Middy and Ensign
by G. Manville Fenn
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"He sees something in the water," said the lieutenant.

"Crocodile," said Bob; "they like monkey. Look out, Charcoal, or you'll be overboard."

This was on dimly seeing the monkey run along the bulwark, chattering excitedly.

"Help!" came in a hoarse tone from somewhere ahead.

"There's a man overboard," cried the lieutenant. "Pass the word there. Lower down the gig."

There was the sharp pipe of a whistle, and a scuffling of feet, for the hail had electrified the men; but meanwhile the cry was repeated.

"It's some one from the island swimming down to us," said the lieutenant. "Hold on, my lad," he cried, as the cry was repeated nearer and nearer, and then just ahead.

"Quick, sir," cried Bob, "he's holding on by the hawser, whoever he is;" and fully satisfied in his own mind that one of the soldiers had been bathing, and had been swept down by the current, he called out to the swimmer to hold on, but only to hear once more the one hoarse cry, "Help!" and with it a gurgling noise where the bright stars were broken up into a forked stream of tiny points.

So eager was he to cry out to the drowning man that help was coming, that he missed the chance of going himself, but leaned over the bows as the captain's gig, manned with a ready little crew, kissed the water, was unhooked, and ran swiftly along the side; then the oars splashed, and the little, light boat was rapidly rowed to where the great hawser was made fast.

It was so dark that Bob could only dimly make out the round buoy, towards which the gig passed over the water like a shadow.

"Can you see him?" cried the lieutenant, who was once more by Bob Roberts' side.

"No, sir; there's no one here," said the bow-man.

"Help! help!" came in a hoarse whisper just then, exactly below where the two officers leaned over; and they saw that a dark face, that had risen to the surface, was being swept quickly along by the steamer's side.

"Quick, my lads, here he is! Stern all!" cried the lieutenant; and the light gig was backed rapidly in quest of the drowning man; while Bob ran aft as hard as he could go, and climbed out into the mizzen chains, to stare down into the swift current, holding on by one hand.

But he could see nothing, and he was beginning, with throbbing heart, to believe that he was too late—that the wretched man had been swept away before he climbed over, when he caught sight of something just below the surface.

"Here, boat, quick!" he cried; and the bow-man struck his hook into the side, and sent the gig flying through the water.

"Where, sir? where?" cried he in the hoarse voice of Dick.

"There, just below there; I saw him."

For answer Dick leaned over the gig's bows, and thrust down his boat-hook.

"Give way, my lads," he cried, and again and again he thrust down his hook. Then a strange, choking feeling of horror seemed to seize upon the middy, and he felt dizzy as he gazed after the boat in the midst of that weird darkness, which made the event ten times more terrible than if it had been by day.

Just as his heart sank with dread, and he in fancy saw the dead body seized by one or other of the terrible reptiles that swarmed in the river, wondering the while which of the poor men it was, and why they had heard no alarm at the island, Dick's hoarse voice was heard some distance astern, exclaiming in triumph—

"I've got him, my lads! Give way!"



There is a strange kind of stoicism about a Mohammedan that seems to give him an abundance of calmness when he comes face to face with death. He is a fatalist, and quietly says to himself what is to be will be, and he resigns himself to his fate.

The young chief Ali was imbued with all the doctrines of his people; but at the same time he had mixed so with the English that he had learned to look upon life as of too much value to be given up without a desperate struggle. One of his compatriots would have made a fight for his life, and when he had seen all go against him he would have given up without a murmur and looked his slayers indifferently in the face. Ali, however, did not intend to give up without another effort, and though he seemed indifferent, a terrible struggle was going on within his breast. Thoughts of his father, of his new friends, of the bright sunshine of youth, and the future that had been so full of hope, and in which he had meant to do so much to improve his country—all rose before his wandering eyes, and he had meant to seize the first opportunity to escape.

The approach of the kris-armed Malay, though, had been so sudden that all his calculations had been upset, and he had had no time to design a means of escape. He was tightly bound, held by two others, and this man was evidently under orders from the sultan to slay him.

It was useless to struggle, he knew—just as vain to waste his strength, and rob himself of his calmness; so that he felt bound to call up all his fortitude, and with it the fatalistic theories of his race, so that he might die as behoved the son of a great chief.

He drew himself up then, and stood gazing at the man with the kris as calm and motionless as if he had been made of bronze, and awaited the deadly stroke.

This, however, did not come; for in place of delivering a deadly thrust, the Malay roughly seized him by the shoulder, and began to saw away through the prisoner's bonds.

He was so firmly secured that this process took some time, during which Ali, by the strange revulsion that came upon him, felt as if he must fall prone upon his face from sheer giddiness; but by an effort he stood firm till his limbs were set free.

His wrists were painfully marked, and his arms felt numb and helpless, but his first thought, as soon as the ligatures that had held him were off, was how to escape.

His captors read this and smiled, each man drawing his kris and showing it menacingly, while their leader told him that he was a prisoner until the sultan's wishes were known.

"Are you not going to kill me?" said Ali passionately.

"Not yet," was the reply, "unless you try to escape, when we are to kill you like a dog, and throw you into the river."

"But why?" asked Ali; "what have I done?"

"I know nothing," was the surly reply.

"Does my father know of this?" cried Ali.

"I know nothing," said the Malay.

"But you will tell me what your instructions are, and where you are going to place me."

"I know nothing. I tell nothing," said the Malay. "Be silent. That is your prison. If you try to escape, you die."

Ali burned to ask more questions, but he felt that it would be useless, and that he, a chief's son, was only losing dignity by talking to the man, whom he recognised now as being the sultan's most unscrupulous follower, the scoundrel who did any piece of dirty work or atrocity. This was the man who, at his master's wish, dragged away any poor girl from her home to be the sultan's slave; who seized without scruple on gold, tin, rice, or any other produce of the country, in his master's name, and for his use. His hands had been often enough stained with blood, and while wondering at his life being spared so far, Ali had no hesitation in believing that any attempt at escape would be ruthlessly punished by a stab with the kris.

Obeying his captors, then, Ali went into the inner room of the ruined house, and seated himself wearily upon the floor, thinking the while of the hunting expedition, and of the light in which his conduct would be viewed by his friends.

Then he wondered whether his father would send in search of him; but his heart sank as he felt that, in all probability, the Tumongong would be carefully watched by the sultan's orders, and that any movement upon his son's behalf would result in his own death.

Then he began to feel that, if he was to escape, it must be through his own efforts; for he had so little faith in Hamet's nature, that he knew that his existence trembled upon a hair.

He was in an inner room of the house, little better in fact than a bamboo cage. The place was old, but he could see that here and there his prison had been mended with new green bamboos, especially about the flooring, through which he could see down to the earth, some twelve feet below, the sunlight shining up between the short bamboos, just as a few gleams of sunshine came through the attap roof.

There had been a window, but this had been filled in with stout bamboo cross-pieces, through and between which were woven long lengths of rattan; but the weak places had been made strong, and from old experience he knew that, unless armed with a heavy knife, it would be impossible to force a way through the tough wall of bamboo and woven cane.

The place was very gloomy, from the closing of the window; and as he glanced round he could see that his guards had been joined by half-a-dozen more, and that they were making themselves comfortable in the outer place, but in such a position that they could command a full view of his room.

Judging from appearances, they were preparing for a lengthened stay, for some of them were arranging cooking utensils; others placing pieces of dammar, a sort of fossil gum, of a pale blue tint, and very inflammable, ready for lighting up the part of the house where they were assembled.

After a time one of the number made ready the meal, for which his companions seemed to be impatiently waiting; and first of all a portion, consisting of broiled fish, some fruit, and sago, was brought to the prisoner, who, before partaking thereof, was rigorously searched, to see if he still bore any arms about his person. Satisfied upon this point, the Malays left him with his food, and proceeded to feast themselves, after which some began smoking, and some betel-chewing.

It was evident to Ali that he was to be kept a close prisoner; and as he lay there upon the bamboo floor, with his untouched food before him, he began to think out his position, and to calculate as to the possibility of escape.

How was it to be done?

His guards were so watchful that his slightest movements drew two or three pairs of eyes upon him, and he knew of old how quick they were of hearing. He felt assured that they would take it in turns to sleep, and hence he would have no opportunity of eluding their vigilance. Still he was hopeful, for there is an elasticity in the mind of youth which some things dash, when the spirit of middle or old age would be broken.

If he stayed where he was, sooner or later he felt sure that Hamet would be weary of the trouble he caused, and give orders for his death. So escape he must. But why should Hamet give orders for his death? Why should he wish him to be kept a close prisoner?

