warning, but that would have brought upon him the spears of the Malays; so he cut away, and had been so successful that, as the boarding party made their desperate dash, down came the great bamboo with a rush. The screen went outwards, over the sailors, who fell back beneath it into the boat, while Bob Roberts felt himself describing a half circle in the air, before plunging out of semi-darkness into that which was total, as he went down, yards away from the boat, into the cold black water, one thought alone filling his mind, and that thought was—crocodiles.



For a few minutes it was a question of whether the boat would be swamped or no, as she lay beneath the great bamboo screen, which completely paralysed the efforts of the crew. The prahu was still floating with the stream, and the boat being dragged along in her wake, while, awaking now to a sense of their assailants' position, the Malays hurriedly thrust out sweeps, and others fired, and hurled their spears, a couple of dozen of which stuck in the bamboo mat. Dick in the stern, and a couple of the men in the bows, however, began a steady fire at the prahu, loading as rapidly as they could, while the men amidships cast off the awkward canopy, and, half stunned, but panting with rage and excitement, the lieutenant once more gave his orders.

"Oars, lads!" he cried, "and give way. We shall have 'em yet."

"Boat ahoy!" came from out the darkness.

"Why, that's young Roberts, sir," cried Dick. "Ahoy-oy-oy."

"Help here!" came from the stern again.

"We shall lose the prahu," cried the lieutenant.

"But we must have Mr Roberts, sir," cried old Dick, excitedly. "Give the word, sir—starn all—and we'll overtake her arterwards."

"Starn all, my lads, and do your best."

"Ahoy!" came once more, faintly, out of the darkness.

"We're going away from him," cried the lieutenant. "Pull round, my lads," he cried, seizing the tiller. "Now then, steady. Be smart there with a boat-hook. Roberts, ahoy!"

"Help, help," came again, from somewhere astern now, for the poor fellow was growing weak.

For as he had plunged down, with the thought of the great reptiles uppermost in his mind, Bob Roberts had felt a chill of horror run through him that seemed for the moment to rob him of all power; but as he rose to the surface again, and felt that he could breathe, he struck out manfully in the direction of the firing; but in his confusion, after swimming for a minute, he found from the noise behind that he was making for the stockade, and he turned hastily to swim after the boat.

It was no light task, dressed as he was. He had a sword in his belt, and on the other side a revolver, and his first thought was to rid himself of them; but a strange feeling of dislike to parting with his weapons made him put off the act of throwing them away until he should feel that he was sinking; so, guided by the flashes of the pieces that were being fired, he swam lustily in the direction in which he felt the boat must be.

He called for help several times, but his voice was not heard by those to whom he appealed; and as he felt himself being left behind, a cold chill of horror once more seized upon him, making his limbs seem heavy as lead, and paralysing his efforts in a way that was terribly suggestive of death.

Thoughts of the great slimy monsters being at hand to seize upon him, sent his blood rushing to his face in a way that made him giddy, and for a few moments he felt half mad with fear; but calling upon his manhood, he mastered the nervous trepidation.

"'Taint English—'taint game," he cried aloud, with the water at his lip; and checking the frantic desire to beat the surface with his hands in the natural last effort of a drowning creature, he swam steadily on, hailing the boat at intervals, but more and more feebly, as his despair increased; for he felt that he was only a lad, and that his life was a mere nothing compared to a successful capture of the prahu.

"They have gone after her," he groaned, as he uttered a despairing hail. And then the bright light of hope seemed to cross the darkness, for he heard a shout in reply, and then other answering hails to his cry for help, and he knew now that it was only a question of holding out till the boat could reach his side.

Shouts came again and again out of the darkness, and he answered—each time more feebly, for his strength was ebbing fast. He could see the stars flashing in the water, and he fancied he could hear the splash of oars, and the sounds of voices; then, too, he heard the crackle of distant musketry, and the roar of one of the boat-guns. Then, as if he were in a dream, he could hear some one close at hand hailing him—but he could not answer now, only swim feebly on, with his clothes, and the weapons, and cartridges in his pouch, dragging him down.

Then the stars above, and the stars on the water, seemed to be blotted out, and he was in utter darkness—strangling, but swimming still, beneath the stream. Then he seemed to see the stars again in a dim way, and he heard a shout; but he could not reply, for all was dark once more; and lastly, in a dim misty state he felt a spasm, and a sensation of being dragged beneath the water, and he thought that one of the reptiles of the river had seized him; and then he knew that he was lying in the bottom of the boat, and someone was pouring brandy between his lips.

"I just ketched the glint of his white face under the water," said a voice which seemed to be Dick's, "and ketched hold of his jacket. It was a near touch, and no mistake."

"Give way, my lads, give way!" was the next thing Bob Roberts heard; and as if in a dream he made out that they were rowing fast in chase of the prahu, which, with all her sweeps out on either side, was going rapidly through the water, her object being to get down to the tidal way at the lower part of the river, where there were mangrove-fringed creeks and inlets by the hundred, offering her a secure hiding-place from her indefatigable assailant.

