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Title: With the Dyaks of Borneo - A Tale of the Head Hunters
Author: Brereton, F. S. (Frederick Sadleir), 1872-
Language: English
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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.

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 With the Dyaks of Borneo

 BY Captain Brereton


    =Kidnapped by Moors=: A Story of Morocco. 6_s._
    =A Boy of the Dominion=: A Tale of Canadian Immigration. 5_s._
    =The Hero of Panama=: A Tale of the Great Canal. 6_s._
    =The Great Aeroplane=: A Thrilling Tale of Adventure. 6_s._
    =A Hero of Sedan=: A Tale of the Franco-Prussian War. 6_s._
    =How Canada was Won=: A Tale of Wolfe and Quebec. 6_s._
    =With Wolseley to Kumasi=: The First Ashanti War. 6_s._
    =Roger the Bold=: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico. 6_s._
    =Under the Chinese Dragon=: A Tale of Mongolia. 5_s._
    =Indian and Scout=: A Tale of the Gold Rush to California. 5_s._
    =John Bargreave's Gold=: Adventure in the Caribbean. 5_s._
    =Roughriders of the Pampas=: Ranch Life in South America. 5_s._
    =Jones of the 64th=: Battles of Assaye and Laswaree. 5_s._
    =With Roberts to Candahar=: Third Afghan War. 5_s._
    =A Hero of Lucknow=: A Tale of the Indian Mutiny. 5_s._
    =A Soldier of Japan=: A Tale of the Russo-Japanese War. 5_s._
    =Tom Stapleton, the Boy Scout.= 3_s._ 6_d._
    =With Shield and Assegai=: A Tale of the Zulu War. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =Under the Spangled Banner=: The Spanish-American War. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =With the Dyaks of Borneo=: A Tale of the Head Hunters. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =A Knight of St. John=: A Tale of the Siege of Malta. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =Foes of the Red Cockade=: The French Revolution. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =In the King's Service=: Cromwell's Invasion of Ireland. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =In the Grip of the Mullah=: Adventure in Somaliland. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =With Rifle and Bayonet=: A Story of the Boer War. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =One of the Fighting Scouts=: Guerrilla Warfare in South Africa.
    3_s._ 6_d._
    =The Dragon of Pekin=: A Story of the Boxer Revolt. 3_s._ 6_d._
    =A Gallant Grenadier=: A Story of the Crimean War. 3_s._ 6_d._

 LONDON: BLACKIE & SON, LTD., 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.



[Illustration: THE PIRATES' STRONGHOLD]



 With
 The Dyaks of Borneo

 A Tale of the Head Hunters

 BY

 CAPTAIN F. S. BRERETON

 Author of "Kidnapped by Moors" "A Boy of the Dominion" "The Hero of
 Panama" "Tom Stapleton, the Boy Scout" &c.

 _ILLUSTRATED BY WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I_.

 NEW EDITION

 BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
 LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY



    CONTENTS


    CHAP.                              Page

       I. TYLER RICHARDSON                9

      II. EASTWARD HO!                   24

     III. PREPARING FOR A JOURNEY        40

      IV. A TRAITOR AND A VILLAIN        58

       V. ESCAPE FROM THE SCHOONER       76

      VI. COURAGE WINS THE DAY           96

     VII. FLIGHT ACROSS THE LAND        116

    VIII. MEETING THE DYAKS             136

      IX. ON FOOT THROUGH THE JUNGLE    156

       X. THE PIRATE STRONGHOLD         176

      XI. A MIDNIGHT ENCOUNTER          196

     XII. CAPTAIN OF A FLEET            216

    XIII. THE RAJAH OF SARAWAK          236

     XIV. A DANGEROUS ENTERPRISE        256

      XV. OFF TO THE RIVER SABEBUS      274

     XVI. HEMMED IN                     294

    XVII. DANGER AND DIFFICULTY         314

   XVIII. A NARROW ESCAPE               334

     XIX. AN ATTACK UPON THE STOCKADES  354

      XX. THE END OF THE CHASE          373



    ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                          Page

    THE PIRATES' STRONGHOLD      _Frontispiece_           185

    THE FIGHT AT THE STERN                                 78

    "HE SPRANG AT TYLER"                                  138

    THE CONFERENCE WITH THE TRIBESMEN                     150

    ELUDING THE PIRATES                                   238

    "HE LAUNCHED THE MISSILE AT THEM"                     296



CHAPTER I

Tyler Richardson


It was a balmy autumn day four years after Queen Victoria ascended the
throne, and the neighbourhood of Southampton Water was looking perhaps
more brilliant and more beautiful than it had during the long summer
which had just passed. Already the leaves were covering the ground, and
away across the water pine-trees stood up like sentinels amidst others
which had already lost their covering. A dim blue haze in the distance
denoted the presence of Southampton, then as now a thriving seaport town.

Situated on a low eminence within some hundred yards of the sea, and
commanding an extended view to either side and in front, was a tiny
creeper-clad cottage with gabled roof and twisted chimneys. Behind the
little residence there was a square patch of kitchen-garden, in which
a grizzled, weather-beaten individual was toiling, whilst in front a
long strip of turf, in which were many rose beds, extended as far as the
wicket-gate which gave access to the main Portsmouth road.

Seated in the picturesque porch of the cottage, with a long clay pipe
between his lips, and a telescope of large dimensions beside him, was a
gray-headed gentleman whose dress at once betokened that in his earlier
days he had followed the sea as a calling. In spite of his sunken
cheeks, and general air of ill-health, no one could have mistaken him
for other than a sailor; and if there had been any doubt the clothes
he wore would have at once settled the question. But Captain John
Richardson, to give him his full title, was proud of the fact that he
had at one time belonged to the royal navy, and took particular pains
to demonstrate it to all with whom he came in contact. It was a little
vanity for which he might well be excused, and, besides, he was such a
genial good-natured man that no one would have thought of blaming him.

On this particular day some question of unusual importance seemed to
be absorbing the captain's whole attention. His eyes had a far-away
expression, his usually wrinkled brow was puckered in an alarming
manner, and the lips, between which rested the stem of his clay pipe,
were pursed up in the most thoughtful position. Indeed, so much was he
occupied that he forgot even to pull at his smoke, and in consequence
the tobacco had grown cold.

"That's the sixth time!" he suddenly exclaimed, with a muttered
expression of disgust, awaking suddenly from his reverie. "I've used
nearly half the box of matches already, and that is an extravagance
which I cannot afford. No, John Richardson, matches are dear to you at
least, for you are an unfortunate dog with scarcely enough to live on,
and with nothing in your pocket to waste. But I'd forego many little
luxuries, and willingly cut down my expenditure, if only I could see a
way of settling this beggarly question. For three years and more it has
troubled me, and I'm as far now from a solution as I was when the matter
first cropped up. There's Frank, my brother at Bristol, who has offered
his help, and I fully realize his kindness; but I am sure that his plan
will fail to satisfy the boy. That's where the difficulty comes. The
lad's so full of spirit, so keen to follow his father's profession, that
he would eat his heart out were I to send him to Bristol, but what else
can I suggest as a future for him?"

Once more Captain John Richardson became absorbed in thought, and,
leaning back against the old oak beam which supported the porch, became
lost to his surroundings. So lost indeed that he failed to hear the
creak of the wicket, while his dim eye failed to see the youth who came
striding towards him. But a moment later, catching sight of the figure
screened amidst the creepers in the porch, the young fellow gave vent to
a shout which thoroughly awakened the sailor.

"Sitting in your usual place, Father, and keeping an eye upon every foot
of Southampton Water. Why, you are better even than the coast-guard, and
must know every ship which sails into or out of the docks."

"Ay, and the port from which she set out or to which she's bound in very
many cases," answered the captain with a smile, beckoning to his son to
seat himself beside him in the porch. "And talking of ships reminds me,
my lad, to broach a certain subject to you. A big overgrown fellow like
yourself, with calves and arms which would have been my admiration had I
possessed them when I was your age, should be doing something more than
merely amusing himself. You've the future to look to, your bread and
butter to earn, and how d'you mean to set about it? Come, every young
man should have his choice of a calling, though I think that his parent
or guardian should be at hand to aid him in his selection. What do you
propose to do?"

Captain Richardson once more leaned back against the oaken prop and
surveyed his son, while he slowly abstracted a match from a box which he
produced from a capacious pocket, and set a light to his pipe once more.

"Come, sonny," he continued, "in a couple of years you will be almost
a man, and you are as strong as many already. You were seventeen three
months ago, and since that date you have amused yourself without
hindrance from me. But your playtime must come to an end. Your father is
too poor to keep you longer at school, and has so little money that he
can give you nothing but his good wishes towards your future."

For more than a minute there was silence in the porch, while Tyler
Richardson stared out across the neat stretch of turf at the dancing
water beyond, evidently weighing the words to which the captain had
given vent. That he was strong and sturdy no one could deny. This
was no little vanity on the part of his father, but a fact which was
apparent to any who glanced at the lad. Seated there with his cap
dangling from his fingers, and the sunlight streaming through the
creepers on to his figure, one saw a youth whose rounded features
bore an unmistakable likeness to those possessed by the captain. But
there the resemblance ceased altogether; for Tyler's ruddy cheeks
and sparkling eyes betokened an abundance of good health, while his
lithe and active limbs, the poise of his head, and the breadth of his
shoulders, showed that he was a young man who delighted in plenty of
exercise, and to whom idleness was in all probability irksome. Then,
too, there was an expression upon his face which told almost as plainly
as could words that he was possessed of ambition, and that though he had
at present nothing to seriously occupy his attention, yet that, once his
vocation was found, he was determined to follow it up with all eagerness.

"I know the matter troubles you, Dad," he said, suddenly turning to
his father, "and I know what difficulties there are. Were it not so
my answer would be given in a moment, for what was good enough for my
father is a fine profession for me. The wish of my life is to enter the
royal navy."

"And your father's also. If I saw some way in which I could obtain a
commission for you, why, my lad, you should have it to-morrow, but
there!" (And the captain held out his palms and shrugged his shoulders
to show how helpless he was.) "You know as well as I do that I cannot
move a finger to help you in that direction. I must not grumble, but
for all that, your father has been an unfortunate dog. I entered the
service as full of eagerness as a lad might well be. I was strong and
healthy in those days, and the open life appealed to my nature. Then
came an unlucky day; a round-shot, fired from one of the French forts
which our ships were blockading, struck me on the hip, fracturing the
bone badly. You are aware of this. I barely escaped with my life, and
for months remained upon the sick-list. Then, seeing that I was useless
upon a ship, the Lords of the Admiralty gave me a shore billet, and for
two years I struggled wearily to perform the work. But the old wound
crippled me, and was a constant source of trouble, so that in the end I
was pensioned off, and retired to this cottage to spend the remainder
of my life. I'm a worn-out hulk, Tyler, and that's the truth. Had I
remained on the active list I should no doubt have made many friends
to whom I could have applied at this moment. Perhaps even were I to
state the facts to the Admiralty they would find a commission for you,
but then my means are too small to equip you for the life, and you
would start so badly that your future might be ruined. But there is
Frank, your uncle, who lives at Bristol, and conducts a large trade
with foreign parts; we never had much in common, but for all that have
always been excellent friends, and on more than one occasion he has
suggested that you might go to him and take a post in his warehouse.
If that did not suit you, he would apprentice you to one of his ships,
and the life for which you long would be before you. There, I have told
you everything, and seeing that I cannot obtain a commission for you in
the royal navy, I urge upon you to consider your uncle's proposition
seriously. Who knows, it may mean a great future. He is childless, and
might select you as his successor; and, if not that, he would at least
push on your fortunes and interest himself on your behalf."

Once more the old sea-captain leaned back in his seat and groped wearily
for his matches, while he fixed a pair of anxious eyes upon his son. As
for the latter, he still remained looking steadily out across the water,
as if searching for an answer from the numerous vessels which floated
there. At last, however, he rose to his feet and replaced the cap upon
his head.

"It's a big matter to settle," he said shortly, "and, as you say, I
had better consider it thoroughly. I'll give you my answer to-morrow,
Father, and I feel sure that I shall do as you wish. Every day I see
the necessity of doing something for my living, and as the navy is out
of the question I must accept the next best thing which comes along. I
should be an ungrateful beggar if I did not realize the kindness of my
uncle's offer, and if I decide to take advantage of it, you may be sure
that I shall do my best to please him in every particular. And now I
will get off to Southampton, for there is a big ship lying there which I
am anxious to see. She's full of grain, and hails from America."

Nodding to the captain, Tyler turned and strolled down the garden. Then,
placing one hand lightly upon the gate-post, he vaulted over the wicket
and disappeared behind a dense mass of hedge which hid the dusty road
from view. A moment or two later his father could hear him as he ran in
the direction of Southampton.

Half an hour later Tyler found himself amidst a maze of shipping, with
which the harbour was filled, and at once sought out the vessel of which
he had spoken. She was a big three-master, and lay moored alongside the
dock, with a derrick and shears erected beside her. A couple of gangways
led on to her decks, while a notice was slung in the rigging giving
warning to all and sundry that strangers were not admitted upon the ship.

A few minutes before Tyler arrived at his destination the stevedores had
knocked off work in order to partake of their dinner, whilst the hands
on board had retired to their quarters for the same purpose. In fact,
but for one of the officers, who strolled backwards and forwards on the
dock-side, the deck of the ship was deserted, and Tyler could have gone
on board without a soul to oppose him. But he knew the ways of shipping
people, for scarcely a day passed without his paying a visit to the
harbour. Indeed, so great was his love of the sea that during the last
three months he had spent the greater part of his time at the docks,
and, being a cheerful, gentle-mannered young fellow, had made many
friends amongst the officers and crew of the various vessels which had
put in there with cargoes for the port. Without hesitation, therefore,
he accosted the mate, who was strolling up and down upon the quay.

"May I go aboard?" he asked. "I hear that you carry a cargo of grain,
and I'm anxious to see how it's loaded."

"Then you've come at the right moment, sir," was the answer. "Step right
aboard, and look round as much as you want. We've been terrible hard
at work these last two days getting a cargo of cotton ashore, and now
we've just hove up the lower hatches, and shall be taking the grain out
of her when dinner's finished. It's come all this way for your naval
johnnies--at least that's what the boss has given me to understand;
and we are expecting a party of officers along any moment to take a
look at the stuff. I suppose they'll pass it right away, for it's good
right down to the keel. Then these fellows will tackle it with shovels
and bags, and you will see they'll hoist it up in a twinkling. Helloo!
Blessed if that ain't the party coming along this way!"

He turned, and indicated his meaning by a nod of his head in the
direction of three smartly-dressed naval officers who had just put in an
appearance.

"The party right enough," he said. "Just excuse me, sir, and get right
aboard if you care to."

Having obtained permission to go aboard, Tyler at once stepped to the
gangway, and was quickly upon the deck. Then he went to the hatchway,
which occupied a large square in the centre of the vessel, and leant
over the combing so as to obtain a good view of the scene below. Beneath
was a lower deck and a second hatchway of similar dimensions, the
covering of which had evidently been recently removed. A glance showed
him that the hold was filled with loose grain to within some six feet of
the hatchway, and he was occupied in wondering how many sacks of corn
had been necessary to fill it, when he was aroused by a voice at his
elbow. Turning swiftly, he found the three naval officers and the mate
standing beside him.

