Middy and Ensign
by G. Manville Fenn
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The middy drew a long breath, wiped the perspiration from his forehead, and, panting and weary, threw himself back in the chair, and closed his eyes.

He was a clever sleeper, Bob Roberts. Like the Irishman who went to sleep for two or three days, when Bob went to sleep, he "paid attintion to it." In a few seconds then he was fast, and—truth must be told— with his mouth open, and a very unpleasant noise arising therefrom.

Vain hope of rest. Even as he threw himself back, a little many-legged creature, about two inches long, was industriously making its way over the deck towards where one of the middy's limbs lay outstretched, and in a few seconds it had mounted his shoe, examined it with a pair of long thin antenna, and then given the leather a pinch with a pair of hooked claws at its tail.

Apparently dissatisfied, the long thin yellow insect ran on to the sleeper's sock, carefully examined its texture, tasted it with its tail, and still not satisfied, proceeded to walk up one of the very wide open duck trouser legs, that must have been to it like the entrance to some grand tunnel, temptingly inviting investigation.

The insect disappeared; Bob snored, and there was the loud buzzing murmur of men's voices, talking drowsily together, when, as if suddenly electrified, Bob leaped up with a sharp cry, slapped his leg vigorously, and stood shaking his trousers till the long thin insect tumbled on to the white deck, and was duly crushed.

"Scissors! how it stings!" cried Bob, rubbing the place. "O Lor'! what a place this is to be sure. Who the dickens can get a nod?"

Bob Roberts was determined upon having one evidently, for having given the obnoxious remains another stamp, he took a look round, to see if any other pest, winged or legged, had been brought from the shore, and seeing nothing, he again settled himself down, gave a turn or two and a twist to get himself comfortable, ending by sitting with his legs stretched straight out, his head thrown back, and his nose pointed straight up at the awning.

This time Bob went off fast asleep; his cap fell on to the deck, but it did not disturb him; and he was evidently making up for lost time, when a very industrious spider, who had made his home in the awning, came boldly out of a fold by a seam of the canvas, and with busy legs proceeded to examine the state and tension of some threads, which it had previously stretched as the basis of a web upon a geometrical plan, expressly to catch mosquitoes.

Apparently satisfied, the spider set to work busily, its dark, heavy body showing plainly against the yellowish canvas; and in a very short time a main rope was attached to the roof, and the architect of fly-nets began slowly to descend, in search of a point to which the other end of the said main-stay could be attacked.

Now fate had so arranged it, that the point exactly beneath the spider as it slowly descended was the tip of Bob Roberts' nose, and to this point in the course of a minute the insect nearly arrived.

It may be thought that its next act would be to alight and fix its rope; but this was not so easy, for the soft zephyr-like breaths the middy exhaled drove the swinging architect to and fro. Now it came near, now it was driven away; but at last it got near enough to grasp at the sleeper's most prominent feature, just brushing it with its legs, and setting up an irritating tickling that made Bob snort and scratch his face.

The spider swung to and fro for some seconds, and then there was another terrible tickle, to which Bob responded by fiercely rubbing the offending organ.

The spider was driven to a distance by this; but it was back again directly, with its legs stretched out, tickling as before.

Bob was not asleep, and he was not awake, and he could neither sink into oblivion, nor thoroughly rouse himself. All he could do was to bestow an irritable scratch at his nose, and the spider came back again.

At last, spider or no spider, he dropped into a strange dreamy state, in which he believed that Tom Long came and loomed over him on purpose to bend down and tickle him, out of spite and jealousy, with the long thin feather from a paroquet's tail.

"Don't! Bother!" said Bob, in his sleep; but the tickling went on, and he felt ready to leap up and strike his tormentor; but he seemed to be held down by some strange power which kept him from moving, and the tickling still went on.

Then he could hear voices talking, and people seemed to be about, laughing at and enjoying the trick that was being played upon him; and then he started into wakefulness, for a voice exclaimed,—

"Come, Mr Roberts, are you going to wake up?"

It was Lieutenant Johnson who spoke; and on the middy jumping up, he found standing by him, with the lieutenant, the dark-faced youth who had met them and acted as guide on the occasion when they made their first visit to the sultan's home.

He was dressed similarly to the way in which he made his first appearance before the English party; that is to say, he wore the silken jacket and sarong of the Malay chiefs, with a natty little embroidered cap, set jauntily upon his head like that of a cavalry soldier; but in addition he wore the trousers, white shirt-front, and patent leather boots of an Englishman, and the middy saw that he had a gold albert chain and straw-coloured kid gloves.

"This gentleman is the son of the Tumongong of Parang, Mr Roberts," said the lieutenant, "and he has come on board to see the ship. Take him round and show him everything, especially the armoury, and let him understand the power of the guns. Captain Horton wishes it."

The lieutenant looked meaningly at the middy, who saluted, and then nodded his head in a way that showed he comprehended his task.

"The skipper wants these people to know that it is of no good to try and tackle us," thought Bob. "Yes, sir," he said aloud, "I'll take him round;" and then the lieutenant, who had been interrupted in a nap, saluted the young chief; who salaamed to him gravely, and the two young men were left alone, gazing straight at one another, each apparently trying to read the other's thoughts.

"This is a jolly nice sort of a game," said Bob to himself! "How am I to make him understand? What a jolly fool old Johnson is. Now, my sun-brown-o cockywax, comment vous portez-vous? as we say in French. Me no understandy curse Malay's lingo not at all-oh. Bismillah! wallah! Come oh! and have a bottle oh! of Bass's ale oh!"

"With much pleasure," said the young Malay, laughing. "I am thirsty."

Bob Roberts turned as red as a turkey-cock with vexation.

"What! Can you understand English?" he stammered.

"Rather!" was the reply. "I couldn't make out all you said—not quite," he added, laughing meaningly.

"Oh! I say, I am sorry," said Bob frankly. "I didn't know you could understand a word."

"It's all right," said the young Malay, showing his white teeth, and speaking fair idiomatic English, though with a peculiar accent. "I've been a great deal at Penang and Singapore. I like English ways."

"I say, you know," cried Bob, holding out his hand, "it was only my fun. I wouldn't have chaffed you like that for a moment if I had thought you could understand."

"No, I suppose not," said the young Malay. "Never mind, I wanted to see you. That's why I came. Where's the young soldier?"

"What Tom—I mean Ensign Long?"

"Yes, En-sign Long."

"Knocked up. Ill with his wound. He got hurt up the river."

"I did not know it was he," said the young Malay. "Poor fellow!"

"He was in an awful state," said Bob. "Got a kris through his shoulder, and thought it was poisoned."

"What, the kris? Oh, no. That is nonsense. Our people don't poison their krises and limbings. The Sakais poison their arrows."

"The whiches?" said Bob.

"The Sakais—the wild people of the hills and jungle. Naked—wear no clothes."

"Yes," said Bob drily. "I knew naked meant wearing no clothes. So you Malay folks are not savages, but have got savages somewhere near."

"Savages? wild people," said the young man, with a little flush appearing through his tawny skin. "The Malay chiefs are gentlemen. We only are simple in our ways and living."

"Oh! that's it, is it?" said Bob. "Well, come and have this drop of Bass. I can't stand fizz."

"Fizz?" said the visitor; "what is fizz?"


"Oh, yes! I know; frothing, bubbling wine, with a pop cork."

"Yes, that's it," said Bob, grinning, "with a pop cork;" and leading the way below, he got a bottle of Bass and a couple of glasses, which they sat down and discussed.

"Have a cigar?" said the young Malay, producing a handsome French-made case.

"Thanky," said Bob. "What are these? Manillas?"

"No; from Deli, in Sumatra," said his visitor. And then they lit-up by the open window of the gun-room, and sat and smoked for a few minutes in silence, each watching the other.

"I say," said Bob at last, "this is jolly rum, you know. Why you are quite an Englishman, young fellow."

"I like English ways," said the young chief, flushing; "some of them. If I were sultan, I'd take to all the best English customs, and make them take the place of all our bad ones. Then we should be great."

"Yes," said Bob; "I suppose so."

"Ah," said the young man, sadly, "you laugh. But I could improve our people."

"Yes, of course," said Bob, hastily. "Now come and see round the ship."

"No, no, let us sit and talk," said the young Malay. "I have seen plenty of ships. I know all about them."

"Just as you like," said Bob. "Then let's go and sit on deck, under the awning. It's awfully hot here."

"You think it hot?"

"Yes; don't you?" said Bob.

"No, not at all," said the young Malay, smiling; and rising he followed the middy on deck.

"That's better," said Bob; "sit down in that cane chair. I say, what's your name?"

"Ah; what is yours?"

"Robert Roberts; commonly known to my intimates as Bob."

"Intimates? what are intimates?"

"Best friends," said Bob.

"Yes, I understand. May I be an intimate?"

"To be sure you may," said Bob, holding out his hand, which the other eagerly grasped. "But no larks, you know."