"We shan't never ketch her, sir," growled Dick.

"No," replied the lieutenant, sharply, "but we'll hang on to her to the last. How far are we now from the steamer?"

"Not two miles, I should think, sir."

"Make ready then, marines," he cried, "and fire after her; hit her, if you can. Two fire at a time—mind, slowly and steadily. They will hear it on board, and be on the look-out, and if they don't sink her as she goes by them, why, it's a wonder."

Almost directly after there was the report of a couple of rifles, and then two more at half-minute intervals, while right on ahead, in the darkness, they could hear the heavy beat of the prahu's sweeps, and knew that she was going more rapidly than they.

"How are you now, Roberts?" said the lieutenant, kindly.

"Coming round, Mr Johnson," said Bob. "Thank-ye for picking me up."

"Keep your thanks for to-morrow, Roberts," said the lieutenant, bitterly. "How vexatious to make such a mess of the affair?"

"There's another one a-coming, sir," said Dick, softly. "You can hear the oars beating right behind us, sir."

The lieutenant listened.

"There must be a great curve in the river here," he said, "one that we did not notice in the fog."

"Then it's a precious big curve, sir, that's all I can say," exclaimed old Dick; "for if that ain't t'other prahu coming down, with all sweeps out, I'm a Dutchman."

"They never can have failed the same as we have," exclaimed the lieutenant, listening. "No—yes—no. You are right, Dick, my man. Cease firing there. Make ready, my lads, and we'll plump every shot we have into this one as she comes abreast, and then lay the boat alongside, and board her in the confusion. Be ready, my lads, and then, you know, down with your rifles. Cutlasses must do it afterwards."

A few minutes of intense excitement followed, during which time every man sat with his finger on the trigger, listening to the regular beat of the prahu's long oars as she came sweeping down at a rapid rate, evidently bent upon making her escape, like her consort, out to sea.

"If we only had a bow gun," muttered the lieutenant. "No you be still, Roberts," he continued; "you are weak and done up."

"I think I could manage a rifle now, Mr Johnson," said the lad, with his teeth chattering from cold.

"I don't," was the abrupt reply. "Now, my lads, not a sound; we have a disgrace to wipe out, and this prahu must be ours."

By this time the long swift boat was rapidly approaching, quite invisible to the little party of English, but audible enough; and they waited eagerly till it seemed as if she was bearing down upon them, when, with a short, sharp warning first to be ready, the lieutenant gave the word Fire! when about fifteen rifles went off almost like one, their flashes lighting up the darkness for an instant, and displaying close upon them the long dark prahu, with a long bank of oars, coming down fast.

"Oars! Give way!" shouted the lieutenant; and almost as he spoke, the prahu changed her course so rapidly that there was but little rowing needed, for instead of avoiding them, the vessel came right at the English boat, trying to run her down, being so nearly successful that she ripped her down to the water's edge just by the bows. There was a crash of breaking oars; but the Malay boat dashed rapidly away, leaving the English helpless and sinking on the river.

"Catch this boat cloak," cried the lieutenant who was ready enough in the emergency. "Stuff it in, and one of you sit back against it."

"It'll take two on us, sir," cried the man, who rapidly obeyed orders, and to some extent checked the rush of water.

"Two of you begin baling," cried the lieutenant next; and then, as he saw that all their efforts would only just keep them afloat, "There, my lads," he said, "we've done our best. One more volley and then I think we had better run her ashore."

Another volley was fired, to give warning to the steamer that there was something extraordinary on the way, and then the boat's head was turned to the shore; but as they found that by constant baling they could just keep afloat, the lieutenant altered their direction, and they rowed on, with the gunwale nearly level with the water's edge, and proceeding very slowly, but ever carried by the stream nearer to the steamer and the isle.

"A nice night's work, Roberts," said the lieutenant dolefully, as they sat deep in the water that washed from side to side; "lost both prahus, and got the boat crippled."

"But we haven't lost any men, sir," said Bob, by way of comforting him.

"No; but several of the poor lads are wounded. There's only one thing that would give me any comfort for my ill-luck, Roberts, and that is to hear—"

"There's the 'Startler' a-talking to one, sir," cried Dick, forgetting discipline in his excitement, as the boom of a big gun not very far-off met their ears. "There she goes again, sir," he continued, as there was another shot, and another, and another, all showing that the captain had heard the firing and been prepared.

A couple more shots were heard, and then all was silent till the boat slowly drifted by the lights of the island, answering the sentries' challenges, and then sighting the lights and open portholes of the steamer, to whose side they managed to struggle, answering the challenges as they approached.

In spite of all their efforts, it was doubtful whether the boat could have floated another minute, but on reaching the side the falls were hooked on, and she was slowly run up to the davits, with the water rushing out, the lieutenant then reporting his ill-success to the captain.

"Not one man killed, though," he said.

"How many wounded?"

"Six, sir, but only slightly."

"Mr Johnson, I hope the other boats have done better," said the captain. "I'm afraid you will not get any promotion on the strength of this job."