It was a puzzle that he could not solve; but at last, as he lay there thinking, the light broke more and more into the darkness of his mind.

It would be, he was sure, something to do with his intimacy with the English; and if so, Hamet's friendship was false.

Ali had suspected him for some time; and as he lay thinking, it seemed to him that he was correct in surmising that though Hamet was sincere enough, perhaps, when he made his first arrangements for the reception of a resident, the act had given such annoyance to several of the neighbouring Malay princes, notably to Rajah Gantang, that in his fear for his personal safety the sultan had repented of the arrangement, or had been coerced by those who might, he knew, in spite of the English being at hand, secretly have him assassinated.

This being the case, then, what should he do?

It was still a hard problem to solve, but as he went on thinking, Ali's brow grew damp, for he started upon a strange current of reasoning.

Sultan Hamet knew little of the English power. Certainly, they had good fighting men and guns; but they were small in number, and he might easily overcome them, and the people at Singapore or Penang would not dare to send more. If they did, the new contingent could be served the same as the old.

Ali's blood turned cold. Certain little things, which had only slightly roused his curiosity, now assumed an ominous significance; and as he thought, he started hastily into a sitting position.

This movement caused his guards to turn upon him; and seeing that he had excited their curiosity, he bent down over the supply of food placed for him, and began to eat as calmly as if nothing whatever troubled his spirit. But all the same, he was wet with perspiration, and his heart beat painfully; for the light had come, and he saw plainly enough that something was wrong.

This was why he was a prisoner. Hamet knew of his intimacy with the young Englishmen, and feared that he would learn his plans and communicate them at the residency, perhaps to their defeat.

There was danger, then, threatening those whom he had made his friends. Hamet had yielded to the taunts of Rajah Gantang and others, and also given up to his own desire for revenge.

The resident had offered him a deadly insult in refusing to listen to the matrimonial proposal, and also in refusing to give up the slaves who had taken refuge with him.

Here was plenty of cause for hatred—a hatred that had been concealed under a mask of smiles; and now it was evident that Hamet meant to strike a blow at the English, destroying them, gaining possession of their arms and stores, and—the thought made him shudder as he pretended to be eating—get the two tenderly-nurtured ladies into his power.

How and when would this be done? Ali asked himself, and again came a flash of light, and he saw it all plainly enough. A trap had been laid for the English, and they were walking into it—that hunting-party!

It was all plain enough; the English force would be divided. A part would be marched to some suitable part of the jungle, miles away, and beyond the reach of their friends, where even the sounds of firing could not be heard, and then they would be set upon, and butchered in cold blood, most likely during their sleep.

This was the tiger-hunt, then, with the unfortunate English party being led directly into the tiger's lair!

It was terrible! The young man's face became convulsed with horror as he thought of the massacre that must ensue, and then of the surprise of those on the island and on the ship. Treachery, he knew, would be brought to bear in both cases, and here was he, knowing all, and yet unable to stir.

At all hazards, even that of death, he must make the venture, and warn those in peril; but where must he go first?

A moment decided that.

To the steamer and the island, and afterwards to the hunting-party; which would be easy enough to follow by their track, if they had gone.

In the eager impulse of the determination, he sprang to his feet to go, but as he did so three Malays sprang to their feet, and each man drew his kris.



The menacing act on the part of his captors brought Ali back to a sense of his position, and he stood there, gazing from one to the other, thinking what he should do.

Unarmed as he was, any attempt at violence was utter madness, and that he knew; so after a few moments' thought he made a sign for the chief man of the party to advance, which he did cautiously, and with his weapon held ready to strike.

Seeing his suspicion, Ali smiled, and threw himself on the floor, where, resting on one elbow, he began to appeal to the man to let him go, but only to find his words listened to in solemn silence.

The young chief then began to offer him bribes, one after the other, making the man's eyes glisten when he promised him his double gun; but directly after the man made a negative sign, merely told him to finish his meal, and returned to the outer room.

What was he to do? The more he thought of the suspicions that had entered his mind, the more certain did he become that he was right; and his sufferings became terrible, as in imagination he saw a treacherous attack made upon those he esteemed as friends, and the whole party put to death.

Could he not escape? It would not take him so very long to make his way to the river, where, if he could not seize upon a boat, he might swim down to the island, risking the crocodiles; though, somewhat unnerved by his late adventure, he felt a shudder run through him at the recollection of the grip of the loathsome beast.

Yes, he must get away, he said. He must elude the vigilance of the people who watched him, and by some means escape. Once in the jungle-path, with anything like a start, he did not feel much fear.

The hunt was to be on the next day but one, and that would give him ample time to devise some plan. He would require all his strength, so he must eat; and though the act went against him, he set to and ate of the food provided, then leaned back and half-closed his eyes, knowing full well that his every act was still watched by those who had made him a prisoner.

What should he do?

Bribery with the chief of the party was evidently useless, for though he had promised any price the man liked to name, he would not listen; though that was no cause for surprise, since if the man helped the young chief to escape, his own life would be forfeit, unless he could escape from the country.

But there were his followers, he might be able to win one of them to his side, could he get at him, and that could only be achieved by throwing the leader to some extent off his guard.

Even if he could enlist the sympathy of one of the others, Ali felt in no wise sure of success. Better, he thought, to trust to himself, and try to escape.

His anxiety grew momentarily greater, even though he knew the hunting-party would not set off until another day had elapsed, while, try hard as he would, he could devise no scheme that seemed likely to succeed.

Through his half-closed eyes he scanned every part of the closely-woven walls, to see if he could make out a weak place in his prison, but not one appeared; then turning, as if restlessly, he gazed up at the palm-thatched roof to see if there was any opening there; but even if there had been, he saw the hopelessness of trying, and at last he lay still with a dull feeling of despair creeping over him.

Night fell at last, and he saw his captors light a couple of dammar-torches, with whose light they were able to see distinctly his every act; and then he noticed that three of the men took up the task of watching him, while the others slept.

The hours rolled on, and, perfectly sleepless himself, Ali lay upon a couple of mats that had been brought him, listening to the heavy breathing of the men in the next room, and to the weird noises in the jungle, where the animals that had lain hidden all day were now prowling about, close to the ruined buildings, as if attracted by the presence of human beings in their midst.

Never had night seemed so long, or day so slow in coming; but at last as Ali lay watching he suddenly became aware that the dammar-torches, lit by each watching party in turn, were beginning to pale, and that it was once more day.

That day passed away in the most weary and monotonous manner. Sleepless as had been the young chief's night, he still felt no desire to close his eyes, but lay watching and thinking. Still no hopeful idea entered his head. The men were watched, he found, by their leader, who seemed to sleep so lightly that he was upon his feet the moment any of his followers moved.

Ali tried him again twice in the course of that day, but found him incorruptible; do what he would, the highest promises having no more effect than the lowest.

"No," he said once, grimly; "if I let you escape, all you gave me would not save my life."

"Who would dare to hurt you?" exclaimed Ali.

The man smiled sourly, and made no reply, but walked away.

That day glided by, and still no chance of escape. Food was brought, and Ali ate mechanically, feeling that he might need his strength when he did make the effort to get away; but still there seemed no chance. Walls, floor, roof, all were slight, and yet too strong for him to make any impression upon them, unless he could have had a few minutes to himself; then he would not have despaired of getting through. Sometimes he resolved to make a bold dash, run by his guards, and, leaping down by the entrance, trust to his swiftness to escape; but a few minutes' consideration taught him that such a plan must result in failure. His only hope was to elude the men.

Why did not his father try and save him? he asked himself; and then he sank back despairing again, wondering what he should do.

Then he tried his guard again upon another tack—would he, if he would not let him escape, bear a message to the residency island?

The man replied by a stern negative; and, as night came on, Ali determined to escape at all hazards.

The next morning the party would be starting for the hunt—a hunt from which, he felt sure, they would never return. Then it was certain that a treacherous attack would be made upon the ship and the island, and yet here he lay supine, knowing all this, and yet unable to act.

Night fell, and with the intention of making a bold rush through the outer room when half the watchers were asleep, Ali lay, watching hour after hour for an opportunity.

Time went on, and it seemed as if the leader would never lie down; he always seemed to have something more to say to his followers. But at last he threw himself on the floor, and seemed to sleep.

The time had come.

Three men sat there watching him, their swarthy faces glistening in the light of the torches. All was dark without, and the low growling noise of beasts was once more heard in close proximity to the place. Still they would not keep him back. He could risk an encounter with one of them, even death, sooner than this fearful torture.

At last he turned softly, and drew up one leg, watching his guards the while.