"A fine cargo, and in splendid condition," the latter was saying. "We've
just hove up the hatches for your inspection, and that's the way down."

He pointed to a perpendicular ladder which led from the upper hatch to
the one below, and stepped aside to allow the officers to approach it.
At the same moment Tyler caught the eye of the elder of the three naval
gentlemen, and at once, standing erect, he raised his hand as his father
had long since taught him to do.

"Ah, the correct salute, and I thank you for it!" said the officer,
acknowledging it swiftly. "Where did you learn it, my lad? I can see
that you have been taught by someone who was no landsman."

"My father, Captain Richardson, late of the royal navy, instructed me,
sir. He lives close at hand, and would spend his days here upon the
docks were it not that he is crippled and cannot get about."

"By a gun-shot wound--obtained in warfare?" asked the officer with
interest.

"Yes, sir. He was struck by a round-shot fired from a French fort, and
was pensioned from the service."

"That is sad, very unfortunate," said the officer; "but his son must
take his place, and repay the wound with interest when we have war
with France again. But I must see to this cargo. This is one of the
many duties which we sailors have to perform. At one time sailing a
three-master, and then conning one of the new steam-vessels which have
been added to our fleets. Another day we muster ashore, and then an
officer can never say what he may find before him. He may have to visit
the hospitals, the barracks, or inspect a delivery of hammocks before
it is divided amongst the men. To-day we are here to see this cargo of
grain, and to pass it if in good condition."

"Which it is, right away down to the keel, you guess!" burst in the
American mate. "Say, sir, there's the ladder, and if you'll excuse me,
the sooner the inspection's done with the sooner we'll clear the hold
and get away out to sea."

"Then oblige me by slipping down, Mr. Maxwell, and you too, Mr.
Troutbeck. Take one of those wooden spades with you, and turn the grain
over in every direction. Be careful to see that it is not mildewed or
affected by the damp. You can bring a specimen on deck for my benefit."

Hastily saluting, the two officers who had been addressed sprang towards
the steep gangway which led below, and swarmed down it with an agility
which was commendable. Then they paused for a moment or two upon the
edge of the lower hatch until a wooden spade had been tossed to them,
when they leapt upon the glistening mass of grain which filled the hold.
Meanwhile Tyler and the officer who had remained above stood leaning
over the upper hatch, looking down upon the figures below. Indeed, the
former was fascinated, for the sight of a naval uniform filled him
with delight, while to be able to watch officers at their work was a
treat which he would not have missed for anything. It was queer to see
the way in which the younger of the two juniors tossed his cane aside
with a merry laugh and commenced to delve with the spade; and still
more quaint to watch the second as he thrust his two hands into the
corn, and, having withdrawn them filled to the brim, walked towards
the edge of the hatch with the intention of spreading the grains there
the better to inspect them. But--that was stranger still, for, missing
his footing, the officer gave a violent swerve, and with difficulty
saved himself from tumbling full length. The sight, the exclamation of
astonishment and disgust, brought a smile to Tyler's lips; but a second
later his expression changed to one of amazement. Why, the officer
had again all but lost his footing, and--yes, as Tyler stared down at
him, he staggered to one side, threw one hand up to his face, and then
collapsed in a heap, where he lay with hands and toes half-buried in
the corn. Almost at the same moment his companion, who had been digging
vigorously, let his spade drop from his fingers, and looked about him
as if dazed. Then he struggled towards his comrade with a low cry of
alarm, only to stumble himself and come crashing into the grain.

"There's something wrong down there!" shouted Tyler, realizing that
some terrible misfortune had suddenly and unexpectedly overtaken the
naval officers. "Look, sir, they are on their faces, and appear to be
insensible!"

He tugged at the sleeve of the senior officer without ceremony, and
directed his attention to those below, for the former had been engaged
in conversation with the mate, and had not witnessed what had happened.

"Something wrong!" he exclaimed in astonishment. "Why, what could be
wrong? Ahoy, there, Troutbeck and Maxwell! Why, they are on their faces,
and, as I live, they are insensible!"

His amazement was so great that he stood there dumbfounded, and stared
at Tyler as though he could not believe his eyes. But a shout of alarm
from the mate quickly aroused him.

"It's the gas!" he cried in shrill anxious tones. "Quick, or they'll be
suffocated! Hi, for'ard there! All hands on deck to the rescue!"

He went racing towards the quarters in which the men were enjoying their
meal, leaving Tyler and the naval officer alone. As for the latter, his
astonishment was still so great that he remained rooted to the spot,
leaning over the hatchway, the combing of which he grasped with both
hands, whilst he stared down at the two prostrate figures huddled below
upon the corn as though the sight was too much for him. Then he suddenly
stood erect and screwed his knuckles into his eyes, as though he feared
that they were misleading him.

"Gas!" he murmured doubtfully. "What gas? How could there be such a
thing down there?" Then, suddenly recollecting the condition of his
juniors, and realizing that they were in the gravest danger, he sprang
towards the ladder which led to the hold below, and commenced to
descend it as rapidly as possible.

But Tyler was before him, for though dumbfounded at first at what was
beyond his comprehension, the shout to which the mate had given vent
had instantly caused him to understand the danger of the situation.
There was gas in the hold, some poisonous vapour unseen by those who
entered through the hatchway, but lying there floating over the corn
ready to attack any who might enter into the trap. What should he do?
The question flashed through his mind like lightning, and as quickly the
answer came.

"We must get them out of it," he shouted hoarsely, "and by the quickest
way too. Hi, there, get hold of the winch and lower away!"

As in the case of the officer who had stood beside him, his first
thought had been to rush for the ladder, and to descend to the hatch
below by that means. But a quick glance at the figures lying half-buried
in the corn, and an instant's reflection, told him that rescue would
be difficult, if not impossible, in that way. For, supposing he leapt
from the lowest rung on to the cargo of grain, could he hope to be able
to lift one of the victims and carry him up the steep ladder which led
to safety? Such an attempt would require more than double the strength
which he possessed, and besides there was the deadly gas to be reckoned
with. Like a flash the thoughts swept through his brain, for Tyler was
a sharp young fellow, and ere another moment had passed his plan for
rescue was formed. Pointing to the winch, from which a stout rope ran
through a block attached to the boom above, and from thence dangled
down into the hold, he called to the mate, who now came running along
the deck with three of the hands, to get hold of the levers and prepare
to work upon them. Then, tearing his handkerchief from his pocket, he
hastily tied it round his face, fastening the knot behind his head as
tightly as possible, so that the thickest folds came across his mouth
and nostrils. A moment later he had grasped the rope which hung at one
side of the hatchway, and at once passed it around his waist. A rapid
hitch which his father had taught him secured it there, and a moment
later he had thrust himself over the hatchway and was swinging in
mid-air.

"Lower away!" he shouted, "and when you see me pass the loop round one
of them, hoist as fast as you can. Now, let her go!"

Grasping the length of rope which dangled beneath him, and which he
had been careful to leave, he tied it into a strong loop as the men
above lowered him into the hold. Then, holding it in both hands, he
awaited the moment when he should alight upon the corn. Ah! He was
there, and his feet were already sunk ankle-deep in the cargo. Then he
became aware of the fact that, though perfectly clear, the atmosphere
was stifling. He felt as though he were choking, for in spite of the
thick handkerchief about his face the biting gas seemed to fly into his
lungs, and at once set him coughing violently. But, determined not to be
beaten, he overcame the spasm, and, carefully holding his breath, moved
towards one of the prostrate figures.

It was no easy matter to pass the loop around the helpless man, but
Tyler worked vigorously at the task. Placing the coil of rope upon the
corn close to the feet of one of the officers, he held it there with one
toe, and at once grasped the man by the ankles. A lusty heave brought
him sliding along through the grain, and scarcely three seconds had
passed before the loop was about his body and securely fastened beneath
his arms.

"Hoist!" he endeavoured to shout, but his muffled face and the choking
gas deadened the words. But for all that, his wishes were clear to those
above, who stood staring over the hatchway, for Tyler stood erect and
waved eagerly to them. There was a shout, the rope tautened, and then at
first slowly, and afterwards with a rush which showed that willing hands
were at the winch, Tyler and the officer for whose rescue he had so
gallantly descended were hoisted out of the hold. With a swing the boom
was brought towards the side, a couple of men rushed at the dangling
figures, and ere the naval officer who witnessed the scene had time to
give the hoarse command, "Lower away!" the two were lying upon the deck,
while the mate of the freight-ship was eagerly removing the loop from
the figure of the unconscious officer. As for Tyler, he sat for a short
space as if dazed, while he gasped and struggled for his breath. But
the knowledge that one victim still remained below, that a second life
was at stake, roused him to energy. With a shiver which he could not
suppress in spite of every effort, he struggled to his feet and dashed
at the hatchway.

"Lower again!" he managed to call out between the paroxysms of coughing
which shook him. "Now, let go!"

There was no doubt that the real danger, the urgency of the situation,
was impressed upon all who were helping in the rescue; and it did not
need the frantic gestures and husky words of command of the elderly
naval officer to stimulate the hands to rapid action. By now, too,
some fifteen men had assembled, and while a few promptly carried the
unconscious officer aside, and set about to restore his animation, the
remainder at once leapt to the winch, and set the handles whirling
round at such a pace that the rope and its burden were swiftly at their
destination. At the same instant the American mate swung himself on to
the ladder and went swarming down till he reached the deck below, where
he remained ready to lend assistance should he be called for. And well
was it that he did so, for that stifling gas well-nigh overcame Tyler
in his work of rescue. Holding his breath as he had done before, the
latter dashed towards the second prostrate figure once he had obtained
a foothold. Then, following the same tactics, he placed the loop in
position and grasped the man by his ankles.

"Heave! Pull ho!" As if the words would help the gallant young fellow
below, the anxious watchers above gave vent to them, their shouts
increasing almost to shrieks of encouragement in their eagerness.
"Heave! He's almost through. Once more, and you will have him in
position. Ah! he's down!"

A feeling of consternation and dismay suddenly silenced the voices, and
a crowd of eager, anxious faces hung over the hatchway, while a couple
of volunteers sprang at the ladder.

"Stand aside!" shouted one of them huskily, a big, raw-boned American
sailor. "The lad's down, and we're not the boys to stand here looking on
and see him die. Say, maties, pitch me the end of the rope, and I'll go
in for him!"

Swiftly descending the ladder, he had almost reached the deck below, and
was looking eagerly about him for the expected rope, when another voice
reached the ears of the onlookers.

"Easy there! I'm nearest the spot, and I'll pull them out, whatever the
cost. Jim Bowman, you can make a turn about your body with the rope, and
stand ready if there's need. I'm for it right away as I am."

Stuffing a bulky red handkerchief between his teeth, the mate glanced
swiftly at his comrade to see that the words were fully understood. Then
with a bound he leapt over the low combing of the hatchway, and alighted
on the piled-up corn.

"He'll do it! He's the right man to tackle the business! Stand ready,
boys!"

Those above stared down at the scene below with eyes which threatened to
burst from their sockets, so great was each one's eagerness. And all the
while, as the plucky mate tugged at the prostrate figure of the officer,
they sent hoarse shouts echoing down into the hold. Breathlessly they
watched as the loop slipped upwards till it encircled the body, and then
a dozen lusty individuals rushed towards the winch, ready to lend a hand
should those already stationed there prove too weak for the task.

"Hoist!" The big American, who stood on the lower deck, bellowed the
command so loudly that it was heard far away along the dock "Hoist
smartly, boys!"

Round went the winch, but on this occasion less swiftly than before, for
the load to be dragged from the hold was heavier! But still the handles
flew round rapidly, and within a short space of time Tyler, the officer,
and the American mate lay in a heap upon the deck, where they were
instantly pounced upon by those who had helped in the rescue.



CHAPTER II

Eastward Ho!


How's that, my lad? There, open your eyes and look about you, and then
take a sip at this glass."

Tyler felt a strong arm about his shoulders, and a hard rim of something
cold against his teeth. Then a few drops of water flowed into his
mouth, and instantly he was awake, though only half conscious of his
surroundings.

"Eh," he murmured, "what's the matter? Time to get up? Oh!"

He gave vent to a little cry of pain as he suddenly became aware of the
fact that a red-hot band seemed to encircle his waist. Then he quickly
realized the cause, and sat up with a start, remembering that he had
placed a coil of rope about him, and that the loop to which the officer
was hung must have pulled strongly upon him.

"Feeling sore, my lad?" was asked in tones which seemed familiar. "The
rope had hitched as tight as a hangman's noose, and we had to cut it
adrift before we could free you. No wonder you have pain, for I expect
that your sides and chest are badly chafed. But you're alive, thank God!
And have come to at last. Gracious! What a fright you have given us all!
But come, see if you cannot stand on your feet and walk about, for it
will do you all the good in the world."

"Stand! Rather! I should think I could!" responded Tyler eagerly,
suddenly becoming aware of the fact that the elderly naval officer
supported him. "Thank you, sir! I'll get up at once."

"Then heave, and there you are."

Placing his hand beneath Tyler's arms, the officer helped him to rise
to his feet, and then, fearful lest he should be giddy and fall, stood
beside him holding him by the coat.

"Feel steady?" he asked. "A bit shaky, I've no doubt, but another sip
and a little water on your head will put you right. Here, one of you
lads give a hand and we'll take him to the nearest pump."

There was a group of sailors standing around watching Tyler with
interested eyes, and instantly a number sprang forward to support him.
Then with faltering steps, and gait which would have caused him to reel
from side to side had it not been for their help, they led him across
the dock to a shed some little distance away. A pump was erected beside
it, and before many seconds had passed a stream of ice-cold water was
gushing from the spout into the trough below.

"Now, off with his coat and shirt, and one of you boys hop right along
to fetch him a towel," cried the big American, who happened to form one
of the party. "Slick's the word, my lad, and back with it smartly. Here,
stand right aside, and let me hold on to the youngster."

A big, muscular arm was put around Tyler's tottering figure, and he
was deftly placed in such a position as would enable the water to flow
upon his head and shoulders. Gush! It came surging from the pump at the
handle of which one of the men worked vigorously, and in a little while
Tyler was glad to withdraw with dripping head and face, gasping for
breath with almost as much energy as had been the case after his first
ascent from the hold. Then a towel was thrown over his shoulders, and
willing hands set to work to dry him.

"Feel more like yourself, eh? Just bring along that comb, sonny, and
we'll fix him up, proper," said the American. "Now, on with your shirt
and coat, and where's the boy that's holding on to his cap?"

Their friendly attentions almost bewildered Tyler, for he was unused
to them, and, in fact, at another time would have blushed for shame at
finding himself treated so much like a child. But in spite of the cold
douche to his head he still felt dizzy. His brain swam with the effects
of the choking gas, which had been given off by the cargo of corn, while
huge black spots seemed to float dreamily about in the air and disturbed
his vision. Then, too, though he manfully endeavoured to keep his figure
erect, his legs would tremble in spite of himself, while his knees shook
and knocked together in a manner which threatened to bring him headlong
to the ground.

"I'm a baby!" he managed to gasp in tones of vexation. "Just fancy a
fellow of my age not being able to stand up alone!"

The thought distressed him so greatly that once again he made a futile
effort to remain on his feet, only to find himself in much the same
helpless condition. Then a biscuit-box was placed beneath him, and he
sat down with a feeling of relief.