"No, sir," said the lieutenant dolefully. "But did you sink either of the prahus?"

"Sink them, no," said the captain, testily. "I don't believe they were either of them touched; they went by us like the wind. There, go below all of you, and get into dry clothes." The captain went forward to see that the look-out was doing its best; while the prahus were safely making their way to a mud creek, where the chiefs who commanded them felt that they could laugh at any force the English might send to redeem the failure of the past night; and to work such mischief in the future as was little imagined at the time.



The sun rose over the dense forest, turning the river mists into gauzy veils, that floated rapidly away, leaving the rapid stream sparkling in the soft morning breeze. The brightly-coloured parroquets flew shrieking from bank to bank; and in the thick jungle, across from the end of the island, the noisy chattering of a party of monkeys could be heard.

But bright as was the scene in all the gorgeous tints of tropic scenery, no one on the isle or in the steamer had a thought for anything but the expedition. At the residency, Rachel Linton and her cousin had watched the starting of the boats in the dim starlight, and they had sat ever since at their window, listening for tidings. The noise of the distant firing had reached them, making their breath come short as they started at each volley. Even by the very faintly-heard pattering of the small arms, broken occasionally by the loud report of boat-gun or lelah, they knew that quite a sharp fight must be raging.

Twice over they were visited by the major's wife, for the major could not rest, but kept going to the steamer to consult with Captain Horton, as to whether they had done everything possible to ensure success.

Mrs Major Sandars found the two ladies pale and anxious to a degree; and though she refrained from saying so, she shook her head, telling herself that this excess of anxiety was due to something more than the absence of a father and uncle, especially as the resident was not a fighting man.

She sat with them for long at a time, trying to comfort them, as she saw their agitation, and then grew as anxious herself, especially when the tide of the little war swept their way, and she heard the volleys bred from the boat, as the two prahus came down the stream.

At last, just as a couple of Malay fishermen had been engaged to help pilot the steamer up the river, where Captain Horton had determined to go in quest of the missing expedition, the sentry at the point of the island challenged, and the ship's boats were seen coming round a point, the sun gleaming brightly on the barrels of the rifles, while the white jackets and frocks of the soldiers and sailors gave life to a scene that was one series of gloriously tinted greens.

Glasses were brought to bear, and it was evident that it was no dejected beaten party returning, for no sooner did they see that they were observed than the men began cheering, their shouts bringing the Malays flocking down to the river side, where several chiefs were seen embarking in a naga, or dragon-boat, eager, though looking very stolid, to hear the news.

It was on the whole good, for on the party landing it was to announce that they had, after a sharp fight, captured the stockade, driving the Malays, who were headed by the Rajah Gantang himself, to take refuge in another stockade, in a ravine some three miles inland, and then the river fort was set on fire.

The officer who had attacked the second prahu had met with similar ill-success to Lieutenant Johnson, and upon relating the incidents of the fight, found but little sympathy from the late occupants of the other boat, who were rather rejoiced to find they had not been excelled.

The escape of the second prahu was followed by a short council; and several Malays being found ready enough to act as guides to the stockade, to which the rajah and his men had fled, it was decided to follow him up, and read him a second severe lesson.

It was a risky proceeding, for the guides might prove treacherous and lead them into an ambush; but after giving them notice that they would receive no mercy if they proved false, a small portion of the little force was left in charge of the boats, and, lightly equipped, the men went off in search of the second stronghold.

It proved to be an arduous task, for the way was through one of the jungle-paths, with walls of dense vegetation right and left, of the most impenetrable nature. Every here and there, too, the enemy had cut down a tree, so that it fell with the branches towards the pursuers, who were compelled to force a way through the dense mass that choked the narrow path.

But these impediments were laughed at by the Jacks, who hacked and hewed, and soon made a passage, through which, in the darkness of the forest, the little force crept on till they halted, panting, for the Malay guides to go on first, and act the part of scouts.

"Perhaps to give warning of our coming," said Captain Smithers.

"No," said Tom Long, "I don't think that. I should say that they have had spies out all along the path, and that they know our position to an inch."

"You are right, Long," said Captain Smithers, as, one after the other, several reports rang out. "They are firing on our friendly Malays."

So it proved, for the men came running back to say that they had been fired upon as soon as they neared the stockade; and now, as there was no chance of a surprise, the men were divided, and, each party under its leader, started off to try and flank the place.

This was something new to the Malays, who looked upon it as unfair fighting, and the result was, that after five minutes' sharp, hand-to-hand engagement, the rajah and his men once more took to the woods, and the second stockade was burned.

This was so satisfactory a termination, that it seemed to make up for the loss of the two prahus. These, however, Captain Horton said the ship's boats would soon hunt out; and the Malay chiefs went back to the sultan, to announce to him the defeat of his old enemy; while at the island every one was occupied about the hospital and the wounded men, who, poor fellows, were carefully lifted ashore, the doctor saying that the sailors would be far better on the island, in a tent beneath the shady trees, than on shipboard.