They did not hear him, and he drew up the other leg.

Still no notice was taken; and softly rising to his hands and knees, Ali remained motionless, nerving himself for the supreme effort.

The men were talking in a low voice, the sleepers breathed hard, and now was the moment. Rising then to his feet, he was about to make a rush across the room; he had even stooped to give impetus to his spring, when the chief of his guards leaped up, kris in hand, the others following the example, and Ali shrank back disheartened, and fully awake now to the fact that some one had been watching him all the time.

To struggle with them would only have been to throw away his life; so, with his heart full of despair, Ali allowed himself to be pressed back to his old position, where he lay down, his captor telling him savagely that the orders were to kill him if he attempted to escape.

"And we shall," said the Malay, "sooner than lose you."

His words were uttered in a tone of voice, that told his hearer of the sincerity of that which was spoken. Ali knew the character of the Malays too well to entertain any doubt. There would not be the slightest compunction in the matter; and knowing this, he lay there watching the men, as they slowly settled down once more around the blazing dammar-torch they had replenished.

One coolly replaced his kris, and proceeded to get ready his betel for a fresh chew, calmly taking a sirih leaf, spreading upon it a little creamy lime from a tiny box, and rolling in it a scrap of nut, his red-stained teeth looking ogre-like in the torch-light.

Another set-to and prepared to smoke, making himself a pipe in a very few minutes out of a piece of green bamboo, cutting it off close to the joint, and then a little above it for a bowl, in one side of which he made a hole, and thrust in a little reed for a stem. In this sylvan pipe he placed some broken leaf of the coarse Malay tobacco, and began to smoke contentedly; while the third watcher helped himself to a piece of sugar-cane, and began peeling off the harsh, siliceous envelope, and then eating the sweet soft interior.

The leader had at once lain down, and seemed to have gone off to sleep; but of that Ali could not be sure.

He had failed; but Ali was not yet disheartened, and he lay there, thinking that he would risk life over and over again to warn his friends; but still he had to consider that if he lost his life he would not be serving them in the slightest degree, even if they should see his disfigured body float down.

What could he do?

If he had only possessed a little toobah, that creeping plant whose roots the Malays used for drugging the fish, some of that, he thought, infused in the food of his guards, would send them into a state of stupefaction, and give him time to escape.

He smiled directly after as he thought of this, and lay back wearily, thinking of what folly it was to form such bubble-like ideas; for of course it would have been impossible, even had he possessed the drug, to get it mingled with his captors' food.

No, he felt he must wait now, and trust to their dropping off to sleep, when he might still manage to crawl to the doorway, leap down, and dash into the jungle.

As he lay thinking, the hard breathing of a couple of the Malays could be plainly heard, and his hopes rose, for the others must grow weary, sooner or later, and fall asleep. The noises in the jungle increased; and as he lay with his cheek against the bamboo flooring, the sounds came up very plainly between the interstices. Now it was the heavy crashing of the reeds, the rustling of some animal going through the dense undergrowth, and then, unmistakeably, the low, snarling roar of a tiger. Now it was distant—now close at hand, and he knew that one of the great, cat-like creatures was answering another. How close it seemed! He could almost fancy that the tiger was beneath the house, hiding in the reedy grass that had sprung up amidst the ruins.

Two of the Malays moved about uneasily, and they lit a fresh torch, an act that set Ali thinking of cases he had known, in which tigers had sprung up eight or ten feet to the platform of a house, and seized and borne off its occupants one after the other.

If only one of the monsters would perform such a good office for him now, he would be able to escape in the midst of the confusion, perhaps into the jaws of another.

Well, if he did; what then? he asked himself. Better trust to chance in the jungle, than be left to the tender mercies of these men.

The roars came louder and nearer, close up at last, and the Malays seized their limbings, and stood with the keen points advanced towards the entrance; but their leader sulkily rose, took one of the dammar-torches, made it blaze a little, and going boldly towards the door, waited till a snarling roar came close at hand, when he hurled it with all his might in the tiger's direction.

There was a savage, deep-mouthed, hollow yell, and the crash of brittle reeds, telling that the tiger had rushed away, alarmed at the fire; when the man came slowly back, said something to his companions, who resumed their seats, while he seemed to lie down and go off to sleep.

Seemed, Ali felt; for after his late experience, he was sure that if any attempt were made to cross the room this watchful Malay would immediately rise to his feet and confront him.

Ali was intensely agitated. The expedition was to start the next morning, and if he did not warn them, they would be marching, he was sure, right into the jaws of death. Still the night was young as yet, and some opportunity might occur.

The light from the torches flickered and danced in the night air, and cast strange shadows about the place. From where he lay he could see the forms of his guards, huge and distorted, against the woven reed and bamboo walls, their every movement being magnified and strange. In his own part, from time to time he could see the bright green growth that had forced itself through the palm-thatch, and trace every bamboo rafter, save where, in places, all was in profound darkness.

How dreamy and strange it all seemed! There was the distant roaring of the tigers, growing more and more faint; the soft sighing of the night wind, and the rustle of the dry grass as some creature, on its nocturnal hunt for food, brushed through. Time was going by fast, but still the night was not nearly past, and the opportunity might come.

Surely, he thought, the leader was asleep now; he had moved uneasily two or three times, and was now lying motionless upon his back. One of the other men, too—the watchers—had let his chin sink upon his breast, and the other two looked heavy and dull.

His heart rose high with hope, for surely the chance of escape was going to be his.

The torches were growing dim, and if not soon replenished with fresh dammar, they would both be out; but no one stirred to touch them.

Ali waited, with every nerve drawn tight to its utmost strain, and he was ready for the rush, but he hung back, for fear too great precipitancy should spoil his chance; and he watched and watched, lying there till, to his great joy, one of the torches went completely out, and the other was failing.

Would either of the Malays move?

No, they were asleep; and the second torch gave out but a dim glimmer, as Ali rose, softly as a cat, and going on all fours, began to make what he felt was his final trial to get free.

He crept on nearer and nearer, but no one stirred. On he went, till he was close to his guards—so near that he could have stretched out a hand and touched them—but still no one moved. Their leader seemed now to be the most soundly asleep of the party, and so intensely excited did the fugitive become that it was all he could do to master himself and keep from rising up and rushing to the open door, through which the cool night wind now began to fan his cheeks.

He kept down the exciting feelings, though, by a mighty effort, and crawled softly on, as the second dammar-torch burned out, and all was darkness.

He passed the last man, and was now out well in the middle of the great room, with the open doorway before him, dimly seen like a square patch of star-lit sky. The hard breathing of the sleepers came regularly, and there was the low sighing of the wind without, then the softened, distant roar of a tiger, heard again and again, and repeated far more distantly. Then all was very still: the only noise being the faint rustle of his sarong, as he crept on nearer and nearer to the opening, from whence he meant to lower himself silently and make straight for the river, and try to find a boat.

It was hard work to keep crawling along there, inch by inch, lest the bamboos should creak. They bent and yielded to his weight over and over again, and twice over they gave so loud a noise that Ali paused, listening for the movement of his guards, meaning then to spring up and flee. Still no one moved, and in spite of his intense desire to make a bold rush, he crept on, knowing how great would be his advantage if he could get off without waking his guards, and free from the pursuit of a party following upon his track like a pack of hungry hounds.

Not two yards from the door now, and it seemed as if he would never reach it. His breath came thick and fast, and his heart throbbed so that he felt the bamboos over which he crawled vibrate, but still no one moved.

Another yard gained, and still all was darkness and silence, while the strain upon his nerves seemed greater than they could bear.

The last yard, and he grasped the bamboos to lower himself softly down, when there was a rush, a cry, a hurriedly-spoken order, and the Malays, who seemed to have divined that he was there, dashed across the floor in pursuit.

Ali told himself that he must not be taken, and dropping to the earth, he dashed across the reed and grass-grown space, and made for the jungle-path, meaning to follow it for a certain distance, and then strike off at the first opening across to the river.

To have attempted the jungle at once would have been utter madness, for he could not have forced his way a dozen yards through the tangled growth. All he could do was to trust to swiftness of foot and follow the track, and that was horribly overgrown. Thorns caught and tore his baju and sarong, rattan canes tripped him up, or were so woven across his path that he had to leap over them, when the upper boughs beat and lashed his face; but still he tore on, with his pursuers close behind. He could hear their shouts, and almost distinguish their breathing, as they panted on close behind him.

It was terrible work, and he felt himself at this disadvantage, that he was clearing the way down the little-used jungle-path for his pursuers, while every now and then he stepped into an elephant-hole, and nearly fell heavily. The tracks left by the huge beasts were in places very deep, but somehow Ali seemed to save himself just as he was on the point of falling.