"Baby! No sich thing, let me tell you, sir!" exclaimed the big American
indignantly. "You're just shook up, and that's the truth of it, for I
reckon that that 'ere gas wur strong enough to upset a Red Injun, and
much more a chap of your constitootion. Jest you sit tight and hold on
to your tongue while we pour a few drops of this stuff down yer throat.
Baby! Ho!"

With a shake of his head the big sailor turned to one of his comrades
and took from him a cracked glass containing a dark and evil-smelling
liquid.

"Up with your chin," he said, placing the glass to Tyler's lips. "Now,
down with this at a gulp."

Obedient to the order, Tyler opened his mouth and swallowed the draught.
Then he shivered again, for the spirit was strong and pungent. But in
spite of its nasty flavour, and of the uncomfortable sense of burning
which it left in his throat, he was bound to confess that the draught
did wonders for him. Indeed, scarcely five minutes were gone before
strength came back to his legs, while his brain and eyes seemed to
have cleared wonderfully. A pat on the back from the big hand of the
American encouraged him to stand again, and with a gay laugh he found
himself on his feet.

"That's better!" he exclaimed in cheery tones. "What's become of the
officers?"

"I reckon they're jest like you, a trifle shook up and put out, don't
yer know," was the answer. "Yer must understand, young fellah, that chaps
can't go right down into a hold what's full of that gas without feeling
mighty bad. You've all had a near squeak for yer lives, I reckon, and ef
it hadn't er been for you, young shaver, them two officers would have
been awaiting their funeral right now. I tell yer, me and the other
covies is jest hoping to make yer acquaintance. We'd be proud to get
hold of yer fingers, and, Jehoshaphat! as soon as you're well we hope to
do it. Now, will yer come aboard and take a sleep in one of our bunks,
to drive the muddle out of yer head, or will yer go slick away home?
Jest say the word, and we'll help you, whatever's the case."

"One moment, please. I desire to speak to this young gentleman," called
someone from outside the circle, and as the sailors sprang aside the
naval officer who had already befriended Tyler entered the circle and
grasped the latter warmly by the hand.

"You are more yourself now," he said with a friendly smile, "and I
can therefore speak to you as I would have done half an hour ago
had you been in a fit condition to listen to me. On behalf of the
two young officers, whose lives you so gallantly saved, I thank you
from the bottom of my heart. The deed was a noble one, for, seeing
their insensible figures lying in that poisonous hold below, you,
like everyone else, must have realized instantly the great risk to be
incurred by attempting their rescue. The warning which the mate gave
told you that gas lay below the hatchway, and that it had been the cause
of striking down my officers. In spite of that you rushed to help them,
and I must admit that the promptness of your action, the remarkable
rapidity with which you took in the situation and formed your plans,
filled me with amazement. To be candid, I myself was so dumbfounded
and taken aback that I stood there helpless. But then, you see, I am no
longer a young man, and have lost that keenness with which the junior
members of my service are invariably filled.

"Now that I come to look into the facts carefully it is a matter of
surprise to me that you did not rush to the ladder the instant you
realized the necessity for action. But how could you possibly have
rescued either of those unfortunate fellows by that means? Obviously two
men at least would have been required for the task. You saw that, and
at once decided upon an easier and more effective plan. No one could
have made his preparations more completely or more rapidly. Your loops
were made in a sailor-like manner which does credit to your father's
teaching. For the rest, I am too full of gratitude to you to say much
at this moment. Your courage and resolution have delighted me and I
congratulate you most heartily."

Placing one hand upon Tyler's shoulder the officer grasped his fingers
eagerly with the other, and squeezed them in a manner which showed
better than words how much his feelings were aroused. Indeed he might
have remained there for many minutes, patting Tyler gently upon the
back meanwhile, had it not been for the enthusiastic sailors who stood
around, and who had without exception pressed eagerly forward to hear
what he had to say. Seeing his final action, however, at once reminded
them of their own decision, expressed by their burly comrade, who once
more came to the front.

"You'll excuse us, Admiral," he said with a slouching salute, "but like
you we're firm set on shaking. Say, young fellow, we're proud to know
yer."

Unabashed by the presence of an officer of such seniority in the navy,
they crowded forward, and each in turn grasped the blushing Tyler by
the hand. Then, as if that had been insufficient to satisfy them, they
tossed their caps high in the air, and gave him three rousing cheers.

"There," said the officer, lifting his hands as soon as the shout had
died down, "like myself you have shown your appreciation; and now, if
you will leave this young gentleman to me, I will see that he is taken
home. Come," he continued, turning to Tyler with a smile, "you are still
shaken and feel the effects of that poisonous gas. It will be as well
if you return to your father, and rest for the remainder of the day.
Hail a conveyance, my lads, and tell the man to drive right on to the
dock, for we must not allow this young man to walk too much at present.
Yes, those are the doctor's orders, and I am here to see that they are
strictly enforced," he went on, as Tyler directed an appealing glance
towards him. "Fortunately for you and my two officers, one of our ship's
surgeons happened to be passing as you were hauled up from the hold,
and he was able to attend to you at once. Seeing that you were coming
round he left you in my hands and devoted all his care to the others,
who were in a very grave condition. They, too, I am thankful to say,
have regained consciousness, so that I no longer feel anxiety on their
behalf. Permit me, young gentleman, here is the conveyance."

Taking Tyler by the arm, he led him to a fly which had just driven up,
and having ushered him in, took the remaining vacant seat himself.

"Drive to Captain John Richardson's," he called out, and then resumed
his conversation with Tyler, telling him as they went that the mate of
the American ship, who had pluckily helped in the rescue, had suffered
no ill effects. Half an hour later, much to the astonishment of the
captain, who still sat in his porch keeping watch upon the long strip of
water which ebbed before his cottage, a conveyance came rolling along
the main Portsmouth road, and halted just opposite the wicket which
gave access to his garden. At once his spy-glass went to his eyes, for
he was somewhat short-sighted, and his amazement was profound when he
discovered Tyler walking towards him, looking pale and shaky, and arm in
arm with a gray-headed naval officer. Had it not been for his shattered
hip he would have risen to his feet to greet the new-comer, for naval
officers seldom or never came his way. As he had said when speaking to
his son, he was a poor old hulk, doomed to live in that out-of-the-way
spot, forgotten or unknown by men who might have been his comrades had
ill-luck not assailed him. In his excitement, the clay pipe and box
of matches went tumbling to the ground, where the former smashed into
a hundred pieces. Then the old instincts of discipline came back to
him and he lifted his hand to his cap with all the smartness he could
command.

It was fine to see the way in which this stranger approached the
captain. Halting there for one moment, and drawing himself stiffly
erect, he returned the salute swiftly. Then he sprang forward and
greeted the old sailor effusively.

"Proud to meet you, Captain Richardson!" he exclaimed. "Delighted to
make your acquaintance, and to know the father of this gallant young
fellow. But, surely we have met before? Richardson? Tell me, sir, when
did you enter the service?"

"Forty years ago the fifth of November next. Midshipman aboard the
flag-ship _Victory_, bound from Portsmouth for the Mediterranean. And
you?"

"An old ship-mate of yours or I much mistake?" exclaimed the officer
with eagerness. "Don't you remember Davies--Tom Davies, of the
_Victory_--my first commission too. Why, of course you do. A year after
I joined I was drafted into another ship, and so we were separated, and
have remained so until this moment."

"And I remained aboard for five solid years," burst in the captain
enthusiastically, his face all aglow at the recollection of his earlier
days. "Then I was transferred to the _Bellerophon_, and again to another
ship. We cruised in the East, and many's the brush we had with rascally
slave-dealers. Then came war with France, and, returning to home waters,
we coasted along the enemy's country, popping in here and there to
survey the forts, and dropping upon any vessels that we could come
across. At Brest we were under a heavy fire, and that, sir, was the
time when the rascals winged me with a shot. It broke me up, and as a
consequence of the wound I was laid aside for good in this old cottage."

As the two spoke they still gripped hands, while tears of excitement and
happiness streamed down the sunken cheeks of the captain. Poor fellow!
It was joy indeed to him to meet a comrade after all these years, and
still greater happiness to find himself conversing with a man still
upon the active list of the service to which he had belonged. For many
years now he had occupied that cottage, and owing to the wound which
had crippled him had seldom moved beyond the garden. Occasionally the
old salt who lived with him, and acted as his only servant, placed him
tenderly in a wheeled chair, and took him for an airing. But Southampton
was beyond his reach, and Portsmouth utterly out of the question, and
so it had fallen out that the captain had on very few occasions met
with officers of the royal navy. A few who had retired lived in the
neighbourhood, but they were active men, able to get about, and seldom
dropped in for a chat at the cottage. Therefore this unexpected visit,
the meeting with a man who had skylarked with him when they were lads,
roused him out of his melancholy, and raised his spirits to the highest.

Seating himself beside Captain Richardson, Admiral Davies,--for that
was the rank to which the officer had attained,--conversed with him in
animated tones for more than half an hour, telling him of the rescue
from the hold, and of the gallant conduct of his son.

"I am thankful that it occurred to me to visit the shipping myself," he
said. "As a rule two officers would have been considered sufficient for
the task, and it is most unusual for one of my rank to undertake such
a duty. However, on this occasion I felt bound to go, for the Lords
of the Admiralty are trying an experiment. The greater part of their
flour is home-grown, but prices are high, and England is not a large
corn-growing country. For that reason cargoes have been ordered from
America, and when the ships arrive a careful inspection of the grain
is necessary. Had that not been the case I should have remained in my
office, for I am in charge of the station, and thereby should have lost
this opportunity of renewing our friendship. But about your son; have
you decided what to do with him? He is a fine young fellow, and would
look well in naval uniform."

"And he himself longs for the life," exclaimed the captain. "Though I
myself had the worst of fortune in the service, and in spite of the
fact that their lordships have not treated me too well, I still think
that there is nothing like a commission in Her Majesty's fleet. But it
is out of the question, for to obtain a nomination nowadays influence
is required, and also I have not the means to supply the proper outfit.
The lad would be miserable, for he would not have a sixpence to jingle
in his pocket, and would have the mortification of living with comrades
who were better off than himself. And besides, he is too old. To have
obtained a commission I should have applied three or four years ago. Now
he is seventeen, and almost a man."

"In pluck and resolution he is at any rate," said the admiral warmly,
"and he deserves far more than words of thanks for his gallant action
of this morning. Now listen to me. I like the lad, and, as in your
case, I too am devoted to the navy. I have by chance come across a
young fellow eminently fitted for the service, and I shall not stand
aside and allow Her Majesty to lose the opportunity of obtaining such
a suitable young officer. As your son he has a claim on the Admiralty,
and when I describe to their lordships the manner in which he rescued
two of my officers they will at once waive all question of his age,
and I feel sure will promptly appoint him to a ship. But influence, as
you very truly say, is necessary to push a young man on in the world.
I do not mean that a midshipman cannot fight his way upwards without
friends, for that has been done on scores of occasions; but it gives a
lad a better chance if he is put under the eye of some commander who
will take an interest in him. Then he will get opportunities of special
duties, and if he is a smart lad he may distinguish himself. Will you
leave the matter in my hands, and trust to me to do the best for him? I
would take him myself, as I have a decided interest in him, but then, as
I have told you, I have a shore billet, and his duties would give him
but few chances of promotion. He must be appointed to a ship cruising in
foreign waters, and he must be placed under an officer who is a friend
of my own. There will be no difficulty about the matter, for one of the
rescued officers happens to be of excellent family, and a son of one of
the sea-lords. He will see to it that the commission is granted, and
I have little doubt that within a few weeks I shall be able to return
to you with the information that your son is appointed to the China
squadron, and under the friendly wing of Keppel, a smart young officer
with whom I am well acquainted. There, say no more, for I see that you
fully agree. Good-bye for the present! I shall hope to have the pleasure
of calling again."

Rising from his seat the admiral squeezed the captain's hand, and then,
having gone through the formality of saluting, an act of courtesy which
pleased his host vastly, he walked with Tyler towards the gate, one hand
placed affectionately on his shoulder.

It would be impossible to describe the delight and happiness with which
each inhabitant of the tiny cottage was filled at the good news which
the admiral had brought. Captain Richardson could scarcely contain
himself for joy, and but for the hip which crippled him would have
strutted about the place puffed up with pride at the action of his son.
As for Tyler, the prospect of a commission was so fascinating and so
absolutely unexpected that he felt in a whirl, and, finding conversation
impossible, snatched at his cap and went bounding along the great main
road.

A month later, as the captain occupied his accustomed seat in the porch
of the cottage, a cloud of dust and the clatter of wheels attracted his
attention in the direction of Southampton, and instantly up went his
spy-glass, one hand steadied the end, and he looked casually to see what
might have caused it; for to this poor crippled officer anything, each
conveyance which passed, was of interest, and served to brighten the
long days. He was familiar with each of the coaches which drove along
the main road, the drivers in every case saluting him with their whips
as they came rattling by, and no doubt turning the next moment to the
passengers seated upon the box to describe the old salt who occupied the
cottage. On this occasion, however, it was no coach which had given rise
to the cloud of dust, but a smaller conveyance, at the sight of which
the captain was thrown into a condition of excitement.

"There's not more than one which passes here in a week," he said, "and
for that reason I am sure that that will be the admiral. Tyler! Tyler!
Where are you? Just run down to the gate and be ready to meet him."

It proved to be the admiral, as he had prophesied, and within a little
while that officer was standing before him, greeting him with a hearty
shake of the hand, and looking at him with a smile the sereneness of
which told that he had been successful. Behind him stepped the same two
officers who had been rescued from the hold, and these at once came
forward to be introduced. Then they turned to Tyler and gripped his hand
in a manner which showed their gratitude.

"For you," said the admiral, suddenly producing a long blue envelope,
and handing it to Tyler. "I will save you the trouble of reading it by
telling you that you have been given a commission, and that orders are
enclosed within for you to sail without delay for the China station.
Your post will be on H.M.S. _Dido_, and your commander will be the
Honourable Henry Keppel, Captain in the Royal Navy. And now, if you will
kindly show my officers over the garden, I will discuss a little matter
with your father.

"I have more to say," he went on, addressing Tyler's father, when
the three had moved away, "and my news, I hope, will give you great
pleasure. When I left you I went straight to those in authority and
represented matters as I had found them. They agreed with me that it
was a scandal and a shame that an officer should be treated as you have
been. I pointed out that your pension was insufficient, with the result
that it has been largely increased, and will enable you to reside, if
you wish it, in a more populated district. Another point, you can now
see your way to giving your son a small allowance, and so putting him
upon an equal footing with his comrades. Then, too, I propose to help,
for I am a single man, and my pay is of ample dimensions. I have taken
a liking to the lad, and I mean to push his fortunes to the utmost.
And now let us consider the question of his outfit, which must be
gone into immediately. He will require uniform suited to this climate
and also to the China seas, and must be equipped as well as the most
fortunate of youngsters. That, again, I shall make my business if you
have no objections, for you must recollect that you cannot easily see
to the matter yourself, and, besides, it would gratify me to be allowed
to provide all that is necessary. Unfortunately it turns out that no
ship belonging to our fleets is bound for the East at this moment, and
therefore Tyler will have to make the passage in a merchantman. But that
will do no harm, for it will give him an opportunity of getting used to
the sea, and will prepare him for his coming duties."