"Ten wounded, major," he said sharply, "and not a man dangerously. I'll soon set them right. Steady there, my boys; lift them carefully."

A goodly group had assembled by the landing-place when the men were brought ashore, the ladies being ready with fruit and cool drink for the poor fellows; and Bob Roberts, who had come to the landing-place with Captain Horton in the gig, felt quite envious.

An hour or two's sleep had set him right, and he felt none the worse for his adventure; but there was Tom Long being lifted carefully ashore by two of the sailors, and Rachel Linton and Mary Sinclair eagerly waiting on the youth, for he had received a real wound this time, and looked most interestingly pale.

"Just like my luck," grumbled Bob. "He gets comfortably wounded, and they will be taking him fruit and flowers every day. I shouldn't wonder if they had him carried up to the residency, so that he would be handy, and—hang me if it ain't too bad. Oh! 'pon my word, I can't stand this; they are having him carried up to the house. Just my luck. I get a contemptible ducking, and no one wants to wait upon me."

Bob ground his teeth and looked on, while Tom Long was sympathised with and talked to on his way up to the residency, where, after swallowing his wrath, as the middy expressed it, he got leave to go up and see his friend.

"My friend!" he said, half aloud, as he walked on through the brilliant sunshine. "Lor', how I do hate that fellow! I wish I had had the kris. I'd have given the Malay such a oner as he wouldn't have forgotten in a hurry. Poor old Tommy, though I I hope he isn't hurt much. How do you do, Miss Linton?" he said stiffly, as he encountered Rachel Linton in the verandah.

"Quite well, I thank you, Mr Roberts," said Rachel, imitating his pompous stiffness, and curtseying profoundly; "how do you do?"

"Oh! I say; don't, Miss Linton. What a jolly shame it is," he cried, throwing off all form. "You always laugh and poke fun at me."

"Not I, Mr Roberts," she replied. "When you are stiff and formal, I shape my conduct to suit yours; when you come as the nice, frank, manly boy that we are always so glad to see, I am sure I never laugh at you then."

"Boy? Yes, of course, you always treat me like a boy," said Bob, dolefully. "Is a fellow never going to be a man?"

"Far too soon, I should think," said Miss Linton, holding out her hand.

"Oh! I'm only a boy," said Bob, stuffing his hands in his pockets, and looking so sadly injured, and in so comical a way, that Miss Linton could hardly refrain from laughing.

"Such a boy as I'm sure we are all very proud of," said Miss Linton. "We have heard from my father and Lieutenant Johnson how bravely you behaved last night."

"Gammon!" said Bob, blushing scarlet. "I only behaved like a boy. How is the wounded man you have had brought up here—Mr Ensign Long?"

"Poor boy!" said Rachel Linton quietly; "he has a nasty wound."

"Say that again, Miss Linton," cried Bob excitedly; "it does me good."

"He has a nasty wound. Are you so pleased, then, that your friend is badly hurt?" said Miss Linton gravely.

"No, no; of course not. I mean the other," cried Bob.

"Why, what did I say?"

"You said 'Poor boy!'" exclaimed the middy.

"Of course I did," said Miss Linton, raising her eyebrows.

"Say it again, please," said Bob.

"Poor boy! I am very sorry for him."

"That does me a deal of good," cried Bob excitedly. "You know I can't stand it, Miss Linton, for you to think of him as a man and of me as only a boy."

"Why, you silly, foolish boy!" she said, laying her hand upon his shoulder, and gazing full in his face, "of course I think of you both as what you are—a pair of very brave lads, who will some day grow to be officers of whom England will be very proud."

"If—if I'm not a man now," said Bob, in a low, husky voice, "I shall never grow to be one."

"Not grow to be a man? Why, what do you mean?" said Miss Linton.

"I don't know," faltered Bob, "only that it's precious miserable, and— and I wish one of the jolly old Malays would stick his old kris right through my heart, for there don't seem anything worth living for when one can't have what one wants."

Rachel Linton gazed at him half sad and half amused.

"Do you wish me to think of you, Robert Roberts, with respect and esteem?"

"I'd give all the world to be one of your dogs, Miss Linton, or your bird."

"Do you mean to be a goose?" said Miss Linton, laughing. "There, I did not mean to hurt your feelings," she added frankly; "but come, now, give up all this silly nonsense, and try to remember that you are after all but a boy, whom I want to look upon as a very dear friend."

"Do you really?" said Bob.

"I do, really," said Miss Linton, holding out her hand; "a friend whom I can believe in and trust, out in this dangerous place, and one who will not make my life wretched by being silly, romantic, and sentimental."

Bob gripped the hand extended to him, and held it for a few moments.

"There," he said firmly, as he seemed to shake himself together, "I see it now. It's all right, Miss Linton; and it's better to be a brick of a boy than a weak, puling noodle of a man, isn't it?"

"Indeed it is," cried Miss Linton, laughing merrily.