"Larks! what is larks?" said Ali, eagerly.

"I mean, no sticking that kris of yours into a fellow on the sly."

"Nonsense! What bosh!" cried the young Malay.

"Bosh, eh?" said Bob, laughing. "I say, Master Ali, you are civilised, and no mistake. It is only our very educated people who say Bosh!"

"You took the word from us," said the young Malay. "Bosh is good eastern language, and means nothing."

"I've heard it was Turkish," said Bob, drily.

"Well, Turkish; the language of Roum. We look upon the Sultan of Roum and Stamboul as our greatest chief."

"Oh, I say," cried Bob; "I can't stand this, you know. I thought you were a young Malay chief, and you are talking like a professor. Look here, Ali, is there any good fishing here?"

"Yes, oh yes. I'll take you in my boat, and my men shall catch plenty."

"No, no," said Bob. "You take me in the boat, and I'll catch the fish. But is there any shooting?"

"Shooting!" said the young Malay, laughing; "everything; bird that flies, bird that swims, tigers, buffalo, deer."

"Where?" cried Bob, excitedly.

"In the great forest—the jungle. Will you come?"

"Will I come?" cried Bob. "Won't I! I say," he went on, excitedly, "you can't shoot, can you?"

"I practise sometimes," said the young Malay, quietly.

"What with? A blow-pipe?"

"Yes, I can use the sumpitan," said the young Malay, nodding; "but I use a revolver or a rifle."

"I believe I'm half asleep," muttered Bob. "Haven't got a gun, have you?"

"Yes; an English gentleman changed with me. I gave him ivory and gold, and he gave me his double gun."

"Not a breechloader?" said Bob.

"Yes, a breechloader—a Purdey he called it, and a bag of cartridges."

"Oh, I say," cried Bob; "this is rich, you know. I am sorry I was such an idiot with you at first. But do you mean it? If I get a day ashore, will you take me where there's some good shooting?"

"Oh, yes, plenty;" was the reply.

Bob Roberts was thoughtful for a few moments.

"I say," he said at last, "I wish Tom Long were here."

"En-sign Long?" said Ali.

"Yes. He's a very cocky fellow, you know; but he's a good one at bottom."

"Should I like him?"

"Yes, when you got to know him; but he only shows some fellows his clothes."

"I don't want to see his clothes," said Ali, smiling.

"I mean, some people never get to know what's inside him," said Bob.

"What is 'inside him'?" said Ali, whom these mysteries of the English tongue somewhat puzzled. "Do you mean what he has had to eat?"

"No, no;" said Bob, laughing. "I mean his heart."

"Show people his heart?" said Ali, thoughtfully. "Oh yes, I see; I understand. You mean he is cold outside, and proud, and does not show people what he really thinks—like a Malay?"

"Yes, that's what I mean," said Bob, smiling. "But that's like a Malay, is it? They say one thing, and mean another, do they?"

"Yes," said Ali, gravely—"to their enemies—to the people who try to cheat, and deceive them. To their real friends they are very true, and full of faith. But it is time now that I should go."

"I say, though, stop a minute," said Bob sharply. "Are your people really good friends to us?"

"Yes," said the visitor, "I hope so. I believe so. They are strange at first, and do not like English ways, like I. Afterwards they will do the same as I do. Good-bye."

"But about our shooting?" said Bob. "May I bring Tom Long?"

"I should like to know En-sign Long. He is very brave, is he not?"

"Pretty bobbish, I believe," said the middy.

"Is he bobbish, too, like you. Are you not Bob Bobbish?"

"No, no, I'm Bob Roberts," said the middy, laughing. "I mean, Tom Long is as brave as most fellows."

There was a short consultation then as to time and place of meeting; after which the young Malay passed over the side into his boat, rowed by four followers, and was quickly pulled ashore.



There was a good deal of communication now between the sultan and the resident, and rumours began flying about that the former proposed paying a visit to the residency; but the days glided by, and it did not take place. The men who had been wounded were rapidly recovering; and after several attempts to find the missing prahus, it was announced one evening, in a quiet way, that there was to be another expedition down the river, for information had been brought in by a Malay boatman, who had been employed to act as a scout, that the two vessels were lying-up in a creek on the left bank of the river. It would therefore be quite easy for the steamer to float down stream off where they lay, and either send in boats to the attack or to shatter them by sweeping the mangroves with the steamer's great guns, for the prahus lay behind a thick grove of these trees some twenty or thirty yards across, quite sufficient for a screen, but worse than useless as a protection if the heavy guns were once brought to bear.

Messages had come again and again from the sultan, urging that the power of the rajah should be thoroughly crushed; in fact, his requests almost took the tone of a command.

There was a disposition to resent this, but it was felt better to temporise, and word was sent to the sultan by a trusty messenger that something would be done.

The result of this was another visit from the leading chiefs, who rather startled the resident by the message they brought, which was to the effect that their master thought it would be better that his marriage to the two Englishwomen should take place at once; and what did Mr Linton think of the next day?

Mr Linton thought, but he did not tell the sultan's ambassadors so, that he would consult Major Sandars and Captain Horton; and this he did while the messengers waited.

Major Sandars blew his nose very loudly, and said he should like to kick the villain.

Captain Horton said that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to have this Mr Hamet tied up and to give him six dozen.

"This is all very well, gentlemen," said Mr Linton, smiling; "but it does not help me out of my difficulty. What am I to say so as not to offend this man?"

"Oh, you must offend him," said the major. "I can see nothing for it, but to send him word that the English ladies are greatly honoured by the sultan's proposal, but that they cannot accept it."

Captain Horton nodded approval, and the resident agreed that they could do nothing better; so the message was delivered to the sultan's ambassadors, who looked exceedingly depressed upon hearing it, and as if they would have gladly exchanged places with somebody else.

"Those fellows expect to get into trouble," said the major, as he noticed the change.

He was quite right, for the two chiefs took their departure, looking as if they expected to be introduced by their wrathful ruler to the execution kris as soon as they returned.

The troops had been expecting orders for a trip down the river in search of the two prahus, but the command came upon them, as such matters usually do, just when it was least expected. One company, under Captain Smithers, was ordered to embark, but to Tom Long's great disgust, he found he was not included.

He hurried to the doctor's quarters, and found that gentleman busy with a case of instruments, open before him.

"Look here, Long," he said; "did you ever see such a wretched country as this? Everything rusts; look at my instruments."

"Yes, sir, it is terrible; such fine steel too."

"Fine steel? There isn't a better case in the army. I could do anything with these tools."

Tom Long shuddered as he glanced at the long, fearfully keen knives, and the saw—so horribly suggestive of taking off arms and legs.

Doctor Bolter saw it, and smiled to himself.

"Come to say good-bye, Long?" he said, as he stuffed some lint into a pouch, with some bandages. "I'm not a lighting man, and don't mean to be killed."

"No, sir. I came to ask you to let me go—to give me a certificate, saying I am quite well enough."

"But you are not, my dear boy. You are too weak."

"Weak, sir? No, I feel as strong as a lion. Let me go, doctor."

"What nonsense, my dear lad! I'm not the commandant. Ask the major."

"No, sir," said Tom Long. "You are not the commandant by name, but from the major downwards you do just as you like with us. Hang me if I'd have drunk such filthy stuff as you gave me, by the major's orders. I'd sooner have lost my commission."

"Ha, ha, ha!—Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the doctor. "That's very good, Long, very good indeed. I suppose I do get the better of all of you in turn. Ha, ha, ha! But look here, my dear boy, I don't think you are well enough yet."

"Do let me go, doctor," pleaded Tom. "There, I don't want to fight, but let me go with you and help you. This dreadful do-nothing sort of life seems to make me worse."

"Idleness is bad for any man," said the doctor.

Tom Long felt flattered at being called a man, but still looked pleadingly at the doctor.

"I could take care of your instruments, sir, and hand you what you wanted if there were any of our fellows hurt."

"Humph! yes, you could do that," said the doctor. "But look here," he said, gazing searchingly into the youth's face; "did you take your medicine to-day?"

"Yes, sir, three times," cried Tom, eagerly; for, after neglecting it for two days previously, he had taken it that day by way of a salve to his conscience.

"Then you shall go," said the doctor. "Be quick. Get your great-coat— and mind, you are to be my assistant."

Tom Long ran back to his quarters, and doctor's assistant or no, he buckled on his sword, and stuck his revolver in its case, before putting on his grey great-coat; meeting the detachment on its way down to the boat.

"Hallo, Long, what are you doing here?" said Captain Smithers. "You are not detailed for duty."

"No," said the doctor, sharply, "he is coming on hospital service."

There was no time for argument, so they marched on down to the "Startler's" boats, which were waiting, and at once put off silently, the swift stream bearing them quickly to the steamer's side, as she lay there with her steam up, but not a light visible to tell those upon the shore of the projected expedition. There was the low dull hiss and snort of the escaping steam; and one versed in such matters would have noticed that the steamer had let go her moorings at the stem, and swung round in the stream, holding on hard by the stern, ready to slip the cable and start.