"Quite so," gasped the invalid captain, scarcely able to believe the
good words to which he had been listening, or to understand the sudden
change in his fortunes. "But he is no landlubber, let me tell you,
Admiral, for he has hosts of friends in these parts, and during the
holidays has often put to sea for quite a week at a time. He can splice
and knot, for Tom Erskine, the old pensioner who acts as my servant, has
taught him thoroughly. But how can I thank you?"

"Thank the lad, my dear Captain. Tyler is the one to whom you must show
your gratitude, and I, too, feel indebted to him; for had it not been
for his gallant action you and I would still have remained ignorant of
one another, though living separated by but a mile or two. Think of the
yarns we shall have together, and of the tales of our boyhood's days
which we shall be able to spin. You must come and live close into the
town, and I know of a little house there which would suit you admirably,
for it is posted high up, and there is a sheltered seat before it from
which a more extensive view even than this can be obtained. There
is many an old sailor living there who will be delighted to come in
and smoke a pipe with you, and instead of sitting here alone for the
greater part of every day you will find that you have a new and happier
life before you; for you are a man who loves companionship, and in
Southampton you will make many a friend.

"And now to complete this matter, for we have very little time in which
to delay. Sit here and think quietly about the question of the house,
and let me know in a couple of days or more, when I return to visit you.
Meanwhile I will take Tyler to my quarters, and will see to his outfit.
Let him come for a week, which will give sufficient time to the tailors
to try on the various garments. Then he can return to you, and can spend
the remainder of his time in England at home."

It wanted very little persuasion on the part of the admiral to convince
Captain Richardson that he had made a staunch friend, who was acting for
his and Tyler's benefit. And therefore he placed no difficulty in the
way of the latter's proposed visit to Southampton, but instead at once
shouted for him.

"The admiral has kindly asked you to go into the town with him for a
week," he called out. "Run to your room at once, like a good fellow, and
pack your best clothes into a bag, for you must remember that you are
now a Queen's officer and must dress becomingly."

Half an hour later the admiral and the two officers who had accompanied
him to the cottage took their leave of Captain Richardson, and having
been joined by Tyler, crowded into the hackney-coach which had conveyed
them from the town of Southampton, and went trundling away along the
road. Behind them they left the captain, jubilant at the good fortune
which had suddenly come to him and his son, and eagerly looking forward
to the change before him. No longer was he troubled by the question of
Tyler's future, for now that was thoroughly settled. Then, again, the
long dreary winter, which had usually dragged by miserably for him,
was likely to prove in the coming months the happiest he had spent for
many a year; for he would certainly leave this out-of-the-way spot, to
which ill-health and inadequate income had fixed him, and would make
his future home in Southampton, where he would be within easy reach
of any who cared to show their friendship. In addition he would have
the patronage of Admiral Davies, and that, together with the fact that
they had been shipmates together in their earlier days, would secure a
number of acquaintances--and, with such a man as Captain Richardson was,
acquaintanceship would lead to certain and lasting friendships. Yes,
the prospect was a bright one, and on that day, as the old white-headed
sailor sat back in the porch, pipe and spy-glass in hand, and the old
familiar scene before him, he felt that he was about to commence another
existence altogether; he looked younger, the sunken cheeks seemed to
have filled out a little, whilst the eyes sparkled in an unusual manner.
Indeed, so alluring was the future that the captain remained at his
post long after the hackney-coach had reached its destination, and only
retired within the cottage when night was falling. Then, seated in his
cosy parlour, he took up the _Navy List_ and looked up the names of a
few of his old comrades and that of the officer under whose command
Tyler was to be.

"Yes," he murmured, "the lad will have every opportunity, for I have
heard of Captain Keppel, and everyone agrees that he is a dashing and
distinguished officer."

When Tyler returned to the cottage a week later his father scarcely
recognized the spruce young fellow who came walking through the garden
towards him, for our hero had now discarded civilian clothes and was
dressed in a blue uniform which suited him admirably. Behind him he had
left in the admiral's quarters his sea-chest and a very complete outfit
with which his generous friend had provided him. In addition, he came
primed with the information that he was to sail at the end of three
weeks, and that his destination was to be Singapore, where the _Dido_
would eventually put in to victual.

The remaining days of his stay in England were extremely busy ones, for,
once Admiral Davies had taken an interest in any matter, he was not
the man to permit of delay. Indeed, within a very few hours of Tyler's
return he drove up in a hackney-coach prepared for the reception of the
invalid, with a comfortable couch and thick soft cushions stretched
between the seats. On this Captain Richardson was gently placed, and
the trio at once drove to the house which the admiral had selected
as a likely residence. Arrived there, the captain was carried to the
sheltered seat of which mention had been made, and was then shown the
interior of the dwelling.

"It will do splendidly!" he exclaimed with enthusiasm as they returned
to the cottage. "For, thanks to my increased income, I shall easily be
able to pay the rent demanded by the agent. Then, again, the furniture
in the cottage will be sufficient to fill the rooms, while outside there
is a garden which with Tom's help will produce all the vegetables that
we require. But more than all, the sheltered seat commands a view up and
down the Water, and from it I can see not only the ships sailing there,
but can look right into the harbour, while the Portsmouth road stretches
like a white ribbon clearly before me, and my own seat in the porch is
under view. No doubt on many a day in the future I shall fix my glass
upon it, and bear in mind the times when a poor old crippled sailor
sat there forlorn and eager for friends. If it can be arranged I will
change houses before Tyler starts; and there should be no difficulty in
the matter, for the cottage is held on a monthly tenancy, while the
residence in Southampton is ready and waiting for me."

Accordingly notice was promptly given to the owner of the cottage,
while certain necessary decorations and repairs were made to the new
house. Then a large van arrived, to which, under the admiral's friendly
superintendence, the goods and chattels belonging to the captain
were transferred, while that individual was once more put into the
hackney-coach and driven to temporary quarters in the town. A few days
later he was settled in his new residence, and when Tyler set sail
from the harbour _en route_ to Plymouth, where he was to embark upon a
merchantman bound for Singapore, he had the satisfaction of knowing that
his father was in comfortable surroundings, with many friends at hand.
Standing by the after-rail he steadied himself against it and fixed the
spy-glass, with which he had been presented by the officers whom he
had rescued, upon the sheltered corner high up in the town. There was
the old crippled captain, his gaze directed through his glass at the
vessel which bore his son away. That he realized the fact of Tyler's
presence there upon the poop was evident, for as the latter snatched
at his cap and waved it about his head, the old sailor dragged a huge
red handkerchief from his breast-pocket and let it blow out in the
breeze. Thus did father and son take leave of one another, the former to
commence a life of happiness to which he had been too long a stranger,
and the latter to cross the sea, where many adventures were to befall
him.



CHAPTER III

Preparing for a Journey


Six days had passed, from the date when Tyler Richardson set out from
Southampton and dropped down to the open sea, before he reached Plymouth
Harbour, for the vessel upon which he had sailed had met with contrary
winds, and was much delayed. However, arrive he did at last at the busy
port, to find the _Alice Mary_ on the point of departure. Indeed, as
Tyler ascended the gangway, followed closely by his chest, the bell
was ringing loudly to warn friends and relatives to leave, while the
blue-peter at the fore showed that all was in readiness. Sailors were
running about the decks in obedience to the orders of the captain, while
passengers stood about in every position, hampering the movements of
the men, as they looked towards the shore and waved their hands and
handkerchiefs. A few of the gentlemen were smoking placidly on the poop,
as though departure from England on a long voyage was nothing out of
the ordinary, while elsewhere some of the ladies were weeping bitterly
at the thought of leaving. Tyler threaded his way amongst them, and
having seen the cabin which he was to occupy, and deposited his smaller
belongings there, he returned to the deck and looked on at the scene
with interest.

"A big muddle it all looks, does it not?" said a voice at his elbow,
and, turning swiftly, he became aware of the fact that one of the
passengers, a tall, bearded gentleman, stood beside him with a pleasant
smile of greeting upon his face.

"But it will all settle down within a few hours," went on the stranger,
without waiting for Tyler's answer, "and, bless you! we shall all feel
perfectly at home before we are much older. In fact, within a week we
shall be the best of friends, and, I doubt not, shall feel as though we
had known one another all our lives. By the end of the voyage some of us
will have made such excellent companions that we shall be loth to part,
while a few, wearied by the monotony of the long passage, will have
squabbled. That is often the ending of a trip like this. But, pardon me,
my name is Beverley, and I am for Singapore. May I ask your destination?"

Tyler at once told him, and then the two fell into conversation, which
lasted until the ship had warped out of the harbour and was steering
for the sea. Then they separated to go to their cabins, only to find
that they were to share the same. And so it happened that throughout the
voyage, which lasted for three months, they were continually together,
and became the fastest of friends.

"And so you, like myself, are bound for Singapore," said Mr. Beverley
two months after the _Alice Mary_ had sailed from Plymouth; "and you
tell me that you are likely to join the _Dido_ there. I think that you
will be fortunate if you do so, for I happen to be well informed as to
the movements of the ships, and I know that the vessel of which we speak
is at present in the China Sea, engaged on a special mission, and is
not likely to return to Singapore until late next year. Consequently
you will either have to remain kicking your heels at the latter place,
or you will have to tranship and go aboard the first merchantman bound
for Hong-Kong. Now let me tell you of my plans. I am engaged by the
Government to go to the island of Borneo, with a view to obtaining
information as to its products. At the same time I have other people's
interests in hand, for I am travelling for a firm of rubber merchants
who are seeking a new field from which to obtain their supplies. Once
before I was in the Eastern Archipelago, and on that occasion I obtained
experience which will be of great value to me and which will help me on
my journey. But you may wonder why I am troubling you so much with my
own affairs, and for that reason I will explain. I told you that the
_Dido_ was in the China seas, and was not likely to reach Singapore
for many months. But I did not say what was also in my knowledge,
namely that Captain Keppel has been ordered to return by way of the
archipelago, where he is to do his best to exterminate the pirates, who
are very numerous and infest the islands. Now, supposing you sailed to
Hong-Kong and missed the _Dido!"_

"It would be very disappointing," exclaimed Tyler, "and in that case I
should scarcely be able to report myself before a year had passed."

"Quite so! but if there was news at Singapore that the _Dido_ was
already on her way, but would be delayed in the neighbourhood of Borneo,
how would you care for a trip to the island yourself, with the hope that
you might have the fortune to join her there?"

"Nothing I should like better!" burst in Tyler eagerly. "With you, do
you mean?"

"That is my proposition. I want a comrade to accompany me, and if he
is an officer in the British navy, all the better, for the power of
England is known in Borneo, and your uniform would command respect on
the coast. In the interior it would be a different matter, for there the
Dyak tribes have probably never seen a white man. Indeed I hear that
the country has never been explored, but rumours which have reached us
through the Malays tell how the tribes within are for the most part
fierce and warlike, and spend their time in attacking one another,
often with the sole object in view of obtaining the heads of their
enemies. But to return to my proposition. I have known you now so long
that I feel sure that we should be capital friends. As I have said, I
want a companion, while you desire to join your ship. Her destination
is the coast of Borneo, while I also am bound in that direction. If on
arrival at Singapore you find it unwise to proceed to China, and can
obtain permission from the authorities, will you join me, in the hope of
falling in with the _Dido?_ There will be no expense, but I can promise
you a trip which you may never have another opportunity of taking."

"It would be grand, and there is nothing that I should like more, Mr.
Beverley," cried Tyler with eagerness. "Of course I know nothing about
this Eastern Archipelago, and indeed did not know that I was bound in
that direction until a very few days before leaving England. I am sure
that the excursion would, as you say, be most fascinating, and I will
join you with the greatest pleasure if the authorities will allow me to
do so."

"Then I think that there will be no difficulty, though I am uncertain at
the present moment to whom your request should be made. I am aware that
there is a resident governor at Singapore, but whether the Admiralty
has a representative is another matter. In any case I should go with
you, and should show my orders, which would command some amount of
influence; then again, in six weeks' time, when we hope to arrive at our
destination, those at Singapore will be able to tell us more about the
_Dido_, and will be able to say whether she is then in the China seas
or whether she is shortly due at the port. We must be guided by their
report, though I think that you will find that your ship is on her way
to Borneo, and to the islands thereabout. That being the case, we shall
promptly get sanction for you to join me, and as soon as we have made
the necessary preparations shall set sail. As for the latter, I propose
to purchase a small sailing schooner, and fit her up with a quantity
of muskets and a couple of six-pounder guns, for our journey will take
us into a part where the pirates from Sarebus abound, and they will
think nothing of pouncing upon us. However, if they see that we are
fully prepared, they will be more inclined to leave us alone, while,
should they be bold enough to attack us, we shall, I hope, beat them
handsomely, for we shall carry a crew of Malays, besides an interpreter.
But how is it that you obtained your commission? You are decidedly over
the age when youngsters are admitted to the navy, and as you have never
broached the subject yourself I have not ventured to open it for fear
of seeming curious. However, should you care to tell me I should be most
interested to hear."

Thus invited to give an account of his adventure at the docks, Tyler did
not hesitate to describe the latter in full, and to tell Mr. Beverley
how Admiral Davies had come forward to help the family.

"It was done on the spur of the moment," he said, as if in excuse for
his action, when referring to the rescue. "You see, there were the two
officers insensible, a shout from the mate told us clearly that gas was
the cause of the mishap, and, of course, after that the only thing to do
was to get them out as rapidly as possible."

"That may be so, Tyler, my lad," responded Mr. Beverley warmly, "but
I tell you that, though the need for rescue was apparent, there are
many who would have stood there on the deck wringing their hands and
incapable of giving active help. That's just where you came to the fore,
and it must have been solely due to your promptness that those officers
are alive to-day to tell the tale. I am glad that you have won your
commission in such a manner, and I prophesy that your promotion will be
rapid, for you are about to serve under a very distinguished officer,
and will come to him with a character which will at once command his
respect and approval. If he sees that you are level-headed and a hard
worker he will no doubt give you many an opportunity of showing your
worth. But it's time for dinner, and we had better go below and dress.
Later on we can discuss the question of this trip to Borneo more
completely. At the present moment it is sufficient for me to know that
I have obtained the services of a young fellow who will be a companion,
and who, moreover, will be of great assistance should it ever be our
fortune to get into a tight corner."

Five weeks later the _Alice Mary_ sighted the Island of Sumatra, and,
having passed through the Malacca Strait, made for the harbour of
Singapore. Tyler and Mr. Beverley, having seen their baggage landed,
at once went to an hotel, the latter promptly despatching a note to the
governor to ask for an appointment. Then they walked about the town for
an hour, to find on their return that an answer had arrived requesting
them to attend at the residency immediately.

"Glad to meet you," said the governor cordially, as they were ushered
into his room. "I am aware of your proposed expedition, Mr. Beverley,
for I have had orders to help you as much as possible. Advices also
have reached me with the information that Mr. Richardson would come
here with the object of joining H.M.S. _Dido;_ but I fear that there is
disappointment before him, for a brig which arrived last week came with
the news that the ship in question had left Hong-Kong recently in search
of the pirates in the neighbourhood of Borneo, and also to forward, if
possible, the work of an ardent philanthropist, by name James Brooke.
I fear that our young friend will have to remain in idleness for many
weeks, unless, of course, he receives orders to proceed to some other
port in the Archipelago."

"Which would exactly suit him, sir," exclaimed Mr. Beverley, who at once
proceeded to tell the governor of the proposal which he had made to
Tyler.

