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´╗┐Title: Middy and Ensign
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Middy and Ensign" ***

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Middy and Ensign, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

This was the first Manville Fenn book I ever encountered, and I loved it
at first sight.  So much so that I had put nearly fifty of his books on
the website within a couple of years, although, writing in 2005, two
years ago I had never heard of Manville Fenn.

HMS Startler is on patrol up the Parang River in the Malay peninsula.
On board are the midshipman, Bob Roberts, and the ensign, Tom Long.
Their friendly bickering goes on throughout the book.  Various tropical
indispositions trouble them, and also of course the insect life in the
air and saurian life in the river is of no help.  It is hard to know
which of the natives are on their side, and which not, and there is a
great deal of two-facedness.  We are introduced to various fruits.  A
soldier on their own side is prone to fall asleep when on sentry duty,
and the little fort they build to give the womenfolk a little more room
than aboard ship, is very nearly captured and destroyed.

There are various trips for fishing and shooting purposes, and we learn
a great deal about the natural history of the area while these
expeditions are in progress.

One of the reasons why some of the natives do not like the British
Protectorate is that normally any traffic passing up and down the river
does so only on payment of a toll to the local chieftains, who in turn
are at loggerheads with each other in dispute of the right to exact
tolls.

It's a very exciting book, and you'll probably learn a lot by reading
it.

________________________________________________________________________

MIDDY AND ENSIGN, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

ON BOARD THE "STARTLER".

The close of a hot day on board Her Majesty's ship "Startler," whose
engines kept up a regular pulsation as the screw-propeller churned the
water astern into golden and orange foam.  The dappled sky and the
rippled sea were a blaze of colour; crimson, scarlet, burnished copper,
orange chrome, dead, and flashing gold,--all were there, on cloud edge
and wave slope, mingled with purples, and greens, and blues, as the sun
slowly descended to his rest.

There had been a general disposition all day long to lie under awnings,
and pant "like tired dogs," so Bob Roberts the midshipman said; but now
officers and men, in the lightest of garments, were eagerly looking for
the cool evening breeze, and leaning over the bulwarks, gazing at the
wondrous sunset sky and gorgeous sea.

The deck of the clean, smart-looking vessel had a very picturesque
aspect, dotted as it was with groups of officers and men; for in
addition to the crew, the "Startler" carried four companies of Her
Majesty's somethingth foot, the escort of the British Resident and his
suite, bound for Campong Allee, the chief town of Rajah Hamet, on the
Parang River, west coast of the Malay peninsula.

The Resident was to be the help and adviser of the Mohammedan potentate,
who had sought the protection of the British Government; and to fix him
in his position, and save him from the assaults of the various inimical
petty rajahs around, the corvette was to lie for some months in the
river, and the residency was to be turned into a fort, garrisoned by the
troops under Major Sandars.

Bob Roberts, a fair, good-looking, curly-headed lad of sixteen, was
standing with his back leaned against the bulwarks, his cap thrust back,
and his hands deep in his pockets, staring defiantly across the deck at
a lad of about a year or so older, who, as he stood very stiff and
upright by the cabin ladder, returned the stare with interest.

The latter had just buckled on his sword, and, in spite of the heat,
buttoned up his undress coatee to the chin, ready for the short spell of
drill which he knew would take place before the officers dined; and
after giving the finishing-touch to his gloves, he rather ostentatiously
raised his sword, then hanging to the full length of its slings, and
hooked it on to his belt.

"What a jolly shame it is that we should only carry a beggarly little
dirk," said Bob Roberts to himself, as he tried to look sneeringly at
the young ensign before him; for the latter came across the deck with
rather a swaggering stride, and stood before the midshipman.

"Well, young Jack tar," he said, with a touch of contempt in his tone.

"Well, young Pipeclay," retorted the middy.  "I say, how tightly you've
laced your stays to-day.  Mind where you go, or you'll get some pitch on
your lovely uniform.  My word, how handsome you look!"

"I tell you what it is, Master Bob, or Robert Roberts," said the young
ensign, flushing, "if I did not feel that I was stooping by so doing, I
should tell you that you were an impudent puppy of a boy, and give you a
good caning."

"No, no! please pray don't do that, Mr Ensign Long, or Tom Long, or
Long Tom, or whatever you call yourself," retorted the middy, assuming
an aspect of mock terror.  "You frighten me into fits almost; and if you
did try to cane me you'd split that coatee of yours all up the back, or
break your staylace, or do yourself some mischief, and--"

Just then there was the sound of a bugle, followed by the tramp of feet;
and the young officer, scowling fiercely, turned half-right, and as he
did so let his sword down, so that the end of the scabbard might clatter
against the white deck, as he marched off to where the men were
assembling, while the middy burst into a hearty laugh.

"You two gents is allus a quarrelling," growled a wonderfully
copper-faced old sailor, giving his lower jaw a twist.  "You puts me in
mind of the gamecocks as the Malay niggers we're going amongst keeps, to
strut up and shake out their hackles afore they has a set-to."

"Well, he is so cocky, Dick," said the middy, "and struts about, and--"

"That's what I say, sir," said the old sailor, leaning his arms on the
bulwark, "just like a gamecock."

"And assumes such an air of superiority," continued the middy.

"Just like you do, sir, to'rds us common sailors," said the man,
chuckling.

"Don't you tell lies, Dick," said the lad sharply.  "I always treat the
sailors as an officer and a gentleman should."

"So you do, sir, so you do! and it was only my gammon.  But you do wish
you was a swaddy now, and wore a red coat instead of a blue."

"No I don't, Dick," said the lad colouring; "but I do think we naval
officers ought to wear swords, the same as those boy-soldiers."

"So you ought, sir;" said the sailor, winking to himself; "but never you
mind about that, sir.  If so be as it comes to a brush with the niggers,
I'll grind you up a cutlash, with a hedge so sharp as you might shave
yourself with it.  Perhaps you'd like me to do it now, sir, if your
razor is feeling a bit dull?"

"Now, look here, old Dick Dunnage," said the middy; "that's cheek; and I
won't have cheek from you, so I tell you."

"Cheek, sir," said the old sailor, with assumed innocence.  "I didn't
mean to shave only your cheek, sir, but your chin as well."

"Now that'll do, Dick.  I'm not ashamed of having no beard, and I'm not
ashamed of being a boy, so now then."

"Course you ain't, sir.  There, I didn't mean nothing disrespectful.  It
was only my fun.  This here 'bacca as you give me, sir, baint the best I
ever had.  Lor! how hot them poor fellows do look, buttoned and belted
up as they is," he continued, as the soldiers fell into line.  "It's a
deal better to be a sailor, Master Bob."

"Ever so much, Dick," said the middy.  "How long is it since you were
out here, Dick?"

"How long, sir?" and the sailor thoughtfully, as he sprinkled the sea
with a little tobacco juice; "six year."

"And have you been more than once, Dick?"

"Four times altogether, sir.  Let's see: I was at Singapore, and at
Penang, and Malacky, and up the country at a place they called Bang, or
Clang, or something or another."

"And what sort of a country is it, Dick?" said the boy eagerly.

"Wonderful country; all palm-trees and jungles, and full of rivers and
creeks, where the long row-boats, as they call prahus, runs up."

"Those are the pirates' boats, Dick?"

"That's right, sir; and precious awkward things they are to catch, Lord
love you!  I've been after 'em in cutter and pinnace, firing our bow gun
among them, and the men pulling like mad to get up alongside; but they
generally dodged in and out of some of these mangrove creeks till they
give us the slip, and we had to pull back."

"Shouldn't I like to be in chase of one of the scoundrelly prahus!"
cried the lad, with his eyes flashing.

"That you would, sir, I'll lay," said the old sailor; "and wouldn't you
lay into 'em with that very sharp-edged cutlash I touches up for you!"

"Now look here, Dick, you're chaffing," said the lad; "now just drop
it."

"All right, sir," said the man, with a laugh twinkling at the corner of
his lips.

"It is a very fine country though, isn't it, Dick?"

"Wonderful, sir.  There's gold, and tin, and copper, and precious
stones."

"Did you ever find any, Dick?"

"Well no, sir; but I've known them as has found gold in the rivers.  The
Chinees gets most on it."

"There now you're chaffing again, Dick," cried the lad.  "Chinese
indeed!  Why we're not going to China."

"'Course we aint, sir, but the Chinees swarm in the place we're going
to.  I ant chaffing now; this here's all true--as true as that the chaps
all wears a dagger sort of a thing with a crooked handle, and calls it a
crease."

"Yes, I know they all wear the kris," said the lad.

"Yes, sir, and a plaid kilt, just like a Scotchman."

"What?"

"A plaid kilt, like a Scotchman, sir, and they calls it a say rong; and
the big swell princes has it made of silk, and the common folks of
cotton."

"Is this gammon, Dick?"

"Not a bit on it, sir.  They wears that crease stuck in it; and they
carries spears--limbings they calls 'em--and they can throw 'em a
wonderful way."

"They poison the kris, don't they, Dick?"

"No, sir, I don't think they do," said the sailor.  "I asked one man out
there if they didn't; and he pulls his'n out of its sheath, and it was
all dingy like, and as sharp as a razor, and he says in his barbarous
lingo, as a man put into English for me, as his knife would kill a man
without poison."

"What sort of wild beasts are there, Dick?"

"Tigers, sir."

"Honour bright, Dick?"

"Honour bright, sir; lots on 'em.  They feeds 'em on Chinees."

"Feed them on Chinese, Dick?"

"Well sir, the tigers help theirselves to the coolies when they're at
work."

"Anything else, Dick?"

"Lor, bless you! yes, sir; there's elephants."

"Are you sure?"

"Sure, sir.  I've seen 'em, heaps o' times; and rhinosseress, and
hippypotimies, and foreign birds, and snakes."

"Are there snakes, Dick?"

"Are there snakes!  He says, are there snakes?" said Dick,
apostrophising the sea.  "Why the last time as ever I was there, they
caught a boa-constrictor as was--"

"Don't make him too long, Dick," said the boy laughing.

"I won't make him too long," said the sailor solemnly.  "Let's see, sir;
this here ship's 'bout hundred and fifty foot long."

"Yes, Dick, but the boa-constrictor was longer than that," said the lad,
laughing.

"I won't go to deceive you, Mister Roberts," said Dick, "no more than I
did when I was learning you how to knot and splice.  That there
boa-constrictor was quite a hundred foot long."

"Get out!"

"Well, say fifty, sir."

"No, nor yet fifty, Dick."

"Well, sir, not to zaggerate about such things, if that there sarpent as
I see with my own eyes--"

"Why you couldn't see it with anybody else's, Dick."

"No, sir, but I might have seen it wi' a spy glass.  This there sarpent
as I see it lying down stretched out straight was a good twenty-five
foot."

"Perhaps that may have been, Dick," said Bob Roberts, thoughtfully.

"Yes, sir, it were all that; and when it was alive it must have been
fifty foot at least."

"Why, Dick?"

"Cause they stretches out so, sir, just like worms in the garden at home
do."

"Gammon, Dick.  Serpents don't stretch."

"Don't stretch, sir!  Just you wait till you get a thirty-footer twissen
and twining round you, and see if they don't stretch."

"All right, Dick; and when he does, you come and pinch his tail, and
make him open his mouth; and when he does that you pop in a bit of your
nasty tobacco, and he'll leave off, and go like a shot."

The old sailor chuckled, and said something about Mister Bob Roberts
being a nice boy, while the party in question walked aft to see the
company of soldiers on deck put through half-an-hour's drill, making a
point of staring hard and derisively at the young ensign, who saw the
lad's looks, grew angry, from growing angry became confused, and
incurred the captain's anger by giving the wrong order to the men, some
of whom went right, knowing what he ought to have said, while others
went wrong, and got the company hopelessly confused.

The result was that Ensign Long, of her Majesty's somethingth foot, was
severely snubbed, just as Mr Linton the resident, and his daughter
Rachel Linton, were looking on.

"I wouldn't have cared if they had not been there," said Ensign Long to
himself; "but if I don't serve that little wretch of a middy out for
this, my name is not Long."



CHAPTER TWO.

INTRODUCES MORE FRIENDS; WITH A FEW WORDS ON THE RIVER PARANG.

The men were dismissed, and gladly got rid of coatee, rifle, and belt,
to have a lounge in the cool of the evening; the dinner was ready in the
captain's cabin, where lights already appeared; and, soon after, the
tropic night came on, as if with a bound.  The sky was of a purple
black, studded with its myriads of stars, which were reflected with
dazzling lustre from the smooth surface of the sea.  But not only were
the bright star shapes there to give splendour to the wave, for as far
down as eye could reach through the clear water it was peopled with tiny
phosphorescent atoms, moving slowly here and there, and lighting up the
depths of the sea with a wonderful effulgence that was glorious to
behold.

Under the vessel's prow the divided waters flowed to right and left like
liquid gold, while, where the propeller revolved beneath the stern, the
sea was one lambent blaze of fire ever flashing right away, covered with
starry spots that glistened, and rose, and fell, on the heaving wave.

As the evening crept on, the various lights of the ship shone out clear
and bright, notably that from the binnacle, which was like a halo round
the face of the sailor at the wheel.  There was a faint glow from the
skylights too, and a lantern was hung here and there about the
quarter-deck, where soon after the officers assembled to chat and smoke,
while their men in turn enjoyed their ease.

The ship rushed swiftly on its way, having passed Penang the previous
day; and it was expected that on the next they would be at the mouth of
the river, a native city upon which was to be the home of all for many
months, perhaps for years.

The officers were discussing the character of the rajah, some being of
opinion that he was a bloodthirsty tyrant and upholder of slavery, whom
the British Government were making a great mistake in protecting, while
others declared that according to their experience the Malays were not
the cruel treacherous race they had been considered, but that they were
noble, proud, and thorough gentlemen by nature, and that if they were
properly treated the life of an Englishman amongst them was perfectly
safe.

"Well, gentlemen," said a little fat man, who seemed to do nothing but
perspire and mop his forehead, "they say the proof of the pudding is in
the eating.  I know one thing, however, Parang is a glorious country for
botanical specimens."

"Just the thing for you, doctor," said Mr Linton, the resident.

"But it won't be just the thing for you, gentlemen," said the little
man, "for as sure as my name's Bolter, if you don't strictly follow out
my orders some of you will be losing the number of your mess."

"Come, that sounds well," said a quiet-looking man in white jacket and
trousers; "we are going to Parang to help to put down slavery, and we
are to be put into a state of slavery by the doctor here."

"He'll deal gently with you sometimes," said the grey-haired major in
command of the troops.  "Never turn a deaf ear to his discourses on
plants, then you will be indulged."

"What a nice revenge I could have on you, major!" said the doctor,
laughing, and rubbing his hands.  "Ha, ha, ha! and I could double your
dose."

"Yes," laughed the major; "and after all it is the doctor who really
commands these expeditions."

"Ah, well," said the little gentleman, "I'll do the best I can for all
of you.  But don't be rash, my dear boys.  You must avoid night dews,
and too much fruit, and over-exertion."

"There, there, doctor," said the major, laughing; "you needn't trouble
yourself about the last.  I'll undertake to say that none of my fellows
will over-exert themselves."

"Unless, sir, they are called upon to fight," said a rather important
voice.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, I'm sure, Mr Long," said the major seriously.
"Of course we shall not study trouble then."

The officers smiled, and looked from one to the other, greatly to Mr
Tom Long's annoyance.  In fact he felt so much aggrieved at the way in
which his remark had been received, that he proceeded to light a very
large cigar before rising to seek another part of the deck.

"If you smoke that big strong cigar you'll be ill, Mr Long," said the
doctor quietly.

"I'd cut it in half, Long," said Captain Smithers, "and give the other
half to young Roberts."

"I know what I can smoke, sir," replied the youth haughtily.  "Perhaps
you will take one."

"I!  No, thanks.  They are too strong for me."  And with what was meant
for a very haughty, injured look, Ensign Long strode slowly away.

"Thank you, doctor," said Major Sandars.  "It's just as well to snub
that young gentleman sometimes.  He's a fine young fellow, and will make
a splendid officer; but really there are times when I get wondering
whether we have changed places, and he is in command."

"Oh, all boys go through that stage," said the resident quietly.  "He
has just arrived at the hair-brushing, make-yourself-look-nice age, and
feels at least eight-and-twenty."

"When he is only eighteen," said Captain Smithers.

"He is only seventeen, I believe," said the major, "and the youngest
ensign in the service.  By the way, Linton, I believe Long has formed a
desperate attachment for your daughter."

"Yes, I had noticed it," said the resident drily; "and as Ensign Long is
seventeen, and my daughter twenty-three, it will be a most suitable
match.  But he has a rival, I see."

Captain Smithers started slightly as the major exclaimed,--

"Who may that be?"

"Our dashing young friend, Mr Bob Roberts."

There was a bit of a scuffle here as the whole party burst into a roar
of laughter.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Roberts," said the resident.  "I did not know
you were there."

Bob Roberts felt red hot with shame and annoyance, as he made a rush and
retreated from the group, by whom his presence had been unperceived.

"I hope, Linton," said Captain Horton, in command of the "Startler,"
"that my youngster there has not been behaving impertinently to Miss
Linton."

"Not at all," said the resident quietly; "both Mr Long and Mr Roberts
have been full of respectful admiration for the young lady, who has
sufficient common sense to behave to the silly young gentlemen as they
deserve.  It is all connected with the hair-brushing stage, and will, I
have no doubt, help to make them both grow into fine manly young fellows
by-and-by."

"Why, I can see through the mill-stone now," said the doctor, laughing.

"What mill-stone, doctor?"

"Why, I have been puzzling myself as to why it was those two boys were
always squabbling together.  I see now; they're as jealous as can be.  I
say, Mr Linton, you ought not to bring such a bone of contention on
board as that daughter of yours, and her cousin."

"Seriously, my dear doctor," said the resident, "I do sometimes feel
that I am to blame for bringing those two motherless girls out into the
jungle; but Rachel declared that she would not be separated from me; and
Miss Sinclair, my sister's child, seems more like one of my own, and
shared her cousin's feelings."

"They are two ladies, Linton," said the major, "for whom we feel the
deepest respect; and, speaking selfishly, I am only too glad that my
wife has a couple of such charming companions."

"Yes," said Captain Horton; "and if I had known what I know now, I
should have let Mrs Horton have her wish, and accompany me."

"Well, gentlemen," said the resident, rather sadly, "I don't know, but I
have a sort of presentiment that it would have been better if we had
been without ladies, or soldiers' wives, if you come to that; for I
cannot conceal from myself that we are bound upon a very risky
expedition, one out of which I hope we shall all come safely."

"Oh, we shall be safe enough," said the major.

"Do you think there is really any danger, Mr Linton?" said Captain
Smithers, rather hoarsely.

"Why, you are not afraid, are you, Smithers?  Come, you must not show
the white feather!"

"I am not afraid for myself, Major Sandars," said the young captain,
quietly; "and I hope I shall never show the white feather; but when
there are women and children in an expedition--"

"Oh, come, come," said the resident, gaily; "I am afraid I have been
croaking.  There may be danger; but when we are surrounded by such brave
men as the officers and crew of the `Startler,' and her Majesty's
somethingth foot, I see, after all, nothing whatever to fear."

"Fear? no!" said Captain Horton.  "Why, we could blow the whole place to
Cape Horn with my guns; and the Malays would never face Sandars' boys,
with their bayonets."

"Did you notice that sentry, Smithers?" asked the little doctor, in a
low voice, of his companion, as the conversation now became less
general.

"Sentry? which one?"

"This one," said the doctor.  "Don't speak aloud, or he'll hear you."

"Private Gray?  No, I did not notice anything.  What do you mean?"

"The light of that lantern shines full on his face, and he made a
movement that drew my attention, when we were talking of there being
danger."

"Indeed?" said the captain.

"Yes; he was evidently listening to the conversation, and I saw him
start so that he nearly dropped his piece; his face was quite convulsed,
and he turned of a sickly pallor.  The light was so strong upon him that
I could see his lips whiten."

"Or was it fancy, doctor?"

"Fancy?  No, my lad, that was no fancy; and I hope we have not many more
like him in the regiment."

"Well, for my part," said Captain Smithers, quietly, "I have often
wished that my company was composed of Adam Grays."

"Adam, eh?  To be sure; I remember the fellow now.  Well, he's a poor
descendant of the first Adam, for if that fellow is not an arrant coward
my name isn't Bolter."

"Really, doctor, I think you do the man an injustice.  He is a very
superior, well educated fellow; and it has often puzzled me how he
became a private soldier."

"Scamp!" said the doctor, shortly.  "Some runaway or another.  The ranks
of the army are made a receptacle for blackguards!"

"Hang it, doctor!" cried the young captain, warmly, "I cannot sit here
and listen to such heresy.  I confess that we do get some scoundrels
into the army; but as a rule our privates are a thoroughly trustworthy
set of fellows, ready to go through fire and water for their officers;
and I only wish the country would make better provision for them when
their best days are past."

"Ah, that's right enough," said the doctor; "they are all what you say,
and they do deserve better treatment of their country.  I mean, ha, ha,
ha! to make teetotallers of them this trip.  I'm not going to have the
men poisoned with that red hot country arrack, I can tell them."

"It is terrible stuff, I believe."

"Terrible?  It's liquid poison, sir! and I don't know that I sha'n't try
and set up a private brewery of my own, so as to supply the poor fellows
with a decent glass of beer."

"Poor fellows! eh, doctor?  Why, you said just now they were a set of
scoundrels."

"Well, well, well; I didn't mean all.  But look at that fellow Sim--
there's a pretty rascal for you!  He's always on the sick-list, and it's
nearly always sham."

"I'm afraid he is a bit of a black sheep," said Captain Smithers.

"Inky black, Smithers, inky black.  I shall poison that fellow some day.
But I say, my dear boy, the brewery."

"What about it?"

"What about it?  Why, it would be splendid.  I mean to say it is a grand
idea.  I'll get the major to let me do it."

"My dear doctor," said Captain Smithers, laughing, "I'm afraid if you
did brew some beer, and supply it to the men, fancy would go such a long
way that they would find medicinal qualities in it, and refuse to drink
a drop."

"Then they would be a set of confoundedly ungrateful scoundrels," said
the doctor, angrily, "for I should only use malt and hops."

"And never serve it as you did the coffee that day, doctor?"

"Well, well, I suppose I must take the credit of that.  I did doctor it
a little; but it was only with an astringent corrective, to keep the
poor boys from suffering from too much fruit."

"Poor boys! eh, doctor?  Come, come, you don't think my brave lads are a
set of scoundrels then?"

"I said before, not all--not all," replied the doctor.

"Ah, doctor," said Captain Smithers, "like a good many more of us, you
say more than you mean sometimes, and I know you have the welfare of the
men at heart."

"Not I, my lad, not I.  It's all pure selfishness; I don't care a pin
about the rascals.  All I want is to keep them quite well, so that they
may not have to come bothering me, when I want my time to go botanising;
that's all."

"And so we have fewer men on the sick-list than any regiment out here?"

"Tut! tut!  Nonsense!"

Just then the ladies came up from the principal cabin, and began to walk
slowly up and down the quarter-deck, evidently enjoying the delicious
coolness of the night air, and the beauty of the sea and sky.

Captain Smithers sat watching them intently for a time, and then, as he
happened to turn his head, he caught sight of the sentry, Adam Gray, and
it struck him that he, too, was attentively watching the group of
ladies.  So convinced did the young officer become of this, that he
could not refrain from watching him.

Once or twice he thought it was only fancy, but at last he felt sure;
and a strange angry sensation sprang up in his breast as he saw the
sentry's countenance change when the ladies passed him.

"An insolent scoundrel!" he muttered.  "How dare he?"

Then, as the ladies took their seats at some distance, he began thinking
over what the doctor had said, and wondering whether this man, in whom
he had heretofore taken a great deal of interest, was such a coward; and
in spite of his angry feelings, he could only come to the conclusion
that the doctor was wrong.

But at the same time what he had heard and seen that evening had not
been without its effect, and he found himself irritable and vexed
against this man, while his previous good feelings seemed to be
completely swept away.

At last he rose impatiently, and strolled towards where the ladies were
sitting, and joined in the conversation that was going on round a bucket
of water that the doctor had just had dipped from over the side, and
which he had displayed, full of brilliantly shining points of light,
some of which emitted flashes as he stirred the water with his hands, or
dipped glasses full of it, to hold up for the fair passengers to see.

"All peculiar forms of jelly-fish," he said aloud, as if he were
delivering a lecture, "and all possessing the power of emitting that
beautiful phosphorescent light.  There you see, ladies, if I had a spoon
I could skim it off the top of this bucket of water, just like so much
golden cream, and pour it into a glass.  Very wonderful, is it not?"

"Look, look, doctor!" said one of the ladies, pointing to the sea, where
a series of vivid flashes rapidly followed one another.

"Yes, my dear, I see," he replied; "that was some fish darting through
the water, and disturbing the medusae.  If you watch you can see the
same thing going on all round."

So glorious was the aspect of the sea that the conversation gradually
ceased, and all on the quarter-deck watched the ever-widening lines of
golden water that parted at the stem of the corvette and gradually died
away, or were mingled with the glistening foam churned up by the
propeller.

For the sea seemed to be one blaze of soft lambent light, that flashed
angrily wherever it was disturbed by the steamer, or the startled fish,
that dashed away on every side as they swiftly ran on towards the land
of swamp and jungle, of nipah and betel palm, where the rivers were
bordered by mangroves, the home of the crocodile; a land where the
night's conversation had roused up thoughts of its being perhaps the
burial-place of many a one of the brave hearts throbbing within the
timbers of that stout ship--hearts that were to play active parts in the
adventurous scenes to come.



CHAPTER THREE.

DOCTOR BOLTER CURES ONE PATIENT, AND IS LEFT WITH ANOTHER.

"Is that Parang, that dim light out yonder, captain?" said the major,
pointing to what looked like a cloud touching the water.

"Oh, no," was the reply.  "That is part of Sumatra.  Our destination
lies off the other bow, due east from where we are lying now."

It was a glorious morning, and the sun at that early hour had not yet
attained to its greater power.  The ladies were on deck, enjoying the
morning air; the soldiers were having morning parade, and looked clean
and smart in their white clothes and puggarees.  The sailors were giving
the last touches to brass rails and cabin windows, and were coiling
ropes into neat rings; and altogether the deck of the "Startler," with
its burnished guns, presented a bright and animated spectacle, every one
seeming to have some business on hand.

There was a little bit bustle about the steerage ladder, where four
sailors were hauling a sick man up on deck; and as soon as they had him
lying in the sunshine upon a mattress, the doctor bustled up--Bob
Roberts, seeing Ensign Long at hand, going up and looking on, after the
two youths had exchanged a short distant nod.

"Well, Sim," said the doctor, briskly, "how are you this morning?"

"Very--very bad, sir," replied the invalid, a big bony-faced man, who
looked very yellow.

"Put out your tongue," said the doctor.

Private Sim put out such an enormously long tongue that Bob Roberts gave
his trousers a hitch, and made believe to haul it forth by the yard,
very much to the ensign's disgust.

"That'll do," said the doctor, feeling the patient's pulse, and then
dropping the hand, "Now what am I to prescribe for you, Sim, eh?  You
feel a terrible sense of sinking, don't you?"

"Yes, sir; terrible."

"As if you needed strengthening food?"

"Yes, sir."

"And some kind of stimulating drink--say wine?"

"Yes, sir," said the patient, rolling his eyes.  "I feel as if a little
wine would do me good."

"Has the buzzing sensation left your head?"

"Very nearly, sir."

"And you don't feel so much pressure on your chest?"

"Well, sir, not just now."

"Less pain too, under your left shoulder?"

The major walked up just now.

"Yes, sir; it's not quite so painful."

"But you slept well?"

"Pretty well, sir, for me; I should think I had quite an hour's sleep
last night."

"A whole hour, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, doctor," said the major, "what do you think of your patient?  I
hope you are better, Sim?"

"Thanky kindly, sir," said Private Sim, screwing up a terrible face.

"I was thinking which I ought to prescribe," said the doctor, very
seriously.  "Sim's is a peculiar case.  There's pressure on the brain,
and also congestion of the vascular system of the spinal column."

"Indeed!" said the major.

"Yes, sir," replied the doctor, pursing up his lips, "and I'm hesitating
between two courses."

"Try 'em both, doctor," said Bob Roberts, laughing with his eyes.

"Right, youngster," said the doctor, clapping him on the shoulder, "I
will.  We'll have the moist application first, and the warm dry
application after."

Private Sim screwed up his face a little tighter.

"If I might make so bold, sir," he said in a whining voice, "I think
what you've given me's done me ever so much good, and all I want now is
rest."

"Rest, my man!" said the doctor.  "Nonsense man!  You want the most
brisk and active treatment.  Yours is a sluggish system, but we'll soon
put you right.  Here, my lads," he continued to the sailors, "bring a
stout rope, and lash it round his chest.  We'll give him four dips
overboard for the head pressure, and then four dozen on the back to
increase the circulation."

"Oh, doctor!" groaned the man, looking round for sympathy; but only to
see everyone within hearing on the grin.

"Don't you be afraid, Sim; I'll soon put you right," said the doctor
kindly.  "I'll make a man of you."

"I don't think I could bear it, doctor.  I mean I do really feel better,
sir."

"Let's see if you can stand, Sim," said the doctor.

The man rose groaning, and held on by one of the sailors, who, at a word
from the doctor, slipped away, and left the invalid standing.

"You are better, decidedly, Sim.  You couldn't have done that two days
ago."

"No, sir."

"There, now walk across the deck."

"If I'm able to walk, sir, shall I have to be dipped?"

"Walk away, and go below to your mess, you idle, shamming scoundrel,"
cried the doctor.

Private Sim opened his lips to speak, but the look he received was too
much for him, and he slowly walked off, trying hard to appear ill-used,
till he reached the companion ladder, down which he shuffled to the
intense delight of the men.

There was no land in sight, but the sea was glorious in the brilliant
sunshine--so clear and blue that the darting fish could be seen far
below; and before long, Bob Roberts had borrowed a fishing-line from
Dick, the old sailor, baited the hooks, and was trailing it behind the
vessel, in the hope of catching enough fish for a dinner for his mess.

At first his sport was not very good; but after a time he captured a
large glistening fish, evidently, from its silvery skin, belonging to
the mackerel family; and this so excited Ensign Long, who had been
looking on rather contemptuously, that he borrowed a line of the
boatswain, and was also soon at work fishing.

The lads had such good sport that the officers looked on quite amused,
and the ladies under the awning asked from time to time to be shown the
glistening captives that had been taken.

Soon after the doctor joined the party, to discourse learnedly about the
various fishes, which he classified as he pointed out their
peculiarities, assuring his fair hearers that far more beautiful
specimens might yet be taken.

Rachel Linton, a fair, very intelligent looking girl, was much
interested in the doctor's descriptions, as was also her cousin, Mary
Sinclair, a dark, handsome, but delicate, brunette, of nineteen, full of
questions, which the doctor took great delight in answering.

Bob Roberts and the young ensign vied one with the other in hurrying up
with their fish, as they were successful, Ensign Long looking hopelessly
disgusted as he saw the middy catch and carry three fish in succession
beneath the awning, while he could not get a bite.

Soon, however, his turn came, and with a look of triumph he bore a long
silvery fish with bars of azure blue across its scaly armour, to where
the ladies were seated, Bob Roberts biting his lips as he heard the
exclamations of pleasure uttered by each of the cousins in turn.

"Never mind," he muttered, "I shall have a startler directly, see if I
don't," and he fished away, changing his bait, or replacing it as it was
lost in consequence of the rapid motion of the steamer through the
water; but all in vain; not a single fish came to his side, while on the
other side Ensign Long was having tremendous luck.

Wearied out with trying, the lad sat at last holding his line in one
hand, but paying no heed to it, for his eyes were directed beneath the
awning, where all looked dim as compared with the sun-glare outside; and
here from time to time he saw Long enter with some new prize, which the
doctor took, and held up to the ladies, the more brilliantly coloured
being consigned to one or the other of a couple of buckets of water,
which one of the soldiers in undress uniform, whom the middy recognised
as the sentry of the previous night, kept replenishing with fresh water
dipped from the sea.

"He isn't a bad-looking chap," said the young midshipman, as he sat on
the bulwarks in a very insecure position.  "I wish I was filling the
buckets and holding up the fish for the ladies to see."

He glanced once at his trailing line, and saw the bait flash in the
water, then he glanced back at the party beneath the awning.

"How black Captain Smithers looks," he said.  "That soldier must have
splashed him, or something, for he looks as if he was going to have him
tried by court-martial.  Here I think I shall drop it.  Hang it all! if
that fellow Long hasn't caught another.  What did she say?" he cried,
drawing in his breath with a hiss.  "`You are ever so much more
fortunate than Mr Roberts.'  Oh, I'd give something to have her say
that to me, and--murder!  I've got him this time--"

He made a convulsive grasp at a rope, and just saved himself from
falling overboard, for a vigorous snatch made by a large fish at his
bait had been quite sufficient to disturb his equilibrium, his activity
alone saving him from a terrible ducking, if not from being drowned.

He recovered himself though, and thought no more of his escape in the
excitement of finding that he had hooked a heavyish fish, and which took
a good deal of playing; for just as it seemed exhausted, there was a
fierce, furious snatch at the line, and the captive appeared to have
grown heavier.

"He's almost too heavy to lift out, Dick," he cried to the old sailor
who came up.

"Ease him then, sir, and take it easy," said Dick; "tire him quite out,
and then haul in quickly."

Bob Roberts obeyed, and to his intense delight, gradually hauled his
fish to the surface, where he could not make out what it was by its
shape, only that it was a blaze of blue, and gold, and silver, flashing
in the sun.

"Hi, doctor!  I've got such a beauty!" he shouted, dragging at the stout
line, till with a rush he hoisted his fish on to the deck.

"Well, that's a rum 'un, sir," cried the sailor.  "Why it's a young sea
sarpent."

"What have you got?" said the doctor eagerly, as the lad hurried
excitedly beneath the awning with his prize.

"I don't know, doctor," said the lad.  "But look, Miss Linton--Miss
Sinclair, isn't it curious?"

The lad's cheeks flushed, and his eyes sparkled with delight, as he held
up by the line what seemed to be a good-sized fish, of five or six
pounds' weight, with a very long brilliantly-coloured eel twined tightly
round and round it, in a perfect spiral, several feet in length.

"Why, you've caught a fish, boy," said the doctor, examining the prize
through his glasses, "and it has been seized and constricted by a sea
snake.  Dear me! bliss my soul! that's very curious.  Look here, Captain
Smithers, and ladies.  Gray, a fresh bucket of water.  Most singular
thing!"

"I thought he got precious heavy all at once, doctor," said the lad,
looking from one to the other.  "That chap darted at him then."

"Ye-es, I suppose so," said the doctor.  "Lovely colouring, to be sure!
See how tightly it has constricted the fish, ladies.  Just like a piece
of woodbine round a stick, only the coils are more close."

"It is very beautiful," said Miss Linton, approaching more closely, so
that she could feast her eyes on the vivid colouring of the water-snake,
which was about five feet in length, but whose coils seemed to grow more
close as the fish ceased to flap as it was held up by the middy.

"I'm glad you like it, Miss Linton," he said, darting a triumphant
glance at where Ensign Long was now fishing in vain.  "He didn't catch
two at once," the boy muttered to himself.

"I wouldn't go too close, Miss Linton," said the doctor, "for some of
these sea snakes are reputed to be poisonous.  Lovely thing, isn't it,
Smithers?"

"Very," said the young captain drily; "but pray take care, Miss Linton."

"I am not afraid," said the lady, looking up at him with a quiet air of
confidence, just as Private Gray bore in a fresh bucket of limpid sea
water, and set it down at her feet.

"Now then," said the doctor; "hold still, Roberts."

"All right, sir; but it's jolly heavy," said the boy.

"Then give the line a shake, and the snake will fall into the bucket.
Or stop; I will."

But he was too late, for the lad had already given the line a quick
shake, with the result that the snake uncoiled like lightning, and
darted at the nearest object, that object being Miss Linton's arm, round
which it coiled with the rapidity of the thong of a whip round a stick.

The resident's daughter was brave and strong minded, but as she felt the
contact of the creature's cold scales upon her bare arm she could not
forbear from shrieking aloud; but even as she uttered the cry, the young
soldier, Gray, had caught the snake round the neck, causing it to loosen
its hold, but only to coil round his own bare arm, round which it
twisted, and twice seized the wrist with its little mouth.

"The snake has bitten me," said the young man, hoarsely, as he dashed
its head rapidly against one of the chairs, and then cast it, broken but
writhing, upon the white deck.

All this took but a few moments, and then Private Gray stood, gazing
with a strange wild longing look at Miss Linton, as the doctor
exclaimed,--

"Quick, Roberts, to my cabin; the ammonia.  Ladies, go away, please,
quickly."

He caught the young soldier, and forced him back in one of the chairs as
he spoke, for already a ghastly pallor was overspreading his
countenance.

"Is it--is it poisonous, doctor?" whispered Miss Linton, as she darted a
horrified look at Gray.

"Deadly! my dear young lady," he replied hastily.  "The poor fellow has
saved your life.  And only last night," he thought, "I said he was a
coward."



CHAPTER FOUR.

DOCTOR BOLTER RUBS HIS HANDS, AND CAPTAIN SMITHERS LOOKS GREEN.

As soon as Bob Roberts returned with the ammonia, and realised what was
wrong, he pulled out his pocket-knife, placed his foot on the reptile's
neck, as it still writhed feebly, and cut off its head.

He had hardly completed his task though, before he was summoned by the
doctor to assist him.  Here, however, he was forestalled by Miss Linton,
who, ignoring the request to go, had in the most business-like way
helped to lower the fainting man upon the deck, and supported his head
while the stimulant was administered.

"Pray go away, Miss Linton," exclaimed Doctor Bolter then; "this is only
a task for a trained nurse."

"I am a trained nurse," said Rachel Linton, quietly; and drawing a
cushion from a chair, she placed it on the deck, lowered the injured
man's head upon it, and then, seeing the doctor's intention, held the
patient's arm while he freely used a lancet about the tiny marks made by
the serpent's teeth, and rubbed in the ammonia.

Captain Smithers meanwhile had not spoken, but stood watching Miss
Linton, with a strange look upon his countenance, shuddering, though,
once or twice, as he saw the ghastly face of the injured man, and his
fixed half-closed eyes.

"What can I do next, doctor?" said Miss Linton, in a quiet, eager voice.

"Nothing at present, my dear young lady," he said, looking at her
admiringly.  "Why, what a brave-hearted girl you are!"

"Brave?" she said.  "What, to do this for one who saved me perhaps from
death?  But tell me, doctor, will he live?"

"I don't know; I hope so; it is impossible to say.  It is such a rare
thing for a man to be bitten by one of these creatures.  I never had
such a case before, and I ought to have known better; but I did not know
it was a dangerous species of snake."

He held the soldier's pulse as he spoke, and then frowned, and mixing
more ammonia and water, raised the poor fellow's head, and poured the
liquid between his half-clenched teeth.

"Try and swallow it, Gray, my good fellow."

The young man opened his eyes as if awakened from sleep, stared about
till they rested on Miss Linton, when they closed again, and he drank
the stimulant with difficulty.

"Stand back, please.  Captain Smithers, keep every one away, and let us
have all the air we can."

Thus appealed to, the young officer motioned back those who pressed
forward, the news of the accident having spread through the ship, and
all who dared ascending to the quarter-deck.

"How provoking!" exclaimed Major Sandars.  "One of my best men too,
doctor.  Really, Bolter, I must put a stop to your natural history
researches."

"Confound it all, major!" cried the little doctor, angrily; "it was an
accident.  That young dog caught the snake, and--no--no! it's all right,
Roberts.  It was my fault; I ought to have foreseen what would happen."

Ensign Long had begun to congratulate himself on the fact that Bob
Roberts was about to have a good wigging, but found out that he was
wrong, and felt annoyed to see how important a part the lad played in
the proceedings to fight back the effects of the deadly poison.

"Take my coat off, Roberts," said the doctor.  "Gently, boy, gently.
That's right.  Now the ammonia; good.  Raise his head a little.  Poor
fellow, we mustn't let him slip through our fingers.  That's it, Miss
Linton.  Miss Sinclair, will you get a big fan, and give him all the air
you can?"

He was obeyed to the letter; while Captain Horton and the resident stood
near, ready to help in any way they could, for the news had caused the
deepest concern through out the ship.

"Yah!" cried Private Sim, with an ugly snarl; "there's yer nasty
favouritism.  See how they're all a-cuddling and messing that there Gray
up, orficers and women and all.  Might ha' died afore they'd ha' done
anything for me."

"Why, you caulking, miching lubber," growled old Dick, "you had ten
times as much trouble 'stowed on you as you deserved.  Tell you what, my
lads," he continued, addressing a crowd of soldiers and sailors who had
been discussing the event forward, "it's this here sorter thing as makes
me saddersfied to be a common sailor.  Yer orficers may row and bully
yer sometimes for not being smart enough; but I never knowed a orficer
yet as wasn't ready to run the same risks as the men; and when you're
down, Lor' bless my 'art, nothin's too good for you.  'Member the
skipper coming and bringing us horindges, Joe Tomson, when we had the
feckshus fever?"

"Ay, ay, mate," growled a big sun-tanned sailor.

"Right you are, mate," said a big sergeant.  "It's just so with us.
I've knowed our officers run out under fire to bring in wounded men, and
get shot down theirselves.  You remember Captain Smithers doing that,
out in China, Billy Mustard?"

"That I do," said a fair red-faced private, with a merry look in his
eyes.  "He brought me in on his back.  I'm waiting to see him down some
day, and carry him in."

"To be sure," growled old Dick.  "Orficers is orficers, and there 'aint
one aboard this ship as wouldn't jump overboard to save any man, even if
it was such a grumbling warmint as old Sim here."

Private Sim snarled, and showed a set of yellow teeth, as he held out
the palm of his left hand to give it a severe punch with his right fist;
after which ebullition he seemed to feel much better, and went and
leaned over the side.

"I hope Private Gray will get better," said Billy Mustard, who was a
great favourite with the men from the fact that he was famous as a
fiddler, and could rattle off anything from "Money Musk" up to "The
Triumph;" and as to hornpipes, the somethingth said there wasn't a man
in the service who could touch him.  Billy Mustard had won the hearts of
the sailors, too, during the voyage, from the way in which he sang "The
Death of Nelson," with many another naval ditty, to which the whole
forecastle could rattle out a hearty chorus.  "I hope Private Gray will
get better," said Billy.

"Ah, we all hope that," said Sergeant Lund.  "Not that Adam Gray's a
friend of mine.  He's too much of a gentleman; and when he's going
through his drill, it always seems as if one was putting a young officer
through his facings.  Not that I wish him any harm; but if he's a
gentleman he ought to have got his commission, and kept out of the
ranks."

"Well, sergeant," said Billy Mustard, "I don't see that it matters much
what a man is, so long as he's ready for dooty, and I will say as Gray
never sticks himself up, but does his dooty like a man."

"Yah! he'll turn out no good," snarled Private Sim, looking round.

"Well, for my part," said old Dick, "if I was to go in for being cunnle
of a regiment, I should like that there regiment to be all private
Simses, and then I'd have all the officers doctors."

"And a big hospital for barracks," said the sergeant, laughing.  "And
rations of physic served out every day," cried Billy Mustard.

There was a hearty laugh at this; but it was checked directly, as the
men recalled that one of their number was lying in grievous peril; while
Private Sim glanced round, uttered a snarl like that of a hyena, then
turned back and gave his left hand another punch.

"Laugh at me, will yer?" he growled, "when I'm so jolly ill.  Just let
me get hold o' that there fiddle o' yours, Master Billy Mustard, and
I'll smash it, see if I don't."

He seemed to feel better after this threat, and stood leaning over the
bulwarks, and spitting down into the sea, while one of the sailors went
aft to learn some tidings concerning Adam Gray.

Meanwhile, the centre of an anxious knot of observers, the young soldier
lay breathing very feebly in spite of the stimulants frequently
administered; and Bob Roberts, as he knelt close by on the deck, watched
with a strange feeling of heart-sickness coming over him.  He could not
conceal from himself the fact that he had been the cause of all the
suffering; and full of self-reproach, he knelt there, considering
whether he should ever forget that scene, with the pale face of the fine
young fellow lying before him.

Gray seemed to be in no great pain, but to be suffering more from a
strange delirium caused by the working of the tiny drops of poison
injected in his veins.  He muttered a few words occasionally, and
started convulsively from time to time; but when spoken to, he calmed
down, and lay, apparently, waiting for his end.

"Don't know; can't say," was all that could be got from the doctor, as
the hours crept on--hours when the heat of the sun was terrible; but no
one left the injured man's side.

The specimens in the buckets were forgotten, and died; the cause of the
misfortune grew dry and shrivelled, where it had twined and wriggled
itself, half a dozen yards away, the dangerous head being thrown
overboard by Bob Roberts, and swallowed by a fish before it had
descended many feet.

Both the resident and the captain had tried to persuade the ladies to
leave the sick man's side; but they had declined to go, and Doctor
Bolter had nodded approval.

"Thank you, my dears, thank you," he said.  "It's very kind of you; and
I'm glad enough, I can tell you, to find that you've both got something
in you besides fine young ladyism."

"I wish we could do more," said Rachel Linton, quietly.

"So do I, my dear," said the little doctor; "and I wish I could do more,
but I have done all I can.  Nature must do the rest."

The long, hot day passed on, and evening was approaching before the
doctor took anything more than a glass of wine and water and a biscuit;
and at last, when every one had judged by poor Gray's aspect that all
now was over, and Major Sandars came up and thanked him for his patient
endeavours to save the poor fellow's life, the doctor felt his patient's
pulse once more, raised the closed eyelids and gazed at the pupils, and
then rose up, dropped into a cane lounging chair, and began softly
rubbing his knees.

"Now, ladies," he said firmly, "go below and dine.  I order it.
Sandars--Horton--if you have any good feeling left in you, you'll send
relays of Jacks and privates to rub my poor knees.  I say," he said,
looking round with a smile, "that was a close shave, wasn't it?"

"Close shave?" said the major, as the ladies drew back, apparently hurt
at the doctor's levity; and poor Bob Roberts, kneeling at the injured
man's feet, lowered his head so that those near should not see the
unmanly tears gathering in his eyes, though he was somewhat comforted on
seeing that Ensign Long was almost as much moved.

"Yes," said the doctor; "you might have got all the nobs of the
profession, and I don't believe they could have done better."

"No," said Captain Horton rather coldly.  "You have worked hard, Doctor
Bolter."

"Hard?  I should think I have.  I tell you what it is, sir, you would
not have felt more pleased than I do if you had been made an admiral."

"But the man is dying fast, Bolter," said Major Sandars.

"Dying, sir? why he has been dying fast all day."

"Then is not this rather unseemly before ladies?" said Captain Horton.

"Unseemly?  Before ladies?" said the doctor in a puzzled way.  "Why,
can't you see for yourselves?  Ha, ha, ha!" he said, laughing softly.
"Don't you see the remedies have beaten the poison.  There's a
delightful sleep he has dropped into."

"Sleep?" exclaimed Miss Linton.

"To be sure, my dear.  Look what a lovely perspiration is coming out on
his forehead.  There, come away, and let him sleep.  He'll be nearly
well by to-morrow morning."

Bob Roberts leaped up from the deck, as if sent by a sling, made a dash
at Ensign Long, swung him round, indulged in a kind of war dance
indicative of triumph; then looked extremely ashamed of himself, and
dashed off into the gun-room to spread the news that the doctor had
saved Gray's life.

"That's not a bad sort of boy," said the doctor, looking after Bob; and
then, as Ensign Long raised his chin in the air, and looked very
dignified, "tell you what Sandars, if I were you I'd get Captain Horton
to make a swop.  Let's give him Tom Long in exchange for the middy.
What do you say?"

Tom Long marched off, looking very much disgusted; and Sergeant Lund
having been summoned to bring a file to watch by the sick man, the much
relieved party went down to dinner.



CHAPTER FIVE.

UP THE PARANG RIVER.

That evening the anchor was dropped off the mouth of the Parang river;
and as the night closed in all eyes were directed to the thickly-wooded
country on each side of the stream, whose banks were hidden by the dense
growth of mangrove trees, which, now that the tide was up, seemed to be
growing right out of the water, which those on board could see through
their glasses to be smoothly flowing amidst the stems.

Further inland tall columnar nipah palms could be seen fringing the
tidal way, and apparently growing amidst the mangroves, with the water
washing their roots.

Dense green vegetation, and a broad flowing muddy river--that was all
that greeted the eyes of the eager lookers-on, till darkness set in.
Not a trace of town or village, not even a fisherman's hut or a boat.
All was vegetation and the flowing river.

Once Bob Roberts thought he saw a boat coming down the stream, and in
the distance it very strangely resembled some little craft with upright
mast and dark sail; but as it came nearer it proved to be a patch of
root-matted vegetable soil, washed from the bank, and having in the
centre a small nipah palm, which slowly passed from might, to be cast
ashore upon some mud bank, and again take root.

But as the darkness fell, the distant glitter as of tiny sparks amidst
the trees took the attention of all.  They were too distant to see the
phenomenon to perfection; but the faint sparkle was very beautiful as
the myriads of fire-flies, by which it was caused, flitted and changed
from place to place, which was now dark, now scintillating in a most
peculiar manner.

The captain had decided not to attempt the passage of the river till
morning, all on board being very ignorant of its entrance, though,
judging from the configuration of the coast, the most they had to dread
was being grounded for a time on some bank of mud or sand.  This part of
the coast was so sheltered that there was no surf; and when the anchor
was let go, the corvette swung round easily, to lie almost without
motion on the calm still waters of the river's mouth.

But though no sign of human habitation had been visible, as the night
wore on those on board became fully aware of the fact that the jungle
had plenty of denizens, for from time to time strange roarings were
heard, and then splashings in the water, as of wild creatures bathing.
Once or twice too, as Bob Roberts and Ensign Long, companions for the
time being, if not friends, leaned over the bulwarks, they fancied they
could hear some great beast swimming towards them.

"What can it be?" said Bob in an awe-stricken whisper, as the strange
snorting and splashing grew nearer.

"'Nosserus," said Dick the sailor, who generally contrived to be pretty
close to the youths, and depended upon them largely for his supplies of
tobacco.  "It's one on 'em having a wallow, like a big pig, somewhere in
the shallows."

"That's a tiger, isn't it!" said Tom Long, as a hoarse roar came over
the smooth surface of the water.

"Shouldn't wonder, young gentlemen, if it were; but I'll say good night,
for 'taint my watch, and I think a turn in won't be bad preparation for
a hard day to-morrow."

Everyone expected a busy day upon the morrow; but it was long before the
two youths could tear themselves away from the side of the vessel, for
there was something so mysterious and weird in the look of the black
water, in which the stars just glimmered; while right before them all
looked dark and strange, save where there was the distant twinkling of
the fire-flies, ever changing in position.

"Hark!" whispered Long; "there's a splash again.  That can't be close to
the shore."

"No, that's not a hundred yards from the ship.  I say, Long," whispered
Bob with a shudder, "I shouldn't much like to swim ashore.  I'll be
bound to say that was a crocodile."

"I shouldn't wonder," was the reply; and they still stood trying to make
out the cause of the strange splashing noises, till, utterly tired out,
they sought their cots, and were soon fast asleep.

The getting up of the anchor roused the two lads soon after daybreak, by
which time steam was up; and with the faint morning mists slowly rising
like silver gauze above the dense belts of trees, the steamer began
slowly to move ahead.

The tide was flowing, and the mangroves were deep in the water, though
not so deep but that their curious network of roots could be seen, like
a rugged scaffold planted in the mud to support each stem; while as they
slowly went on, the dense beds of vegetation, in place of being a mile
off on either side, grew to be a half a mile, and soon after but a
hundred yards, as the steamer seemed to be going straight into a broad
bank ahead.

As they approached, though, a broad opening became visible, where the
course of the stream swung round to the right; and after passing a
point, the river rapidly contracted to about a hundred yards in width,
and soon after was narrower, but still a smoothly flowing stream by the
eternal mangroves.  At last some signs of life began to appear, in the
shape of an occasional crocodile, which glided off a muddy bank amidst
the mangrove roots, into the water.  Here and there, too, the long snout
of one of these hideous reptiles could be seen, prone on the surface of
the water, just above which appeared the eyes, with their prominences,
as the reptile turned its head slowly from side to side, in search of
some floating object that might prove to be good for food.

The sight of these beasts was too much for the officers, who were soon
armed with rifles, making shots at the muddy-hued creatures, apparently
with no other effect than for the long horny head to slowly sink beneath
the water.

Captain Smithers proved himself to be the best shot, for after splashing
the water with a bullet close to the head of one of the saurians, his
attention was drawn to another, between the steamer and the shore,
apparently quite unconscious that the vessel could injure it in the
least.

Judging from the size of the head, this was apparently the largest
crocodile that had been seen; and taking long and careful aim, Captain
Smithers at last fired, when the monster lashed the water furiously for
a few moments with its tail.

"He's hit, and badly," said Doctor Bolter.  "It's a big one, too.  What
a splendid specimen it would make!"

As he spoke, his words as to the size of the creature were verified, for
the crocodile suddenly shot itself half out of the water, showing its
head, shoulders, and a good deal of its horny back, before turning over
and diving down, displaying its hind legs and tail before it
disappeared.

"That was eighteen feet long if it was an inch," said the doctor,
excitedly; "but he has gone to the bottom."

"Yes," said Captain Smithers, quietly reloading, "we shall not see it
again.  How is your patient, Bolter?"

"Oh, pretty well all right again, thanks.  It was a lucky escape for the
poor fellow."

"Very!" said Captain Smithers, thoughtfully.  "What bird is that,
doctor?"

"A white eagle," was the reply, as the doctor followed with his glasses
the flight of a magnificent bird that rose from a stunted tree, flew
across the river, and away over the mangroves on the other side.

Soon after, as the steamer still made its way onward in mid-stream, the
river being very deep, as shown by the man busy in the chains with the
lead, a flame of blue suddenly seemed to dart from a mangrove root, and
then another and another, as some of the gorgeously-coloured kingfishers
of the peninsula shot off along the surface up the stream.

On still, and on, with every one on board eagerly on the look-out for
novelties, but all growing somewhat tired of the unbroken succession of
dull green mangroves.  At last, however, after many hours of slow and
cautious progress, the mangroves gave place to tall and beautiful palms,
showing evidently that the steamer was now beyond the reach of the tide;
and this was farther proved by the fact that the stream was now dead
against them, running pretty swiftly, but, in place of being muddy,
delightfully clear.

Faces that had looked long and solemn as the supposition had grown
stronger that the country was nothing better than a mangrove swamp,
became more cheery of aspect, especially when, through an opening in the
dense clumps of palms with their feathery tops, the blue line of a
distant range of hills could be seen.

Then came, as they rounded a point, the first trace of human habitation,
in the shape of a Malay village, which in the distance bore a marvellous
resemblance, in its steep gabled roofs thatched with palm-leaves, to
some collection of cottages in far-distant England.  But soon it was
seen that every cottage was raised upon posts, that the walls were of
woven reed or split bamboo, and that the trees that shaded them were
cocoa-nut and areca palms.

Onward still, but more slowly and cautiously, lest the steamer should
take the ground.  Now and then scattered patches of cultivation were
seen, in the shape of paddy fields; clusters of fruit-trees stood here
and there; native boats were drawn right up on the mud, or secured to
posts; and now and then buffaloes could be seen, standing knee-deep in
the water, with dark-skinned children running to and fro, terribly
excited at the sight of the strange ship.

Onward still, hour after hour, past village after village, wonderfully
same in appearance, and the river still kept broad and deep enough for
the navigation of the steamer, till night came on, and she was anchored
in mid-stream, with the wild jungle coming close down to the water's
edge on either side.

At early morn the journey was continued till a broad reach of the river
was ascended, at the far end of which was a good-sized island, in which
was a palm-thatched building of some consequence, while, only separated
from it by a narrow arm of the river, stood the largest collection of
houses they had seen, with what was evidently a mosque by the river
side.  There was an abundance of boats too, and what strongly resembled
a stockade; but what most took up the attention of all on board were a
couple of long, low, well-made vessels, each displaying a curious
figure-head bearing a faint resemblance to some fabulous monster; and in
these armed boats both the soldiers and sailors of the little expedition
were quite right in believing that they saw nothing more nor less than
the much-talked-of vessels of the kris-bearing pirates of Malaya, the
well-known, much-dreaded prahus.



CHAPTER SIX.

HOW TOM LONG TRIED THE DURIAN.