But Captain Horton felt pretty secure of getting away unobserved; and trusting to the keen eyes of a couple of Malay boatmen, he calculated upon getting the steamer just abreast of the mangrove creek where the prahus lay, and then dealing with them and their crews as he pleased.

The distance down was about ten miles; and the stream was so swift, that in a couple of hours the steamer would have run down without the aid of her screw; but it was proposed to steam for about two-thirds of the distance, and then drift in silence, with a turn of the screw now and then to keep her head right.

The river was so deep, and clear of obstruction, that there was nothing to fear in their journey down, while fortunately the night, though not illuminated by the moon, was tolerably light.

The arrangements were soon made, and directly the boats were hoisted up the cable was slipped from the great buoy, and the steamer drifted down stream, the steam power being kept in abeyance until they were some distance below the campong.

In his character of doctor's assistant, Tom Long did not mix with the officers in command of the little detachment, and was standing aloof leaning over the bulwarks, and gazing at the fire-flies on the shore, when he heard a familiar voice close by.

"Think those Malay chaps will be able to see the creek on a night like this, Dick?"

"See it, Master Roberts, sir? Why, I could see it myself if I tried, and knowed where to look for it. Bless yer 'art, they Malay chaps have got eyes like cats, and can see in the dark."

"Oh yes, I dare say," said Bob. "Well, all I can say is, I hope we shall knock the prahus into splinters. I do owe those fellows a grudge for being chucked overboard as I was. It makes me feel wet now to think of it."

"Yes, that 'ere war a rum 'un, Master Roberts, sir," said Dick, solemnly. "Now, look here, sir, you being a boy like, and not wanted, if I was you, I'd just go down below, get on my perch, and tuck myself up and go to roost where I should be quite safe."

"Thank you, Dick," said Bob, quietly; "I'm going to stop on deck, and then go with the party ashore. We'll leave the old men and old women on board to take charge of the ship till we come back."

"That's as good as saying I'm a reg'lar old woman, Master Roberts, sir," said Dick, grinning.

Bob did not condescend to reply, but walked aft a little way, to where he could see a dark figure half-leaning, half-sitting in the darkness upon a gun, and looking over the bulwarks.

"Here, you sir," he said sharply, "come away from that gun. Why are you not with the detachment forward there?"

"Oh, you be hanged!" said a familiar voice.

"What? Tom Long?"

"That's my name, Mr Roberts," said the dark figure.

"Why, I thought you were in hospital yet."

"I'm on hospital service," replied Tom. "I got the doctor to bring me."

"I say—I am glad," said Bob. "Eh?"

He stopped short, for Tom Long had pinched his arm.

"Isn't that a long low vessel moored there under the bank?" said Tom.

Bob looked long and attentively.

"I think so—two of them," he said. "I'll tell the officer of the watch."

He turned aft and pointed out the dimly seen objects.

"Yes, I think they are prahus moored to the trees," he said, examining them through the glass.

The officer reported what he had seen to the captain, who also inspected them through a night-glass.

"Yes, coasting boats, I think. We'll overhaul them as we come back, we must not stop now."

The vessel was now steaming steadily down stream, not quickly, for there were too many turns, but sufficiently fast to bring them rapidly near their goal.

"Let's see; I want to have a talk to you, Tom Long, about a trip ashore—shooting," said Bob.

"Silence there, young gentleman," said the officer of the watch sternly, and then Bob was called suddenly away, so that he had no opportunity for a quiet chat with the young ensign.

Meanwhile the heavy throb throb of the steamer was the only noise heard save some weird cry of animal or bird in the dense jungle on either side. But every now and then as the waves and wash of the steamer rolled ashore, churning up the mud, they startled the dull, heavy alligators into activity, sending them scurrying off the muddy banks into deep water, to await the passing of the, to them, large water monster, whose great bulk dwarfed them into insignificance the most extreme.

Lower and lower down stream went the steamer with the dense black line of jungle on either side, till at the suggestion of the Malay pilots the steam was turned off, a couple of boats lowered, and the position of the vessel being reversed, she was allowed to float down head to stream, for quite another half-hour, when the word having been given, a small anchor that had been hanging down in the water was let go, without so much as a plash, the stout hemp cable ran quietly out, and the vessel was checked just off the narrow mouth of a creek, which seemed to run up amidst the palms and undergrowth, for there were no mangroves till the tidal waters were reached.

There was a little rapid passing to and fro here, and a couple of boats were silently lowered down, to go a quarter of a mile below to watch the other entrance to the creek, for the Malays were too fox-like not to have a hole for exit as well as one for entry. But everything was done in the most noiseless manner, so that when three more boats full of soldiers, marines, and sailors rowed off for the creek, no one would have imagined that they had slipped off on a deadly errand, or that the steamer was cleared for action, the guns shotted and every man ready to let loose a deadly hail that should cut down the jungle like a scythe amidst the corn.

But the British officers had yet to learn that the Malays were more than their equals in cunning. No sooner had the steamer passed on into the bank of mist and darkness that overhung the river, than there was a rustle, a splash, the rattling noise of large oars being thrust out, and in a couple of minutes the two long snaky prahus they had passed crammed with fighting men were gliding up stream towards the residency, where certainly there were sentries on guard, but no dread of an enemy at hand.

The boats then had pushed off from the steamer, which lay ready to help them, and rowing out of the swift waters of the river they began to ascend the dark and muddy creek, when Bob Roberts, who was with the lieutenant and part of the soldiers in the same boat suddenly whispered—

"Hark! wasn't that distant firing?"

They listened, but could hear nothing, and the lieutenant was about to order the men to pull more sharply, when Bob touched his arm again.

"I'm sure that's firing, sir," he said.

"Nonsense, Roberts! absurd! Sit still and be silent. What firing could it be? We are ten miles from the residency."

"I can't help it, sir, if we are twenty," said Bob, sharply. "I'm sure it was firing, and there it goes again."

"Silence, sir," said the lieutenant, angrily. "Give way, my lads, give way."

The ship's boats glided on over the smooth water, the men rowing with muffled oars; and so steadily that the blades seemed to be dipping in without making a splash.

The creek grew narrower, so that they had to keep right in the middle to avoid letting the oar blades brush the reeds, and so they rowed on, but without seeing anything resembling a prahu.

As to their direction, that they could not tell, but the shape of the creek they believed to be that of a bow—at least so the Malays had described it; and as the two ends of the bow must rest upon the river, they were sure, unless they struck up some narrow tortuous way, to come out at the other mouth and join the boats.

They went on very cautiously, with the midshipman anxious to talk to Tom Long, who sat beside him, but forbidden now to utter so much as a whisper. The oars dipped and rose, dipped and rose, without a sound, and sometimes a reed or water plant rustled slightly as it brushed the sides of the boats.

That in which the lieutenant was in command led the weird procession, Captain Smithers being in the next, while the third, nearly full of marines, every man with his loaded rifle between his knees, was close behind.

Still there was no sign of the prahus, and to the lieutenant's great annoyance, he found that in the darkness they must have turned up the sluggish stream that flowed into the creek, and missed the continuation, which was probably masked with reeds.

He felt ready to stamp with vexation, but controlling himself he passed the word, and the boats backed down the stream, that in which the officer in command was seated, naturally being the last of the three.

"Wouldn't it have been better to have brought the Malays, sir?" said Bob.

"Yes, of course; but the cowards were afraid to come, my good lad," said the lieutenant.

"There, sir," whispered Bob again, "isn't that firing?"

"If you say another word to me about your confounded firing," said the lieutenant sharply, "I'll have you gagged, sir."

"I don't want to talk about it, sir," grumbled Bob, "but I'm sure there's something wrong up yonder."

"And I'm sure there's something wrong here, Mr Roberts," said the lieutenant, "and that's enough for me to attend to."

They went back in silence for some time, and then Tom Long, whose eyes were unusually good, pointed to a part of the reed-bed on the right.

"Is not that the continuation of the creek, sir?"

"Yes, to be sure, so it is," said the lieutenant. "We can see it coming this way. It's masked by those trees the other way. Steady, my lads; steady. Let us go first."

The creek was wider here, so the boats turned, and retook their former positions; but still there was no sign of the prahus.

"Those scoundrels must have led us wrong," muttered the lieutenant; "there's nothing here. Why, yonder's the open river, isn't it; or is it a wider space? Yes, thank goodness; there are the prahus after all."

He waited till the other boats closed up, and then whispered his final orders, appointing two boats to attack one of the prahus while he made for the other alone.

"Now then," he whispered, "are you all ready? A bold dash, my lads, and they are ours."

"Please, sir," said old Dick.

"What is it?" cried the lieutenant, angrily.

"Them's our own two boats. I'd swear to 'em."