"It sounds an excellent plan to keep him out of mischief," was the
answer, given with a smile, "and I am sure that the voyage would be
most instructive for a young fellow such as he is. As to the necessary
permission, I can give you that on the spot, for there is not a single
representative of the royal navy in port at this moment. I will write
a letter, which he can carry with him, stating that as the _Dido_ is
not likely to put in an appearance for some little time, and is in all
probability cruising in the neighbourhood of Borneo, this officer is to
proceed there with you on the distinct understanding that he is to join
the _Dido_ as soon as he obtains news of her precise whereabouts. That
will smooth all possible difficulties, will it not?" he went on with a
pleasant smile, seating himself at the desk which stood in the room,
and making ready to write. "If questions are asked as to why he did
not remain here, he has only to produce the letter; while again, should
it turn out that by going with you the date of his joining is delayed
longer than it would have been had he remained at Singapore, why, my
written orders will clear him from all reprimand."

Taking a piece of official paper, the governor hastily scrawled some
lines on it and stamped it at the bottom. Then he enclosed the letter in
an envelope and sealed it with wax.

"There," he said, handing it to Tyler, "may you have a very pleasant
trip! and when you fall in with the _Dido_ just be so good as to give my
compliments to her commander. For you, Mr. Beverley, I trust that your
journey into the interior may lead to a favourable report, for I myself
am deeply interested in the island, and in Mr. James Brooke, whose
name I have already mentioned to you. I met him here, where he stayed
quite recently, refitting his vessel, the _Royalist_, and I had the
opportunity of many a conversation with him. He has the interests of the
Dyaks and inhabitants of Borneo Proper at heart, and for that purpose he
has sailed a second time for Sarawak. I fear that he will encounter many
difficulties and dangers, and that it will be long before he meets with
real success. But excuse me, I am very busy to-day, and there are many
others waiting to speak with me."

Extending his hand the governor bade them farewell, and ushered them out
of his room, promising to help them in their preparations if they should
be in need of assistance. As for Tyler and his friend, they returned to
the hotel, and began to discuss the preparations to be made before their
departure.

"We shall require special clothes, of course," said the latter, "and
I think that corduroy breeches and high boots, and a strong but thin
linen jacket, will be necessary. A light sun-hat, which will retain its
position on the head when the wearer is moving actively, must form part
of the outfit, and in addition a cloak of heavy material must be taken,
for in Borneo scarcely a night passes without rain, often amounting to
a heavy downpour, from which we must be protected. Indeed, my experience
of these regions has taught me that a white man rapidly falls a victim
to ague if he is exposed to much damp and cold. We must try to keep
fever at arm's-length, and as a precaution I shall take with me an
abundance of quinine, besides other drugs and surgical necessaries. A
spare suit, with flannel shirts, and a supply of foot-gear, will meet
our requirements, and will allow us to turn our attention to another
portion of the outfit.

"Now about guns. I have already told you that I shall carry a supply on
board the schooner which I propose to purchase, but I shall also obtain
the best of weapons for ourselves, and in any case we shall carry with
us a pair of heavy revolvers. Don't think that I am inclined to be
pugnacious," he went on with a smile, "but there is nothing like being
fully prepared. We may, and I'm sure I hope that we shall, pass amongst
these tribes without molestation, but there is no saying for certain,
and it will do no harm to let the Dyaks see that we are well armed. But
I hope to win them over by presents, and for that purpose I shall take
with me bales of beads and coloured cotton, besides looking-glasses, and
cheap knick-knacks. A few instruments for the preservation of specimens
will be necessary; and last, but by no means least, it will be desirable
if you bring a suit of uniform, to be worn on state occasions.

"And now for a vessel in which to sail. As we have little time to spare,
I propose that we leave for the docks at once and go to a shipping
agent. If there is anything in the port likely to prove serviceable he
is certain to have knowledge of the craft, and will be able to give us
particulars."

Issuing from the hotel once more, Tyler and Mr. Beverley walked through
the town, passing scores of natives of every hue and colour as they
went. Indeed, Singapore, like many another Eastern seaport, is noted for
its cosmopolitan population; and as they threaded their way through the
sunlit streets, Malays, Chinese, Hindoos from India, and many another
native from adjacent parts, jostled one another. Europeans also were
to be seen in abundance, but for the most part these were driving in
light carriages, or were mounted upon ponies. To Tyler the scene was
particularly fascinating, for he had never been in the East before, and
as he walked along, his eye noted with admiration the lithe and graceful
figures of the Malays, and the stolid, heavily-built appearance of the
Chinese.

"Yes, John Chinaman looks dull and uninteresting," remarked Mr.
Beverley, "but note his prosperity. He has found that his own native
land is filled to overflowing, and that competition is too severe, and
in consequence has emigrated. I have met him in divers parts, for he is
to be found in large numbers in the Straits Settlements, in Borneo, and
other islands in this archipelago. He has also found his way to North
America and to Australia, and everywhere he is prosperous. A hard worker
from his earliest days, and almost always contented with his lot, he
can feed himself upon the smallest wage, and still save sufficient for
a rainy day. Then in the course of years he becomes his own master, the
employer of labour, and a wealthy citizen of whatever town he has made
his home. But we must hurry on, for there is much to settle before we
set sail for Borneo."

Half an hour later they stood upon the dock-side looking with admiration
at a tiny schooner which lay moored in the basin, floating daintily upon
the water.

"A derelict," explained the shipping agent, who had accompanied them
to the quay. "She was found off the northern coast of Sumatra, driving
hither and thither upon the sea. No one can say to whom she belonged,
or how it happened that she was adrift and left all alone. Perhaps her
crew went ashore somewhere in the Archipelago and were set upon by the
natives. But it is idle to guess, and all that I can tell you is that
she was salvaged by a vessel making for this port, and that the usual
period allowed in these cases having passed without a claimant coming
forward, she is now to be sold by auction, or to any private bidder
who will give the price. There, sir, you can see what handsome lines
she has, and I can assure you that she is sound and seaworthy. I have
already mentioned the figure asked for her, and you are at liberty to
take her out for a day's cruise before coming to a definite decision.
Shall I make the necessary arrangements and place a crew aboard?"

"I like her looks," said Mr. Beverley, "and we will try her. When can
you be ready?"

"To-morrow morning shall see all arrangements completed, and I myself
will come with you," replied the agent. "And now as to the other
questions which you put to me. I can find you ten men to form a crew
with the greatest ease, and I happen to know of a young fellow who would
gladly go with you as boatswain. He was a sailor aboard a merchantman,
but fell sick when the ship lay here discharging her cargo, and was
at once taken to the hospital, where he remained for long after the
ship had sailed. He is now well and strong, and eagerly looking for
some work. His name is John Marshall, and I can give him an excellent
character."

"Then if I like him I will engage him for the trip," said Mr. Beverley;
"but what about an interpreter? It will be necessary to take someone
with us who can speak the Dyak language, and I think that amongst the
Malay crew should be included natives who speak some English besides
their own tongue."

"The last can be easily managed, but an interpreter would be a
difficulty, for you want an intelligent man, and they are few amongst
these natives. But wait--it suddenly occurs to me that I know the very
person to suit you. How would a Dutchman do?"

"Provided he was honest, and had no particular failing, there is no
reason why he should not suit me," replied Mr. Beverley thoughtfully. "I
admit that I am not charmed with the race of Dutchmen which I have met
in the islands of the Archipelago, for they are indolent, and many of
them, I fear, cruel in their treatment of the natives. But some were
excellent fellows, and there is no reason why this man should not prove
the same. Who is he, and how comes it that he is here in Singapore?"

"That is a question which I am unable to answer," was the agent's reply.
"I only know that he is here in search of employment, for I am the man
who is supposed to know everything in this town. His own tale is that
he comes from Java, and that he is here for his health. He is quiet and
well-behaved, and, I should judge, some thirty years of age, I remember
that he told me that he had been in Borneo, and could understand the
Dyaks. But I will send him to call upon you, and you can form your own
opinion of the man."

Having settled the matter in this way, and promised to be at the quay
by daylight on the following morning, Tyler and his friend returned
to their hotel, and having drawn out a list of articles which they
considered useful, they sallied into the town once more and set about
making their purchases. A week later their preparations were complete,
the schooner had been tried and approved of, and duly bought. Then,
thanks to the agent, a crew was easily found, while provisions were
to be had in abundance. A Chinese gunsmith had supplied the necessary
weapons, and had himself mounted the two six-pounders upon the deck.

"We will sail to-morrow at noon," said Mr. Beverley as he and Tyler
retired to their hotel that evening. "I think that all our preparations
are completed, and I feel that everything is most satisfactory. Our
crew are sturdy, well-built fellows, while John Marshall promises to
be a treasure. Of Hanns Schlott, our Dutch interpreter, I can say very
little, for it is difficult to understand him. He is quiet and reserved,
and never speaks unless he is addressed. But I have hopes that he will
prove a good companion."

Mr. Beverley said the last few words with hesitation, and then lapsed
into a thoughtful silence, which Tyler did not venture to interrupt.
But a few minutes later he turned to our hero sharply and asked him a
question.

"What is your own opinion?" he demanded somewhat curtly. "How do you
like the man?"

"I scarcely know," was Tyler's doubtful answer, "and I do not care to
say anything now which may prove wrong in the end. But, honestly, I
do not trust him. He has a hang-dog expression, and if you notice, he
never looks one steadily in the face. Then again I do not admire his
companions."

"Companions! Why, he describes himself as being friendless," exclaimed
Mr. Beverley with some surprise. "Surely you are mistaken. Where have
you seen him in company with other men?"

"On three separate occasions I have caught sight of him in close
conversation with a rascally-looking fellow who has the appearance
of being partly Dutch and partly Malay. I must say that I also was
astonished, and watched them for some little while until they boarded
a native craft which lay out in the basin. She sailed yesterday, but
I said nothing about the matter, as I did not wish to prejudice you.
Still, I thought it strange, and determined to mention the matter after
we had set sail."

For some considerable time there was silence between the two, both being
occupied with their thoughts. As for Tyler, he was bound to confess to
himself that he had taken an instant dislike to the Dutchman, and felt
uneasy at the prospect of his company. But then it was not his business
to interfere, for this was Mr. Beverley's expedition, and besides, even
though Hanns Schlott failed to please him, he would be one amongst many,
and could do no harm even though he might desire to be troublesome.

"Hum! It is strange that I too have had the same feeling about this
man," said Mr. Beverley. "But, for fear of doing him an injustice, I
failed to mention it. But I was not altogether satisfied with him,
and had it not been for the fact that it is absolutely necessary that
we should carry an interpreter, and that a suitable man was hard to
obtain, I should never have accepted his services. However, he is
engaged, and must accompany us, though I shall be careful to keep my eye
upon him. Now let us turn out into the town for a walk. After to-morrow
there will be little opportunity of taking exercise."

Early on the following morning all was bustle above and below the deck
of the tiny schooner. John Marshall, the young fellow who had been
engaged as boatswain, was busily handling his native crew in a manner
which showed that he was a thorough sailor. Obedient to his orders,
which were given in quiet but resolute tones which commanded instant
attention, the Malays were stowing water-barrels in the hold, while
a portion of the crew were laying out the sails in preparation for
hoisting. Right aft, seated upon the six-pounder which was mounted
there, was a short, thick-set individual, dressed in slouching clothes
and wearing a broad felt hat upon his head. His cheeks were sallow and
flabby, and his whole face was destitute of colour, save for a few black
bristles upon his chin. Of moustache he had absolutely none, and his
head had been cropped so close that it seemed to be entirely bald. With
the brim pulled down over a pair of narrow, slit-like eyes, he sat there
gazing vacantly at nothing, while he puffed lazily at an enormous pipe,
now and again lifting his head to watch the smoke as it circled about
him. Not once did he make a movement to help those on board, and even
when Tyler and Mr. Beverley stood close beside him, tugging laboriously
at an enormous case of ammunition, he did not venture to stir or lend a
hand in the task. Instead, he lounged there as though he had quite made
up his mind that his work would begin later on, and that here, at any
rate, there was no call for the interpreter to the expedition to exert
himself.

"Hanns Schlott is a ne'er-do-well, I fear," whispered Mr. Beverley a few
minutes later, whilst he and Tyler were in the hold. "For the last hour
he has sat there idly, looking at nothing in particular, and lifting not
a finger to help those who are to be his comrades. I fear that he will
prove unsuitable, and if only I had a good excuse, and could be certain
of replacing him instantly, I would pay him a portion of the wages
agreed upon and dismiss him. But then a substitute is not to be found,
so that we must make the best of matters as they are and trust to things
improving in the future."

Consoling themselves with this reflection, they stowed the ammunition
safely and then returned on deck. By now all was in readiness for
departure, and the tiny hatch of which the schooner alone boasted having
been battened down, the order was given to hoist the sails. Then the
rope which secured her to the moorings was cast off, and the dinghy, by
means of which the operation was performed, having been attached to a
ring-bolt at the stern, the little vessel swung round, and, careening
to the steady breeze which was blowing, headed from the harbour of
Singapore. An hour later her course was set direct for the north-western
point of Borneo, towards which she sped at a gentle pace.

"Once we make the land, I propose to veer to the north and cruise along
the north-western coast," said Mr. Beverley, as he and Tyler stood side
by side on deck. "Then I shall look out for a river which seems wide
enough for navigation, and after landing and obtaining information from
the Malays who may happen to be in the neighbourhood, I shall push on
up the river till the shallows or other difficulties prevent me. After
that we shall act as circumstances direct, though my aim and object is
to wander from end to end of Borneo Proper, ending my journey in the
neighbourhood of Sarawak."

"Land ho! Land in sight!"

John Marshall's shout brought all aboard the little schooner hurrying
to the deck early one morning six days after the voyage had commenced.
"Away there a couple of points to starboard," he continued, directing
Tyler's gaze in a line which would show him the object in view. "Hilly
land, with green trees, sir, and it's Borneo, I'm thinking."

"Borneo, sure enough, John," sang out Mr. Beverley in tones of pleasure,
fixing his eyes on the distant land through a pair of glasses. "Take
a look, Tyler, and tell me what you see. There is such a haze upon the
water that I am confused, though I am certain, from the direct course
that we have made, that the island before us is the one for which we are
bound."

"I can make out a long range of hills," said Tyler, after he had taken
a steady look at the distant object, "and--why, I declare that there is
the very craft that lay close alongside us at Singapore."

"Where? Which vessel do you mean?" demanded his companion quickly. "Not
that it matters much, or is of the least importance," he added, "for
there is quite a considerable trade done with Borneo, and ships pass to
and fro."

"Not vessels like that one," said Tyler under his breath, turning to
Mr. Beverley swiftly and lifting a warning finger, for he had suddenly
become aware of the fact that Hanns Schlott was beside them, eagerly
listening to their words. "Yes," he went on, as if agreeing to what
had been said, "she is no doubt just an ordinary trader, and we shall
probably meet with many more. Are you going below to work out our
position?"

Conscious that Tyler must have some occasion for speaking as he did, and
at once noticing his signal to be cautious, Mr. Beverley indulged in one
more glance through the glasses, so as to disarm suspicion, and then,
taking the hint which had been thrown out, disappeared below, where he
was at once joined by our hero.

"Well," he demanded, as soon as they were in the cabin and had closed
the door, "why this mystery? Why is there need for caution? You puzzle
me, my lad."