A little bustle on deck, the rattling of chains, the splash of an
anchor, and Her Majesty's ship "Startler"--well manned, and armed with
guns that could send shot and shell crashing through the town on the
river's right bank--swinging to her moorings; for she had reached her
destination--the campong, or village, of Sultan Hamet, the native Malay
potentate, who was under British protection, and who sought our aid to
rule his land beneficially, after our manners and customs, and who now
professed the most ardent friendship for those who were ready to do
their duty; though the trust they felt in the Malays was not untempered
by suspicion--in some cases, perhaps, with fear.

It was a very busy time for all, and after the "Startler" had been made
what Dick the sailor called snug--that is to say, firmly anchored head
to stream, for they were now far above the reach of the tide--a strong
party of the blue-jackets were landed upon the pleasantly umbrageous
island, along with the soldiers; for this island was to be the site of
the residency, and it proved to have four good-sized buildings amidst
the trees, which had been roughly prepared by Sultan Hamet's orders.

Doctor Bolter was almost the first man to land, and for a long time he
was fussily perspiring about, as he abused the sanitary arrangements of
the place to every man he met, pausing last of all to stand mopping his
face in front of Bob Roberts and Tom Long.

"Pretty sort of a wilderness to bring us to, young gentlemen!" he
exclaimed.  "I don't know what to start at next.  The place will be a
very hot-bed of fever, and we shall all be swept away."

"What do you say to this for a neat spot, doctor?" said Bob Roberts.

"Neat spot? what for?"

"Burying ground."

"Burying ground?  What do you mean, sir?"

"To bury us all decently, doctor," said Bob, grinning.  "And I say,
doctor, who's to bury the last man?"

"If you were under my charge, Master Bob Roberts," said the doctor,
panting with the heat, "I should reduce that vital force of yours a
little, sir."

"Thanky, doctor.  But I say, doctor, which is to be the resident's
house?"

"That, sir; and those three buildings are to be turned into barracks,
and fort, and officers' quarters; and how I am to get them all into a
sanitary state, I don't know."

But the doctor did manage it somehow in the following days, when, in
spite of the heat, every one worked with a will; the resident's house
was improved, and boats were constantly going to and from the
"Startler," whose hold was something like a conjuring trick, as it
constantly turned out household necessaries and furniture.  Handy
workmen amidst the soldiers and Jacks were busy, fitting, hammering, and
nailing; so that in a very short time the resident's house began to grow
ship-shape.

At the same time the officers' quarters were being prepared, and the
barracks as well; while plans were made to strengthen the fort, dig
ditch, form glacis, and generally make the place tenable against a
possible enemy.

Plenty of Malays were enlisted to help; but beyond bringing wood, and
acting as carriers, they did not prove to be very valuable workers.  But
all the same, the preparations went on, various chiefs coming across in
their boats from time to time, watching with no little wonder the
changes that were being effected, talking together a good deal about the
stands of arms in the little barracks, and the nine-pounder field-pieces
that were brought ashore from the "Startler's" hold.

The inexhaustible bottle was nothing to that ship, for no sooner did the
adjutant make out a list of requisitions, and send in, than the hold
began to disgorge, and boat-loads of stores came ashore; till, in a
marvellously short time, the white tents, saving one or two large ones,
disappeared from where they had been first set up amongst the trees, and
with a celerity that perfectly astounded the Malay visitors, the island
assumed an aspect that seemed to say the English visitors meant to stay.

Meanwhile, the country people grew less shy, and boats came with fruit
and rice for sale, one of the first being visited by Bob Roberts--Tom
Long, who had evidently meant to be there before him, coming directly
after.

The ladies had landed and taken possession of their new abode, where
several of the soldiers were busy forming a garden; and it had struck
both the admirers of Miss Linton that an offering or two of fruit and
flowers would be very acceptable, after the long confinement on ship
board.

The sampan, or native boat, that the two lads had come to visit, was
fastened to a rough bamboo landing-stage, that had been one of the first
things fitted up at the island; and, to their great delight, they could
see that the boat was stored with various vegetable productions, some of
which were sufficiently attractive to make the lads' mouths water, to
the forgetting of the main object of their visit.

"Hallo, soldier!" said Bob Roberts, as he saw Tom Long come up, looking
very aggressive.

"Hallo, sailor boy!" said Tom Long, superciliously; and then they stood
looking at each other, quite unconsciously like a couple of Malay game
cocks in bamboo cages, on the afterpart of the sampan.  These two
pugnacious birds were evincing a strong desire for a regular duel; but
as the bamboo bars of their cages prevented a near approach, they stood
there ruffling their plumes, and staring hard in each other's faces.

"Seems a strange thing that a man can't come down to buy a little fruit
and some flowers, without your watching him," said Bob, at last.

"I wasn't watching you, boy," said Tom Long, superciliously.  "There,
spend your penny, my man, and go about your business."

"Look here, my stuck-up red herring," cried Bob, setting his teeth hard,
"Captain Horton said that the naval officers were to set an example of
gentlemanly behaviour before the natives, or I'll be blowed, Mr Tom
Long, if I wouldn't punch your head."

"Blowed--punch head," sneered Tom Long; "that's gentlemanly, certainly."

"Look here," said Bob, who was stung to the quick by the truth of this
remark; "do you want to fight, Mr Tom Long?"

"Mr T.  Long presents his compliments to the middy boy of the
`Startler,' and begs to inform him that when her Majesty's officers
fight, it is with some one worthy of their steel."

"Ha, ha!  Haw, haw!  Ho, ho, ho!" laughed Bob, cutting a caper
expressive of his great amusement.  "Her Majesty's officers--some one
worthy of their steel.  Ha, ha, ha, ha!  I say, Tom Long, how happy and
contented her Majesty must feel, knowing as she does that the gallant
officer, Ensign Long, is always ready to draw his sword in her defence.
Here, you stop!  I got here first."

"Sahib wants my beautiful fruit," said one of the dark-faced men in the
sampan, towards which Tom Long had stepped.

"Hallo!" said Bob, going up.  "You are not a Malay?"

"No, sahib: I Kling, from Madras.  Sell fruit--flowers.  This Malaya
man."

He pointed to a flat-nosed, high-cheek-boned man with him, who was
dressed in the inevitable plaid sarong of bright colours, and wore a
natty little plaited-grass cap upon his head.

Bob turned, and saw that this man carried a kris stuck in the folds of
his sarong, which had slipped from the hilt, and he was now busy with a
little brass box and a leaf.  This leaf of one of the pepper plants he
was smearing with a little creamy-looking mixed lime from the brass box,
on which he placed a fragment of betel-nut, rolled it in the leaf,
thrust it into his mouth, which it seemed to distort, and then began to
expectorate a nasty red juice, with which he stained the pure water.

"Hope you feel better now," said Bob, who, in his interest in the
Malay's proceedings, had forgotten all about the squabble with Tom Long.
"Ugh! the dirty brute!  Chewing tobacco's bad enough; but as for that--
I'd just like to get the armourer's tongs and fetch that out of your
mouth, and then swab it clean."

"No speak English; Malaya man," said the Kling laughing.  "Chew betel,
very good, sahib.  Like try?"

"Try!  No," said Bob, with a gesture of disgust.  "Here, I say; we'll
buy some fruit directly: let's have a look at your kris."

The Kling, who seemed to have quite adopted the customs of the people
amongst whom he was, hesitated for a moment, looking suspiciously at the
two lads, and then took the weapon he wore from his waist, and held it
out.

Bob took it, and Tom Long closed up, being as much interested as the
midshipman.

"I say, Tom Long," the latter said, with a laugh, "which of us two will
get the first taste of that brown insect's sting?"

"You, Bob," said Tom Long, coolly.  "It would let out a little of your
confounded impudence."

"Thanky," said Bob, as he proceeded to examine the weapon with the
greatest interest, from its wooden sheath, with a clumsy widened portion
by the hilt, to the hilt itself, which, to European eyes, strongly
resembled the awkwardly formed hook of an umbrella or walking-stick, and
seemed a clumsy handle by which to wield the kris.

"Pull it out," said Tom Long, eagerly; and Bob drew it, to show a dull
ragged-looking two-edged blade, and of a wavy form.  It was about
fifteen inches long, and beginning about three inches wide, rapidly
narrowed down to less than one inch, and finished in a sharp point.

"It's a miserable-looking little tool," said Bob.

"Good as a middy's dirk," said Tom Long, laughing.

"I don't know so much about that," said Bob, making a stab at nothing
with the kris.  "I say, old chap, this is poisoned, isn't it?"

"No, sahib," said the Kling, displaying his white teeth.

"But the Malay krises are poisoned," said Bob.  "Is his?"

He nodded in the direction of the Malay, who was trying to understand
what was said.

"No, sahib, no poison.  What for poison kris?"

"Make it kill people, of course," said Bob, returning the rusty looking
weapon to its scabbard.

"Kris kill people all same, no poison," said the Kling, taking back his
dagger.  "'Tick kris through man, no want no poison, sahib."

"He's about right there, middy," said Tom Long.  "Here, let's look at
some fruit."

This brought Bob Roberts back to the object of his mission; and
realising at once that Tom Long's object was a present, he, by what he
considered to be a lucky inspiration, turned his attention to the
flowers that were in the boat.

For the Malays are a flower-loving people, and there is nothing the dark
beauties of this race like better than decking their jetty-black hair
with white and yellow sweet-scented blossoms.

Bob was not long in securing a large bunch of arums, all soft and white,
with the great yellow seed vessel within.  To this he added a great
bunch of delicately tinted lotus, and then sat down on the edge of the
boat to see what Long would purchase.

Tom Long was hard to please; now he would decide on a bunch of delicious
golden plantains, and then set them aside in favour of some custard
apples.  Then he wondered whether the ladies would not prefer some
mangoes; but recollecting that they had had plenty of mangoes, and the
delicious mangosteen in India, he decided upon some limes and a couple
of cocoanuts, when the Kling exclaimed, "Why not sahib buy durian?"

"What the dickens is durian?" said Tom.

"Durian best nice fruit that grow, sahib."

"Oh, is it?" said Tom.  "Then let's have a look."

The Kling said something to the Malay, who stooped down, and solemnly
produced what looked like a great spiney nut, about as large as a boy's
head.

"That durian, sahib," said the Kling, smiling.

"Oh, that's durian, is it?" said Tom, taking the great fruit in his
hands, and turning it over and over.

"Nice-looking offering for a lady," said Bob Roberts, laughing.  Tom
Long looked up sharply, and was about to speak; but he said nothing,
only kept turning the great fruit over and over.

"Taste nice, most nice all fruit, sahib," said the Kling.

"Here, let's try one," said Bob, laying down his flowers; and the Kling
signed to his companion to give him another, which the Malay did with
solemn importance, not a smile appearing on his face, nor a look
suggestive of his being anxious to sell the fruit in the boat.

The Kling took the great wooden fruit, laid it on the thwart of the
boat, and reaching a heavy knife from the side, he inserted it at the
head of a faint line, one of five to be seen running down the wooden
shell of the fruit, and following this mark, he was able to open the
curious production, and divide it into portions like an orange.  In each
of these quarters, or fifths, were two or three great seeds, as large as
chestnuts, and these were set in a quantity of thick buttery cream or
custard.

"Well, all I can say is that it's precious rum-looking stuff," said Bob.
"Which do you eat, the kernels, or this custardy stuff?"

"No eat seeds, sahib; eat other part," said the Kling.

"Come along, soldier," said Bob; "I'll eat one bit, if you will?"

Tom Long looked too much disgusted to speak, but in a half-offended
manner he picked up another quarter of the durian, and examined it
attentively.

"Phew!" ejaculated Bob, looking round.  "What a horrible smell.  There
must be something floating down the river."

They both glanced at the flowing silvery waters of the river, but
nothing was in sight.

"It's getting worse," said Tom Long.  "Why, it's perfectly dreadful!"

"It's this precious fruit," exclaimed Bob suddenly; and raising his
portion to his nose, "Murder!" he cried; "how horrid!" and he pitched
his piece overboard.

"Why, it's a bad one," said Tom Long, sharply: and he followed the
middy's suit.

The Kling raised his hands in dismay; but leaning over the side, he
secured the two pieces of durian before they were out of reach, and
turned to his customers.

"Good durian--buteful durian," he exclaimed.  "Alway smell so fashion."

"What!" cried Bob, "do you mean to tell me that stuff's fit to eat?"

The Kling took up the fruit; and smelt it with his eyes half-closed, and
then drawing in a long breath, he sighed gently, as if with regret that
he might not indulge in such delicacies.

"Bess durian," he said, in an exaggerated ecstatic manner.  "Quite bess
ripe."

Bob stooped down and retook a portion of the strange fruit, smelt it
cautiously, and then, taking out a knife, prepared to taste it.

"You are never going to eat any of that disgusting thing, are you,
sailor?" cried Tom Long.

"I'm going to try it, soldier," said Bob coolly.  "Come and have a
taste, lad."

In the most matter-of-fact way, though quite out of bravado on account
of Tom Long's disgusted looks, Bob took a long sniff at the durian.

"Well, it is a little high," he said, quietly.  "Not unlike bad
brick-kiln burning, with a dash of turpentine."

"Carrion, you mean," said Tom Long.

"No, not carrion," said Bob, picking out a good-sized fragment of the
fruit upon his knife; "it's what the captain calls _sui generis_."

"All burra sahib like durian," said the Kling, showing his white teeth.

"Then the burra sahibs have got precious bad taste," said Tom Long, just
as Bob put the first piece of the fruit into his mouth, rolled his eyes,
and looked as if he were about to eject it into the stream, but did not;
gave it a twist round, tasted it; looked less serious; began to
masticate; and swallowing the piece, proceeded to take a little more.

"There, it won't do, Bob Roberts," said Tom Long; "say it's horrible,
like a man.  You can't deceive me.  What does it taste like?"

"Don't know yet," said Bob trying the second piece.

"What a jackass you are to torture yourself like that, to try and take
me in, middy!"

Bob helped himself to a little more.

"Well, what does it taste like?"

"Custard," said Bob, working away hard, and speaking between every dig
of his knife; "candles, cream cheese, onion sauce, tipsy cake, bad
butter, almonds, sherry and bitters, banana, old shoes, turpentine,
honey, peach and beeswax.  Here, I say; give us a bit more, old cock."

Tom Long was astounded, for after finishing the first piece of the
evil-smelling dainty, Bob had begun the second, and was toiling at it
with a patient industry that showed thorough appreciation of the most
peculiar fruit in the world.

"Tipsy cake, bad butter, old shoes, peach and beeswax," and the other
incongruities, rang in Long's ear; and to prove that he was not
deceiving him, there was Bob eating away as if his soul were in the
endeavour to prove how much he could dispose of at one go.

It was too much for Tom Long; his curiosity was roused to the highest
point, and as the Kling was smilingly watching Bob, Tom signed to the
Malay to give him a piece.

The solemn-looking Asiatic picked up another fruit, and while Tom looked
impatiently on, it was opened, and a piece handed to him, which he took,
and with Bob's example before his eyes took a greedy bite--uttered a cry
of disgust--and flung the piece in hand at the giver.

The Malayan character has been aptly described as volcanic.  The pent-up
fire of his nature slumbers long sometimes, beneath his calm,
imperturbable, dignified exterior; but the fire lies smouldering within,
and upon occasions it bursts out, carrying destruction before it.

In this case Tom Long's folly--worse, his insult to the master of the
sampan--roused the fiery Malay on the instant to fury, as he realised
the fact that the youth he looked upon as an infidel and an intruder had
dared to offer to him, a son of the faithful, such an offence; then with
a cry of rage, he sprang at the ensign, bore him backwards to the bottom
of the boat; and as the midshipman started up, it was to see the Malay's
deadly, flame-shaped kris waving in the air.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

HOW DICK RELATED THE VISIT.

With a cry of horror Bob Roberts leaped forward, and caught the Malay's
wrist in time to avert the blow, the Kling starting forward the next
instant, and helping to hold the infuriate Asiatic; while Tom Long
struggled up and leaped ashore, where a knot of soldiers and sailors
were gathering.

"Don't say anything, Tom," cried Bob.  "Here you--tell him he did not
mean to offend him," he continued to the Kling, who repeated the words;
and the Malay, who had been ready to turn on the midshipman, seemed to
calm down and sheathed his kris; while the Kling spoke to him again with
the result that the offended man sat himself down in the boat, gazing
vindictively at the young ensign ashore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob gave the ensign a comical look.

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

"Durians, Dick."

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

The men laughed, and old Dick went on--

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

"Our what?" said Bob.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here there was another laugh.

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

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

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

"How many, Dick?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER EIGHT.

TOM LONG'S WOUND.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who's that down?"

"Ensign Long, sir," some one said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER NINE.

A NIGHT ATTACK, AND A MISFORTUNE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Would tigers swim?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Might be anywhere," muttered the midshipman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER TEN.

HOW BOB ROBERTS WAS NOT DROWNED.

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

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

"Boat ahoy!" came from out the darkness.

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

"Help here!" came from the stern again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lieutenant listened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How many wounded?"

"Six, sir, but only slightly."

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

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

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



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

HOW BOB ROBERTS HAD A LESSON ON COMMON SENSE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why, what did I say?"

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

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

"Say it again, please," said Bob.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Linton gazed at him half sad and half amused.

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

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

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

"Do you really?" said Bob.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER TWELVE.

A DISCUSSION UPON WOUNDS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And picked out," said the ensign impatiently.

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

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

"Yes, of course.  What then?"

"Do you think they are poisoned?"

"No, not a bit.  Do you?"

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

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

"I feel so now."

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

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

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

"Think so?"

"Sure of it."

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

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

"What was he wounded with?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"About krises being poisoned, doctor."

Doctor Bolter felt his patient's pulse.

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

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

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

"I don't pretend, doctor."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I say, if I die."

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

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

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

"Bob Roberts!"

"Consequential--"

"I tell you what it is--"

"Cocky--"

"I never heard--"

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

AN UNPLEASANT INTERRUPTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Indeed!" said Tom Long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Bah!"

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

"And did he?"

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

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

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

"I don't know; go on."

"Raspberry vinegar, and--ah!"

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



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

HOW BOB ROBERTS MADE A FIRM FRIEND.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You do?"

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

"Then he must be taken and punished."

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

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

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

"Was there anything more to tell?"

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

"What was it?"

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

"Pooh! how can it rile me?"

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

"Proposal!  What proposal?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?"

"Champagne."

"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.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

HOW THE SULTAN WAS PUT OFF WITH WORDS.

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."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

HOW PRIVATE SIM TOOK A NAP, AND FOUND IT UNPLEASANT.

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.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

HOW DICK BUYS A RAJAH, AND HIS FIRST LUFF OBJECTS.

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.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

HOW BOB ROBERTS WENT A-FISHING.

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.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

HOW BOB AND OLD DICK FINISHED THEIR DAY.

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.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

A RUN AFTER A RAJAH.

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.

The news that one of the prahus was about, up the river, set the ship's
company on the _qui vive_ once more.  The master of the prahu, having
been robbed of his cargo, had no farther aim, and was glad enough to
offer his services as guide.  When asked as to the depth of the river,
he declared that the steamer could ascend for another twenty miles, so
it was decided to make a fresh expedition against this disturber of the
country; but the whole of the plans were kept a profound secret, lest
the time and arrangements of the party should again be conveyed to the
rajah by some one or other of his spies.

Preparations were quietly made, then, and fifty men from the island
taken on board the steamer, a few at a time, so as not to attract
notice; and when at last the expeditionary party started, the occupants
of the residency were dining with Major and Mrs Sandars at the
officers' quarters, where they quietly stayed.

Steam had been got up before dark, and every preparation made, for this
time the "Startler" was to go up stream: and at last, when night rapidly
succeeded day, as it does in the tropics, the steamer lay waiting for
the rising of the moon, and then her screw slowly revolved, and she
began to feel her way gently against the swift stream--the people of the
campong only seeing her at nightfall moored as usual, and not awaking to
the fact that she had gone until the morning, of course far too late to
give any warning to the rajah if they were so disposed.

Patiently and almost silently the great steamer forced its way on for
quite a mile, when, there being no fear now of being heard, the
propeller revolved more rapidly, and the waves made by the vessel ran
washing the roots of the trees on either side.

The moon was just at its full, and seemed, as it rose, to silver the
tops of the trees, while it left the river in utter darkness, though it
marked out its course through the dense jungle where it seemed to have
to cut its way, the great trees growing to the water's edge, and
overhanging the stream.

A rapid rate was impossible, on account of the way in which the river
wound about; but it kept so wide and deep that there was but little
difficulty in its navigation, especially as not a single craft of any
kind was encountered.

The master of the prahu pointed out a couple of campongs as they passed
them, on the banks; but they might have been villages of the dead, so
silent and unoccupied did they seem, as the steamer slowly glided by.

The moon rose higher and higher, till the river was like a broad path of
silver, and along this they continued their course with a man constantly
sounding from the chains, but always to show an average depth of about
four fathoms, with a thick, soft, muddy bottom, upon which the steamer
could have met with no harm had she taken the ground.

Silence had been ordered, but as the Jacks and soldiers sat beneath the
shelter of the bulwarks, or leaned over and watched the smooth, silvery
river, they conversed in low whispers about the expedition, and wondered
what luck was to attend them now.

The plan was evident to all, it was intended to spare the men all the
risk they could, by getting the steamer within range of the prahus, and
sinking them with her big guns.  If this could not be done, through the
shallowing of the river, of course the boats would have to continue the
journey up stream; but even then it was Captain Horton's intention to
make use of the boat-guns as much as possible, and save the men from the
disadvantages of boarding vessels that were so carefully protected.

Higher up the river still, and past the stockade, whose remains showed
plainly in the soft moonlight.  Ever and again strange noises could be
heard from the jungle on either side, as the various denizens of the
thick tangle of vegetation were alarmed by the throb and rush of the
steamer, with its strange wave that rushed up to the bank, and startled
many a nocturnal creature from its lurking-place, where it lay watching
in search of prey.

To Bob Roberts' great delight, he found that Tom Long was one of the
party, for, being declared well enough by the doctor, he had put in a
sort of claim, as having been of the last force, to a right to belong to
this.

This was conceded to him by Major Sandars, and he was burning to
distinguish himself, if he could obtain a chance.

Very formidable he seemed, with his sword ground to the keenest possible
edge, and a revolver in his belt; though in appearance Bob Roberts was
scarcely less offensive in the way of weapons, as he took pains to show
his friend.

It must have been close upon midnight, when the man in the chains, who
had continued to take soundings, announced by degrees the shallowing of
the river.

For quite twenty miles it had kept to its muddy bottom and uniform
depth, but during the past half-hour the mud had given place to
clean-washed gravel, the depth grew less, and at last the anchor was let
go, for it was not considered safe to proceed farther.  But it was not
until there was less than a foot of water beneath the vessel that the
order was given; while even then there was so much way upon the steamer
that she touched upon the gravel lightly before she gradually settled
back and swung to her cable.

Quickly and silently four boats were lowered, each containing twenty
men, and at the word of command the party, under the joint command of
Lieutenant Johnson and Captain Smithers, pushed off, with the good
wishes of all left on board.

The master of the prahu was in the foremost boat, and according to his
account, they were still about a couple of miles below where the attack
took place, he having been mistaken about the steamer's draught of
water.  His opinion was that both the prahus would be found lying in the
Qualla, or mouth of a river higher up, and towards this point the boats
steadily ascended without any undue bustle, for the object of the
officers in charge was to get the men up to the point, fresh and ready
for the task in hand.

Each boat carried a gun running on slides, and upon the proper service
of these guns, depended a good deal of the success of the expedition.

They had been rowing steadily on for above half an hour, when suddenly
from their left a bright line of light cut the black darkness of the
forest, and was followed by a sharp report.

For a moment the course of the boats was checked, and one was directed
to pull in and see who the enemy might be, but directly after there was
another report a couple of hundred yards higher up, and then another,
and another.

"Catch a weasel asleep," said Lieutenant Johnson, grimly; "that signal
will run right up to the prahus.  We've got to deal with some one who
has his wits about him."

So indeed it proved; for a quarter of an hour later, as they still
pushed steadily on in line, there came a warning from the first boat in
the shape of a dull heavy report, and the other boats sheered out of the
right line, ready to deliver their own fire.

For plainly enough, though wearing a grey shadowy appearance, a couple
of prahus could be seen coming swiftly down the stream, the long rows of
oars on either side beating the water with a wonderfully regular stroke,
and sending them along at quite a startling rate.

Shot after shot was fired, but with what effect the occupants of the
boats could not tell, for no heed was paid to the firing, save that the
prahus seemed to increase their speed, and were steered so as to run
down the enemy that tried to check their way.

It was a matter of little more than a minute from the first sighting of
the vessels, each of which was five or six times the size of the largest
boats, and their disappearance round the point below, with the water
foaming behind them, and the English boats in full pursuit.  Several
shots had been fired, for each boat found its opportunity at last, and
the firing was kept up till the enemy had gone.

The attempt to overtake them was, however, felt to be hopeless, for the
prahus went at least two yards to the boats' one; all the officers could
hope was, that one of the shots had done irreparable mischief, or that,
warned by the firing, the steamer would sink them as they passed.

More they could not have done; for to have remained still was to have
been sunk, the prahus dashing down at a fearful rate, and evidently
seeking a collision; so, angry and disappointed, the pursuit was kept
up, every ear being attent for the first shot sent at the enemy's boats
by the steamer; but they waited in vain, for when at last they came
within challenging distance, it was to find that no prahus had been
seen.

"Was a strict watch kept, sir?" asked Lieutenant Johnson, sharply.

"Yes, of course," said Captain Horton.  "I have been on deck with my
night-glass ever since you started, and as soon as we heard your guns
the men stood ready, lanyard in hand, to fire at any vessel that tried
to pass."

"Then they must have gone off through some side stream, and come out
into the river lower down."

Captain Horton stamped his foot with rage, but nothing could be done
until morning; for if the steamer had set off at once, it might have
been only to pass the prahus in the darkness of some creek.

Morning then was impatiently awaited, and at the first streak of
daylight a couple of boats at once set off, to find a side branch of the
river about a mile above the steamer, and that it came out in the main
stream once more, half a mile lower down.

They rowed through it to find the current swift and deep, though the
place resembled a narrow canal.  It was a short cut off through a bend
of the river, and at last, vexed and discomfited, the steamer went
rapidly back, to learn that the prahus had passed the island at
daybreak, and had fired a few defiant shots from their lelahs as they
rapidly went by.

"Never mind, Tom Long," said Bob, as the former shivered in his
great-coat, for the early morning was damp and cold, "only take time,
and we shall put salt on their tails yet."

"No, sir," said old Dick, shaking his head seriously, "it strikes me as
you never won't catch them as manages them two swift boats.  They're too
clever for us, they are.  But only think of two big bits of Her
Majesty's army and navy like us being set at nought by this here savage
prince."

"Wait a bit, Dick, and you'll see," said Bob.  "It strikes me that I'm
the man for settling Mr Rajah Gantang; and if it does come to me to do
so, why let him look out."

"Ay, ay, sir; and his men too.  I owe 'em one for that boat affair.  The
cowards! when a fellow was asleep!"

"Ah," said Tom Long, discontentedly, "it's all very well to talk, but I
want my breakfast;" and he made haste off to his quarters as soon as the
steamer's boats had set the military part of the expeditionary party
ashore.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

HOW ABDULLAH SHOWED THE SMOOTH SIDE OF HIS WAYS.

It was decided after this to wait patiently for an opportunity to
capture Rajah Gantang, or to destroy his prahus; and meanwhile life at
the residency went on very pleasantly.  The men at the fort had settled
down into an easy-going existence, and under the doctor's guidance a
careful examination was made of the little island, to clear it of
everything in the shape of noxious reptile and insect, as far as was
possible.

The example of the Malays was followed by the construction of a large
bathing-place for the men, which being carefully stockaded round with
stout bamboos, allowed the free flow of the river-water, without the
addition of any four-footed creatures, in the shape of crocodiles, which
were far too common to be pleasant, especially where lower down the
river the salt water mingled with the fresh.  In fact, it was dangerous
there for a hand to be dragged in the water beside a boat, the hideous
creatures being ready to make a dash at it, darting through the stream,
as they did with great velocity, by a stroke of their powerful tails.

The great desire on the part of the men was to go ashore, but, in the
majority of cases, this was sternly refused.  Here and there, though, an
officer had a shooting-trip, but it was thought better to wait until the
confidence of the natives had been more thoroughly won, and the
disaffected party of Rajah Gantang dismissed.

The sultan seemed to have quite forgotten his rejection by the ladies,
and was most liberal in his presentations of fruit and fresh provisions.
Every morning a boat came off with a load, the fore part being
generally crammed with freshly-cut flowers; and later on in the day the
resident's boat would be sent ashore to return the compliment.  Tom Long
generally had the honour of being the escort, and marching a fatigue
party up to the sultan's residence, with something likely to gratify his
highness.

There used to be hearty laughter amongst the officers at the quaintness
of the presents, and sometimes Tom Long would have been glad to evade
his duty had he dared; for, he confided to Bob Roberts--

"It is so confoundedly ridiculous, you know.  I don't mind taking him up
a little case of a dozen champagne pints, but what do you think I had to
take yesterday?"

"I don't know," said Bob, laughing; "a pound of candles, perhaps."

"No, not yesterday," cried Tom Long; "but I did have to take him a
packet of composite candles, one day.  Only fancy, you know, an officer
in Her Majesty's service marching with a fatigue party, up to a
palm-thatched barn, to take a coffee-coloured savage a packet of candles
for a present!"

"Mustn't look a gift horse in the mouth," said Bob, philosophically.
"Present's a present, whether it's a pound of candles or a gold chain."

"Bah!  It's disgusting," said Tom Long.  "It's enough to make a man want
to part with his commission."

"What'll you take for it, Tom Long?  I think I should like a change.  Or
come, I'll swap with you.  I'll turn ensign, and you take a go at the
sea?"

"Don't be absurd."

"Certainly not; but come, you didn't tell me what you took up
yesterday."

"No," exclaimed Tom Long, flushing with annoyance; "but I will tell you,
for it's a scandal and a disgrace to the service, and Mr Linton ought
to be informed against.  I actually, sir, had to march those men all
along through that jungle with a box."

"Box of what?" said Bob; "dominoes?"

"No, sir," cried Tom Long.  "A box containing two bottles of pickles."

"Ha, ha, ha, ha!" roared Bob.  "What were they?  Walnuts, or onions?"

"Neither," said Tom, with great dignity; "one was piccalilli, and the
other mixed."

"Well, I dare say he was very glad of them," said Bob.  "I consider a
good bottle of pickles, out in this benighted place, one of the greatest
luxuries one could have."

"Yes," said Tom Long, who had on a supercilious fit that day, "I suppose
it would satisfy you."

"All right, my noble friend," thought Bob to himself; "I'll take you
down for that some day."

They strolled out and about the fort together for a time, and then out
to the upper end of the island; for though longing to go to the lower
portion where the residency stood, both of them carefully avoided that
part.  But it so happened that soon after, when they directed their
steps towards the landing-place, they found that the ladies were there,
in company with the major's wife, talking to a couple of Malays in a
sampan laden with fruit and flowers.

The ladies were making liberal purchases of the delicious fruit and
sweet-scented flowers, when, to the astonishment of Bob Roberts, he saw
that one of the Malays, was the man who had made so fierce an attack
upon Tom Long over the durian affair.

Seeing this they both stepped forward, when the Malay recognised him,
said a few hasty words to his companion, and they both leaped ashore,
the man of the kris salaaming profoundly, and remaining half prostrate
before the young ensign.

"Dullah asks pardon of his excellency," said the other man in good
English.  "He thought him an enemy who had insulted him, and he drew his
kris.  He asks now that his excellency will forgive him."

"Yes, yes," said the offending Malay, without raising his head or his
pleading hands; and then he repeated what seemed to be the whole of his
stock of English, "Yes, yes."

"Dullah asks your excellencies to forgive him, and to let him bring
fruit and flowers, and to make offerings to the English princes he has
offended."

"Oh, I say, Tom Long," said Bob; "that's a little too strong, isn't it?
English princes!"

"What are we to do about the fellow?" said Tom Long; "tell the sentry to
turn him off?"

"No; what's the good?" said Bob.  "Here, leave it to me.  I'll settle
him."

He glanced merrily at Rachel Linton as he spoke, seeming quite at ease
in her society now; while Tom Long appeared to be buttoned up in his
stiffest uniform, though he was in undress white.

"Go on, then," said Tom Long in a whisper, "but don't say anything
stupid; the ladies can hear every word."

"All right," said Bob.  "Look here, old cockolorum," he continued to the
Malay who interpreted, "what has become of that Kling who was here
before?"

"Gone Mirzapore, most excellent prince," said the man.

"Come, that'll do," said Bob impatiently; "drop all that eastern sugar
wordings, my fine fellow, and look here!"

The Malay salaamed again.

"My friend here isn't an English prince.  We are English officers.  And
my friend here says you may tell Mr Abdullah there that he does not
bear any malice against him for the attack.  If he asks pardon, that is
enough."

This being interpreted to Abdullah, who remained humbly bent, he started
up, and catching Tom Long's hands, kissed them both, and afterwards
Bob's, very much to that young gentleman's disgust, though Tom received
the salute with a good deal of dignity, posing himself to look to the
best advantage in the presence of the ladies.

"There, that'll do now," said Bob.  "It's all right, only tell Mr
Abdullah not to be so handy with his kris again, and that I--Mr
Roberts, of Her Majesty's ship `Startler'--think he ought to present us
with some durians."

This was duly interpreted to the Malay, who drew back, gazing keenly
from the ensign to the middy, and back again, his dark eyes seeming to
flash, as he said something in his native tongue to the interpreter.

"Dullah say you throw durian again in his face, and it make him mad."

"No, no, old fellow, nothing of the kind," said Bob, laying his hand on
Abdullah's shoulder.  "That's all past."

The Malay judged his meaning from his looks, and not from his words.
Then smiling, he leaped back into the boat, and returned laden with the
finest fruit he had, which he offered to the young officers with no
little grace and dignity, smiling pleasantly the while, but manifesting
nothing little or servile.

The ladies looked on so wonderingly, that Bob had to leave the durians
and explain, returning directly after, though, to the Malays, and
obtaining a splendid bunch of the sweet flowers of the waringhan tree,
which he carried back to the ladies, who smiled, thanked him, and took
their departure.

"I never saw such a fellow as you are, Roberts," said the ensign,
sulkily, as Bob returned; "you always seem to know what to say or do
when ladies are present.  I don't!"

"Native modesty, ability, and natural gifts, my dear fellow," said Bob;
"and I'm precious glad they are gone, for I want to have a go at those
durians."

Abdullah had already opened one, which he presented to Bob, who took it
and made a terrible onslaught; and then, with a doubting look in his
dark eyes, the Malay opened a second durian, hesitated, and then,
evidently mastering his pride, offered it to Tom Long.

The latter drew back, shaking his head, and the Malay looked hurt and
annoyed.

"Tell him I don't like durians, Bob Roberts," said Tom, nervously, "or
we shall have another row."

"Here, hi! old cockolorum!" cried Bob, with his mouth full, as he turned
to the Malay, "tell Mr Abdullah there, that his durians are 'licious--
luscious--'licious, but Mr Long likes mangosteens better."

This was interpreted, and Abdullah's doubting look changed as he hurried
back to the boat, and returned with a basket full of delicious fruit,
which he offered Tom Long with a bow; and then, finding they were
accepted, he stood smiling with his head bent, while Bob went on
devouring durian at a terrible rate.

"I say, Tom Long," said Bob, making a very unpleasant noise with his
mouth.

"What is it?" said the ensign, who was deep in the mysterious flavour of
the delicious mangosteen.

"I never believed in old Darwin, and his development, and evolution, and
that sort of thing, till now."

"Why now?" said Tom Long.

"Because I feel such a pig," said Bob, attacking another durian.  "Look
here, old man, if you'll put me up in a durian tree, I don't want
anything else, thankey; you may have all the honour and glory.  Oh!  I
say, this one's lovely! it's just like nectar made with custard, with an
old shoe put in for flavour, and all stirred up with a paint brush.  How
are you getting on?"

"Bravely," said Tom Long.

The two young officers went on eating till they caught sight of the
doctor in the distance--a sight so suggestive of making themselves ill,
that they gave up with a sigh or two, and went away, Tom Long offering
to pay liberally for the fruit, notwithstanding a hint from his
companion that he should be content to accept it as a present.

Both the Malays drew back very proudly, but Bob Roberts healed the
breach in etiquette by quietly taking out his case, and offering a cigar
to each of the Malays in turn.

These were taken with a smile, and accompanied by a thoroughly friendly
look at parting.

"They're rum fellows, those Malays," said Bob, "and want a lot of
managing.  They are gentlemen at heart, and savages at body.  That's my
opinion of them."

"And my opinion is," said Tom Long, "that they are a precious unpleasant
treacherous set of people, that it is downright cruelty to expect a
gentleman to live amongst."

Up to this point no Malay, not even a servant, had been admitted to live
upon the island, though the want of natives for assistance and to supply
food had been keenly felt.

During the last few days, however, the resident had begun to relax this
stringent rule, and a fisherman had been permitted to set up his hut,
and keep his boats, at the upper end of the island, with the consequence
that in place of a very intermittent supply, there was plenty of fish at
the mess table.

Now as soon as the young officers had gone, Abdullah and his Malay
companion sought audience, basket in hand, of the resident, who, after
talking to them for a time, walked down to the landing-place, saw their
ample supply of fruit and flowers, and ended by granting them a site by
the water's edge, where they might set up their hut, and secure their
boat, the understanding upon which the grant was made, being that an
ample supply was to be kept up for the use of the officers and men.

"Capital fellow, Linton," said the doctor.  "Nothing like fruit in
moderation to keep men in health.  But isn't it risky to have these
fellows on the isle?"

"I have thought of that," said Mr Linton; "but by being too exclusive
we shall defeat our own ends.  We must receive the principal part of the
Malays in a friendly way, and it is only by a more open policy that this
can be done.  If we admit any wolves amongst the sheep they must meet
with the wolves' fate.  So far I think I have done well."

"Well, yes, perhaps you are right," said the doctor.  But both gentlemen
would have altered their opinions exceedingly if they had seen a long
low boat, painted of a dark grey, and manned by six men, float gently
down stream that night, and, unseen by the sentries, stop beside the
sampan of Abdullah and his Malay companion.

Here there was a short consultation, Abdullah crawling over the gunwale
into the long low boat, where he lay down, side by side with the man who
steered.

Their conversation was long, and the others in the boat lay down while
it was going on, so that had the boat been seen by an unusually watchful
sentry it would have appeared to be empty, and moored to a bamboo stake
thrust into the mud.

But the dark silent boat was not seen by the nearest sentry, either when
it floated down, or when it was cautiously turned and paddled up stream
once more, till, out of hearing, the oars went down with a noisy splash,
and the long narrow vessel literally dashed through the river.

The reason it was not seen was simple enough.

Private Sim was on duty that night, and he had been once more fast
asleep.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

THE CREW OF THE CAPTAIN'S GIG.

There was a good deal of the schoolboy left in the young representatives
of Her Majesty's two services; not that this is strange, for a good deal
of his schoolboyhood clings to a man even in middle life.  Bob Roberts
had a tiff with Long, made vow after vow that he would never speak to
the ensign again; declaring him to be a consequential cocky scarlet
pouter pigeon, with as much strut in him as a bantam.

On the other hand, Tom Long declared the middy to be a most offensive
little rascal, with impertinence enough in him for a dozen men.  He was
determined to cut him dead--that he was, and he would have no more to do
with him.

Result the very next day:

Bob Roberts hurried down into the captain's gig, sitting there very
eager and excited; for they were going to the island, and he had a plan
in his head.

The captain came to the side and down the ladder, the gig was pushed
off, the crew's oars fell into the bright river with one splash, and as
they did so Bob Roberts forgot all the respect due to his commander, by
suddenly catching him by the arm.

"Look, look, sir.  See that?"

"No, Mr Roberts," said the captain rather sternly, "but I felt it."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Bob, saluting.  "It was a great
crocodile, and the splash of the men's oars frightened it."

"Oh, indeed," said the captain dryly; and he took out a despatch and
began to read.

Dick, who was coxswain of the gig, screwed up his mahogany visage, and
Bob pretended to look terribly alarmed, and so the boat was rowed over
the sparkling waters to the bamboo landing-stage, when the captain got
out, and Bob was left in charge of the boat.

Bob jumped up as soon as the captain had entered the residency, and
began to fidget about.

"I wish I knew how long the skipper would be, Dick," he said.  "I want
to go ashore.  No, I don't," he said, correcting himself.  "I got in a
row once for that.  But look here, Dick, suppose you go and find Mr
Long."

"All right, sir," said Dick, with alacrity.  "I'll go."

"Oh no, you don't," cried Bob, recollecting himself again; "that fly
won't take the same cock salmon twice, Master Dick."

"I don't understand you, sir," growled Dick, rubbing his ear.

"Oh no, I suppose not," said Bob.  "You didn't go ashore for me once
with a message, and then get up to the canteen and forgot to come back
again, did you?"

"Lor', now you mention it, sir, so I did," said Dick.  "It was that day
as I met Sergeant Lund, and he says, `Why, Dick, old man,' he says, `you
look as dry and thirsty,' he says, `as a fish.  Come and have some lime
juice and water,' and I did, and talking together about the `Startler'
and her guns, and earth-works, made me quite forget how the time went
by.  But lor', Mr Roberts, sir, what a memory you have to be sure."

"Yes," said Bob, sticking his cap on one side, and cocking his eye
knowingly at the old salt; "a fellow just needs to have a good memory.
I say, Dick, that lime juice and water was precious strong that day,
wasn't it?"

"No, sir, not a bit," said the old sailor, stolidly.  "But now I come to
recollect, the sun did make me awful giddy."

"All right, Dick," said the midshipman; "run the boat a little more
under the shade of those trees, and we'll keep you out of the sun
to-day."

Old Dick growled, and picked up the boat-hook to draw the gig further
along, to where there was a dense cool shade.  Then as he laid the
boat-hook down, and retook his place, he began to chuckle.

"You're a sharp 'un, Mr Roberts, that you are," he said, laughing.
"Well, I'll own it; that was a bit of a slip that day.  Send one o' the
tothers ashore then, with your message."

"No, I'll be blessed if I do," said Bob.  "I'll never give way an inch
again about a boat's crew; I haven't forgotten that little game at Aden,
where I sent one chap ashore to get me some cold water to drink, and he
didn't come back; and another volunteered to go and fetch him, and I let
him go, and he didn't come back; and then I had to send another, and
another--eight of 'em, every one vowing he'd bring the rest back; and at
last I sat alone in that boat without a crew, and the first lieutenant
came, and a nice wigging I had.  No, Master Dick, I've been at sea too
long now to be tricked by those games, and I mean to have the strictest
discipline whenever I'm in command."

The men in the forepart of the boat overheard all this, and began to
look very gloomy.

"Couldn't you let one on us go and get a bucket o' water, sir? it's
precious hot," said the man who pulled bow oar, and he touched his
forelock.

"No, Mr Joe Cripps, I couldn't," said Bob, sharply; "but I tell you
what you all may do; put your heads over the side, and drink as much of
this clear river-water as you like.  We're not at sea, man."

"More we aren't, sir," said the man, glancing round at his companions,
who laughed.

"Look here," said Bob, "Dick will keep an eye on the shore, and I'll
tell the sentry there to pass the word.  You may all smoke if you like,
only look smart, and put away your pipes if the captain's coming."

"Thanky, sir," chorussed the men, and pipes were quickly produced by all
save Dick, who helped himself to a fresh quid.

"I say, sentry," cried Bob, "pass the word on there--I want to see Mr
Long."

"Yes, sir," was the reply, and the white-coated sentry walked to the end
of his beat, and made a sign to the next sentry, who came to the end of
his beat, heard what was wanted, and passed the message on, so that at
the end of a few minutes Ensign Long came slowly down to the
landing-place, with an umbrella held up to keep off the sun, and found
the boat's crew smoking, and Bob Roberts, with his cap tilted over his
eyes, sitting in the bottom of the gig, with his legs over the side, so
exactly arranged that the water rippled round the soles of his shoes,
and pleasantly cooled his feet.

"Did you wish to speak to me, Mr Roberts?" said Long, stiffly.

"Hallo, Tom, old man!  Here, jump in!  I've got some news for you."

Ensign Long looked very stand-offish; but the eager face of Bob, the
only one about his own age of whom he could make a companion, was too
much for him; and as Bob got up and made a place for him, Mr Ensign
Long unbent a little, and really, as well as metaphorically, undid a
button or two, and got into the captain's gig.

"I say, look here, Tom, old man, what's the use of us two always falling
out, when we could be so jolly together?" said Bob.

"I don't quite understand you," said Tom Long, stiffly.  "I am not of a
quarrelsome disposition, as any of my brother officers will tell you."

"Then it must be me then who is such a quarrelsome beast, and there's my
hand, and we won't fall out any more."

Ensign Long undid a few more buttons, for it was very hot, and
condescended to shake hands.

"I'm sure it's not my wish to be bad friends," said Ensign Long.  "I
think the members of the two services ought to be like brothers."

"So do I," said Bob.  "I say, sentry, keep a sharp look-out for the
captain, and I'll stand a glass for you at the canteen next time I come
ashore."

"Yes, sir," said the sentry.  "But p'raps, sir, I mayn't see you next
time you come ashore."

"There's an artful one for you, Tom," cried Bob, getting his hot wet
hand into his pocket with no little difficulty, and throwing the man a
fourpenny piece.  "Now, look here, Tom," he continued, as the man
cleverly caught the tiny piece and thrust it in his pocket, Ensign Long
carefully closing his ear and looking in the other direction the while,
"you and I might have no end of games if we could only keep friends."

"Well, let's keep friends, then," said Tom Long.

"Agreed," said Bob, "and the first one of us who turns disagreeable, the
other is to punch his head."

"No, I can't agree to that," said Tom, thoughtfully, "because we could
not settle who was in the wrong."

"Then we'd punch one another's heads," said Bob; "but never mind about
that.  Look here."

Ensign Long undid a few more buttons, of which he had a great many down
the front of his mess waistcoat, just like a row of gold-coated pills,
and then he proceeded to _look there_, that is to say mentally, at what
his companion had to say.

"Do you know that young Malay chap, who came on board yesterday with his
father, the Bang-the-gong, or Tumongong, or whatever he calls himself?"

"Yes, I saw him; he came afterwards to the fort, and was shown round."

"Didn't you speak to him?"

"Not I.  Don't care much for these niggers."

"Oh! but he's no end of a good chap," said Bob.  "He can't help being
brown.  I took him down to the gun-room, and we smoked and talked; he
can speak English like fun."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, indeed; and I tell you what it is, he's worth knowing.  He's quite
a prince, and as jolly as can be.  He says there's out-and-out shooting
in the jungle, and if we'll go ashore and have a turn with him, he'll
take us where we can have a regular good day."

"What does the young savage shoot with," said Long, disdainfully, "a bow
and arrow?"

"Bow and arrow be hanged!  Why, don't I tell you he is quite a prince?
and he's regularly English in his ways.  Some one made him a present of
a Purdey breechloader, and he uses Eley cartridges.  What do you think
of that?"

"Very disgusting that men should take to such adjuncts to civilisation
before they leave off wearing those savage plaid petticoats."

"I believe they are a tribe of Scotsmen, who came out here in the year
one and turned brown," said Bob, laughing.  "Those sarongs are just like
kilts."

"Yes," said Tom Long, "and the krises are just the same as dirks."

"Well, bother all that!" cried Bob.  "I told him we'd both come
to-morrow, and bring guns, and he's going to get some prog, and
half-a-dozen beaters; and we'll have a jolly day."

"But," said Tom Long, dropping his official ways, and speaking
excitedly, "he didn't ask me!"

"He said he'd be delighted to know you.  He likes Englishmen."

"But we can't get leave."

"Can't we?" cried Bob.  "I can.  If the skipper says no, I think I can
work him round; and I'm sure you can manage it.  Look here, you ask
Doctor Bolter to manage it for you, and say we'll bring him all the
specimens we can shoot."

"By Jove, Bob, what a jolly idea!" cried Tom Long--an officer no longer,
but a regular boy again.  "We'll get leave to-night, and start early."

"That we will."

"But are you sure that young Tumongong would be glad to see me too?"

"Ali Latee, his name is, and I've got to call him Al already, and he
called me Bob.  Glad? of course he will.  I said you'd come too; and I
told such a whopper, Tom."

"What did you say?"

"I told him you were my dearest friend."

"Well, so I am, Bob; only you will get so restive."

"Yes, I always was a restive little beggar," said Bob.  "To-morrow
morning then, and--"

"Captain coming, sir."

"Landing-place at daybreak, Tom.  Cut," whispered Bob; and the young
ensign rose and leaped ashore, buttoning up his little golden-pill
buttons, as Captain Horton came down the path, and answered his salute
with a friendly nod.

The next minute the water was flashing like fiery silver from the blades
of the oars, and the gig returned to the steamer's side, where Bob began
to prepare for the next day's trip, taking it for granted that he could
get leave.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

HOW BOB ROBERTS AND TOM LONG ASKED FOR LEAVE.

Very great things come from very small germs, and for a long time
afterwards Captain Horton bitterly regretted that he had been in so easy
and amiable a frame of mind that he had accorded Bob Roberts the holiday
he desired.

He had dined well, and was in that happy state of content that comes
upon a man who is not old, and whose digestion is good.

It was a glorious night, and the captain was seated on deck at a little
table bearing a shaded lamp and his cup of coffee, when Bob respectfully
approached, cap in hand.

"If you please, sir--"

"Who's that?  Oh!  Roberts.  Here; go down to the cabin, Roberts, and
fetch my cap.  I don't want to catch cold."

"Yes, sir."

"Hi! stop, my boy!  Here; lend me your cap till you come back."

It was a very undignified proceeding, but Captain Horton had a horror of
colds in the head, and would far rather have been undignified than catch
one.  So he took the little, natty gold-laced cap held out to him, and
stuck it upon his pate.

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed.  "What a stupid little head you've got,
Roberts."

"Yes, sir," said the lad sharply, "very; but it will grow, sir."

"Then I hope it won't grow more stupid, boy.  There, be quick!"

Bob ran down to the captain's cabin, and obtained the required piece of
headgear, with which he returned to the quarter-deck, where the captain
was sipping his coffee, apparently oblivious of the fact that he had
sent for his cap.

"Your cap, sir."

"Oh, ah! to be sure! yes, of course.  Thank you, Roberts.  Exchange is
no robbery, as we used to say at Harrow.  You needn't wait."

"Thank you, sir; no, sir, but--"

"Now what is it, Roberts?  You know I don't like to be troubled after
dinner."

"Yes, sir; but I beg your pardon, sir.  Might I have leave to go ashore
to-morrow?"

"Yes--no.  What, in the name of goodness, do you mean, Mr Roberts, by
coming and asking me?  Go to the first lieutenant."

"Please, sir, I'm very sorry to trouble you, but he's dining at the
residency."

"Then why didn't you wait till he came back?"

"Because, sir, please sir, Mr Wilson's always cross when he has been
out to dine.  He's not like you, sir."

The captain started up in his chair, and gazed full in the lad's face.

"You're a nice boy, Roberts," he said; "but don't you try any of that
impudent flattery on with me again."

"No, sir.  I beg pardon, sir, but may I go?"

"Wait till the first lieutenant comes back, sir, and ask him."

"But please, sir, it's important."

"What is?"

"That I should have leave to-morrow, sir."

"Where are you going, then?"

"Please, sir, I _was_ going shooting."

"Oh!" said his captain, laughing; "then that's what you call important,
eh?  Well, I don't know what to say.  Have there been any complaints
against you lately?"

"Two or three, sir," said Bob; "but I have been trying very hard, sir,"
he added earnestly, "to do my duty."

"Humph!" said the captain.  "Well, I was a youngster myself once.  I
suppose you'd be very much disappointed if I said _no_?"

"Yes, sir; very much."

"Humph!  Who's going with you?"

"Ensign Long, sir, if he can get leave."

"Well, Roberts, you can go; but be careful with your guns.  And look
here, don't do anything to annoy the Malays.  Don't go near their
religious places, or get trespassing."

"No, sir, I'll be very careful."

"Any one else going?"

"Ali Latee, sir, the Tumongong's son."

"Very well.  Be off!"

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir," cried Bob joyously, and he hurried away.

Ensign Long felt perfectly sure that if he went direct to the major, and
asked for leave to go ashore shooting, it would be refused.  He would
have gone and asked Captain Smithers to intercede for him, but the
captain was always short, and ready to be annoyed at nearly everything
said; so he concluded that Bob Roberts' idea was the best, and he went
straight to Doctor Bolter, who was in his room, in his shirt and
trousers, both his sleeves rolled up, busily pinning out some gorgeous
butterflies that he had secured.

"Ah, Long!" he said, as the youth entered; "how are you? just hand me
that sheet of cork."

"Quite well, sir, thank you."

"Oh! are you?  I'll look at your tongue directly.  Hand me one of those
long thin pins."

The pin was handed.

"Now put a finger on that piece of card.  Gently, my dear boy, gently;
the down upon these things is so exquisitely fine, that the least touch
spoils them.  Look at that Atlas moth by your elbow.  Isn't it lovely?"

"Magnificent, sir," said Long, taking up a shallow tray, and really
admiring the monstrous moth pinned out therein.

"Ah, my lad!  I wish I could see you turning a little attention to
natural history, now we are in this perfect paradise for a collector.
How much better for you than lounging about all day under the trees.
Now then, put out your tongue."

"But I'm quite well, Doctor Bolter."

"Put--out--your--tongue--sir.  Confound it all, sir, I've no time to
waste!"

As he spoke he took up the lamp, and held it close to Tom Long's face,
so that the light might fall upon the protruded organ.

"Hah!" ejaculated Doctor Bolter, resuming his seat.

"But I really am quite well, sir," remonstrated Tom Long.

"Don't tell me, sir, that you are quite well.  Do you think I don't know
when a man's well, and when he is not?  You are just a little wee bit
feverish."

He felt the youth's pulse, and nodded his head sagely.

"Too much idleness and good living is what is the matter with you, sir.
Why don't you collect?"

"How can I, sir," said Tom, "when I'm shut up in this island?"

"Go ashore.  Here, I'll give you some collecting boxes, and lend you a
vasculum and a net.  Go and get me some butterflies."

"Well, sir, if it's all the same to you," said Tom, taking advantage of
the wind blowing in the right direction, "shooting's more in my way.
Suppose I shot you some birds?"

"Better still," said the doctor, enthusiastically.  "Nothing I should
like better.  I want a few trogons, and the blue-billed gaper.  Then you
might get me the green chatterer, and any new birds you could see."

"Yes, sir."

"And look here, Long; the woods here are the chosen resort of the great
argus pheasant.  I don't suppose you would be able to come across one,
but if you do--"

"Down him," said Tom Long.

"Exactly," said the doctor.  "There, my lad, I won't give you any
medicine, but prescribe a little short exercise."

"Thank you, sir," said Tom, trying hard to restrain his eagerness.
"Might I have a run to-morrow?  I have felt very languid to-day."

"To be sure.  I'll see the major, and get leave of absence for you.  Be
careful, though.  Don't overheat yourself; and mind and not get into any
scrape with the Malays."

"I'll mind, sir," said Tom.

"That's right.  Be very careful not to spoil the plumage of the birds.
You can make a Malay boy carry them tied by the beaks to a stick.  Stop
a minute; as you are here, you may as well cut up these cards for me in
thin strips.  I'll go and ask the major the while."

Tom set to work at the cards with a pair of scissors, and the doctor
donned his undress coat, went out and returned with the requisite
permission.

"By the way, look here, Long; if you'll promise to be very careful, I'll
lend you my double gun."

"I'll take the greatest care of it, sir," was the reply.

"Good!  There it is; so now be off; and to-morrow night I shall expect a
nice lot of specimens to skin."

So Tom Long went off with the gun, and the doctor helped to turn the
residency into an abode where danger usurped the place of safety, and
peace was to be succeeded by the horrors of war.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

A JAUNT IN THE JUNGLE, WITH AN AWKWARD END.

Tom Long rather overslept himself, but it was pretty early when he
started from his quarters, to encounter Captain Smithers soon after,
looking anxious and annoyed.  He nodded shortly, and the young ensign
went on through what was quite a wilderness of beauty, to meet, next,
Rachel Linton and Mary Sinclair, who had been flower-gathering, and who
stopped for a few minutes' conversation with him, the former nearly
spoiling the expedition, by turning the foolish youth's thoughts in
quite a contrary direction from collecting or shooting.