"And I'm sure that's firing," cried Bob, aloud.

"Yes," said Tom Long, speaking excitedly; "those were the two prahus we passed on the way down."

"And they are attacking the residency," cried Bob.

Even as he spoke there was a shot fired from the steamer to recall the boats, and the men bent to their stout ashen oars with all their might, the lieutenant as he leaped on board being met by Captain Horton with—

"These Malay tigers are a little too cunning for us, Johnson. Those were the prahus we passed on the way down."

"Yes, sir, another slip; but we may have them yet."



A general feeling of uneasiness had been excited as soon as it was known that the "Startler" had left her moorings to go in search of the two escaped prahus. Mr Linton did not feel happy in his own mind, though he did not communicate his fears to a soul.

Still he might have spoken openly, for it would not have caused greater terrors in the breasts of his daughter and niece, who were for some reason or another too full of vague fears to retire to rest. It did not occur to them to associate their sensations with the departure of the steamer. In fact if they had so done, they would not have harboured the thought for a moment, knowing as they did how well-protected they were by the sturdy little garrison of troops, only about a third of which had gone upon the expedition.

Both Tom Long and Bob Roberts might have been conceited enough to think that the uneasiness of the ladies was entirely upon their account, and they would have been terribly upset to know that not a single thought concerning them had crossed the minds of either since the departure.

It was, in fact, a vague feeling of general uneasiness, such as might have been suffered at any time by those who were comparatively alone in the midst of a notoriously hostile, and even treacherous people, some of whom were friendly to the English, though the majority bore them the most intense hate.

Even the Major was out of spirits, and told Mrs Major that he would after all a great deal rather be at home, than out in such a treacherous, krising, throat-cutting place as Parang.

"And a very nice thing to say too," said Mrs Major Sandars, "just too as we are going to bed. I shall now lie awake all night thinking, and keep seeing brown men climbing in through the blinds, and be uneasy as can be."

"Don't talk nonsense," said the Major, gruffly. "But really, I've a good mind to have the sentries increased in number."

"I really would, if I were you," said Mrs Major.

"No; second thoughts are best. There is no occasion to harass the men with extra duty; and, besides, I'm nearly undressed."

So the Major and Mrs Major went to bed, as did the majority of those at the station, excepting, of course, the officer and the guard.

There was one man though who shared the feeling of uneasiness. Earlier in the night he had been disappointed at not being called upon to form one of the little company for the expedition, for he was raging with desire to in some way distinguish himself. He was a mere private soldier, but he told himself that the way to honour was open; and though a long and wearisome one for a private, still he might win his way to promotion—corporal, sergeant—some day, perhaps, ensign; and so on, till he became, maybe, adjutant of his regiment.

He could not sleep that evening, and crushing down the feelings that oppressed him, he told himself it was the heat, and dressing lightly, he went out into the comparative coolness of the night.

He had not gone far before he was reminded that there was watchfulness around; for he was challenged by first one and then another sentry, who, however, in turn, let him pass, on finding who it was. And so he wandered restlessly here and there amidst the trees, longing to go in one direction, but fighting hard against the desire; as he told himself with a bitter smile that some of the old poison of the water-snake must still be in his blood, and be the cause of all this restlessness and pain.

He had wandered here and there for some time, seating himself amidst the trees, and then going down to the landing-place to gaze at the calm swift river that eddied and gurgled amidst the water-washed boats and masses of rush at the edge of the island, wondering the while whether possibly at some time or another the effect of the constant washing of the water might not be to completely sweep away the island. "Not in our time of possession," he said to himself; and turning slowly away he stood hesitating for a while, and then, in spite of his self-restraint he took the path leading to Mr Linton's house, to convince himself, so he mentally said, that the place was quite safe.

The "place" in his brain really meant one solitary being in that house, for if he felt assured that Rachel Linton was sleeping peacefully, and with no overhanging danger, he said that he should be satisfied.

He went on then cautiously, getting nearer and nearer to the house, and feeling surprised that he was not challenged by a sentry, till he was quite close up, and then his heart began to beat fast, for he fancied he heard whispering voices, and at last, after intense listening, he was quite sure.

Here then was the danger; not such danger as he had fancifully imagined—the swimming of tigers from the mainland, or some noxious reptile; it was from man that the peril was to come.

He stole on again, making not a sound. And now he recalled how some Malay had swum to the island and hurled a spear in through one of the residency windows.

"Good heavens!" he muttered; "and I am quite unarmed." As this thought occurred to him, he could hear the whispering continued; and mingled with it there seemed to come a sound of hard breathing, like a sleeper close at hand.

It was so—the sentry asleep; and following the sound two or three yards, Adam Gray bent over a prostrate form, and caught up the rifle with fixed bayonet, seeing at the same moment that it was Private Sim.

He was about to kick the fellow, but he thought that by so doing he should be spreading the alarm, perhaps prematurely; so he walked cautiously forward towards where the whispering seemed to be.

It was so dark amidst the trees that he could hardly make out his position; but directly after it seemed to him that the sounds came from an upper window; and as the thought struck him he stepped upon a piece of dry cane, which snapped beneath his feet.

To bring his rifle to the present was the work of an instant; and as he did so a quick voice exclaimed,—"Who is there? Is that the sentry?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied; feeling the blood tingle in his face, as he recognised the voice.

"We thought we heard the hard breathing of some beast, or some one asleep," said Rachel Linton, with her voice shaking a little as she spoke, "and we were afraid."

"There was—there is some one asleep here, ma'am;" said Gray, trying to speak calmly and quietly; "but I am on duty now."

"It is Private Gray, Rachel, whom you attended to," said another voice. "Let us go in now, we shall be quite safe."

"Yes," said Rachel, in a low voice, meant only for herself; but heard plainly in the utter silence of that night, "we shall be quite safe now."

"Good-night, sentry," said Mary Sinclair.

"Good-night, ma'am," replied Gray; and he stood and heard the shutter blind closed, with a bitter feeling of annoyance at his heart.

"My name seems to have driven her away," he muttered. "At any rate, though, I am of some use," he said soon after; "she feels safe when I am by."

All was perfectly still now, except the heavy breathing of Private Sim; and Gray stood thinking what he should do.

Should he wake up Sim?

No; if he did, he would have to leave him on duty, when he would go to sleep again, and something horrible might happen.

What was to happen? he asked himself.

That, he could not say; but on one thing he determined at once, and that was, to take Private Sim's place and to keep guard.

But then Sim's lapse of duty would be found out, and he would be severely punished.

Richly he deserved it; but perhaps a severe taking to task might suffice to awaken him to a sense of his duty; and therefore Gray felt that he would be lenient, and not betray him, though it was horrible to think that the lives of all on the island might be betrayed to death by the neglect of such a fellow as this.

Private Gray was a man of quick decision, and his mind was made up at once. He would keep on duty till it was time for the guard to be changed, and then he would wake up Sim, and see that a responsible man took his place.

"The lazy, untrustworthy scoundrel!" he muttered, as he shouldered the rifle and walked up and down for a few minutes along the sentry's post. But matters were not to be ordered as he intended, for he had not been on duty very long before he heard a sound from the river that made him start and listen attentively.

"Nothing!" he said to himself after a few seconds' attention; and he once more resumed his slow march up and down, the motion seeming to calm him, for when standing still his thoughts tortured him.

"There it is again," he said to himself suddenly. "It is a boat of some kind."

Plainly enough now he had heard the peculiar creak given by an oar rubbing against wood, and this was repeated again and again.

He strained his eyes in the direction from which it came, but could see nothing for the trees. Feeling, though, that he ought to act, he went to where Private Sim still lay sleeping heavily and gave him a lusty kick, with the effect of making him start to his feet.

"I only—oh, it's you Private Gray," he said, huskily. "I thought it was the sergeant."

"You untrustworthy villain!" whispered Gray. "Silence, this moment. Take your rifle, and keep watch till I return."

"Who are you talking to like that?" said Sim, in a bullying tone.

"You, sir," replied Gray, in a low, authoritative manner, which made the man shrink. "Do you wish me to report that I found you sleeping at your post? Silence! no words. There is a large boat of some kind approaching; be on the look-out and challenge, and fire if necessary."

Private Sim did not answer, but stood on the alert, while Gray ran back in the direction of the fort.

Before he was half-way there, though, he heard the challenge of a sentry on his right, followed by a faint cry and a heavy fall.

The challenge was repeated by another sentry farther away, and this time there was the report of a sentry's rifle; and directly after came from behind him, where he had left Private Sim, the report of another piece.

He knew it must be Sim, and as danger was there, his first impulse was to run back to the help of the ladies and the resident. His second thought told him that he was unarmed, and such an act would be madness. It must take some time for an enemy to break into the place, and before then the soldiers would have turned out.

In fact the bugle rang out as he hurried on through the darkness, being compelled to turn back twice; for he heard the trampling of feet and rustling of the leaves as people forced their way through, and he was obliged to make somewhat of a detour.