"Perhaps I have no right to be suspicious," answered Tyler, "but you
will recollect that I told you that I had seen Hanns Schlott speaking
with a stranger while at Singapore, and that he accompanied his friend
on board. The vessel upon which they went is the one now in view, and
its commander is the rascally-looking fellow I described to you."

"But surely--" commenced Mr. Beverley, and then suddenly became silent.
"What do you fear?" he asked in a quiet voice some moments later,
turning a thoughtful face towards his young companion. "Come, do not
hesitate to speak your mind, for I shall not laugh at you. You have seen
something which has aroused distrust in your mind, and you are anxious.
I can see that plainly, and as I know well that you are a young fellow
upon whom I can rely, and moreover, that you are not inclined to cry out
without a cause, I feel sure that there is really something serious.
Now, what is it exactly, and, first of all, are you positive that the
ship we have seen is the one upon which Hanns Schlott's friend was
quartered?"

"I am absolutely certain," was the emphatic answer. "The vessel in the
offing is a low-built native craft, and to anyone who had not observed
her closely she would appear much the same as others to be seen in and
about Singapore. However, I happened to take good stock of her, for I
tell you that from the very first I have distrusted our interpreter, and
I noticed that she had a large slit in her sail, which had been roughly
stitched. The craft lying under the land has a jagged hole in the very
same position, and I feel positive that it is the one which we are
discussing."

"But supposing she is the identical boat," burst in Mr. Beverley,
"surely there is nothing in the fact of her being in this neighbourhood?"

"Perhaps not. It may turn out that I am giving an alarm for which there
is no need; but of this I am confident, the vessel owned by Hanns
Schlott's friend is no peaceful trader, or if she is at times, she
occasionally indulges in warfare of some description."

"How could you know that, Tyler? You must be romancing."

"I think not," was the steady answer. "At the time, I recollect that I
merely noticed that her wood-work was riddled with bullet-holes in many
places, and that while some had been the work of months ago, others had
been recently made. I remember thinking it strange, but then we were
so busy fitting out for the expedition that I quickly forgot all about
it. I ought to have mentioned it when we were discussing Hanns, but felt
that I might have turned you against him in an unjust way. Now that I
see the very same ship the whole thing recurs to me with added force,
and makes me feel that all is not as it should be. You yourself have
told me that pirates abound in these seas. Then why should this vessel
not be one of that type, and how are you to know that Hanns Schlott
is not in league with the commander and crew, and merely awaiting a
favourable opportunity to take possession of this schooner?"

Tyler put the question quietly, and in as low tones as was possible,
but for all that his heart beat fast, whilst his pulses throbbed with
excitement. For he was a thoughtful and an observant young fellow, and
was by no means dull or devoid of sense. What, then, was more likely
than that news of Mr. Beverley's expedition should have leaked out
and become common property at Singapore? Indeed, the governor had had
tidings of it, and had Tyler and his chief only known, many in Singapore
were aware of their intentions. Then was it not possible that a whisper
should have reached the ears of the pirates about Borneo? And supposing
that to have been the case, supposing, for an instant, that the very
vessel which the two were discussing in the cabin of the schooner
had chanced to put into some port near at hand to obtain a supply of
provisions, and had happened to gain the tidings from a crew recently
from Singapore--providing the crew and their commander were given to
piracy, was it not almost certain that they would at once make plans
to swoop down upon the members of what could only be a weakly-manned
expedition? Yes, as Mr. Beverley reviewed the facts, he could not help
but realize the gravity of the case, and at once he turned a troubled
face to his companion. As for the latter, he, too, was worried, and
filled with vague fears for the safety of all on board. Had he but
been able to read Hanns Schlott's thoughts at that moment he would have
been more alarmed, and would have seen that there was ample cause for
his concern. Indeed, a glance at the interpreter would have sufficed,
for once his two leaders had retired the latter seized a glass which he
carried in an inner pocket and applied it to his eye. A moment later he
gave vent to a guttural exclamation of satisfaction, and having looked
about him to see that he was not observed, went into the bows, where,
hidden by the bulging sail, he held a big red handkerchief well above
his head, and let it flutter there.

"Ja!" he growled beneath his breath. "Meinheer shall see. He thinks
that Hanns Schlott is too fat and too tired to be anything but an
interpreter, but he shall find out for himself. And Christian van
Sonerell is there as he promised. Ha, ha, ha! He is a bad man to have
such a name, but he can keep to his word. 'When you sight the island you
will find me there', he said; and see, his vessel sails before us, an
innocent trader for the moment, but later--ah, we shall see!"

With one more glance in the direction of the distant native craft, and a
second furtive flutter of the handkerchief, he turned and went along the
deck, laughing softly, as though the prospect of some piece of villainy
which he were about to undertake were delighting him.



CHAPTER IV

A Traitor and a Villain


"I begin to think that there is some reason in your fears, and that,
after all, your good sense and powers of observation are about to save
us from a very ugly encounter," said Mr. Beverley slowly, turning to
Tyler after some minutes' thought. "I am a man who dislikes to do
anyone an injustice, and it is on that account, and because I tried
to persuade myself that I had no right to take a dislike to the man,
that I determined to think well of our interpreter. But I fear that
Hanns Schlott is a rogue, if not worse, and that he is a party in a
conspiracy. However, we are not taken yet, and shall give much trouble
before any harm comes to us. What do you advise?"

"That we arm at once," said Tyler promptly, "and show these fellows that
we are prepared. Say nothing to Hanns, but watch him carefully, and at
the first sign of treachery make him a prisoner. Above all, refuse to
allow the native boat to come within more than hailing distance."

"Yes, the plan seems a good one, and we will set about it immediately,"
cried Mr. Beverley, springing to his feet. "As for this Hanns Schlott,
he seems to be a rogue, and as a rogue I will treat him if he shows
any inclination to be mischievous. As you suggest, I will make him a
prisoner if he gives me the opportunity, and then I shall take steps
to hand him over to the Dutch Government. There are numbers of his
countrymen in the neighbouring island, for the Dutch have had many
stations in the Archipelago for numbers of years, and by slipping round
to Celebes, or across to Java, we should have no difficulty about
placing him in the custody of one of the residents appointed by his
country. But I am sure that at the present moment our best plan will be
to keep on terms of friendship with him, to make believe that we trust
him, while secretly we keep watch to avoid treachery. Now how are we to
set about it?"

"Let us call John Marshall and take him into our confidence," said Tyler
promptly. "He is a thoroughly good fellow, and has our interests at
heart. Shall I send for him now?"

A few minutes' consideration told Mr. Beverley that it would be as well
to warn the young English sailor who accompanied them, for should there
be any trouble with the crew, these three Europeans would naturally
fight side by side. As for Hanns Schlott, it was useless to think of him
as a friend, for the more his conduct was considered the more certain
did it become that he was engaged in some dark conspiracy.

"We have to recollect that as a prize we should prove valuable,"
remarked Mr. Beverley suddenly. "You see, Tyler, the Government and the
firm of rubber merchants for whom I am making this expedition have given
me a liberal sum with which to pay my way; and indeed they are wise in
doing so, for money expended now in a journey such as ours is likely
to be, and presents made to Dyak chiefs, are likely to bear very good
interest in the future. There are sufficient dollars aboard to make
a handsome fortune, and in addition our equipment is of considerable
value. Indeed, there is no denying the fact that to one of these native
prahus we should be a rich haul, and it is mainly with such a prospect
in view that I determined to thoroughly arm the schooner. Who can say
how much Hanns Schlott and his accomplices know? If there is actually
a conspiracy they must have considered it worth their while to follow
us, for otherwise why should they take all the trouble? But there is no
use in wondering. The question now is, how are we to protect ourselves?
Forewarned is forearmed, and now that our suspicions have been aroused,
let it not be said that we have proved rash and careless. Just sing out
for John, and tell him to come down at once."

Going to the narrow companion, which led to the deck above, Tyler
ascended slowly, and having reached the upper level, looked carefully
round. There was John standing close beside the tiller, which was
manned by one of the Malays, while a few of the crew sat and lounged
near at hand. Of Hanns Schlott there was not a sign, but a moment later
something red fluttering in the breeze beyond the mainsail of the
schooner attracted his attention, and, taking a step to one side, he saw
the Dutch interpreter standing with his back against the mast, with his
handkerchief held at arm's length above his head. A second later the
arm dropped, and the square of red disappeared into one of his pockets.
Then, as Tyler darted back to the companion and descended a few steps,
the slouching Hanns Schlott turned and came walking along the deck. A
few paces carried him beyond the sail, and instantly his eye fell upon
Tyler, who made pretence to be just emerging from the cabin.

"Had he been seen? Had this young Englishman, whom from the very first
he had detested, been spying upon him?" Hanns Schlott flushed red at the
thought as he asked himself the questions, and then turned to address
our hero.

"The land in sight is Borneo," he said. "Ja, I know it, for I have been
there before. We have a pleasant trip before us, meinheer."

"Perhaps you have friends there," responded Tyler quietly, directing a
keen glance at the Dutchman, which caused the latter's eyes to drop,
while his face again flushed.

"Does he know more than he should, this young idiot?" he murmured
beneath his breath. "Does he suspect the prahu lying under the land?
Pooh! It is impossible, for like all of his country he is dull, and
thinks it honourable to trust all with whom he comes in contact. But I
must be cautious, and should he show an inclination to thwart me I will
silence his tongue for good. Ja, Hanns Schlott, you are clever, and
more than once have you paid a visit to Singapore on the same errand,
with Christian van Sonerell to help you. A few months back you contrived
to capture a merchantman, and on this occasion you will not be baulked
by any of these fools. The youngster means only to be pleasant when he
suggests that I have friends at hand, and it is absurd to think that he
suspects me."

Banishing all fears of discovery from his mind in this sweeping manner,
the Dutchman waited only to assure Tyler that he was unknown to any in
Borneo, and then went sauntering along the deck. As for the latter,
he remained on the companion ladder for some moments watching the
interpreter.

"He is a rogue, I am sure," he said to himself, "and the fact that I
have caught him in the act of signalling to the prahu convinces me
that I am right. He started when I suggested that he had companions
on the island, and for the moment I could see that he feared that I
had witnessed his act. Otherwise why did he address me? For he is a
silent man, and during the week or more that I have known him has never
ventured to say a word unless directly asked a question. Now, if I call
John Marshall down into the cabin without a sufficient excuse, Hanns
Schlott will begin to think that matters are not going smoothly for him.
Ah, I know!"

Springing up the remaining steps of the ladder, he emerged upon the
deck and walked towards the young sailor, pausing as he did so to gaze
at the distant land, to which the schooner had drawn distinctly nearer,
and under the shadow of which the native prahu which had aroused his
suspicions still lay. Then he went to the tiller and addressed John
Marshall.

"We wish to make arrangements for the landing-party," he said so that
all on board could hear. "Mr. Beverley requests that you will come down
into the cabin and help him in selecting the men."

Turning upon his heel he at once retraced his steps and was soon joined
by the young sailor in the cabin.

"Close the door, please," said Mr. Beverley as the latter entered. "Now
sit down there, John, and tell me candidly what you think of our crew?"

Thus bidden, the boatswain dropped on to a wooden form and sat there
uncomfortably twirling his cap between his fingers for some minutes, as
though unable to do what he was asked. Then he suddenly raised his head,
and, looking first at his interrogator and then at Tyler, blurted out
his news.

"They ain't right, and that's the whole matter with 'em," he said
shortly. "Away in Singapore they were just easy to handle, and worked
almost as hard as a British crew. But the feeding's too good for 'em by
half, and they're getting above themselves. It's the truth, sir, and I
tell you that they are altogether out of hand. As for the Dutch cove
aboard, well--"

John Marshall shrugged his shoulders disdainfully, and lifted his hands
as much as to say that the matter was beyond expression. Then he sank
back on the form and looked at Mr. Beverley as if awaiting another
question.

"What about Hanns Schlott then?" demanded the latter. "Do you think
that he is in league with rogues who have followed us to Borneo? My
young friend, Mr. Richardson, declares that the prahu lying under the
island is one which was moored in the harbour at Singapore close to this
schooner, and that her condition and the appearance of her commander led
to the suspicion that she was not altogether a peaceful trader."

"Then he ain't far out," cried the boatswain, suddenly leaping to his
feet and coming forward to lean with both hands upon the cabin table.
"I don't know as how I've seen anything particular, but there's pirates
in these seas, for I learnt that when in Singapore, while the Dutchman
aboard is a wrong 'un. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that he had fixed
it up to murder the whole lot of us, and if I had my way I'd pitch him
ashore at the very first landing-place."

He gave vent to a snort of indignation, and changed his cap from one
hand to the other, while he kept his eyes closely fixed upon Mr.
Beverley.

"Then you will be all the more ready to follow the plan which we have
decided upon," exclaimed the latter; "but secrecy is a thing which
we must carefully observe. Remember this, that our suspicions may be
unfounded, and that the prahu over there and our interpreter may be
as innocent of treachery as we are. As for the crew, it grieves me to
hear that they are not to be relied upon, and now that I have heard it
I realize that should trouble come we three must depend upon ourselves
alone. From this moment we must carry weapons upon us, and as soon as it
is dark we must take it in turn to keep watch. Then, too, at the very
first opportunity we will load our six-pounders, cramming them with
grape-shot, and replacing the tarpaulin covers over the touch-holes once
we have laid the fuse. If there is trouble we will rush to one end of
the boat and defend ourselves there."

"Then only one of the six-pounders must be prepared," cried Tyler with
emphasis, "for otherwise, while we were posted in the bows, those in the
stern would lay the gun there upon us and blow us into pieces."

"Ah! I had forgotten that, my lad, and I thank you for giving the
warning," said Mr. Beverley. "Who knows, it may be the saving of our
lives! And now as to the watch to be set. We will divide the night into
three parts, and will settle upon a signal which will awaken those who
are off duty and bring them on deck."

"Then let it be a pistol-shot, if I may make so bold as to give a bit of
advice," burst in John. "Yer see, sir, the crack of a little weapon like
that is loud enough to reach to any part of the schooner, unless a gale
is blowing, and it's so sudden-like and unexpected that it fetches yer
upon yer pins before yer know what's happening. Besides, a pistol's a
handy weapon to carry in one's pocket."

"And as it is the only one with which we shall be armed, we will adopt
your suggestion," said Mr. Beverley. "Then, all understand that the
firing of a shot means trouble, and that all three of us instantly make
for the stern of the vessel, there to fight whoever may come along. And
now I propose to go on deck and take a closer look at the land. Then
we will turn to the north-west and coast along in that direction until
evening falls, when we will haul in and let go our anchor. Once set up
for the night, you, John, will take the first watch, our young friend
here joining you as soon as the Malays are out of the way, and helping
to load the six-pounder in the stern. When that is done he will return
to the cabin, and when you have completed three hours of your watch I
shall come and relieve you, to hand over the duty after a similar period
to Mr. Richardson. Here are weapons for all of us. See that you place
them well out of sight and give no indication of their presence."

Going to a locker which was built beneath one of the cabin seats, he
lifted the lid and groped in the interior, to withdraw his hand in a few
moments grasping a bundle wrapped in a piece of old blanket. Placing it
upon the table he cut the cord which surrounded it, and gingerly opened
his parcel.

"The latest weapon," he said with a smile; "as you will see, some clever
fellow has invented a revolving drum which will enable us to fire as
many as six shots without reloading. I purchased six, so that each one
of us should have twelve shots in his belt. Here is the ammunition, too,
and we will at once commence to divide it."