But Rachel Linton quietly wished him success, and Tom went off telling
himself that it would look foolish if he did not go.

He had not far to go to the landing-place now; but in the little space
close by the resident's garden he encountered Private Gray, who saluted
him, and sent Tom on thinking that he wished he was as old, and
good-looking, and as manly, as the young soldier he had just passed.
And then he felt very miserable and dejected, and wished he was anything
but what he was, until he saw Bob Roberts, sitting in the "Startler's"
dinghy by the landing-place, and forgot all about everything but the
shooting excursion.

"Come along!  You are a chap," shouted Bob.  "I've been waiting over
half an hour."

"Met the ladies," said Tom, "and was obliged to speak."

"Oh, you met the ladies, did you?" said Bob, looking at him
suspiciously.  "Well, never mind; jump aboard.  Got plenty of
cartridges?"

"Yes, heaps; and some food too."

"So have I," cried Bob.  "Now, then, pull away, Dick.  Set us ashore
under those trees.  Hooray, Tom; look!  There's young Bang-gong there,
waiting with a couple of niggers."

Dick pulled steadily at the sculls, and the little dinghy breasted the
water like a duck, soon crossing the intervening space, when the two
lads landed with their ammunition and stores, shook hands with the
handsome dark young chief who confronted them, and at once started off
for the jungle, while Dick stood refilling his right cheek with tobacco,
before rowing the dinghy back to the steamer.

"Ah!" he said, as he once more took the sculls, "they never asked me to
go, too.  Now you see if by the time they get back to-night they hain't
been in about as pretty a bit o' mischief, as was ever hatched."

Old Dick had no intention of setting himself up as a prophet of evil,
for his remark was made more out of spite than anything else, it having
struck the old fellow that a good idle ashore would be very pleasant,
especially with plenty to eat and drink, and a fair supply of tobacco.

"It wouldn't be very hard work to carry all the game they shoot," he
said, chuckling; "and one might get a good nap under a shady tree."

But Dick's hopes were blighted, and instead of shade under trees, he had
to row back to where the "Startler" was blistering in the hot sunshine,
and take his part in the regular duties of the day.

Meanwhile the two lads with their companion were striding along beneath
the shade of the trees, with the naval and military services of her most
gracious Majesty completely forgotten, and their elastic young minds
bent entirely upon the expedition.  They looked flushed and eager, and
the Tumongong's son, Ali, was just as full of excitement.

The latter was about the age of the young English officers, and their
coming was to him delightful.  For his father was wise enough to foresee
the course of events--how the old barbarism of the Malay was dying out,
to give place to the busy civilisation taught by the white men from the
west; and he felt sure that the most civilised and advanced of the young
chieftains would occupy the best positions in the future.  Hence then he
had sent his son for long spells at a time to Singapore and Penang, to
mingle with the English, and pick up such education as he could obtain.

Ali, being a clever boy, had exceeded his father's expectations, having
arrived at the age of eighteen, with a good knowledge of English, in
which tongue he could write and converse; and in addition he had imbibed
a sufficiency of our manners and customs to make him pass muster very
well amongst a party of gentlemen.

Bob Roberts and he were sworn friends directly, for there was something
in their dispositions which made them assimilate, Ali being full of life
and fun, which, since his return to Parang, he had been obliged to
suppress, and take up the stiff stately formality of the Malays about
him, of whom many of the chiefs looked unfavourably at the youth who had
so quickly taken up and made friends with the people they looked upon as
so many usurpers.

No sooner were the three lads out of sight of the attap-thatched roofs
and the island, the fort and steamer, than all formality was thrown to
the winds, and they tramped on chattering away like children.  Tom,
however, walked on rather stiffly for a few minutes, but the sight of a
good broad rivulet was too much for him; drill, discipline, the strict
deportment of an officer and a gentleman, whose scarlet and undress
uniforms had cost a great deal of money, and in which, to tell the
truth, he had been very fond of attiring himself when alone with his
looking-glass, all were forgotten, and the bottled-up schoolboy vitality
that was in his breast, seethed up like so much old-fashioned ginger
beer.

"Follow my leader!" he cried, handing his gun to one of the Malays,
whose eyes rolled with pleasure as he saw sentimental Tom Long take a
sharp run, leap well from the near bank, and land on the other side of
the stream, but he had to catch at some bamboos to save himself from
falling back into the water.

"With a cheerly hi ho," shouted Bob Roberts, dropping his gun on a bush.
"Look out, soldier."

The words were on his lips as he ran, and in his leap alighted on the
other side, in so bad a place that he had to catch at Tom, to save
himself from falling, and for a few seconds there was a sharp scuffle
amongst the bamboos before they were safe.

"Look out, Ali," shouted Bob, on seeing their companion coming; "it's
bad landing."

But Ali was already in full career; as light and active of foot as a
deer, he made a quick rush and a leap, and landed in safety quite a yard
beyond the young officers.

"Well done!  Hooray!" cried Bob, who had not the slightest objection to
seeing himself surpassed; while the two Malays in charge of the guns and
impediments on the other side stared at each other in astonishment, and
in a whisper asked if the young chief had gone out of his mind.

"Now then, Sambo-Jumbo," cried Bob, "over with those guns.  Come along,
they are not loaded."

The two Malays stared, and Ali said a few words to them in their native
tongue, when they immediately gathered up the guns, and, being
bare-legged, waded across the stream, which was about four yards wide.

The last man came over with a rush as he neared the bank, for suddenly
from a reed-bed above them there was a wallow and a flounder, with a
tremendous disturbance in the water, as something shot down towards the
main stream.

"A crocodile," said Ali, as the young Englishmen directed at him a
wondering gaze.

"Crocodile!" cried Bob, snatching his gun from the attendant, and
hastily thrusting in cartridges, after which he ran along the stream
till checked by the tangled growth.

"No good," said Ali, laughing at his eagerness.  "Gone."

The reptile was gone, sure enough, and it was doubtful which was the
more frightened, it or the Malays; so they went on along a narrow
jungle-path, that was walled up on either side by dense vegetation,
which seemed to have been kept hacked back by the heavy knives of the
working Malays.  To have gone off to right or left would have been
impossible, so tangled and matted with canes and creepers was the
undergrowth, Bob waking up to the fact that here was the natural home of
the cane so familiar to schoolboys; the unfamiliar part being, that,
keeping to nearly the same diameter, these canes ran one, two, and even
three hundred feet in length, creeping, climbing, undulating, now
running up the side of some pillar-like tree to a convenient branch,
over which it passed to hang down again in a loop till it reached some
other tree, in and out of whose branches it would wind.

As they went on farther they were in a soft green twilight with at rare
intervals the sharp bright rays of the sun, like golden arrows, darting
through the dense shade, and a patch of luxuriantly growing
pitcher-plants or orchids, more beautiful than any that had previously
met their eyes.

"Mind the elephant-holes!" cried Ali, who was behind.

"All right," said Tom Long, who was leading the way.  "Oh, my gracious!"

There was a loud _splash_ and a wallowing noise, followed by a loud suck
as of some one pulling a leg out of thick mud; and this proved to be the
case, for on Bob running forward, and turning a corner of the winding
path, there was Tom, just extricating himself from an elephant-hole.

For they were in a land where wheeled carriages were almost unknown, all
portage being done either by boats on the many streams, or on the backs
of elephants and buffaloes, by the former of whom the few jungle-paths
were terribly cut up, partly by the creatures' weight, but more
particularly from the fact that, no matter how many passed along a
track, or how wet and swampy it might be, the sagacious creatures
believed in the way being safe where any of their kind had been before,
and invariably placed their great round feet in the same holes; the
effect being that these elephant-holes were often three or four feet
deep, and half full of mud and water.

The two Malays were called into requisition, and by means of green
leaves removed a good deal of the mud, but the mishap did not add much
to the lad's comfort.  However, he took it in very good part, and they
went on for some distance, to where a side track, that was apparently
but little used, turned off to the left, and the Malays, drawing their
heavy knives, went first to clear away some of the twining creepers that
hung from side to side.

So beautiful was the jungle that for a time the two English lads forgot
all about their guns, as they stopped hard by some watercourse to admire
the graceful lace-fronded fern, or the wonderful displays of moss
hanging from the more ancient trees.

But at last the weight of their guns reminded them that they had come to
shoot, and they drew Ali's attention to the fact.

"Wait a little," he said, smiling.  "We shall soon be in a clearer part.
You can't shoot here."

As he said--so it proved, for after another half-hour's walking, during
which they had become bathed in perspiration from the moist heat, there
was less tangled growth, and the magnificent trees grew more distant one
from the other.  They were of kinds quite unknown to the little party,
who, though seeking birds, could not help admiring the vast monarchs of
the primeval forest.

"This looks more hopeful," cried Bob, who so far had only heard the
occasional note of a bird which was invisible.  Now he saw one or two
flit across the sunny glade in advance.

"Yes, there are birds here; but take care, there are serpents too."

Tom Long winced a little at this last announcement, for he had a honour
of the twining creatures; and as his memory ran back to the narrow
escape of Adam Gray, from the sea snake, he asked with some little
trepidation,--

"Poisonous?"

"Oh, yes, some of them!  But you need not be alarmed, they hurry off as
soon as they hear our steps."

"But," said Tom, to Bob's very great delight, for he could see his
companion's alarm, "how about the boa-constrictors?"

"Pythons, your people call them," said Ali.  "Yes, there are plenty of
them in the wet places."

"Dangerous?"

"No," said Ali, "I never knew them to be--only to the little pigs."

"But ain't they very large?"

"Oh, yes," was the reply, "big as my leg, and so long."

He made a mark on the soft earth with one foot, and then took seven
paces, where he made a fresh mark, indicating a length of about eighteen
feet.

"But they attack men sometimes, don't they?" said Tom, importantly.

"No, I never knew of such a thing," said Ali.  "They steal the chickens,
and swallow them whole."

Tom felt somewhat reassured, but all the same he walked delicately over
the thick herbage and amongst the scrub, not knowing but that he might
plant his foot at any time upon some writhing creature, whose venomous
fangs would be inserted in his leg before he could leap aside; but no
such accident befell him, neither had one of the party had a single
shot, when Bob declared that he was too hungry to go farther, and going
on alone to where a huge prostrate tree stretched its great trunk for
many yards, he was about to sit down, when he stopped short, held out
one hand to indicate silence, and beckoned with the other.

Ali ran softly up, and on seeing at what his friend pointed, he
signalled to one of the Malays to come.

The man came up without a sound, caught sight of Bob's discovery--a
black snake about five feet long, and going gently up, he, to the lad's
horror, suddenly seized it by the tail, and with a rapid snatch drew the
reptile through the left hand up to the neck, which the Malay grasped
tightly, while the reptile writhed, hissed, and angrily twined itself
round the man's bare brown arm.

"It isn't poisonous, then?" said Tom Long, coolly.

"Yes," replied Ali; "it is a cobra, one of our most dangerous snakes."

The Malay held it close for the lads to examine, which, after learning
its deadly character, they were not particularly eager to do; but the
native laughed, and seemed to think very little of the danger, ending by
placing the reptile's neck upon the fallen tree, and decapitating it
with one clean cut of the knife.

A halt was made here, and a hearty lunch was disposed of; after which,
feeling rested and comparatively cool, they started once more, and
before long the first shot was had at a blue-billed gaper, a lovely
bird, with azure and golden bill, and jetty-black, white, and crimson
plumage.

"One for the doctor!" exclaimed Tom Long; and the beautiful bird was
safely stowed away.

Ali next brought down a paroquet, with long delicate tail, and delicious
sunset hues blushing upon its plumage of pearly grey green.

Bob followed, with a shot at a green chatterer, a lovely little bird,
all rich green and black, with a handsome crest.

Next followed sundry misses, and then with varying fortune they secured
a dozen really beautifully-plumaged birds for the doctor.

"And now," exclaimed Bob, "I think we ought to get something for the
pot."

"For the pot?" said Ali, looking puzzled, for anything verging on
sporting slang was to him as so much Greek.

"I mean for cooking and eating."

Ali laughed, and said something to his followers, who led the way on to
a more densely wooded part nearer the river, whose proximity was
indicated by the change in the character of the vegetation.

"Stop a minute, though," exclaimed Tom Long.  "I can't stand this any
more.  Here's something been biting me ever so!"

He made a halt, and began to examine his ankles and legs.

"Why, look here?" he cried; "I'm bleeding like fun!"

Like fun or no, he was certainly bleeding freely, and the cause was not
far to seek.  In fact, as he turned up the legs of his trousers four
bloated little leeches, satiated with their horrid repast, dropped off
his skin, and he caught a couple more feasting upon him right royally.

"You should have tied your trousers round your ankles, and put on your
boots outside them," said Ali; "but it won't hurt you."

"Won't hurt!" exclaimed Tom Long, indignantly; "but it does hurt.  Why,
I'm bleeding horribly."

At a stream close by, however, his wounds were bathed, the bleeding
checked, and then a few shots were had at the jungle-fowl, two brace of
which, a little bigger than ordinary bantams, were secured before the
little party halted in a clearing, close to the river.

Here were half-a-dozen native houses, one and all built upon bamboo
piles, so as to raise the dwellers well above the damp ground, the
possibility of flood, and out of the reach of any wild creatures that
might be wandering by night.

There was something exceedingly homelike in the appearance of the
places, each with its scrap of garden and fruit-trees; while the
occupant of the principal hut insisted upon the whole party coming to
partake of rest and refreshment before continuing their way.

"Oh! we don't want to go in," said Tom Long, peevishly.

"Well, no, I don't want to go in," said Bob, "but the old fellow will be
offended if we do not; and we want to make friends, not enemies."

Ali nodded, and they sat down in the bamboo-floored hut, through whose
open door they saw their host busy sending a Malay boy up one of his
cocoa-nut trees, the boy rapidly ascending the lofty palm by means of
nicks already cut in the tree for the purpose.

Three great nuts, in their husk-like envelopes, fell directly with a
thud, and these the friendly Malay opened and placed before his
visitors.

"This is very different to the cocoa-nut we boys used to buy at school,"
said Bob, as he revelled in the delicious sub-acid cream of the nut, and
then partook of rice, with a kind of sugary confection which was very
popular amongst the people.

Homely as the outside of the huts had appeared, both the lads could not
help noticing how similar the habits of these simple Malays in this
out-of-the-way part of the world were to those of people at home.

For instance, beneath the eaves hung a couple of cages, neatly made of
bamboo, in one of which was a pair of the little lovebird paroquets side
by side upon a perch; and in the other a minah, a starling-like bird,
that kept leaping from perch to perch, and repeating with a very clear
enunciation several Malay words.

Thoroughly rested at last, the little party set off again--their host
refusing all compensation, and once more they plunged into the thickest
of the jungle, though very little success attended their guns.

This was hardly noticed, though, for there was always something fresh to
see--huge butterflies of wondrous colours flitting through the more open
glades, strange vegetable forms, beautifully graceful bamboos,
clustering in the moister parts, where some stream ran unseen amidst the
dense undergrowth, while at last they reached a river of such surpassing
beauty, with its overhanging ferns, in the deep ravine in which it ran,
that both the strangers paused to admire, while the Malays looked on
with good-humoured wonder at their enthusiasm.

But very little of the sluggish stream was seen for the dense emerald
growth, and the water itself was more like a chain of pools, which
seemed to be likely haunts of fish; and forgetting heat and weariness,
both the young Englishmen began to divide the reeds and long grass and
ferns with the barrels of their guns, so as to peer down into the water.

Ali, evidently to please them, displayed quite as much interest as they;
while the two Malays squatted down, and taking out sirih leaves, spread
upon them a little lime paste from a box, rolled in them a scrap of
betel-nut, and began to indulge in a quiet chew.

The lads were only a few yards apart, and Bob Roberts cautiously
approached a deep still pool, when he heard upon his right a splash and
a rush, accompanied by a wild cry for aid.

For the moment he was paralysed by the strange horror of the cry; but,
recovering himself, he rushed through the long reeds and ferns, to look
upon a sight which, for the time, almost robbed him of the power to act.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

HOW BOB AND TOM BAGGED STRANGE GAME.

The young midshipman saw at a glance what had happened, and the sight of
the deadly struggle going on roused him from the stupor that had
assailed him.

It was evident that Ali had been holding by one hand to the branch of a
tree, and was leaning over just such a pool as that which had caught the
attention of Bob, when a crocodile, taking advantage of his unguarded
approach, had seized him by the leg just above the knee.

Ali had at once dropped his gun, seized the branch with the other hand,
and clung for life as he uttered the cry for help, while the reptile
tugged viciously, and shook him violently, to make him loose his hold.

Had the creature succeeded, the young Malay chief's fate had been
sealed, for in another moment he would have been drawn down into the
deep pool, with a few bubbles ascending through the agitated water to
show where he lay.

The time seemed long to the brave young fellow as he held on for dear
life; and it seemed long to Bob Roberts before he could act; but it was
but a matter of moments before he had reached Ali's side, with his gun
cocked; and placing the piece close to the reptile's eye as it glared
savagely at him, and seemed about to leave one victim to seize another,
he fired both barrels in rapid succession.

There was a tremendous splash as the smoke hung before him for a few
moments, then as it rose the young middy saw nothing but the troubled
water before him, and Ali lying panting, and with his eyes starting,
close by his side.

By this time Tom Long and the two Malays had come up, eager with
questions, to which Ali answered faintly, and gladly partook of a little
spirits from the young ensign's flask.

"I ought to have known better," he said, "but I did not think of the
danger.  It will be a warning for you both.  These rivers swarm with the
brutes."

"But your leg?" cried Bob, kneeling down.

"A little torn; that's all," said the young Malay, stoically.  "My
sarong and the trousers have saved it, I think."

All the same, though, it was bleeding freely, and with a rough kind of
surgery Bob's handkerchief was used to bind it up.

"I'm not much hurt," said Ali then; and to prove his words he rose,
limped a step or two forward, and picked up his gun, while Bob proceeded
to slip a couple more cartridges in his own, gazing once more eagerly
into the pool, but seeing nothing but a little blood-stained water.

He turned sharply round, for something touched him, and there stood Ali,
looking at him in a peculiar manner, and holding out one hand, which Bob
took, thinking the other felt faint.

"I can't talk now," said Ali, hoarsely; "but you saved my life.  I shall
never forget it."

"Oh, nonsense, old fellow," cried Bob.  "But, I say; what a brute!  He
must have been twenty feet long."

"Oh, no," said Ali, smiling faintly, "not ten.  The small ones are the
most vicious and dangerous.  Let us go."

"But can you walk?" said Bob.  "Have a cigar."

"Yes; I will smoke," said the young Malay, as he walked bravely on,
though evidently in pain; and lighting a cigar, he talked in the most
unconcerned way about the creature's sudden attack.

"Such things are very common," he said.  "Down by the big river they
seize the women who go for water, and carry off the girls who bathe.
There are monsters, ten, twenty, and twenty-five feet long; but we are
so used to them that it does not occur to us to take care."

They were now walking over the ground they had that morning traversed,
Ali seeming so much at ease, and smiling so nonchalantly, that his
companions ceased to trouble him with advice and proposals that he
should be carried.

At last they came to a spot where a fresh track turned off, and Ali
paused.

"You will not think me rude," he said, speaking with all the ease of a
polished gentleman, "if I leave you here?  Ismael will take you the
nearest way down to the island.  Yusuf will go with me.  My leg is bad."

"Then let us carry you," cried Bob.  "Here, we'll soon cut down some
bamboos and make a frame."

"No, no, it is not so bad as that," cried the young man, firmly; "and I
would rather walk.  This is a nearer way, and you will do as I ask,
please."

The two youths hesitated, but Ali was so firm, and his utterances so
decided, that although unwillingly, they felt constrained to obey his
wishes.

"No, no," exclaimed Bob, "let me go with you, old fellow.  Let us both
come."

"Do you wish to serve me more than you have already done?" said Ali,
quietly.

"Yes, I do, 'pon my word," replied Bob.

"Then please say `good-bye.'  I am very nearly at home."

There was nothing more to be said, so the young Englishmen shook hands
and parted from their companion, after he had promised to send word by
Yusuf the next day how he was.

"I don't half feel satisfied," said Bob, trudging along behind the Malay
who was their guide.  "I think we ought to have gone with him, Tom."

"I feel so too," was the reply, "but what could we do?  Perhaps he was
not so very much hurt after all."

They were tired now, and the heat of the afternoon seemed greater than
ever, so that they longed to get out of the stifling forest to the open
banks of the river.  But they were as yet far away, and their guide made
a cut along the side of a patch of marshy ground, looking back from time
to time to see if they followed.

"Snipe, by all that's wonderful!" cried Bob, firing two barrels almost
as he spoke, and bringing down four birds out of a flock that bore some
resemblance to, but were double the size of, snipes.

Tom raised his piece for a shot, but he was too late; and Yusuf smiled
and showed his teeth as he ran and picked up the birds, tied their legs
together with some grass, and added them to the jungle-fowl he was
carrying.

"Well, they won't be able to laugh at us," said Bob.  "We shan't go back
empty.  Hallo! what the dickens now?"

For a couple of scantily clad Malay girls, their sarongs torn and ragged
with forcing their way through the bushes, came panting up, uttering
loud cries, and, flinging themselves down at the astonished youths'
feet, clung to their legs, while Yusuf began to abuse them angrily, and
kicking one, was about to thrust away the other with his foot.

"You leave them alone, will you?" said Bob, giving him a rap on the head
with his gun-barrel.  "I wish to goodness I knew what was the Malay for
_cowardly beast_, and you should have it, young fellow."

The Malay's hand flew to his kris as he threw down the birds, and it
flashed in the sunshine directly.

"Ah! would you bite?" cried Bob, presenting his gun at the other's
breast, when the man shrank away, with his eyes half-closed, and a
peculiarly tigerish aspect about him as he drew his lips from his white
teeth, but kept at a respectful distance, knowing as he did how ably the
young sailor could use his gun.

Just then the girls renewed their cries and lamentations, clinging
wildly to the youths as if for protection, as half-a-dozen Malays, armed
with krises and the long limbings, or spears, that they can use with
such deadly force, came running up, and made as if to seize upon the two
girls.

"Keep off, will you!  Confound your impudence, what do you mean?" roared
Bob, slewing round his gun to face the newcomers.  "I say, Tom, what
fools we do seem not to be able to speak this stupid lingo!  What are
they jabbering about?"

"Hang me, if I know," said Tom, whose face was flushed with heat and
excitement.  "All I can make out is that they want these two Malay
ladies who have come to us to protect them."

"Then, as my old nurse used to say, `want will be their master,'" said
Bob, angrily; "for they're not going to have them."

The leader of the Malay party volubly said something to the two English,
and then said some angry words to the two girls, who clung more tightly
to their protectors, as he caught each by her shoulder.

Bob brought the barrel of his gun down heavily on the Malay's head, in
the same fashion as he had served Yusuf, who was now missing, having
suddenly glided away.

The Malay leaped back, tore out his kris, and made at his assailant; but
the presented barrels of the two guns kept him back, as they did his
companions, who had presented their limbings as their leader drew his
kris, while now the girls leaped bravely up, and interposed their bodies
between the two youths and the threatened danger.

"That's very prettily done, my dears," said Bob; "but you are both of
you horribly in the way if we should shoot, and it isn't the fashion in
England.  Place aux Messieurs in a case like this.  There, you stand
behind me."

He gently placed the girl behind him, keeping his gun the while pointed
at the Malays, and Tom Long followed his example.

"Shall we shoot, Bob Roberts?" said the ensign, hoarsely.

"No," said Bob, whose voice sounded just as hoarse.  "Not unless they
try to do us mischief.  This is the time for a strategical retreat, as
they are three to one, and we may at any time be cut off.  I say, Tom, I
feel in such a horrible state of squirm; don't you?"

"Never was so frightened in my life," replied Tom, "but pray don't show
it."

"Show it?" replied Bob sharply; "hang 'em, no; they should cut me to
pieces first.  But I say, old fellow, I never thought I was such a
coward before."

"More did I," replied Tom.  "Suppose they understand what we're saying!"

"Not they; no more than we can them.  I say, I have it!  These are two
slaves trying to escape, and these chaps want to get them back."

"Then we'll take them right away to the fort," cried Tom.  "Look out!"
he added, as, after speaking to his followers, the chief Malay made
another angry advance with the men.

"Now look here, Mr Cafe-au-lait," said Bob, raising his gun this time
to his shoulder, as he spoke aloud, "if you don't sheer off, I'll let
fly at you a regular broadside.  Be ready, Tom."

"Ready!" was the sharp reply, "when you say Fire."

"Right," replied Bob.  "Now then, old check-petticoat, are you going to
call off your men?"

For answer the Malay pointed to the two trembling girls, and signed to
his men to advance with their spears.

"I'm horribly alarmed, Tom!" cried Bob, "but retreating now is showing
the white feather, and we shall be whopped.  Now then, don't fire, but
let's make a dash at them."

The Malays were only about three yards off, having before retreated five
or six, but now they had diminished the distance, when the two lads,
with their pieces at their shoulders, stepped boldly forward, with the
result that the Malays broke and fled, their leader first; and out of
bravado Tom Long fired a shot over their heads to quicken their steps,
while Bob burst into a hearty fit of laughter.

"Look here!" he said.  "Here's a game!  Only look, sojer!"

"What is it!" cried Tom, drawing out the empty cartridge case and
putting in a new one.  "Why, you don't mean to say--"

"But I just do mean to say it!" cried Bob, stamping about and laughing
as he opened the breech of his gun, and drew out two empty cases, to
replace with full.

"Not loaded!"

"No," cried Bob, "That moment, you know, I shot at the snipes, and
hadn't time to load again.  Did you ever see such a game, keeping those
chaps off with an empty gun?  Oh, I say, don't!"

This last was in consequence of the energetic action taken by the two
poor girls, who, seeing themselves now safe, began to demonstrate their
gratitude by hysterical cries and sobs, seizing and kissing the lads'
hands, and finally placing their arms round them and kissing their
cheeks.

"Oh, this is awful!" cried Tom Long, who was blushing like a girl.

"I shall be compelled to tell my mamma!" said Bob.  "There, there, it's
all right.  Come, give me your hand, Semiramis, or Cleopatra, or
whatever your name is, and let us make haste down to the river before it
is too late."

The girl seemed to understand him, and ceased sobbing as she prepared to
continue the flight, the other clinging to Tom Long's left hand.

"I say, though, let's have the birds," said Bob, stooping to pick them
up; but the girl snatched them from him, to carry them herself.

"Yes, Tom, old fellow; no doubt about it, they're slaves.  Come along,
or we shall be cut off.  It's not polite to let the ladies carry the
baggage, but as we are the escort we must be prepared to fight."

"I say!" cried Tom Long, "do you know the way?"

"Not I," said Bob; "don't you?"

"Not the ghost of an idea!" cried Tom.

The girls were watching them, and evidently in a state of great
excitement were trying to comprehend their words; but as soon as they
saw their indecision, and their bold start off in the direction they
imagined to be correct, then the slave girls understood their dilemma
and stopped them, gesticulating and shaking their heads as they pointed
in a quite fresh direction.

"They know where the ship lies, see if they don't," said Bob.  "Let's
trust them."

"But suppose they lead us wrong?" replied Tom.

"Not they," cried Bob.  "They'll lead us right away.  Come along, my
fair specimens of chocolate a vanille; and the sooner we are safe under
the British flag, the better I shall like it."

The girls started off at a sharp walk, and then made signs that they
should run.

"All right," said Bob, nodding his head.  "Double there, in the infantry
brigade!  Naval brigade to the front!  Forward!"

He broke into a trot, and the little party ran sharply on, to the great
delight of the two escaped slaves, who, as Bob had prophesied, led them
straight away to the side of the river, which they reached without
encountering a soul.

"I'm about knocked up," said Bob, panting.  "It's disgusting to find
these girls can beat us hollow at running."

"The doctor's specimens are all shaken up into a regular mash!" said Tom
Long, peeping into the vasculum hung by a strap from his shoulder.

"Never mind," replied Bob.  "Here's the boat coming.  I shall come with
you straight; or no: let's take them on board the `Startler'?"

"No, no!" said Tom, "they must come to the fort."

"No, no, to the `Startler,' I tell you."

"No, no, to the fort."

"Then we'll split the difference, and take them to the residency," said
Bob; and as the boat touched the shore they stood back for the girls to
leap in, and then crouch down with their arms around each other's neck,
sobbing with joy as they felt that now they were safe.

There was no little excitement as the two girls were landed, and Mr
Linton seemed puzzled as to what he should do; but the poor creatures
were safe now under the protection of the British flag; and Bob Roberts
and Tom Long proceeded to the doctor's quarters for a thorough wash and
change, having fully verified old Dick's prophecy that they would be in
mischief before the day was out.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

HOW THE TWO COMPANIONS WERE KNOCKED OFF THEIR PERCH.

If they had not been English, the probabilities are that Bob Roberts and
Tom Long would have hugged each other.  As it was they seemed to think
it quite the correct thing to shake hands over and over again, and then
walk up and down under the palm-trees of the enclosure, flushed,
excited, and as full of swagger as they could possibly be.

"Blest if they don't look like a couple o' young game cocks who have
just killed their birds," said old Dick to Billy Mustard.  "My word,
they are cocky!  But where are you going, old man?"

"To fetch my instrument," said Billy.

"What, yer fiddle?  What do you want that 'ere for?"

"The young gents wants it," said Billy.

So with a nod he went into his quarters, to return with his beloved
violin in its green baize bag, which he bore to where Bob and Tom were
now seated at one of the tables beneath a shady tree.

On the strength of their adventure they were indulging themselves with
bitter beer, into which they dropped lumps of ice, and as soon as Billy
Mustard came, the violin was brought out, tuned, and the harmonious
sound produced had the effect of soon gathering together an audience in
the soft mellow hour before sunset.

Several officers seated themselves at the table, and followed the
youngsters' example; soldiers and sailors gathered at a little distance
beneath the trees; and unseen by the party below, Rachel Linton and Mary
Sinclair appeared at a mat-shaded window.

"Tom Long's going to sing `The Englishman,'" shouted Bob Roberts
suddenly, and there was a loud tapping upon the rough deal table.

"No, no, I really can't, 'pon honour," said the ensign, looking very
much more flushed than before.

"Yes, yes, he is," said Bob, addressing those around.  "He is--in honour
of the occasion; and gentlemen, let's sing out the chorus so loudly that
those niggers in the campong can hear our sentiments, and shiver in
their shoes, where they've got any."

"Hear! hear!" said a young lieutenant.

"But really, you know, I hav'n't a voice," exclaimed the ensign in
expostulation.

"Gammon!" cried Bob.  "He can sing like a bird, gentlemen.  Silence,
please, for our national song, `The Englishman'!"

"I can't sing it--indeed I can't," cried the ensign.

"Oh, yes, you can; go on," said the young lieutenant who had previously
spoken.

"To be sure he will," cried Bob Roberts.  "Heave ahead, Tom, and I'll
help whenever I can.  It's your duty to sing it, for the niggers to hear
our sentiments with regard to slavery!"

"Hear, hear!" cried several of the officers, laughing; and the men gave
a cheer.

"Slavery and the British flag!" cried Bob Roberts, who was getting
excited.  "No man, or woman either, who has once sought protection
beneath the folds of the glorious red white and blue, can ever return to
slavery!"

"Hear, hear, hear!" shouted the officers again, and the men threw up
their caps, cried "Hoorar!" and the sentry on the roof presented arms.

"Now then, play up, Private Mustard--`The Englishman,'" cried Bob
Roberts.  "Get ready, Tom, and run it out with all your might!"

"Must I?" said the ensign, nervously.

"To be sure you must.  Wait a minute, though, and let him play the
introduction."

Billy Mustard gave the bow a preliminary scrape, and the audience grew
larger.

"What key shall I play it in, sir?" said Billy.

"Any key you like," cried Bob, excitedly.  "Play it in a whole bunch of
keys, my lad, only go ahead, or we shall forget all the words."

Off went the fiddle with a flourish over the first strain of the
well-known song, and then, after a couple of efforts to sing, Tom Long
broke down, and Bob Roberts took up the strain, singing it in a cheery
rollicking boyish way, growing more confident every moment, and proving
that he had a musical tenor voice.  Then as he reached the end of the
first verse, he waved his puggaree on high, jumped upon the table to the
upsetting of a couple of glasses, and led the chorus, which was lustily
trolled out by all present.

On went Bob Roberts, declaring how the flag waved on every sea, and
should never float over a slave, throwing so much enthusiasm into the
song that to a man all rose, and literally roared the chorus, ending
with three cheers, and one cheer more for the poor girls; and as Bob
Roberts stood upon the table flushed and hot, he felt quite a hero, and
ready to go on that very night and rescue half-a-dozen more poor slave
girls from tyranny, if they would only appeal to him for help.

"Three cheers for Mr Roberts," shouted Dick, the sailor, as Billy
Mustard was confiding to a friend that "a fiddle soon got outer toon in
that climate."

"Yes, and three cheers for Mr Long," shouted Bob.  "Come up here, Tom,
old man; you did more than I did."

Tom Long was prevailed upon to mount the table, where he bowed again and
again as the men cheered; when, as a lull came in the cheering, Billy
Mustard, whose fiddle had been musically whispering to itself in answer
to the well-drawn bow, suddenly made himself heard in the strain of
"Rule Britannia," which was sung in chorus with vigour, especially when
the singers declared that Britons never, _never_, NEVER should be
slaves; which rang out far over the attap roofs of the drowsy campong.

So satisfied were the singers that they followed up with the National
Anthem, which was just concluded when the resident sent one of his
servants to express a hope that the noise was nearly at an end.

"Well, I think we have been going it," said Bob Roberts, jumping down.
"Come along, Tom.  I've got two splendid cigars--real Manillas."

Tom Long, to whom this public recognition had been extremely painful,
was only too glad to join his companion on a form beneath a tree, where
the two genuine Manillas were lit, and for a quarter of an hour the
youths smoked on complacently, when just as the exultation of the public
singing was giving way to a peculiar sensation of depression and
sickness, and each longed to throw away half his cigar, but did not
dare, Adam Gray came up to where they were seated, gradually growing
pale and wan.

"Ah, Gray," said the ensign, "what is it?"

"The major, sir, requests that you will favour him with your company
directly."

"My company?" cried the ensign; "what's the matter?"

"Don't know, sir; but I think it's something about those slave girls.
And Captain Horton requested me to tell you to come too, sir," he
continued, turning to Bob Roberts.

"We're going to get promotion, I know, Tom," said the middy.

"No, no," said the ensign, dolefully, "it's a good wigging."

Bob Roberts, although feeling far from exalted now, did not in anywise
believe in the possibility of receiving what his companion euphoniously
termed a "wigging," and with a good deal of his customary independent,
and rather impudent, swagger he followed the orderly to a cool lamp-lit
room, where sat in solemn conclave, the resident, Major Sandars, and
Captain Horton.

"That will do, Gray," said Major Sandars, as the youths entered, and
saluted the three officers seated like judges at a table, "but be within
hearing."

"Might ask us to sit down," thought Bob, as he saw from the aspect of
the three gentlemen that something serious was afloat.

But the new arrivals were not asked to sit down, and they stood before
the table feeling very guilty, and like a couple of prisoners; though of
what they had been guilty, and why they were brought there, they could
not imagine.

"It's only their serious way," thought Bob; "they are going to
compliment us."

He stared at the shaded lamp, round which four or five moths and a big
beetle were wildly circling in a frantic desire to commit suicide, but
kept from a fiery end by gauze wire over the chimney.

"What fools moths and beetles are!" thought Bob, and then his attention
was taken up by the officers.

"Will you speak, Major Sandars?" said the resident.

"No, I think it should come from you, Mr Linton.  What do you say,
Captain Horton?"

"I quite agree with you, Major Sandars," said the captain stiffly.

"What the dickens have we been doing?" thought Bob; and then he stared
hard at the resident, and wished heartily that Rachel Linton's father
had not been chosen to give him what he felt sure was a setting down for
some reason or another.

"As you will, gentlemen," said the resident firmly, and he then placed
his elbows on the table and joined his fingers, while the light from the
lamp shone full upon his forehead.

"Mr Ensign Long--Mr Midshipman Roberts," he began.  "He might have
placed me first," thought Bob.  "I wish someone would catch those
wretched moths."

"You have been out on an expedition to-day?"

He waited for an answer, and as Tom Long had been placed first, Bob
waited, too; but as his companion did not speak, Bob exclaimed quickly--

"Yes, sir, snipe shooting;" and as the resident bowed his head, Bob
added, "two brace."

"Confound you--you young dogs!" cried Captain Horton, "and you brought a
brace of something else.  I beg your pardon, Mr Linton; go on."

Mr Linton bowed, while Bob uttered a barely audible whistle, and
glanced at his companion.

"Then it's about those two girls," he thought.

"It seems, young gentlemen," continued the resident, "that while you
were out, you met two young Malay girls?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who had run away from their master?"

"From their owner, as he seemed to consider himself, sir," said Bob,
who, to use his own words, felt as if all the fat was in the fire now,
and blazed up accordingly.  "You see, sir," he said quickly, "we were
watching for something that we saw in the reeds, close to the boggy
ground, you know, and Tom here thought it was pig, but I thought it
might be a deer.  So we stood quite still till we heard sounds in the
distance, when out jumped two dark creatures, and I was going to fire,
when we saw that they were girls."

"And they ran up to us," said Tom Long.

"Like winking," said Bob, "and threw themselves on their knees, and
clung to our legs, and wouldn't let go.  Then up came half-a-dozen of
the niggers--"

"I think, Mr Roberts, we will call people by their right names," said
the resident, quietly; "suppose we say Malays."

"Yes, sir, Malays; and laid hold of the girls to drag them away.  They
screamed out, and that roused us, and we sent the nig--Malays staggering
back.  For you see, sir, as Englishmen--"

"English what--Mr Roberts?" said Captain Horton.

"Men, sir.  I'm a midshipman, sir," said Bob, sharply; and the captain
grunted out something that sounded like "impudent young puppy!" but he
did not look angry.

"Go on, Mr Roberts," said the resident.

"Well, sir, being English--boys--big boys, who felt like men just
then--" said Bob, rather sarcastically.

"That's not bad, Mr Roberts," said Major Sandars, with a glance at the
naval captain.

"Well, sir, as the poor girls had regularly appealed to us to protect
them, and the nig--Malays, sir, whipped out their krises, we presented
arms, and would have given them a peppering of snipe shot, if they
hadn't sheered off when we brought the two poor weeping slave girls
under the protection of the British flag, and set them free.  Didn't we,
Tom?"

"Yes," said Tom Long, looking nervously at the resident, and wondering
what Rachel Linton thought about their feat.

There was a dead silence for a few moments, during which Bob Roberts
wiped his streaming forehead, for he felt uncomfortably hot.  Then the
resident began--

"I think I am speaking the sentiments of my friends here, young
gentlemen, when I say that you both behaved just as two brave British
lads would be expected to behave under the circumstances."

"Yes," said Major Sandars, "Ensign Long, I felt sure, would not be
wanting, if called upon."

Tom Long's face grew the colour of his best uniform.

"Very plucky act," said Captain Horton; and he nodded in so friendly a
way at the middy, that Bob felt quite beaming.

"But," continued the resident, speaking very slowly, and as if weighing
every word he said, "what is very beautiful in sentiment, and very brave
and manly if judged according to our own best feelings, young gentlemen,
becomes very awkward sometimes if viewed through the spectacles of
diplomacy."

"I--I don't understand you, sir," faltered Bob.

"Let me be explicit then, young gentlemen.  You both were, it seems,
granted leave of absence to-day, for indulging in a little innocent
sport, but by your brave, though very indiscreet conduct, you have, I
fear, completely overset the friendly relations that we have been trying
so hard to establish with these extremely sensitive people."

"But, sir," began Bob, "the poor girls--"

"Yes, I know all that," said the resident quietly; "but slavery is a
domestic institution among these people, and to-morrow I feel sure that
I shall have a visit from some of the sultan's chief men, demanding that
these poor girls be given up."

"But they can't be now, sir," said Tom Long.

"No, Mr Long, we cannot return the poor girls to a state of slavery;
but do you not see into what an awkward position your act has brought
us?"

"I'm very sorry, sir."

"Yes, but sorrow will not mend it.  We have been, and are, living on the
edge of a volcano here, young gentlemen, and the slightest thing may
cause an eruption.  This act of yours, I greatly fear, will bring the
flames about our heads."

Bob Roberts turned pale, as he thought of the ladies.

"But they'd never dare, sir," he began.

"Dare?  I believe the Malays are quite daring enough to attack us,
should they feel disposed.  But there, we need not discuss that matter.
You young gentlemen have, however, been very jubilant over your rescue
of these poor girls, and you have been summoned here to warn you, while
your respective officers take into consideration what punishment is
awarded to you, that your noisy demonstrations are very much out of
place."

"Punishment, sir!" said Bob, who looked aghast.

"Yes," said the resident sharply, "punishment.  You do not seem to
realise, young gentleman, that your act to-day has fired a train.
Besides which, it is a question of such import that I must make it the
basis of a special despatch to the colonial secretary at Whitehall."

Bob Roberts turned round and stared at Tom Long, but the latter was
staring at Major Sandars.

"I don't think I need say any more, young gentlemen," said the resident
quietly, "and I fervently hope that I may be able to peaceably settle
this matter; but it is quite on the cards that it may be the cause of a
deadly strife.  And I sincerely trust that whatever may be the upshot of
this affair, it may be a warning to you, as young English officers, to
think a little more, and consider, before you take any serious step in
your careers; for sometimes a very slight error may result in the loss
of life.  In this case, yours has not been a slight error, but a grave
one."

"Though we all own as quite true," said Captain Horton, "that we don't
see how you could have acted differently; eh, Sandars?"

"Yes, yes, of course.  But, hang it all, Long, how could you go and get
into such a confounded pickle?  It's too bad, sir, 'pon my soul, sir; it
is too bad--much too bad."

"Are we to be under arrest, sir?" said Bob Roberts, rather blankly.

"Not if you'll both promise to keep within bounds," said Captain Horton.
"No nonsense."

"No, sir," said Bob glumly.

"Of course not, sir," said Tom.

"That will do then, young gentlemen," said the resident gravely; and the
two youths went blankly off to their several quarters.

"Poor boys!  I'm sorry for them," said the resident sadly.

"Yes, it's a confounded nuisance, Linton," said Major Sandars, "but you
must diplomatise, and set all right somehow or another."

"That's a fine boy, that Roberts," said Captain Horton.  "I'll try my
best, gentlemen," said the resident, "for all our sakes; but we have a
curious people to deal with, and I fear that this may turn out a very
serious affair."



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

HOW DIPLOMACY WORKED IN A MALAY STATE.

The Parang river looked like a belt of damasked silver studded with
diamonds the next morning, while the waving feathery palms were of the
brightest green.  Mingled with these, on the shore farthest from the
town, were the dadap trees, whose ripe scarlet blossoms stood out in
rich relief as they gave colour to a landscape already dotted with the
blooms of the chumpaka, both yellow and white, shedding a sweet scent
that Doctor Bolter said was like Cape jasmin, but which Bob Roberts
declared to resemble tea made with lavender water.

The "Startler," with her deck as white as hands could make it, lay
looking smart and bright in her moorings below the island, her yards
perfectly square, her sides glistening with fresh paint, her brass
rails, bell, and guns flashing back the sun's rays, and the awnings
spread over the deck almost as white as snow.

Here and there the Jacks, in their duck frocks and straws, were paddling
about barefooted in the sunshine, giving the last touches to the rails
and glass of the skylights.

On the island the resident's house and the barrack fort looked more like
some ornamented set of buildings for summer pleasure, than a couple of
places designed as a stronghold and retreat in case of danger.  For the
ditch and the earthwork were now carpetted with verdant growth, while
the abattis, having been made of green wood, was putting forth fresh
shoots.

Both the resident and Major Sandars had been desirous of retaining all
the shade possible, for the protection of the men; therefore, save where
they were likely to afford harbour to the enemy, trees and bushes had
been spared.  The men too, having plenty of time at disposal, had been
encouraged to take to gardening, and with Doctor Bolter for head
instructor, the place had been made to present the appearance of a
nursery ground, where one bed rivalled another in the perfection of its
growing vegetables.  Neat, well-kept walks led up to the fort and the
resident's house, which daily grew brighter and more picturesque, with
its ornamented reed-woven walls, and carefully thatched roof of attap.
The broad verandah, with its punkahs, was made gay with beautiful
creepers, climbing the pillars of palm and bamboo, and festooning the
edges, some of these being jasmines of great size and beauty; while
rough rotan baskets hung at intervals, full of moss and dead wood, on
which flourished the wonderful orchids and pitcher-plants that were the
delight of the ladies of the residency.

By the help of Doctor Bolter and Adam Gray, a large cask had been cut in
half, and decorated on the outsides and edges with rough bark, in whose
interstices were planted orchids, and the pretty maiden-hair fern; while
upon these being both mounted upon a short rough stump, they formed a
couple of rustic vases of huge size, standing just inside the broad
verandah, on either side of the entrance door, and looked, when filled
with water, and supplied with aquatic plants, no slight additions to the
beauty of the place.

Upon one of his excursions with net and can, Doctor Bolter had succeeded
in capturing several of the beautiful little chaetadons, or
shooting-fish; tiny little broad fellows, beautifully banded, whose
peculiarity was the adroitness with which they would lie in wait for any
unfortunate fly that settled on the edge of an aquatic leaf, and then
fire--or rather, water--off at it a tiny globule, with such unerring
aim, that the insect was generally brought down into the water and
swallowed.  Three or four would sometimes sail round one after the other
shooting at a fly in turn till it was knocked off, when a rush took
place for the dainty prize.

But the river and the little jungle streams abounded with miniature fish
of great beauty, their peculiarity being the way in which they were
coloured, some being of a most gorgeous scarlet, with broad bands of
vivid blue across their sides.

All on board the "Startler" was the perfection of neatness, and from a
friendly rivalry the residency and fort were as smart and neat; perhaps
never did they look to greater perfection than on the day after the
adventure of Bob Roberts and Tom Long.

The morning drill was over, and the sun was growing intensely hot, when
there was heard the sound of a gong in the distance, and one of the
sentries announced the coming of a boat.

As it drew near it was seen to be one belonging to the sultan, with a
couple of his principal officers therein.

They landed, each in his gay silken sarong, in whose folds the handle of
the kris was carefully wrapped, to indicate that they were bound on a
friendly mission, and leaving their men at the bamboo landing-stage
fitted up by the sailors, they made their way to the residency.

No sooner had the news been given to Mr Linton of the approach of the
sultan's boat than a signal was hoisted, whose effect was that the
captain's gig was lowered down, and he arrived at the stage directly
after, joining Major Sandars who had been fetched by an orderly, both
officers being in full uniform.

"I say, Tom," said Bob Roberts to his companion, who had come across to
the ship a short time before, "if I were you I'd go back and fig myself.
I shall put on my best duds, for you see if we ar'n't sent for to meet
those two coffee-coloured swells."

Tom Long, who was rather low-spirited about the matter, took the middy's
advice, and went back to the island, where the visitors had already been
ushered into the resident's reception room, the captain and major
dropping in directly after as if by accident.

It was the most friendly of visits.  The two officers were the
tumongong, or chief magistrate, and the muntri, or chief adviser, of the
sultan; and nothing could have been more amiable than their demeanour as
they conversed with Mr Linton, who from time to time interpreted to the
two British officers.

Was there anything the sultan could do in the way of providing better
supplies of rice, fruit, and meat?  A great fish expedition was about to
be set afoot, and more would be brought down the river and kept in
floating tanks.  If the resident would only speak, everything possible
should be done.

Nothing was required, so thanks were returned; when the tumongong smiled
most agreeably, and said that he must now come to the chief object of
his visit.  The fact was, the sultan had decided to have a great
tiger-hunt.  Much mischief had of late been done by tigers.  Several
poor fellows, especially Chinamen, had been carried off from the
rice-fields, and the sultan had decided to get together all his
elephants, with a large number of beaters, and have a great hunt.  Would
the British officers bring their rifles and help?  Elephants should be
placed at their disposal, the largest the country produced, and every
thing done to make the hunt a success.

"Then it's a mare's nest after all, Sandars," said Captain Horton.
"They're not going to take any notice of those boys' tricks.  What do
you say; shall we go?"

"I should enjoy it immensely," said the major.  "I long for a shot at a
tiger."

"Wait a little, gentlemen," said the resident, smiling; "the interview
is not at an end.  What shall I reply about the hunting-party?"

"Oh, we shall be delighted to go.  You'll go too?" said Captain Horton,
answering for both.

"If matters are pleasantly settled," said Mr Linton.  Then turning to
the two Malay officers, whose dark restless eyes had been scanning the
faces in turn, he said that they would be most happy to accept the
sultan's invitation.

The officers were delighted, and declared that the sultan's joy would
know no bounds.

They had previously declined all refreshments, but now that their
business was at an end they accepted cigars, and laughed and chatted,
evidently enjoying the visit immensely, and accepting a proposal to walk
round the grounds, with alacrity.

As they went into the verandah, the resident found a couple of the
sultan's men waiting, with a present of the choicest fruit the country
produced; huge durians, and fine mangosteens, with the most select kinds
of plantain, known for the delicacy of their flavour.

The visitors took an almost childish delight in the fish in the two
fonts, and smiled with pleasure at the sight of the large selection of
flowers; but a keen observer would have noticed that as they walked
round the fort and earth-works, the muntri eagerly scanned every
preparation for defence, though apparently more attracted by the
uniforms of the sentries than anything else.

As they were crossing the little parade ground, with its well-trampled
soil, on their way back to their boat, Tom Long was encountered, on his
way to the mess-room.

He started, on coming upon the little party so suddenly, but saluted and
went on.

Oddly enough that brought to the muntri's memory a little affair that
had happened on the previous day.  Two young officers of the ship had
been ashore shooting birds, and they found a party of the country people
behaving rather ill to a couple of slave girls, and naturally enough,
like all young men would, they took the girls under their protection,
and brought them to the residency.  Was it not so?

"Yes," the resident replied; "and they are now with the ladies."

That was so good and kind, and so like the English, who were a great and
generous nation.  The sultan had been terribly annoyed at his people
behaving so ill to the poor girls, the muntri continued, and they had
been punished, which was quite right--was it not?

The resident perfectly agreed with the muntri, who smiled content, while
the tumongong looked hurt and sad.

He was so glad that Rajah Linton was satisfied at what the sultan had
done, and the sultan would be greatly happy at his acts meeting such
approval from the chief of the great queen.  So that was settled.  He
thanked the resident more than he could tell, and he would give him no
more trouble about the two poor girls, but take them back in the boat.

This was very cleverly done, but the sultan's officers had to deal with
an equally clever man, one who was well versed in oriental wiles and
diplomacy.  Mr Linton was in no wise taken aback, since he had been
waiting for this, and therefore was quite prepared to reply firmly that
such a proceeding was impossible.  The two girls had been brought
beneath the British flag, and hence were slaves no longer.  He could not
therefore give them up.

Of course the resident meant that he could not send them back then, the
muntri observed, smiling.  Perhaps the poor girls were ill with their
fright, and the rajah resident would send them back when they were
better.

The resident assured his visitors that such a course was impossible, for
according to the British laws the girls were now free, and could not be
forced to go back.

The two officers did not press the matter, but began to ask questions
about a breech-loading cannon, and were greatly surprised at the ease
with which it was charged.

They had by this time finished their cigars, and being near the
landing-stage, they took a most effusive leave of the three officers,
entered their boat, and were rowed away.

"Well, then," said Captain Horton, as soon as he heard the parts of the
conversation that he had not understood, "that game's over, and they are
beaten at diplomacy?"

"Yes," said Major Sandars.  "I envy you your command of countenance, and
knowledge of the language, Linton."

"Game? over?" said Mr Linton, smiling sadly.  "No, my dear sirs, that
is only the first move our adversaries have made--king's pawn two
squares forward; to which I have replied with queen's pawn one square
forward."

"And that's a bad move, isn't it, Horton?" exclaimed Major Sandars.

"So the chess books make one think," said the captain.

"It all depends upon your adversary and your game," said the resident,
smiling.  "Gentlemen, I hope I have done right."

"And what are you going to do now?" said Captain Horton.

"Wait to see our adversary's next move.  Meanwhile, gentlemen, extra
caution will do no harm, for we have touched the Malays in one of their
most sensitive places."

"We?  You mean those young scamps of boys," said Captain Horton.

"Oh, it's _we_ all the same," said Major Sandars.  "Well, what's to be
done?"

"I should, without seeming to do anything, put on a few extra sentries,
Major Sandars," said the resident; "and, Captain Horton, I should be
ready for action at a moment's notice, and be cautious about who came on
board, and what prahus anchored near."

"Quite right--quite right, Linton," said Captain Horton.  "You had no
business to be a civilian.  You ought to have been in the service."

The resident smiled, and they separated, as Mr Linton said, to wait for
the enemy's next move.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

HOW SULTAN HAMET VISITED HIS FRIENDS.

The enemy, as the resident termed the sultan's party, made no move for a
couple of days, during which all went on as usual.  There was the usual
morning parade in the fort, and the soldiers gardened, idled, smoked,
and told one another it was "jolly hot"--a fact that needed no telling.
On board the "Startler" the men were beat to quarters, and went through
their drill in the cool of the morning, before hammock rails, the
sentries' rifles, and the breeches of the glistening guns grew too hot
to be touched with impunity.  So hot was it, that, like the burnt child
who fears the fire, Bob Roberts was exceedingly cautious about placing
his hands in any spot where they were likely to be defiled by the pitch
that cannot be touched without those consequences; for from between
seams, and the strands of well-laid cables, it oozed, and even bubbled
out, beneath the ardent wooing of the tropic sun.

It was a listless life, but a pleasant one, for such strict discipline
was observed, and stringent rules laid down by the medical officer of
the corvette and the detachment, that the men kept in excellent health.
They had plenty of amusements; fruit was abundant, and they had taken
quite a taste for the coarse country tobacco, which many of the soldiers
smoked after the Malay fashion, rolled up a la cigarette in the roko, or
outer sheath of the palm leaf or the plantain.  Some, too, adopted the
Malay's plan of rapidly cutting a pipe from a short joint of bamboo,
which, with a hole bored in the side for the insertion of a thin reed or
quill, formed a pipe much affected by the Jacks when they took their
tobacco in smoke, instead of by the unpleasantly moist masticating
process.

At the residency all went on as usual; sometimes the ladies received,
and there was the sound of music and singing in the pleasantly lit-up
verandah; sometimes Captain Horton sent his gig, and the agreeable
little reunions were held on board the "Startler," in an improvised
tent, draped with the ship's colours, while the lights were reflected on
the smooth surface of the hurrying stream, and the Malays on shore
watched the figures that passed to and fro till the party was over.

Captain Horton and Major Sandars both thought the rajah's party had
forgotten the affair; but the resident held to his opinion, which was
strengthened by the imploring manner in which the two girls, who had
attached themselves as attendants on Rachel Linton and her cousin,
begged him not to let them be fetched away.

"Suppose I did let them have you back," said the resident to them one
day in their native tongue, "what would happen?"

One of the girls, a tall, dark, graceful creature, but with the
protruding lips, high cheekbones, and flat distended nose of the Malay,
rose with contracted eyebrows, took her companion, forced her upon her
knees, and then drawing an imaginary kris, she placed the point on the
girl's shoulder, and struck the hilt with her right hand as if driving
it perpendicularly down into her heart.

"They would kill us--so!" she exclaimed, "and throw our bodies in the
water to the crocodiles!"

The other girl shuddered, and raised her frightened eyes to the faces of
the ladies as if imploring them to intercede--and not in vain.

"But they will not trouble about you now;" said the resident,
tentatively.

"Yes, yes," they both exclaimed, "they will send a naga and many men,
but you will not let us go?"

"No," said the resident, quietly.  "_We_ shall not give you up," and he
went away thoughtfully to his room, to continue writing the despatch he
had commenced some days before.

That same evening the two principal officers came to have a chat, and
over their cigars Major Sandars introduced the subject of the doubled
sentries.

"There is no longer any need for this," he said.  "Let's see, Linton, it
is now a week since those two fellows came.  Don't you think, Horton, it
is an unnecessary precaution?"

"Well, to be frank," said Captain Horton, "I do; and I shall be glad to
give up our strict discipline on board."

"What do you think, Captain Smithers?" said the resident to that
officer, who was present.

"I cannot help agreeing with the major," he replied.  "I see no reason
for these extra precautions."

"Then I am in the minority," said the resident, smiling.

"Look out there, gentlemen," he said, pointing through the open window.
"What do you see?"

"You tell him, Smithers," said the major, "I'm too hot and tired to do
more than breathe."