Even then somebody struck at him, a blow which he returned with his fist, sending his assailant staggering back amidst the bushes, while he ran on, to hear a limbing whistle by his ear.

Shot after shot had meanwhile been fired, fully giving the alarm, and by the time Gray reached the fort, after an extremely perilous run—for the way seemed to swarm with enemies; and even now he did not know whether he was wounded or no, for he had felt two heavy blows in the chest and back—he found the men falling in, and catching his rifle and belts from the stand he joined them.

Major Sandars was with them, in nothing but his shirt and trousers and bare feet, but he had not forgotten his sword, and in a few short words he made his arrangements for the defence of the fort, while, to Gray's great delight, he detailed a party of a dozen men, under a lieutenant, to go down to the residency.

"You must act according to circumstances, Mr Ellis," he said quietly. "It is impossible to tell who or how many our assailants are; but the darkness that favours them will also favour you. Your orders are to get somehow to the residency, and hold it or bring its occupants away, according to circumstances."

The lieutenant saluted, and the dozen men, among whom was Gray, were marched to the gate.

There was not one among them who had done more than slip on his trousers, so that they were in light fighting trim; and as soon as they were outside the gate, the lieutenant gave the word, "Quick march— double!" and away they went in single file along the narrow path.

Before they could reach the residency their pulses began to throb, for there were the sharp, quick reports of a revolver, fired six times in succession. Then a rifle spoke, and another followed by a desultory firing as if in reply.

Then from behind came the loud, heavy report of a brass lelah, fired evidently from some boat on the river; then another, and another, with more desultory firing.

"Come along my lads; our fellows will talk to them directly." There was a crashing volley just then.

"I told you so. That's English, my lads. Steady, steady; don't get out of breath. As we get out of the wood here, form up directly in the open, and wait till we can see by the firing where the enemy is. Then we'll give him a volley, and charge at once right for the verandah, where we'll take our places, and act as is afterwards necessary."

The men followed their leader's commands to the letter, formed up in a little line outside the path, and stood there waiting in the darkness, watching the flashing of a revolver fired from one of the residency windows, and the quick streaks of light from a party of the enemy, whoever that enemy might be, just in front.

"Ready!" cried the lieutenant; and as he gave his command there was the quick rattle of the pieces, then a ringing little volley, the cry Forward! and on the party dashed with a hearty hurrah, which had the effect of stopping the fire from the residency, Mr Linton and his servant, who had been defending the place, recognising the voices of friends.

The little line, with fixed bayonets, dashed over and swept down a cluster of Malays who tried to meet their attack with spears before taking to flight, and the next moment, it seemed to Gray, he was standing with his comrades in the verandah, reloading.

"Any one down?" cried the lieutenant, sharply.

"No, sir; no, sir," was repeated on all sides.

"All right then, my boys; make cover of anything—posts, flower vases, anything you can; and we must hold on. Fire where you have a chance; but don't waste a shot."

The opening of a door changed the plans, for Mr Linton's voice was heard saying,—"Come in quickly; and we can fire from the windows." This little evolution was soon performed, but under fire, for the Malays sent a desultory series of shots, in company with flying spears, though without any effect, while, as soon as the rest of the upper windows were thrown open, the men knelt down behind what was an excellent breast-work, and maintained a steady fire wherever they saw a flash.

Meanwhile there was some sharp volley firing from the direction of the fort, in reply to that of the enemy's brass lelahs. This was soon after followed by the heavy roar of a larger gun on board one of the prahus, to which the occupants of the little fort could not reply, on account of the darkness, and the fact that one of the attacking prahus was between them and the campong, while the other was so sheltered by trees that it would have been folly to have fired.

The attack was weak in the extreme—the Malays running forward, firing a shot or two, and then retreating to cover; and this was kept up for a considerable time, the enemy evidently thinking that, as the defenders were weak through the departure of the steamer, they would soon give in.

It was evident that they were staggered by the defence, for they had no doubt hoped to surprise both fort and residency. In token of this, the attacking party retreated two or three times over, as if to ask for advice or fresh orders from their boats—orders that were pretty decisive, for they came on each time more keenly than before, the last time with bundles of inflammable wood and reeds, with which they boldly advanced to the verandah of the residency, throwing them down and then rapidly retreating.

Lieutenant Ellis no sooner became aware of this, though, than he got his men out from a side window, formed up, waited their time till the Malays came on, shouting, with a burning torch of inflammable resin, and then gave them a volley, followed by a charge.

The enemy gave way at once, but only for a few moments; then their numbers seemed to become augmented, and with a tremendous rush they bore back the little party of soldiers step by step. Numbers fell, but they paid no heed to this; and the lieutenant began to wish earnestly that they were safe back within the walls of the residency, when there was a roar like thunder, then the beating of gongs on both sides of the island. Then another roar, and another, and the Englishmen began to cheer and pursue, for the Malays were rushing in the direction of the gongs.

But it was no time for pursuing this crowd of Malays into narrow paths through dark woods. They had maintained their defence till the steamer had returned, and now she was firing regularly, gun after gun, in the direction of the prahus, but doing no harm, the darkness giving them no opportunity for taking aim.

The firing of the steamer's big Armstrongs had, however, the effect of causing a sauve qui peut style of retreat amidst the Malays; and at the end of ten minutes the sweeps of the prahus were in full work, and the whole party rapidly making their way up the river once more to some fresh hiding-place, from which they could issue to deal ruin and destruction wherever they pleased.



The rapid rate at which the two prahus went away from the island after the attacking party had scrambled in, was sufficient to show those on board the "Startler" how impossible it would be to overtake them by means of boats. The only way would be to surprise their crews, or to sink them with the guns of the steamer next time they tried to pass down the river.

Congratulations in plenty were exchanged as soon as the communications were effected, though a good deal of annoyance was felt at being again out-manoeuvred by the Malay cunning.

One thing was very evident, and that was that there would be no safety for the residency while so daring a chieftain as Rajah Gantang was at liberty, with his two cleverly managed prahus.

No further alarms took place during the night, and in the morning the amount of damage done was found to be nothing more than a little carpentering and painting would restore. The real damage done was to the British prestige, which, in spite of the brave defence, had received a blow in the eyes of the Malays.

Judging the matter fairly next morning, Mr Linton and the officers came to the conclusion, after a careful inspection, that though it would have been necessary for the occupants of the residency to have fled to the little fort, half-a-dozen such desultory attacks would have done the latter no real harm.

"No," said Major Sandars, aloud; "for my part, if provisioned, I should see no difficulty in holding our place against half-a-dozen rajahs. There is only one way in which we could be hit."

"And that is?" said Captain Horton.

"By a surprise such as they treated us to last night. There is no other way in which they could harm us."

Adam Gray heard his words, and in silence made an addition to them.

"They could harm us by treachery, or by the neglect of our sentries."

The dark scene of the previous night flashed across his mind as he thought this, and he recalled Private Sim's recumbent form amidst the grass, wondering the while whether he ought not to relate what had taken place, and so obtain for the fellow the punishment he deserved.

Finally, he made up his mind to let matters take their course, after giving Sim to understand that he should report him if such a thing came under his notice again.

The sultan sent word that he was most grieved to hear of this new attack, and begged the resident to spare no pains to root the rajah and his followers off the face of the earth. He assured Mr Linton, by his messengers, that he felt the insult as bitterly as if it had been offered to himself; while even now, surrounded as he was by faithful followers, he never dared sleep twice in the same place in his house, for fear that an envoy of the rajah should pass a kris up between the bamboos that formed the flooring, and assassinate him.

The message sent back was, that no effort should be spared to rid the river, of so dangerous a neighbour; but opportunity failed to offer for carrying out the promise.

Anywhere within a mile or two of the sultan's campong the people were ready enough to give information to the English, when a boat was sent to cruise about and endeavour to find where the rajah had hidden; but beyond that distance they were met with stern looks of distrust, and it was evident to the officers in charge that the rajah was perfectly safe, his influence being too great amongst the people for any one to act as informer.

This added a good deal to the feeling of insecurity felt at the residency; and to counteract this the ship's carpenters were set to work to contrive stout shutters with loopholes for barricading, and also make the doors more secure.

The fort with its little barrack was already pretty safe, and of course so long as the steamer lay there, any attacking prahus could be literally blown out of the river; but there was always the risk of the steamer being called away, and in view of this Mr Linton increased the arms and ammunition at his house, and also asked for an extra sentry.

In a few days the night attack had lost the greater part of its terrors, for the steamer was not likely to be moved at present, and boats were almost constantly out patrolling the river in search of the enemy.

Every sampan or prahu that came down the stream was stopped, boarded, and searched, at first greatly to the annoyance of their occupants. Several times over efforts were made to slip by, but the report of a heavy gun fired across their bows brought the Malays to their senses, and they humbly submitted to the overhauling.