Ten minutes later, when the three ascended to the deck, it was with
curiously mingled feelings of excitement and anxiety, for who could
tell what was about to happen? That some plot was afoot to capture the
schooner and murder the three Englishmen upon it Tyler had no doubt, and
the information which John Marshall had given as to the crew had served
only to make the danger more real. Standing there beside the sail, with
his eyes fixed upon the native prahu, he realized that he and his two
comrades were helpless, for how could they fight a crew of ten muscular
Malays led by Hanns Schlott? And if, in addition, the men on board the
prahu came to the assistance of their friends, what chance would there
be of resisting them?

"We should be cut to pieces," he said to himself, "or should be driven
off the boat. But we shall see. Perhaps, after all, we have no need to
be frightened, and matters will turn out better than we anticipate."

To attempt to console himself with this thought was useless, for do what
he would Tyler could not allay his suspicions. If he turned to the coast
of Borneo his eyes invariably fell upon the prahu there, while if he
tramped restlessly up and down the deck of the schooner the slouching
figure of Hanns Schlott came into view, sending his thoughts once more
to the evil-looking companion with whom the latter had consorted. Then
again, now that his attention had been drawn to the crew of Malays who
manned the schooner, he could not help but notice an air of insolence
which had been strange to them a week ago. Then they had been almost
too cringing and polite, while now they glanced at their three English
officers as though conscious of the fact that the position was about to
change. But thinking could do no good, and as every precaution had been
taken Tyler and his friends had to content themselves with watching the
distant shore and waiting patiently for the night to come. At length the
sun disappeared behind a bank of clouds, while the light perceptibly
faded. Almost at the same moment a deep bay was noticed in the coast
of Borneo, and into this the schooner was promptly headed. Running in
till within a mile of the shore she hauled down her sails and let go the
anchor just as the short twilight which reigns in the Archipelago gave
place to darkest night.

"Now is your time to see about the gun," said Mr. Beverley, who had
taken his station beside Tyler. "The natives have their meals at this
hour and will be huddled together in the bows. Our interpreter is seated
at this moment in his cabin, where he will be out of the way. Get the
work done quickly, and let me know when all is in readiness."

Tyler at once ran to carry out the orders, for now that the night had
fallen he realized that if trouble were in store for them it would be at
such a time, when darkness covered the water and hid their surroundings.
Going to the bulkhead which closed one end of the cabin, he unlocked the
door there and entered the tiny magazine with which the schooner was
provided. Then he emerged again with the necessary ammunition, and ere
long was able to assure his leader that all was in readiness. That done
he lay down upon his bunk and attempted to sleep, but without success;
for though he closed his eyes tightly his brain still remained actively
at work, while his ears were ever open for that pistol-shot which was
to give the signal agreed upon. Hour after hour dragged wearily by, and
it was a relief to him when at last Mr. Beverley touched him upon the
shoulder and told him that it was time for him to go on deck and take
his turn in looking after the safety of the vessel.

"There has not been a sound," he whispered, "and nothing has occurred
so far to arouse our suspicions. Both John and I have endeavoured to
discover the position of the prahu, but the night is too dark. When we
ran into the bay she was some distance higher up the coast, and for all
we know may have anchored there. Keep your eyes and ears open, and do
not hesitate to give the signal if there should be cause."

Promising to follow the advice given to him, Tyler leapt from his bunk
and crept up on deck, to find that the schooner lay without a movement
on the water, and that the sky above was lit up by myriads of bright
stars. All round, however, was impenetrable gloom, and though he went
to either side of the schooner, and with arms leaning upon the bulwarks
peered into the darkness, nothing caught his eye, while there was no
sound save the gentle lisp of the water against the vessel's side to
attract his attention.

"What was that?" He stood still beside the companion which led from the
cabin and listened eagerly, while his heart beat heavily and thumped
almost audibly against his ribs. "Ah, there it was again; a splash
somewhere near at hand!"

Darting to the side he slipped his boots from his feet, and then ran
silently along the deck till close to the bows, when he suddenly caught
sight of a figure standing before him. In an instant his hand grasped
the butt of one of his revolvers, and, drawing the weapon, he advanced
upon the man.

"Who is that?" he demanded in low but commanding tones. "Answer at once."

At the words the figure before him started suddenly and turned swiftly
about. Then a second voice broke the silence.

"Who but Hanns Schlott, meinheer?" was the answer, in tones which the
speaker endeavoured to render suave. "Who but the interpreter, who,
finding sleep impossible on this fine night, has come upon deck to enjoy
silence and solitude."

"Then what caused the splash?"

"The splash, meinheer! Ah! I recollect there was a rope coiled here
beside the halyard, and as I leaned against the rail my arm touched it,
and it fell into the water. See, here it is; I will pull it on board."

He grasped a thick cable close at hand, and pulled upon it till the end
came over the bulwark and fell upon the deck. Then, yawning loudly,
he bade Tyler a curt "good-night!" and disappeared below, leaving the
latter standing upon the deck full of suspicion and with vague fears
of some unknown but impending trouble. Indeed, had he but followed
the crafty Dutchman to his cabin, and watched his behaviour there,
the signal which had been agreed upon would have at once awakened the
silence of the night, and brought his two comrades rushing up to support
him. But his duty was to watch above, and therefore, slipping his boots
on to his feet, once more he slowly trudged the length of the vessel,
halting every now and again to listen intently for sounds, and stare
into the darkness. Meanwhile Hanns Schlott had disappeared within his
cabin.

"All is well," he was saying to himself, as he knelt beside the tin
trunk which contained his possessions. "The young fool was suspicious,
that I could see, but my word satisfied him, and he is now tramping the
deck in the full belief that no danger threatens. But Hanns Schlott
knows better. Ha, ha! Christian van Sonerell will make nothing of the
climb on to the schooner, though the rope which I had secured over the
side would have been of great service to him. In a little while he will
be here, and then I shall be ready."

Searching amongst the contents of his trunk he produced an enormous
pistol, which he carefully examined. Then, thrusting a small bag of
money into one of his pockets and gently closing the lid of the box, he
stole from the cabin, weapon in hand, and went creeping across the floor
in the direction of the bunk in which lay Mr. Beverley. Twice he came
to a sudden halt in the course of his murderous journey, and crouched
there silent and motionless beside the cabin table, for the rustle of
the sleeper's bed-clothes, and an interruption in the regularity of his
breathing, told that Mr. Beverley was not so deeply unconscious as this
rascally Dutchman would desire. Indeed, for a minute or more it seemed
as though some sense of impending danger, some vague dream of a levelled
weapon and the hand of an assassin, had crossed the mind of the sleeper,
for he suddenly awoke to a troubled half-consciousness, and, raising
himself upon an elbow, peered with blinking eyes into the darkness. Did
he hear anything? He lay there so still, breathing so silently, that the
Dutchman's craven heart leapt into his mouth, while the fingers which
grasped his weapon trembled as though they would relinquish their grasp.
Squeezing his body as far as possible beneath the table he crouched
still closer to the floor, in the attitude of a tiger about to spring
upon his victim. And all the while he kept those slit-like eyes fixed in
the direction of the bunk, while his ears listened eagerly for outside
sounds.

"Will those fools never come?" he said with many a curse beneath his
breath. "If only Christian van Sonerell and his men would arrive at
this moment I would send the bullet crashing into his body. And if this
man should stir again I will press the trigger without a doubt. Ja, I
will risk it, for to be discovered now would be to ruin our enterprise
and get myself into trouble. Ah! the dolt thinks better of it, and has
placed his face once more upon the pillow. Then I will remain as I am
and give him a few minutes longer to live. By then he will have settled
to sleep once more, and will fall the more easily to my weapon. Hist!
There is someone moving."

As he spoke, a slight sound from the far end of the alleyway, where John
Marshall had his quarters, broke upon the villain's ear, and instantly
he became even more alert, while once more an unsteady arm levelled
the pistol, prepared to turn it upon the sleeper or on anyone else who
should be so unfortunate as to come into the cabin and disturb him
in the midst of his work. "Ah!" Hanns Schlott's head became suddenly
erected, while the face turned involuntarily with a rapid movement
towards the companion ladder. At the same moment the splash of an oar
broke the silence, causing Tyler to suddenly halt in his restless tramp
upon the deck and then dash towards the side. There it was again,
followed in succession by others, proving that a boat was approaching,
while scarcely had the fact dawned upon his senses than a dim object,
rapidly becoming more visible through the darkness, suddenly came into
view. Whipping a weapon from beneath his coat, he levelled it in the
direction of the object and gave vent to a shout.

"Stop there!" he cried in piercing tones. "If you pull a stroke nearer I
will fire into you. Halt, I say!"

Leaning upon the rail which guarded the schooner's side, he stretched
towards the oncoming boat, closely watching its movements, while at the
same time he eagerly listened for sounds from below, for some sign which
would tell him that Mr. Beverley and John Marshall had sprung from their
bunks and were rushing to his aid. Nor was he destined to be kept long
waiting, for hardly had the words left his lips, warning those on the
boat to come no nearer, than a pistol-shot rang out in the night with
startling loudness, the sharp report rushing up from the cabin below.
Then a piercing shriek awakened the echoes, telling of the foul crime
which had just been committed. Almost instantly there was the noise of a
scuffle below, followed by the soft thud of a heavy blow delivered, and
a second afterwards a crash and the sound of splintering wood as some
unwieldy body fell upon the table.

Utterly bewildered at the turn which events had suddenly taken, Tyler
stood there leaning upon the rail, dumbfounded and uncertain how to
act. Not for long, however, did he hesitate, for whatever the trouble
below there was no doubt that a serious danger threatened them outside.
Indeed, one quick glance told him that in spite of his warning words the
dim ghostly object which he had caught sight of was rapidly approaching,
while the splash of oars became now still more distinct. Instantly his
finger closed round the trigger of his weapon, and just as the clatter
of heavily-booted feet ascending the companion told him that John
Marshall was at hand, his revolver spoke out, sending a bullet into the
very centre of the men crowded together in the oncoming boat. There was
another shriek, still more piercing than that one which had ascended
from below, while a shadowy figure, which he could just see through the
gloom, suddenly tossed a pair of lanky arms into the night and then
collapsed in a heap. But what was a life to these marauders? With a
savage heave, as the lifeless body fell upon him, one of the oarsmen
tossed his dead comrade overboard, and then bent to his oar once more,
stimulated to do so by the encouraging shouts of a burly individual who
stood in the bows of the boat.

"On them!" he shouted in stentorian tones, using a mixture of the Dutch
and Malay language. "Clamber aboard and slit the throats of any of the
Englishmen who may still be alive. Pull for it, for if you do not hurry
Hanns Schlott will have done the work, and you will be disappointed."

Bang! Once again Tyler's smoking revolver launched a missile at the
enemy, a shrill cry of pain clearly denoting the fact that it had found
a billet. Then John Marshall's lithe figure suddenly appeared beside
him and another weapon opened into the darkness. In rapid succession,
and with steady and unerring aim, did the two young fellows fire upon
the pirates. But they might have been a hundred yards away for all the
effect they produced, for these men were used to such scuffles, and were
not to be so easily turned aside, particularly when they recollected the
fact that the schooner had at the most but three white men to protect
her, whilst on board were staunch allies of their own. Every moment
they waited to hear the voice of the Dutchman, Hanns Schlott, who had
so cleverly obtained the post of interpreter. They listened eagerly and
peered into the gloom as they plied their oars, looking to see his bulky
figure at the head of the Malay crew. Nor was their patience severely
tried, though in the case of the rascally Dutchman they were doomed to
disappointment; for when a few yards separated the bows of their boat
from the schooner's side, ten dusky figures came rushing from their
quarters for'ard and swept in a body along the deck.

"Look out!" shouted Tyler in warning tones. "The crew have joined
against us and we must fight for our lives. Back to the stern, but first
of all where is Mr. Beverley, for we cannot think of retiring till he
is with us? Steady, John! Stand side by side with me, and rush for the
cabin."

Grasping his comrade by the sleeve, Tyler made a movement towards the
companion, with the full intention of darting down into the space below
and rescuing his leader. But scarcely had he moved a pace than the
strong fingers of the boatswain arrested his progress and urged him
towards the stern.

"Yer can't do it. It's out of the question, I tell yer, sir, for Mr.
Beverley's dead, he's been murdered by that scoundrel."

"Dead! Killed by Hanns Schlott!" exclaimed Tyler, instantly realizing
that any deed of violence and treachery must be attributable to the
Dutchman. "How awful! But how do you know? Are you not making a terrible
mistake?"

He blurted out the words in short sentences, and remained there,
determined not to budge an inch or to do anything to secure his own
retreat until he was assured by his companion that it was useless
to attempt to bring help to their leader. And all the while the two
young fellows stood resolutely side by side, resolved to support one
another to the end, and die rather than submit, for each realized that
capture would be followed by nothing else but a cruel death. Indeed,
the knowledge that that would be their end without a doubt should they
fall into the hands of these enemies who had suddenly sprung up from
the darkness braced their nerves, and helped their determination to
fight desperately. Dragging their reserve weapons from their belts they
levelled them at the crew who had mutinied, whilst each kept his eye
turned ever and anon to the side from which the boat-load of pirates was
approaching, prepared to send a bullet in that direction the instant the
marauders appeared.

"Quick! How do you know that he is dead, that this villain, Hanns
Schlott, has murdered him?" demanded Tyler hoarsely. "Tell me at once,
for otherwise I will dash below and see things as they are for myself."

Once more he stepped towards the companion as though doubtful of the
information which his companion had given, and anxious to clear up the
mystery of Mr. Beverley's absence for himself. But a shout from John and
a firm grip of his fingers once more arrested him, while the explanation
of this strange silence of their leader, the reason why he was not there
to stand or fall beside them, was hissed into Tyler's ears.

"He's dead, sure enough," said John Marshall. "Just before your shout
to those beggars came rushing down below I thought I heard suspicious
sounds in the cabin. I didn't like to think that some villainy was
afoot, and so I just hopped out of my bunk and came into the alleyway.
Then I stole softly into the cabin, match-box in hand, and a lucifer
between my fingers. I was just in the act of striking a light when your
shout startled me. A second later a pistol went off within three yards
of where I stood, while Mr. Beverley gave a shriek which made my blood
run cold. I dropped the match in my terror, but a second after it flared
up in the darkness, lighting the cabin from end to end, and showing
me Hanns Schlott kneeling on the floor with a smoking pistol in his
hand. Like a flash I guessed the murdering game he'd been after, and
I scarcely gave him time to get on to his feet when I was upon him. I
just gave a jump across the cabin and then let fly with my fist, sending
him crashing into the table. Then I struck another lucifer, and finding
him capsized all in a heap, and completely stunned, I ran across to Mr.
Beverley. He's dead I tell yer, sir, for there's a bullet wound as big
as my fist over his heart and not a breath came from his lips. Let's get
back to the stern."

Hissing the words in Tyler's ear, but a few moments had been employed
in imparting the information. But short though the interval had been,
it had been sufficient to increase the gravity of the position, for by
now the crew of Malays who had manned the schooner, and who up to this
had hung back awaiting the arrival of Hanns Schlott to lead them, had
decided to attack without his help, and one of their number springing
forward, kriss in hand, the remainder came rushing in a body towards
the two young Englishmen, brandishing their weapons above their heads
and shouting at the top of their voices. Almost at the same instant the
rays from the lantern, which was slung as a riding-light in the for'ard
part of the schooner, fell upon the villainous face of the Dutchman,
Christian van Sonerell, who came climbing over the bulwarks, quickly
followed by a dozen cut-throat Malays.