"There, I'm your man—I mean I'm your boy," cried Bob; "and I'll let you see that I'm a very different fellow to what you think. Now I want to go and see poor old Tom Long. I am sorry he's hurt."

"You are now more like the Bob Roberts, midshipman," said Miss Linton, "whom I saw first some months ago, than I have seen for a long time."

"All right," said Bob; "now let's go and see the other poor boy."

"Come along, then," she said, smiling; "but I'm afraid that Tom Long will not be so easy to convince that he has not yet arrived at years of discretion."

As she spoke Miss Linton softly opened the door unseen, and let Bob Roberts enter a cool and airy well-shaded room, closing the door upon him, and herself gliding away.



"Avast there! what cheer, my hearty? Heave ahead, my military swab. How goes it!" cried Bob, as Tom raised himself a little on his couch, evidently very glad to see his old companion.

"Oh, not quite killed," he said. "Gently; don't shake a fellow to pieces."

"Where's the wound?" cried Bob. "Ain't going to send in the number of your mess, are you?"

"No, I'm not," cried Tom Long, flushing up; "and if I ever do come across the chief fellow who gave me such a nasty dig, he'll remember it to the end of his days."

"What was it—a spear or a kris?" said Bob.

"Kris, right through my left shoulder. Doctor Bolter says if it had been four inches lower it would have been fatal."

"Bother!" cried Bob. "If it had been four inches higher it would have missed you altogether."

"Yes, of course," said Tom; "but it's precious unpleasant to have a fellow stick his skewer right through you."

"Well, I don't know," said Bob, who had made up his mind that the proper thing was to try and cheer the ensign, and not to let him think he was very bad. "I think I'd just as soon have it right through as only half-way."

"Oh, it's nothing to laugh at, I can tell you," said Tom Long, "I don't see why you mightn't just as well have had it as me. You always get off all right."

"I didn't last night, or rather this morning," said Bob. "I was right into the prahu we tried to take—first man, sir—I mean boy, sir; and I was sawing away at a mat with my knife, when all came down by the run, and I was pitched into the river."

"And picked out," said the ensign impatiently.

"Yes, but not before I'd been swimming for a quarter of an hour—good measure. Oh, I say, Tom, didn't I think of the crocodiles!"

"You're such a cheeky little beggar, I wonder they didn't get you," said Tom, who looked feverish and excited. "I say, Bob Roberts, you know what that chap, that Kling fellow, said to us about the krises."

"Yes, of course. What then?"

"Do you think they are poisoned?"

"No, not a bit. Do you?"

"Yes," said the young ensign; "and I am sure this one was, for I can feel the wound throbbing and stabbing, and a curious sensation running to my finger ends."

"Well, so one did when one had a bad cut," said Bob sharply. "Bah! poisoned! it's all rubbish. Why, if you had been poisoned you'd have been sleepy and stupid."

"I feel so now."

"What—stupid?" said Bob, grinning. "Well that's natural: you always were?"

"I can't get up and cane you, Bob Roberts," said the ensign, slowly.

"Of course you can't, old man. But there, don't you worry; that kris wasn't poisoned, or you'd feel very different to what you do now."

"Think so?"

"Sure of it."

"How do you know?" said Tom Long, peevishly. "You were never wounded by a poisoned weapon."

"No, but I've seen somebody else, and watched him."

"What was he wounded with?"

"Serpent's tooth," said Bob; "Private Gray."

"Why, that's a different thing altogether," said Long.

"No it isn't, Mr Clevershakes. The snake's poison goes into the blood, don't it, same as that of a kris, and the symptoms would be just the same."

Tom Long seemed to think there was something in this, and he lay thinking for a minute.

"How did Gray look?" he said. "I don't remember."

"Just the same as you don't look," said Bob, sharply; "so don't be a stupid and frighten yourself worse. Malay krises are not poisoned, and it's all a cock-and-bull story."

"What is?" said Doctor Bolter, entering the room.

"About krises being poisoned, doctor."

Doctor Bolter felt his patient's pulse.

"Have you been putting him up to thinking his wound was poisoned?" he said, angrily.

"No, doctor," said Tom Long, quietly; "it was my idea, and I feel sure it is."

"Tom Long," said Doctor Bolter, "you're only a boy, and if you weren't so ill, I'd box your ears. You've been frightening yourself into a belief that you are poisoned, and here's your pulse up, the dickens knows how high. Now look here, sir, what's the use of your placing yourself in the hands of a surgeon, and then pretending to know better yourself?"

"I don't pretend, doctor."

"Yes, you do, sir. You set up a theory of your own that your blood is poisoned, in opposition to mine that it is not."

"But are you sure it is not, doctor?"

"Am I sure? Why, by this time if that kris had been poisoned you would have had lock-jaw."

"And Locke on the Understanding," put in Bob.

"Yes," laughed the doctor; "and been locked up altogether. There, there, my dear boy, keep yourself quiet, and trust me to bring you round. You, Bob Roberts, don't let him talk, and don't talk much yourself. You'd better go to sleep, Long."