"I can see the bright river with the lights of the steamer glistening on
its surface; the fire-flies are darting amongst the trees; the stars
look soft and mellow; altogether it is a delightful picture, that
reminds one of being in some delicious summer retreat on the banks of
dear old Father Thames."

"Captain Smithers," said the resident, gravely, "it is indeed a
beautiful picture; the river flows peacefully on with the lights
reflected from its bosom; but you know as well as I, that if a man
attempted to breast those treacherous waters, he would, before he had
swum many yards, have been drawn down by one of the hideous reptiles
that swarm in the Parang.  That river is to my mind a type of the Malay
feeling towards us--the intruders upon his soil.  So little am I
satisfied with what seems to me to be a deceitful calm, that I have
serious thoughts of asking you to increase the sentries."

"Nonsense, my dear Linton," said Captain Horton; "we shall hear no more
of the affair."

"We shall hear more," said the resident.  "Wait and see."

The resident was right; for the next day the sultan's principal naga, or
dragon-boat, with its uncouth figure-head, was seen coming swiftly down
the stream, propelled by about thirty rowers, all clad in rich yellow
jackets--the royal colour--and nattily-made scarlet caps.  Their lower
limbs were bare, save where covered by their scarlet and yellow sarongs.
The men rowed well together; and as the word was passed by the sentries
the officer on duty could plainly make out beneath the matting awning,
reaching nearly from end to end of the boat, the figures of the sultan
and several of his officers.

The sultan was easily distinguishable; for while his chief officers
strictly adhered to their native costume, he wore a gorgeous
semi-military uniform, that had specially been built--so Bob Roberts
termed it--for him in England.  It was one mass of rich embroidery,
crossed by a jewelled belt, bearing a sabre set with precious stones,
and upon his head he wore a little Astrakhan fur _kepi_, surmounted by
an egret's plume, like a feathery fountain from a diamond jet.

Orders were given for the guard to turn out, and the resident and Major
Sandars hurriedly prepared to meet their distinguished guest, who,
however, did not stop at the island, but went straight on to the
corvette, where he was received by a guard of marines, the captain
awaiting his visitor upon the quarter-deck.

The visit was but short, for at the end of a few minutes Captain Horton
accompanied the sultan on board the naga, and the long low vessel was
swiftly turned, and rowed with no little skill to the island
landing-place, where a sufficiently imposing military force, under
Captain Smithers, was ready to receive him, the sultan walking up to the
residency verandah, between a double line of infantry with bayonets
fixed.

The eastern potentate's opal eyeballs rolled from side to side as,
looking rather awkward in his ill-fitting European dress, he tried hard
to emulate the dignity of his bronze followers in baju and sarong, each
man with the handle of his kris carefully covered by a silken fold.

On landing here, the sultan was followed by his kris and sword-bearers,
each having his appointed station behind the monarch, holding the
weapons by the sheath, with the hilt against the right shoulder, so that
a very respectable procession, full of colour and glow, was formed from
the landing-place to the residency.

The most incongruous part of the following was the appearance of the
officer who bore an umbrella to keep the rays of the sun from his
liege's head; but as in place of one of the gorgeous, gold-fringed,
scarlet-clothed sunshades generally used for that purpose, this was an
unmistakeable London-made chaise gingham, with a decidedly Gampish look,
it robbed its master of some of his dignity, though he was so busily
employed in trying to carry his richly-jewelled sabre with the ease of
the English officers, and at the same time to show the splendid weapon
to the best advantage, that he saw not the want of dignity in his
umbrella, and walked awkwardly to where Mr Linton received him in
company with Major Sandars, and such officers as could hurry on the
uniforms they so scrupulously avoided in that torrid clime.

Tom Long, who paid more attention to the embellishment of his person
than any man in the detachment, was one of the officers present, and
although nervous about the Sultan's visit, and feeling certain that it
had to do with the rescue of the slave girls, he could not help a smile
at the umbrella, and a congratulatory sensation that Bob Roberts was not
present, for he would have been sure to laugh, when an extension of the
risible muscles might have been taken as an insult not to be endured.

The august visitors were received in the wide verandah on account of
their number, where the sultan took the seat placed for him; five of his
principal men, including the former ambassadors, stood behind him; the
rest, sword and umbrella-bearers, carriers of the potentate's golden
betel-box and spittoon, squatted down on their heels, and were as
motionless as so many images of bronze.

The various British officers remained with the resident, standing, out
of respect to the sultan, whose heavy dark features seemed to express
satisfaction; and he at once proceeded in a rather forced, excited
manner to inform the resident that he had only been having a
water-excursion, and had thought how much he should like to see his good
friends at the residency.

The resident was delighted, of course, at this mark of condescension,
and hastened to assure the sultan of the fact.

The latter then proceeded to announce that his grand tiger-hunt would
take place in a fortnight's time, and begged that all the officers would
accept his invitation.

As spokesman and interpreter, the resident assured his august visitor
that as many as possible would be there; when in addition the sultan
asked that a great many soldiers might be sent as well, to help keep the
tigers from breaking back when the hunt was on.

To this, Mr Linton, by Major Sandars' permission, readily assented; and
then, knowing of old his visitor's taste in such matters, some champagne
was produced.  At the sight of the gold-foiled bottles the rajah's eyes
glistened, and he readily partook of a tumbler twice filled for him;
after which he walked into the house with the resident, as an excuse for
not being present when his followers partook of some of the wine.

At length, after a walk round the fort, which was willingly accorded to
him, that he might see that the residency and its protectors were well
on the _qui vive_, the sultan took his departure, begging earnestly that
all who could would come to the hunting expedition.  Then the soldiers
presented arms, and the little procession, gay of aspect, proceeded down
to the bamboo landing-stage, where the visitor embarked with his
following, and seated himself beneath the reed awning of his boat.  Word
was given, and the yellow and scarlet rowers bent to their oars, sending
the long light naga vigorously up stream, one blaze of brilliant colour
in the morning sun, till it disappeared round a verdant point about
half-a-mile ahead.

"Well, Linton," said Major Sandars, "what do you say to it now?"

"Ah, to be sure," said Captain Horton.  "Isn't the storm blown over?"

"Really, gentlemen, it looks like it," said the resident, "and I must
confess that I am heartily glad to find that I have been wrong."

"Wrong? yes," said the Major.  "Those fellows are no more fools than we
are, and knowing what they do of the strength of our guns, and the
discipline of our men, they would as soon think of measuring force with
us, as of flying.  Smithers, march the men back into quarters out of
this raging sunshine, and to-night only put on the usual guard.  What
shall you do, Horton?"

"Only have the customary watch," was the reply.

Tom Long conveyed to Bob Roberts an account of what had taken place, and
the reduction of the guard at night; to which that sage young midshipman
replied, that the British Lion was only going to withdraw his claws
within their sheaths, but the claws were there still; and that it would
be exceedingly uncomfortable for any Malay gentleman on shore if the
said BL was to put his claws out once more.

"But I say, Tom," he exclaimed, "get the major to let you go to the
tiger-hunt."

"Do you think you can get leave?" said the ensign.

"I mean to try it on, my boy.  The cap is sure to be huffy, on account
of our last affair; but nothing venture, nothing gain, and I mean to go,
somehow or another, so tigers beware.  What are you laughing at?"

"The idea of you shooting a tiger," said Tom Long.  "That's all."

"I daresay I could if I tried," said Bob shortly.

"I daresay you could," said Long, "but we'll see.  We have to get leave
first."

"That's soon got," said Bob Roberts.  "Depend upon it, I shall be
there."

"And I, too," said Tom Long; and the young fellows parted, each of them
in secret vowing that he would have the skin of the tiger he meant to
shoot, carefully dressed, lined with blue satin and scarlet cloth, and
present it to Rachel Linton as a tribute of respect.

But the tiger had first of all to be shot.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

HOW ALI FELL INTO A TRAP.

They were very delightful days at the residency for the English party.
The heat was certainly great, but the arrangements made as soon as they
were settled down, warded that off to a great extent.  The men enjoyed
the life most thoroughly, especially as for sanitary reasons Doctor
Bolter forbade that either the soldiers or the Jacks should be exposed
to too much exertion.

The days were days of unclouded sunshine as a rule, and when this rule
was broken, the change was to a heavy thunder-storm, with a refreshing
rain, and then the skies were once more blue.

Fruit and flowers, and various other supplies, were brought now in
abundance, especially since Dullah had been allowed to set up a trading
station at the island.  He monopolised the whole business, the various
boats that came rowing straight to him; but he did it all in so pleasant
a manner, that no one could complain.  To the English people he was
suavity itself.  His courtesy--his gentlemanly bearing was the talk of
the whole place; and regularly every morning one of his Malay slaves or
bond-servants used to carry up and lay in the residency verandah a large
bunch of deliciously fresh orchids, or pitcher-plants, or a great branch
of some sweet-scented flowering shrub, for which he always received the
ladies' thanks in a calm, courteous way that quite won their confidence.

Dullah's reed hut, with its bamboo-supported verandah, became quite a
favourite resort, and he very soon provided it with a frontage each way.
In the one verandah he arranged to supply the resident, the ladies, and
officers; and in the other the soldiers and sailors, and received his
supplies from the boats.

Sometimes the ladies walked down to buy fruit, sometimes it was the
officers; but the two best customers were Tom Long and Bob Roberts, the
former spending a great deal in flowers, to send to the residency--a
very bad investment by the way--for the rapid rate at which they faded
was astounding.  Once his duty--as he called it--done, in sending a
bunch of flowers, Tom Long used to indulge himself with fruit.

Bob Roberts had given up sending flowers, so he had more money to spend
upon his noble self in fruit, and he spent it where he was pretty well
sure to encounter Tom Long, whenever he could get leave to run across to
the island.

Bob's way of addressing Dullah was neither refined nor polite, for it
was always, "Hallo, old cock," and at first Dullah looked very serious;
but as soon as his aide and companion interpreted to him the words, he
smiled and seemed perfectly satisfied, always greeting the young
midshipman with a display of his white teeth, for he considered his
comparison to a fighting-cock, of which birds the Malays are
passionately fond, quite a compliment.

The result was that for a small sum Bob was always sure of a choice
durian, which he feasted upon with great gusto, while Tom Long came and
treated himself to mangosteens.

Dullah always behaved to the young ensign with the greatest politeness,
that young gentleman returning it with a sort of courteous condescension
which said plainly enough that Dullah was to consider himself a being of
an inferior race.

But Dullah accepted it all in the calmest manner, smilingly removing the
malodorous durians which Bob maliciously contrived to place near the
seat Tom Long always occupied, and waiting upon the ensign as if he were
a grandee of the first water.

And here, as a matter of course, the subject of the approaching
tiger-hunt was discussed, Dullah, by means of his companion, becoming
quite animated about the matter, and enlarging as to the number and
beauty of the tigers that would be shot.

Both Tom Long and the middy were having a fruit feast one day, when Ali,
who had been off to the steamer, and then came on to the island, made
his appearance in search of his two friends, Dullah quietly disappearing
into the back of his hut, to attend to some of the sailors who had come
in, while his companion waited upon the young officers.

Of course the tiger-hunt was the principal subject of discussion, and
Ali promised to arrange to have one of the largest of the sultan's
elephants fitted with a roomy howdah, so that they three could be
together.

"I can manage that," he said, "through my father, and we'll have a grand
day."

"But shall we get any tigers?" asked Bob.

"No fear of that," was the reply.  "I'll contrive that we shall be in
the best part of the hunt."

"That will be close to the sultan, of course?"

Ali's dark eyes were raised inquiringly to the speaker's face, but
seeing that this was not meant sarcastically, he said drily,--"No; I
shall arrange to be as far away from the sultan's elephant as I can."

Bob looked at him keenly.

"What, isn't he fond of tigers?" he said sharply.

"My father is the sultan's officer, and greatly in his confidence," said
the young man quietly.  "I don't think the sultan is very fond of
hunting, though."

Just at this moment, unseen, of course, by the three young men, Dullah
was whispering to a rough-looking, half-naked Malay, into whose hands he
placed a little roll of paper, which the man secured in the fold of his
sarong, dropped into a sampan, and then hastily paddled to the mainland,
where he plunged into the wood and disappeared.

Meanwhile the three friends sat chatting, and Ali expressed his sorrow
about the adventure the two young Englishmen had had with the slave
girls.

"Where are they now?" he quietly asked.

"Oh, Miss Linton and her cousin have quite adopted them," said Bob.
"But surely you don't think we did wrong."

"Speaking as the son of the Tumongong, I say yes," replied Ali; "but as
one who has imbibed English notions and ideas, I am bound to say that
what you did only makes me feel more thoroughly how it is time we had a
complete revolution in Parang."

"I say," said Bob, "you'll get stuck-up for high treason, young fellow,
if you talk about revolution."

"No fear," said Ali, laughing quietly.  "My ideas are pretty well-known;
but I am too insignificant a fellow for what I say to be noticed.  Now
if it was my father--"

"Yes--if it was your father," said Bob, "I suppose they would kris him?"

Ali nodded, and after a quiet cigar under the trees, during which he
complained more than once of the wrench the seizure by the crocodile had
given to his muscles, he bade them good-bye, promising to have
everything ready for the tiger-hunt, and, leaping into his boat, was
rowed away.

Ali had about a mile to walk along one of the jungle-paths to reach his
father's house, and he was going along very thoughtfully under the
trees, quite alone--for he had left his men behind, to look after and
secure the boat.  It was comparatively cool in the shade, and he began
thinking about the two young men he had left, and contrasting their
civilised life with his.  The savagery and barbarism by which he was
surrounded disgusted him; and knowing well as he did, how the sultan and
the various rajahs of the little states lived by oppressing and grinding
down the wretched people around, he longed for the time when a complete
change should come about, bringing with it just laws, and a salutary
rule for his country.  His own life troubled him in no small degree, for
he saw nothing in the future but the career of a Malay chief, a ruler
over slaves, living a life of voluptuous idleness, and such an existence
he looked upon with horror.

Could he not enter the British service in some way? he asked himself,
and rise to a life of usefulness, in which he might do some good for the
helpless, ground-down people amongst whom he was born?

Such a life, he told himself, would be worth living, and--What was that?

His hand involuntarily flew to his kris, as he heard a rustle amidst the
tangled cane just ahead, and he advanced cautiously lest it should be
some beast of prey, or one of the great serpents that had their
existence amidst the dense undergrowth.

There it was again; a quick sharp rustle amidst the trees, as of
something hastily escaping, and his hand fell to his side, and he
watched eagerly in advance, not hearing a cat-like step behind him, as a
swarthy Malay came in his tracks, sprang upon the young man's back, and
pinioned his arms in an instant.

Ali uttered a hoarse cry, and strove to draw his kris, but the effort
was vain.  Three more Malays darted from their hiding-places, and in a
few minutes he was securely bound, with a portion of his sarong thrust
into his mouth to keep him from crying for help; another Malay, who had
been pulling a long rattan on ahead to imitate the sound of an escaping
animal, coming from his hiding-place and smiling at the success of the
ruse.

"What does it mean?"  Ali asked himself; but he was puzzled and
confused, and his captors gave him no opportunity for further thought,
but hurried him right away into the depths of the jungle through a long
narrow winding track that was little used.

"Why, this leads to the sultan's old house, where the inchees were
killed!" thought Ali.  "Surely they are not going to kill me?"

A shudder ran through him, and a strange sense of horror seemed to
freeze his limbs as he was half thrust half earned along through the
jungle, his captors having at times to use their heavy parangs to cut
back the canes and various creepers that had made a tangle across the
unfrequented track.

It was as the young chief had surmised.  They were taking him to the
deserted house that had been formerly occupied by former inchees or
princesses of the Malay people, who, for some political reason, had been
cruelly assassinated by order of the present sultan, they having been
krissed, and their bodies thrown into the river.

Was this to be his fate? he asked himself; and if it was, in what way
had he offended?

The answer came to him at once.  It was evident that the intercourse he
had held with the English was not liked, and now in his own mind he
began to have misgivings about the resident and his party.  Sultan Hamet
was, he knew, both cruel and treacherous.  Was the position of the
English people safe?

Yes, he felt they were safe.  He was the offender; and once more a
shudder of fear ran through him at the thought of his young life being
crushed out so soon; just, too, when he was so full of hopeful prospects
and aspirations.

His manhood asserted itself, though, directly.  He was the son of a
chief, he told himself; and these treacherous wretches who had seized
him should see that he was no coward.

Then he began to think of his father, and wondered whether it would be
possible to communicate with him before he was killed.

Then he felt a little more hopeful, for perhaps, after all, the
instructions to his captors might not be to slay him.  If it was, and he
could only get his hands free, their task should not be so easy as they
thought for.

For two long hours was he forced through the tangled jungle, and every
minute he became more convinced that his captors were bound for the
place, of whose existence he knew, having once come upon it during a
shooting expedition, and, in spite of his followers' horror, persisted
in examining the ruins nearly choked even then with the rapid jungle
growth.

At last they reached the place, and the young man's searching eye at
once saw that some attempts had been made at cutting down the tangled
trees.

But very little time was afforded him to gratify his curiosity.  He was
rudely thrust forward, and then half dragged, half carried up the rough
steps, some of which were broken away, and then pushed into the great
centre room of what had been a large Malay house.

It was very dark, for the holes in the roof had become choked with
creepers, which had formed a new thatch in place of the old attap top.
The bamboos that formed the floor were slippery here and there with damp
moss and fungus, and in several places they were rotted away; but there
was plenty to afford a fair space of flooring, and in a momentary glance
Ali saw that the inner or women's room of the house was dry, and not so
much ruined as the place where he stood.

"Did they kris the poor prisoners here?" he asked himself; and then his
thoughts flew to the bright river upon which his boat had so often
skimmed; to the clean, trim corvette, with its bright paint, smart
sailors, and Bob Roberts, the merry, cheery young English lad.  Then he
thought of the residency, with the sweet graceful ladies, the pleasant
officers, always so frank and hospitable; of Tom Long, whom he liked in
spite of the ensign's pride and stand-offishness; and lastly he asked
himself what they would think of him for not keeping faith with them
about the hunt, and whether they would ever know that he had been
treacherously krissed in that out-of-the-way place.

A grim smile crossed his lip as he wished that he might be thrown
afterwards in the river, and his body float down to be seen by the
English people, so that they might know why he had stopped away.

And then a thrill ran through him, for a couple of his captors seized
him, and in the dim green light of the place, with a few thin pencils of
sunshine striking straight through like silver threads from roof to
floor, he saw a third man draw his deadly kris.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

HOW PRIVATE GRAY PROVED SUSPICIOUS.

Adam Gray left the men in the mess-room that night, chatting about the
coming tiger-hunt, and wondering who would be selected to accompany the
expedition.  He could not help thinking, as he shouldered his rifle, and
was marched off by a sergeant with half-a-dozen more, to relieve guard,
that he should like to be one of the party himself.  In happy bygone
days he had been fond of sport, and in a trip to North America were
well-remembered perils and pleasant adventures.  And now this talk of
the tiger-hunt had roused in him a strong interest, and set him
recalling days, when he was very different to what he was now.

"It's no good to sigh," he said to himself, and the measured tramp,
tramp of the marching men sounded solemn and strange in the darkness,
rousing him once more to a sense of his position.

"If I'm to go, I go," he said bitterly.  "That will be as my superiors
please; and if I do go, it will not be as a hunter."

In spite of himself; however, as soon as guard had been relieved, and he
was left in charge of a post not far from Dullah's hut, his thoughts
went back to his early career, and he grew at times quite excited as he
compared it with the life he was living now.

Then his thoughts wandered to the residency, and from thence back to the
day when he was bitten by the sea snake, and lay there upon the deck
tended by Miss Linton.

These thoughts agitated him, so that he set off pacing briskly up and
down for a couple of hours, and then, his brain calmed by the exercise,
he stood still under the shadow of a great palm, with whose trunk, as he
stood back close to it, his form so assimilated in the darkness that, at
a couple of yards distance, he was invisible.

His post was close to the river, so close that he walked upon the very
edge of the bank, which was in places undermined by the swift current.
This post had been cleared from the thick jungle.  It was but a narrow
piece, some two yards wide, and forty long, and this it was his duty to
pace during his long watch, to guard that side of the island from a
landing foe.

Midnight had passed, and all was very still.  There was a splash from
time to time in the stream, telling of the movement of some reptile or
great fish, and now and then, from the far-distant parts of the jungle
across the water, he could hear the cry of some wild beast.  Now and
then he watched the fire-flies scintillating amidst the leaves, and
thought of how different life was out in this far-off tropic land to
that in dear old England.

He had been thinking quite an hour without stirring; but though his
memory strayed here and there, his eyes were watchful, and he scanned
from time to time the broad smooth surface of the stream in search of
passing boats.

At last he fancied he detected something dark moving along, but it went
by so smoothly that it might have been the trunk of some tree, or even
the back of a great crocodile, for there was no splash of oars.

He had almost forgotten the incident, when he started slightly and
listened, thinking he could hear a whispering, and this was repeated.

He listened intently, but though he felt sure that he could hear voices,
still that need not mean danger, for sound passes so easily across the
water, that the noise might have come from down lower in the island, or
even from the shore across the river.

The whispering ceased, and then he listened in vain for a time, and at
last he was just thinking of pacing up and down once more, when
certainly there was a faint splash, and on looking in the direction he
could see on the dark water what seemed like a dim shadow gliding along.

It might have been a boat or the shadow of a boat, he could not be sure.
In fact, there were moments when he doubted whether it was not some
ocular illusion, brought about by too intently gazing through the gloom.

And there he stood, hesitating as to whether he should fire and give the
alarm.

But the next moment he reasonably enough asked himself why he should do
so, for there was nothing alarming in the fact of a tiny sampan gliding
over the river.  It might be only a fisherman on his way to some
favourite spot, or perhaps one of the Malays bound up the river, or
possibly after all a mere deception.

There seemed to be nothing to merit the alarm being raised, and he stood
watching once more the spot where the boat had disappeared.  Still he
did not resume his march up and down, but recalled the night of the
attack, and began to consider how easy it would be for a crafty enemy to
land and take them by surprise some gloomy night.  Dark-skinned, and
lithe of action as cats, they could easily surprise and kris the
sentries.  In his own case, for instance, what would be easier than for
an enemy to lurk on the edge of the thick jungly patch, by which the
path ran, and there stab him as he passed?

"It would be very easy," he thought.  "Yes; and if I stand here much
longer, I shall begin to think that I am doing so because I dare not
walk beside that dark piece of wood.  Still I dare do it, and I will."

As if out of bravado, he immediately began to pace his allotted post
once more, and he had hardly gone half-way when a sharp sound upon his
left made him bring his piece down to the present, and wait with bayonet
fixed what he looked upon as a certain attack.

Again he hesitated about firing and giving the alarm, for fear of
incurring ridicule and perhaps reprimand.  He knew in his heart that he
was nervous and excitable, being troubled lest any ill should befall the
occupants of the residency, and being in such an excited state made him
ready to imagine everything he saw, to mean danger.

So he stood there, ready to repel any attack made upon him, and as he
remained upon his guard the rustling noise increased, and he momentarily
expected to see the leaves parted and some dark figure rush out; but
still he was kept in suspense, for nothing appeared.

At last he came to the conclusion that it was some restless bird or
animal disturbed by his presence, and told himself that the noise made
was magnified by his own fancies; and, rather glad that he had not given
the alarm, he continued to march up and down, passing to and fro in
close proximity to a dark Malay, whose hand clasped a wavy, dull-bladed
kris, that the holder seemed waiting to thrust into his chest the moment
an opportunity occurred, or so soon as the sentry should have given the
alarm.

At last the weary watch came to an end, for the tramp of the relief was
heard, and Sergeant Lund marched up his little party of men, heard
Gray's report of the rustling noise, and the dark shadow on the river;
said "Humph!" in a gruff way; a fresh man was placed on sentry, and Adam
Gray was marched back with the other tired men who were picked up on the
round into the little fort.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

HOW SOME COULD GO AND SOME MUST STAY.

The day of the tiger-hunt was at last close at hand.  A vast deal of
communication and counter communication had taken place with the sultan,
whose people were making great preparations for the event.

The sultan was constantly sending messengers, and asking that stores
might be given him with plenty of ammunition.  Not, though, in any mean
begging spirit, for whenever a couple of his chiefs came with some
request, they were accompanied by a train of followers bearing
presents--food, supplies of the finest rice, sugar-cane, and fruit;
buffaloes and poultry; slabs of tin, little bags of gold dust, specimens
of the native work; an abundance, in short, of useful and valuable
things, all of which were accepted; though there was a grim feeling in
the mind of Mr Linton that pretty well everything had been taken by
force, from some of the sultan's miserable subjects.

Still the policy was, to be on the best of terms with the sultan, and to
hope to introduce reforms in his rule by degrees.  The resident took the
old school copy-book moral into consideration, that example was better
than precept, and knowing full well that any sweeping code of rules and
regulations would produce distaste, certain hatred, and perhaps a rising
against the English rule, he determined to introduce little improvements
by degrees, each to be, he hoped, tiny seeds from which would grow grand
and substantial trees.

The tiger-hunt was being prepared for evidently with childlike delight,
and instead of its being a few hours' expedition, it proved that it was
to be an affair of a week.  Tents were to be taken, huts to be formed,
and quite a large district swept of the dangerous beasts.  For as the
sultan informed the English officers, the tigers had been unmolested for
quite two years, and saving one or two taken in pitfalls, they had
escaped almost scot free.  The consequence of this was, that several
poor Malays had been carried off from their rice-fields, and at least a
dozen unfortunate Chinamen from the neighbourhood of some tin mines a
few miles away.

"I never meant to enter into such an extensive affair, gentlemen," said
the resident to Major Sandars and Captain Horton after dinner one day,
when they had all been entertained at the mess-room.  "I almost think we
ought to draw back before it is too late."

"Well, I don't know," said Major Sandars.  "It will please the sultan if
we take a lot of men, and this is rather a stagnating life.  I frankly
tell you I should be very glad of the outing, and I am sure it would do
good to the men."

"I quite agree with you, Sandars," said Captain Horton; and Bob Roberts
and Tom Long, who were opposite one another at the bottom of the table,
exchanged glances.  "I want a change, and I should be glad to give my
lads a turn up the country.  Drill's all very well, but it gets
wearisome.  What do you say, Smithers?"

"I must confess to being eager to go," was the reply.  "It seems to me
the only gentleman who does not care for the trip is Mr Linton."

"My dear fellow, you never made a greater mistake in your life," said
Mr Linton, laughing.  "Nothing would please me better than to be off
for a couple of months, with a brace of good rifles, and an elephant,
with plenty of beaters.  I could even manage to exist for three months
without reading a report, or writing a despatch."

Here there was a hearty laugh, and Mr Linton went on,--"There is one
voice silent--the most important one, it seems to me.  Come, doctor,
what do you say? may we all go up the country and live in tents?"

"Hah!" said Doctor Bolter, "now you have me on the hip.  I want to go
myself; horribly."

"Ha, ha, ha, ha!" laughed every one in chorus.

"I want to see those black monkeys like our friend Mr Bob Roberts has
for a pet.  I say I want to see them in their native state.  I want to
get a specimen of the pink rhinoceros, and some of the _Longicorns_.
_Nymphalis Calydonia_ is to be found here, and I must shoot a few
specimens of _Cymbirhynchus Macrorhynchus_, besides supplying my _hortus
siccus_ with a complete series of _Nepenthes_."

"For goodness' sake, doctor, don't go on like that," cried Captain
Horton.  "If you want to be cheerful to that extent, give us a
recitation in pure Malay."

"Ah, you may all laugh," said the doctor; "but I'm not ashamed of being
a modest naturalist."

"Modest!" said Major Sandars.  "Do you call that modest, to talk big
like that?  But come, tell us, may we go safely?"

"That's what I can't quite settle," said the doctor.  "I don't know what
to say to you.  A week's hunting picnic would be very nice."

"Splendid," said everybody.

"And you'd have a good supply of tents?  I can't have my men sleeping in
the open air."

"Abundance of everything," said Major Sandars.  "Regular commissariat
stores--mess tent, and the rest of it."

"Stop a minute," said the doctor, "not so fast.  You see, what I'm
afraid of is fever."

"We all are," said Captain Horton.  "Never mind, take a barrel and keep
a strong solution of quinine always on tap for us.  Now then, may we go?
You see if it was on duty we shouldn't study a moment, but as it's a
case of pleasuring--"

"And keeping up good relations with the sultan," said the resident.

"And freeing the country from a pest," said Captain Horton.

"Tigers are pests enough," said the doctor, "but intermittent or jungle
fever is to my mind the pest of the country."

"Yes, of course, doctor," said the resident; "but what do you think, may
we go?"

The doctor sat tapping the table with a dessert knife.

"Will you all promise me faithfully not to drink a drop of water that
has not been filtered?" he said.

"_Yes_, yes, yes," came from all down the table.

"I'll promise, doctor, not to drink any water at all," said Bob Roberts
in a low voice, that was heard, though, by the doctor.

"It strikes me, young gentleman, that you won't get anything stronger,"
he said.  "Well, gentlemen, if you'll all promise to abide by my rules,
I'll say _yes; you may go_."

A long quiet conversation was afterwards held, and finally it was
decided that quite half the men should go, and on the eve of the
expedition the final preparations had been made, tents and stores had
been sent ashore ready for a start at daybreak.

The river had been scoured by the corvette's boats, and no trace of
Rajah Gantang's prahus found; in fact, nothing had been heard of him or
them for many days; and all being esteemed satisfactory and safe on that
score, what remained to do was to settle who should stay and protect the
residency and the corvette, and who should go.

As far as the men were concerned, this was soon settled; for the order
was given to fall in, and they were soon ranged in line, every man
anxious in the extreme as to his fate.  The next order was for the even
numbered to take two paces back, and the next for the rear-rank men to
fall out; they were the lucky ones, and in a high state of delight.

With the officers it was more difficult.  However, that was soon
settled.  Captain Horton said that he should go; and gave the corvette
in charge of Lieutenant Johnson.  Major Sandars followed his example by
appointing Captain Smithers to the task of taking command of the fort;
and to his great disgust Tom Long found that he was not to be of the
select.

The resident had not intended to go, but so pressing a request that he
would come had arrived from the sultan, that he felt bound to make one
of the party.  On the eve of the start the principal talk was of the
qualities and powers of the various rifles and shot guns that had been
brought out to be cleaned and oiled.

Tom Long was solacing himself out in the open air with a strong rank
cigar that had been given him by a brother officer, and very poorly it
made him feel.  But he put that all down to the major's account for
depriving him of his treat.

"I'll be even with him, though," he said, breaking out into the habit of
talking aloud.  "I won't forget it."

The night was very dark and starless, and he stood leaning up against a
tree, when he heard the splash of oars from the landing-place, a short
sharp order, and then the rattling of a ring-bolt.

"Some one from the steamer, I suppose," he growled.  "Gun borrowing,
I'll be bound.  They don't have mine, whoever wants it."

"Here you, sir," said a familiar voice, as a figure came up through the
darkness.  "Where's Major Sandars--at the officers' quarters or the
residency?  Do you hear?  Why don't you speak?"

"That path leads to the officers' quarters, Mr Robert Roberts, and the
other leads, as you well know, to the residency.  Now go and find out
for yourself, and don't air your salt-junk bluster on shore."

"Salt-junk bluster be bothered," said Bob sharply.  "How the dickens was
I to know it was you standing stuck-up against that tree like two tent
poles in a roll of canvass?  Here, I've come from the skipper to see if
the major's got any spare leggings, for fear of the noble captain
getting any thorns in his legs."

"Hang the captain!" growled Tom.

"Hang the major, then!" said Bob sharply.

"You may hang them both, if you like," said Tom.

"I should like to kris them all over, till they looked like skewered
chickens ready for the spit," said Bob.  "I say, ain't it an awful
shame?"

"Shame, yes," said Tom Long, slightly mollified by his companion's
sympathy.  "I don't see why one of us two should be left out of the
party.  It isn't much pleasure we get."

"No," said Bob sharply; "but I think if one of us was to go it ought to
have been this young person."

"Well, but you are going, aren't you?" said Tom Long.

"Not I," said Bob.  "I'm second officer on board HMS `Startler' till
they come back, that's all."

"But, my dear Bob, I thought you were going.  Old Dick, who was ashore
an hour ago, told me you were."

"Then old Dick told you a cram," said Bob.  "He said you were going,
though."

"I'll kick old Dick first time I see him," cried Tom Long.  "I'm not
going.  Smithers and I are to be in charge of the fort."

"You are not going?" cried Bob incredulously.

"No!"

"Oh, I am glad."

"Thanky," said Tom.

"No, I don't mean that," said Bob.  "I mean I'm glad I'm not going, now
you are not."

"I say, Bob, do you mean that?" said Tom Long excitedly, and dropping
all his stiffness.

"Of course I do," said Bob.  "What's the fun of going without a friend?"

"Bob, you're a regular little brick," said Tom Long.  "Shake hands.
'Pon my word I shall end by liking you."

Bob shook hands, and laughed.

"Oh, I say, though," he exclaimed.  "Poor old Ali!  Won't he be cut up,
just?"

"Yes, he won't like it," said Tom Long thoughtfully.  "And he was to
have a big elephant all ready for us."

"Yes," said Bob.  "But I say, I wonder we haven't heard from him since
that day he was here."

"Yes, he might have sent a message of some kind."

"He's been up the country with a butterfly net to catch an elephant for
us," said Bob, laughing.

"And now he'll have it all to himself," said Tom.

"I'll bet half a rupee that he don't," said Bob.

"Oh, yes, he will," said Tom.  "I rather like him, though.  He isn't a
bad sort of nigger."

"Don't call the fellows _niggers_," said Bob impatiently; "they don't
like it."

"Then they mustn't call us _giaours_ and _dogs_," said Tom impatiently.

"Look here," cried Bob, "I must go on after these leggings for the
skipper; but, I say, Tom, as I said before, I'll bet half a rupee that
Ali don't go to the hunt when he finds we are to stay."

"Stuff!"

"Well, it may be stuff; but you see if he don't stop behind, and, as
soon as they are all off, come across here."

"I wish he would," said Tom.  "It'll be dull enough."

"If he does, we'll have a good turn at the fish," said Bob.  "Good
night, if I don't see you again."

"I say," said Bob, turning round and speaking out of the darkness.

"Well?"

"I don't wish 'em any harm; but I hope they won't see a blessed tiger
all the time they're away."

"So do I," said Tom.  "Good night!"

"Good night!"  And Bob found the major; borrowed the pair of canvas
leggings, with which he returned to the boat, and was rowed back to the
corvette, where he had the pleasure of going over the captain's shooting
gear, and helping him to fill his cartridge cases, and the like.

"You'll have to go on a trip yourself Roberts, by-and-by," said the
captain.

"Thank-ye, sir," said Bob.  "When, sir, please?"

"When the soreness about rescuing those slave girls has worn off, Master
Bob Roberts," said the captain, smiling.  "I can't afford to have one of
my most promising young officers krissed."

"All soft soap and flam," said Bob to himself, as he went out on deck.
"Promising officer, indeed.  Well, he's a promising officer, and I'll
keep him to his promise, too; and old Ali, and Tom, and I will have
another day to ourselves."



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

HOW MR. LINTON BELIEVED IN A PRECIPICE.

It was a grand sight, and a stranger to the scene might have imagined
that a little army was about to set off, for the conquest of some petty
king, instead of to attack the striped tiger in his stronghold.

The two parties from the steamer and the island were ashore before
daybreak, to find an imposing gathering of the sultan's people coming
down to meet them.  There were over thirty elephants, large and small,
with their attendants, and the beasts were furnished with showy cloths
under their rattan basket howdahs.

The sultan was there in English dress; and his chiefs made a gaudy
muster, wearing showy silken sarongs and bajus, as if it were to be a
review day instead of a hunting trip, while the following, to the extent
of several hundreds, were all armed with spear and kris.  Here and there
a showily clad Malay was seen to be armed with a gun or rifle, but for
the most part their means of offence were confined to the native
weapons.

The meeting was most cordial; but the sultan and his followers seemed
somewhat taken aback to see the various officers in rough sporting
costume, and the soldiers and sailors in anything but stiff, ordinary
trim.

One thing, however, had been rigidly adhered to.  Every man was
well-armed, and carried a good supply of ball cartridge.

The sun was shining brightly, when at last the hunting-party was duly
marshalled, and moved off right through the jungle by a well-beaten
path, one which took them straight away from the river; and very
effective the procession looked, with the great lumbering elephants
moving so silently along, the gaily-dressed Malays forming bright
patches of colour amidst the clean white duck frocks and trousers of the
sailors, and the dull grey of the soldiers' linen tunics.  There was, of
course, fraternisation, and a disposition on the part of the Malays to
freely mix with the Englishmen then; but the order had been that a
certain amount of formation was to be maintained, so that, if necessary,
the men might be ready to gather at any time round their officers.  Not
that any difficulty was apprehended, but it was felt to be better to
keep up discipline, even when only engaged upon a shooting-trip, though
every act that might be interpreted by the Malays into a want of
confidence, was carefully avoided.

The morning was sufficiently young as yet to enable a good march to be
made without difficulty; but as the sun began to make his power felt
wherever there was an opening amidst the trees, a halt was called in a
beautiful park-like patch of ground, with huge spreading trees
sufficient to shelter double their number.  Here a capital lunch was
served by the sultan's cooks, one that no doubt an English _chef_ would
have looked upon with contempt, but which, after a long morning tramp
through the steaming heat of the jungle, was delightful.

Every one was in excellent spirits, the sultan having set aside a great
deal of his formality, and smiling apparently with pleasure as he gazed
around at the gratified countenances of his guests.

Then followed a siesta while the sun was at its greatest height, Doctor
Bolter impressing upon all the officers that a quiet rest during the
heat of the day was the one thing needful to make them bear the exertion
of the journey; and then, as soon as he saw every one following his
advice, he arranged his puggaree around his pith helmet, put some
cartridges in his pocket, and went off into the jungle to shoot
specimens, with no little success.

Ten miles were got over that evening, and then camp was pitched on the
edge of an opening, close by a curious rounded mountain, which towered
up in front of the setting sun, looking massive and grand, with its
smooth outline thrown up, as it were, against the saffron sky.

The scene was lovely in the extreme, and every touch given by the
hunting-party seemed to add thereto, for white tents sprang up like
magic against the dark green foliage; fires began to twinkle here and
there; the large mess tent, that had been carried by one of the
elephants, was well lit with lamps; and a white cloth spread with ample
provisions and no few luxuries, ornamented by the freshly-cut flowers
which grew in profusion, as if waiting to be cut by the servants, added
no little to the brightness of the interior.

Outside all was apparently picturesque confusion, though in reality
everything was in due order, from the men's tents to the ranging of the
elephants, who, relieved of their loads, were quietly lifting up great
bunches of grass and tucking them into their capacious jaws.  Over all
rose a loud hum of many voices, and soon to this was added the click of
knives and forks from the English mess and the rattle of plates.
Amongst the Malays great leaves did duty for the latter, and all was
quieter.

Later on, watch was set, the sultan and his officers smiling gravely at
the precautions taken by the English, assuming though that it was
against the wild beasts of the jungle, and hastening to assure all
concerned that they need have no fear, for no tiger would approach so
busy a camp, especially as there were fires burning, which would be kept
up all night.

"Let them think it's the tigers, and that we are afraid of them, if they
like," said the doctor; "but I wouldn't slacken discipline in the
slightest degree.  Keep everything going just as if we were going
through an enemy's country."

"I support that motion," said the resident quietly.

"But why?" said Captain Horton.  "Surely we may relax a little now."

"No, Doctor Bolter is right," said the major, nodding.  "It's a
nuisance, Horton, of course, but you would not let your ship go without
a good watch being set?"

"Well--no," said the captain thoughtfully, "I suppose not.  We should
keep that up even if we were in dock.  Thank goodness, though!  I have
not any watch to keep to-night, for I'm tired as a dog."

"It has been a tiring day," said Major Sandars.  "I wonder how Smithers
is getting on.  I hope he's taking care of the ladies."

"Yes," said Mr Linton gravely, "I hope he is taking care of the
ladies."

"They're in good hands," said Captain Horton.  "Johnson is a sternish
fellow, and," he added laughing, "if any dangerous parties go near the
island, Mr Midshipman Roberts will blow them right out of the water."

"Yes," said Major Sandars, indulging in a low chuckle, "he and Mr
Ensign Long between them would be a match for all the rajahs on the
river."

Mr Linton was the only one who did not smile, for just then, like a
foreboding cloud, the dark thought came across his mind that it would be
very, very terrible if advantage were taken by the Malays, of the
absence of so large a portion of the force; and try how he would to
sleep that night, the thought kept intruding, that after all they were
doing wrong in trusting themselves with the Malay sultan, who might,
under his assumption of hospitality, be hatching some nefarious scheme
against them all.

Through the thin canvas walls of the tent he could hear the low
breathing of some of his friends, the snort of some elephant, and close
by him there was the monotonous hum of the mosquitoes, trying hard to
find a way through the fine gauze of the net; now and then came too an
impatient muttering of a sleeper, or the distant cry of some creature in
the jungle.

The only solacing thing he heard in the heat of those weary sleepless
hours was the steady beat of some sentry's pace, and the click of his
arms as he changed his piece from shoulder to shoulder.

He was the only unquiet one, for the others fell asleep almost on the
instant, and several of them gave loud signs of their peaceful
occupation.

At last Mr Linton could bear it no longer, and rising, he went softly
to the tent door and peeped out, to pause there, wondering at the beauty
of the scene, as the moon was just peering down over the jungle trees,
and filling the camp with silvery light and black shadows.  What was
that glint of some arm?

He smiled at his uneasiness directly after, for there was the sharp
steady beat of feet, a sergeant's guard came out of the black shadow,
and he saw them relieve sentry, the glint he had seen being the
moonbeams playing upon the soldier's piece.

He went back and lay down once more, feeling relieved, and falling off
into a restful sleep, little thinking how that deadly peril was indeed
hovering round the island he had left, and that he and his companions
were going to march on and on, not to encounter tigers alone, but men
even more cruel in their nature, and quite as free from remorse when
dealing with those whom they looked upon as dogs.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

PRIVATE GRAY HAS HIS ORDERS.

The men on the corvette, with those who rowed back the empty boats, gave
a loud cheer, which was answered from the island, as the hunting-party
moved off in procession.

"Give them another, my lads," cried Bob Roberts excitedly; and the
sailors, with whom he was a special favourite, responded heartily.

"Just another, my lads, to show them we are not a bit envious," cried
Bob; and then another prolonged "Hurrah!" went up in the morning skies,
the middy shouting with the best of them; and it was amusing to see
Bob's calm, consequential ways as he stood there, completely ignoring
Lieutenant Johnson, and taking upon himself the full command of the
ship.

He glanced up aloft, and his look threatened an order to man the yards,
when the lieutenant interfered.

"I think that will do, Mr Roberts," he said quietly, and Bob was taken
rather aback.

"Yes, of course, sir," he said, "but the men are already loaded with a
cheer, hadn't they better let it off?"

Lieutenant Johnson gazed full in the lad's face, half sternly, half
amused at his quaint idea, and then nodded.  Then there was another
stentorian cheer, and what seemed like its echo from the island, when
Bob smiled his satisfaction, strutting about the quarter-deck as he
exclaimed,--"We can beat the soldiers hollow at cheering, sir, can't
we?"

"Yes, Mr Roberts," said the lieutenant quietly; and then to the warrant
officer near him, "Pipe down to breakfast, Mr Law; the men must want
it."

"I know one man who wants his," said Bob, half aloud; and then he stared
wistfully after the tail of the departing expedition, as the sun glinted
on the spears, and a very dismal sensation of disappointment came over
him.

"You'll make a good officer some day, Roberts," said the lieutenant, and
Bob started, for he did not know he was so near.

"Thank you, sir--for the compliment," said Bob.

"But at present, my lad, you do imitate the bantam cock to such an
extent that it irritates grown men."

"Do I, sir?" said Bob.

"You do indeed, my lad," said the lieutenant kindly.

"But I don't want to, sir, for nothing worries me more than to see
Ensign Long coming all that strut and show off."

"Well, we won't quarrel about it, Roberts," said Lieutenant Johnson
kindly.  "You'll grow out of it in time.  As it is, I'm captain for a
few days, and you are my first lieutenant.  So first lieutenant," he
continued, clapping the lad on the shoulder, "come down and breakfast
with me in the cabin, and we'll talk matters over."

Bob flushed with pleasure, and if the lieutenant had asked him to jump
overboard just then, or stand on his head on the main truck, Bob would
have tried to oblige him.

As it was, however, he followed his officer into the cabin, and made a
hearty breakfast.

"I tell you what," said the lieutenant, who was a very quiet stern young
officer--and he stopped short.

"Yes, captain," said Bob.

Lieutenant Johnson smiled.

"I tell you what," he said again, "nothing would give me greater
pleasure than for Mr Rajah Gantang to bring down his prahus some time
to-day, Lieutenant Roberts.  I could blow that fellow out of the water
with the greatest pleasure in life."

"Captain Johnson," said Bob, solemnly, "I could blow him in again with
greater pleasure, for I haven't forgotten my swim for life."

"You feel quite a spite against him then, Roberts?"

"Spite's nothing to it," said Bob.  "Didn't he and his people force me,
a harmless, unoffending young fellow--"

"As ever contrived to board a prahu," said the lieutenant.

"Ah, well, that wasn't my doing," said Bob.  "I was ordered to do my
duty, and tried to do it.  That was no reason why those chicory-brown
rascals should cause me to be pitched into the river to the tender
mercies of the crocodiles, who, I believe, shed tears because they
couldn't catch me."

"Well, Roberts," said the lieutenant, "you need not make yourself
uncomfortable, nor set up the bantam cock hackles round your neck, and
you need not go to the grindstone to sharpen your spurs, for we shall
not have the luck to see anything of the rajah, who by this time knows
that it is his best policy to keep out of the way.  Will you take any
more breakfast?"

"No, thank you, sir," said Bob, rising, for this was a hint to go about
his business; and he went on deck.

"Mornin', sir," said old Dick, pulling at his forelock, and giving one
leg a kick out behind.

"Morning, Dick.  Don't you wish you were along with the hunting-party?"

Old Dick walked to the side, sprinkled the water with a little tobacco
juice, and came back.

"That's the same colour as them Malay chaps, sir," he said, "nasty dirty
beggars."

"Dirty, Dick?  Why they are always bathing and swimming."

"Yes," said Dick in a tone of disgust, "but they never use no soap."

"Well, what of that?" said Bob.  "You don't suppose that makes any
difference?"

"Makes no difference?" said the old sailor; "why it makes all the
difference, sir.  When I was a young 'un, my old mother used to lather
the yaller soap over my young head till it looked like a yeast tub in a
baker's cellar.  Lor' a mussy! the way she used to shove the soap in my
eyes and ears and work her fingers round in 'em, was a startler.  She'd
wash, and scrub, and rasp away, and then swab me dry with a rough
towel--and it was a rough 'un, mind yer--till I shone again.  Why, I was
as white as a lily where I wasn't pink; and a young lady as come to stay
at the squire's, down in our parts, blessed if she didn't put me in a
picter she was painting, and call me a village beauty.  It's the soap as
does it, and a rale love of cleanliness.  Bah, look at 'em!  They're
just about the colour o' gingerbread; while look at me!"

Bob looked at the old fellow searchingly, to see if he was joking, and
then finding that he was perfectly sincere, the middy burst into a
hearty roar of laughter.

For long years of exposure to sun and storm had burned and stained Dick
into a mahogany brown, warmed up with red of the richest crimson.  In
fact, a Malay had rather the advantage of him in point of colour.

"Ah, you may laugh," he growled.  "I dessay, sir, you thinks it's werry
funny; but if you was to go and well soap a young Malay he'd come
precious different, I can tell you."

"But somebody did try to wash a blackamoor white," said Bob.  "Tom Hood
says so, in one of his books."

"Well, and did they get him white, sir?" asked Dick.

"No, I think not," said Bob.  "I almost forget, but I think they gave
him such a bad cold that he died."

"That Tom Hood--was he any relation o' Admiral Hood, sir?"

"No, I think not, Dick."

"Then he wasn't much account being a landsman, I s'pose, and he didn't
understand what he was about.  He didn't use plenty o' soap."

"Oh yes, he did, Dick; because I remember he says, a lady gave some:--

  "Mrs Hope,
  A bar of soap."

"Then they didn't lather it well," said Dick decisively.  "And it shows
how ignorant they was when they let's the poor chap ketch cold arter it,
and die.  Why, bless your 'art, Mr Roberts, sir, if my old mother had
had the job, he'd have had no cold.  He'd have come out red hot, all of
a glow, like as I used, and as white as a lily, or she'd have had all
his skin off him."

"And so you really believe you could wash these Malay chaps white?"

"I do, sir.  I'd holystone 'em till they was."

"It would be a long job, Dick," said Bob laughing.  "But I say, don't
you wish you had gone with the hunting-party?"

"Yah!" said Dick, assuming a look of great disgust and contempt,
although he had been growling and acting, as his mates said, like a bear
with a sore head, because he could not go.  "Not I, sir, not I.  Why,
what have they gone to do?  Shoot a big cat all brown stripes.  I don't
want to spend my time ketching cats.  What's the good on 'em when
they've got 'em?  Only to take their skins.  Now there is some sense in
a bit of fishing."

"Especially when your crew in the boat goes to sleep, and let's you be
surprised by the Malays."

"Ah, but don't you see, sir," said Dick, with his eyes twinkling,
"that's a kind o' moral lesson for a young officer?  Here was the case
you see: the skipper goes to sleep, and don't look after his crew, who,
nat'rally enough, thinks what the skipper does must be right, and they
does the same."

"Oh! all right, master Dick," said the middy.  "I'll take the lesson to
heart.  Don't you ever let me catch you asleep, that's all."

"No, sir," said the old sailor, grinning, "I won't.  I've got too much
of the weasel in me.  But as I was saying, sir, there's some sense in a
bit o' fishing, and I thought if so be you liked I'd get the lines
ready."

"No, Dick, no," said Bob, firmly, as he recalled Lieutenant Johnson's
words over the breakfast-table.  "I've no time for fishing to-day.  And
besides, I'm in charge of the ship."

"Oh! indeed, sir," said Dick.  "I beg pardon, sir."

"Look here, Dick," said Bob sharply, "don't you sneer at your officer
because he makes free with you sometimes."

The middy turned and walked off, leaving Dick cutting himself a fresh
plug of tobacco.

"He'll make a smart 'un by-and-by, that he will," muttered the old
fellow, nodding his head admiringly; "and I'm sorry I said what I did to
the high-sperretted little chap, for he's made of the real stuff, after
all."

On the island, Tom Long was feeling quite as important as the middy.  A
keen sense of disappointment was troubling him, but he would not show
it.  He had several times over been looking at his gun, and thinking
that it would carry a bullet as well as a rifle, and wishing that he
could have game to try it.  But soon afterwards he encountered pleasant
Mrs Major Sandars.

"Ah!  Mr Long," she cried, "I've just been seeing Miss Linton and Miss
Sinclair.  Now you know you have these deserted ladies and the whole of
the women under your charge, and I hope you'll protect us."

"I shall do my utmost, madam," said Tom Long importantly.  "You ladies
needn't be under the smallest apprehension, for you will be as safe as
if the major and Mr Linton were here."

"I shall tell Miss Linton so," said Mrs Major, smiling; and she nodded
and went away, leaving the young ensign uncomfortable, as he felt a kind
of suspicion that he had been speaking very consequentially, and making
himself absurd.

"I wish I was either a man or a boy," he said to himself pettishly.  "I
feel just like a man, and yet people will treat me as if I were a boy.
That Mrs Major was only talking to me patronisingly, and half-laughing
at me.  I can see it now.  Oh! here's Smithers."

Captain Smithers came up, looking rather careworn and sad, and nodded in
a friendly way at his junior.

"Well, Long," he said, "so we are commanders-in-chief just now.  At
least, I am.  You'll have to be my colonel, major, and adjutant, all in
one."

"I shall do my best to help you, Captain Smithers," said Tom Long
stiffly.

"I know you will, my lad," was the reply; "but it will be no child's
play, for we must be extra strict and watchful."

"Do you think there is anything to fear, Captain Smithers," said the
ensign eagerly.

"To fear?  No, Mr Long," said the captain.  "We are English officers,
and, as such, never mention such a thing; but there is a good deal to be
anxious about--I mean the safety of all here."

"But you have no suspicion, sir--of danger?"

"Not the slightest.  Still we will be as careful as if I felt sure that
an enemy was close at hand."

There was something about that _we_ that was very pleasant to the young
ensign; and his heart warmed like a flower in sunshine.

"Of course, sir," he said eagerly.  "I'll do the best I can."

"Thank you, Long, I am sure you will," said Captain Smithers.  "By the
way, you know, of course, that the ladies are coming to stay with Mrs
Major, so that there will not be much cause for anxiety about the
residency.  Suppose we now take a quiet look round together; there is
really no necessity, but we will go as a matter of duty."

Tom Long's self-esteem was flattered, the more especially as he could
see that Captain Smithers was perfectly sincere, and looked to him, in
all confidence, for aid in a time when a great responsibility was thrown
upon his shoulders.

"If I don't let him see that I can act like a man, my name's not Long,"
he muttered to himself, as they walked on together.

"There's only--"

Captain Smithers, who was speaking, stopped short, and the ensign
stared.

"I do not want to offend you, Long," he said, "but all I say to you is
in strict confidence now, and you must be careful what you repeat."

"You may trust me, Captain Smithers," said the ensign quietly.

"Yes, I am sure I may," was the reply.  "Look here, then.  I was going
to say that the only weak point in our arrangements here seems to be
that!"

He nodded his head in the direction in which they were going, and the
ensign stared.

"I mean about allowing that Malay, Abdullah, to set up his tent among
us.  He has such freedom of communicating with the banks of the river on
both sides.  He is a man, too, whom I rather distrust."

"Indeed?" said Long.

"Yes, I don't know why.  But unless for some good and sufficient reason
it would, I think, be bad policy to attempt to oust him."

"Yes," calmly said Long.  "He is a violent fellow, too;" and he related
the incident about their first meeting.

"If the major had known of this," said Captain Smithers, "he would never
have allowed the man to settle here.  You did wrong in not speaking of
it, Long."

"He was so apologetic and gentlemanly afterwards," said the ensign,
"that I did not care to speak about it, and upset the fellow's plans."

"Well, it is too late to talk about it now," replied Captain Smithers;
"but I shall have his actions quietly watched.  Let me see, who will be
the man?"

"There's Private Gray yonder," suggested the ensign.

"I hate Private Gray!" exclaimed Captain Smithers, with a sudden burst
of rage, of which he seemed to be ashamed the next moment, for he said
hastily,--"It is a foolish antipathy, for Gray is a good, staunch man;"
and making an effort to master himself, he made a sign to Gray to come
to them.

"You are right, Long; Gray is the man.  He is to be trusted."

The private came up, and stiffly saluted his officers, standing at
attention.

"Gray," said Captain Smithers, "I want you to undertake a little task
for me."

"Yes, sir."

"You will be off regular duty; another man will take your place.  I want
you, in a quiet, unostentatious manner, to keep an eye on Abdullah the
fruit-seller.  Don't let him suspect that you are watching him, for
really there may be no cause; but he is the only native here who has
free access to the island, and during the major's absence I wish to be
especially strict."

"Yes, sir."

"You understand me?  I trust entirely to your good sense and
discrimination.  You will do what you have to do in a quiet way, and
report everything--even to the least suspicious proceeding--to me."

"Yes, sir."

"You shall be furnished with a permit, to pass you anywhere, and at all
times."

"Thank you, sir."

"I'd go in undress uniform, and apparently without arms, but have a
bayonet and a revolver under your jacket."

"Do you think there is danger, sir?" exclaimed the private hastily,
forgetting himself for the moment.

"Private Gray, you have your orders."

Gray drew himself up stiffly and saluted.

"Begin at once, sir?"

"At once," said Captain Smithers.  "I trust to your silence.  No one but
Mr Long knows of your mission."

Gray saluted again and went off, while the two officers continued their
walk towards Dullah's hut.

The Malay came out as they approached, and with a deprecating gesture
invited them to take a seat beneath his verandah, and partake of fruit.

This, however, they declined to do, contenting themselves with returning
his salute, and passing on.

There were two sampans moored close to Dullah's hut, each holding four
Malays, but the boats themselves were filled with produce piled high,
and the owners were evidently waiting to have dealings with their
superior, the man who had been appointed to supply the English garrison
of the island and the ship.