On still through the intense darkness, and his pursuers close behind. The nearest, he seemed to feel, was the leader of the party; and as he listened to his heavy breathing, and fancied that the man was gaining upon him, the keen kris he held in his hand nearly grazed his shoulder.

A dozen times over, with the desperation of some hunted beast, Ali would have turned at bay and faced this man, but he knew that it meant death or capture, for the others were close behind, while he was quite unarmed.

And what did death or capture mean? The destruction or those whom he was trying to save.

Feeling this, he toiled on, with heart throbbing, his breath coming thickly, and his limbs growing more heavy moment by moment. At first he had bounded along like a frightened deer, but the terrible nature of the jungle through which he was struggling soon began to tell upon him, and the bounding pace settled down into a weary trot.

There was this, however, in his favour; the ground was very bad for his pursuers, and though eager to overtake him, they were not moved by the same intense desire as himself.

On still, and he was once more nearly down. Something lashed his face, then he tripped again once more, and the jungle, as he staggered up, seemed to grow more intensely dark. That vindictive enemy was close behind, and he had struck at him twice with his keen weapon. Then, as he panted on, he came upon first one and then another animal, which bounded away into close growth, while the poor hunted wretch could hardly drag one leg before the other.

Still he struggled on through the darkness, till feeling his pursuer close at hand, he roused all his remaining strength and leaped forward, caught his foot in a mass of interwoven creeping plants, and fell. He made one effort to rise, but his strength was gone, and he had only time to throw himself over and get his hands at liberty, as his pursuer threw himself down upon him, clutched him by the throat, and, raising his kris, was about to plunge it into the prostrate young man's breast.

But Ali was too quick. In spite of his weakness and the suffocating sensation caused by his position, he made a snatch at the descending arm, caught it, and stopped the blow, and then they both lay there panting and exhausted, chaser and chased, unable to do more than gaze into each other's eyes, as the jungle now began to grow lighter, and Ali could see the gleam of the deadly kris just above his head.

They were terrible moments; the oppression was so great that he could hardly breathe, and at the same time he felt himself growing weaker and weaker. There was the baleful glare of his enemy's eyes, and the gleam of the kris growing each moment nearer, and he powerless to arrest it. Only a few moments, and in spite of his brave resistance all would be over, and those he sought to save would be lost.

The thought of the friends at the residency nerved him to the final effort, and with a wild cry he drew himself up, and tried to throw his enemy from his chest—his enemy, whose eyes and weapon glared down at him so, and summoning all his strength, he felt that he had succeeded.

Panting heavily, Ali started up, but the gleam was about him still, for the bright rays of the morning sun were shining down through the attap roof, and with a moan of misery he sank back once more on finding that he had been overcome by weariness, and that this last painful episode was only a dream.

And his friends that he meant to save—what of them? Ali lay back and closed his eyes, for his misery seemed greater than he could bear.



As Ali lay back there with closed eyes, it seemed impossible that he could have slept and dreamed all this, but it was plain enough now. He had but to unclose his eyes and see the Malays in the outer room, and listen to the twittering of the small birds, the screams of the parrots, and the cry uttered from time to time by some monkey.

Where was his manhood? he asked himself—where his keen desire to escape and help his friends? He felt half-maddened to think that he should have slept and neglected them, not sparing himself for a moment, and never once palliating what he called his crime by trying to recall the fact that he had not slept the previous night, and that he had been completely exhausted.

There was the fact staring him in the face; he had been lying there thinking of escaping, and listening to the cries of the prowling tigers, and—"Stop," he asked himself, "where did the reality end and dreaming begin? Did he see the Malay get up and hurl a torch out of the open door, and then come back and lie down?"

Yes, he felt sure that was true, but where that which he was watching shaded off into dreamland, he could not tell.

It was weak, perhaps, but the scalding tears rose and filled his eyes, and when he passionately dashed them away and sat up, he felt ready to make a fierce rush through his guard, and either escape or die.

He was on the point of risking all in some such mad attempt when two of the men came in, proceeded to make a careful inspection of the place where he was, and then sat down just in the opening, getting up soon afterwards, though, to make way for another, who brought in some food on fresh plantain leaves, rice freshly boiled with fowl, and curry made with freshly-grated cocoa-nut and peppers. There was an abundance of fruit, too, but Ali looked at it all with a feeling of disgust. He had no desire to eat.

The men left the food on its fresh green leaves before him, and went out to their own meal, while the prisoner sat thinking that the expedition had by this time started, for he had slept long in spite of his troublous dream. Then his thoughts turned to the steamer and Bob Roberts, whose frank, happy face was always before him, and then somehow he thought of the steamer and its powerful engine, and how it was kept going with fuel and water; and that set him thinking of himself. How was he to help his friends if he let himself get weak for want of food.

The result was, that he ate a few grains of rice, when the want of appetite disappeared, and he went on and made a very hearty meal. He felt annoyed, though, directly after, to find his captors smile as they came to remove the fragments of his feast.

Then began once more the terrible hours of anxiety, during which he paced up and down his prison like some wild beast, his guards squatting outside, and watching him in the most imperturbable manner, as they chewed their betel, or varied it by smoking.

So long as he seemed disposed to make no effort to escape they were civil enough, one offering him, betel, another Java tobacco, an object much-prized by the Malays, but he did not take them, only fixed his eyes jealously upon their weapons, and longed to snatch them away, and in some desperate action to calm the suffering he endured.

Every now and then he listened, fancying he could hear the distant sound of firing, and he shuddered as he fancied that the massacre had already begun. But he was soon compelled to own that it was all fancy, and wearied out, he laid himself down again to try and scheme a way of escape.

The day slowly advanced, and the heat became intense, in spite of the shadow in which he lay. A few light gleams came in through thin places in the roof, but they only seemed to make the room darker, for a couple of the Malays had been busy stopping up a small hole or two near the closed window. Now and then some busy fly or crawling beetle took his attention, or a nimble lizard in chase of an insect, and he thought of the native proverb, as he saw how patiently the lizard crept along after its intended victim, and waited its time until with unerring certainty it could make its stroke.

He told himself that he must take a lesson from the quiet little reptile, and await his time.

And so the day wore on, every hour convincing him more and more of the impossibility of escape, unless some change should take place in the arrangements.

One gleam of hope came to him, and that was afforded by the restlessness of his guard. They seemed to be expecting some one, and watch was evidently kept for his arrival, but as the evening drew near there was no change, and the hope that the expected messenger might have been about to order them to convey him elsewhere—to a place perhaps affording a better chance of escape, died away.

True, the hope had been mingled with a sense of dread, for he felt that if a messenger had come he might have been bearer of an order to put him to death. But no one arrived, the sun was sinking fast, and his agony on the increase, for night was close at hand, with no prospect of his being able to convey the ill news he had to his friends.

The heat had been terrible to him in his excited state, and the evening breeze that now came whispering through the leaves seemed but little better. The men in the next room had twice over brought him food and water, and they were now busily preparing their dammar-torches, a couple of which were soon burning brightly, sending a warm glow like a golden band right across the prisoner's room, leaving both sides in the shade.

Worn-out with weariness of mind and body, Ali lay there at last, telling himself that he ought to follow the example of his compatriots, and calmly accept the inevitable.

But that he could not do, for he lay there fuming with impatience, and watching the outer room for a chance of escape. That did not come, for the party were more watchful than ever; and at last he sank back, feeling that all was over, and praying that warning might be given to those in danger, in some other way.

For the sake of coolness he was lying away from his mat, on the bamboo floor, between the rough pieces of which the night air came up, mingled with the sweet odours of the forest; and as he lay there, with his head throbbing from the mental excitement, while his guards were talking together in a low voice, Ali began to wonder whether he should hear the tiger prowling about the place that night. Then he began to think of the midshipman and the ensign, and he tried to comfort himself with the idea that the English were very brave, and might read Sultan Hamet a severe lesson instead of being beaten.

These thoughts were just crossing his mind, when he started, for it seemed to him that there was something rising close at hand, and then a faint touch.

This was evidently heard only by himself, for no one in the outer place had moved.

Ali felt a strange shudder pass through him, for the noise was just that which a large serpent would make as it forced its way between some old pieces of woodwork, and this was just the place for some monster to make its haunt. It had evidently been temporarily driven away, but had now in the silence of the evening returned to its home in the deserted house.

Ali was as brave as most young fellows of his age, but at the same time he shrank from contact with such a loathsome beast, and lay motionless, wondering whether it would pass him by, and then half-resolving to call the men to come with lights.