These boats were for the most part laden with rice, fruit, or slabs of tin, and of these every rajah up the river made a practice of taking toll for payment of his permission to pass down the stream.

The occupants of a prahu then might already have paid tax two or three times, and the appearance of this new power in the river was resented strongly; but when it was found that no tin was taken from them, and that when rice, or fruit, or poultry was taken, the full market value was paid in dollars, a strong friendly feeling sprang up mingled with respect.

The news soon spread, and from that time whenever a trading boat came down from the upper country, the sight of an English boat was sufficient to make the Malays lie on their oars or pole, and await the coming of the English officer to board.

There came quite a calm over the little settlement about this time. The rajah was not heard of, and information, true or false, was brought in that the prahus were high up the stream, where they had been rowed during a flood, and taken up a tributary of the main river, where, on the cessation of the flood, they remained grounded and out of reach.

The sultan seemed to have forgotten his disappointment about the ladies, and the soldiers and sailors were enjoying a time of indolent ease, their greatest excitement being a little drill. Provisions were plentiful, fruit abundant, with as much native tobacco as the men liked to buy, at a most moderate price, and in spite of the steamy heat the people were perfectly happy.

Ali, the young chief, had been again to see Bob Roberts on board; but as yet the visit had not been returned, the attack upon the residency having put a stop to all leave for the time being; but as the officers were getting less strict, the middy was looking forward to the day when he could go ashore. In the meanwhile he indulged himself with a little fishing from out the chains.

Doctor Bolter was about the happiest man at the island, for now that he had got his sanitary matters put right, and his wounded men well, he had ample time for following his favourite pursuit of natural history.

The sailors were in a high state of delight over what they called the "Bolter's weakness," and out of gratitude to him for many a little bit of doctoring, they took him everything they could get hold of that flew, crept, crawled, ran, or swam, bothering him almost to death. For Jack could not see the necessity for refraining from presenting the doctor with a fire-fly, because Tom had taken him a dozen the day before, and Bill two dozen the day before that.

"Wasn't his flies as good as Bill's, or Tom's? Well, then, mind yer own business, and let him mind his."

Dick came back from the shore beaming one day, with a large black monkey under his arm, held by a stout piece of chain, and a dog collar round its loins.

"Hallo, Dick," said one of his messmates, Bill Black, as soon as he climbed on board. "Where did you find your little brother?"

"'Tain't no brother o' mine," said Dick seriously; "he's a Black, and his name's Joseph, ain't it Joey?"

The monkey wrinkled its forehead, and its restless eyes ran over one after the other of the group as the sailors gathered round, who now began laughing.

"Well, he's a handsome chap at all events," said Bill, putting out his hand to pat the monkey on the head.

"Don't touch him, lad," growled Dick, by way of caution; "he bites."

"Get out," said Bill. "Now then, old man, how are you?"

"Chick—chack—squitter—witter—chack," cried the monkey, snapping at the sailor's hand and giving it a sharp nip.

"There, I told you so," said Dick.

"Hallo, what have you got there, Dick?" said Bob Roberts, coming up, attracted by the laughing.

"Native gentleman, sir, I bought for four dollars," said Dick, seriously. "He's a rar-jah I think, only he hadn't time to get his toggery and his kris afore he come aboard."

"Didn't know the native gentlemen had tails," said Bob, smiling. "Hallo, old chap, how are you? Have a bite?"

He held out half a biscuit that he happened to have in his jacket pocket, and the monkey looked at him curiously, as it held out one long thin black hand, flinchingly, as if expecting to be teased.

Twice it essayed to get the biscuit, but always flinched, till Bob took a step more in advance, when the animal snatched the coveted morsel and began to eat it ravenously.

"Why, it's half-starved, Dick," said the middy.

"Yes, sir, he tried to get a piece of Bill Black's finger, but Bill cut up rough, and wouldn't let him have it."

Here there was a fresh burst of laughter, in which Bill, whose finger was, after all, only pinched, heartily joined.

"What are you going to do with him, Dick?" said Bob Roberts.

"Well, sir," said Dick, with a dry wrinkle or two extra on his mahogany physiognomy, "I was going to ask the skipper if he'd like to have the gent for a new middy, seeing as you, sir, have got to be quite a grown man now."

"Don't you be cheeky, Dick," said Bob, indignantly.

"No, sir, I won't," said the old sailor humbly; "but on second thoughts, which is allers the best, Mr Roberts, sir, I thought as the skipper wouldn't have a uniform as would fit him, so I said as I'd take him on to the island, where they'd soon make a sojer of him."

"Now look here, Dick," said Bob, "I take no end of impudence from you, but let there be some end to it. Now then, have you done joking?"

"Yes, sir, but he would look well in a red jacket, wouldn't he?"

"What are you going to do with the monkey?" said Bob, peremptorily.

"Well, sir," said Dick, seeing that he had gone far enough, "I was up in the campong there, and I bought him of one of the niggers as used him to pick cokey-nuts."

"Oh, yes, of course," said Bob, derisively.

"He will," said Dick; "and I bought him because, I says to myself, I says: Here's just the sorter thing our doctor would be glad to have, and he'd pin a long name to him directly, and say as he's a Blackskinnius Monkinius, or something of the kind."

"And are you going to take it to the doctor?" said Bob.

"Yes, sir, now, directly I've showed you how he can pick cokey-nuts. Bill Black, mate, just step down and bring that ball o' stout fishing-line out o' the locker, will you?"

The sailor addressed went down, and returned directly after to Dick, who undid the chain, and tied one end of the stout fishing cord to the monkey's strap.

The little animal had been munching away at the biscuit in a quaint semi-human fashion; but as soon as Dick had fastened one end of the cord to the belt, it seemed to know what was wanted, for it squatted upon the deck, looking intelligently up in the sailor's face.

"There, ain't he an old un?" said Dick. "Now then, Yusuf, be kraja."

As the monkey heard the last two words, it sprang up the rigging to one of the great blocks, which in his mind represented the cocoa-nuts it was to bring down, and seizing one it tried hard to twist it off, chattering angrily, till Dick gave the cord a jerk, when the animal bounded to another block, and tried hard to fetch it off, going so far as to gnaw at the rope that held it, till Dick gave the cord another jerk, when it came down.

"Well done, old man," said Dick, patting the animal, which kept close to his leg, as if feeling that it must find protection of him, when Dick took it under his arm.

"Are you going now, Dick?" said Bob, eagerly.

"Yes, sir."

"Wait a moment, and let me see if I can get leave. Why, look here; the doctor's coming aboard."

True enough, Doctor Bolter was seen in a sampan rowed by one of the Malays, and a minute or two later he was on deck.

"Monkey, eh?" he said sharply, as he saw the animal. "Semnopithecus Maurus, I should say. What are you going to do with it?"

"Dick was going to give it to you, sir," said Bob, smiling.

"Give it—to me?" cried the doctor. "Thanks; no, my man, I must draw the line somewhere. Keep it on board. Climb the rigging, and that sort of thing. Here, you Roberts, tell the captain I'm here."

Bob went off, and then brought a message to the doctor, who went into the cabin. On returning to where Dick was standing, that worthy was scratching in a melancholy way at his head.

"I'm 'bout done over this here monkey, sir," he said. "I can't go and get the chap to take him back."

"Keep him, and make a pet of him, Dick," said the middy, holding out a lump of sugar to the subject of their conversation.

"No, sir, that wouldn't do. The skipper wouldn't stand it; and besides, if the monkey was mine the chaps would lead him such a life, teaching him to smoke tobacco and drink grog. Will you have him, sir?"

"No, Dick," was the reply. "I've no money to spend on monkeys."

"I didn't mean that, sir," said Dick. "I meant it for a present for the doctor. Will you have him as a present, and take care of him?"

"Of course I will, Dick, but I don't like taking it."

"Why, bless your 'art, Mr Roberts, sir, you'd be doing me a kindness by taking of it. You take it, and you can larn him all sorts of tricks. Why, look at the pretty crittur, how he takes to you!"

"Pretty crittur, indeed!" cried Bob. "You mean how he takes to the sugar. Here, come along, old man. Come, rouse up."

To Bob's surprise the monkey got up, and came close to him, while upon Dick making a motion as if to refasten the chain, the animal snarled and snapped at him.

"There now, look at that," cried Dick. "You see you'll have to take it, Master Roberts, sir."

"I'll take him for a day or two," said Bob; "but I expect the skipper won't let me keep it."

"Lor' bless you, sir, he'll let you keep it, see if he don't," said the old sailor, and his words proved true.



Bob Roberts liked having the monkey, but there was a sore side to the matter; it was unpleasant to hear that the first lieutenant had said that one monkey was enough in the ship, and they did not want two.

"It's as good as telling me to my face that I'm a monkey," said Bob to himself. "Now look here, I shall just go and ask him to lend me the dinghy to sit in and fish, and old Dick to manage it; and if he says no, I shall just tell him that his remark about the monkey was precious ungentlemanly."