There was nothing suspicious to be seen here, neither did anything
attract their attention as they continued their walk right round the
island, everything being as calm and still as the sleepy shore which lay
baking beneath the ardent rays of the sun, while the various houses
looked comparatively cool beneath the shade of the palms and durian
trees, with here and there a great ragged-leaved banana showing a huge
bunch of its strange fruit.

Tired and hot, they were glad to return to their quarters, where
Sergeant Lund was writing out a report, and occasionally frowning at
Private Sim, who was lying under a tree fast asleep.



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

A HOT NIGHT ON BOARD THE "STARTLER."

The young officers were pretty busy over their duties throughout the
day, Bob Roberts to his great delight being left in sole charge of the
steamer, while Lieutenant Johnson went to have a short consultation with
Captain Smithers; and two hours later, when Captain Smithers accompanied
the naval officer back, Ensign Long was in full command at the island.

The hot and sleep-inviting day had rolled slowly by; never had the river
looked brighter and clearer, or more keenly reflected the rays of the
sun.  Far down in its pure depths the middy had watched the darting
about of the fish, which seemed to seek the shadow beneath the steamer's
hull for their playground.

This was noticed at stolen moments, for Bob was generally too full of
his duties to think of the fish, or to do more than cast a longing
glance at the dark shadows beneath the trees.  For on board the heat was
terrible, the pitch was oozing out of the seams, and blistering the
paint; every piece of tarry cordage was soft and pliant, and very beads
stood out upon the strands; while beneath the awnings there was a stuffy
suffocating heat that was next to unbearable.

On the island the heat was less hard to be borne, the thick grove of
palms and other trees whose roots were always moist, throwing out a
grateful shade.  Still the heat was severely felt, and the general
impression was that the hunting-party had by far the worst of it.

The day glided by, and the sultry tropic night set in, with the great
mellow stars glistening overhead reflected in the clear stream, and
seeming to be repeated in the low undergrowth that fringed the shore.
The watches were set, every precaution taken against surprise, and
though no danger need be apprehended, Captain Smithers had the little
fort quite ready to resist attack.

It was the same on board the steamer, the watch being visited at
frequent intervals by the lieutenant and his subordinate, to the great
surprise of the men, who wondered what made the "luff" so fidgety.

That night passed off without anything to disturb them; and the next day
all was so dull and uniform that Bob Roberts, as he could not go ashore,
was fain to amuse himself with his monkey, which he fed till it could
eat no more, and then teased till it got into a passion, snapped at him,
and took refuge in the rigging till its master's back was turned, when,
to the great delight of the men, it leaped down on the middy's shoulder,
and there seized the back of his jacket-collar and shook it vigorously,
till, seeing its opportunity, it once more leaped up into the rigging,
chattering fiercely, and showing its teeth as Bob threatened it and
called it names.

Evening came on again, not too hot, but quite bad enough to make the
middy glad to walk the deck in the loosest jacket he possessed.  The
watch had been set, the lights hung up, and all was very still; for,
having had but little sleep the night before, Bob was too tired to talk,
and now sat in the coolest place he could find, hitting out occasionally
at a mosquito, and alternating that exercise with petting the monkey,
which had made its submission by creeping down from the rigging at
dinner-time, and approaching its master in a depressed mournful way, as
if declaring its sorrow for its late sin, and readiness to do anything,
if its master would forgive it.  In fact, when the middy rose as if to
beat it, the animal lay down on the deck, grovelling and whining
piteously, as it watched his actions with one eye, that said as plainly
as could be, "You don't mean it.  I'm such a little thing that you would
not hurt me."

Bob did not hurt it, but gave it one of Dullah's mangosteens instead,
and peace was made.

Lieutenant Johnson joined the middy soon after he had given up seeking a
nap on account of the heat, and came and leaned over the bulwark by his
side, talking to him in a low voice, both feeling depressed and subdued.

"I wonder how our party is getting on?" said the lieutenant at last.
"They'll have a storm to-night, and soaked tents."

"Yes; there's a flash," exclaimed Bob, as the distant forest seemed to
be lit-up to its very depths by a quivering blaze of sheet lightning.

This was repeated, and with increased vividness, the pale blue light
playing about in the horizon, and displaying the shapes of the great
heavy clouds that overhung the mountains in the east.

"It's very beautiful to watch," said the lieutenant; "but suppose we
take a walk forward."

They strolled along the deck, and on going right to the bows found the
watch every man in his place; and returning aft spoke to the marine, who
stood like a statue leaning upon his piece.

They sat down again, feeling no inclination to seek the cabin; and this
feeling seemed to be shared by the men, who were sitting about, talking
in low whispers, and watching the distant lashing lightning, whose
lambent sheets seemed now to be playing incessantly.

"Is there anything the matter with you, sir?" said Bob at last.

"No, Roberts, only that I feel so restless and unsettled that I should
like to jump overboard for a cool swim."

"That's just what I feel, sir," said Bob, "with a dash of monkey in it."

"A dash of monkey!"

"Yes, sir; as if I must run and jump about, or climb, or do something.
It's the fidgets with this heat.  Let's walk forward again, if you don't
mind.  I think it's cooler there."

"Cooler, Roberts?  It seems to me as if the deck is thoroughly hot, and
as if one's clothes were baking.  I quite envy the lads, with their bare
feet and open necks."

They strolled forward again, with the monkey softly following them; and
when they stood leaning over the bulwarks, listening to the ripple of
the water under the vessel's stem, the animal perched itself on one of
the stays just above their heads.

They could almost have fancied they were at sea, gazing down at the
phosphorescent water, so beautiful was the reflection of the stars in
the smooth, dark current, as it glided swiftly along, rippling a little
about the large buoy to which they were moored, and breaking the stars
up, as it were, into a thousand tiny points, that divided into a double
current and swept by the steamer's bows.

"What a night for a couple of prahus to come down and board us, sir!"
said Bob.

"Rather unlucky for them, if they did," said the lieutenant quietly.
"One good shot at them, or one of our biggest shells dropped into their
hold, would crash through, and send them to the bottom.  There's no such
luck, Roberts."

"I suppose not, sir," said Bob; but, all the same, he could not help
feeling that this was a kind of luck which he could very well dispense
with, on a dark night.  He did not venture to say so, though.

"How quiet they seem on the island!" said the lieutenant at last.
"Heigh-ho! ha hum!  I wish we were there, Roberts, along with the
ladies; a cup of tea and a little pleasant chat would be very
agreeable."

"And some music," said Bob.

"And some music," said the lieutenant.  "What's the matter with your
monkey?"

"What's the matter, Charcoal?" said Bob; for the little animal had
suddenly grown excited, chattering, and changing its place, coming down
the stay, and then leaping on to the bulwark.

"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!"



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

HOW ALI MADE HIS PLANS.

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.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

AT THE PRISON IN THE WOODS.

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.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

HOW ALI MADE A DASH FOR LIBERTY.

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.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

A SWIM IN THE NIGHT.

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.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

HOW ALI BROUGHT NEWS, AND WAS NOT BELIEVED.

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,--

"Prahus!"

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.



CHAPTER FORTY.

HOW PRIVATE GRAY WENT A-FISHING.

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.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

THE VALUE OF PRIVATE SIM.

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.

He paused there for a few minutes listening, half fancying that he had
heard a noise, and that the slight splash he made might have been noted
by Dullah or the men on the sampans; and as he listened, sure enough
there was a dull noise, as of a blow, followed by a little rustling, and
then, just above his head, he could hear somebody breathing hard, as if
after some exertion.

Gray did not stir; and fortunately he was quite concealed by the
overhanging bank, as a Malay, down upon his hands and knees, leaned over
the edge and looked up and down the river.

For the moment Gray felt that he must be seen, and his hand stole
involuntarily towards his breast in search of a weapon; but he was in
utter darkness beneath the bank, and the man's eyes were more directed
outward.

The result was that the Malay, who, kris in hand, had crept cautiously
from Dullah's hut right up through the undergrowth and long grass, to
where he believed the Englishman to be fishing, drew cautiously back,
and crept once more away.

Gray remained motionless for a few moments, and then, convinced that
this meant ill to him, he began to wade cautiously along towards where
the sampans lay in the stream, some thirty yards away.

He moved very slowly, so as to make no plash in the water, which
sometimes, as the river shallowed, came only to his waist, while at
other times it nearly reached his chin; and had he not clung tightly to
the water-washed roots and depending bushes, he must have been swept
away.

Gray had gone about half the distance; and as he neared the sampans,
whose forms he vainly tried to make out in the darkness, to his horror,
he found that something was moving towards him in the water.

Quick as lightning he drew the long keen dirk from his belt, and stood
ready to thrust, for it was either a crocodile or some large animal, he
felt sure; but directly after he stood holding on by his left hand, to a
bunch of tangled root hanging from the bank, and felt his heart seem to
stand still, for, to his surprise, he plainly made out that it was a
man, wading in the opposite direction, and evidently for a similar
purpose to his own.

It was, in fact, one of the Malays from the nearest sampan, who, while a
companion had undertaken to stalk the Englishman from the shore, as he
sat there asleep, had set off from the boat, meaning to get there at the
same time as his friend, but had miscalculated the period it would take.

He was now coming along cautiously, and had nearly reached Gray in the
darkness before he became aware of his presence.

As soon, though, as he made out that it was the Englishman who was
before him, he made a lunge forward, striking at Gray with his kris; but
the latter avoided the blow and prepared to close with his antagonist,
feeling as he took a step back, that the result would probably be death
for both, for they must be swept away by the swift stream.

Just then the Malay seemed to leap at him, but at the same moment he
uttered a smothered cry, which was silenced directly by the rushing
water, and Gray found that he was alone.

He needed no telling that one of the loathsome reptiles of the river had
been close at hand, and had seized his enemy; his wonder was that he
himself had not been the victim.

It was enough to paralyse the bravest heart, and for a few minutes Gray
clung to the roots of the tree beside him, feeling sick and giddy, and
as if some reptile was only waiting for his next movement to drag him
down.

It was fortunate for him that he did not stir, for the Malay's cry had
alarmed his companions, who could be heard talking quickly and in
whispers, close at hand.

At first it seemed to Gray that they were coming to the help of their
unfortunate companion, but this did not prove to be the case.  They knew
what had happened, from old experience, and accepted the accident as one
of the misfortunes to which they were heirs, troubling themselves no
more about the matter.

Recovering himself somewhat, but feeling all the time that any moment he
might be seized, Gray crept once more slowly along, till he stood with
the water nearly to his shoulders, beneath the overhanging bank, by
Dullah's hut, and between it and the two sampans.

The place was admirably suited for concealment, for now little more than
his head was above water, and that he had contrived should lie behind a
screen of drooping verdure, which made his chilly hiding-place so dark
that he could not have been seen twelve inches away.

Having escaped from the reptiles so far, he felt more hopeful; and as he
stood there, behind his screen, he began to try and make his position
valuable.

He had not long to wait for this.  In less than a minute, a voice, that
he took for Abdullah's, was whispering to some one on the river, and a
sampan came so close in to the bank that had he stretched out his hand
he could have touched the side.

It was a grief to him that he was not thoroughly conversant with the
Malay tongue, but he had picked up a good deal, and had mastered a
sufficiency to catch the import of the words he heard.

The principal was an order that the _orang_ should come ashore, the
order being given by Dullah.

What was the _orang_?

He puzzled for a few moments, as the sampan pushed off.  _Orang-outang_!
Was this after all a trading visit, and they were going to bring some
great monkey ashore.

_Orang-outang_--man of the woods, of course.  _Orang_ meant man or men,
and the men were to land.  There was danger then, and men were to land.
That was enough, and now he would go and give warning; but he could not
move without being heard, and he had to remain listening, as there was
the faint beat of oars, and then, though he could hardly see them, two
long row-boats of great size seemed to come up out of the darkness, and
he felt more than saw that they were full of men.

What was the sentry about?  There was one so near that he ought to have
seen or heard their coming, and Gray listened eagerly for the report of
his piece giving the alarm.

But no report came, for the sentry had not heard.  He had not been
krissed, but as far as giving alarm was concerned he might have been
dead; for the sentry close at hand was Private Sim, and he was fast
asleep.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

WHY DULLAH CAME TO THE ISLE.

Every moment that passed was more convincing to Adam Gray that Dullah
was a traitor, and at the head of affairs for making a descent upon the
island.  In place of two long row-boats, each carrying some fifty or
sixty men, it was evident now that there were four, and they were being
cautiously forced up to the landing-place, where, under the orders of
Dullah, several men ashore were ready to make them fast.

Directly after, coming like a revelation, Gray learned what a snake they
had had concealed in the grass at the jungle-station; for as he
listened, intently watching the while for an opportunity to escape, he
heard Dullah's voice, and then those of his men addressing him as rajah.
Directly after he heard a voice on one of the large boats asking for
Rajah Gantang, which was replied to by Dullah.

There was the secret then of this man's presence on the island.  It was
Rajah Gantang himself who had come among them, to seek his opportunity
for overthrowing the English, and now his opportunity had come.

Gray ground his teeth with rage at his impotence, and he tried to get
away unperceived, as it became evident that the nearest sentry heard
nothing.  Still at any moment there might come the warning shot from his
rifle; for though everything was very plain to him, hidden in the midst
of the Malays, it was quite horrible that not a sound might reach the
most attentive of sentries, especially as every word was spoken in a
whisper.

It seemed impossible to get away without discovery.  The slightest
movement would have made his presence known, so closely had the boats
come in.

Still no alarm was raised.

Then Gray began hoping that Captain Smithers or Ensign Long might be
going the rounds, and his dread was lest they should fall into some
trap.  It was for him, then, to warn them, but how?

The water was very cold, and seemed to Gray to be the cause of the chill
that struck to his heart as he stood there wondering, and listened to
what was evidently a rapid debarkation.

Suddenly, as in imagination, he saw these merciless men gaining an entry
to the fort and massacring all there, he recalled the fact that he
possessed a pistol.  A shot or two from that would give alarm to the
sentries.

And bring certain death upon himself!

Well, he thought, as he paused for a few moments, why not?  If he, by
giving up his life could save those at the fort--his officers, comrades,
the ladies, and the rest, ought he to hesitate--would he be doing more
than his duty?

It was a hard struggle.  Life was very sweet, and he had but to remain
perfectly still, to escape.  Did he move, a dozen spears and krisses
would be at his breast directly.

He smiled as he told himself he was not hesitating, but that all he
wished to do was his duty; and without a moment's hesitation he drew the
little revolver from its pouch, held it out as high as he could, and
drew the trigger.

For answer there came a sharp click, and he knew that the water had
damaged the cartridge.

He tried again, with no other result than the noise of the fall of the
hammer; and then Dullah's, or Rajah Gantang's, voice was heard in a
reproving tone as he bade his men be silent.

Gray tried again, but for the third time the cartridges, soaked as they
were by being under water so long, refused to go off.  But at his fifth
and sixth pulls there were a couple of lines of light, and Gray felt
astonished as he heard how loud were the reports the little weapon made.

For with a couple of bright flashes that seemed to the astonished Malays
to come out of the surface of the river, there were as many echoing
reports, and as they rang out they were answered by sentry after sentry
about the island, the last shot being fired by Private Sim, close at
hand, after which he ran for his life.

There was a sharp keen order at this, and the boats' heads were forced
up to the bank, one of their prows crushing right in upon Gray even to
touching him, but saving his life for the moment, as it concealed his
position from the enemies, who were vainly trying to make out in the
darkness who had given the alarm.

Gray had not a moment to lose; already spears were being thrust beneath
the bank to right and left of him.  His only chance was to dive right
beneath the keel of the nearest boat and swim down the river for his
life.

He did not pause to think of the risk--the alarm had been given, and he
had the satisfaction of knowing that every one would be on the alert--as
he dived down, passed beneath the keel of the first boat, and then
beneath the next, keeping under water all he could till he was fifty
yards or so from the nearest prahu, when he struck out for the shore.

The current ran very strong where he now was, and soon took him beyond
reach of pursuit; but it had its disadvantages, for as he swam he felt
that if he did not use every effort he would be swept right down the
river.  And now, too, came the dread of the crocodiles, and he swam on,
expecting each moment to feel the teeth of one of the monsters, and to
be snatched down into the depths of the river to a horrible death.

Meanwhile, shots were being fired on the island; he heard drum and bugle
calling to the muster, and relieved of the fear that Captain Smithers
would be surprised, he fought on manfully with the swift stream.

His efforts seemed in vain, for though he had contrived to get pretty
close to the shore, the current ran so strong that he saw himself swept
by the dark line of trees and into the stream below.

His only hope now seemed to be to make for the steamer, whose lights he
could see below him; but involuntarily almost he turned and made a fresh
effort to reach the island, when, to his great delight, he found himself
in a strong eddy, and after five minutes' swimming he was able to catch
at the overhanging branches of a tree and draw himself up close to the
muddy bank, where he remained, panting for a few minutes, longing to
draw himself out on to dry land, but too weak and exhausted, half
paralysed too, as he thought of how the great reptiles had their haunts
in the hollows beneath the river's banks.

At last, though, his heart beat less painfully, and he gently reached up
one hand above the other, made a strong effort, and then lay panting
beneath the trees, with the water running from him in a stream.

Safe from the water and the creatures that haunted the river, he had yet
to thread his way through the ranks of human tigers who were now
swarming about the island, as he could tell by the flashes and reports
of the rifles that were being fired on either side.

He lay there for quite ten minutes, thinking of what would be his best
plan to pursue, for he had a double peril to encounter--namely, the
spears of the Malays, and the bullets of his comrades, who would be
certain to fire at any one they saw approaching.  Still nothing
presented itself to his mind, and he at last began to move cautiously
forward towards the little fort.

As he went on through the dense growth with which this part of the
island was covered, he became aware that the Malays were making quite a
furious attack upon the place, while it was just as evident that they
were encountering a serious resistance.  To his great delight now the
field-piece began to speak, and he had seen the rocket go up, as a
signal to the ship, the bright stars lighting up the patch of jungle
where he lay to such an extent that he shrank close down beneath some
shrubs, lest he should form a mark for the spear of some Malay.

Going so slowly and cautiously, it took him some time to get near the
lines, and then he had to pause, for the flashes and reports of the
rifles showed him where his enemies were lying, and twice over he nearly
walked into the midst of a little group hiding amidst the trees.

He had taken the precaution of reloading the little revolver, though all
the time feeling greatly in doubt as to whether the cartridges were not
spoiled; and consequently he relied most of all upon his dirk, though he
felt that his only chance would be to steal through the Malays, and then
make a bold dash for the gate, shouting the password as he ran.

He was compelled to crawl as he drew near, for the bullets whistled
through the trees, cutting off leaf and twig, and searching the jungle,
as it were, for the enemy, who seemed all around him; for, go which way
he would, there was always a party close at hand.

At last, though, he crawled behind some trees, with only an open space
between him and the fort.  He was waiting his opportunity; and the
moment a sharp, scattered burst of firing was over, he rose and ran for
his life.



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

TOM LONG HEADS A SALLY-PARTY.

As Adam Gray ran through the darkness, a yell arose from behind him,
telling him that his act had been seen, and, as if to prevent him,
half-a-dozen spears came whizzing through the air, one of them so close
that it grazed his arm; while, to make matters worse, the firing
recommenced from the fort.

By dint of shouting strongly he made himself known, and the firing
ceased, giving him time to run up to the breast-work, and then along it
to the gateway, now doubly shut; but after a little parley he was
admitted, and found himself in the presence of Captain Smithers and
Ensign Long.

"Ah, Gray!" exclaimed the former, "I had given you up.  Were those your
shots that gave the alarm?"

Gray said they were, and in a few concise words told what he had seen.

"Yes," said Captain Smithers, "we are in for it; but our friends have a
tougher job than they imagined."

During the next half-hour, while they were keeping the enemy at bay,
they became aware of the fact that an engagement was going on between
the steamer and some enemy unseen by them, though they immediately set
it down as being with boats.  The return signal had been seen, and there
was no little comfort in the knowledge that the occupants of the steamer
were at hand to co-operate with and help them, though they little
thought of how soon the vessel would be rendered almost helpless.

With the daylight, which was most gladly welcomed, came the news that
the corvette was ashore; and on Captain Smithers turning round to speak
to Ensign Long, he found that young gentleman slapping his legs, bending
down with laughter, and altogether behaving in an exceedingly indecorous
manner for an officer and a gentleman.

"Why, Long!" exclaimed Captain Smithers, "what does this mean?"

Tom Long flushed up as red as a turkey-cock, and looked at his superior
officer in the most shame-faced way.

"I--I--I--" he began.

"Why, I believe you were delighted to hear that the steamer was
aground."

"Well, no, sir; not that the steamer is aground," said Tom.  "I--I--was
not sorry, though, that Roberts had made a mess of it.  He is so
bounceable, sir."

"I'm ashamed of you, Long!" said Captain Smithers severely.  "This is no
time for silly, boyish spite.  Take ten men, and make your way down to
within hailing distance of the vessel, and ask what they mean to do--
hold the corvette, or come and take their chance with us?  At once, sir,
and act like a man."

Tom Long saluted, and getting Sergeant Lund and nine men, made his way
out of the little sally-port, and led them along at the double, beneath
the shelter of the fire from the fort, till they were opposite the dense
grove of trees which lay between them and the steamer.

It was an awkward and a dangerous task, for not only was the piece of
forest growth swarming with enemies, but from time to time a shot or two
from the marines on board the vessel came whistling through the trees.

But Tom Long was smarting from his rebuke.  He wanted to act like a man,
and at heart he knew he had been behaving like a boy of a very petty
disposition, so, with Captain Smithers' words yet ringing in his ears,
he formed up his men, gave the word, and in skirmishing order they
dashed through the trees, sending the Malays, after they had thrown a
few spears, helter-skelter to right and left, save a few who were driven
out in sight of the men on board the steamer, when a few shots sent them
off into cover.

"Phew!" ejaculated Sergeant Lund, taking off his cap to wipe his wet
forehead, and gazing admiringly at the ensign.  "That's warm work, sir."
And then he glanced at the men, who were delighted with what they
called the ensign's pluck.

"Warm? yes, sergeant.  Quick! some of you fire at those niggers; they
are coming back."

A little volley at half-a-dozen Malays, who were showing menacingly on
their left, sent them to the right-about, and then the men cheered,
their cheer being answered from the steamer, which was only about thirty
or forty yards from the shore.

"Ensign Long, ahoy!" cried Bob Roberts, leaping on to the bulwarks.
"What cheer?"

"If you mean how are we getting on, and are we all safe, why don't you
say so?" cried the ensign sharply.

"All right, sir.  I'll write you a memorandum and a report," said Bob
Roberts.  "Now then, how are you?"

"Captain Smithers wants to know whether you are coming ashore or going
to stay on board."

"Stay on board, Mr Long," said the lieutenant, who had come up.  "Are
you all well?"

"Yes, sir, all well."

"None wounded?"

"No, sir, not one as yet."

"Tell Captain Smithers that my duty is to stay here with the steamer;
but if he is hard pressed I will either send him a party of sailors and
marines, or else we will cover his retreat with his gun, if he will come
and take refuge on board."

"Captain Smithers cannot leave his entrenched position, sir," said Tom
Long stiffly; "but we can find room for you and your crew, if they like
to come."

Tom Long said this so importantly that Bob Roberts began to laugh; and
no doubt some sharp bandying about of words would have followed, had not
Lieutenant Johnson said rather sternly,--

"Tell Captain Smithers, Mr Long, that a rocket sent up by night, or
three calls of the bugle given sharply without any perceptible interval,
will bring help from us; but ask him if any steps can be taken to help
the expedition."

"Captain Smithers is of opinion, sir, that the expeditionary party is
strong enough to take care of itself, and that it is our duty to--Oh!"

Tom Long blushed for it afterwards; but a well-thrown spear came so
close to his ear that he could not avoid an involuntary cry.  The next
minute his little party were under cover of some trees, and slowly
driving back a body of Malays, who, however, would have out-flanked
them, but for a brisk fire kept up on them from the steamer, when they
disappeared once more into the jungle, with which this part of the
island was overgrown.  When after a few more words with the occupants of
the steamer, during which Lieutenant Johnson impressed upon the ensign
that the best thing to be done was to act entirely on the defensive, the
little sally-party started to return, the lieutenant promising to do all
he could to cover their retreat.

The distance was not great, but full of peril; for the minute the Malays
comprehended that Tom Long's party were going back, they began to swarm
out of their lurking-places, and it now became evident that hundreds of
fighting men must have landed on the island.

"Well, sir," said Sergeant Lund, wiping his face, as, after getting
about half-way back, the little party found themselves hedged up in a
little gully by Malay spears, whose holders kept themselves hidden
behind the trees,--"well, sir, this is hot, and no mistake."

"Yes," said Tom Long, excitedly; "but be careful, my lads, don't waste a
shot; you must be getting short."

"They've only about six rounds each, sir, now," said the sergeant; "but
they've got the bayonets."

"Yes," said Tom, as he stood sword in one hand, revolver in the other;
"but we mustn't let them get at us with their spears.  I can't leave a
man behind, sergeant."

"Then we'd better stop as we are for a few minutes, and get breath, sir,
and then see which is the best way to go."

The sergeant hurried to a couple of the men who were exposing themselves
a little too freely, and then returned to Tom Long, who was standing in
the middle of two sides of a triangle composed of four men a side, and
another forming the apex.

"I'd make a dash for it, sergeant," said the ensign, "only I should be
sure to lose some of the boys; while if we stop here we shall get
speared.  It's a puzzle, isn't it?  I say, I don't feel half so--so--"

"Scared, sir?"

"Well, yes; I didn't like to say frightened, sergeant," replied Tom,
smiling, "because it sounds so queer."

"Ah, sir, you might say anything now before the lads, they wouldn't
mind; and after the plucky way you led us on, they'd follow you
anywhere.  But hadn't we better let the enemy have a few shot, sir?
They're closing in fast."

Tom Long was about to give the order for which his men were anxiously
waiting, when he became aware of something going on in a clump of palms
about forty yards away.

"What are they doing there, sergeant?" he said.  "Look!"

"Getting ready for a rush, sir.  Hadn't we better form square?"

"No; only close up a little," said Tom, sharply, as he set his teeth;
for he knew that they were on the brink of a hand-to-hand encounter.

For though pretty well screened by the trees, it was evident that a
large party of the Malays were getting ready for a rush, when _bang--
crash_, there was the report of a gun from the steamer, followed almost
instantly by the bursting of a shell in the very thick of the trees
where the Malays had gathered, with the result that there was quite an
opening rent in that part of the jungle, and the threatening party was
scattered like chaff.

"That's what I calls the prettiest shot I ever see," said one of the
men.

"Forward!" shouted Tom Long, and taking advantage of the momentary
panic, he hurried his little party on at the double, with the result
that by the time the Malays again menaced an attack, the sally-party
were under cover of the guns at the fort, and a few minutes later,
amidst the cheers of those they had left behind, Tom Long led his little
party within the gates, not a man amongst them having received a
scratch.



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

HOW CAPTAIN SMITHERS MADE PLANS.

There was plenty to do to make the little fort secure, and well the men
worked.  Double their number would not have been too strong a garrison,
for the Malays mustered thickly now on all sides, save that nearest the
ship, whose heavy guns had taught them the risk of making any display of
their presence.

Captain Smithers would have gladly joined forces with Lieutenant
Johnson, but he was not surprised at his reply, and he could only
condole with him in respect to the accident that had occurred to the
steamer, one which would partly place it _hors de combat_ until some
flood should cause a rise in the water of the river.

The men vied with each other in executing the orders that were given,
and in a short time the mess-room and quarters were so strengthened that
once within, the men felt that the only enemy they had to fear was fire,
and that they hoped to avoid by means of their rifles, and, if needs be,
their bayonets.

It was a terrible time for the women, many of whom had husbands with the
expedition; but knowing as they did that the major's lady was in the
same position as themselves, they tried hard to follow her calm and
patient example.

It was only an outward calm though, for poor Mrs Major Sandars was
suffering keenly, though she tried hard and successfully to speak words
of comfort to Rachel Linton and her cousin, both of whom went about with
her, talking to the soldiers' wives, and trying to amuse the children,
who at times grew impatient at being forced to keep inside the walls of
the barracks, the outer enclosure having been long declared unsafe.

Captain Smithers had sought the ladies, and spoken a few words of
encouragement to them, gazing very hard at Miss Linton as he said,--

"You may rely upon us, Miss Linton.  I would lay down my life sooner
than harm should befall you."

"I am quite satisfied of that, Captain Smithers," said the lady,
quietly.  "I believe that of the meanest man here.  In the meantime, I
presume that you would like us all to keep within the walls."

"Yes, if you please, Miss Linton," said the young officer, coldly; and
then, as he walked away, he muttered, "Yes, she believes that of the
meanest soldier, and thinks as much of him as of me."

He walked across the open space to the lines where the men were placed,
the intention being to hold them for the time, and if hard pressed, to
retire within the barracks and there make their stand.

As he went to the nearest point a bullet whizzed by him, sufficiently
near to show him that the Malays had not only good weapons among them,
but men who could shoot straight; and he frowned as he felt that their
chance would be but small if under some clever leader the Malays should
make a bold effort to take the place.

On reaching the earth-works that surrounded the enclosure, every man was
in his place, silent and watchful.  The order had been given that no one
was to fire except to check an advance, for though ammunition was
abundant, Captain Smithers felt that it was impossible to tell how long
they might be besieged, so he determined to economise as much as
possible.  Consequently, firing from the fort was only at intervals, and
as the Malays relied principally upon their spears, the ball was not
kept up with anything like vigour; but, all the same, certain movements
on the part of the enemy warned the temporary commandant to be careful,
as it would be craft, more than open assault, with which he would have
to deal.

After completing his round and saying a few words to the men, he stood
thinking on the side nearest the river, from which he was only separated
by a space of about forty yards, and he could not help thinking how
their position would be strengthened if the steamer could be got off and
moored here, a trench being opened from stem and stern to connect it
with the fort.  This would be giving the latter a most powerful river
front.  Dullah's hut, which stood there, could easily be razed, and he
knew that the water was deeper there than at any part of the river--
quite sufficient to float the steamer.

It seemed a risky thing to do--to send again; but he felt that he ought
to apprise Lieutenant Johnson of his ideas, and to request him to use
every effort to get the steamer off.

"As if he would not do that for his own sake," he muttered directly
after; and then he began to consider whom he should send.

Adam Gray immediately suggested himself to his mind, and his brow
knitted as he felt that it was like trying to get rid of a man he
disliked.

"He is the most trustworthy, and the best suited for the task," he said
directly; and as the words left his lips he raised his eyes, and saw the
object of his thoughts come with a dozen more men to relieve the party
nearer him.

"Fall out, Gray," he said sharply; and Gray looked at him curiously as
he stepped back out of the ranks.

"I want a message conveyed on board the steamer, Gray," said Captain
Smithers.  "She lies about fifty yards off the other side of the island,
aground on the mud.  Do you think you can reach her?"

"I shall do my best, sir," said Gray, quietly.  "If I do not succeed,
you will know it is because I am down."

"But you must not go down, Gray," said Captain Smithers, hastily.  "You
cannot be spared.  This is a most important duty, and that is why I send
you."

The private's eyes were fixed on those of his captain most searchingly,
and the latter lowered his own before those of his inferior.

"I shall give you no written message, for fear that you may be taken,
Gray," said Captain Smithers, hastily.  "Take this verbal message,
`Captain Smithers begs, for the sake of all, that Lieutenant Johnson
will strive to get the steamer off, and bring her round here, to moor
her close up to the bank, alongside of Dullah's hut.'  Do you
understand?"

"Yes, sir," said Gray, and he repeated the words.

"That will do.  Now go."

"At once, sir?"

"At once."

Gray saluted, and with his teeth pressing his lip started off upon
another risky mission.

He met Ensign Long as he went back to the quarters, and on being
questioned, he questioned in return, and obtained a few particulars,
enough to make him determine to make his way up towards the head of the
island, and there swim off, to try and get himself swept down to the
steamer, hoping to be seen and get on board without mishap, and in this
spirit, arming himself once more as on his former expedition, he set
off.



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

THROUGH FIRE AND WATER.

Private Gray was conscious that the ladies saw him start, and their eyes
bade him succeed, or else it was his fancy.  At all events the knowledge
that he had their sympathy encouraged him, at a time when his heart was
sore with the knowledge that Captain Smithers was selecting him for
every dangerous service, as if to get rid of him.

Sergeant Lund nodded sagely, on receiving the application for the
revolver.

"All right, my lad," he said quietly.  "I suppose I mustn't grumble at
you for making it so rusty last time."

"No, sergeant; nor yet if I make it worse this time."

"Another risky journey then, eh?  No, don't tell me, my lad.  Go and do
your duty; I'm not going to pump you."

"I know that, sergeant, but it is no breach of confidence to ask your
advice."

"'Course not, my lad.  There you are; fix 'em in tight.  Now then, what
is it?  I'm good at some things, so long as you don't ask me to put 'em
down in writing."

"If you wished to get to the steamer, sergeant, how would you proceed?"

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the sergeant.  "Well then, you've got a
risky job, my lad.  But you'll do it.  Well, if it was me I should wait
till night, if I could."

"And if you could not?"

"I should go just t'other way, to throw the Malay chaps off their scent.
Then work round to the head of the island, slip into the water, and
swim down."

"Exactly, sergeant," said Gray; and he turned off to go.

"He's as clever a young chap as ever I run against," said the sergeant,
who, like a good many more people, fervently admired those who thought
the same as he.  "But what puzzles me more and more every day is how
such a chap as him should come to be a common soldier.  He's a
gentleman, every inch of him.  Why, didn't they get him to talk to the
French officers when we landed at Ceylon, and the French frigate was
there? and my word, how he did jabber away!  He might have been a real
mounseer.  Well, 'taint no business of mine; so long as he gets his
accoutrements clean, and a good coating of pipeclay on his belts, that's
enough for me.  I only wish there was more Grays and not so many Sims in
the company."

Meanwhile Adam Gray was on his way to the far side of the fort, very
quiet and thoughtful as he made his plans, the first part of which was
to go quietly to the edge of the earthwork, wait for his opportunity,
and drop into the dry ditch, from which he hoped to crawl unperceived to
the cover of the trees, about a hundred yards away.  The rest, he felt,
must be left to chance.

As he reached the side he met Ensign Long, who came up to him, and to
his great surprise shook hands.

"Captain Smithers has told me of your mission, Gray," he said; "I wish
you every success."

"But you don't think, sir, that I shall succeed, and this is a friendly
good-bye," said Gray, smiling.

"Well I--that is--I--'pon my word, Gray, you just hit what I was
thinking about.  You see I had such a narrow escape of it myself, that I
couldn't help thinking of something of the kind."

"You tried it openly, sir; I'm going to try and steal a march upon the
Malays."

"What, are you going over here?" said the ensign.

"Yes, sir, and there's a good opening now," said Gray, after a sharp
look round.  "Good-bye, sir; wish me luck."

As he spoke he glided as it were over the edge of the earthwork, and let
himself roll into the ditch, whence he made his way to the edge on the
other side, Ensign Long bidding the two nearest men cover the messenger
with their rifles as long as he was in sight.

That was not for long, Gray crawling rapidly over the ground; and as
those who watched scanned every shrub and tree for an enemy, they saw
him reach the edge of the jungle and disappear.

It was into no haven of safety though that Gray had passed, for he had
not gone twenty yards into the shadowy gloom, which was comparatively
cool after the scorching sunshine in the opening that had been cleared
of trees, before he heard voices on his left, and he had barely time to
crouch down among the long grass before half-a-dozen Malays came along,
one of whom saw the pressed down undergrowth and began to examine it
curiously.

Another moment and he would have seen Gray, whose hand was thrust into
his breast, but a word from one of his companions took off his
attention, and he disappeared with them amongst the trees.

Gray drew a long breath as he once more started off, creeping on all
fours, and at times crawling, so as to make sure of being unseen.

His journey of about half a mile, measured by his twisting and turning,
was one series of hairbreadth escapes.  A dozen times over he had to
turn and come back over almost precisely the same ground to avoid a
party of Malays, who seemed ready to spring out of the earth on all
sides of him, but still, thanks to the thick growth, he was unseen.
Such a journey on their first landing would have been impossible, but as
the men were hardly ever allowed to go on the mainland, they had, by way
of compensation, pretty free access to the jungle portion of the little
island, and in consequence they had trampled down the dense vegetation,
and forced paths here and there through the cane brakes when snake
hunting.

At last, dripping with perspiration, Gray reached the head of the
island, and lay half exhausted in a dense clump of canes, listening to
the washing of the river as its waters divided, a dozen or so of paces
from where he lay.

He could not see the river on account of the thick growth, but it
sounded very cool and pleasant; and now, having won his way thus far, he
longed for the plunge and swim down to the steamer.

He reckoned that a minute's law would place him beyond the reach of
spears, however ably thrown; and as to the enemy's rifles or muskets, he
did not think they would be able to hit him as he swam with the rapid
stream.  Still he did not move, for he was so heated by his exertions
that he dreaded risking cramp or shock from the sudden immersion.

Everything was so still in the hot afternoon sunshine, that the whirring
noise of the insects seemed quite loud.  Beautiful blue-billed gapers,
all claret and black and white, flitted about, catching glossy
metallic-looking beetles; little green chatterers, with their crested
heads, flew from spray to spray; and tiny sun-birds, in their gorgeous
mail of gold and bronze and purple, flew from flower to flower in search
of honey.  Now and then a scaly glistening lizard rustled by him, and
twice over a snake crawled right across his body and away into the
grass.  Then a flock of the little lovebird paroquets came and settled
in a tree hard by, piping, whistling, and chattering as they climbed and
swung head downwards, or flew here and there; while upon some bushes
close at hand sat a pair of the lovely rose-breasted trogons, with their
grey reticulated wings and beautiful cinnamon backs.

It was a glorious scene for a lover of nature, so delicate were the many
tints of green, so pure the sky above; while to add to the beauty of the
place a flock of rose-tinted doves settled in the palms, and cooed as
mellowly as if this were in some park in the young soldier's far-off
home.

So lovely was everything around that Gray closed his eyes, and was ready
to ask himself whether the idea of danger was not all a dream, and that
it was but fancy, to suppose that bloodthirsty men were swarming in the
island, ready to slaughter the inhabitants to a man.

The sharp crack of a rifle, and then of half a dozen more, dissipated
the dream, and with a sigh as he thought of the danger of those at the
station, Gray unclosed his eyes, rose to his hands and knees from where
he had been lying, and began to force his way softly amidst the canes.

It was no easy task till he came to a track, evidently that made by a
crocodile in coming and going from the river.  He paused for a moment,
shuddering as he thought of his danger; then drawing the dirk, ready for
a blow at the monster's eyes, should he encounter one, he crawled on,
reached the water's edge in safety, parting the canes to peer up and
down the river in search of danger, and seeing none.

From where he crouched the steamer was not visible, but he knew that a
little bold swimming would soon show her lying below; and, all the while
feeling very much like as if he were a frog about to plunge into a
stream haunted by pike, he lowered himself towards the water, gazed for
a moment into its depths, and then plunged in.

Down he went into the clear, cool stream, striking out so as to get well
away from the bank as he did so, and then rising to the surface, to see,
to his horror, that a good-sized boat, that had lain hidden amidst the
reeds, was being pushed out, and with seven or eight occupants was
coming in pursuit.

What was he to do? seek the shore again and take refuge in the jungle?

That seemed impossible; for he had plunged in so close to the boat, that
he would have been speared long before he could reach the place he had
left, even if he had been able to swim against the stream.

Then, to his horror, he saw that the banks were perpendicular or else
overhanging, and any attempt at climbing them from the water must have
failed; for, as far as he could see, where he was being swept down not a
tree laved an overhanging branch in the swift stream.  There was only
one course open to him, and that was to trust to the river, and swim for
his life.

He had been taking this as his only chance as the above thoughts flashed
through his brain; and now came in the value of his old school-day
experience, when he had been one of the bravest swimmers of his age.  In
fact, as he swam on, recollections of the old alder and willow ait in
the clear river came back, and he smiled as he turned upon his side and
forced his way through the sparkling waters.

The position as he made the side-stroke was convenient, though not
inspiriting; for as his cheek lay on the stream he could keep one eye
upon his pursuers, who were now coming rapidly on.  Fortunately for
Gray, in their hurry and excitement the Malays had lost ground, so that
the young soldier had a fair start before they bent regularly to their
paddles.  He could see, though, that a couple of men were standing
upright in the boat, each with a foot upon the gunwale, and a spear
poised in one hand, ready for hurling at the fugitive when within
throwing distance.

Gray swam swiftly, but he saw that it was hopeless, and that he must
soon be overtaken and perish.  Still he did not despair, for his career
had before now seemed as near its end.  _Nil desperandum_ was the motto
of his life, and like some hunted hare he kept his eye upon his
pursuers, meaning to try and dive the moment he saw an effort made to
hurl a spear.

He might perhaps escape by diving.  At all events, it was his only
chance, and he swam on, with the boat now rapidly getting near.

Perhaps, he thought, they might not throw, but wait to thrust at him.
If so, that would give him longer time; but no, there was no chance of
that, for now he saw one of the Malays poise his spear, and draw himself
back, to throw it with all his force.

Gray saw no more, but with a shuddering sensation, as he seemed to feel
the deadly weapon pierce him between the shoulders, he made a tremendous
effort, and dived down, swimming beneath the surface with all his might,
till compelled to rise for breath.

As his head appeared above water a spear grazed his shoulder, and
another passed just over his ear when he dived again, still pursuing the
same tactics, and swimming beneath the surface.

Again he rose, and another spear splashed the water in his face, while
the shaft of the next struck him a sharp rap, as the blade narrowly
shaved his ear.

Down once more; but now he was weaker.  The intense excitement and the
need of breath exhausted him, and though he strove hard to keep down,
his efforts began to prove vain.  He had seen, the last time, that the
boat was closer to him, and he felt sure that now on rising he should be
within reach of one or other of the spearmen.

Still he made another effort to keep below, for though he was
suffocating, and began to feel confused, weak, and helpless, these
moments were moments of life, whereas the instant he reached the surface
he knew that all was over.

In his confused, sense-benumbed state, he felt that after all he had
done his duty, and he recalled the calm, trusting look directed at him
by Miss Linton as he passed her that morning.  Then the water above him
grew lighter, and he rose to the surface, striking out but feebly now,
as he saw the boat close at hand, heard a shout from the Malays, and saw
one of the men in the bow lean over to thrust his spear into the
helpless swimmer, now almost at his feet.



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

SHOWS HOW BOB ROBERTS GAVE A HINT, AND THE MALAYS GOT INTO HOT WATER.

Hunter and hunted had been alike too much occupied to note what had been
going on elsewhere.  Gray's anxious gaze when he rose to the surface had
been directed backward at his pursuers, and for the time being the
steamer and her occupants were forgotten.  On the other hand, the
Malays, keen on the scent of blood, intently watched the place where
their quarry dived, and calculated where he would rise.

So it was then that just as one of the men in the prow of the boat was
about to savagely stab the nerveless swimmer, whose glazing eye met his
with more of defiance than menace therein, there was a rattling volley
from half-a-dozen rifles, the two spearmen fell over the side, to be
swept away by the stream, and their companions, on starting up and
seeing one of the steamer's cutters coming rapidly on, to a man leaped
overboard and swam for their lives, some making for the island, some for
the opposite shore.

Adam Gray was so exhausted and surprised that it was some time before he
realised that the danger was past, but that, unless he made a fresh
effort, a new peril would await him, and he would lose his life by
drowning.

Just then, though, the Malay boat was swept close to him, and he threw
one arm over the side, holding on till he was dragged into the cutter,
which was then rowed rapidly back to the steamer.

"That was a narrow squeak for you, Mr Soldier," said Bob Roberts.  "My
marines only spoke up just in time."

"I cannot find words to thank you now, sir," panted Gray, who was pale
with exhaustion.

"All right!" said Bob; "and don't find any words to thank me by-and-by.
I'm glad we were in time.  You'd have done as much for any of us, my
man."

"Of course, sir; of course," said Gray, huskily.

"Yes, of course you would; but how came you in the river?"

"I was swimming off with a message to Lieutenant Johnson, sir," replied
Gray.

"Then if I were you I wouldn't go such a long way round next time," said
Bob.  "Steady there, marines.  Let them see you cover them, and they'll
rush off behind the trees."

This was in regard to some Malays who were showing themselves menacingly
on the edge of the river; but the moment they saw that the marines'
rifles were directed at them they ran to cover, and the cutter was soon
alongside of the steamer, the falls were hooked on, and the boat swung
by the davits, her mission being at an end.

Two anchors had been carried some distance out, steam got up, and with
the screw going at high pressure and men at work at the capstan, every
effort was being made to get the vessel out of her unpleasant position,
but in vain.

Lieutenant Johnson heard the message brought by Gray, and then pointed
to what was being done.

"I am making every effort," he said rather angrily.  "Does Captain
Smithers think I want to stay in this disgraceful position?  You can
tell him, though, that if I can get free I shall divide my time between
chasing these rascally prahus and lying where he suggests."

The efforts went on, the men hauling and straining on the anchors, and
the steam going furiously, but all in vain; the vessel would not move.

Then another plan was tried; all the ship's company were sent to one
side of the bulwarks, and then run across to the other, to give a
swaying motion to the vessel, so as to loosen the keel in the deep mud;
but though the careening was effected, the steamer could not be moved,
either ahead or astern.

Then the last plan was tried again, with the addition of the guns being
run all over to the port-side, but still there was no change; and
Lieutenant Johnson's brow knit with annoyance as he more fully realised
the fact that they would be lying in that helpless position when the
captain returned.

"The disgrace is enough to kill me, Roberts," he exclaimed.

"Let's set every sail, sir," said the middy; "there's a nice breeze
coming down the river now, and that may send her over nearly upon her
beam-ends."

"Yes!" exclaimed the lieutenant eagerly; and the order being given, the
men ran up aloft, and sail after sail was lowered, Ali standing with
folded arms watching the proceedings, and then turning to lean upon the
bulwark and gaze down the river.

Just then Adam Gray saluted the lieutenant.

"Will you be good enough to have me set ashore now, sir?"

"Set you ashore, my man?" replied Lieutenant Johnson, "Why, you had
better wait till night."

"I ought to get back with your message, sir."

"Wait a little while, and perhaps I can run you round to the other side
of the island."

Gray, now that he had somewhat recovered, was eager to get back, but he
could not quit the ship without the lieutenant's consent, and hence he
waited patiently for the required permission, watching the steamer's
sails drop down one by one, and fill and flap as the breeze rose and
fell.

Now and then a dusky face could be seen amidst the palm-trees watching
their proceedings, but it disappeared directly, and the clothing of the
vessel with canvas went on without interruption, till pretty well every
stitch was set save a studding-sail or two.  Then a puff of hot air
came, and the steamer bent well over, the sails being so trimmed that
the vessel's course would have been astern had she shown any disposition
to move; but though the steam was on full, and the men brought the
capstan to bear on the cables, she did not budge an inch.

"Here, my lads, back with these guns," said the lieutenant; and for the
next half-hour the men were busy replacing the heavy guns, when Ali, who
since his escape had been remaining in sanctuary upon the steamer,
suddenly gave the alarm.

"A prahu coming down," he exclaimed, running to the lieutenant and
catching his arm, pointing out as he did so something moving round a
reach of the river, and seen now and then where the growth was thin.

"Two prahus coming up stream," reported one of the look-out men.

"Look! look!" cried Ali, pointing up the river.  "There is another--two
more.  They are coming to take the steamer," he cried.

"And we aground!" exclaimed the lieutenant, stamping his foot with rage
as he gave the necessary orders.  The drum beat to quarters directly;
the magazine was opened; and the men ran eagerly to their posts; while
Ali went quietly into the cabin, and returned with a sword, revolver,
and a spotting rifle, lent him by the lieutenant for shooting
crocodiles.

"Are you going to fight?" exclaimed Bob Roberts, who looked flushed and
excited.

"Yes," said Ali, "with this;" and he tapped the rifle.

"But against your own people?"

"Rajah Gantang's pirates are not my own people," said Ali,
contemptuously.  "Besides, the English are my friends, and if we could I
would have gone to help those ashore."

"All right," said Bob, "then we will fight together.  I say, it's going
to be a hot affair, isn't it?"

"They think to take the steamer easily," said Ali, "as she is ashore,
but you will not let them?"

"Let them!" said Lieutenant Johnson, "no, Mr Ali, we will not.  We
shall fight to the last, and the last will be that I'll blow the vessel
up.  I can't sink her, for she is aground."

Ali nodded his approval: he seemed in no wise moved at the prospect of
the steamer being destroyed.  And now he stood watching the coming of
the great prahus, with their regular sweeps, twenty to thirty on each
side, and alternated this with watching the loading of the guns and
disposal of the men.

Just then an idea seemed to have struck Bob Roberts, who ran across the
deck to where old Dick was standing ready by a gun.

"Here, Dick, I want you.  Wilson, come and take his place."

"Ay, ay, sir!" cried the man; but old Dick growled.

"Don't take me away, Mr Roberts, sir," he said, querulously.  "I was
longing for a shot at them dirty pirates, and now I'm losing my chance."

"Look here, Dick," cried Bob, and he raised himself on tiptoe and
whispered something to him, old Dick's soured face undergoing a complete
change to one full of mirth.  The wrinkles became puckers, and his eyes
nearly closed, while his mouth seemed drawn out at the corners till
nearly double its usual length.

"It will be just right, Dick," said the middy.

"To a T, Mr Roberts, sir.  Well, you are a clever one, you are!  Who'd
ha' thought of that?"

"You be ready, Dick; I depend upon you, mind," cried the middy; and he
ran back to his post.

The prahus were coming steadily on, up and down stream, and it could be
seen from the steamer's deck that they were full of men, and bristling
with spears, while any doubt as to the unfriendliness of their
intentions was soon dispelled by the noise of beating gongs on board
each vessel, the object being apparently to encourage each other and to
excite alarm in the breasts of their foes, a result which in this case
the noise decidedly failed in obtaining.

The men kept glancing anxiously at their commander, who seemed to be
letting the prahus approach very closely, which appeared to be a bad
policy, seeing that the Malays were about ten to one, and their object
would doubtless be to board the steamer and engage in a hand-to-hand
fight; but Lieutenant Johnson had made his plans, and was abiding his
time.  He himself carefully pointed the guns, depressing them somewhat,
so that the shot should strike low; and then leaving the task in the
hands of the captain of each piece, he waited the result.

The prahus were now within a couple of hundred yards of the steamer, and
had begun firing iron shot from their little brass lelahs, when the
first gun spoke out.  There was a round puff of smoke and a deafening
roar, and the shot struck the nearest right in the stem, tearing a great
hole in her bows, and passing through her with such deadly effect that
the prahu immediately began to sink, and her crew leaped overboard in
confusion and began to swim ashore.

Grape-shot from the smaller guns or musketry from the marines would have
destroyed numbers of the Malays struggling in the water, but looking
upon them as out of the fight, Lieutenant Johnson left them to struggle,
some to one bank, some to the other, and gave his orders merely to the
men at the great guns.

It was one from the port-side that had wrought this mischief.  Now one
from the starboard spoke out.  There was once more the great white ball
of smoke, the deafening roar, and the shot struck the water about twenty
yards from the nearest prahu, ricochetted, and passed clean through her,
going down the river afterwards in a series of richochets.

This shot caused no little confusion on board, and several of the sweeps
fell uselessly in the water; but the prahu still came on, with the
occupants yelling and beating their gongs.

Another shot struck the water, and though well aimed for the next prahu,
it rose and went over her, merely making a great gap in the
matting-screen from behind which the Malays were keeping up a brisk but
ineffectual fire.

Another shot at one of the prahus coming down stream; and this went
clean over, and crashed through the palm-trees a quarter of a mile away.
But the next shot produced a hearty cheer from the sailors, for it
struck the slight vessel right on the water-line, made a tremendous gap,
and must have caused terrible slaughter, for the Malays were thrown into
confusion, the sweeps clashed one with the other, and all governance
seemed gone, the prahu turning broadside on, and then floating slowly
with the stream for a few yards before settling down and sinking,
leaving her masts and the top of the mat screens visible, for the water
was shallow where she sank.

The two prahus coming down stream were thus effectually disposed of; but
the two coming up were now close at hand, and before another gun could
be brought to bear their bows struck the sides of the steamer,
grappling-irons were thrown over the bulwarks and into the chains, and
yelling savagely their crews of fierce fighting men came swarming upon
the deck.

It was sharp work leaving the guns and preparing for the boarders; but
the sailors and marines were ready, and received the fierce, yelling
crowd of Malays with a sharp fire and the point of the bayonet, while
these latter attacked fiercely with kris and spear.  Their charge was
most daring, and they came on in such numbers, and fought with so great
a display of courage, that the little party of Englishmen, in spite of
their heroic defence, were driven back step by step, till Lieutenant
Johnson began to bitterly regret that he had not signalled for help from
the fort.

His heart sank within him as, in spite of his bravery and the example he
set his men he saw them giving way on all sides.

Bob Roberts, young as he was, fought bravely and well, while Ali did
good service with his rifle.  But all seemed in vain; the Malays were
gradually getting possession of the deck, and the question was arising
in the lieutenant's mind whether it would not be wiser to take refuge in
the cabin, and fire from thence as they could.

Men fell rapidly on either side, but while the Malays had three or four
to leap into the places of those who went down, every wounded Englishman
weakened the force terribly by his loss.

Still there was no sign of flinching, the men giving way solely from
being forced back by the numbers that pressed upon them.

Three times over by a determined rally did the lieutenant strive to
force the enemy back, but in vain; and the last time he nearly lost his
life, for the Malays made at him at once, and in his efforts to avoid
them he slipped and fell.

With a yell of triumph a couple of the enemy dashed at him spear in
hand, when there was a sharp double report from a rifle, and one leaped
in the air to fall flat on the deck beside his intended victim, the
other staggered back and retreated to the rear.

Those shots were fired by the young chief Ali, who coolly reloaded his
piece, and stood watching Bob Roberts, whose excitement was intense.

He had forgotten Dick and his instructions to the old sailor in the
fierce passions of the fray, and poor old Dick had gone down almost at
the first rush, to crawl afterwards under the bulwarks, where he bound
up his head, and lay watching the fight as he strove more than once to
join in.

But each time old Dick essayed to rise, a terrible sickness came over
him, and he sank back trying to recall some order he had received from
the midshipman, but unable to make out what it was.

He fainted away twice in his efforts to get up, and then lay back, sick
at heart, and with just enough consciousness left to know that the fight
was going against the English, and that he had it in his power to change
the fortunes of the day.

"What was it Mr Roberts told him to do?  What was it Mr Roberts told
him to do?"

That was the question he wanted solved, but the sense had all seemed to
escape out of the cut in his head, so he told himself, and the more he
tried to recall what it was, the more did he grow confused, and at last
he lay there helpless, listening to the yelling of the Malays, and the
cheers and shouts of the comrades he could not help.

He could see clearly enough all that was going on, and feel bitterly
every phase of ill fortune in the fight, while he regretted the
powerless state in which he lay as he saw some companion worsted by the
enemy.

"If I could only think what it was Mr Roberts told me to do, I might do
it now," he muttered, "and that would help the poor lads."

His head was growing clearer, though, and he became more and more
excited as he saw sailors, marines, and officers driven back, step by
step, along the deck, with the prospect before them of being slain to a
man, and the steamer taken.

That idea was horrible to Dick, and he thought of the captain, officers,
and men away in the jungle, and what would be their feelings when they
returned.

"If I could only help!" thought Dick.  "Bravo, lad!  Why he fights like
a man," he muttered; "and there's that Mr Ali using his gun
wonderfully, and him only a nigger; while I lie here with my orders on
me, and do nothing to help my mates.  Oh, if I only had strength," he
groaned.

Still the fight went on, and to his horror Lieutenant Johnson saw that
another prahu and a naga or dragon-boat were coming up to the attack,
while in place of being able to repel them with a few shots from his
guns, he and his men were hemmed-in by quite a mob of yelling Malays,
every one of whom was thirsting for the Englishmen's blood.

All at once, in the thick of the fight, and just as he was panting, and
too helpless to deliver another stroke, Bob Roberts recalled for a
moment the orders he had given old Dick.  But he felt that it was too
late now, and stung by the disgrace of their position, he tried to
reload his revolver, wondering whether Lieutenant Johnson would execute
his threat of blowing up the ship.

Had the lieutenant been ever so disposed, though, he could not have
accomplished his design, for a living wall of Malays was between him and
the way down to the magazine, and he was weak and spent with his
efforts, to such an extent that he could hardly raise his sword.