"Wound pains me too much, doctor. It throbs so. Isn't that a sign of poison?"

"I'll go and mix you up a dose of poison that shall send you to sleep for twelve hours, my fine fellow, if you don't stop all that nonsense. Your wound is not poisoned, neither is that of any other man who came back from the expedition; and if it's any satisfaction to you to know it, you've got the ugliest dig of any man—I mean boy—amongst the wounded."

The doctor arranged the matting-screen so as to admit more air, and bustled towards the door—but stopped short on hearing a buzzing sound at the open window, went back on tiptoe, and cleverly captured a large insect.

"A splendid longicorn," he said, fishing a pill-box from his pocket, and carefully imprisoning his captive. "Ah, my dear boys, what a pity it is that you do not take to collecting while you are young! What much better men you would make!"

"There," said Bob, as soon as they were alone, "how do you feel about your poison now?"

"He says it is not, just to cheer me up," said Tom Long, dolefully. "I say, Bob Roberts, if I die—"

"If you what?" cried Bob, in a tone of disgust.

"I say, if I die."

"Oh, ah, of course. Now then, let's have it. Do you want me to write a verse for your tombstone?"

"They'd pitch me overboard," said Long, dolefully.

"Not they," said Bob. "This promising young officer, who had taken it into his head that he had been wounded by a poisoned kris, was buried under a palm tree, to the great relief of all who knew him, for they found him the most conceited—"

"Bob Roberts!"


"I tell you what it is—"


"I never heard—"

"Unpleasant fellow that ever wore Her Majesty's uniform."

"Just wait till I get well, Master Bob Roberts," said Tom Long, excitedly, "and if I don't make you pay for all this, my name's not what it is."

"Thought you had made up your mind to die," said Bob, laughing. "There, it won't do, young man; so now go to sleep. I've got another half-hour, and I'll sit here and keep the flies from visiting your noble corpus too roughly; and when you wake up, if you find I am not here it is because I am gone. D'ye hear?"

"Yes," said Tom Long, drowsily; and in five minutes he was fast asleep, seeing which Bob sat till the last minute, and then went out on tiptoe to run and learn whether the boat was waiting by the landing-stage.



The feeling of satisfaction was very general at the lesson given the rajah; and though his two prahus had escaped, his power had received a most severe blow.

Sultan Hamet was sincere enough in his demonstrations of pleasure, sending presents five or six times a day to the resident, the various officers, and, above all, fruit for the wounded men.

The presents were but of little value, but they showed the Malay's gratitude, and the officers were very pleased with what they looked upon as curiosities. Even Bob Roberts and Tom Long were not forgotten, each receiving an ivory-mounted kris, the young chief Ali being the bearer.

The resident, however, felt that the sultan was not meeting him in quite a proper spirit, and he was rather suspicious, till a fresh embassy of the principal chiefs arrived, and brought a formal invitation for the resident and the officers to visit him upon a fixed day.

As before, an imposing force was got ready, and once more the march to what Bob had nick-named Palm Tree Palace, took place, the middy coming afterwards to Tom Long's room, and telling him how the affair had gone off.

"It was no end of a game," he said to the young ensign, who was rapidly gaining strength, the fancy that his wound was poisoned having passed away. "We started just as we did last time, and marched through the jungle till we came to the sultan's barns, where the men were drawn up, and no end of the niggers came to wait on them, bringing them a kind of drink made of rice, and plenty of fruit and things, while we officers had to go into the sultan's dining-room—a place hung round with cotton print—and there we all sat down, cross-legged, like a lot of jolly tailors, with the sultan up at the top, the major on one side, and our skipper on the other."

"But they didn't sit down cross-legged?" said Tom Long.

"Didn't they, my boy? But they just did; and it was a game to see our skipper letting himself down gently for fear of cracking his best white uniform sit-in-ems. Your major split some stitches somewhere, for I heard them go. Then there was the doctor; you should have seen him! He came to an anchor right enough, but when he tried to square his yards—I mean his legs—he nearly went over backwards, and looked savage enough to eat me, because I laughed."

"Poor old doctor!" said Tom Long, smiling.

"Oh, we were all in difficulties, being cast upon our beam-ends as it were; but we got settled down in our berths at last, and then the dinner began."

"Was it good?" said Tom Long, whose appetite was growing as he began to get better.

"Jolly!" said Bob, "capital! I say, though, how hot this place is."

"Yes," said the ensign, "the lamp makes it hot; but the window is wide open."

Bob glanced out into the darkness, to see the dark gleaming leaves, and the bright fire-flies dancing in the air, while right before them lay the smooth river, reflecting the brilliant stars.

"There was no cloth; but it was no end of fun. Mr Sultan is going in for English manners and customs, and he mixes them up with his own most gloriously. By way of ornaments there was a common black japanned cruet-stand, with some trumpery bottles. There was one of those brown earthenware teapots, and an old willow-pattern soup tureen, without cover or stand, but full of flowers. Besides which, there were knives and forks, and spoons, regular cheap Sheffield kitchen ones, and as rusty as an old ring-bolt."