So Bob went up to the first lieutenant and preferred his request, fully anticipating a refusal, but to his surprise the officer in question was all that was urbane and pleasant.

"Fishing from the dinghy, eh, Roberts?" he said, smiling.

"Yes, sir, I thought I might catch a basket if I fished from the dinghy. I lose so many hauling them up the side into the chains."

"To be sure—yes—of course," said the lieutenant. "On one condition, Roberts, you can have it."

"What's that, sir?"

"Two conditions, I should say," replied the lieutenant. "The boat is to be properly cleaned afterwards, and we are to have a dish of fresh fish for the gun-room dinner."

"Certainly, sir," said Bob, laughing, "if I catch them."

"You must catch them," said the lieutenant. "Ah, I remember the days when I used to be fond of going up the Thames fishing, and—there, be off with you as soon as you like."

The first lieutenant smiled as he felt that he had been about to prose over his old days; and Bob having obtained leave for Dick to be his companion, and to manage the boat if he should elect to go up or down the river, instead of lying astern hitched on to a ring-bolt, was soon over the side, with plenty of hooks and lines and bait.

"This here's a rum sorter game, Mr Roberts, sir," said old Dick, as soon as he had fastened the boat's painter to a ring in the stem part of the great steamer. "I'm afraid I shan't be strong enough for the job."

Dick glanced at the great muscles in his sun-browned arms with a smile of pride, and then stared at the middy, who turned upon him sharply.

"Now look here, old Dicky," he said, "you've come here to manage the dinghy for me, and not to preach and drive away all the fishes. So just light your pipe and sit still and hold your tongue, and if I find you are not strong enough to do that, I'll hail the steamer, and ask them to send me down another hand."

Old Dick chuckled and grinned, and without more ado took out and filled a short black pipe, which he lit with a burning glass, and then sat contentedly sucking at it, while Bob, who had provided himself with a bamboo about ten feet long—a natural fishing-rod in one piece—fitted on a thin line, baited his hook, and began to fish in the deep stream.

The sun poured down his rays like a shower of burning silver, and in spite of the puggaree with which he had provided himself, Bob found the heat almost too much for him, and looked enviously at old Dick, who lay back in the bows of the little cockle-shell of a boat, with his knees in, his chin pointing upwards, and his arms resting on the sides, literally basking in the hot glow.

The line kept floating down with the stream, and Bob kept pulling it up and dropping it in again close to the boat, but there was no sharp tug at the bait; and after half an hour of this work a peculiar drowsy feeling began to come over the middy, the bright flashing river ran on, and the palms and attap-thatched houses on the shore began to run on too, and all looked misty and strange, till the rod was about to fall from his hand, his nodding head to rest itself upon his chest, and the first lieutenant's basket of fish to vanish into the realm of imagination—when there was a tremendous tug, and Bob started into wakefulness, with his bamboo bending nearly double, and some large fish making the line hiss through the water as it darted here and there.

The contest was short and furious. Any doubts in the middy's mind as to the existence of fish in the river were gone, for he had hooked a monster. Now it was rushing up towards the surface, now diving down so deeply that the top of Bob's bamboo dipped in the water, and then it was sailing up and down stream, anywhere in fact, but never giving the excited lad a chance of seeing what it was like.

"Had I better go in arter him, sir?" said Dick, grinning.

"I don't know, Dick. I think—oh, I say, look at that!"

That was Bob's line hanging limply from his straight bamboo, for there was a furious rush, a dull twang, and the fish had gone.

"He was a big 'un, sir," said Dick, refilling his pipe. "Never mind. Try another, sir; better luck next time."

Bob sighed as he fitted on a fresh lead and hook, and was soon fishing once more, thoroughly awake now; and to his great delight he felt a sharp tug at his line, and striking, found that he had hooked a fish of a manageable size, which he soon hauled into the boat, and recognised as the ikan sambilang, a fish frequently sold to them by the Malays, and esteemed quite a delicacy.

"It's a rum-looking one," said Dick, examining the captive as Bob put on a fresh bait. "It's just like one of the eel pouts as we boys used to ketch down in the drains in Yorkshire."

"In the drains, Dick?"

"Oh, I don't mean your drains. I mean land drains as take the water off a country. We used to catch lots on 'em, thick, short, fat fellows, but they hadn't got a lot of long beards like these here. What, another already!"

"Yes, and a big one too," said Bob, excitedly, as he lugged out, after a sharp tussle, a handsome fish, with glistening scales, and a sharp back fin, bearing some resemblance to a perch.

"That's the way, sir," said Dick, smoking contentedly in the bows. "I like fishing arter all."

Bob smiled, and went on catching the little barbed fish, rapidly, and every now and then a good-sized fellow of a different kind. Two or three of the men came and leaned over the side to watch them for a few minutes, but the heat seemed too much for their interest to be kept up, and they soon disappeared.

There was a little audience on the further bank, though, which watched Bob's fishing without ceasing, though unseen by the young fisherman. This audience consisted of three half-nude Malays, lying in a sampan hidden amidst the reeds of the river's side, and these men seemed greatly interested in all that was going on, till, as the evening drew near, Bob, who had captured at least sixty fish of various sizes, sat at last completely overcome by the heat, and following Dick's example, for that worthy had gone off fast asleep, and Bob's bamboo dipped in the water, the line unbaited, and offering no temptations to the hungry perch. That was the time for which the Malays in the sampan had been waiting, and one of them glided over the side like a short thick snake, reached the shore, and then making his way up stream for some little distance, he softly plunged in, with nothing but a kris in his lingouti, or string round the waist used by the natives to support their loin cloths, and after swimming boldly out for some distance, turned over, and floated with just his nose above the water.

The stream did all he required, for the Malay had calculated his distance to a nicety, so that he was borne unseen right to the steamer's bows, and then floated along her side, and round the stem, where a few strokes brought him into the eddy.

Dick and the fisherman slept on soundly, so that they did not see a brown hand holding a keen kris raised from the water to divide the boat's painter, neither did they see that the same hand held on by the cut rope, and that the dinghy was floating, with its strange companion, swiftly down the stream.

At the end of five minutes it had been swept round a bend, and was out of sight of the steamer.

So likewise was the sampan from which the Malay had come, while one of its occupants steered it into the dinghy's course, and the other crouched in the forward part with a keen-headed limbing or spear.



The very motion of the boat lulled its occupants into a deeper sleep as they glided on and on down the swift deep river, with the tall waving palms and the dark undergrowth ever slipping by the travellers, who had embarked now upon a journey whose end was death.

The sampan floated quietly on in attendance, and the Malay, whose hand was twisted in the boat's painter, kept beneath the bows of the little boat with merely his face above water, the dinghy now floating down stern foremost, and, having been guided into the swiftest part of the stream, always faster and faster towards its journey's end.

Utterly unconscious of danger, and dreaming comfortably of being in a land of unlimited do-nothingism, Dick's head lay across the gunwale of the boat in terrible proximity to the Malay's kris; while Bob, with his chin on his chest, was far away in his old home, in a punt of which he had lost the pole, and it was being whirled along faster and faster through the shallows towards the mill down at the bend of the river.

He was very comfortable, and in spite of an uneasy position his sleep was very sweet, unconscious as he was of anything having the semblance of danger.

And now the dinghy was a good half mile below where the steamer was moored. They had passed the last house standing on its stout bamboo props, some distance above, and the river had curved twice in its bed, so that they had long been concealed from any one upon the deck, and still the Malays hesitated, or rather waited the time to make their spring. They had no special enmity against the occupants of the dinghy in particular, but they were three of the most daring followers of Rajah Gantang, who had assumed the part of fishermen in a sampan, with a rough cast net, so as to hang about the neighbourhood of the "Startler," and pick up information for their chief, who, so far from being, with his two prahus, hors de combat, was merely lying-up in a creek hidden by bamboos and palms, awaiting his time to take deadly vengeance upon the destroyers of his stockade and miners of his income from the passing boats.

The opportunity of cutting off a couple of the hated infidels who had forced themselves into the peaceful country, where their rajah, like many another, had been free to carry on a happy lawless existence, cutting throats, selling slaves, committing acts of piracy, and indulging in every vile and sensuous custom, was one not to be lost. Rajah Gantang wanted no peace, or order, or prosperity in the land where he could seize on the wretched people, and make them pay him in gold, tin, rice, poultry, fruit, or any precious commodity, for the right to pass down the river, which he, and a few more of his stamp, looked upon as theirs by right; so that his three followers were certain to receive praise and reward for the proof they might be able to show of the death of a couple of the giaours.

For the Malays are good Mohammedans, and look upon the slaying of a Christian as a most meritorious act, but at the same time they were too cautious to endanger their plot or their own lives by undue haste.

Hence it came about that the dinghy was allowed to drift down, a good three quarters of a mile, before the Malays made any attempt, when, as the sampan closed up, and the man in her bows raised his limbing to throw, the savage in the water reached up one hand to Dick's shoulder, and struck at him with the other.