"It is all over," he thought to himself, "but we'll die fighting like
Englishmen.  Oh, my poor lads," he groaned, "my poor lads!"  And he
wondered whether he could have done anything else to lead them to
victory, instead of this bitter defeat.

It did indeed seem to be all over, for the fresh boats had reached the
steamer, and their men were swarming over the side, when suddenly the
remembrance of his orders flashed across old Dick's clouded brain,
bringing with it renewed strength, for the faintness seemed to be driven
away.

Abdullah, or rather Rajah Gantang, saw the fresh forces arriving, and he
shouted to them to come on, stepping back half-a-dozen yards, and then
leaping on to one of the wired skylights, kris in hand.

Close beside him he saw a rough old wounded sailor screwing on something
bright that looked like a copper pipe, and then seize hold of an iron
spanner; and out of sheer thirst for blood the rajah, after waving to
the new comers to come on, made a leap down at the old sailor, who faced
him with what seemed to the rajah like a copper gun, presented, and
fired--

No, that's wrong, he watered; for Bob Roberts' commands were at last
executed, and a shower of scalding water from the boilers was sent by
means of the hose and branch full in the rajah's face, driving him away
yelling with agony, as Dick made a dash along the deck, the hose
trailing after him, took the Malays in flank just as they were making
their final dash at the hemmed-in defenders of the vessel, and the
fortunes of the day were changed.

_Whizz, squish_, out flew the steaming water in a scalding shower, and
in an instant the fierce crowd of Malays were turned into a set of
agonised, dancing, maniacs, a dozen of them turning furiously on Dick,
and rushing at him, kris and spear in hand; but with a grim smile on his
rough visage, old Dick gave the copper branch a waving motion, and the
scalding shower stopped the fiercest of them, drove them back, and as
they fled the fresh party summoned by the rajah came running along the
deck.

Dick did not flinch, but mentally praying that the supply might hold
out, delivered the stream full in their faces as they came yelling up,
and after a brave effort to withstand it for a few moments, sending them
back, crushed and beaten, stamping, shrieking, leaping overboard, making
frantic efforts to escape the pain, while Dick steadily followed them
up, playing the boiling water amongst them, and literally cleaning the
decks, amidst the cheering of the men.

"Quick there," cried Lieutenant Johnson, "A man there at the wheel--two!
quick! two!  She's afloat.  Down there in the engine-room," he shouted,
as he mounted the bridge, for a breeze had sprung up, and the mud that
clung round the steamer's keel having been loosened by the firing, the
motion of the vessel, and the pressure on the sails, the corvette had,
unperceived, been afloat some minutes, and slowly floating down stream.

In another few seconds she was under full command; and as the men flew
to the guns, the lieutenant took deadly revenge upon his fierce enemies
by manoeuvring the steamer so that, in spite of the efforts of her crew
with their sweeps; he literally sent her over the biggest of the three
prahus, the stem of the steamer cutting it in two as if it had been made
of paper, and then sinking the naga by a well-directed shot, the crews
of both swimming easily towards the shore.

By this time the other two prahus were in full retreat up stream,
evidently from a belief that the steamer would not follow; but in spite
of his mishap in running aground, Lieutenant Johnson could not resist
the temptation to administer the sternest punishment he could contrive;
and with full steam on, he gave chase, firing at the two prahus as he
went.

At the end of ten minutes one had been struck several times, and her
captain ran her close in shore, he and his crew deserting her; while
after avoiding only by a miracle at least a dozen shots, the last prahu
suddenly turned in by a branch of the river and seemed to go right
amongst the palm-trees, when, after a parting shot or two, the steamer
proving quite unsuited for chase in such narrow, shallow waters, the
lieutenant gave it up, his crew being too weak to continue the chase
with the boats.



CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN.

HOW BOB ROBERTS BURNED THE PRAHU.

The victory was dearly bought; for now that the breathless excitement
was over, and there was time to make an examination, it was found that
fully half the crew had injuries, more or less serious, the men, though,
bearing their sufferings with the greatest fortitude as their two
officers, for want of a doctor, bound up the wounds.

It almost seemed as if those who had most exposed themselves had come
off best; for neither Lieutenant Johnson, Bob Roberts, Ali, nor Adam
Gray, who had been brave even to recklessness, had received a scratch.

"I have only one regret about you, Gray," said Lieutenant Johnson,
shaking his hand warmly.

"May I ask what that is, sir?" replied Gray.

"Yes, that you are not a sailor; that is all," said the lieutenant,
smiling.  "I shall not forget this affair.  I believe you twice over
saved my life."

"And you, too, friend Ali," continued the lieutenant, laying his hand
upon the young chief's shoulder.  "I have often called the Malays a set
of treacherous wretches, but I find that there are Malays and Malays.
Sir, I hope some day that you may rise to power, as in you England will
always have a trusty ally."

Ali bowed gravely, and his eyes betokened the pleasure he felt as he
thought of the possibility of his raising the people of this land to
something better than the slothful, betel-chewing, piratical race they
were.

The steamer was now rapidly making her way back, the men furling the
sails, and the screw as it revolved sending a wave washing in amidst the
roots of the trees on either side of the river; while, now that the
present danger was over, the lieutenant went round to visit his
patients, leaving Bob Roberts in command, and a man with the lead in the
chains.

"I think the central channel is safe enough, Roberts," said the
lieutenant; "but keep him heaving the lead."

"Trust me, sir," said Bob rather importantly.

"Yes, I'll trust you, Roberts," said the lieutenant.  "I'll be frank
with you, my lad, and tell you something that will please you, I know."

"What is it, sir?" said Bob eagerly.

"I don't think I shall ever look upon you again as a boy?"

Bob coloured with pleasure as soon as he was left alone; but his common
sense prevailed the next moment.

"That's very kind of him," he thought, "but it's all gammon; I am only a
boy yet.  And there--hang it all! since Miss Linton spoke to me as she
did, hang me if I care if I am!"

Fortunately for the party on board the steamer, the Malays had carried
off their wounded as they fell, so that there was no trouble with either
them or prisoners, who would have been highly inconvenient at such a
time, especially as there was no knowing how soon there might be another
attack.  For though beaten as to their prahus, the Malays almost to a
man succeeded in reaching the shore, to join those besieging the fort,
and at any time a new attack might be made.

As they came abreast of the prahu that was run ashore and forsaken,
Lieutenant Johnson determined to run no risk of its being floated once
more, and used, after patching, to annoy; for giving the order to
reverse the engine, the steamer was kept abreast, while Bob Roberts and
a party of marines and Jacks went ashore and made preparations to burn
her.

Ali stepped into the boat with his friend, and advised caution; for he
warned Bob that, although severely punished, the rajah was in no wise
beaten, and that, as likely as not, a force of men were lying hidden
amongst the reeds to protect the injured prahu.

"All right!" said Bob, "I'll be careful."  And to show how careful he
intended to be, he let the cutter run up amidst the reeds, and jumped
out with a dozen men, provided with some fiery spirit, and some spun
yarn and matches.

"I think you ought to search the reeds first with a few shots from your
marines' rifles," said Ali, who was gazing around very distrustfully;
and no wonder, for there was every likelihood of some of the Malays
being in ambush.

"No need," said Bob, laughing.  "We've given them such a lesson as they
won't forget for some time, my lad.  Come along."

Ali leaped ashore, and they tried to get on board the prahu, which
seemed close in to the bank; but finding this was not the case, they
returned to the boat, and pushed off through the rustling reeds to row
round to the other side, and there board her by means of a rope.

It was well for the little party that they returned as they did, for in
twenty places dark figures were stealing through the thick, long reeds
quite unseen, but all converging upon the spot where the cutter ran to
the shore.

The return to the boat upset the plans of the ambush, but the Malays who
formed the party were not beaten; and finding their first plan hopeless,
they immediately adopted another, and began creeping through the reeds,
hardly making them rustle as they made now for the prahu.

"Heave up a rope, one of you," said Bob, "unless anybody can climb up."

This was as the bowman held the cutter close up against the prahu's side
with his boat-hook.

"If one on 'em keeps the cutter alongside, sir, I can get up, and then
make fast a rope," said the bowman.

"All right! up with you," said Bob; and as another man held on by one of
the big oars that hung in its place, the boatman hooked on his boat-hook
in one of the rattan-twisted ropes, and cleverly climbed up, catching
the rope that was thrown up and making it fast, when half a dozen of the
sailors, with Bob Roberts and Ali, were soon on the short, bamboo deck.

"It seems almost a pity to burn her," said Bob, who was greatly taken by
the workmanship of the craft.

"No, no!" said Ali angrily, as his eyes wandered suspiciously about
amidst the reeds; "burn her, burn her! the decks have been stained with
blood, and many a poor, innocent creature has suffered outrage at the
owner's hands.  Rajah Gantang was a cruel, bloodthirsty pirate.  Let the
river be purified from his boats!"

"But," said Bob, laughing, "we might give it a good washing down, and
fumigate it below decks, and afterwards give it a coat of paint.  It
would be purified enough then, and it might be useful."

"I do not understand you," said Ali seriously; "but let your men be
quick; I fear danger."

"What a suspicious chap you are, to be sure, Ali," replied Bob.  "I'll
be bound to say, if the truth was known, there isn't a nigger within a
mile of us.  Here, look alive, my lads; it seems a pity to burn such a
boat; but orders are orders, and we shall have a gun fired directly, by
way of recall.  There, that will do; lay the oakum there, and pour the
spirits over it.  She'll burn like a firework."

The men obeyed in a quiet leisurely manner, quite satisfied of there
being no danger if their officer saw none; so the oakum and yarn they
had brought were heaped up on the bamboo deck, and another lot thrust
into a kind of cabin, plenty of the spirit poured on each, and nothing
was needed but the application of a match or two for the work of
destruction to begin.

Still Bob seemed loth to fire so well-built a vessel, and he stood
pointing out good points in the make of the long light boat, counting
the number of sweeps she had carried, examining the shot holes and the
like--partly in a bravado spirit, for Ali was all anxiety to get on
board the steamer again, scenting danger as he did on every breath of
wind, while Bob wanted to show him how matter-of-fact and cool a British
officer could be.

"Look!" said Ali suddenly, and he laid his hand upon Bob's shoulder.

"Which way?" said Bob quietly.  "I can see nothing."

"You will not see," said Ali in a low passionate voice.  "You are so
brave, but you are so foolish too.  Why risk life when there is danger."

"I don't," said Bob coolly.

"You do; there is great danger now," said Ali.  "Gantang's men are
creeping through the reeds to spear us."

"Jump down in the cutter then," said Bob, "and you will be all right."

Ali drew himself up angrily.

"A Malay chief never knows fear," he said, as he leaned his hands upon
the muzzle of the rifle he still carried, and stood there, proud and
defiant, like a bronze statue, he was so motionless and calm.

"I didn't mean to offend you, Ali, old fellow," cried Bob.  And as the
young Malay saw the open, frank, laughing face before him, and the
extended hand, he seized it in his.

"I am not offended," said Ali, "but I'm afraid for you and your men."

"What of?" said Bob.

"That!" said Ali, as a spear whizzed through the reeds and stuck in the
bamboo deck.

"Yes, it was close," said Bob coolly.  "Who has the matches?"

"Here you are, sir," said one of the men.

"All right," said Bob, taking the box.  "Down into the boat, all of you.
Go on too, Ali."

"No, I stay with you," said the young chief, just as another spear stuck
quivering in the deck.

"Ah!  I left it a bit too long," said Bob, striking a match as he dived
into the cabin, and the next moment a volume of smoke rolled up.

He then lit another match, and held it to the soaked oakum on the deck,
spear after spear being thrown, several of which he escaped as by a
miracle.  Another moment or two, and the thick smoke formed a veil
between the two young men and their enemies, who threw spear after
spear, but without effect.

"Won't they be fine and mad?" cried Bob.  "Here, give me your rifle,
Ali, old fellow, and I'll have a couple of shots at them.  No, I won't,"
he said, handing the rifle back; "I can't shoot in cold blood.  Come
along, or we shall be roasted ready for our friends there, if they are
disposed to be cannibals.  My word, how she burns!"

His last words were not uncalled for, as the light wood of which the
Malay vessel was composed began to blaze furiously; so fast indeed, that
the middy and his friend were driven into making rather an undignified
retreat before the great leaping tongues of flame and the rolling
volumes of smoke that in a few minutes ran from end to end of the
vessel.

"Push off, my lads," cried Bob, as he took his place in the
stern-sheets, coughing and sneezing from the effects of the pungent
smoke.  "Give way!" he cried; "there's a signal flying for our return."

Just then a shot came from the steamer as well, and with the Malays
beginning to fire at them from among the reeds, the cutter was rowed
rapidly back to the steamer's side, the prahu meanwhile blazing
furiously, and promising soon to burn down to the water's edge.

"Come, Mr Roberts," cried the lieutenant impatiently; "you have been a
long time."

"Yes, sir," said Bob, smiling at Ali, "there was a good deal of
spear-throwing towards the last, and we had to dodge them."

"The enemy is not easily frightened," said the lieutenant, as the
propeller once more rapidly revolved; "but we must get back, for I fancy
I can hear firing below, and I am afraid they are attacking the fort now
for a change."

"What shall you do, sir?" said Bob eagerly.

"It is not the custom, Mr Roberts, for the officer in command to
explain his plans to his subordinates; but if you must know, I shall run
the steamer as close up to the fort as I can, and there keep her, if the
Malays do not prove too strong for us."

Then walking to and fro for a few minutes, he ended by going up to where
old Dick, with a bandage round his head, was calmly masticating a lump
of tobacco.

"I have never thanked you for your capital idea," said the lieutenant.
"That hot water saved us in a terrible pinch."

"Yes, sir," said Dick, grinning, "it saved us; but it warn't my idee at
all.  `There's lots of boiling water, Dick,' says Mr Roberts, yonder;
`screw on the hose, and tell the engineer what you want.  Then when
all's ready, and it seems a good time, lay hold of the branch, and play
up among the niggers,' sir; and I did as soon as I could, but my head
were in that muzzy state that--"

"There is firing going on," said the lieutenant.  "Mr Roberts, clear
again for action."

"Action, eh?" said old Dick.  "Then I can't do better than say another
word to the engineer, for of all the ways to clear the decks this hot
water system's about the best."  So saying, Dick went to screw the hose
on the valve once more, muttering and talking to himself the while, and
ever and again slapping one of his legs and bursting into a series of
chuckles.

"Lor' a mussy me," he said; "and how I argyed with Mr Roberts there
about the niggers not being clean.  Why that's what put it into his
precious head.  I wonder what they looks like to-day, after their
washing."

"Took the skin off, I should say, Dick," said Bob Roberts, who had heard
the old man's words.

"And sarve 'em right, sir," said the old sailor.  "What did they mean to
do to us but take us right out of our skins, and end us right off at
once?  And them as plays at bowls must expect rubbers."

So saying, Dick, who had finished his speech without an audience, seemed
quite forgetful of his wound, and went down to the engine-room, where
the engineer and firemen saluted him with a broad grin; to which Dick
responded with one a little broader, as he stood mopping the
perspiration from his face.

"Why, Dick, old man," said the engineer, "after this I think we can show
them gunners a trick or two.  It would have puzzled them to clear the
decks like that.  However came you to think of it?"

"Think of it?" said Dick.  "I shouldn't never have thought of such a
game; it was young Mr Roberts, you know.  But did you see 'em run?"

"Run!" said the engineer.  "Running was nothing to it; you cleared the
deck like a shot."

"Shot!" said Dick scornfully; "I should like to see the shot or shell
that would do it half as well.  Why, look here, my lads, your shot and
your shell kills and murders people, knocks off their legs and wings,
and precious often their heads.  A shot goes bang in amongst a lot o'
folk, and there's an end of it.  But here I was with the copper branch
in my fisties, and I just sprinkled 'em here and there like a shower
and--"

"Give it 'em hot," interposed one of the firemen leaning on his shovel.

"Ay, I just did," said Dick; "not as it was much hotter than it is down
here, my lads, but hot I did give it 'em, and there wasn't one who would
face it.  And that brings me down to why I come here."

"Oh, we know why you come here, Dicky," said another of the firemen, who
had just been stoking a furnace, and whose face shone with perspiration.
"You said to yourself, you did, there's them poor chaps down there in
the engine-room getting half-roasted, and with their throats as dry as
brown paper; now, being a good-hearted sort of fellow as I am, I'll just
go down below and say to 'em, a nice cooling drink o' lime juice and
water with a dash o' rum in it, is what you all wants in a big tin can.
Shall I get it for you?  That's what you come down here to say."

"Blest if ever I see such a clever chap as you are, Sam Walsh," cried
Dick, slapping his leg and laughing.  "You can read a fellow just as if
he was made up o' large print and big leaves.  You've really hit it, but
you see a drink like that wants mixing; and don't you see, though you
may drink it cold it wants hot water to mix it? and that's what I did
come about--more hot water."

"To mix up for us, Dick?" said the engineer, laughing.

"No," said Dick, "I didn't say that, my lad," and a bigger grin came
over his face; "what I want is the hot water to mix the grog for the
niggers, as it seems they liked the last dose so much, that I'm to get
ready some more."

"There's plenty--hot enough for anything, Dick," said the engineer, "and
I'll keep up the supply."

"Silence below there!" cried a voice; and the engineer gave his
subordinates a nod.

"You'd better get on deck, Dick, old man," he said quietly; and then in
response to a signal from above, he seized and altered a couple of
handles, listened for a fresh order, and slackened the speed of the
engine; while Dick went back on deck, satisfied that there was an
abundant supply of hot water ready for the next action, and seeing that
the island was once more in sight.

A party of Malays were at the head, but they disappeared amidst the
trees as the steamer came steadily down stream, while now as they drew
nearer the sounds of smart firing could be heard, telling that an
engagement was in progress.  Smoke, too, was rising slowly above the
feathery palm-trees, but not in such dense volumes as that which could
still be seen spreading out like a cloud above the jungle, where the
prahu was burning.

A sharp series of orders followed, and every man stood at his post; for
boats could be seen going to and from the island, and it was plain
enough to the meanest comprehension on deck that if they meant to aid
the occupants of the fort they had come none too soon.



CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT.

PLEASANT DAYS AT THE FORT.

Matters seemed to grow worse from the moment that Adam Gray started off
on his mission to the steamer, and Captain Smithers' brows seemed to
have settled into a constant frown, for it was no light matter to be in
command of the little fort, right away from aid, and only with a limited
supply of provisions.  They might be made to last weeks or months; but
the end must come, and he saw no chance of help from outside, unless the
steamer went off to the nearest station in search thereof.

Then there was the constant worry upon his brain about the expedition
and its fate, for there could be no doubt about Ali's news; the force
had been divided by cunning, and, with such treacherous enemies, he felt
but little hope of seeing any of the party again.

Fortunately for him and the sharers of his imprisonment--for it was
little else--their minds were too much occupied by the defence of the
place to give them time to sit and brood over their troubles.  There was
always something to do, some weak part to strengthen; and Captain
Smithers longed for the help of the lieutenant with the steamer to guard
outside of the fort.

There was this to consider too--if Lieutenant Johnson could get the
"Startler" off the mud, and round to the other side by Dullah's hut and
the landing-place, if they were very hard pressed the fort could be
abandoned, and, with the women, they could take refuge on board.  Or
better still--though he felt reluctant to make such an arrangement--the
women could be got on board, and then the fort could be defended to the
last extremity.

In the course of those next hours while awaiting Gray's return, the
Malays made two or three sharp attacks, all of which were repelled; and
then, unable to assist, they waited, and listened to the engagement
going on upon the other side of the patch of jungle that clothed a part
of the island.  The heavy reports of the steamer's guns made the frames
of the lightly-built dwellings rattle, and the smoke could be seen
rising above the trees; but how the tide of war set it was impossible to
tell, and Captain Smithers, as he walked up and down, felt as if he
would have given anything for a trusty native spy who would have sought
out news of what was going on.

Failing this, and not daring to send out a second party, although Tom
Long volunteered to go, there was nothing for it but to wait, especially
as their besiegers had evidently been greatly augmented in numbers, and
one of the soldiers had but to show himself for a moment, to bring upon
himself a shower of bullets.

The suspense grew maddening, as the noise of the engagement between the
prahus and the "Startler" increased.  The yells of the Malays could be
plainly heard; then the reports of the heavy guns ceased; there was a
little rifle firing, the occasional crack of a revolver; and lastly came
the faintly-heard noise of men contending in deadly strife.

This lasted for a while, and the occupants of the fort mentally pictured
the scene going on, but they could not comprehend the strange shrieking
they heard as of men in terrible pain.

Captain Smithers' heart sank, and he glanced at Tom Long, in whose
countenance he read a confirmation of his fears; and on looking farther
he saw Mrs Major Sandars, with Rachel Linton and her cousin, watching
him attentively.

They read his face too as he turned away, and their dread also seemed
confirmed.

That ominous silence of the steamer's guns pointed to the fact that she
had been boarded by the Malays in too strong parties to be successfully
resisted, and a deep gloom sank upon all within the fort.

There was not a man present who would not willingly have gone to the
help of those on board the steamer; but not only were they hemmed-in,
but had they made a successful sally they had no means of reaching her.

Nothing could be done, then, but wait, in the hope that some on board
would escape and join them; and to this end a constant watch for
fugitives was kept up, a dozen men standing ready at the gate to rush
out and bring any stragglers in.

Just when they had descended to the greatest depths of misery, and Tom
Long was debating with himself as to whether he ought not to go to Miss
Linton and try to comfort her, telling her that so long as his arm could
wield a sword she might reckon herself to be perfectly safe, there was a
peculiar crashing sound, with a fresh burst of yells and cries.

The ladies shuddered, and longed to go in and be alone, but their
excitement was such that they felt obliged to stay out there in the
opening, risking many bullets, so as to be face to face with the worst.

Something terrible had happened they all knew, and at last the suspense
was so great that in the presence of the ladies Captain Smithers
exclaimed,--"Long, you will have to take a dozen men and learn the
worst!"

Tom Long glanced at Miss Linton, and for answer tightened his sword
belt, and then examined the chambers of his revolver.

"I'm ready, sir," he said, and he set his teeth, for he felt that he
should not come back alive.  Still he was a soldier, and he accepted his
duty without flinching, though it did need an effort to be calm.

Just then, as he was about to ask what men he should choose, all ears
being attentive to catch the faintest sound from beyond the
trees--_Boom--crash_! went a big gun report and the blow it struck,
coming almost simultaneously; and as in his excitement Tom Long sent his
cap high in air, there was another echoing report, with a familiar
beating and panting sound.

"The steamer's off!"  Tom Long cried.  "Hurrah!"

Discipline was forgotten for the moment, and every man shouted with
delight, his cheery "Hurrah!" the cheers being renewed directly after by
the following reports of the steamer's guns; and they knew by the beat
of the engines that she was going up stream, firing as she went,
evidently in pursuit of a prahu.

They had plenty of evidence directly after that the Malays had been
beaten, for hurrying parties kept coming from the far side of the island
where the engagement had taken place, and as Captain Smithers scanned
these with his glass, he could see that their slight garments were
soaking wet, baju and sarong clinging to their limbs, and showing that
they had had to swim ashore.

This was all proof of their having had a thorough beating; and now, with
the steamer no longer aground, but ready to come to their help, the
spirits of all rose at as rapid a rate as they had gone down.

But it was to be no time of rest for them.  Captain Smithers, to meet
the difficulty of there being no water to be obtained, save by going
under fire to the spring, or making a dash for the river, had been
giving orders for the sinking of a well in a corner of the fort, when
word was passed from sentry to sentry of the advance of the enemy.  Then
shots were fired, at first scattered, then rapidly; and it was at once
evident, that in revenge for their defeat afloat, the crews of some of
the prahus had joined those on the island in a general attack.

The earth-works were well-made, but they required more men to
successfully defend them, and after keeping the enemy at bay by a
well-directed fire for some time, Captain Smithers, seeing signs of an
approaching rush, and knowing well that this must result in severe loss
upon his own side, quietly began to draw his little force away from the
earth-works, till he had half in the barracks at the loopholes, from
which they began a steady fire over the heads of those at the earthen
wall, who, in their turn retired half at a time, the first half joining
those who had gone before.

Then as the Malays began to realise that the force at the earthen wall
was very weak, and showed signs of coming on to carry it by storm, the
defenders delivered a sharp volley and dropped out of sight, stooping
down and running across to the barracks' white walls.  On seeing that
they had given way, the Malays set up a loud cry of triumph, and dashed
forward, spear in hand, to occupy the deserted earth-works.  They were
met by a sharp fire from the barracks, which staggered them for the
moment, but they rushed on, and sheltered themselves in the ditch,
throwing a few spears at the hindmost of the retreating party; but
without effect, for the little garrison was soon shut in and able for
the time to defy their assailants.

It was evident, however, that they were not to be left in peace, for the
Malays now swarmed around them, and dozens might have been shot down;
but Captain Smithers gave orders that the fire should be reserved till
they attacked.

Just as they had finished the barricading of the entrance, a cloud of
smoke was seen rising from the side of the residency, and this was
followed by flames, leaving no doubt that the pleasant little house had
been fired by the Malays; and Captain Smithers frowned as he determined
to administer severe punishment to the enemy, if for this act alone.

Every opportunity was given him for the administration of the
chastisement, the Malays exposing themselves freely, running out of
shelter to fire, and then retreating again.  Sometimes a fierce
demonstration was made by spear-armed men, who came boldly up as if to
attack, but soon fell back unmolested, for Captain Smithers felt that no
end was to be obtained by simply shooting down a few of the enemy, and
his orders were to reserve fire till a fiercer attack was made.

This was not long in coming, and it was made quite unexpectedly, just
as, wearied out by his efforts, Captain Smithers had left Tom Long in
command, and, yielding to the prayers of the major's wife, had gone in
to the mess-room to partake of some refreshment that had been prepared.

He had hardly eaten a mouthful--after visiting first the wounded men, to
find them being tended by Rachel Linton and her cousin--before the
rattle of musketry and the yelling of the Malays told him that something
serious had occurred.

Catching up his sword, he rushed to where he had left Tom Long, and in a
few words he learned that from two points the Malays had suddenly
commenced their attack, which was now being carried on in so fierce a
manner that unless they received a sufficiently severe check to quell
their courage, they would force the defences, and overpower the little
garrison by sheer weight of numbers.

Fortunate it was that the defences had been so well strengthened, the
men firing from behind barricades roughly constructed of tables, the
mess forms, and bedding; but in spite of the heavy fire kept up and the
number that fell, the Malays dashed up, striving to clamber over, and
thrusting their spears through the openings in a way that kept the men
back, and nearly crushed the fire that had sputtered from the various
loopholes that had been left.

Affairs were growing very serious, for Captain Smithers, who had been
going from place to place, advising, cheering, and helping the men,
suddenly had his attention drawn to the fact that a large party of
Malays were bringing bundles of wood, branches of trees, and handfuls of
resin, which they were piling up against the barricaded door.

This he well knew meant fire, and the question arose how it was to be
stopped.

"They must never be allowed to light it, my lads, as our lives and those
of the ladies would not be worth five minutes' purchase.  Cease firing
on this side, and reserve your cartridges for any who come to fire the
pile."

The men responded with a grim smile, and stood waiting for the party
whose duty it would be to try and burn them out; and in this time of
mortal peril, when danger of so great a kind stared them in the face,
the men stood patiently awaiting their fate, seeming the while to repose
the greatest confidence in their captain, and standing ready to obey his
orders to the last.

It was a splendid example of what discipline and confidence could
effect.  The men felt that if their lives were to be saved, it would be
through carefully carrying out the wishes of their officers, and hence
no murmur was heard, each man's face wearing a grim look of
determination, that seemed to be intensified as Sergeant Lund came round
laden with cartridges, a packet of which he handed to each in turn.

"Some sergeants," he said, as he finished his task and stood rifle in
hand by the group whose duty it was to shoot down the bearers of the
dammar-torches that they felt sure would be used, "some sergeants would,
I dare say, be shaking hands with all their mates at a time like this,
and looking at things as all over; but I don't, my lads, for I've a sort
of faith in our luck turning up shiny side outwards; so cheer up, all of
you."

"All right, sergeant," was the reply.

"I wouldn't trust too much to luck though, my lads," he continued, "but
I'd squint straight along the barrel of my rifle when I fired.  You may
be very sorry for the Malay chap you shoot at, but I'd shoot him first
and be very sorry afterwards."

"Right, sergeant," said Private Sim, who had been fighting very manfully
all day; "they needn't come and be a-trying to burn us out unless they
like, need they?"

"No, Sim," replied the sergeant; "but they will, and it strikes me that
they'll be come before long, too.  Isn't that smoke in amongst those
bushes there?"

"Smoke it is," said one of the men, excitedly.

"Don't jump about like that, my lad, but keep cool, or you'll be wasting
your cartridges," said the sergeant.  "Where's the captain?  He was here
just now."

"Gone round the other side," said Sim.  "Here they come, sure enough.
Look; there's a dozen men with torches."

"All right, my lads," said the sergeant.  "I don't see that it matters
about the captain not being here; you know your duty."

"Yes, sergeant, to shoot down those men."

"No, no, my lads; what you've got to do is to put those torches out, and
the way to do it is with the bayonet.  Stand ready there to slip over
the breast-work, all of you, then a sharp run, and meet them as they
come, and then back again under cover."

As he spoke the smoke of the dammar-torches could be seen, and some ten
or twelve Malays came running across from the earth-works to set fire to
the pile.

There was not a man behind the breast-work whose breath did not come
thick and fast at the sight of the lights; for brave as they were, they
knew that once the building they defended caught fire, the dry,
sun-baked wood must flare away like so much paper; and there were women
shut in there with them, whom it was their duty to defend.

It was no wonder then that the men tightly grasped their bayonet-armed
rifles, and stood waiting for the command, that did not come.  For just
as it was upon the sergeant's lips a panting noise was heard, and as
every eye was directed up the river, the masts of the steamer were seen
coming along above the trees, and for the present the little garrison
felt that they were saved.



CHAPTER FORTY NINE.

HOW ALI WENT TO SPY OUT THE LAND.

A tremor of excitement seemed to run through the attacking party; men
hurried here and there; the bearers of the dammar-torches paused
irresolute, and it was evident to the besieged that contrary orders were
being given.

It was also evident to them that the danger signal they were flying was
plainly understood upon the steamer, for the noise of the engine had not
been heard a minute before there was the heavy report of one of the
guns, and almost simultaneously the crash of a shell, which burst over
the heads of the thronging Malays, about fifty yards in front of the
fort.

No one seemed to be injured, but this dire instrument of warfare caused
a complete scare amidst the attacking party: men running in all
directions, and then seeming to go over the same ground once again, as a
second shell burst with its harsh tearing metallic-sounding crack.

Again came the report of a gun, and the shell burst where the Malays
were thickest, sending them scurrying like wild rabbits to the nearest
cover, while the steamer now glided slowly down, closer and closer in
shore, till at last she covered the river-face of the fort like an
outwork, and a cheer rose from the little garrison, and was answered
from the "Startler" as the forces, so to speak, combined, ready to act
together for their mutual defence.

As the steamer was rapidly moored in her new position, men being sent
ashore with cables from head and stern to make fast to the great trees a
few yards from the bank, a rush at them was made by the Malays, but a
few well-directed shots from the marines' rifles were sufficient to keep
them at bay till the task was done; and the little garrison now joined
hands with the steamer's crew in clearing the space between them.

The first step taken by Captain Smithers was to regain possession of the
outworks--the portion he had given up from being so short of defenders.

This was accomplished without bloodshed; for upon the Malays gathering
in force to withstand his efforts, they were scattered by a shell from
the steamer, which cleared the way at once.  This being done, and a
meeting effected full of hearty congratulations, both soldiers and
sailors set to work, armed with spades, to throw up a trench from the
outworks of the fort to the river, the ditch being so arranged that it
took in for safety the trees to which the steamer was moored, and this
latter now became as it were the river-face of the fort.

Night had fallen long before the work was left, and this rendered it
necessary for a retreat to fort and steamer, for the hours intervening
till daybreak, when, no interruption having occurred, the digging was
resumed, every man toiling with his rifle at his side till the task was
done.

The next question was whether it would not be safer for all to take
possession of the steamer, even though the extra defences had been made.

Lieutenant Johnson argued that this would be the better plan, as then
they could at any time effect a retreat down the river, and make for
Singapore or Penang.

But Captain Smithers refused to listen to this proposal.

"No," he said, "it was quite open to the ladies to take up their abode
on board, and probably they would be more secure there than on shore;
but so far," he said, "all was surmise about the expeditionary party.
For all they knew, Captain Horton, Major Sandars, and their men, might
have met with the best of treatment, and at the end of a few days they
might return, to find the station abandoned by those left in charge."

"I only hope they may," said the lieutenant.  "For my part, I feel
certain that the whole of the people hereabouts are under the influence
of the rajah, sultan included.  But I will not oppose you, Captain
Smithers, until matters come to such an extremity that it seems to me
that we are uselessly risking life, then I must insist on an evacuation
of the fort."

"I will not oppose you then," said Captain Smithers; "but you see that
now it is as if I asked you to resign your ship."

Lieutenant Johnson nodded; and it having been resolved to hold out to
the last, hoping the while that the expedition might return, the next
proceeding seemed to be that of sending out a trustworthy spy or two,
into the country and amongst the people.

Both Bob Roberts and Tom Long were present at what the latter had
importantly called the council of war, but nothing definite was decided
upon; and, soon after, the two friends were sitting beneath the shade of
one of the trees, the Malays having withdrawn to a distance, and
hostilities being for the present suspended.

"I think," said Tom Long, importantly, "that the ladies are quite right
in declining to leave the fort.  They are much safer there."

Bob Roberts laughed, gazed in his companion's face, and laughed again
heartily; to the very great disgust of Tom Long.

"Yes," he said, gruffly, "I dare say it is very funny, and anybody can
laugh like a buffoon about such an arrangement; but how are they going
to be safe on board a vessel whose officers cannot keep her from running
aground."

"Well that's a facer, certainly," said Bob, rather warmly; "but if you
come to that, where would you have been if we hadn't come to your help--
burnt out by this time, with your precious fort."

"Bob Roberts," said Tom Long, solemnly, "or rather I suppose I ought to
say _Mr_ Roberts--you are about the most quarrelsome fellow I ever
met."

"You couldn't meet yourself," said Bob, "or you would run against one
ten times as quarrelsome."

"If you want to fall out," said the ensign, "you might do it in a
gentlemanly way."

"If you want me to punch your head, Tom Long, just say so," cried Bob,
hotly.

"I repeat my words," said Tom Long, with hauteur.  "If you wish to
quarrel, sir, you might do it in a gentlemanly manner."

"Gentlemanly be hanged!" cried Bob.  "There's nothing gentlemanly in
quarrelling or fighting."

"And refer the matter to friends," continued the young military officer.

Bob's face was red as that of a turkey-cock the moment before, but at
these words the anger seemed to pass away like a cloud from before the
sun, and he burst into a hearty fit of laughter.

"Oh!" he said, "that's what you mean is it?  Swords, or pistols, and
seconds, early in the morning, with a doctor on the ground.  Oh, I say,
Tom Long, this is too delicious."

"Sir!" exclaimed Tom Long.

"I say it's too delicious.  Duelling be hanged; it's fools' work; and
I'm not quite fool enough to let a friend make a hole, or try to make a
hole, in my precious carcase."

"Sir, none but a coward would speak as you are speaking," cried Tom
Long, indignantly.

"Oh, wouldn't he?" said Bob.  "Well, then, I suppose I'm a coward, for
hang me if we don't get running risks enough from these coffee-coloured
fellows, without trying it on among ourselves."

"I thought you more of a gentleman," said Tom Long, contemptuously.

"Oh, you did, did you?" said Bob; "and I'm a coward, am I?  Well, look
here, my lad, it's too hot now, but if you like to come on board
to-night, or to-morrow morning, and take off your jacket like a man,
I'll have it out with you in the gun-room, and old Dick to see fair, and
you can bring Private Gray or Sergeant Lund."

"What do you mean?" said Tom Long, haughtily; "swords or pistols, sir?"

"Do I mean swords or pistols, sir?" said Bob, imitating the other's
pompous way; "no, sir, I don't mean either.  I reserve those lethal
weapons, sir, for Her Majesty's enemies, sir, as an officer and a
gentleman should; and when I fall out with a friend, I punch his head
with my fist--like a man."

"Like a man!" said Tom Long, in tones of disgust; "like a schoolboy or a
blackguard."

"No, sir," said Bob, still mimicking his companion; "the schoolboy or
man who uses his fists is to my mind not half such a blackguard as the
_gentleman_ who tries to kill a fellow in cold blood, and calls it on
account of his honour."

"The old contemptible argument," said Tom Long, sneering.  "No one but a
coward would take refuge behind such excuses."

"Then I'm a coward!" said Bob, cocking his heels up on a chair, and
sticking his hands in his pockets.  "All right: I'm a coward; and as we
used to say at school, `give me the coward's blow,' and if you do, Tom
Long, you see if I don't punch your head."

Tom Long rose, and came at him menacingly, and Bob laughed in his face.
"I say, Long, old man," he said, "what a jolly pair of fools we are to
quarrel about nothing at all."

"I never want to quarrel," said Tom Long, stiffly, for the other's mirth
took him aback, "but when a fellow behaves like a coward--"

"In the face of the enemy," interposed Bob, "kick him out of the
service, military or naval, eh?  Look here, Tommy."

"For goodness' sake, sir, don't call me by that objectionably childish
name," cried the ensign.  "How should you like to be called Bobby?"

"Not much, old boy," said the middy; "but I don't much care.  Never
mind, shake hands.  No, don't.  Let's do it mentally.  Here's old Ali
coming, looking as black as a civilian's hat.  Hallo, Ali, old chap,
ain't you precious proud of your dear fellow-countrymen?"

"Poor fellows; poor fellows!" said Ali, sadly, as he looked from one to
the other.

"Poor fellows!" said Long.

"They're a jolly set of sharks, with stings in their tails, that's what
they are," said Bob.

"The poor fellows have been crushed down by cruel governments, and made
the slaves of piratical rajahs and cowardly sultans," cried Ali,
indignantly.  "They are a brave set of fellows, and they are only
fighting against you because they are set on by their leaders."

"Then all I can say is," said Bob, "that I should like to have a pop at
their leaders.  But cheer up, old chap, you needn't look so
down-hearted."

"Not look down-hearted," cried Ali, passionately, "how can I look
otherwise?  Where is my father?  Where are our friends?  What is my
position here?  Do you think it gives me pleasure to see the poor brave
men who are fighting against you shot down by your guns?  It makes me
wretched."

"Well, never mind," cried Bob, kindly, as he rose and clapped the young
chief on the shoulder.  "It will all come right in the end."

"I hope so," said Ali; "but tell me, what have you decided to do?"

"Well, that's announcing the secrets of the council of war," said Bob.
"Shall I tell him, Long?"

"Oh, yes, we can trust him," replied the ensign.  "We are going to stay
and fight it out."

"Of course, of course," said Ali, nodding.  "You could not give up.  You
must not give up."

"But we want to get some news of the expedition party, by sending a
trustworthy spy," said Bob.  "Can you get us a man whom you can trust?"

Ali stood thinking for a few moments, and then shook his head sadly.

"They would all say the risk is too great.  They would lose their lives
if discovered."

"Then what is to be done?" cried Bob.

Ali stood thinking for a few moments in silence, and then he looked
frankly from one to the other.

"I will go myself," he said.

The two young men stared at him.

"You?" they exclaimed in one breath.  "Why, just now you said the risk
was too great."

"That the men would lose their lives!" cried Bob Roberts.

"If they were discovered!" exclaimed Tom Long.

"Yes," said Ali, quietly, and he smiled back in their astonished faces.

"And yet you would run that risk?" said Bob Roberts.

"Yes: why not?"

"But for us?"

"Is one's life to be devoted to oneself?" said Ali calmly.  "I am not as
you are.  You are Christians.  I am a follower of the prophet.  We call
you dogs and giaours.  You look upon us with contempt.  But men are but
men, the whole world over, and it seems to me that one's life cannot be
better spent than in trying to do good to one's friends."

"But," said Tom Long, "you would be fighting against your friends, the
Malays."

"No," said Ali, mournfully.  "I should be fighting for them in doing
anything that would free them from the rule of idle sensualists and
pirates."

"I tell you what," cried Bob Roberts, enthusiastically, "we'll whop old
Hamet and Rajah Gantang out of their skins, and you shall be sultan
instead, or your father first and you afterwards."

Ali's eyes flashed as he turned them upon the speaker.

"You could be chief banjo, you know," said Bob.

"Chief--banjo?" said Ali, wonderingly.

"No, no; I mean gong--Tumongong," cried Bob.

"Oh, yes," said Ali, smiling.  "But no, no: that is a dream.  Let us be
serious.  One of your people could not go, it would be impossible; but I
am a Malay, and if I dress myself as a common man--a slave--I could
follow where the hunting-party went, and find out all you want to know."

"No, no," cried Bob, earnestly, "I should not like that."

"Like what, Mr Roberts?" said a voice that made them start; and turning
sharply, they saw Captain Smithers standing by them, with Lieutenant
Johnson.

"Mr Ali here wants to dress up as a common Malay, sir, and go as a spy
to get news of the hunting-party."

"It would be excellent," cried the lieutenant.  "Mr Ali, you would
confer a lasting favour upon us."

"But have you thought of the risk?" said Captain Smithers.

"I have thought of everything," said the young man, quietly.

They all sat down together under the shade of the great tree where they
were, and the matter was talked over, it being decided that from time to
time Ali was to send messengers with news of his progress, if he could
find any trustworthy enough; and all being arranged, he left them, to
make preparations for his departure, shaking hands warmly with all, and
then going towards the barracks, but only to return directly.

"As you may suppose," he said, "my success depends upon my not being
apparently known to you; so if a strange Malay is seen leaving your
lines, don't let him be fired at."

"Of course not: I see," exclaimed Captain Smithers.  "But shall we see
you again?"

"Not to speak to," replied Ali, smiling; and as soon as he had gone,
Captain Smithers walked across the ground to give orders about a strange
Malay being allowed to leave.

Lieutenant Johnson returned on board the steamer with Bob Roberts; and
Tom Long, after seating himself comfortably in one chair with his legs
in another, went off fast asleep.

Half an hour after, when all was very still in the burning heat of the
sun, when not a breath of air rippled the river or rustled through the
trees; when Englishman and Malay were resting, and the very sentries had
hard work to keep from going to sleep at their posts, there was a soft
rustling noise in the tree beneath which Tom Long was sleeping; and
after this had been repeated several times a lithe Malay softly
descended till he was within six or eight feet of the ground, when he
slipped and fell, but regained his feet instantly, as Tom Long started
into wakefulness and clapped his hand to his sword, upon seeing the
strange Malay just before him.

The Malay, however, raised one hand deprecatingly, and smiled a very
significant smile as he turned to go.

"Here, stop! surrender!  Why--Oh!  I say, Ali; that's capital," he said,
as the Malay still smiled at him.  "You quite took me in."

The Malay smiled and nodded, and walked straight off to where a sentry
was watching them both; and the man, seeing the Malay come straight from
his officer, made way, saluted, and the dark figure passed from the
fortified lines and walked away towards where the enemy lay amongst the
trees.

"That's a brave thing to do," muttered Tom Long, and resuming his seat
he took another sleep, and was awakened the next time by Captain
Smithers laying his hand upon his shoulder.

"Ali has gone," he said.

"Yes, I know," said Tom Long.  "He quite took me in.  It was a splendid
disguise."

"Capital!" said Captain Smithers.  "The very sentries were puzzled."

"Yes, of course they would be," replied Tom Long; and the captain walked
away.

"The sentries must have been puzzled before he came to me," said Tom
Long to himself.  "That man yonder, though, seemed to take it as a
matter of course.  I shall be very glad, though, when all this hiding
and dodging is over, and the hunting-party are back, for I am not going
to believe that they are in danger after all."

And yet Tom Long did believe it, and was as uneasy as the rest; but it
was his way of trying to put a good face upon matters.



CHAPTER FIFTY.

HOW BOB FISHED FOR MISS LINTON.

To the surprise and gratification of the English party, the
jungle-station remained unmolested for the next two days, giving them
ample time to make such little additions to the defences as the officers
thought needful.  The coming of the steamer gave the occupants of the
fort command of the water and a way of retreat in case of extremities;
moreover, they had the chance of sharing the ship's provisions.  So that
with the knowledge of their power of resistance a feeling of confidence
began to exist, especially as it was evident that the Malays had been
taught the danger of molesting the little party.

The enemy came and went from the island in large numbers, but kept
entirely aloof, making no attempt to communicate; while their strange
silence excited suspicion in Captain Smithers' mind that some plot was
hatching.

The lieutenant joined him in thinking that there was cause for
suspicion, and more stringent watch was kept.

Old Dick regretted keenly that for reasons of economy the furnace fires
could not be kept up, for he argued still that plenty of hot water was
all that was needed to keep them safe.  He had, however, to be content
with the ordinary precautions, promising himself the extraordinary as
soon as the fires were lit.

The ladies had full occupation in tending the wounded, an occupation
which saved them from much thinking; for there were no tidings of the
party, and now that so long a time had elapsed it became evident that
their worst fears would be realised.

In fact the officers began to debate whether the hour had not arrived
when they ought to retreat; but the idea was set aside, and once more
they determined to hold the station till help should come, since for the
steamer to go in search of help was to condemn the little garrison of
the fort to destruction.

And now as the hours slowly crept by, with the heat and inaction growing
more and more difficult to bear, every thought was directed to the envoy
they had sent out, and they waited anxiously for Ali's return, or for
some messenger with tidings at his hands.

Though the Malays refrained from attack so long as the occupants of the
station kept within their lines, any attempt at quitting the fort at
once drew fire.  Consequently the supplies within had to suffice, and
middy and ensign thought gloomily of the past, when sampans brought
daily an abundance of delicious fruit, when flowers were abundant, and
fish in plenty was supplied.

Now it was bread or biscuit, and preserved meat either salt or tinned,
and preserved vegetables, and so much soup that Bob Roberts said a man
might just as well be living in a workhouse.

That evening he made up his mind to try for some fish, and aided and
abetted by Dick, a line was rigged up, and payed out over the steamer's
stern, the stream carrying down the baited hook, but only into a place
where there was no likelihood of a fish being caught.  So another line
was attached, and another, and another--long sea-lines each of them,
till Bob Roberts sat fishing with the end of a line in his hand and his
bait about a quarter of a mile down the stream.

To his great delight he found the plan to answer, for before long he
felt a tug, and drew in a good-sized fish.  This done, he rebaited, and
tried again, sometimes catching, sometimes losing, a couple dropping off
the hook just as they were raised up level with the deck.

It was about an hour before sunset that Bob Roberts set Dick to work
winding up the lines on the reels to dry, and then, having placed the
brilliantly scaled fish in the basket, he obtained leave from the
lieutenant, who looked longingly at the catch, and involuntarily made
the noise with his lips customary with some people at the sight of
anything nice.

"What are you going to do with those, Roberts?" he said.

"Take them to the ladies, sir."

"Ah! yes: of course, the ladies first.  We ought to study the ladies.
But do you know, Roberts, I'm not a ladies' man, and I feel an intense
desire to have one of those fish--broiled."

"Yes, sir, of course; but I'll come back and catch some more."

"Yes, do," said Lieutenant Johnson, gazing longingly at the fish.
"There," he cried hastily; "for goodness' sake be off with them,
Roberts, or I shall impound the lot and hand them over to the cook.  You
ought not to put such temptations in a weak man's way."

"All right, sir," said Bob, and he hurried over the side and made for
the barracks, where, to his great delight, he met Rachel Linton, looking
very pale and ill, coming away from the temporary hospital with her
cousin.

"I've brought you some fish, Miss Linton," he said.  "I thought they
would be welcome just now, as there are no fresh provisions."

"Doubly welcome, Mr Roberts," cried Miss Linton, with her face lighting
up.  "Oh!  Mary, I am glad.  Mr Roberts, I can never thank you enough."

Bob felt rather disgusted that the idol he had worshipped should be so
fond of the good things of this life.

"I have been longing for fresh fish, and fruit, and flowers, so, Mr
Roberts," she continued.  "You cannot get me any fruit or flowers, I
suppose?"

"I could go and try for some," said Bob, rather glumly, "but you mustn't
be surprised if I don't come back."

"Oh, no, no; you must not run any risks," cried Rachel Linton.  "That
would be madness, but I'd give anything for some fruit now."

"She'd better think about her father," thought Bob, "instead of eating
and drinking."

"Those poor wounded fellows do suffer so for want of change; but this
fish will be delicious.  Poor Parker will eat some, I know.  If you can
get any fruit for my hospital people, pray do so, Mr Roberts."

"That I will, Miss Linton," he cried joyously.

"And you'll catch me some more fish for the poor fellows?"

"Are you going to give all these to the wounded men, Miss Linton?" he
said.

"Yes; of course," she replied.

"Why she's an angel," thought Bob to himself, "and I was giving her the
credit of being a regular pig."

"Messenger?  For me?" exclaimed Captain Smithers, rising up as a soldier
advanced.

"Yes sir; it's a Malay, and he says he has been sent by the young chief,
Ali."



CHAPTER FIFTY ONE.

DEALINGS WITH THE DEEP.

There was no little excitement at this announcement, and Captain
Smithers sent at once for Lieutenant Johnson from the steamer, while a
file of soldiers went for the messenger who had asked for admission.

The ladies were too much interested to think of leaving, so Mary
Sinclair ran to fetch Mrs Major Sandars, and returned with her to see
that a rough-looking Malay had been brought up to the group she had
left.

Captain Smithers waited a few moments, to allow of the coming of the
lieutenant; and meanwhile they all gazed at the Malay, a wild,
half-naked fellow, whose scraps of clothing were torn by contact with
thorns, and being soaked with water clung to his copper-coloured skin.

He was scratched and bleeding, and gazed sharply round from one to the
other in a strange wild-eyed way, as if feeling that he was not safe.

Just then the lieutenant came hurrying up, and the Malay, evidently
supposing him to be the officer he sought, began to unfasten a knot in
his sarong, from which he took a short piece of bamboo about the size of
a man's finger.  One end of this was plugged with a piece of pith, and
this he drew out, and then from inside, neatly rolled up and quite dry,
a little piece of paper.

"You Cap-tain Smit-ter?" said the Malay.

"No, my man, that is the captain," said the lieutenant, pointing.
"Cap-tain Smit-ter.  Ali Rajah send," said the man, holding out the
paper.

"Did Ali send us this?" said the captain, eagerly.

"Cap-tain Smit-ter, Ali Rajah send," said the man again.

"Where did you leave him?" said the captain.

"Cap-tain Smit-ter, Ali Rajah send," repeated the man, parrot fashion,
showing plainly enough that he had been trained to use these words and
no more.

Captain Smithers unrolled the scrap of native paper to find written
thereon,--

"Found the party.  Fighting for life in a stockade.  Send help in
steamer up right river.--Ali."

"Have you come straight from him?" exclaimed the captain, eagerly.

"Cap-tain Smit-ter, Ali Rajah send," said the man again.

"Where is Wilson?" cried the captain, "or Gray?  Ah, you are here, Gray.
You have made some progress with the Malay tongue.  See what this man
knows."

Private Gray came forward, and by degrees, and with no little
difficulty, learned from the Malay that the English party were in an old
stockade upon a branch of the river, forty miles away, defending
themselves against a strong body of the sultan's forces.

"Ask if they are well," said the captain.

"He says there are many ill, and many wounded, and that they have buried
many under the palm-trees," said Gray, in a low sad voice, "and that
when the young chief, Ali, came upon them, they were at the last
extremity from weakness and hunger."

Rachel Linton uttered a low wail, but on Mrs Major Sandars passing an
arm round her, she made an effort and mastered her emotion, fixing her
eyes on Adam Gray as, in a low, deep voice he continued the narrative
after, at Captain Smithers' wish, again questioning the Malay.

"He says that after giving him the message to bear, the young chief,
Ali, left him, saying that he was about to try and join the party in the
old stockade, and fight with them to the end!"

There was a mournful silence at this, and for a few moments no one
spoke.  Then Captain Smithers leaned towards Lieutenant Johnson.

"Have you any questions to put?" he said.

"Yes," replied the lieutenant, and he turned round to their interpreter.

"Tell me, Gray, what is your opinion of the messenger?"

"At first, sir, I thought him genuine; but since then, there is
something in his manner that makes me doubt the truth of his tale."

"And yet it seems feasible?"

"Yes, sir, it does; and I confess I have little cause for doubting him;
but still I do."

Lieutenant Johnson turned to Captain Smithers, and they went aside for a
few minutes talking earnestly together, while all present watched
eagerly for the next scene in the drama they were passing through.

"Gray," said Captain Smithers then, sharply, "ask the messenger if he
knows where the old stockade is."

"He says _yes_, sir, perfectly well."

"Ask him if he will guide the steamer there."

"Yes!" was the reply, "if the English officers would protect him from
his people, and not let him be seen."

"Tell him," said Captain Smithers, "that if he is faithful he will be
handsomely paid; if he is treacherous, he will be hung to the yard-arm
of the steamer, and his body thrown to the crocodiles."

Gray interpreted this to the Malay, who smiled, uncovered the hilt of
his kris, drew it, took it by the blade, and knelt down before the
officers, placing the point upright on the left shoulder close to his
neck, then reaching out with his right hand, he motioned to Captain
Smithers to strike the weapon down into his breast.

"He says his life is yours, sir, and bids you kill him if he does not
lead you to the stockade."

"One more question," said Lieutenant Johnson.  "Ask him if there is
water enough up the right river?"

Gray questioned the Malay, who nodded eagerly and then shook his head.

"He says there is plenty of water, for the river is narrow and very
deep, all but in one place, about a mile from the stockade, and of that
he is not sure, he will not pledge himself to its being sufficiently
deep; but all Rajah Gantang's prahus have gone up and down in safety."

"That will do," said the lieutenant.

"Yes," said Captain Smithers, "take him aside, give him some food, and
guard him well."

It fell to the lot of Adam Gray to take charge of the Malay who ate
voraciously of what was placed before him, and then smiling his
satisfaction he prepared himself a piece of betel-nut, and lying down in
the shade went off fast asleep, evidently wearied out.

Meanwhile a short consultation was held, during which it was settled
that at any risk the steamer must go to the assistance of the
beleaguered party, Captain Smithers being on the alert to retire into
the barracks when it became necessary.

This place he would have to hold with stubborn determination, knowing
that the steamer could not be long away, and that Lieutenant Johnson was
going with the knowledge that those he left behind were in need of help.

The fires were lit on the instant, and every effort made to get the
steam up, but all was done as quietly as possible, so as not to take the
attention of the Malays, and about ten o'clock all was ready for the
start, when Adam Gray went and roused up the Malay.

The man rose, shook himself, and then accompanied his guide without a
word, climbing the side of the steamer, where everything was ready; the
cables were cast loose, and at half-steam the great vessel moved softly
up the river by the light of the stars, which just made their way
visible.

As far as they could see, the alarm of the departure had not been
spread; and the steamer glided away so softly, and with so little noise,
that there was the chance of her escaping the notice of the Malays, who
might not find out their departure until morning.

This would delay any attack that might be made for many hours; but all
the same, Captain Smithers felt it better to at once evacuate the outer
works, and two hours after the steamer had glided away, almost invisible
to those who saw her go, the outer works were lying unguarded, and the
whole of the force safely barricaded in the stronghold, with every
sentry on the alert.

Everything had been done in the quietest manner.  There was neither
noise nor loud order; the men caught the lightest whisper; and there was
something weird and strange-looking in the silent figures moving here
and there; but nothing like so weird of aspect as about a couple of
dozen dark shadows that were creeping over the ground taking advantage
of every bush or inequality of the ground to cover their movements till
they reached the deserted earth-works, and crouched there exultingly.

An hour later the sky was overclouded; and in the darkness the Malays
came crowding up by hundreds, evidently ready for an assault, while most
ominous of all was the fact that numbers of them bore bundles of light
wood, and some lumps of dammar ready to continue the task they had had
to give up, consequent upon the steamer's return.



CHAPTER FIFTY TWO.

HOW THE STEAMER WENT UP THE RIGHT ARM OF THE RIVER.

A night journey on a river, when the stars give but little light, and
the banks are dense jungle overhanging the water's edge, is one of no
little difficulty.  Certainly the crew of the steamer had upon their
side the fact, that the stream, though swift, was deep, and its bottom
mud.  There were no rocks and cataracts to encounter in its lower
course; and even if they did run aground, there was but little risk to
the vessel.  But all the same the most constant watchfulness was needed,
and Lieutenant Johnson himself joined the look-out at the bows,
communicating by a chain of his men with the engine-room and man at the
wheel.