He was on the point of shouting to them, but he hesitated as his alarm might be foolish, and the noise be caused by some inoffensive creature.

He lay there listening, and as he did so he suddenly felt paralysed, for something touched his hand. The contact had such an effect upon him that he could not move.

It was a serpent, he was sure, for it felt cold and damp, and—there it was again, evidently coming up between the bamboos of the floor, and seeking about, and—Why, it was a hand, and it grasped his wrist! Ali wanted to call aloud, but he felt as if suffering from nightmare; to leap up, but he felt helpless, and lay bathed in perspiration. He knew what it was now; some miscreant beneath the house, seeking out where he lay.

He knew of plenty of cases where men had been assassinated by an enemy finding out where they slept in a room, and then quietly going beneath in the night, and thrusting his kris between the bamboos.

This, then, was the way in which he was to be slain—as if it had been done by some stranger. One of his guards then must be beneath the house, though he had not heard one go out.

And yet, knowing all this, he could not stir, but lay as if stunned, till the blood that had been frozen seemed suddenly to start in rapid action, and his veins began to throb, for instead of the blade of a kris being thrust remorselessly into his side, the handle was softly pushed through against his hand.

This was a friend then below him, and had he had any doubt before, the soft pressure of a hand upon his told him that he was right, for there was a ring upon one finger that touched his, whose form he recognised. It was his father's ring, and he had come at the risk of losing his own life to save his son's.

For a few moments hand pressed hand. Then Ali's was drawn softly down between the bamboos, and two hands placed it under one of the long, split canes upon which he was lying, held it there, and then pressed it upwards.

Ali was puzzled. He dare not speak, neither did the Tumongong below venture so much as to whisper, but kept on forcing his son's hand upwards.

There was a faint creak, and then the light came into Ali's puzzled brain. It was plain enough now; this bamboo had been loosened at one end, for it gave way; and the young man's heart throbbed painfully, as he felt that the way of escape was open. He had but to wait his time, and then softly raise this one broad, split cane, to make space enough to let himself slide through into the open space beneath the post-supported house. Then the jungle was before him, and it was his own fault if he did not escape in the darkness.

He left off clasping the broad, split bamboo, and stretched out his hand once more to clasp that of his father, in expression of his thankfulness; but though he reached out in all directions, striving to grasp the loving hand that had brought help, there was nothing near, and Ali felt as if in a dream, till his other hand touched the kris that was now beneath his chest.

It was his right arm that was forced down between the bamboos, and he was consequently lying over upon his chest, when, to his horror, he heard a noise, and saw the principal of his guards seize a torch and enter the room, kris in hand.

For a moment Ali felt that he must spring up, kris in hand, and fight for his life. Fortunately he lay still and feigned sleep, his heart beating heavily, as he hoped to conceal the loosened bamboo with his body, as well as the kris.

The Malay looked curiously round the room, and held his dammar-torch on high, as he peered here and there. Not that he had heard a sound, but he was evidently suspicious, or else extra careful.

Ali lay motionless and breathing heavily, but with a choking sensation in his breast, as he felt that now, just when escape was open to him, he had been discovered. He was in such a state of excitement that he was ready to spring up and attack his guard, should he make any sign of having found out what had taken place; but though the man held the torch here and there, and walked round the room before coming back and bending down over Ali, as if to see whether he was asleep, he saw nothing.

Then a fresh dread assailed the prisoner. Why was this man bending over him, and did he mean evil against him?

Ali would have given anything to have been able to turn round and face his enemy, but to have made the slightest movement would have been to show that he had a kris beneath him, and his arm right through between the bamboos, so the young man lay perfectly still, mastered his emotion as best he could, and waited for what seemed an unreasonable space of time, till the Malay slowly moved off into the outer room, and sticking his torch in the floor, seated himself with his companions, and began to smoke.

Panting with excitement, Ali lay there in the darkness, and for some time not daring to move; but at last, watching the effect upon his guards the while, he made an uneasy movement and muttered a few unintelligible words.

The men looked up for a moment, but afterwards paid no heed; and finding this so, Ali secured the kris in the folds of his sarong, after softly withdrawing his arm from between the bamboos of the floor.

To his great delight, he found them very loose; and after waiting a reasonable time, and until his guards seemed to be settled, he softly raised the one that was loose, and rolled it, as it were, over on to the side, leaving a narrow opening through the floor.

Just as he did so, a low, snarling growl close at hand announced the return of the tiger.

This was terrible; for if he descended now, he was going from one danger to another, and his position was pitiable. At any moment the Malays might come in and see that the bamboo had been moved; and now all he had to do was to squeeze down through the opening, and glide away into the darkness.

There was the snarling growl again. The tiger evidently scented prey, and it came closer and closer. In fact, Ali felt that it was quite possible that the beast might spring up at the opening to seize him.

What could he do but wait?

His patience was rewarded; for as the great cat came prowling nearer, one of the Malays, who was uneasy at its presence, seized a torch, as had been done the past night; the others standing ready with their spears, advanced, and waiting until the animal seemed ready to make a spring at the door, he hurled the blazing piece of dammar, overturning the second torch in the act, one of his companions trampling it out, to save the floor from being set alight.

There was a snarling yell, once more followed by a loud shout from the Malays, when the tiger was heard to bound heavily away through the jungle, its yell being answered by another tiger some distance away.

Now was Ali's time. The Malays were talking, and trying to relight the torch, the place being in total darkness; and without a moment's hesitation the prisoner softly let himself down through the long narrow slit, lower and lower, till he reached his waist, where the kris stopped his further descent.

This was horrible, as he was as it were caught in the narrow hole, and he could not get the kris out from the folds of his silken sarong.

The Malays, though, were busy over their light; and freeing the weapon at last, he let himself glide down lower and lower, but not without noise, for there was hardly room for him to pass, and he began to tremble, lest his head should refuse to go through.

At any moment his guards might come in and find him in this helpless state, for he dared not hurry, but had to literally force his way down till he had only his head and shoulders above, his eyes glaring wildly in the direction of the outer room, where the Malays were talking.

By sheer force of muscle he sustained himself, as he hung at length with his head only in the room, and to his horror he found that it would not pass through; for he was opposite two of the knots of the bamboo, and strive how he would, he could not manage to get himself a little way along, to where the wood curved in.

Just then a light flashed upon his face, and he saw that his guards had succeeded in re-illumining their room; while to his horror, he now found that they were coming in to him.

With a tremendous effort, and feeling now that it was no time to study about noise, Ali forced himself a little way along, but in doing so slipped, and hung by his head, fixed between the bamboos, as the leader of his captors entered, uttered a shout, and made a bound forward to seize him.

That did it!

Had he come forward carefully, he could have seized his helpless prisoner; but this leap on the elastic, hollow canes bent one down, and set Ali free, his guard uttering a shout of rage as his captive literally slipped through his fingers, Ali's head disappearing from the light of the torch, and revealing the long narrow slit, looking dark and strange, in the floor.

"Quick, the door!" shouted the Malay, as he tried to force himself down through the slit—but had to struggle back, giving Ali moments to recover himself from the painful shock he had sustained; and when the man had reached the door, torch in hand, and leaped down to where his men were hurrying here and there, it was for the light to gleam for a moment on Ali's bright, silken baju, as he plunged into the jungle, forty yards away.



As has been said, Ali suffered quite a shock from the jerk he received in escaping from his prison, and had his captors rushed down directly, his attempt would have resulted in failure; but the effort made by the Malay to follow him afforded the prisoner time to recover a little, to struggle up from where he had fallen, and to stagger off in a strange confused state, feeling all the while as if his head had been wrenched off.

Each moment, however, gave him force; he heard the shouts of the men as they leaped down from the platform; and as the light of the torch flashed upon his path, he seemed to regain his strength, and ran on with his guards in full pursuit.

The young man set his teeth hard, and grasped the weapon supplied to him by his father's hand. He was far from being bloodthirsty; contact with the English had softened and changed his nature, but in those fierce moments the feeling was upon him strong that he could slay or be slain sooner than give up his liberty once more.

He recalled his dream of the early morning as he dashed on, and wondered whether the leader was the first man in the pursuit, and whether they two would engage in deadly strife.

He glanced back, but he could not tell; and hurrying on, he kept recalling the difficulties he had encountered in his dream— elephant-holes—woven undergrowth—trailing canes—the hundred obstacles of a jungle, and wondered that he kept so well in the darkness to the path, and was able to progress at so swift a pace.