The blow from the kris and the hurling of the spear took place at one and the same moment, but the touch of the Malay's hand upon his shoulder made Dick leap up with such a sudden start, that the aim was baffled, and the boat rocked so violently that the spear whizzed by Bob Roberts' head, and plunged into the water.

In a moment more Dick had seized the little scull that lay in the dinghy, and struck the Malay in the river so severe a blow on the head that the man went under, to rise again a few yards away, and then paddle feebly towards the sampan, whose occupants, spear in hand, now made a desperate attack upon those they meant to make their prey.

Bob Roberts never quite knew how it all took place, but he had a lively recollection of old Dick standing up in the boat, sweeping the little oar round his head, and striking fiercely at the men who thrust at him with their spears.

It was a most unequal encounter, for while the Malays were upon comparatively substantial ground, the dinghy rocked to and fro, and it only needed the hand of the half-drowned Malay to catch at the side, in a frantic effort to save his life, to send it right over, and Bob and the English sailor into the stream.

Bob felt that his minutes were numbered, for as he struck out for the shore the Malays in the sampan uttered a savage yell, and came in pursuit.

Dick swam to his side on the instant, and the dinghy went floating away with the half-drowned Malay, while now the sampan was close after them, and as one of their enemies rowed, the other stood in the bows ready to thrust at them with his spear.

"Swim away, my lad," cried old Dick, hoarsely, "and get ashore, I'm only an old 'un, and I'll get a grip of his spiker if I can."

"No, no, Dick, keep with me," panted Bob, who saw in Dick's words a determination on the brave old fellow's part to sacrifice his life that he might live.

"No, my lad, it's no use. Swim on," cried Dick, "they're here. Tell the skipper I did my dooty like a man."

As he bravely shouted these words in his excitement, he turned to face his enemies, the Malay with the limbing thrusting savagely at him.

But Dick was quick enough to strike the limbing aside, and grasp it with both hands, when a struggle for its possession took place.

It was a futile effort, though, upon Dick's part, for the other Malay dropped his oar, and picking up another spear, came to his comrade's help.

Bob was paralysed, and the desire was upon him to shut his eyes, and escape seeing the death of the brave old sailor, who was giving his life to save his young officer; but in place of closing his eyes, the middy felt that he was forced to hold them open, and fixed them upon the terrible scene; and his lips parted to utter a cry of warning, when, just as the third Malay was about to deliver his thrust, to avert which Dick was powerless, there was a sharp whizzing noise through the air, accompanied by a loud report, and then another whizzing, and a second report.

Bob turned his head to see the smoke rising from above a good-sized naga, or dragon-boat, coming up the stream, and at the sight thereof the Malays seized their oars, gave the sampan a sharp impulse which brought them within reach of their comrade, and after helping him on board, they rowed off with all their might, with the dragon-boat coming up fast.

But the naga had to stop and pick up the middy and Dick who had swum, as soon as they were free from enemies, towards the dinghy, which they reached as the dragon-boat came up.

"Are you hurt?" said a voice in English, and a delicate hand was stretched down from the naga's side to help Bob in, where, as he sank down panting, he recognised Ali, the young Malay chief.

"No: only half-drowned. But Dick—save Dick."

"I'm all right, Mr Roberts, sir," said the old sailor, hoarsely; "and the dinghy's made fast astern."

"But are you speared, Dick?" said the middy.

"Not as I knows on, sir. I ain't felt nothing at present, but I don't say as I ain't got a hole in me somewheres."

"They'll get away," said Ali, just then, as he stood up with a double gun in his hand. "Only small shot," he said, tapping the stock. "I have no bullets."

As he spoke he clapped the piece to his shoulder and fired twice rapidly, as the Malays in the sampan seemed to dive through a screen of reeds into some creek beyond.

The pattering hail of straggling small shot hastened their movements, and then Bob proceeded to thank the young chief for saving their lives, explaining to him, as far as he knew, how it was that they had fallen into such a plight.

"You must take more care," said Ali, in a low voice. "Our people would not harm you; we are friends, but plenty hate you much. But you are safe."

"Yes," said Bob, who, with all the elasticity of youth, was fast recovering himself, "we are quite safe; and the fish are there too. I say, though, old chap, I am so much obliged."

"Oh, no," said the young Malay, laughing, as he coloured through his brown skin; "it is nothing. I saw a wretch trying to do harm, and I fired at him with small duck shot. You would do the same."

"Yes, and with bigger shot too if I had a chance," said Bob excitedly, as he proceeded to wring all the water he could out of his clothes, for now the excitement was over he felt slightly chilly.

Meanwhile the boatmen were rowing steadily up stream, it having been seen to be useless to attempt pursuit of the Malays in the sampan, and they were rapidly nearing the steamer.

"'Scuse me, Mr Roberts, sir," said Dick, who was very wet and spongy, "but your knife's littler than mine, and if you'd pick a few o' these here small shot outer my arms, I'd feel obliged."

Examination showed that Dick had received quite a dozen shots in his arms and chest. They had just buried themselves beneath the skin, and were easily extracted by means of an open knife, after which Dick declared himself to be much better.

"They've give them Malay chaps a tickling, I know," he cried, laughing. "I'm such a thick-skinned 'un, I am, that they only just got through. I'll bet an even penny they've gone a good inch into them niggers."

The boat now reached the steamer, where, after a warm and hearty parting, Bob stepped into the dinghy with Dick, and the remains of the painter were made fast to the cut fragment hanging from the ring.

"Now, if you'll take my advice, Mr Roberts," said the old sailor, "you'll step up and get to your berth, and change your togs, while I get out the fish and wash the dinghy. Being wet won't hurt me. What's more is, as I shouldn't say nought about the scrimmage; specially as we're not hurt, or you won't get leave again."

"But you are hurt, Dick."

"Bah! Don't call that hurt, dear lad. I'm as right as nine-pence. You go on, and think about what I've said."

"I will, Dick," said Bob; "but take care of the fish."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"But I say, Dick."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"How did the dinghy get loose? You must have gone to sleep."

Dick rubbed his ear. "Well, sir, suttunly I think I must have shut one eye; but how the dinghy got loose is more than I can say, unless them spiteful niggers cut us adrift. But you get aboard. We ain't been missed."

But Dick was wrong: they had been missed, and the sentry had reported the coming of the naga-boat; so that as soon as Bob had changed his wet clothes for dry, he had to go to the captain's cabin and relate the whole affair. Those on board merely supposing that they had gone down the river to fish, it was a remark made aloud by the young chief Ali that had started a train of ideas in the first lieutenant's head that something was wrong.

"Ah," said Captain Horton, "that was well done of the young chief. But it seems to me that we've a lot of ugly scoundrels about to deal with, and we must take care, gentlemen, we must take care."

"Yes, Captain Horton," said the first lieutenant, "and we will. But are there no fish there for us, Roberts, eh?" he continued.

"Yes, sir, there are," said Bob. "I've caught you a capital dish. And very nearly got turned into ground bait for my pains," he said to himself, as he went out to find Dick. "I say, Dick," he said, as he met him with the basket of fish, "did you think about crocodiles when you were in the water?"

"No, sir, never once; there was too much to think about beside."

"So there was, Dick," said Bob. "There's sixpence: go and ask them to give you a glass of grog to keep out the cold, but first change your things. I'll take the fish."

"Right, sir," said Dick: but he finished the dinghy first, said that there'd be a row about the cut painter, and then had his glass of grog before he changed his things.



Fresh news reached the residency the next day from the sultan, who sent word that he had had a very threatening letter from Rajah Gantang, declaring that if he did not break at once with the English, ruin, destruction, and death would be his fate before many months had passed.

This threatening language had completely upset the sultan, so the chief who bore the message said, and he begged that his friends and allies, the English, would not let him suffer for his fidelity to them; and when asked what he wished done, the chief replied that while Rajah Gantang lived there would be no peace, for the rajah's emissaries were in every part of the country, ready to carry news, to rise on their lord's behalf, even to assassinate, should their orders be to that extent.

The result of all this was a promise that the rajah should be found, if possible, though how it was to be done the resident could not say.

Just in the nick of time a good-sized prahu came down the river, and on anchoring by the steamer her captain went on board, with a pitiful tale of how he had been treated higher up the river.

Believing the rajah's power to be broken, he had been on his way down, laden with a good cargo of tin, when he was summoned by a prahu to stop. This he refused to do, not knowing who summoned him, when he was attacked by a party from the prahu, two of those on board were killed, and he himself severely wounded.

In proof of his assertions he displayed a spear wound in his arm and the stab of a kris in his shoulder.

Doctor Bolter was sent for, and the master of the prahu had his wounds dressed, after which he implored the help of Captain Horton to recover the slabs of tin that had been taken from his boat, almost ruining him, so severe was the loss.

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