"Indeed!" said Tom Long.

"I looked at our officers, and they had hard work to keep solemn; and I half expected to see a pound of sausages, and some potatoes in their skins, for the banquet. But wait a bit; those were the English things brought out in compliment to us. Mr Sultan had plenty of things of his own, some of silver, some of gold. He had some beautiful china too; and the feed itself—tlat!" said Bob, smacking his lips. "I wish you had been there."

"I wish I had," sighed Tom Long. "Getting well's worse than being wounded."

"Never mind; you'll soon be all right," continued Bob. "Well, we had some good fish, nicely cooked, and some stunning curry; the best I ever ate; and we had sambals, as they call 'em, with it."

"What the dickens are sambals?" said Tom Long.

"Well, it's either pickles or curry, whichever you like to call it," continued Bob. "These sambals are so many little saucers on a silver tray, and they are to eat with your curry. One had smashed up cocoa-nut in milk; another chillies; another dried shrimps, chutney, green ginger, no end of things of that kind—and jolly good they were! Then we had rice in all sorts of shapes, and some toddy and rice wine, and some sweets of sago, and cocoa-nut and sugar."

"But you didn't eat all those things?" said Tom Long, peevishly.

"Didn't I, my boy? but I just did. I thought once that the sultan might be going to poison us all; and, as they say there's safety in a big dose, and death in a small, I went in for a regular big go. But I say, the fruits! they were tip-top: mangosteens and guavas, and mangoes, and cocoa-nuts, and durians, and some of the best bananas I ever ate in my life."

"You didn't try one of those filthy durians again?"

"Bless 'em, that I did; and I mean to try 'em again and again, as long as a heart beats in the bosom of yours very faithfully, Bob Roberts. They're glorious!"


"That's right," said Bob. "You say 'Bah!' and I'll eat the durians. But I didn't tell you about the drinks. We had coffee, and pipes, and cigars, and said pretty things to each other; and then the sultan told Mr Linton he was going to bring out some choice English nectar in our honour."

"And did he?"

"He just did, my boy. A nigger came round with a little silver tray, covered with tiny gold cups in which was something thick and red."

"Liqueur, I suppose," said Tom Long, uneasily.

"Wait a wee, dear boy," said Bob. "Here's the pyson at last, I says to myself; and when my turn came, I did as the others did, bowed to the sultan, feeling just like a tombola, and nearly going over; then I drank—and what do you think it was?"

"I don't know; go on."

"Raspberry vinegar, and—ah!"

Tom Long started back, looking deadly white in the feeble light of the lamp; for, as Bob ejaculated loudly, a Malay spear whizzed past his ear, and stuck in the wooden partition behind him, having evidently been thrown through the window by some lurking foe.



Bob Roberts seized his sword and dashed to the window, leaping boldly out, and shouting for help; and as he did so he heard the bushes rapidly parted, the crackling of twigs on ahead, and then, as he neared the river in pursuit of the assailant, there was a loud splash, followed by the challenge of a sentry and the report of his piece.

A brisk time of excitement followed, during which a thorough search was made, but no one was found; and it was evident that the spear had been thrown by an enemy who had come alone; but the incident was sufficient to create a general feeling of uneasiness at the residency. The sentries were doubled, and orders were given that the place should be carefully patrolled; for though the English were upon an island, the Malays were such expert swimmers that they could start up stream and let themselves float down to the head of the island and land.

It was some few days before Bob Roberts was able to pay another visit to the residency, for he had been out twice with the steamer's boats, in search of the two escaped Malay prahus, each time on insufficient information; and after a weary pull through a winding mangrove creek, had come back without seeing them.

Meantime the relations with the Malays were daily growing in friendliness. A brisk trade with the shore was carried on, and sampans from far up the river came laden with fruit, fish, and rice; some brought poultry, and green sugar-cane for eating; others cocoa-nuts, and quaint articles for barter. But somehow there was an uneasy feeling on the island, that though the sultan and his people were friendly, some of the rajahs detested the English, as being likely to put a stop to their piratical practices, the destruction of Rajah Gantang's stockade, while it gave plenty of satisfaction in some parts, being looked upon with disfavour in others.

"Pretty well all right again, old man?" said Bob, sauntering in one day, to find the ensign reading.

"Yes, I'm stronger by a good deal than I was," said Tom Long, holding out his hand.

"No more limbings pitched in at the window, eh?"

"No," said Tom Long with a slight shudder; "I hope that sort of thing is not going to happen again."

"To which I say ditto," said Bob. "But I say, I know who pitched that spear at you."

"You do?"

"Yes, it was that Malay chap you offended with the durian."

"Then he must be taken and punished."

"First catch your brown hare, master officer of infantry," said Bob, smiling. "He won't set foot here again, depend upon it, unless he slinks in at night. By George, what a malicious lot they must be, to act like that!"

"Yes, it's not pleasant," said Tom Long, with an involuntary shudder, as, in imagination, he saw the dark face of his enemy always on the watch for an opportunity to assassinate him.