For some distance after leaving the island they proceeded very slowly,
little more than mastering the stream; but as soon as they felt that
they were beyond hearing the speed was increased, and for some miles--
through which the course of the river was well-known--the "Startler"
proceeded at a pretty good rate, so that by morning half the journey was
accomplished, and they were abreast of the stockade they had attacked
and destroyed.

About a couple of miles past this the course of the right river opened
out, one that a navigator strange to the river would have hesitated to
take, for it was narrow at the mouth, overgrown with trees, and seemed
to form a chain of lakes, that were one blaze of colour with the blossom
of the lotus.

On the other hand, what seemed the regular course of the river ran broad
and clear, and apparently without obstruction of any kind.

The Malay, who was leaning over the bulwark with his mouth distended
with betel, pointed one brown arm towards the narrow branch, and the
steamer's engines were slackened and nearly stopped while a boat was
lowered, and the crew rowed some little distance along the winding,
sluggish stream, sounding every few yards, to find the river extremely
deep with muddy bottom; and as it seemed to wind right on precisely the
same in character, they returned and reported the result to the
lieutenant, who at once gave orders, and the steamer entered the narrow,
winding way.

To all appearance they might have been the first visitors to those
regions, so haunted was the strangely beautiful scene by wild creatures.
Birds in abundance fled at their approach.  Now it was a white eagle,
then a vividly plumaged kingfisher, or a kind of black, racket-tailed
daw with glossy plumage.  Parrots of a diminutive size and dazzling
green plumage flitted before them; and from time to time the lotus
leaves were agitated by a shoal of fish, that alarmed by the wash of the
steamer rushed away.

Every now and then, too, Bob Roberts, who was feasting on what passed
like a glorious panorama before him, had his adventure with Ali in the
shooting-trip brought vividly to mind, for some huge reptile or another
shuffled into the slow stream, while others lay sluggishly basking, and
ill-disposed to move.

Their progress was slow, for the screw-propeller was more than once
fouled by the thick weed, through which they ploughed their way.  So
dense was it that at times it gathered in large cables, stretching from
bank to bank, and literally barring further progress, till the steamer
was backed and driven at full speed against the obstruction, which
divided and swept off in hillocks to starboard and to port.

Then a more open stretch of water would be gained, widening quite into a
lake, and framed in glorious tropical verdure; large pools would be
quite free from vegetable growth, and so clear that the bright scales of
the fish could be seen flashing far below.  Then the river seemed to
wind its way through dense growths of lily and other water plants,
amidst which water-fowl in endless numbers disported themselves, but
fled away at the sight of the steamer, panting onward through this
wilderness of beauty.

For in spite of the anxiety felt by all, and their eagerness to reach
the spot where their friends were in peril, it was impossible to help
gazing with wonder and admiration at the loveliness of all around.
Where the stream narrowed, the great trees growing to the water's edge
formed huge walls of verdure, in parts a hundred--two hundred feet high;
and over and amidst these wreathed and twined the beautiful creepers,
filling up every gap with leaves of the most delicious, tender green.
Then a tree would be passed one mass of white and tinted blossoms,
another of scarlet, and again another of rich crimson, while in every
damp, sun-flecked opening wondrous orchids could be seen carpeting the
earth with their strange forms and glowing colours.  Pitcher-plants too,
some of huge size, dotted the ground every here and there where the
steamer passed close to the shore--so close at times that the ends of
the yards brushed the trees; and yet the vessel took no harm, for the
deep water ran in places to the banks, and though often half covered
with weedy growth, the river was canal-like in its deeper parts, where
the sluggish stream steadily flowed along to join its more rapid brother
miles below.

For some time now Lieutenant Johnson had been bitterly regretting that
he had not insisted upon bringing Private Gray, so as to have an
interpreter, for his own knowledge of the Malay tongue was almost _nil_.
And yet he was obliged to own that it would have been unjust to rob
them at the station of part of their strength, when at any moment they
might want it all.

Bob Roberts was the better Malay scholar of the two, but his vocabulary
only extended to asking for a durian, Good morning!  How are you? and
the favourite Malay proverbial saying,--"_Apa boleh booat_"--It was to
be, or It couldn't be helped.

They had been progressing now for hours, and the heat was insufferable--
a heavy, moist heat, in that narrow way, shut in between two walls of
verdure, and yet there seemed to be no signs of their journey being
nearly ended.  Under the circumstances Bob Roberts was set to try and
get some information out of their guide, whom he tried with "Good
morning," in the Malay tongue; and then, after a civil answer to his
remark, plunged at once into plain English with,--

"How much farther is it?"

The Malay looked hard in his eyes, and Bob repeated the question.

The Malay seemed to divine what he meant, for he raised one bare brown
arm and pointed forward along the course of the river.

It was a mute but conclusive reply, telling the middy plainly enough
that they had farther to go, and once more the attention of all was
taken up by the navigation of the narrow winding channel.

Still there was no fault to be found with Ali's message, for the water
was deep, and though the steamer seemed at times to be running right
into the bank, there was always room to turn what looked to be an ugly
curve, and onward they went through the dense jungle.

On either side the primeval forest seemed to stretch away, and where
there were changes of a more park-like character, so rare was the sight
of a human being there that the shy pea-fowl, all metallic plumage and
glorious eyes, could be seen gazing at the steamer before taking flight.
There were deer too seen occasionally, and had this been a
pleasure-trip the sportsman would have had ample use for rifle or gun.

But this was no pleasure-trip, for the deck was cleared for action, and
the men were at their quarters, ready to send shot or shell hurtling
through the jungle whenever there should be a reason for such a step.

Another hour, and another, and still the Malay guide pointed before him,
gesticulating a little sometimes, as if bidding them hasten onwards.

The speed was increased at such times, though it was risky, for the
narrowness of the course, and the size of the steamer, rendered the
greatest care necessary to avoid running her bows in among the trees.

Lieutenant Johnson stamped impatiently at last as the sun was descending
behind the trees, and still the Malay pointed onwards.

"It is enough to make one think it a wild goose chase!" he exclaimed.
"We have made a grievous mistake in not having an interpreter.  Roberts,
you ought to be able to speak the Malay tongue."

"Yes, sir," said Bob, "I ought!"  And then to himself, "So ought you!"

Another hour and they were passing through a denser part than ever; so
close were they that the large drooping boughs of some of the trees
cracked and rustled and snapped as they passed by, to get to what seemed
to be quite a lagoon shining clear and silvery, as seen by those on
board the steamer through quite a tunnel of overhanging branches.

"We ought to be able to hear firing by this time if it is going on at
the stockade," said the lieutenant.  "What a place to bring Her
Majesty's ship into!  If I did not know that those poor fellows were
anxiously expecting help, not a fathom further would I take the steamer
than into yon open water to-night!  Here! fetch that Malay fellow here,
and let's see if we cannot get something out of him!"

Bob Roberts went forward to where the Malay stood, leaning over the
bulwarks gazing at the trees on either side--at least he went to where
the Malay did stand gazing at the trees, but now to Bob's astonishment
the man was not there!

"Where's the Malay guide?" he said sharply to Dick, who was nearest to
him.

"Well, sir, if you call that there chap a guide," said Dick, "I've
done."

"I say where's the Malay guide?" said Bob, angrily.

"Haven't seen him, sir," said Dick, touching his cap.

"But he was standing here not ten minutes ago, just before we brushed
against those trees!" exclaimed the young officer.

"Well yes, sir, I remember as he was," said old Dick, and several of the
sailors were ready to affirm that they saw him not five minutes before.

A look round the deck showed that he was not there, and Bob stood
looking puzzled; for the man had evidently looked upon himself almost as
a prisoner, and not free to go about; he had consequently stood leaning
against the port bulwark all the time, except when he had squatted on
the deck to partake of the food supplied to him.

"Couldn't have been knocked overboard by the boughs, could he, sir?"
said Dick.

"Impossible!" exclaimed the middy; and he hurried off to report the fact
that the Malay was missing.

"Are you sure?" exclaimed the lieutenant sharply.

"Certain, sir!  He's nowhere on deck!"

"I thought as much!" cried the lieutenant angrily.  "Good heavens,
Roberts! that we could have been such idiots!  Gray was right!"

"I do not understand you, sir."

"Understand?  It's plain enough!  That man, Private Gray, said he
suspected the fellow, and yet we allowed him to gull us with his
plausible story.  Here, look sharp there!" he cried, as the steamer
stood out now free of the tunnel-like canal, through which she had
passed, and was now approaching the centre of a tolerably broad lagoon.

The lieutenant gave his command in short, sharp, decisive tones, and a
minute later a little anchor fell with a splash into the water, and the
steamer swung in the just perceptible stream.

"I dare not attempt the journey back to-night, Roberts," he said.  "We
should be aground in the thick darkness before we had gone a mile."

"But won't you go forward, sir?  We must be near the stockade!"
exclaimed Bob.

"If we go on till the river becomes a ditch, we shall find no stockade
here, Roberts!" cried the lieutenant.  "Why should there be one?  There
is neither campong nor sampan upon the river, and it is evident that
there is no trade.  No, Roberts, we have been tricked--cheated, and we
must get back at full speed as soon as day begins to break.  I have been
uncomfortable for hours now, as I felt that our poor friends could never
have come through such a forest as this.  It is only passable for
beasts!"

"But the Malay and his message?"

"The Malay is as great a cheat as the old fruit-seller; and that message
was never written by young Ali, unless he, too, is an enemy!"

"My life upon it, he is not," cried Bob.

"Then either he has been killed, or our plans were overheard, or
betrayed, or something or another!  That fellow--I see it all now it is
too late--has quietly led us up here, awaiting his chance, and it came
when those big boughs swept the side.  He swung himself into one of the
trees, and is by this time on his way back to his friends."

"But the jungle is not passable!" said Bob.

"Then he will make a bamboo raft and get down the river.  Oh, that we
could be such fools!"

Bob Roberts stood in the gathering darkness staring at his superior
officer, and trying hard to believe that the Malay might have been swept
over by accident; but by degrees he felt his mind veering round to the
lieutenant's ideas.

The next minute orders were being given respecting the watch on deck,
every light was extinguished, and extra care taken lest they should have
been led into a trap and attempts be made to board the steamer during
the night.  But as the hours glided on, all they heard was the distant
roar of some beast of prey, or an occasional splash in the water--sounds
that had a strange attraction for Bob Roberts, as, with no thought of
going to his cot, he leaned against the bulwark watching the fire-flies
amid the trees, and mournfully wondered how they were getting on at the
station, and what had become of Ali, shuddering again and again as the
lieutenant's ominous words recurred to his mind.



CHAPTER FIFTY THREE.

PRIVATE SIM IS VERY WIDE AWAKE.

Lieutenant Johnson had said that in all probability Ali had been killed,
this being of course his surmise, for he had no real reason for such an
assertion.  He was quite right, though, about having been tricked, for
one of Rajah Gantang's cleverest spies after hearing from his
hiding-place the plans that had been made, assumed the part of Ali in
disguise, and passed unchallenged by the sentries to go straight to the
rajah and plan with him a way to divide the forces by sending the
steamer upon a false scent.

This had been done, with the success that has been seen.  But though the
little garrison was awakened to a sense of its danger, very soon after
the steamer had taken its departure, it did not realise the fact that
they had all been deceived.

All the requisite precautions had been taken, and saving the guard, the
little garrison had lain down to sleep, according to Captain Smithers'
instructions, for he had addressed them before they were dismissed.

"There may be no danger," he had said, "but we must be on the alert, so
let every man lie down in his clothes, with his arms close at hand.
Sergeant Lund, see that the men's pouches are supplied with cartridges.
To-morrow, my lads, I hope to see the steamer back, with our rescued
friends!"

The men gave a cheer and departed.  The guard was relieved, and Captain
Smithers stood talking to Tom Long.

"My dear lad," said the former, "there is not the slightest need for any
such proceeding.  Go and lie down.  I shall visit the sentries for the
first half of the night, and I will call you about three."

"I don't feel much disposed for sleep," said Tom Long, who looked
uneasy.

"You are not well.  The heat has overdone you a little.  You go and have
a good sleep," said the captain.  "To-morrow I hope we shall have the
doctor back among us to set us right."

"I hope so, too," said Tom Long, gloomily; and going to his quarters he
lay down, with his sword and revolver beside him, ready for use.

Adam Gray was off duty, and he, too, had gone to lie down.  But he could
not sleep, neither did he wish to do anything else but lie there and
think about Rachel Linton, and how pale and unhappy she appeared.  He
longed to speak words of comfort to her, and to say others as well; but
he dared not, for his position forbade it.  Still he could not help
feeling that she did not look unkindly upon him, nor seem to consider
him to be one of the ordinary soldiers.

He sighed as he thought of other days, and then lay listening to the
humming noise made by the mosquitoes--wondered whether Rachel Linton was
asleep or awake--whether, if she was awake, she was thinking of him.

Then he drove away the thoughts with an angry exclamation, and
determined to think about her no more.  But as he turned his face to the
open window, and listened to the faint hum of the night insects, Rachel
Linton's face came back, and he was thinking of her again, and this time
in connection with Captain Smithers.

He knew the captain loved her, and instinctively hated him--Private
Gray.  He felt, too, that by some means or another the captain knew of,
and hated him for, his presumptuous love; the more so that Rachel Linton
did not seem to care in the slightest degree for the captain's advances,
but rather avoided him.

Private Gray turned again and again, but he could not lie there any
longer for the uneasy feeling that tormented him.

The men in the long room slept easily enough, but he could not, and he
told himself that he might just as well get up and go and watch with one
of the sentries, for then he would be doing something towards protecting
the station.

He rose then softly, and fastening on his belt with the bayonet
attached, he went cautiously out into the night air, to see that though
the stars twinkled brightly, the night was very dark.  All was perfectly
still, and as he went cautiously round, every man seemed to be on the
watch, when suddenly a thought struck him which sent a cold shiver
through his breast.

He was standing just beneath the window of the officers' quarters, where
he knew that Rachel Linton and her cousin would be sleeping, and the
sentry nearest, the man who should be on the keenest watch, was, if he
was not mistaken, Private Sim.

He could not make out for certain from where he stood, but he felt
almost certain that this was the case, and that Sim was occupying the
most important outpost of the little fort.

With his heart beating wildly he crept back to the place where the men
lay asleep, and going on tiptoe from one to the other, he satisfied
himself by the dim light of the lamp swinging from the roof that Private
Sim was not there.

"It was utter madness," he muttered to himself.  "Lund should have
known," and in his excitement he recalled to mind the night when he had
found him asleep.

He remembered, too, what a fearful night that was, and he felt that this
might prove to be just as dangerous, as he hurried back, catching up his
rifle and pouch as he went, and then going quietly along to where
Private Sim was stationed.

It was undoubtedly the weakest spot about the fort, and in place of one
untrustworthy man, two of the most trusty should have been stationed
there.  By some error of judgment, however, this was not done, and
Private Sim held the lives of all in the little fort within his hand.

Gray thought that after all he might be misjudging him, and therefore he
went on cautiously, listening as he stopped from time to time, and
expecting to be challenged; but there was no sound to be heard, and as
Gray went closer it seemed to him as if no sentry had been placed there.
But as he went nearer there was no error of judgment upon his part.  It
was as he suspected.  Private Sim was seated on the ground, his rifle
across his lap, fast asleep, and quite oblivious of the fact that his
messmate stood close beside him, panting with rage and disgust.

"You scoundrel!" he cried in a low, passionate voice.  "Do you not know
that the punishment may be death for sleeping at a time like this?"

As he spoke he struck the sleeper heavily upon the head with the butt of
his rifle, and Sim started up and grappled with him, just as a dozen
Malays sprang out of the darkness, and made at the defence between them.

The struggle between the two was but brief, for Gray threw Sim off, and
brought his bayonet to bear against the Malays, forgetting in his
excitement to load and fire, so that it was Sim's rifle that gave the
alarm.

For the next few minutes the two men fought side by side, their bayonets
keeping the Malays back every time they strove to enter the place, and
driving them off successfully till help came, and two or three volleys
did the rest.

"How was this?  How did it happen that you did not see the enemy
approaching sooner, Private Sim?" said Captain Smithers, sternly.

Sim trembled for his life, knowing as he did that over matters of
discipline the captain was a stern man, and that he must expect no mercy
for his fault if Gray spoke out, and told all he knew; so he exclaimed
hastily, and with a malicious look at Gray,--

"How could I, sir, when there are traitors in the camp?"

"Traitors!  What do you mean?"

"I mean a traitor, sir!  Private Gray there came up behind me, leaped
upon me, and held his hand over my mouth to keep me still, while he
whistled to the Malays to come in by the opening, there."

"You lying--"

"Silence, Private Gray!" cried Captain Smithers, and all that was evil
in his nature came to the surface, as he felt that here was an
opportunity for disgracing, if not putting his rival to death; and a
strange feeling of savage joy animated him for the moment.  "Silence,
Private Gray!" he cried.  "Speak out, Private Sim.  Do you mean to
assert that this man served you as you say?"

"Look at me, sir!" cried Sim, showing his disordered uniform.  "That was
done in the struggle; and I did not fire as soon as I could have
wished."

"Show me your rifle, Sim," said the captain.

Sim held out his piece, while, choking with rage and astonishment, Gray
stood speechless in their midst.

The piece was examined, and it had just been discharged.

"Show me your piece, Gray," said Captain Smithers.

Gray held it out, and it was quite clean.  It was not loaded, and it had
not lately been discharged.

"I tried as hard as I could, captain!" whined Sim; "but he came upon me
so sudden like, that I was mastered at once."

"What were you doing there, Gray?  You were not on duty.  Your place was
in bed."

"I could not sleep, sir," said Gray.  "I doubted this man, and I came to
see."

"Why, you jumped right on me, sudden like, out of the darkness!" said
Sim.

"Silence, Sim!" said the Captain.  "Gray, this charge must be
investigated.  You are under arrest.  Sergeant, put this man in irons!"

"But, Captain--"

"Silence, sir!  You can make your defence when you are tried by
court-martial."

"I hope, captain," whined Sim, "that it won't be my doing as he's
punished.  I'd a deal rather help a fellow than get him into trouble."

"You are on duty, sir!  Attend to your post!" cried Captain Smithers.

He turned angrily then on Private Gray, who was so cruelly mortified,
especially as, glancing upward, he saw the window was open, and Rachel
Linton and her cousin there, that he could not or would not speak a word
in his defence.  He gave Sim a look that made that scoundrel shiver, and
then said to himself:

"She will not believe that I am a traitor!"

He glanced involuntarily upwards as this thought occurred to him, and
the captain ground his teeth with rage as he saw the glance; but feeling
as he did that he had his rival beneath his heel, a glow of triumph ran
through him.

The next moment, though, all that was gentlemanly and true came to the
surface, and he felt that Private Gray was not the man who could be
guilty of such a crime.  Sim must be the offending party, and Gray be
too proud to speak.  He could not iron him, or doubt his honour; he was
too true a man; and as Sergeant Lund unwillingly came forward with a
file of men, the captain motioned him back.

"This is no time for making prisoners," he said.  "Sergeant, change the
sentry here.  Place two men on guard.  Private Sim, go to the
guard-room: I may want to question you.  Private Gray, this is an awful
charge against you, and if you are guilty you will be shot."

There was a faint sound as of some one's breath catching at the window
above, but it was heard by Captain Smithers and Private Gray alone as
they stood face to face.

"I know it, captain!" said Gray, quietly.

"We are in face of the enemy," continued Captain Smithers.  "Take your
rifle again, and help to defend the place.  You had better die by the
spear of a Malay.  Go to the guard-room now; and mind, if any words pass
between you and Private Sim--"

"Quick, sir, the alarm!" cried Gray, pointing out beneath the stars.
"The enemy!"

"Fire, sentry!" cried Captain Smithers; and the report of a rifle rang
out on the still night air, for the Malays were advancing in force.

Fresh shots were fired on all sides as the men turned out, and were at
their various places in a very few moments, the wisdom of the captain's
commands being manifest; and as he saw Private Gray go down on one knee
and begin firing, with careful aim, at the advancing enemy,--"He's no
traitor," he muttered; "and I never doubted him at heart."

He had no time for further thought, for the attack had become general,
and the Malays seemed furious, striving hard to gain an entry, but
always encountering one or two bayonets at every point, till, after half
an hour's fierce struggle, they drew back, leaving a number of dead and
wounded around the place.

The defenders of the little fort drew breath at this, and as the firing
ceased, the major's wife, with Rachel Linton and her cousin, came round,
first with refreshments for the exhausted men, and, as soon as they were
distributed, began to bandage those who were wounded.

It was while they were busy over this task, that in the darkness Rachel
Linton came upon a man leaning against the breast-work, gazing
attentively out at the position of the enemy.

"Are you wounded?" she asked; and at her words Private Gray started
round and faced her.

"Only slightly," he said, "in body--but deeply in spirit."

"Let me bind your wound," said Rachel Linton, hoarsely, and her voice
trembled as she spoke.

"Which?" he said bitterly, as they stood alone.

"Let me bind your arm," she said quietly now, as she drew a long breath.

"It is but a scratch," he said carelessly, "a spear thrust."

Without another word Rachel Linton slit open the sleeve of the jacket he
wore, and deftly bandaged the double wound, for the thrust had gone
right through Gray's arm.  Then rising, she stood before him for a
moment or two.

"You asked which wound would I bind up, Adam Gray," she said sadly.  "I
have bound up one.  If my words will help to bind up the other, let me
tell you that I do not believe the foul charge made against you."

The rifle fell against Gray's wounded arm as he caught the speaker's
hand in his, and raised it to his lips.

"You have done more," he said; "you have healed it."

For the next few moments he stood there as if holding the hand in his,
though Rachel Linton had hurried away.  Then he started, for he became
aware that Tom Long had seen what had taken place, and was now standing
leaning on his sword.  But he did not speak, he only turned away,
leaving Gray watching, and thinking hopefully now of the charge he had
to meet.

"Smithers is a gentleman," he said to himself; "they cannot shoot me for
what I have not done."

Then he began to wonder how the steamer had sped, and how soon they
would bring back their friends.  This was the more important, as he felt
sure that a few such determined efforts on the Malay's part, and the
little garrison must succumb.

"He is a brave young fellow, that Ali," he thought, "and has managed
well."

Then he stood gazing out over the dark ground in front, where here and
there he could make out the dimly seen form of some unfortunate
combatant, who had not been carried off by his friends.

It was darker now than ever, and he was silently watching for danger,
when a faint rustling noise caught his ear, and he brought his piece
down to the present, for undoubtedly one of the bodies lying on the dark
earth was in motion, and crawling slowly towards where he stood.



CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR.

THE END OF ALI'S MISSION.

Adam Gray's finger was on the trigger of his piece, but he did not fire,
though he carefully covered the figure before him, and watched
attentively to make sure that it was no hallucination.

He had marked that figure before; one that lay face downwards,
apparently just as the man had fallen from a shot.  And now the dimly
seen arms had changed positions--there was no doubt of that--and the
figure was crawling forward.

What did it mean?  Either it was a poor wounded wretch, striving hard to
get relief and help, or else it was a trick on the part of a treacherous
Malay, who was trying to put in force a North American Indian's tactics,
and creeping forward to stab a sentry.

"And so gain an entrance into the fort," thought Adam Gray.  "Well, my
poor wretch, you will not do it, unless both my rifle ball and bayonet
should miss."

Just then the figure stopped, and lay quite motionless; and again Gray
hesitated, feeling sure that he must have been deceived, as he gazed now
at the figure where it lay, some twenty yards away.

There it was, perfectly motionless, and in that darkness Gray felt that
he really could not be sure about it.  After all, the figure might be
lying where it had first lain.  It was impossible to say.

His doubts were dispelled the next moment, for the figure was once more
in motion, and stopped short as the lock of the sentry's rifle clicked.

"Don't shoot!" said a voice in English; "I am a friend."

"If you move again, I fire!" said Gray in a low, stern voice.  "Who are
you?"

"Is that Private Gray?" said the voice.

"Mr Ali, is that you?" cried Gray, leaning towards him.

"Yes, it is I," said the figure, crawling rapidly towards him.

"What are you doing with the enemy?"

"Trying to make my way to you.  They will not see now.  Give me your
hand, and I will climb up."

Gray leaned out over the breast-work, gave his hand to the young man,
and, with a little exercise of his muscular strength, half-drew,
half-aided him to climb into the stronghold--just as Captain Smithers
and Tom Long leaped upon them, seizing each his man, and holding his
sword to his throat.

"You doubly-dyed scoundrel!" cried Captain Smithers.  "Caught him in the
act!  Call the guard there!"

"Don't you know me, Long?" said a voice that made Tom lower his sword
point.

"Ali!" cried Captain Smithers; "you here?"

"Yes, I am back," said the young man sadly.

"Gray, my good fellow," cried Captain Smithers, "fate seems to have
ordained that I should doubt you."

"Fate is sometimes very cruel to us all, sir," said Gray, coldly, as the
captain set him free, and turned to Ali.

"You found them, then?"

"No," said Ali, sadly.

"But the stockade?"

"What stockade?"

"Where you found them.  The steamer went off early in the night."

"The steamer went off?  Where?"

"Don't waste time, man, in puzzles," cried the captain, excitedly, as he
felt that something was wrong.  "You sent a messenger?"

"I sent no messenger," said Ali, excitedly.

"Yes, yes; the man with the writing in a bamboo?"

"I sent no man," said Ali, sadly.  "You have been cheated--over-reached
by your enemies."

"But did you not find them?"

"No, I was hemmed-in at every turn; and at last, in despair I have
crawled back here, hardly saving my life, your sentries are so keen."

"This is dreadful," said Captain Smithers.  "How we have been deluded!"

He took a few steps to and fro, and then paused before Ali, gazing at
him searchingly.

"Sir," he said, "we are each of different nations, and your people are
at war with mine.  Why should I trust you? why should I believe in your
words?  How do I know that I am not talking to one who believes it to be
a virtue to slay people of my creed?"

Ali looked at him wonderingly for a few moments before he spoke,
slowly,--

"Because you know that I am honest," he said; "and if I am not, you have
your resource there.  Kill me."

Captain Smithers resumed his agitated walk to and fro.

"This is dreadful!" he said, excitedly.  "Those poor fellows have been
inveigled away like the hunting-party, and perhaps by this time there is
a second massacre."

"I think you exaggerate," said Ali, quietly.  "The hunting-party have
been led away by a ruse, and the steamer sent upon an errand by a clever
trick.  But Captain Horton and Major Sandars are not men to give up the
lives of their following without a bitter struggle.  And as for
Lieutenant Johnson--"

"And Mr Roberts," interposed Tom Long.

"Yes, with Mr Roberts," said Ali, "he is too strong in guns and men to
be easily overcome, unless by--"

"Treachery?  Yes," said the captain.  "And that is what I dread."

"To such an extent," said Ali, with a quiet smile, "that you doubt your
friends."

"For the moment only," said Captain Smithers, holding out his hand,
which the other frankly grasped.  "You must remember--my position, sir."

"I do," said Ali.  "Now give me a rifle and revolver; we may be attacked
at any moment."

"We?" said Tom Long holding out his hand.

"Yes," said Ali, smiling; "and if we get safely through this trouble you
will have to try and make me more of an Englishman than I am."

Even while he was speaking the Malays renewed their attack with the
greatest pertinacity, it being evident that their object was to capture
the fort before the steamer could render help.  They seemed to be roused
to a pitch of mad fury by the resistance they encountered and their
losses, attacking with such determination that it needed no words on
Captain Smithers' part to warn his little garrison that they must fight
to the death.

With a civilised enemy it would have been quite reasonable to have
surrendered long ago, but with such a foe as Rajah Gantang, a pirate of
the worst Malay type, such an act as surrender would have meant giving
all up to a horrible death.

Never was daylight more welcome than when it appeared to the defenders
of that little stronghold, who, gaunt, haggard, and faint with exertion,
saw the sky suddenly turn to orange and gold; and then the sun rose over
the widespread jungle, sending the wreathing night-mists floating amidst
the feathery palms, and seeming to dissolve into thin air.

The first order given by Captain Smithers was to have a signal of
distress run up to the top of the flagstaff; the next to try and
strengthen the defences, which were sorely dilapidated.  Some of the
barricading planks and forms were torn down, others riddled with
bullets.

Through the rough straw mattresses spears were sticking in a dozen
directions, and what had looked hopeless again and again during the
night seemed doubly so by day.

But Captain Smithers was not made of the stuff to give up.  He had those
under his charge whom he was ready to render his life to save; and the
spirit that animated his breast seemed to infuse itself in the spirits
of the others.  He was half mad with jealousy; and angered almost beyond
bearing at the thought that Rachel Linton should favour, as he was sure
now that she did, a private soldier in preference to him.  But he cast
away all narrow selfishness, for he was obliged to confess that Gray was
no common man, but evidently a gentleman by education if not by birth.

Casting aside, then, all unworthy thoughts, he roused Tom Long from a
short sleep that he had made him take.  He said a few encouraging words
to the men, and then went to join the ladies, who had anticipated his
wishes, and were ready with plenty of refreshments for the jaded
defenders of the fort.

It is wonderful what efficacy there is in a cup of hot coffee and a big
biscuit.  Men who, ten minutes before, had stood rifle in hand, dejected
and utterly worn-out, lost their haggard looks and seemed to pull
themselves together after partaking of the cup of comfort that the
ladies brought round.

Rifles were wiped out, belts tightened; and with brightening eyes the
men seemed ready to give a good account of the enemy when they closed in
for their next attack.

"I have bad news for you, Captain Smithers," said Rachel Linton to him,
quietly, as she took the cup she had given him from his hands.

"I don't think you can give me worse news than I already know," he said,
sadly.

"Yes, but I can," she said, with her brows knitting with pain for his
suffering.  "The heat of the day will soon be upon us, and we have no
more water."

These words roused the captain to a less selfish view of things, and he
stood for a moment or two thinking.  It was indeed a tantalising
position, for, glittering and sparkling in the sun, there before them
flowed the bright river, no drop of whose waters could be reached on
account of the thronging enemy.

"I will see to it at once," he said, quietly; and as Miss Linton left
him, Tom Long came up.

"We must have a well dug at once," he said.  "Take charge here, Long,
while I pick out a place."

Ensign Long assumed the command, but now without any of his old
consequential airs.  Adversity was taming him down, and to his surprise
he found himself talking in a very different tone to his men, who
yielded a readier obedience than of old.

Captain Smithers was not long in selecting a place for the well, and in
a very few minutes a squad of men were at work, some digging, others
bearing off the earth in baskets to pile up in front of weak places and
add to their strength.

It was a hard call upon the men, that digging; but even while they
worked the demand for water arose, and they slaved at their task,
knowing the tortures that waited them should they not succeed.

Every man worked in turn, except those badly wounded, though even some
of those carried away the baskets of earth.

Among others, Private Gray was ready to aid in this way, after vainly
trying to handle a spade, a task rendered impossible by his wound.  He
was hard at work over his work, carrying basketful after basketful with
one hand, when Captain Smithers came up, saw how he was striving, and
stood looking on for a few moments.

"We shall have to put off your court-martial yet, Gray," he said grimly.
"Give me that basket.  Sit down awhile."

Gray was ready to resist, but his officer's words were law, and sitting
down to rest, and wipe the streaming perspiration from his face, he
watched his captain slave away at the toil with the others, for in those
perilous times show and uniforms were forgotten.

It proved to be a harder task than had been anticipated.  Captain
Smithers had expected to find the subsoil of the island all soft
alluvial earth, in which, from the neighbourhood of the river, there
would be an abundance of water.  It had never occurred to him that if
the island had been of soft earth it would long before have been washed
away.  It was found to be rock at a short distance down, composed of a
soft limestone, through which they had to chip their well.

A dozen times over alarms of attack--some real, some false--were given,
when spade, pick, and basket had to be laid on one side, and rifles
seized.  The attack repelled, the fight for water was renewed; and to
the intense delight of all, about ten feet down the pure life-giving
element came gushing in a clear current from the rock.

Meanwhile Ali's eyes, which were more experienced in the ways of the
enemy than those of his companions, read plainly enough that far from
being damped by their ill-success they were preparing for a more general
assault, and he confided his opinions to Tom Long.

"I can't see any difference," said Tom Long, after a careful inspection
through his glass.  "They looked just like that every time they came on,
and--ah! there are some more of them, though."

"More," echoed Ali.  "They are doubled in number.  Look, too, at the way
in which they are making bundles of reeds and canes."

"Well, let them," said Tom Long; "our rifle bullets will go through
those fast enough.  If I were Smithers, I'd give them a good searching
fire now, and let them know that our rifles make fine practice at a
thousand yards' distance.  Those fellows are not six hundred."

"Better wait till every shot is more likely to tell," replied Ali.  "The
bullets would of course go through those bundles of cane; but do you not
see what they mean?"

"No," said Tom Long, quietly, "unless they mean to burn us out."

"That is what they do mean," replied Ali.  "And look!  Quick! give the
alarm!  They are coming on at once!"

"Let them," said Tom Long, phlegmatically.  "They won't alarm us.  Nice
people your fellow-countrymen, Ali!"

"Fellow-countrymen!" said the young Malay, scornfully.  "My
fellow-countrymen are gentlemen!  These are the scourings of the
country, with half the scoundrels from Borneo, Java, and Sumatra--men
who have lived all their lives upon piracy and murder."

"Well, whatever they are," said Tom Long, coolly, "they are coming on,
so I may as well let the lads know.  All right, though; every one is on
the alert, and I daresay we can give a good account of them before they
get back.  Are you sure that these are all a bad lot?"

"Sure?" cried Ali.  "They are the scum of the east."

"Then we'll skim them a little more," said Tom Long.  "Hi! sergeant, let
me have a rifle and some cartridges; I think I should like to pot a few
cut-throat pirates myself."

Sergeant Lund handed him the required rifle, Captain Smithers coming up
at the moment, and as he swept the surroundings of the little fort with
his glass his countenance changed a little, for grave as had been their
position before, he felt now that unless help quickly came it was
absolutely hopeless.



CHAPTER FIFTY FIVE.

HOW THE HUNTING-PARTY FARED.

There was a thick mist hanging over the forest when the bugle rang out
the _reveille_, and, some eagerly, some thinking rest the better thing,
all the hunting-party began to gather outside their tents, where the
best apologies for tubs and baths were provided for the officers.

No sooner, however, did the Malays see this than they laughingly led the
way to a little river, evidently a tributary of the Parang, and setting
the example plunged into its deep, clear, cool waters, showing
themselves to be adepts at swimming, and laughing to scorn, the idea of
there being any crocodiles there.

The water was deliciously cool, and one and all the officers gladly
availed themselves of the jungle bath, emerging fresh, and their nerves
toned up ready for any work that was to fall to their lot that day.

By the time they returned to the camp an _al fresco_ breakfast was
ready, half English, half Malay.  There were tea and coffee, potted
meats and sardines, and side by side with them, delicious Malay curries,
made with fresh cocoa-nut, sambals of the most piquant nature, and fresh
fish and blachang--that favourite preparation of putrid shrimps.  Fruits
were in abundance--plantains of various kinds, mangosteens, lychees, and
durians smelling strong enough to drive away a dozen Tom Longs, had they
been there.  In short, the sultan had given orders that his cooks should
do their best; similar instructions had been given by Captain Horton and
Major Sandars; and the result was a breakfast fit for a prince--who
could put up with a picnic and a camp-stool, beneath an umbrageous tree.

"Whatever you gentlemen do," said Doctor Bolter, "pray restrain your
appetites.  You see," he said, taking his seat cross-legged, like the
Malays, in front of a dish of blachang, and its neighbour a delicious
chicken curry, "you will to-day be exposed a good deal to the heat of
the sun; you will exert yourselves, no doubt; and therefore it is
advisable that you should be very moderate in what you eat and drink.
Thanks, yes, major, I will take a glass of claret before my coffee.
What a thing it is that we can get no milk."

So saying, the doctor set to work, "feeding ferociously," so Captain
Horton said, with a laugh, and partaking of everything that took his
fancy, finishing off with a cigarette.

The sultan smiled his satisfaction as he sat at the head of the table,
eating little himself, but giving instructions from time to time to his
slaves that they should hand fruit and other delicacies to the guests
that were near him.

The various officers followed the doctor's example, telling one another
that they could not be far wrong if they imitated their medical guide.
The only one who did not seem to enjoy his meal was Mr Linton, who felt
worried, he hardly knew why, about their position.

Now that he was away from the residency, an undefined sense of trouble
had come upon him, and he could not help feeling how helpless they must
be if the Malays turned against them.  Certainly they were all
well-armed, and could make a brave fight, perhaps win their way back;
but if they did, he felt sure that something would have gone wrong at
the island.

The preparations for the fresh start chased away his forebodings, and
the packing having been rapidly performed, soldier, sailor, and Malay
were soon in motion, the long train winding its way through the dense
jungle, with the rattan panniers and howdahs of the elephants brushing
the lush verdure on either side.

The morning was deliciously cool, and as they went on and on through the
forest shades, where at every turn something bright and beautiful met
their gaze, the whole party were in the highest spirits; and the
discipline only being kept tight, as to the order in which they marched,
the men laughed and talked, sang and smoked, and seemed to be thoroughly
enjoying themselves.

And certainly it would have moved the spirit of the most cankered
denizen of a city to see the beauty of the parasites that clustered and
hung from tree to tree.  The orchids were of the most brilliant colours;
and now and then they passed a lake or pool in the depths of the jungle
which would be covered in places with the flower of the lotus, while in
every sunny opening the great clusters of nepenthes--the pitcher plant--
brightened the scene.

These latter delighted the Jacks amazingly, and not being allowed to
break their ranks, they sent the Malays near them to pick anything that
took their fancy.  These "monkey cups," as they called them, were
constantly picked ostensibly for the purpose of supplying the sailors
with a drink, for each contained more or less water; but it was never
drunk, for in each there were generally the remains of some unfortunate
flies, who had gone down into the treacherous vegetable cavern, and
being unable to clamber out had miserably perished.

During the heat of the day there was a halt once more, the Malays
staring at the sailors and soldiers sitting about under the trees for a
quiet smoke and watching the elephants, which, being relieved of their
pads and howdahs, walked straight into a great pool near to which they
were halted, and then cooled themselves by drawing their trunks full of
water and squirting it all over their sides.

"I'm blest," said one of the Jacks, "if they ain't the rummest beggars I
ever see.  Just look at that one, Bill.  Lor' if he ain't just like a
bit o' annymated hingy rubber."

"Ah?" said his mate, "you might fit a pair o' blacksmith's bellows on to
the muzzle o' that trunk of his, and then blow him out into a balloon."

"When are we going to begin to hunt tigers?" said another.  "Oh, we
ain't going to hunt them at all, only keep 'em from coming by us, and
driving 'em up to where the orficers are."

"I say," said another sailor, "this here's all very well, but suppose
some time or another, when these Malay chaps have got us out into the
middle of these woods, they turn upon us, and whip out their krises--
what then?"

"What then?" said a soldier, who heard him; "why then we should have to
go through the bayonet exercise in real earnest; but it won't come to
that."

Two more days were spent in the journey, and then, upon his guests
beginning to manifest some impatience, the sultan announced that they
were now on the borders of the tiger country; and that afternoon there
were preparations for a beat when a couple of tigers were seen, but they
managed to escape.

The sultan smilingly told his guests that at the end of another march
the game would be more plentiful; and once more there was a steady tramp
along one of the narrow jungle-paths, into a country wilder than ever--
for they were away from the rivers now, and no traces of cultivation had
been seen.

There was no dissatisfaction, though, for if the officers shot no tigers
they found plenty of jungle-fowl and snipe, upon which they tried their
powers with the gun, and made goodly bags of delicious little birds to
add to the daily bill of fare.

Another day, and still another, in which the expedition penetrated
farther and farther into the forest wild.  The officers were delighted,
and Doctor Bolter in raptures.  He had obtained specimens of the atlas
moth, a large flap-winged insect, as large across as a moderate dish; he
had shot sun-birds, azure kingfishers, gapers, chatterers, parroquets;
and his last achievement had been to kill a boa-constrictor twenty-four
feet long.

It was no dangerous monster, but a great sluggish brute, that had hissed
at him viciously and then tried to escape.  But the doctor had for
attendant a very plucky little Malay, appointed by the sultan, and this
man was delighted with his task, following the doctor anywhere.  Upon
this occasion he had come upon the serpent lying coiled up, evidently
sleeping off a repast of a heavy kind.

The boy shouted to the doctor, who was trying to stalk a lizard in an
open place; and this roused the serpent, which began to uncoil, one fold
gliding over the other, while its head was raised and its curious eyes
sparkled in the sun.

The boy waited his opportunity, and then darting in cleverly avoided the
reptile's teeth, and caught it by the tail, dragging the creature out
nearly straight as he called to his master to fire.

The serpent was apparently puzzled by this proceeding, and threw itself
round a tree, hissing furiously as it menaced its assailant.  Then
sending a wave along the free part of its body to the tail, the Malay
was driven flying on to his back amidst the canes.

The retreat of the reptile was cut off, though, for this interruption
gave the doctor time to come up with his little double fowling-piece,
from which a quick shot sent the menacing, quivering head down upon the
earth; and then going up, a second shot placed the writhing monster
_hors de combat_.

There was no little mirth in the camp as, faint and perspiring
profusely, the doctor and his Malay boy came in, slowly dragging the
long quivering body of the serpent, which the former at once set to work
to skin before it should become offensive.  Then the skin was laid raw
side upwards, and dressed over with arsenical soap, a dose of which the
Malay boy nearly succeeded in swallowing, being attracted by its
pleasant aromatic odour.

"Laugh away," said the doctor, "but I mean to have that skin set up and
sent to the British Museum, presented by Doctor Bolter," he said
importantly.

"Well," said Captain Horton, "for my part I would rather encounter a
fierce Malay than one of these writhing creatures.  Take care of
yourself, doctor, or you'll be constricted."

"Yes," said Major Sandars, entering into the joke, "I'll give orders
that every swollen serpent is to be bayonetted and opened if the doctor
is missing."

"Laugh away," said the doctor; "I don't mind."

"That's right," said Captain Horton; "but for goodness' sake, man, wash
your hands well before you come to dinner."

"All right," said the doctor; and that evening, after dinner, he took
the Malay boy into his confidence.

"Look here," he said, "I want to shoot an Argus pheasant.  There must be
some about here."

"Argus pheasant?" said the Malay boy, staring, and then shaking his
head.

"Yes, I heard one last night."

Still the boy shook his head.  He had never heard of such a bird.

"Oh, yes, you know what I mean," said the doctor; "they keep in the
shelter of the jungle, and are very rarely shot; but I must have one."

The boy shook his head.

"Don't I tell you I heard one last night, after we had camped down?  It
calls out _Coo-ai_."

"No, no! no, no!" cried the boy; "_Coo-ow, Coo-ow_."

"Yes, that's it," cried the doctor.  "You know the bird."

"Yes, know the big spot bird; all eyes," said the boy.  "Sees all over
himself; like a peacock.  Hunter no shoot him, see too much far."

"But I must shoot one," said the doctor.

"Yes, you shoot one," said the boy.  "I take you to-night."  The doctor
rubbed his hands and was delighted; and after the dinner, when the
officers and chiefs were sitting smoking and sipping their coffee by the
light of the stars, he rose and took his gun, for the Malay boy was
waiting.

"Off again, doctor?" cried the major.

"Yes," said the little man, importantly.  "I am going, sir, to add to my
collection a specimen of the celebrated Argus pheasant--_Phasianus
Giganteus_."

"No, no, doctor; no Latin names after dinner," cried several voices.

"As you please, gentlemen," he said.

"The sultan says, shall he send a score of his men to protect you?"
cried Captain Horton.

"For goodness' sake no!" cried the doctor in dismay.  "My dear sir, this
bird is only to be shot by approaching it most cautiously at night, or
by laying patiently near its haunts."

"Laying what, doctor--eggs?" said a young officer.

"No, sir; a stick about the back of impertinent puppies," cried the
doctor, angrily.  "I said lying--lying in wait near the bird's haunts."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," said the young officer; and the doctor went off
in dudgeon.

"I say, Thompson," said the major, "don't you be poorly, whatever you
do, until the doctor has got over it, or he'll give you such a dose."

"I'll take care, sir," said the young man; and they went on chatting
about other things.



CHAPTER FIFTY SIX.

DOCTOR BOLTER'S BIRD.

Meanwhile the doctor followed his Malay boy--as he was called, though he
was really a man--through a narrow path right away from the camp and
into the jungle.

The doctor was ruffled exceedingly at his slip of grammar, and looked
very much annoyed; but the thought of being able to secure a specimen of
the much-prized Argus pheasant chased away the other trouble, and he
walked on closely behind his guide.

"How far have we to go, my lad?" he said.

"Walk two hours," said the Malay, "then sit down and listen.  No speak a
word till _Coo-ow_ come.  Then make gun speak and kill him!"

"To be sure!" said the doctor, nodding his head; and then almost in
silence he followed his guide, often feeling disposed to try and shoot
one or other of the nocturnal birds that flitted silently by, or one of
the great fruit bats that, longer in their spread of wings than rooks,
flew in flocks on their way to devastate some orchard far away.

Quite two hours had elapsed, during which the Malay, apparently quite at
home, led his scientific companion right away through the gloom of the
wilderness.

At last he enjoined silence, saying that they were now approaching the
haunts of the wondrous bird; and consequently the doctor crept on behind
him without so much as crushing a twig.

They had reached an opening in the forest, by the side of what was
evidently a mountain of considerable height, and the doctor smiled as he
recalled the fact that the Argus pheasant was reputed to haunt such
places; when to his intense delight there soddenly rang out from the
distance on the silent night air a peculiar cry that resembled the name
given to the bird--_Coo-ow_.  For the moment it seemed to the doctor as
if some Australian savage was uttering his well-known _Coo-ay_, or as if
this was the Malays' form of the cry.  But he knew well enough what it
was, and following his guide with the greatest caution, they crept on
towards the place from which the sound had seemed to come.

It was weird work in that wild solitude far on towards midnight, but the
doctor was too keen a naturalist to think of anything but the specimen
of which he was in search.  He knew that the native hunters, out night
after night, could not shoot more than one of these birds in a year, and
it would be quite a triumph if he could add such a magnificent thing to
his collection.

_Coo-ow_--rang out the strange cry, and it seemed quite near.  Then
again _Coo-ow_, and this time it appeared to be a long way off.

This was tantalising, but he concluded directly after, that the second
cry might be that of another bird answering the first.

They were now in amongst a number of low bushes, which gave them cover,
while it made the surrounding country less black than when they were in
the jungle-path.  There they could only grope their way with
outstretched hands; here they could have gone on at a respectable foot
pace without danger of running against some impediment in the path.

The doctor cocked both barrels of his gun, after opening the breech and
making sure that the cartridges were in their place, and, in momentary
expectation of setting a shot, he kept close behind the Malay.

_Coo-ow_! came the cry again, this time a little to the left; and the
Malay stretched out a hand behind him to grasp that of the doctor as he
went cautiously on.

_Coo-ow_! again, but a little farther off, and with his nerves throbbing
with excitement, the doctor kept up the chase, now seeming close to the
bird, then being left behind, but never once getting within shot.

It was very provoking, but the guide was in earnest, and the doctor
would have gone through ten times the trouble to achieve his end.

And so they stole on through the thick brushwood, with the bird
repeating its cry so near from time to time as to make them feel that
they must get a shot directly; but still the hope was deferred.

A lighter patch in front showed that the forest was a little more open,
and the Malay loosed the doctor's hand for a moment to clamber over a
block of stone--when there was a rushing noise, what seemed to be a
heavy blow, a hoarse cry, and then silence, broken directly after by a
low deep growling, just in front of where Doctor Bolter stood--petrified
and unable to move.

He was too much taken aback by the suddenness of the incident to
comprehend for a time what had taken place; but directly after, with his
hands wet with excitement, and his heart seeming to stand still, he
realised that some great animal had been stalking them, as they had been
stalking the Argus pheasant, and, waiting for its opportunity, had
sprung upon and seized the Malay.

There was the low snarling growl not two yards from where he stood, just
the noise upon a larger scale that a cat would make when crouching down
over the rat that it had seized; and the doctor felt that there could be
only one creature in the jungle that would seize its prey in such a
manner--the tiger.

In spite of his bravery and the strength of nerve that had often made
him face death without a tremor, Dr Bolter felt a cold shiver pass
through him as he realised how near he was to a terrible end.  The tiger
might have seized him instead of the Malay--in fact, might spring upon
him at any moment; and as he felt this, he brought the barrels of his
gun to bear on the dark spot where the tiger lay crouching upon its
victim, and with his fingers on both triggers stood ready to fire at the
first movement of the beast.

That first movement, he knew, might be to spring upon him and strike him
down; and nature bade him flee at once for his life--bade him drop his
gun, run to the first tree, and climb into its branches--escape as a
timid beast, a monkey, might have done.

Education, on the contrary, bade him stay--told him that it would be the
act of a coward and a cur to run off and leave the poor fellow lying
there to his fate, the horrible fate of being torn and half devoured by
the tiger--bade him be a man, and do something, even at the risk of his
own life, to save the Malay who had been stricken down in his service;
and as these thoughts came to Doctor Bolter his eyes dilated in the
darkness, and he strove to make out the positions in which tiger and man
were lying.

It was some time before he could make this out, and then it seemed to
him that the tiger had struck the Malay down upon his face, and was
lying upon him, with his teeth fixed in his shoulder.

Just then the unfortunate man uttered a loud cry, when the tiger gave an
angry snarl, and Doctor Bolter was able to assure himself of their
relative positions.  In fact there was the side of the tiger's head not
six feet from him, and, dare he fire, it was almost impossible to miss.

But the gun was loaded with small shot, and even at so close a range he
might injure the unfortunate Malay, if he were not beyond the point when
a fresh blow would do him harm.

Doctor Bolter stood unable to move.  He did not feel very much alarmed
now, the danger was too near, but he could not for the moment act.

At last, though, his nerves seemed to become more set, and setting his
teeth he held his piece ready, and with one motion advanced his left
foot and went down on his right knee, at the same time raising his gun
to his shoulder.

It was done in a moment--the tiger raising its head from the victim with
a savage roar; when with the mouth of the piece not eighteen inches from
the creature's head, Doctor Bolter drew the triggers, almost together.

There was a brilliant flash in the darkness, which showed him the
glistening teeth of the savage beast and its glaring eyes--a double
report--and with a furious roar the monster sprang forward, crashing
into some bushes, and then all was still.

Quick as lightning the doctor threw open the breech of his piece, and
inserted this time a couple of ball-cartridges, closed the gun, and
stood ready for the monster's attack, knowing though that it must be
sorely wounded, for he had aimed straight at its eye, and the small shot
would, at that distance, have the effect of a bullet.

A minute--two minutes, that seemed like hours, did the doctor stand
there, expecting to hear some movement on the tiger's part, either for
attack or retreat; but it did not stir, and he dared not fire again at
random.

Just then there was a low groan, and a faint movement at his feet.

The doctor's piece swung round involuntarily, but directly after, he
recalled that it must be the Malay, and with dry throat and lips he
spoke to him.

"Are you much hurt?"

There was a few moments' pause, and then the Malay spoke.

"My shoulder is gnawed; I can't use my arm."

"Can you crawl behind me?" said the doctor, hoarsely.

For reply the Malay rose to his feet, and staggering slightly, he made
his way behind where the doctor stood.

"I dare not move," said Doctor Bolter.  "The beast may spring upon us
again."

"No," said the Malay, whose voice sounded stronger; "he is dead.  Have
you a light?"

The doctor held his gun with one hand and pulled out his match-box with
the other, when, in spite of his wounds, the Malay knelt down, drew a
piece of dammar from the fold of his sarong, stuck it in a cleft stick,
and then striking a match he fired the dry grass and lit the dammar,
which made an excellent torch.

With this advanced he took a couple of strides forward, and holding the
light down, there lay the tiger on its side, the white under fur showing
plainly, the doctor seeing that the creature's neck and legs were
stretched out, and that it was indeed dead.

"Thank heaven!" he muttered, fervently: and standing his gun against a
tree he set to work piling up dead wood and dry canes to make a fire,
when by its light and that of the dammar-torch the doctor proceeded to
roughly dress the Malay's wounds.

The tiger had seized him by the muscles of his left shoulder and clawed
the upper part of his arm--terrible wounds enough, but not likely to
prove fatal; and when the doctor had done all he could to make the poor
fellow comfortable, the Malay lay down, gazing up at him as he trickled
a little brandy from his flask between the poor fellow's lips.

"You are good," he said at last.  "You saved my life.  Now I shall save
yours."

"Save mine?" said the doctor.  "Well, I hope we shall have no more
tigers to face."

"No," said the man, "not from tigers, but from men.  You did not eat
blachang to-night?"

"No," said the doctor.  "Why?"

"Sultan Hamet had _toobah_ put in it to-night: same as to make fish
sleep."

"What?  I don't understand you!" cried the doctor excitedly.

"Sultan Hamet means to have all the English krissed to-night while they
sleep," said the Malay; "but you have saved my life: shall save yours."



CHAPTER FIFTY SEVEN.

HOW DOCTOR BOLTER GOT IN A MESS.

Doctor Bolter felt as if the place was swimming round him, and the
fire-light seemed to dance as he heard these words.  Then, as he
recovered himself somewhat, he gazed full in the Malay's eyes, to see
that the man was looking up at him in the calmest and most unruffled
way.

"Are you mad?" exclaimed the doctor.

"No," said the Malay.  "I say what is right.  Sultan Hamet joins with
Rajah Gantang to kill off all the English--the sultan here; the rajah
there, with his prahus."

"It is impossible!" cried the doctor.  "You are deceiving me."

"No, no, I tell the truth," said the man; "but you shall not be hurt.
Let them kris me first.  You shall live."

"Let us get back," cried the doctor, seizing his gun; and the tiger with
the beautiful skin, which he had meant to have for a specimen, was
forgotten.

"No, no," said the man, "you must stay in the jungle.  The tigers are
better than Hamet."

"Can you walk?" said the doctor, quietly.

The man got up for answer.

"Can you find your way back?" said the doctor.

"Yes," said the other, with a scornful look.  "I could find the way with
my eyes blinded."

"Then start at once.  Here, take some more of this."

He gave the injured man another draught from his flask, for the poor
fellow seemed terribly faint.

The few drops of brandy gave him new life, and he displayed it by
throwing himself on his knees before Doctor Bolter, and clasping one of
his legs with his uninjured arm.

"Don't go back, master," he cried piteously.  "You have been so good to
me that I could not bear to see you krissed.  Stay away, and I will keep
you safely.  My life is yours, for you saved it; and I am your slave."

"My good fellow," said the doctor, sadly, as he laid his hand upon the
Malay's shoulder, "you do not understand Englishmen."

"Yes, yes, I do," cried the Malay.  "I like--I love Englishmen, I was
servant to the young chief Ali before the sultan had him krissed."

"Young Ali krissed?" cried the doctor.

"Yes, he was too much friends with the Englishmen, and made the sultan
jealous."

"And the wretch had that brave, noble young fellow killed?"

"Yes," said the Malay, sadly.  "His father, the Tumongong, prayed upon
his knees that the brave boy's life might be spared, and offered to send
him out of the country.  But the sultan laughed, and said that the young
chief would come back again with a swarm of English soldiers, and seize
the jewels, and put him to death, and make himself sultan.  Then the
Tumongong swore an oath that Ali should never come back, and went down
on his face before Sultan Hamet; but the sultan drew his kris and
pricked him with it in the shoulder, and told him that he should die if
he named his son again."

"The villain!  That brave, noble young fellow, too!" said the doctor,
excitedly.

"Yes; he was so brave and handsome," cried the Malay.  "I loved him, but
I was obliged to hide it all, for if I had spoken one word they would
have krissed me, and thrown me into the river.  So I had to be silent;
but when they wanted some one to go with you I offered, and they said
`Yes' because I could speak English, and the sultan gave me my orders."

"And what were they?" said the doctor, sharply.

"To wait till to-night, and then lead you out of the jungle if you did
not want to go, and stab you with my kris."

"And you did not do it?"

The Malay smiled, and drew his kris in its sheath from out of the folds
of his sarong, handing it to the doctor.

"I am not a murderer," he said.

"But suppose the sultan had asked you why you did not kill me," said the
doctor, "what then?"

"I should have told him a lie.  He is a liar, and full of deceit.  We do
not think it wrong to deal with such a man in the coins he gives.  I
should have said you kept me back with your gun."

"Take your kris, my lad," said the doctor, quietly.  "I trust you.  Now
lead me back to the camp."

"No, no," cried the Malay.  "I dare not.  I cannot take you back to
death."