Not that it was swift, for he had to proceed very cautiously, but it was fast enough to enable him to keep well ahead of his pursuers, who had to make sure that they did not pass him on the way.

But this easy going was not to last, for he found the jungle track grew worse, and to his horror he found that his pursuers were gaining upon him rapidly. The light the first man carried enabled them to see a few yards in advance and make sure their steps, while he had what seemed like a black wall rising in front of him, into which he had to plunge as it were, and often and often found that he was straying from the track.

At last he strayed so far from it that his pursuers came up rapidly, their light showing him the path he had lost. He was about to make a rush for it, when the thought struck him that they might pass him unseen, and, crouching down, to his great delight he found that they did pass on—the whole party—leaving him to deliberate on what course he should pursue.

The simplest plan seemed to be to turn back, but that would be taking him away from the river, which he felt would be his saving to reach, and to gain that he must pursue the track his guards were upon.

After all, if he kept at a distance this was the safest plan. His enemies carried a light, and he would therefore be able to see them when they returned, if return they did; and to his great delight he remembered now that some distance ahead there was a track which led right away from the present one towards the river, making a shorter cut.

He did not stop to think, but at once followed the course taken by his guards, hastening his steps till he was pretty close behind—so close that he could hear their voices, and see the flaring of the torch through the undergrowth.

This went on for nearly an hour, when the Malays awakened fully to the fact that their prisoner had not gone in that direction, and they returned upon their track so suddenly that Ali had barely time to force his way in amongst the canes and crouch down, silent and breathless, before they were back, and were passing the place where the young man was hidden, when the bearer of the torch saw the broken canes and leaves, and drew attention thereto.

"Tiger!" said the man nearest to him, and he pointed to some footprints which were sufficiently recent to satisfy the other, and to Ali's great relief they passed on.

For a few moments he had felt that he was once more a prisoner, and now he breathed freely again, and waiting till the last rustle of the canes and undergrowth had died away with the faint gleam of the torch, he crept painfully out from amidst the thorny undergrowth, and continued his retreat.

He paused from time to time to listen, but all was silent now, and almost feeling his way through the dark forest, he pressed on, gladdened now and then by a glimpse of the starry sky, he continued his course, till he reached the edge of the river, rolling swift and dark through the midst of the dense forest.

All had heard the strange sounds on either side of the dark track he had come along, more than once shuddering slightly as he heard the cry of a tiger or the curious coo-ai of the argus pheasant, but nothing sounded so pleasant to him during his exciting retreat as the strange, low, untiring rush of the great river.

There was no noisy babbling, but a soft, low, hissing rush, as the swift stream hurried amidst the stones and water-washed roots of the trees upon the banks.

He had hoped to find a boat somewhere about the end of the track, where there was a wretched campong; but there did not seem to be a single sampan, and he tramped wearily down the bank, till he came near the houses opposite the island.

He dared go no further along the bank, lest he should be seized; and he stood in the shade of a tree at last, thinking of what he should do.

But one course was open to him, and that was to swim out into the swift stream, and make for the head of the island, where, to his great delight, all seemed perfectly still, and free from alarm. How long it would keep so, he could not say.

There was no other way for him, and being a swift swimmer he hesitated no longer, but throwing off his baju and sarong, he walked out as far as he could and swam boldly towards the head of the island, where he meant to land.

To his horror he found a couple of boats in the way, both of them well filled with men, and it was only by letting himself float down with the stream that he was able to pass them unnoticed. This, however, completely carried him out of his reckoning, for on striving once more to reach the head of the island, he was too low down, and was swept right away. He tried for the landing-place, but he could not near it, and in spite of his desperate efforts he was drawn on lower and lower by the heavy stream, so that he could not even grasp at the drooping trees at the lower end of the island, but found himself carried right away towards the lights of the corvette, where she lay a quarter of a mile lower down.

Knowing that he could not catch at anything on the smooth sides of the steamer, he made another frantic effort to reach the side of the island, but it was labour in vain, and at last, weak, exhausted, and with the water rising higher and higher about his lips, he felt that he was being carried right away, and that, unless help came, he would be drowned.

He grew excited and struggled harder, but only to weaken himself. He was confused by the darkness, and found that he had miscalculated his powers. The strain upon him during the past two days, and the efforts he had made that night, had been greater than he was aware of; and now, in spite of the sterling stuff of which he was made, the chill, dread thought came upon him that he was about to die.

The lights of the steamer seemed very near, and yet far-distant, for a blinding mist was before his eyes; and though he swam bravely, over and over again the swift current seemed to suck him down. He essayed to cry for help, but the water choked him; and at last he felt that all was over, that he should in another minute be swept past the steamer, when, trying to turn over and float, he went under, rose to the surface once more, struck against something and clutched at it, to find it slimy and hard to hold; but it enabled him to hold his head above water a few moments, while he cried for help—lost his hold, and was swept away once more, when all seemed dreamy and strange. The water thundered in his ears, his limbs were helpless, and it was as if he were being wafted into a strange and troublous sleep, when he knew no more, for all seemed blank.



There was plenty of excitement on board the steamer, as the falls were hooked on and the light gig was run up to the davits, the boat then being swung on board; and as lights were brought, the body of the man they had tried to save was laid upon the deck.

"Why, it's a nigger!" exclaimed Bob Roberts; and then, with a cry of horror, "Oh, Mr Johnson, it's old Ali! Here, quick! help, brandy! Oh, he's dead! he's dead!"

"No, he aren't, sir," said Dick gruffly; "leastwise, I don't think so."

"Carry him into the cabin," said Lieutenant Johnson sharply; and this being done, the poor fellow was stripped, briskly rubbed, and the customary plans adopted to restore respiration, Bob Roberts eagerly taking his turn, till, to his delight, as he watched Ali's arms being worked up and down, so as to empty and fill his chest, there was a faint flutter, a sigh, and the doubts as to the young Malay's life being spared were at an end.

"Hooray!" cried Bob, who was only in his shirt and trousers, his collar open, and his sleeves rolled right up to his shoulders. "Hooray!" he cried; and forgetting all his dignity as second officer in command of Her Majesty's ship, he indulged in a kind of triumphal dance, which ended with a flop, caused by his bringing one foot down flat on the cabin floor.

"I think that will do, Mr Roberts," said the lieutenant quietly; and Bob coloured up and looked confused.

"I felt so delighted, sir, to see the poor old chap better," he stammered.

"So I see," said the lieutenant. "There, put on your jacket, and give the men a glass of grog apiece for what they have done towards saving our friend here. Dick, there, has pretty well rubbed his skin off."

"Well, sir," said Dick in an ill-used tone, "I rubbed as hard as ever I could."

"That you did, Dick," said the middy.

"And he is coming to, sir," continued Dick.

"Yes," said the lieutenant, "a good sleep will set him right, I think. It is a pity the doctor has gone on the expedition; but we must do the best we can."

"Expedition!" said Bob sharply, "of course; but I thought Ali here had gone. He was going. Oh, I know; he has stopped behind because Tom Long and I were not going."

"Very likely," said the lieutenant drily; "but had you not better see about the men's refreshment?"

"Oh! yes, sir; of course," said Bob, hurrying on his light jacket; and Dick and a couple of men, who had been helping, followed him out of the cabin, smiling and wiping their lips in anticipation of the promised drink.

They had hardly left the cabin when Ali opened his eyes, and lay gazing up at the ceiling, then, in a curious, puzzled way, at the light, his mind struggling to recover itself and master his confusion.

A sigh and a few muttered words took the lieutenant to his side; and on seeing him Ali started, and said something to him in the Malay tongue.

"Are you better?" said the lieutenant kindly.

"Better?" he said, "better? Where am I? what place is this?"

"You are on board the steamer. We found you drowning in the river."

Ali clasped his forehead with his hands for a few moments, and then all seemed to come back like a flood.

"Yes," he said hoarsely, "I know now. I was swimming to the island."

"I see; and you were swept away," said the lieutenant kindly. "I think you had better lie down, and have a good sleep," he continued, as the young man struggled up.

"No, no!" cried Ali excitedly. "I recollect all now. Quick! call your men; there is great danger!"

"Come, come," said the lieutenant gently, "calm yourself. Try and sleep."

He laid his hand firmly on the young man's arm, but Ali caught his wrist.

"What, do you think," he cried, "that I am speaking no sense?"

"Well," said the lieutenant, smiling, "I think you are excited and ill."

"No, no," cried Ali. "Give me clothes; I will fight for you. There is danger!"

"Nonsense!" said the lieutenant. "There, lie down; and Roberts, your friend, you know, shall come and sit with you."