"I never finished my account of the trip to the sultan's," said Bob, at last.

"Was there anything more to tell?"

"Yes, one thing," replied Bob; "the best of the whole lot."

"What was it?"

"Don't get riled if I tell you."

"Pooh! how can it rile me?"

"Oh, I don't know; only it may. It was a proposal made by the sultan to Mr Linton."

"Proposal! What proposal?"

"Well, I'll tell you; only don't go into fits. It was after we'd been sitting smoking for a bit, and just before we were coming away. Master Sultan had shown us all his best things—his gold and silver, and his slaves, and the dingy beauties with great earrings, and bangles on their arms and legs, who have the honour of being his wives; and at last he said something to Mr Linton, who understands his lingo as well as you and I do French."

"Well, but what did he propose?" said Long, eagerly.

"I got to know afterwards from Captain Smithers," continued Bob, "that he said he had been thinking very seriously about his position in connexion with the English, and that he saw how a strong alliance would be best for all; that it would settle him in his government, and make it a very excellent match for the English, who would be able to get tin and rice from the sultan's people, and gold."

"You're as prosy as an old woman," said Tom Long, impatiently.

"Yes, it's an accomplishment of mine," said Bob coolly. "Well, as I was telling you, he said the proper thing was a very strong alliance; and the resident said we had already made one. He said he wanted a stronger one; and he thought the best thing would be for him to marry Miss Linton and her cousin, and then it would be all right."

"Why, confound his insolence!" said Tom Long, starting up.

"No, no, you must say something else," cried Bob. "I said that as soon as I heard it."

"Did not Mr Linton knock him down?" cried Tom Long.

"No, he did not. He heard him out, and said it must be a matter of consideration; and then we came away."

"But it's monstrous!" cried Tom Long.

"Of course it is," said Bob, coolly; "but don't you see it was of no use to break with the fellow at once. It was a case of diplomacy. We don't want to quarrel with Master Sultan Hamet: we want to keep friends."

"But it was such an insult to the ladies!"

"He looked as if he thought he was doing them an honour, Master Long, so it wouldn't have done to fall out with him. There, don't look so fierce, we've got a difficult game to play here, and our great point is not to quarrel with the Malays, unless we want spears thrown in at every dark window while we stay."

Tom Long sat biting his nails, for Bob had touched him in a very tender part, and he knew it. In fact, the middy rather enjoyed his companion's vexation, for he had begun, since his memorable conversation with Miss Linton, to look upon his feelings towards her with a more matter-of-fact eye.

"I shall have to get about at once," said Tom Long, speaking as if his weight in the scale would completely make Sultan Hamet kick the beam; but upon seeing the mirthful look in Bob Roberts' eye, he changed the subject, and began talking about how he longed to be out and about again.

"I thought we should get no end of fishing and shooting out here," he said, "and we've had none as yet."

"Get well, then, and we'll have a try for some," Rob suggested. "There must be plenty;" and with the understanding that the ensign was to declare himself fit to be off the doctor's hands as soon as possible, Bob Roberts returned to the steamer, and then finding it terribly close, he did what he had acquired a habit of doing when the weather was very hot, found a snug shady place on deck, and went off to sleep.

That was very easy in those latitudes. Whether the sun shone or whether it was gloomy, black, and precursive of a thunder-storm, an European had only to sit down in a rocking chair, or swing in a hammock, and he went off into a delicious slumber almost on the instant.

So far so good; the difficulty was to keep asleep; and so Bob Roberts found.

He had settled himself in a low basket-work chair, beneath a stout piece of awning which shed a mellow twilight upon the deck, and loosening his collar, he had dropped off at once; but hardly was he asleep before "burr-urr-urr boom-oom-oom, boozz-oozz-oozz" came a great fly, banging itself against the awning, sailing round and round, now up, now down, as if Bob's head were the centre of its attraction, and he could not get farther away. Now it seemed to have made up its mind to beat itself to pieces against the canvas, and now to try how near it could go to the midshipman's nose without touching, and keeping up all the time such an aggravating, irritating buzz that it woke Bob directly.

There was plenty of room for the ridiculous insect to have flown right out from beneath the awning and over the flashing river to the jungle; but no, that did not seem to suit its ideas, and it kept on with its monotonous buzz, round and round, and round and round.

Half awake, half asleep, Bob fidgeted a little, changed his position, and with his eyes shut hit out sharply at his tormentor, but of course without effect.

He turned over, turned back; laid his head on one side; then on the other; and at last, as the miserable buzzing noise continued, he jumped up in a rage, picked up a book for a weapon, and followed the fly about, trying to get a fair blow—but all in vain. He hit at it flying, settled on the canvas roof; on the arms of chairs, and on the deck, and twice upon a rope—but all in vain: the wretched insect kept up its irritating buzz, till, hot, panting, his brows throbbing with the exertion, Bob made a furious dash at it, and with one tremendous blow crushed it flat.

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