"I--must--go," said the doctor, sternly; and the Malay made a
deprecating gesture, indicative of his obedience.

"My people may have proved too strong for Sultan Hamet and his
treacherous gang."

"Yes--yes--they may," cried the Malay, eagerly.

"They may have given him such a lesson as he will never forget."

"I hope they will make him forget for ever," said the Malay in a sombre
tone.  "He is not fit to live.  My kris is thirsty to drink his blood."

"Forward, then!" cried the doctor, "and tell me when you feel sick.
Find water if you can, first thing.  Does your wound pain you?"

"It feels as if the tiger kept biting me," was the reply; "but I do not
mind.  Shall we go back?"

"Yes; and at once," cried the doctor, and, following his companion, they
rapidly retraced their steps through the dark jungle, the guide, as if
by instinct, making his way onward without a moment's hesitation,
seeming to take short cuts whenever the forest was sufficiently open to
let them pass.

As he stumbled on over the creeper-covered ground, the doctor had many a
narrow escape from falling, and he could not help envying the ease with
which his guide passed the various obstacles around them.  The chief
thought that occupied the doctor's mind, though, was that which related
to the drugging of the party's food that evening.

The Malay had mentioned what drug was to be used, namely _toobah_, a
vegetable production--in fact the root of a plant which the doctor knew
that the Malays used to throw in the pools of the rivers and streams,
with the effect that the fish were helplessly intoxicated, and swam or
floated on the surface of the water.  This plant he had several times
tried to obtain and examine, while he made experiments upon its power;
but so far he had been unsuccessful.  Would it have the same effect upon
the human organisation that it had upon a fish?  That was the question
he had to solve in his mind; but no matter how he turned the subject
over, he could extract not the smallest grain of comfort.

The only hope he could derive from his thoughts was that the English
discipline, with its regular setting of sentries and watchfulness, might
be sufficient to defeat the enemy's machinations, and a sufficiency of
the officers and men be unaffected by the poison to make a brave stand
until the rest had recovered.

That might happen; and slightly roused in spirit by this hope, he kept
steadily on.  One thing was fixed in his own mind, and that was that it
was his duty to get back to his party, either to fight with them, to
help the wounded, or to share their fate.

"Not that I want to die," muttered the doctor.  "There's that collection
of butterflies unpinned; no one but me could set up all those birds, or
understand the numbering; and then there's that boa-constrictor wants
dressing over; and worse than all, I've killed my first tiger, and have
not saved its skin."

"Humph!" he exclaimed directly after, "it seems as if I am to have a
hard job to save my own skin."

Just then the Malay reeled, and caught at a tree they were passing, when
the doctor had only just time to catch him and save him from a heavy
fall.

Laying his gun aside, he eased the poor fellow down upon the tangled
grass, trickling a few more drops from his flask between his lips, and
then giving the flask a bit of a shake to hear how much there was left.

"Better now," said the Malay, trying to rise.  "The trees run round."

"Yes, of course they do to you," said the doctor.  "Lie still for a
while, my good fellow.  Is there any water near here?"

"Little way on," said the Malay, pointing.  "Listen!"

The doctor bent his head, and plainly enough heard a low gurgling noise.
Following the direction in which the sound seemed to be, he came upon a
little stream, and filled, by holding on with one hand to a little palm,
and hanging down as low as he could, the tin canteen slung from his
shoulder.  From this he drank first with avidity, then, refilling it, he
prepared to start back.

"And I always preach to the fellows about not drinking unfiltered
water," he muttered.  "I wonder how many wild water beasts I've
swallowed down.  Well, it can't be helped; and it was very refreshing.
Let me see!  Bah!  How can I when it's as dark as pitch!  Which way did
I come?"

He stood thinking for a few moments, and then started off, cautiously
trying to retrace his steps; but before he had gone twenty yards he felt
sure that he was wrong, and turning back tried another way.  Here again
at the end of a minute he felt that he was not going right, and with an
ejaculation of impatience, he made his way back to where the stream
rippled and gurgled along amidst the reeds, canes, and beneath the
overhanging branches.

It was not the spot where he had filled the canteen, but he knew that he
must be near it; and he started again, but only to have to get back once
more to the stream, where there was a rush, a scuffling noise and a loud
splashing, that made him start back with a shudder running up his spine,
for he knew by the sound that it must be a crocodile.

Worst of all he was unarmed, having left his gun beside the fainting
Malay.

All he could do was to back as quietly as he could into the jungle, with
canes and interlacing growths hindering him at every step; thorns tore
and clung to his clothes, and he felt that if any creature gave chase to
him it must overtake him directly.  His only chance of safety then was
in inaction; and fretting with annoyance he crouched there, listening to
the shudder-engendering crawling noise made by evidently several
loathsome reptiles about the bank of the stream.

After a while this ceased, and he made another attempt to get back to
the Malay, going on and on through the darkness, and from time to time
shouting to him.  He knew that he must be crossing and recrossing his
track, and blamed himself angrily for not being more careful.  His
shouts produced no response, and the matches he lit failed to give him
the aid he had hoped; and at last, utterly exhausted, he sank down
amidst the dense undergrowth to wait for daylight, with the result that
nature would bear no more, and in spite of the help he knew his
companion needed, the danger of his companions, and the perils by which
he was surrounded from wild beasts, his head sank lower and lower upon
his breast, and he slept.

Not willingly, for he kept starting back into wakefulness, and walked to
and fro; but all in vain, sleep gradually mastered him; and he sank
lower and lower, falling into a deep slumber, and, as he afterwards
said, when talking about the adventure, "If I had been in front of a
cannon, and knew that it was to be fired, I could only have said--Just
wait till I am fast asleep, and then do what you please."

The sun was up when he started into full wakefulness, and his clothes
were drenched with dew.

"If I don't have a taste of jungle fever after this, it's strange to
me," he said, hastily swallowing a little white powder from a tiny
bottle.  "A stitch in time saves nine, and blessed is the salt quinine."

"Humph! that's rhyme," he grunted.  "Only to think that I should go to
sleep.  Ahoy-oy!" he shouted.

There was no reply, and his heart smote him as he felt that he had
neglected the poor Malay.  Then he felt that he was lost in the jungle;
but that did not trouble him much, for he was sure that if he followed
the little stream he should find that it entered a larger, and that the
larger would run into one larger still, probably into the Parang, whose
course he could follow down.  But that would be only as a last resource.



CHAPTER FIFTY EIGHT.

THE DOSE OF TOOBAH.

Doctor Bolter's was a painful position, and he could not help feeling
how utterly weak man is in the midst of nature's solitudes.  He could
have stood meditating for long enough, but he had to find his companion;
and after shouting for some time and getting no answer, he listened for
the rippling noise of the stream, and heard it sounding very faintly
far-off on his right.

Making for it as a starting-place, he found the tracks he had made, the
grass being trampled down in all directions.  What was more, he found
his trail crossed over and over again, and even followed by that of
crocodiles, whose toes were marked in the mud wherever it was laid bare.

Twice over he startled one of the reptiles, which fled before him with a
rush into the stream, which was little better than an overgrown ditch,
and the doctor hastily backed away.

He soon found that all endeavours to hit upon his way back by the trail
were useless, and once more he began to shout.

To his great delight his cry was answered, and on making for the sound
he heard directly after, the rustling of bushes being thrust aside, and
soon after stood face to face with the Malay.

"I have been sleeping," said the latter, smiling.  "My arm is better
now."

"If our English fellows could stand injuries like these!" muttered the
doctor, who looked with astonishment at the light way in which the Malay
treated the terrible injury he had received.

"Do you feel as if you could lead the way back?" he said, after halting
and rebinding the Malay's wound.

"Oh, yes," the Malay said cheerfully; and he at once set off.

"But my gun?" cried the doctor.  "I have left it behind."

The man led him back to the place with the greatest ease, and after
wiping the wet and rust from lock and barrel, they set off through the
dripping undergrowth, and had been walking about half an hour, the
doctor's excitement growing each minute as they drew nearer the camp,
when his guide suddenly stopped and laid his hand upon the other's arm.

"Listen!" he said; and as he spoke there was the distant sound of a
shot, then another, and other.

"Thank heaven!" cried the doctor, "they are making a fight for it.  Get
on quickly."

They went on along an old overgrown track, with the sound of the firing
growing each minute nearer; and the doctor's heart beat joyfully as he
made out that a pretty brisk engagement was going on.

Soon, however, the firing began to drop off, to be renewed from time to
time in a straggling manner; and to his great joy the doctor found that
those who fired were coming along the track he was upon.

"Yes," said the Malay, who seemed to read his countenance; "but they may
be enemies."

Yielding to the latter's solicitations, they hid themselves amidst the
dense undergrowth a few yards from the track, and waited patiently.

It was not for long.  Soon after they had taken their stand they could
hear voices; and directly after, the doctor hurried out as he saw an
advance guard of the men of his regiment under a lieutenant.

The men gave a hearty _Hurrah_! as they saw him, and the lieutenant
caught him by the hand.

"Glad to see you, doctor; we thought you killed."

"Yes; and I did you," cried the doctor.  "How are you all?"

"They'll tell you behind," said the lieutenant.  "Forward, my lads."

The guard moved on, and the doctor came upon the little force, firing
going on again in the rear.

He met Major Sandars directly, and their greeting was warm in the
extreme.

"The scoundrels tried to poison us," said the major.

"Yes, yes, I know," cried the doctor; "but is any one hurt?"

"A few scratches there in the dhoolies," said the major.

"No one killed?"

"Not a soul, thank heaven," cried the major.  "But we shall have our
work cut out.  Ah, here's Horton.  All right in the rear?"

"Yes," was the reply; "we are keeping them back.  Ah, doctor, I am glad
to see you again.  You know what's happened?"

"Partly," said the doctor; "but tell me."

They were moving forward as he spoke, and he learned now that the little
force was working to hit the river higher up in its course, and from
thence try to communicate with the island and the steamer.

"You had not been gone above a couple of hours before, as we were
sitting smoking and chatting, and thinking of turning in, first one and
then another began to complain of pain and drowsiness.

"The major there was the first to take alarm, thinking it was cholera;
but it was Mr Linton who saved us.  He no sooner realised what was the
matter than he slipped out of the tent, and without waiting for orders
made his way to the sergeant's guard, and got the fellow on duty to
collect all the men he could to come up to the tent.  How many do you
think he got?"

"Twenty--thirty--how should I know?" said the doctor impatiently.  "Go
on."

"Four," said the captain.  "All the others were down and half delirious.
Fortunately my Jacks had escaped, and thirty of them seized their
rifles, and followed Mr Linton at the double to the hut.

"They were just in time.  That scoundrel Hamet had given an order and
withdrawn from the tent; at one end of which about a hundred of his
cut-throats had gathered, kris in hand, and were only waiting for us to
get a little more helpless before coming upon us to put us out of our
misery.

"Bless your heart, doctor! it would have done you good to see the Jacks
clear that tent at the point of the bayonet!  And then, while half of
them kept the enemy at bay, the other half brought in the sick men, and
laid 'em side by side till they were all under canvas.

"It was horrible, I can tell you," continued the captain.  "We were all
in great pain, but the dull sleepy sensation was the worst, and it
seemed no use to fight against it.  We all, to a man, thought that we
were dying, and so did the sailors, who had not touched the horrible
stuff.  And yet we could hear every word as plainly as if our power of
hearing had been increased, though we could not speak.

"`Give them water,' I heard the sergeant say.

"`No, no,' said my boatswain; `you get the rum keg in, my lad, and give
'em a strong dose apiece o' that.'

"The Jacks fetched it in under fire, and they gave us a tremendous dose
apiece, and I believe it saved our lives!"

"I'm sure it did," said the doctor.  "It set up a rapid action of the
heart, and that carried off the poison."

"I dare say it did," said the captain, "but it gave me a beautiful
headache.  However, the sergeant and the boatswain lost no time, but
took matters in their own hands, cut the ropes, and let the tent go by
the board, for fear the enemy should set it on fire, and then made the
best breast-work they could all round us, a little party charging out
every now and then and bringing in boxes, cases, tubs, everything they
could lay hold of, to strengthen our position.  One time they fetched in
half-a-dozen spades, another time the axes; and little by little they
formed such a defence, that tipped as it was by our fellows' bayonets,
the Malays dare not try to force.

"We soon found, though," he continued, "that they were furious with
disappointment, for spears began to fly till our lads searched the
nearest cover with some bullets, when the enemy retired a little
farther, and then the boys got in the spears and made an abattis with
them.

"In spite of the danger and the sudden surprise, our fellows enjoyed it,
for they had the pleasure of driving the scoundrels out of their own
camp, and they had to put up with the shelter of the trees all night.
They made four savage attacks upon us, though, and the first time, from
too much ground having been covered by the breast-work, the enemy nearly
carried all before them, and it came to bayonetting and the spears
getting home; but our brave lads drove them back, and then a few volleys
sent them in to cover.

"The next time they attacked, the major and a dozen of the soldiers were
ready to help a little.  They were too ill to do much, but they held
their pieces and made a show of bayonets, and the major managed to take
the command.

"The next time we all of us managed to make a show of fighting; while a
couple of hours after, when the enemy made their last and most savage
attack, they got such a warm reception that they let us have the rest of
the night in peace."

"And this morning, then, you began to retreat!"

"Yes," the major said, "there was nothing else for it."

"But why not have retreated by the way we came?" said the doctor.

"Because, my dear fellow, the whole country's up, and this was the only
way open.  If we had gone by the track our fellows would have been
speared one by one, for the jungle is too dense to skirmish through.
But here's Linton; he will tell you better than I can."

As the retreat continued, the rear-guard being always closely engaged
with the Malays, who pressed upon them incessantly, Mr Linton came up,
begrimed with powder, and shook hands.

"This is a horrible affair, doctor!" he said sadly.

"Don't say horrible," said the other, cheerfully.  "We shall fight our
way through to the river."

"I hope so," said Mr Linton.  "But we have scarcely any provisions.
Not more, certainly, than a day or two's rations.  That is bad enough;
but you do not understand my anxiety.  We have let ourselves be drawn
into a trap, and the whole country rises against us."

"Let it rise," said the doctor, sturdily; "we'll knock it down again."

"But the residency, man--the steamer!"

"Phew!" whistled the doctor.  "I had forgotten them."

"I had not," said Mr Linton, sadly, "and I fear the worst."

"Keep up your spirits, man.  There are those on the island, and aboard
that steamer, who will keep every Malay in the country at bay."

"If they are not overcome by treachery, as we nearly were."

"We must hope then," said the doctor; "hope that those in charge will be
more on the alert.  I say, though, Linton, did you give these people
credit for such a trick?"

"Yes; for I have had more experience of them than you; and I blame
myself most bitterly for not being more cautious."

"Regrets are vain," said the doctor.  "Let's do all we can to make up
for our lapse--if lapse it has been."

"We will," said the resident.  "Would to heaven, though, that I could
feel more at ease about those we have left behind.  If we only had a
guide on whom we could depend, matters would not be so bad."

"I have one for you," said the doctor, joyfully.

"Who?  Where is he?" exclaimed Mr Linton.

"Here, close at hand," he said.

And hurrying on to where he had left the Malay guide in charge of a
couple of soldiers, he found that he had arrived only just in time; for
feeling was very strong just then against every one wearing a dark skin,
and the men were looking askance at one whom they believed likely to
betray them at any moment.

"A Malay!" said Mr Linton, doubtfully.

"Yes, and a trusty one," said the doctor, decisively.  "I will answer
for his fidelity."

"That is rather bold, doctor," said the major, who just then came up;
"but these are times when we must not be too particular.  Can he
understand us?"

"I was the young chief Ali's servant, and I speak English," said the
Malay, quietly.

"That is no recommendation," said Captain Horton, sharply.  "That young
chief deserted us, like the rest."

"No," said the doctor; "he was assassinated for taking our part; and
this man nearly shared his fate."

This decided matters in favour of the Malay being retained as guide; but
there was still a difficulty, and that was, would the poor fellow,
injured as he was, be able to undertake the duty?

He said he could, however; and as soon as he understood what was wanted,
he went to the front, and the retreat was continued.



CHAPTER FIFTY NINE.

LIKE BROTHERS IN DISTRESS.

It was a strange country to struggle through, for roads hardly had any
existence.  The rivers were the highways, and upon the banks the
villages or campongs of the Malays were invariably placed.  There were a
few narrow tracks, such as the one the retreating party hurried along,
but all else was dense jungle, the untrodden home of wild beasts.  So
dense was it that there was fortunately nothing to fear from attack on
either side.  It must come from the front, or else from the rear.
Neither friend nor foe could penetrate many yards through the wall of
verdure that shut them in to right and left.  To have tried to flank
them without literally breaking a way through the canes and interlacing
plants was impossible.

On being asked how long it would take to march to the river and strike
it high up, the Malay replied, three days of hard walking; and the
hearts of his hearers sank as they thought of their position, with
scarcely any provender, no covering against the night dews or heavy
rains, and only the earth for their resting-place, while a virulent
enemy was always on their track, striving hard to cut off all they
could.

There was no other course open, however, but to face it, for it would
have been madness to have tried to fight their way through the hostile
country; and every one bent manfully to the task.

As they struggled on through the steamy bush the rear-guard was changed
again and again, a fresh party of defenders taking up the task of
keeping the pursuers at bay, and to each man in turn was the warning
given that no shot must be fired unless it could be made to tell;
consequently the fire was less fierce, but, as the Malays found to their
cost, more fatal.

The end of the third day was approaching, and the progress of the party
had grown slower and slower, for their guide's strength had failed.  The
poor fellow had fought on bravely in spite of his wounds, insisting that
he was well enough to walk, when all the time he was suffering intense
agony; and this was not to be without its result.

During the day the Malays had attacked far more fiercely than usual, and
though always repulsed, it had not been without loss.  Several men had
fallen, while others were wounded, increasing terribly the difficulties
of the case, for the injured men had to be carried by those who found
that their task of fighting their way through the jungle in the midst of
the dense heat was already as much as they could bear.

Still no one murmured.  The pleasure-trip had turned out to be one of
terrible misery, but each man, soldier or sailor, had a cheery word for
his neighbour; and whenever an unfortunate received a spear or bullet
wound, the doctor was on the spot directly, tending him; while a couple
of his comrades deftly cut a few canes and bound them together, making a
light litter, upon which the wounded man was placed, and carried on the
shoulders of four men.

The wounded made a terrible demand upon the sound; and now, to add to
their trouble, men began to fall out of the ranks stricken down by
disease.

It was no more than the doctor anticipated; but it was terrible work.

Captain Horton was one of the first--after fighting bravely in the
rear--to go to the doctor and complain of his head.

"I can't get on, doctor," he said.  "The giddiness is dreadful, and the
pain worse.  Give me something to ease it all."

The doctor said he would, and prescribed what he could from the little
case he had with him, but he knew what was coming.  Captain Horton had
taken the jungle fever, and in an hour he was strapped down upon a
litter, raving with delirium.

Then another, and another, went down, the officers falling one after
another, till Major Sandars was left alone with the doctor, who had to
divide his time between attending to his many patients and handling a
rifle to help in their defence.

The consequence was that on the third night, instead of being near the
river, they were halted in the dense jungle, with their outposts on the
alert, and the rest throwing themselves beside the sick and wounded, too
much exhausted even to care for food.

Major Sandars and the doctor stood talking together beneath the shade of
a silk-cotton tree, whose leaves seemed to keep off a portion of the
heavy falling dew, and the former was waiting for an answer from his
companion, who, however, did not speak.

"Come, say something, doctor," exclaimed the major; "what do you think
of affairs?"

"What can I say?" replied the doctor, sadly; "we can go no farther."

"But we must," exclaimed the major, impatiently.  "The river must be
reached, and a message sent down to the steamer."

"There is only one way," replied Doctor Bolter.

"How is that?"

"Leave the sick and wounded behind, and push on.  The poor fellows can
carry them no farther."

"Then we'll stop where we are," said the major, sharply, "for I won't
leave a man behind."

"Of course you will not.  I knew you would say so.  Then all I can
recommend is that we stay as we are for a few days, and try and
recruit."

"With bad water, and hardly any provisions," said the major.  "Ah,
Bolter, this is a terribly bad business."

"Yes," said the doctor, holding out his hand, which was eagerly grasped,
"it is a terrible business.  But you know what the foreigners say of us,
Sandars?"

"No: what do you mean?"

"That the English never know when they are beaten.  We don't know when
we are beaten, and our lads are like us.  God bless them, poor fellows,
for they are as patient as can be!"

"What do you advise, then?" said the major.  "It is your duty to
advise."

"I did advise," said the doctor, laughing.  "I proposed lopping off the
bad limb of our little party, so as to leave the rest free to hobble
on."

"And suppose I had consented to it," said the major; "made the sick and
wounded as comfortable as we could, and pushed on with the rest, what
would you do?"

"Do?" said Doctor Bolter; "I don't understand you."

"I mean, of course you would have to come with us; for the Malays would
butcher the poor fellows as soon as they came up."

"Come with you, major?  Are you mad?  Why, who would tend the poor boys,
and see to their bandages?  No, my dear Sandars.  Your place is with the
sound, mine is with the unsound.  Go on with your lot--poor fellows--and
see if you can reach the river.  You might perhaps send help in time to
save us.  If you didn't, why, I should have made them comfortable to the
end, and done my duty."

"My dear doctor," said Major Sandars, holding out his hand.

"My dear major," said the doctor.  "Good-bye, then; and God bless you!"

"What!" cried the major.  "And did you think I was going?"

"Of course!"

"More shame for you, then, for thinking me such a cur.  Leave you and
these poor fellows here in the midst of the jungle, to be murdered by
those cowardly pirates?  Not I.  Why, the men would mutiny if I proposed
such a thing.  No; we'll wait a few hours, and then get on a few miles
and rest again, the best way we can."

"But you will only get the poor fellows killed if you stay," said the
doctor.

"Well, hadn't we all better be killed like men doing our duty, than go
off and live like cowards and curs?"

"Of course you had," said the doctor, speaking huskily.  "But I felt
that it was my duty to leave you free."

"Doctor," said the major, laying his hand upon the other's shoulder,
"there's nothing like trouble for making a man know what a deal of good
there is in human nature.  You're a good fellow, doctor.  Hang it, man,
you've made me feel as soft as a girl!"

He turned away his face, that staunch, brave soldier, for a few moments,
and then the weakness was past, and he turned sharply round to the
doctor.

"Now," he said, "you shall see what stuff our soldiers and sailors are
made of.  Come here."

He led the doctor back to the rear, where the guard, sun-blackened,
haggard fellows, with their clothes hanging in rags from the thorns,
were on the watch, and this being out of earshot of the sick and
wounded, who were all ranged side by side beneath a couple of shady
spreading trees, he gave the order for the men to fall in, when, with
the precision that they would have shown upon a parade ground, the
soldiers fell in, making one line; the sailors another in the rear.

"Face inwards!" cried the major, and he turned first to the sailors.
"My lads," he said, "your officers being all down, the duty of
commanding you has fallen upon me, and I thank you for the ready way in
which you have obeyed my orders.  You have been as willing and as trusty
as my own boys here, and that is saying a great deal."

There was a little shuffling of feet at this, and the men looked
uncomfortable.

"I am sorry to say," continued the major, "that matters have come to
such a grievous pass with us, that I have to make a statement, to which
I want to hear your reply.  I have no occasion to speak to you, for I
know that you will to a man obey my orders to the last; but I want to
hear what you will say."

There was a pause here, and then the major went on,--

"Matters have come to this, my lads, that I see you can stagger on no
longer with the loads you have to bear.  In fact, two more poor fellows
are down, and it will take every fighting man to carry the others.  So I
have been talking the matter over with the doctor, and it has come to
this, that our only chance is to leave the sick and wounded, and push
on, make for the river, in the hope of getting help, and coming back to
save them.  What do you say?"

"Lord love you, sir," cried one of the sailors, "why, afore to-night
them niggers would have sarved every one of our poor mates like the
doctor, there, sarves the black beadles and butterflies--stuck a pin or
a kris through 'em."

It was a grim subject to jest upon, and it was a serious thing; but
there was a roar of laughter from the men, and the doctor chuckled till
he had to hold his sides, and then wipe his eyes.

"I hope not so bad as that," said the major, when he had called
_Attention_!  "It is, however, I fear our only hope.  Will some man
among you speak?"

There was a shuffling and a whispering at this, and every man nudged his
neighbour to begin, but no one spoke till the sergeant felt that it was
his duty, and going along the front of both ranks he had a few words
with the soldiers and the jacks.  After this he retook his place and
saluted.

"Men seem to be all of one opinion, sir," he said gruffly.

"And what is that opinion?" inquired the major.

"They say, sir, as I say, that they wouldn't like their mates to desert
them in a time of trouble like this."

"That's right, sergeant," shouted a sailor.

"Yes, that's a true word," shouted another.

"Attention, there!" cried the major, sharply.  "Go on, sergeant."

"And if so be as our officer don't order us different, we'll all stick
to one another, sick and sound, to the end."

"Hear, hear; hurray!" cried the men, as with one voice.

"Do I understand, my lads, that you will stand by the sick and wounded
to the last?"

"Yes, sir, all on us!" shouted the men in chorus.

"Yes, sir," cried the joking sailor, "and we'll all carry one another
till there's only one left as can carry; and he'll have a jolly hard
time of it, that's all."

The stern discipline was for a moment forgotten, and a hearty roar of
laughter followed this sally.

"Attention!" cried the major after a few moments, and he spoke as if he
was deeply moved.  "It is only what I expected from my brave lads; and I
may tell you now that this is what Doctor Bolter and I had determined to
do--stand together to the last."

"Only we won't have any last, my lads," cried the doctor.

"I hope not," said the major.  "We'll go on more slowly and take longer
rests, for I must have no more of you men down with sickness.  Let us
hope that we may win our way safely to the ship and the island yet.  I
would send out a little party to try and fetch help, but I fear they are
beset at the residency already, and I do not think a detachment could
succeed.  I propose then that we all hold together and do our best."

"That we will, sir," cried the men, and a voice proposed three cheers
for the major.

These were hardly given before he held up his hand, and in a few words
thanked them, while the doctor was called away.

"And now, my lads, we will go forward once more, and do the best we can.
If we can only get a mile a day it is something, and every man will
lend a hand.  We will march at once.  Yes, doctor?  More bad news?"

"Yes," said Doctor Bolter, bluntly; "our guide has broken down."

"Broken down?"

"Yes, he is quite delirious."

"And," muttered the major, "we are worse than helpless without a guide."



CHAPTER SIXTY.

SIGNALS OF DISTRESS.

The night passed on board the steamer without any alarm, and at daybreak
steam was up, and with the men at their quarters and every gun loaded,
they set off on their return journey.

As the lieutenant said, it was no use to murmur about their misfortune;
all they could do was to try and make the best of matters by getting
back as soon as possible.

He could gladly have gone on at full speed, but caution forbad it.
There were mudbanks and turns innumerable; and even going slowly, the
length of the vessel was so great that again and again they were nearly
aground upon some shoal, or brushed the overhanging trees with their
bows.

Of one thing the lieutenant felt certain--that they had not been led
into this narrow river without some plans being made for keeping them
there.  Therefore every man was on the alert for an ambush, or something
that should stop their further progress towards the mouth of the
sluggish stream.

It was terribly slow work, and Lieutenant Johnson stamped with
impatience as he saw how poorly they progressed, speaking snappishly to
Bob Roberts when the latter ventured upon some observation.

This went on three or four times, when, feeling hurt by a sharp remark
on the lieutenant's part, Bob exclaimed,--

"You needn't be so hard upon me, captain; it was not my fault."

Lieutenant Johnson turned upon him angrily, and was about to say
something severe, but Bob's injured look disarmed him, and he held out
his hand.

"I'm hipped, Roberts," he said, and hardly know what I say.  "Steady,
there; steady!"

This to the man at the wheel as they were rounding a point; but the
order had a contrary effect to what was intended; it flurried and
unsteadied the sailor, who took a pull too much at the spokes, and
before anything could be done to check the steamer's speed, her sharp
bows had cut deeply into the muddy bank of the river, and she was
aground.

"Was anything ever so unlucky?" cried the lieutenant; and then he gave
order after order.  Guns were swung round so as to sweep the bows should
the Malays try to board them from the shore; the engines were reversed;
the men tramped from side to side of the deck; everything possible was
done: but the steamer remained fixed in the mud without a possibility
apparently of getting her off.

The jungle was of the densest all around, and the men approached the
bows with caution, for the head of the steamer was right in amidst dense
foliage, and it was quite probable that any number of the enemy might be
concealed and ready to hurl spears at the slightest chance.

Neither seeing nor hearing signs of the enemy, the lieutenant at last
ordered Roberts to try and land and see if the Malays were near.  "It's
a risky job, Roberts," he said kindly, "but you must take it.  I cannot
leave the steamer."

"Oh, I'll take it," said Bob, coolly, and examining his revolver, he
drew his sword, and telling the men to follow, ran forward, scrambled
over the bows, and leaped ashore, the men imitating his example, for the
bank was only some six or eight feet below the bulwarks.

But though they were landed, there was little more to be done, unless
they had been provided with billhooks to clear the way.  The undergrowth
was nearly as dense as a hedge, and after trying in half-a-dozen
different ways, and only penetrating some twenty or thirty yards, they
were obliged to give up, drenched with perspiration, their flesh full of
thorns.

"I've got something biting my legs horribly," cried Bob, turning up his
trousers, and then giving a shudder of disgust, for half-a-dozen leeches
were busy at work making a meal upon him, and several of the sailors
were in the same predicament.

"There, my lads, we may as well get on board," said Bob, grimly, "I
don't like shedding my blood in the service of my country after this
fashion.  We can do nothing here, and it would puzzle a cat--let alone a
Malay--to get through."

So they returned on board, satisfied that there was no fear of an attack
from that quarter, and the rest of the day was devoted to trying to get
the steamer out of her unpleasant predicament.

Night fell with the men utterly wearied out, and, in despair, Lieutenant
Johnson was taking himself to task for his bad management, as he termed
it, when Bob Roberts suddenly seized him by the arm.

"What is it, Roberts?"

"A shot off yonder in the jungle," he exclaimed.

"I did not hear it," was the reply; and they stood listening; but there
was nothing but the hum of insects and the distant splash of some
reptile in the muddy river.

"If we could have only heard some news of those poor fellows, I would
not have cared," said the lieutenant after a pause.  "Perhaps at this
time they are anxiously hoping that help may come, and wondering why we
have not sent in search of them; while we, with men and guns, are lying
here helpless as a log.  Oh, Roberts, it's enough to make a man jump
overboard and--"

"There it is again," cried Bob.

"What?"

"A shot!" he cried excitedly.  "I'm sure I heard a rifle-shot."

"Any of you men hear a shot?" said the lieutenant to the watch.

"No, sir; no, sir."

"I heard nothing, Roberts," said the lieutenant.  "You are excited with
exertion.  Go below and have a glass of sherry, my lad, and put in a
dose of quinine.  I can't afford to have you down with fever."

"No, thanky," said Bob; "I could manage the glass of wine, but I'm not
going to spoil it with the quinine, I'm--There now, what's that?  If
that isn't a rifle-shot I'm no man."

"Then it isn't a rifle-shot," said the lieutenant, grimly.  "I heard
nothing."

"Beg pardon, sir, I think it was a shot."

"There's another!" cried Bob, excitedly.  "It's our fellows somewhere."

There were a couple of distant shots, faintly heard now by all.

"You're right, Roberts," said the lieutenant, hastily; "but it is not
obliged to be our fellows."

"They couldn't have followed up from the island, sir," cried Bob; "so it
must be."

"Unless it is a party of Malays shooting."

"Then they are shooting our men," cried Bob.  "They wouldn't be hunting
when it's getting dark."

"There's another shot," said the lieutenant, now growing as excited as
his companion.  "What shall we do?"

"Fire a big gun," said Bob.

"That would be letting our enemies know where we are," said the
lieutenant.

"Well," said Bob, sturdily, "let 'em know.  It will show 'em that we are
not afraid of them."

"You are right, Roberts," said lieutenant Johnson, quickly.  "Unshot the
bow gun there."

The gun was opened; the shot cartridge drawn out, a blank one
substituted; and directly after, the black darkness that had seemed to
settle down over them was cut by a vivid flash, and the utter silence
that was brooding over the river was broken by the deep-mouthed roar of
the great breech-loading cannon.

The report seemed to roll off into the distance and echo amongst the
mountains; and then, as it died away, they all listened with strained
senses for some reply.

It came, just as they expected--three rifle-shots in succession.  Then a
pause, and three more rifle-shots.

There was a pause then, and the silence seemed awful, for the report of
the great gun had driven every living thing near at hand to its lair.

"Three marines," said the lieutenant, sharply, "fire as I give the
order.  One--two--three!"

The three shots rang out at stated intervals, and the men reloaded and
fired as before.

Then they waited again, and the signal was answered in a peculiar way
that left no doubt whatever in the minds of those on board, and a murmur
of satisfaction ran through the little crew.

And now, for the first time, Lieutenant Johnson began to wonder whether
he had doubted the Malay guide without cause.  He might have been swept
overboard after all, and the hunting-party be really hemmed-in at some
stockade.

A few moments' consideration, however, showed that this could not be the
case, for they had journeyed back many miles before the steamer ran
aground; and though the river winded a great deal, it was impossible
that the stockade could have been higher up.  The firing certainly came
from quite another direction, away from the river; and shots that were
evidently not signals were now heard again--one or two, then three or
four together, as if men were skirmishing, and then came several
volleys.

There was a fight going on, that was evident; and as the two officers
realised this, they felt half-maddened at their helplessness.

They wanted to go to the aid of those who were fighting, but it would
have been utter madness to have attempted to land with a detachment in
the dark and try to hack a way through the jungle.  They might have
fired signals and had them responded to, but it would have been a
helpless, bewildering piece of folly; and with pulses beating rapidly
with excitement, and every nerve on the stretch, they felt themselves
bound to a state of inaction, still they felt that they could fire
signals to guide those who might, perhaps, get nearer, or, if shut in
some place, fight the better for knowing that help was so near.

They did all they could, sending up a rocket from time to time, and
twice, at intervals of about an hour, firing a big gun, each signal
eliciting a reply from the distance; and then, at intervals of ten
minutes, a rifle was fired, while, when six, seven, and eight bells were
sounded, the same number of rifle-shots were heard.

It was a night of general watching on board the steamer, no man seeking
shelter, though about seven bells the rain began to pour down with all
the violence of a storm in the tropics, accompanied by thunder and
lightning of the heaviest and most vivid description.

For about four hours this kept on, guns being fired in the intervals,
when the thunder ceased for a few moments; but no answering shots had
been heard for some time.

One thing was very evident--the party engaged were entrenched somewhere,
and defending themselves, for their answering shots had been no nearer;
in fact, all felt that travelling through the dense jungle was
impossible until daylight set in.

The night was about half gone when the storm ceased as suddenly as it
had come on; the clouds were dispersed, and the moon shone out clearly,
showing them that the sluggish river was sluggish no longer, but running
fast, and threatening to fill up to the top of its high banks, the water
coming down evidently from the mountains.

This revived the hopes of all on board, and not without reason, for the
steamer was gradually shifting her position; and hardly had a boat been
lowered, and a hawser made fast to one of the big trees ashore, before
she lifted more and more; and in a few moments more, to the delight of
all, they felt the branches sweeping the rigging, and the steamer moving
free and clear.

The men, forgetting discipline, and the need perhaps for silence, gave
an involuntary cheer; which ceased on the instant as, from somewhere
lower down the stream, there came a faint, "Ship ahoy!"

"Ahoy!" was answered.

And after a brief colloquy a boat was lowered down, with half-a-dozen
marines as well as the crew, Bob Roberts taking command, and cautiously
steering her towards where the man who hailed seemed to be.

The boat was allowed to descend the stream stern foremost, the men
dipping their oars occasionally to keep her head right, and to prevent
her being swept down too swiftly.

The next minute, at the word, they gave away, and the cutter was run in
beneath the branches to where one of the crew stood in the moonlight,
with a soldier by his side.

"Why, it's Parker!" cried Bob, catching the man's hand.

"Parker it is, Mr Roberts, sir," said the man faintly.  "I thought we
should never have done it, what with the storm and the thick cane.
We've about cut our way here."

"And the captain and Major Sandars?" cried Bob.

"'Bout a mile away, sir, through the jungle, wanting help badly."

"Can we get there to-night?" cried Bob.  "But jump in my lads, and we'll
hear what the lieutenant says.  Come: why don't you jump in?"

"I'm bet out, sir, and my mate too," said the sailor.  "We're a bit
wounded, sir.  We volunteered to come for help when we first heerd the
dear old `Startler' speak out, but it's been a long job.  Will you help
us aboard, mates?"

Half-a-dozen willing hands soon had the two poor, drenched, wounded, and
exhausted men on board the cutter, and five minutes after they were on
the deck being questioned by the lieutenant.

"I told the captain, sir, as I'd ask you to fire two guns if we got here
safe.  He's down with fever, sir, and it would cheer him up if he heard
the old gal say--begging your pardon--as she was close at hand."

The word was given, and a couple of heavy roars from the "old gal," as
the sailor affectionately called his ship, bore the news to the captain;
and then, in answer to the lieutenant, both of the messengers declared
that it would be impossible to get to the helpless party that night.

"I wouldn't say so, sir, if I didn't feel," said Parker, "that the lads
would only go losing theirselves in the wet jungle, and do no good.  If
you'd start at daybreak, sir, and take plenty of rum and biscuits, as
well as powder and shot, you might get them aboard."

Then by slow degrees those on board learned from the worn-out messengers
the whole of their experience, and how that since Major Sandars had
appealed to the men, and they had sworn to stick together to the last,
they had only made journeys of about a mile in length through the dense
jungle.  The guide was still delirious, and half the men down with
sickness or wounds.  Food they had had of the most meagre description,
and that principally the birds they had shot.  Their ammunition was fast
failing, and the time seemed to have come that evening to lie down and
die, so weak were they, and so pertinacious were the attacks of the
enemy--when a thrill of joy ran through every breast as they heard the
signal shots, and knew that there was help at hand.



CHAPTER SIXTY ONE.

HOW BOB ROBERTS TURNED THE TABLES.

Never was daylight looked for with greater anxiety than that night on
board the steamer.

With the first flush she was allowed to float lower down, till abreast
of the spot where the two men were taken on board, and then every
available hand was landed, under Bob Roberts' command, to try, by firing
signals and listening for the reply, to reach the place where the
worn-out party were making their last stand.

The two poor fellows who had come on board were in too pitiable a plight
to move, and, even if they had gone, they could not have guided the
relief party, who, only twenty strong, leaped ashore, eager to reach
their friends, and inflict some punishment on the Malays, while the
others retreated towards the ship.

Every man was laden heavily with food and ammunition, Lieutenant
Johnson's difficulty being to keep the brave fellows from taking too
much, and hindering their fighting powers, as, with a hearty cheer, they
plunged in amidst the interlacing canes.

The task was hard, but less so than they expected--resolving itself as
it did into hacking the canes and forcing their way through; for before
they had gone far they could hear firing before them, and it was kept up
so vigorously that there was no occasion to fire a single signal.

Hour after hour did they toil on, till the firing suddenly ceased, and
they were for a moment at fault; but Bob Roberts and Old Dick, who were
leading, suddenly heard voices close at hand, where the forest growth
was thinner; and hacking and chopping away, they had nearly reached the
spot when the firing suddenly began again furiously for a few moments,
and then once more stopped.

The next minute the way was clear, and Bob Roberts, with his twenty
blue-jackets and marines, went in at the double to an opening in the
jungle where the remains of the hunting-party were making a desperate
stand against a strong body of Malay; who, spear against bayonet, were
pressing them home.

The middy took it all in at a glance, and saw that in another minute the
weak helpless wielders of rifle and bayonet would be borne down, and
they, and the sick and wounded lying in the long grass, massacred to a
man.

Major Sandars said afterwards that the oldest colonel in the service
could not have done better; for, with his sun-browned face lighting up
with excitement, and waving his sword, Bob Roberts shouted his orders to
the men, sprang forward, giving point at a great bronze-skinned Malay
who had borne the major down and was about to spear him, while with a
hearty British cheer the marines and blue-jackets dashed up, poured in a
staggering volley amongst the thronging enemy, and followed it up with a
bayonet charge along the beaten-down jungle alley, till, dropping spear
and kris, the Malays fled for their lives.

Others were hurrying up to be present at the massacre; for the news had
spread that the English had fired their last cartridge and were weak
with starvation; but as they met their flying comrades the panic spread.
The reinforcements were magnified a hundred times; and it wanted but
Bob Roberts' quick sharp halt, form in line two deep, and the firing in
of a couple of volleys, to send all to the right-about, a few of the
hindmost getting a prick of the bayonet before they got away.

Pursuit would have been in vain, so Bob left a picket of five men under
Old Dick to keep the narrow path, bidding them fell a tree or two so
that their branches might lie towards and hinder an attack from the
enemy, before hurrying back with fourteen men to the little jungle camp.

He tried hard, but he could not keep back his tears as the gaunt
bleeding remains of a fine body of men gathered round him to grasp his
hands and bless him; while, when one strange-looking little naked object
came up and seized him by the shoulders, he felt almost ready to laugh.

It was hard to believe it was Dr Bolter standing there, in a pair of
ragged trousers reduced in length to knee breeches, and nothing else.

"Bob, my dear boy," he said, "I can't tell you how glad I am; but give
me some rum, biscuits, anything you have, for my poor lads are perishing
for want of food."

The men's wallets were being emptied, and food and ammunition were
rapidly distributed, for not a scrap of provision nor a single cartridge
was left with the major's party.

"Why, you are laughing at me, you dog," cried the doctor, as he came
back for more provisions; "but just you have forty patients, Bob
Roberts, many of them wounded, and not a bandage to use, Bob, my lad!
My handkerchiefs, neck and pocket, went first; then my Norfolk jacket,
and then my shirt.  Poor lads! poor brave lads!" he said piteously; "I'd
have taken off my skin if it would have done them good."

"Ah, doctor," said Bob, in a voice full of remorse, "I'm only a boy yet,
and a very thoughtless one.  Pray forgive me.  I meant no harm."

"God bless you, my lad; I know that," cried the doctor, warmly.  "You've
saved us all.  Boy, indeed?  Well, so you are, Bob; but as long as
England has plenty of such boys as you, we need not trouble ourselves
about the men--they'll all come in time."

It was a pitiful task, but every one worked with a will; and now that
they were refreshed with food, reanimated by the presence of twenty
fresh men, supplied with ammunition, and, above all, supported by the
knowledge that not a mile away, through the newly-cut path, there lay a
haven of rest in the shape of the steamer--men who had been fit to lie
down and die, stood up, flushed, excited, and ready to help bear the
sick and wounded towards the river; while, to make matters better, the
Malays had had such a thrashing in this last engagement that they made
no fresh attack.  The consequence was that half-a-dozen weak men under
Major Sandars made a show in the rear, and all the strong devoted
themselves to helping to carry the invalids to the steamer.

More help was afforded too from the steamer itself, as soon as
Lieutenant Johnson found that there was no fear of attack, and in the
end all were got safely on board; and long before night Dr Bolter,
clothed and comfortable, had all his sick men in berths and hammocks,
well tended, already looking better, and he himself walking up and down
the deck chuckling and rubbing his hands.

The losses had been severe, but far less than might have been expected,
owing to the devotion of the men, who had struggled on till they could
get no farther, and would have perished one and all but for the timely
succour brought by the middy, and indirectly by the emissary of Rajah
Gantang, who little thought when he took the steamer, by his clever
ruse, up the solitary river, that he was leading them where it would be
the salvation of the hunting-party, who were doomed to death.

Not a moment had been lost, and as soon as all were on board, the
steamer recommenced her downward course towards the residency, where all
felt that help must be urgently needed, by the little party who had its
defence.



CHAPTER SIXTY TWO.

CAPTAIN SMITHERS PROVES A TRUE OFFICER, AND PRIVATE GRAY A GENTLEMAN.

In truth help was urgently needed at the little fort; but had its
defenders been compelled to wait for that which the steamer would
afford, every one would have been either butchered or taken off into a
terrible captivity.

Captain Smithers, when he looked round, had seen the enemy coming on in
such strength; and with a demonstration so full of clever plan, backed
up by determination, that he could not help feeling that the critical
moment had come, and that they must either surrender or meet death like
men.

If he surrendered, the probabilities were that they would all be
massacred, save the women; and as he thought of them he raised his eyes,
and found those of Private Gray fixed upon him, as if reading his very
soul.

"You know what I was thinking, Gray," he said, resentfully.

"Yes, sir," said Gray, sharply; "you were debating within yourself
whether you should strike the Union Jack in token of surrender."

"I was," said Captain Smithers, angry with himself at being as it were
obliged to speak as he did, to this simple private of his regiment.
"And you advise it?"

"Advise it, sir?  For heaven's sake--for the sake of the ladies whom we
have to defend, let us fight till the last gasp, and then send a few
shots into the magazine.  Better death than the mercy of a set of
cut-throat pirates."

Captain Smithers was silent for a few moments, and then he said
quietly,--

"I should not have surrendered, Gray.  You are quite right."  He
hesitated for a moment or two, and then said hoarsely,--

"Gray, we hate each other."

"This is no time for hatred, sir," said Gray, sternly.

"No," said Captain Smithers, "it is not.  In half an hour we shall be,
in all human probability, dead men.  Rank will be no more.  Gray, I
never in my heart doubted your honesty.  You are a brave man.  Now for
duty."

"Yes, sir," said Gray, in a deeply moved voice--"for duty."

_Crash_!

There was a sharp ragged volley from the enemy at that moment as a body
of them advanced, and a shriek of agony from close by, followed by a
fall.

"Some poor fellow down," said the Captain, hoarsely.  "Who is it,
Sergeant Lund?" he said, taking a dozen strides in the direction of the
cry.

"Private Sim, sir.  Shot through the heart--dead!"

The captain turned away, and the next minute the fight on all sides was
general, the enemy winning their way nearer and nearer, and a couple of
prahus sending a shower of ragged bullets from their brass lelahs over
the attacking party's heads.

"Stand firm, my lads; stand firm.  Your bayonets, boys!" cried Captain
Smithers, as with a desperate rush the Malays dashed forward now to
carry the place by assault, and in sufficient numbers to sweep all
before them--when _boom! boom! boom! boom_! came the reports of heavy
guns, and the fire from the prahus ceased.

"Hurrah! my lads; steady!" cried Tom Long, waving his sword.  "The
steamer! the steamer!"

"No," cried Captain Smithers, "it is from below.  It is a heavily-armed
prahu."

"No," cried Tom Long; "a steamer! a steamer!"

He was right, for a little gunboat was rapidly ascending the river, and
one of the prahus began to settle down in front of the fort, while the
other used her sweeps to get away.

Another minute, and just when they had won an entrance, beating back the
defenders of the barricaded gateways, a panic seized upon the Malays,
for shell after shell was dropping and bursting in their midst; and
before Captain Smithers and his brave little party could realise the
fact, the enemy was in full retreat.

A quarter of an hour later, and the gunboat was moored abreast of the
fort, and congratulations were being exchanged.

He had said nothing, not daring to hope for success; but Ali had, as
soon as he could, sent a fisherman in his boat to try and convey word of
the danger to the Dindings.  The message had been faithfully borne, and
the little gunboat sent to help to keep the enemy at bay, till the
steamer could come from Penang with a detachment of infantry on board.

The heavy guns were too much for the Malays; and just as it had been
decided that the gunboat should ascend the river in quest of the
"Startler," the latter came slowly down the river with her rescued
freight.

In a couple more days the Penang steamer had arrived with a battalion of
foot, under Colonel Hanson; and the next thing heard was that the Sultan
Hamet, with Rajah Gantang, had fled up the country, the minor chiefs
sending in their submission to the British and suing for peace.

Doctor Bolter became almost the greatest man at the station after this,
and he went about laughing as he kept--to use his own words--"setting
men up," speaking of them as if they were natural history specimens.
First he had to be thanked by Rachel Linton for saving her father's
life; then he found Captain Horton blessing him for his recovery; and
one way and another he had a very proud time of it, though, to his great
regret, he had no chance of pursuing his favourite hobby.

The Malay who acted as his guide was recovering fast from the tiger's
clawing, and had attached himself to the doctor as servant when matters
settled down; and it was affecting to see the poor fellow's delight upon
encountering Ali alive and well.

Matters were soon arranged, and a busy party were at work rebuilding the
residency, a number of Chinese joiners being enlisted for the task.

Meanwhile the fort and barracks had to be the general dwelling; and Bob
Roberts and Tom Long were looked upon as heroes.

It so happened, that one day Colonel Hanson entered the mess-room, where
Captain Horton, Major Sandars, Captain Smithers, and the other officers,
were grouped about.  Mr Linton and the ladies were present; and on one
side stood a group of soldiers, foremost among whom were Sergeant Lund
and Private Gray.

Major Sandars advanced to meet the governor's messenger, and he was
about to make some remark, when Colonel Hanson turned round, caught
sight of Private Gray, and started with astonishment.

The next moment he had gone forward to where Gray stood, looking very
stern and troubled, and caught him by the hands, dragging him forward,
and evidently forgetting all the stiff etiquette of the army.

"Why, my dear old Frank," he cried, shaking his hands, and seeming as if
he could hug him, "this is a surprise! this is a meeting!  Why, where
have you been?  Soldiering too, and wearing the scarlet!  My dear old
Frank," he cried again, with his voice shaking with emotion, "I feel as
weak as a child; upon my word I do."

"Colonel Hanson," said Gray, quietly, but evidently very much moved, as
he saw that they were the centre of every gaze, "this is indeed a
strange meeting.  I little thought it was you.  But you forget; we
belong to different circles now."

"Forget?  Different circles?  Do we indeed?" cried Colonel Hanson, whose
face was flushed with excitement.  "I forget nothing.  Come here," he
cried, and dragging Gray's arm through his, he faced round to where the
astonished officers and the resident were standing.

"Major Sandars, Mr Linton, gentlemen, this is my very dear old friend,
Francis Murray.  We were schoolfellows together at Eton, and--and--and--
I can't tell you now all the good brave things he has done for me.  For
years he has been missing; that wretched Overend and Gurney smash broke
him, and he disappeared.  And, Frank, you foolish fellow, I have been
searching for you high and low to tell you that that cantankerous old
lady, your aunt, was dead, and had changed her mind at the last moment,
quarrelled with that lot who had got hold of her, sent for her
solicitor, and left Greylands and every farthing she had to you.  Thank
goodness I have found you at last.  Now sign your application to buy out
at once.  I will forward it home, and take upon myself to consider it
accepted, pending the official discharge."

While this was going on, Captain Smithers, whose heart felt like lead,
had gazed from one to the other.  Now his eyes were fixed with bitter
jealousy upon Private Gray, and now upon Rachel Linton, though she saw
him not, but, pale and flushed by turns, she was gazing at Gray.

He was a true gentleman at heart, and in spite of his misery and
disappointment, that which he had just heard gave him some satisfaction.
It had been one of his bitterest griefs--one with a poisoned sting--
that feeling which always haunted him, that Rachel Linton should prefer
a private soldier to him, an officer and a gentleman.  For that she did
love Gray he had long felt certain.  Gray, or Murray, then, was a
gentleman, who, like many other gentlemen, had enlisted, and served as a
very brave soldier.  Yes, he was, Captain Smithers owned to himself, a
very brave soldier, though he had felt that he hated him; while now--
now--

"I'll fight it down," said Captain Smithers to himself.

"Heaven helping me, I'll be a gentleman as well as an officer.  He has
won, and I have lost.  I ought to like him for her sake, and I will."

It was a brave effort, and it required all his strength--but he did it.
He looked first at Rachel Linton, and then at the sweet sympathising
face of her cousin, and went up close to them.

"Rachel," he said, holding out his hand and speaking in a low voice only
heard by her and Miss Sinclair, "I give up.  Let me be a dear friend, if
I can be nothing more."

Miss Linton held out her hand frankly and cordially, and he held it a
moment in his.  Then dropping it, he walked straight across to where
Colonel Hanson was standing with Murray in the midst of a group, and
holding out his hand, he said,--

"Mr Murray, I am your debtor for my life.  Henceforth let us, too, be
very dear friends."

The two young men clasped hands in a firm strong grip, each reading the
other's thoughts, and they instinctively knew that henceforth all enmity
between them was at end.  It was all Frank Murray could do to stand
firm, for he knew how great an effort this must have cost his rival, and
he mentally vowed to repay him all.

"Well," said Major Sandars, laughing, "this is a surprise indeed.
Gentlemen all, Private Gray was so good and true a man in the private's
mess, that I for one am quite sure he will be a welcome addition to
ours."

"Mr Murray will grant that I have always looked upon him with respect,"
said Mr Linton, cordially.  "I owe him too deep a debt," he said,
holding out his hand, "not to feel intensely gratified at this change in
his position."

The other officers warmly shook hands, Tom Long amongst the number;
while, when it came to Bob Roberts' turn, he said with his eyes
sparkling,--

"I say, Mr Murray, I am glad, 'pon my word."  Bob Roberts and Tom Long
strolled out together on to the parade ground, crossing it to get under
the trees where a group of soldiers and Jacks were standing.

"I say, Tom Long, this is a rum game, isn't it?" said Bob.

"I call it beastly," said Tom.  "Well, there's one consolation, young
fellow, your nose is out of joint in a certain quarter."

"No," said Bob, "it's yours.  I've long enough given up my pretentions.
Miss Linton and I are the best of friends; but I'm sorry for you."

"Bother!" said Tom Long.  "I wish I hadn't been such a fool.  Why,
whatever are they talking about?"

"I always knew he was a gentleman," said Sergeant Lund, authoritatively.
"The way he could write out a despatch was something wonderful, that it
was.  Ha!  I'm sorry he's gone!"

"Tell you what," said old Dick, "its about my turn now.  What would some
of you say if I was to turn out to be a mysterious orphan, and be a
skipper or an admiral?"

"That's quite right, my lads," said Bob Roberts, sharply.  "Old Dick is
a mysterious orphan, and if you open his shirt you'll find he's marked
with a blue mermaid."

"That's a true word," said old Dick, grinning.  "But, Master Roberts,
sir, don't you think you might pass your word for us to say a half
dollar down there at the canteen?  What's just took place has been hard
on our emotions, sir, and the consequence is as we are all werry dry."

"I think you're more likely to turn out a fish, Dick--a shark, than
anything else," said Bob.  "But I don't mind.  Will you be half, Tom?"

Tom Long nodded; and the men went off laughing to the canteen, to drink
the health of Frank Murray, late Private Gray, and ended by saying,
through their mouthpiece, Dick, that,--

"This here is a werry strange world."



CHAPTER SIXTY THREE.

THE LAST OF IT.

There is not much more to say about the various people who formed the
little world at the jungle-station.

Despatches were sent home, in which Major Sandars and Captain Horton
dwelt most strongly upon the bravery of the young officers serving
respectively beneath them.  Captain Horton said so much respecting Bob
Roberts, that poor Bob said he felt as red as a tomato; while Tom Long,
instead of becoming what old Dick called more "stuck-upper" on reading
of his bravery, seemed humbled and more frank and natural.  Certainly he
became better liked; and at a dinner that was given after the country
had settled, and Colonel Hanson and his force were about to return, that
officer in a speech said that from what he had heard, Mr Midshipman
Roberts and Mr Ensign Long would become ornaments of the services, to
which they belonged.

And so they did, and the truest of friends, when they did not quarrel,
though really their squabbles only cemented their friendship the
stronger.

They both visited Mr and Mrs Frank Murray at their pretty bungalow at
Parang, where Rachel was settled down so long as her father retained his
post at the residency; but their most enjoyable visits were, as years
went by, to their friend the sultan, who was fast improving the country,
and encouraging his people to become more commercial, in place of the
arrant pirates they had been.  For in a very short time in the
settlement of the country under British protection, the rank of sultan
had been offered to the Tumongong, who refused it in favour of his son
Ali, and this was ratified by the Governor of the Straits--Sultan Hamet
dying a victim to excess, and the piratical Rajah Gantang of his wounds.

Which was, so said old Dick in confidence to the two young officers, "a
blessing to everybody consarned, for that there Rajah Gantang was about
the wussest nigger as ever suffered from the want of soap."

The last the writer heard of Dick was, that he was the oldest boatswain
in the service, and that he was on board that rapid gunboat the
"Peregrine," commanded by Lieutenant Robert Roberts, RN.

It need only be added that Captain Smithers got over his disappointment,
and two years later married Mary Sinclair, who makes him an excellent
wife.  So that none of those concerned had cause to regret the trip up
the Malay river in HMS "Startler."

THE END.





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