"Oh, listen to me!" cried Ali piteously. "I am not as you think. I swam off to warn you. Hamet has got half your men away by treachery. I am sure they are going to attack you. Quick! get ready; there is great, great danger! Give me clothes, and I'll fight for you!"

As he spoke excitedly, Bob Roberts entered the cabin, and stood listening.

"Come and speak to him, Roberts," said the lieutenant quietly. "Poor fellow! he is overdone, and it has flown to his head."

"Ah! You here?" cried Ali joyfully. "He will not believe me, Bob. Listen; there is going to be an attack made upon you—at the island, and here. They have got your men and officers away to lead them into a trap. I escaped to tell you."

"Oh! come, old chap, don't talk like that," cried Bob, taking his hand. "Don't talk such wild nonsense and bosh. Lie down and have a good sleep. I say, Mr Johnson, I wish old Bolter was here."

"You do not believe me!" cried Ali passionately. "What am I, that you treat me so? Is it that I always lie?"

"Lie? No, old boy," said Bob kindly; "but it isn't you talking. Your head's all in a muddle."

"Head? muddle? Not I!" cried Ali excitedly. "There! Hark! I told you so!"

As he spoke there was the sharp crack of a rifle, then another, and another, and a rattling scattered volley.

"Something wrong at the island, sir," reported one of the watch.

"By Jove! he's right!" cried the lieutenant, rushing out of the cabin. "Quick, Roberts!"

"Yes—clothes—my kris!" cried Ali joyfully. "I'll fight with you."

For answer Bob ran to his own berth, hastily threw the young Malay one of his spare suits; and then, quickly buckling on his sword, ran on deck, where the lieutenant was striding up and down, giving his orders.

"That's right, Roberts," he cried. "They're hard at work at the island."

The next moment Bob was running here and there, seeing that his superior's orders were executed. The drums had already beat to quarters, and with the wondrous business-like rapidity with which matters are done on board a man-of-war every man was at his place, the ports flew open, the magazine was unfastened, and while the moorings were cast off astern, and those ahead ready to be dropped at a moment's notice, the furnaces were roaring furiously, and every effort being made by the firemen to get up steam.

It was like the turning of a handle. There was no confusion; the whole machine was ready for action; guns loaded, and marines and sailors armed ready for any contingency that might befall the steamer.

Directly after, Ali came hurrying from the cabin, and made his way to where the middy was eagerly looking for his next order.

"Give me arms," he said; "I have lost my kris."

"And a good thing, too," said Bob sharply; "a murderous skewer! May I give him a sword, sir?"

"Yes, and a revolver, if he means to fight on our side," said Lieutenant Johnson sharply; and Bob hurriedly ordered the armourer to take the young Malay and supply what was needed. "They are making no signals at the island, Roberts," continued the lieutenant, "and I don't know what to do. I would man a boat and send on—"

"Under me, sir?" said Bob slowly.

"Of course, Mr Roberts; but we are so short-handed, I don't know what to do for the best. Ah! here is your friend. Now, sir; tell us in a few words what this all means."

Ali rapidly told him of his belief, and the lieutenant frowned.

"Certainly there is confirmation of what you say, sir," he said sternly, "but the story sounds wild and strange."

He gazed suspiciously at the young chief; but Ali did not blench in the slightest degree.

Just then the firing seemed to become furious on the island, and the lieutenant stamped his foot impatiently.

"How long is this steam going to be?" he cried. "How I hate being tied by the leg like this, Roberts."

"It's horrible, sir!" cried Roberts, who was stamping up and down the deck, when he was not trying to make out what was going on upon the island, by means of a small glass. "Let's do something, sir, or the people there will think we are not going to help them."

"What can we do, lieutenant," said the other, "except send a boat?"

"Let's fire a big gun, captain," said Bob; "that'll let 'em know we are all alive; and then send the boat. I'll be very careful, sir."

The lieutenant hesitated as he watched the island through his glass, and could see the flashes of the pieces as they were fired. In a short time steam would be up, and the vessel could pass right round the island and engage the prahus, if there were any attacking. Besides, he was very loth to reduce his already short ship's company.

"If it were not already so confoundedly dark," he exclaimed, "we could see what to do. Ah! at last, there goes the signal."

For just then there was a rushing noise, and a rocket went up from the island, far into the blackness of the night, burst, and the bright blue stars fell slowly, lighting up the palms and fruit-trees upon the island.

"Ready there with a rocket," exclaimed the lieutenant. "Be smart, Mr Roberts."

"Ay, ay, sir," was the reply; and, with a mighty rush, away on high sped the answering signal, to burst and fill the air above them with lambent light.

"That is better than your big gun, Roberts," said the lieutenant.

"No, sir, I don't think it is," said Bob, "for it won't frighten the niggers, and my gun would."

The night seemed to have come on darker than ever, and the rocket stars shone with wonderful brilliancy as they descended lower, and lower, and lower, some even to reach the water before they went out, and just as the last was floating down, Ali, who was close to the two officers, suddenly started, grasped Bob's arm, and exclaimed sharply,—


He was pointing with one hand down the stream, but on the middy gazing in the required direction it was too dark to see anything.

"I can see none," he said. "Where?"

"Two prahus coming up rapidly," said Ali; "be ready to fire."

"Not so fast, young sir," said the lieutenant. "Will that steam never be up? Roberts," he cried, "touch the trigger of that life-buoy."

The middy obeyed, and a life-buoy dropped over the side with a splash, a port-fire at the same moment bursting out into a brilliant blue glare, which, as the buoy floated down rapidly with the stream, lit-up the trees on either shore, made the water flash, but above all showed out plainly to all on board a couple of large prahus coming rapidly up the stream, the many sweeps out on either side making the water foam and flash in the blue light shed by the buoy.

"There!" said Ali excitedly, "they are Rajah Gantang's prahus. Fire at them."

"Not so fast, sir," said the lieutenant. "I must first be sure that they are enemies."

He was soon assured of that fact, for as the steamer was lit-up by the port-fire as well as the prahus, bang, bang, bang, bang, one after the other, came the reports of the brass guns the two long boats had on board, and a hail of small iron balls came whistling through the rigging.

"There's no doubt about it now," said the lieutenant grimly; and giving the orders as the prahus rapidly advanced, evidently with the intention of boarding, the two big guns on the port-side thundered out a reply, splashing the water all over one prahu, and going through the matting boarding-screen of the other; but otherwise doing no harm.

The prahus replied, and for a few minutes there was a sharp duel kept up, at the end of which time the oars were seen being swiftly plied, and the two boats went on up stream at a rapid rate, the steamer firing at them as long as they were visible by the lights they had on board.

"Was anything ever so vexatious?" cried the lieutenant. "Here we lie like a log upon the water. Will that steam never be up?"

Just then the welcome news was given, and the order was passed down to the engine-room; the screw began to revolve, and the men cheered as the vessel's head was freed from the buoy, to which she had been moored, and they began to steam rapidly in the wake of the two prahus, whose lights had evidently passed to the left of the island.

Meanwhile a sharp engagement had evidently been going on in the neighbourhood of the little fort. Once or twice the nine-pounder they had there spoke out, but the principal part of the firing was that of rifles. Lights were seen from the deck, here and there amidst the trees, and were moving upon the shore, where the people were evidently in a state of alarm. Still the occupants of the island seemed to be making a good fight, and the lieutenant felt that he could not be doing them better service than by disposing of the two prahus, and to this end the steamer went on, its commander having a sharp look-out kept, and a man busy with the lead in the forepart of the vessel.

At the end of a few minutes the lights on the prahus were seen; the order, "Full speed ahead!" given, for they were now in the middle of the open reach of the river, and Lieutenant Johnson hoped to sink one or the other of his adversaries by using a little energy.

The shadowy shapes of the two boats were made out at the end of a minute, and a couple of guns were brought to bear upon them, the firing being replied to for a time, the flashes from the guns serving to light up the darkness of the night for a moment, while the roar of the big guns went rolling along the surface of the water, and was echoed from the trees upon the bank.

"Keep that lead going more quickly," shouted the lieutenant, as the last of the prahus, apparently unharmed, passed round the head of the island, placing the wooded land between her and the steamer, which followed rapidly in their wake.

The lieutenant's orders were obeyed, and the sounding shouted by the man who handled the lead line.

The river was very deep, but as no good chart existed, and it was dark, extra caution was being used, and all was going on well. In another minute she would have rounded the bend of the island and been in full chase of the fleet enemy, when just as the man had shouted out the depth, there was a sudden shock, which threw several men off their legs, and to the dismay of all, the steamer was tightly fixed upon a mudbank, every effort to release her only seeming to make her settle more firmly down. And this at a moment when her presence might serve to change the fortunes of the attack being made upon the residency.



Private Gray had hard work to seem composed as he went away to execute his orders. The remarks of Captain Smithers had come like an endorsement of his own suspicions, and in imagination he saw the island given over to violence and rapine, as a large force of savage Malays, who resented the coming of the English, took advantage of the present state of weakness and carried all before them.

He felt as if a strange pallor was taking the place of the ruddy, sunburnt hue of his face, and he turned sick as he thought of Miss Linton and her cousin; of the major's wife, and those of several of the soldiers.

It would be horrible, he thought; but the next moment his strength of nerve returned, and feeling that the safety of all might depend upon the energy he displayed in his mission, he hurried on towards the fort.

As he went along under the shade of the trees, he recalled that which he had seen when on duty a night or two back, and wondered whether there was any cause for suspicion in the boat that he believed he had seen gliding over the dark river in so shadowy a way. Then he remembered the sounds he had heard; and lastly, he recalled various little things in Abdullah's behaviour, that, trifles in themselves, now seemed to be strangely significant.

By this time he reached the fort, on entering which he found Sergeant Lund perspiring profusely, as with big clumsy unsuited hands he fingered a pen, and wrote laboriously his report, while Private Sim, who had not declared himself ill for a week, lay back under a tree fast asleep.

He was a very unlovely man was Private Sim, especially when asleep, for at this time he opened his mouth very wide, and around it the busy flies were flitting, evidently taking it for the flower of some new kind of orchis or carnivorous plant, and they buzzed about and around it as if enjoying the fun of going as near as they could without quite getting into danger. That it was a fly-trap one big sage-looking insect seemed certain, for he settled on the tip of Private Sim's nose, and seemed to be engaged in making sudden flights and buzzings at young unwary flies as they came near and into danger, driving them away from the yawning cavern just below.

Gray smiled to himself as these ideas flashed across his brain, and then he walked up to the sergeant.

"Which—which—that—which—or which—but which—in which—for which—to which—phew! this is hot work. I wonder which would be best. Ah! Gray, sit down here a minute, my lad, and tell me what to say. I've been hours over this report."

"I am off on special business directly, sergeant," said Gray; "but let me see."

He read over the sergeant's report, and then dictated half-a-dozen lines, which that officer wrote down as quickly as he could. "I shall copy it out afterwards," he said, "neat and clean. Go on, my lad, go on."

Gray dictated a few more lines, which ended the report in a short, concise manner, and Sergeant Lund's face, which had been all in corrugations, smoothed itself into a satisfied smile.

"That's beautiful," he said, looking up at the private admiringly. "I shall copy that all out in a neat hand, and the thing's done. I say, Gray, how do you do it? Here, what takes me hours, only takes you minutes; and while it's hard labour to me to get it into shape, you run it off like string from a ball. Thanky, my lad, thanky. Now what can I do for you?"

"I want a bayonet and a revolver, with ammunition, directly," said Gray.

"What for?"

"Captain's orders, and private," said Gray, showing Captain Smithers' card, with a few lines pencilled thereon.

"Right," said the sergeant bluffly. "I'm not an inquisitive man. Come along, Gray."

He led the way into the part of the fort used as an armoury, and furnished the required weapons, which Gray proceeded to button up under his jacket.

"Oh! that's the game is it, my lad?" he said. "Then look here; don't take those clumsy tools; any one can see that you've got weapons hidden there. I'll lend you this little revolver; it's handier, and will do quite as much mischief. You can have this dirk, too, with the belt."

He brought out a handsome little revolver, about half the weight and size of the heavy military "Colt" previously supplied; and also a well-made, long, thin dirk, with a thin belt.

"There, my lad!" he said, buckling on the belt under Gray's jacket, and then thrusting the revolver into a little leather pouch. "There, you are now fitted up sensibly, and no one would be the wiser. Stop a moment, you must fill your pocket with cartridges. Let me have those things back safe, and I hope you won't have to use them; but being ready, my lad, is half the battle. You know I'm never ill."

"No, sergeant; you have excellent health."

"Right, my lad, I do; and I'll tell you why: I bought the biggest box of pills I could get before I left London. Four-and-six I gave for it, and I have never taken one. Diseases come, and they know as well as can be that I've got that box of big pills—reg'lar boluses—in my kit; and they say to themselves, 'This man's ready for action, with his magazine well stored!' and they go somewhere else."

"I see, sergeant," said Gray, smiling. "Good-bye!"

"Good-bye, my lad, good-bye. Here, nobody's looking. Sim's asleep. Shake hands, my lad, shake hands. You see, as your superior officer that's a bit of stooping on my part; but, between man and man, I, Sergeant Lund, look up to you, Private Gray, and always feel as if we ought to change places."

"Good-bye, sergeant," said Gray, shaking hands warmly with the sergeant, "and I echo your wish that I may not have to use the weapons; keep a sharp look-out."

"You leave that to me, private," said the bluff sergeant, and he nodded his head as Gray went off upon his mission.

It was rather an awkward one, for he wished to watch Abdullah without exciting his attention. Gray thought, however, that he might prove a match for the Malay, and as he wandered slowly along he began to consider what he should do?

The first idea that suggested itself was that he should go to Dullah and sit there and eat fruit; but he discarded the idea directly as too palpable a way of watching. He felt that the Malay would suspect him directly, as he was not a man who was in the habit of visiting the hut.

No; he must have some better plan than that, but no idea struck him for a few minutes, till happening to glance at the flowing river, the notion came, and going straight back he was soon after seen sauntering down to the river, armed with a long bamboo, a fishing-line, and some bait, with which he proceeded to fish as soon as he reached the river, but having no sport he began to grow impatient, fishing here and there, but always getting nearer to Dullah's hut, where he remained seated on the bank, fishing very perseveringly to all appearance, and occasionally landing a little barbel-like fellow, known by the natives as Ikan Sambilang, or fish of nine, from the number of little barbs beneath its mouth.

Gray fished on, never once turning his head to see what was going on at the hut, but making the keenest use of his ears. He made out, while landing a fish or re-baiting his hook, that there were a couple of sampans lying there, in which were some Malays who appeared to be basking in the sunshine; and, soon after, his quick ears told him plainly enough that some one, whom he believed to be Dullah, was approaching.

As the Malay came nearer, it was to find Gray's rod lying in the water, and the soldier, apparently overcome by the heat, sitting in a heap, with his chin down upon his chest, regardless of the fact that a little fish was upon its hook, tugging away to get free.

Dullah seemed about to speak to the intruder; but seeing this, he refrained, contenting himself with examining Gray closely, and then going slowly back.

"That will not do to report," thought Gray. "He saw me fishing, and he came to see what I had caught, and then went away. I must have something better than that."

However he had obtained a position whence, unsuspected, he could sit and watch what went on at the hut; for after satisfying himself as he had, it was not likely that the Malay would trouble himself any more about the presence of the private so near his place.

So Gray sat there, apparently fast asleep, all through the afternoon.

The night closed in as the sun went down rapidly, as is the case near the equator, and still Gray felt that he had nothing to report. Two men rose up once in the sampan nearest to Dullah's hut, but they appeared to lie down again amongst their fruit baskets; and Dullah himself, the last time Gray saw him, was seated, peacefully smoking, by his verandah.

As it became dark, Gray ran over in his mind the positions of the various sentries, and thought of how soon he could get help, should he need it; and then, after a little thought, he came to the conclusion that he ought to make his way to the fort, and tell Captain Smithers of his want of success.

Just then the glimmering of the stars in the water put an idea in his head. He paused for a moment, as the proceeding was so risky; but on consideration he felt that, if he carried out his plan, he would know for certain whether mischief was brewing. So, giving up his intention of going back to the fort at present, he proceeded to put his plan into execution.



Where Adam Gray had been seated fishing, the bank was about three feet above the surface of the water, and this clayey bank was either perpendicular, or so hollowed out beneath by the action of the river, that if any one had the courage to lower himself into the water, here about four feet deep, and to cling to the tangled vegetation, and wade along close to the overhanging bank, he could pass right up to Dullah's hut unperceived.

There was danger, of course; for the stream ran swiftly, and the venturesome wader might be swept away. A crocodile, too, might be lurking beneath the bank; but the business was so important that Gray resolutely set his face against the idea of danger, telling himself that it was his duty; and leaving his rod upon the bank, he quietly lowered himself into the river, the cold water sending a sharp shock through him as he stood, breast high, holding on by some tangled roots, while the water pressed against him, with no little force, as it ran.

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