"Back to the stern!" shouted Tyler, turning swiftly about. "Get behind
the gun and stand ready to shoot!"

Joined by John Marshall, he raced towards the end of the schooner till
his progress was suddenly obstructed by a cable which stretched from
the rail to the end of the tiller, and then again across to the opposite
bulwarks.

"Look out for the rope!" he cried in warning tones. "Now step over
it, and give it a hitch to pull it taut. It will stretch as a barrier
between us and the Malays."

Quick to grasp his meaning, the young boatswain thrust his weapons into
his belt so as to set his hands free, and then, darting to the side,
rapidly unloosed the rope which kept the tiller amidships and from
swaying from side to side as the vessel lay at anchor. With the deft
fingers of a sailor he rearranged it, pulling it taut till it stretched
between the bulwarks like a bowstring. Then, finding that there was some
yards of slack, he darted forward once more to where the binnacle stood
some six feet beyond the end of the tiller, and, making a turn of the
rope around it, brought the tail-end to the opposite side.

"That'll fix 'em!" he cried in tones of excitement as he returned to
Tyler's side. "It's too dark for those fellows to see the cable, and
they'll find themselves brought up sharp when they come rushing towards
us. Are yer ready for them, sir?"

Meanwhile Tyler had been by no means idle, for there was much to be done
to prepare for the contest. Seeing that his companion had realized the
help which the rope barrier would give them, he turned his attention to
the gun, and hastily threw off the tarpaulin jacket with which it was
covered. Gently running his fingers over the breach, they quickly came
in contact with a small heap of powder which he had carefully left in
position there when loading the weapon. A moment's search discovered
the touch-hole, and a rapid movement of the hand swept the glistening
grains over it. Stooping down he looked along the barrel, and aided by
the light cast by the lantern which swayed in the for'ard rigging, and
with one hand turning the wheel which altered the elevation, he rapidly
levelled the barrel so that the contents would sweep about waist-high
across the deck. A slight movement of the breech towards the left
pointed the gun clear of the binnacle and towards that portion of the
ship where the pirates were massing.

"That's done," he shouted in answer to John Marshall's question; "and
now I'm ready to blow a hole through the rascals. Stand aside, John,
and just keep your eye upon them. The lamp swings in just the right
position, and by its aid every one of the enemy can be seen as he moves.
It is more than likely that the leader is the only one possessed of a
pistol, so watch him closely, and when you see him about to fire let
drive with your own weapon. I will stand beside the gun, but unless they
rush at us in one dense body I shall not discharge it, for the ropes
will protect us, and, moreover, it is probable that at first only a few
of the most courageous will venture to attack. Later on, when matters
become more serious, I will fire my pistol over the touch-hole and send
a shower of grape scattering through them. Ah, there is the ringleader,
and by his movements he is about to lead them to the assault!"



CHAPTER V

Escape from the Schooner


Scarcely five minutes had elapsed from the time when Hanns Schlott's
cowardly finger had pressed the trigger and sent the murderous bullet
into the breast of the sleeper. Indeed, to Tyler, as he stood there
upon the stern, pistol in hand, prepared to discharge the contents of
the six-pounder into the midst of the pirates, the sharp report, that
piercing, piteous scream still rang in his ears, while the thud of
John's massive fist and the crash and noise of splintering wood-work
as the rascally Dutchman was knocked to the floor were fresh in his
memory. Then had come the rapid appearance of the boatswain, to be
followed shortly afterwards by the figures of the mutinous crew rushing
up on deck to aid their comrades. And all the while his own weapon had
been snapping, sending a shower of bullets amongst the occupants of the
approaching boat. So much had happened in that short space of time, so
rapid had been the succession of events, that the moments had flown
by. Now, however, it was so different, for, waiting there beside the
gun, with one companion alone to support him, to help him face a horde
of ruffians intent upon their lives, the seconds seemed minutes, the
minutes hours, so desperate was the situation. A shout, a shot in their
direction, or the sudden rush of the pirates would have been a welcome
relief to the tension, but as yet their condition was unchanged.

Thanks to the light shed by the riding-lamp, both he and John Marshall
could see the Malays grouped upon the deck, and could watch as their
leader, Christian van Sonerell, went amongst them, urging them to dash
aft and fall upon the white men. At length, rendered desperate and
utterly reckless by the precarious position in which he found himself,
Tyler levelled his pistol at the leader of the pirates, and taking
deliberate aim, pressed steadily upon the trigger. At once there was
a shout, and the Dutchman swung round with a curse, showing that the
bullet had struck him. Indeed, there was little doubt that he was
heavily hit, for he staggered to one side, and would have fallen had it
not been for the mast against which he placed one hand. But he was a
sturdy fellow, this rascally marauder, and to do him but common justice
he was not the man to cry out till badly hurt, or to give in till
thoroughly beaten. With a gasp, therefore, he recovered his breath, and
at once leapt in front of his following.

"At them!" he shouted. "Get together on this side and rush at them in a
body. Now, I will lead you."

Turning for one moment to his men, he swung round in the direction of
the stern, and as if to show his hatred of the white men, he levelled
a pistol and fired, sending a bullet swishing so close to Tyler's head
that the latter stepped aside involuntarily. Then, tossing the weapon
to the deck, he drew a cutlass from his belt, and, snatching a second
pistol with his left hand, led the pirates in a mad rush towards their
victims.

"Some are hanging back," shouted Tyler, "so I will do as I said. If they
come on too strongly it will be madness to wait, and I shall fire the
gun and then do my best with my pistol."

"And what then?" demanded John Marshall eagerly. "Are we to stay here on
the deck and get sliced to pieces? Why, it's throwing our lives away!"

"What else can we do?" said Tyler eagerly. "We are hemmed in, so far as
I can see, and have no means of flight."

"But what about the dinghy?" asked his companion swiftly. "Ain't she all
right? What's to prevent us jumping overboard and swimming to her? It
wouldn't take no more than a minute, and then before these beggars guess
what we were up to we'd be into her and dodging away in the darkness."

Tyler had barely time to give his assent to the proposal when the
Dutchman and his followers were upon them. Scampering along the deck,
they came in a confused crowd towards the stern, each one grasping a
weapon, and all with their eyes fixed upon the two solitary figures
standing there. That those who came close behind their leader were
filled with courage and with the determination to be victorious there
was little doubt, for the eagerness with which they dashed forward
showed it plainly. Quite a number, however, showed far less resolution,
for the Malay does not love a struggle which is likely to prove
difficult, and dangerous to his life. Some there may be of the pirates
whose days are passed in stern encounters, but the majority spend
their time in looking for helpless individuals upon whom they may fall
suddenly and when least expected. Here, however, the matter was quite
different, for opposed to them, and standing beside a gun which, for
all they knew, might be crammed to the muzzle, were two of the three
Englishmen whom they had hoped to make easy victims. That they would
fight, and fight hard too, was evident, for otherwise they would have
thrown down their weapons at the sight of so many enemies and begged
for their lives. But this they had shown no inclination to do; and that
fact, combined with the resolute air with which they faced the tide of
pirates rushing down upon them, caused a few of the more faint-hearted
to hold back. Instead of racing recklessly forward they halted there
upon the deck, and made up for their lack of courage by shrieking shrill
words of encouragement to their friends.

Crash! The Dutchman, charging madly upon the gun, came in contact with
the rope stretched between the binnacle and the bulwarks, and in a
moment his feet were cut from under him and he pitched forward upon his
face; a huge Malay followed, kriss in hand, and attempted to leap the
unseen obstacle. But he failed to rise sufficiently high, and catching
his toes upon the cable came with a thud upon his leader. The third
was more cautious, for, realizing the cause of their downfall, and
the crafty trap which had been set for the attackers, he stretched his
hand into the darkness and felt for the rope. A second, and his fingers
lit upon it, when his weapon flashed above his head as he prepared to
sever the hempen obstacle. But John Marshall was closely watching the
scene, and realizing that once the barrier had gone their chances would
be lessened, he stretched towards the man and, just as the blow was
falling, fired point-blank at him. Then with a shout he leapt the rope
which stretched from the tiller, and dashing upon the Malay who had
fallen upon his leader, he clutched him by the waist and tossed him over
the side.

[Illustration: THE FIGHT AT THE STERN]

"Well done!" cried Tyler enthusiastically; "but get back at once, for
the others are coming. Quick, or they will be upon you!"

The warning to which he had given vent came by no means too soon, for
hardly was John Marshall in his former position than the leader of the
pirates sprang to his feet and once more rushed upon his opponents.

"English dogs!" he shouted in his fury; "for the fall which you have
given me I will make you suffer well. You shall know what it is to
scream with pain, and then--"

He did not finish the sentence, for, failing to notice the second rope,
stretching between the tiller and the bulwark, he came into violent
contact with it, and, as in the former case, fell sprawling upon the
deck. Another second and the active John had plucked him by the coat,
and with a quick heave had sent him sousing into the sea.

"Stay there, you Dutchman!" he cried with a short laugh, "and let that
teach you to be more cautious when next you attack a Britisher. Ah, no
you don't, my beauty!"

The last part of the sentence was addressed to one of the Malay crew,
who, taking advantage of the fact that John Marshall was fully engaged
in dealing with Christian van Sonerell, had crept on all-fours along the
deck, and, feeling in the darkness for the obstacles which had been the
undoing of his comrades, had safely negotiated them, and at that moment
sprang, kriss in hand, to his feet. Then, as the boatswain turned
towards him and gave vent to the words, the Malay darted forward and
lunged at him with his weapon with such swiftness that it was only by
springing swiftly aside that John escaped the blow. Next second the butt
of his pistol crashed into the native's face, and he, too, tumbled full
length beside the binnacle.

"Didn't I tell yer that yer wouldn't do it," growled John in low tones
of excitement. "Jest look out for that other fellow, sir."

"Right!" exclaimed Tyler in reply, "I'm watching carefully, and that
will stop him."

Hoping to rush in upon the Englishmen while their attention was
distracted, two of the Malay pirates had followed the example set by the
one whom John had stunned with his pistol, but, unfortunately for them,
they had failed to discover the position of the rope with sufficient
celerity, and as they fumbled in the darkness they rose so far from the
crouching position which they had assumed that their heads suddenly
became outlined against the swaying lamp behind. The movement was fatal,
for ere they could avoid the shot Tyler had pointed his weapon in their
direction, and, aided by the feeble rays beyond, had sent a bullet
crashing into the nearest.

"Perhaps that will stop them," he cried in tones which betrayed no
little excitement "These fellows must not be allowed to think that they
are to have it all their own way. Indeed they seem to be inclined to
hang back, and I begin to think that a rush on our part might clear the
decks. They are without a leader, and now is the time to attack them.
Make ready for a charge."

There was little doubt that the proposal which Tyler had so boldly made
might, in the absence of the rascally Dutchman who led the pirates,
have proved more than ordinarily successful, for the losses which they
had already suffered, the unlooked-for manner in which they had been
opposed, and the sudden downfall of Christian van Sonerell, had filled
the Malays with dismay. Some, indeed, had hung back from the very
first, recognizing with the instinct of men possessed of little courage
that danger and death were possibly in store for them. But now, finding
themselves so suddenly arrested in their furious attack, and their
leaders brought crashing to the deck by some unseen means, the remainder
faltered, and, as Tyler's last pistol-shot rang out, to be followed
instantly by the heavy thud of a falling body and by the clatter of a
native kriss upon the deck, they turned about in a body and fled into
the bows, placing as great a distance between themselves and the weapons
of their opponents as was possible. Peering into the darkness, they
looked towards the stern with anxious eyes, and noted with feelings
almost of despair that the two Englishmen whom they had hoped to kill so
easily were stepping across the rope which had formed a barrier between
themselves and their numerous opponents. Indeed, so terror-stricken were
they at the sight that thoughts of flight instantly occurred to them,
and they would have rushed to the boat which had brought them from their
own prahu to the schooner had not a head suddenly appeared over the
bulwark where it was secured. Then an arm came into sight, whilst the
feeble rays of the lamp struggled down upon the dripping figure of a
man clambering over the rail. It was Christian van Sonerell, and at the
sight cries of delight escaped the Malays. They sprang forward to help
him, and then crowded about him while they urged him in pleading tones
to leave the schooner or to lead them once more against the Englishmen.

"They are too strong for us, and we fear their gun," cried one of them.
"By some means of which we are ignorant they have caused you and others
of our comrades to come crashing to the deck, and see how swiftly fate
has followed them. You, too, also came to grief, and when we saw you
tossed overboard as if you were a child we gave you up for lost, and
seeing that the white-faces were about to turn and rush upon us we
contemplated flight. But you are here once more, you have rejoined us by
a miracle, and we again place ourselves in your hands. Shall we gather
in a body and attack them for the second time, or is it your advice that
we retire and leave these men to themselves? for it is clear that much
suffering will come upon us before they are conquered."

"Leave them! Fly like hounds from the schooner and forsake the spoil
which is already in our hands! Surely you are children to make such
a proposal! You laugh at me and would make believe that you are
frightened!" cried Christian van Sonerell, turning suddenly upon
them, and staring each one in the face as if he would read his inmost
thoughts. "Leave the vessel when there is gold below, and when we
have expended so much time and patience to take her! You are joking
and cannot mean what you say. You see for yourselves that the two
English fools have been favoured by luck, and, taking advantage of
my disappearance, have been bold enough even to think of driving you
from the deck. Now look at them. As I came climbing over the rail they
hesitated, and now have retreated to their old position, out of which we
will drive them. Forward, my men! Follow Christian van Sonerell!"

While the rascally Dutchman had been haranguing his men, Tyler and his
companion had paused to discuss the question of attacking the Malays.
A moment before they were intent upon rushing upon them, for that
they were disheartened and demoralized was easily to be seen. But the
aspect of affairs had suddenly changed, and as Christian van Sonerell
had remarked, his unexpected appearance had caused them to alter their
determination.

"They have gathered in a body again," cried Tyler, stretching out an
arm to detain John Marshall, "and see, there is their leader. What bad
luck for us! For I had hoped that he had disappeared over the side for
good. But he is with his men again, and there is no doubt that he will
persuade them to renew the attack. Stand back, John, and employ the
breathing-space allowed us in reloading our weapons. Then we shall be
prepared to fight them again."

"Ay, that we will, sir," was the ready answer; "we'll stand by one
another as firm as two rocks, and when things get too warm for us, why,
we'll be over the stern before they can look round. But I reckon that
this time it will be a case for the gun."

"I think so too," agreed Tyler, looking along the deck and noting with
some concern that the mood of the pirates had already changed. "Their
leader is no doubt telling them of the gold and stores below, and of the
riches they will lose if they retreat. Depend upon it, now that they
know of the presence of the ropes they will hack them asunder and come
at us in a body. Well, if they do I'm fully prepared."

At the words he thrust one hand into his pocket and commenced to rapidly
replace the emptied cartridges in his revolver. Then, flicking a few
more grains of powder into the touch-hole of the gun, lest by chance a
gust of wind or some sudden jolt during the past conflict should have
disturbed the fuse which he had already prepared, he placed the muzzle
of his weapon across the top of the hole, and held it there in readiness
to send a charge of grape bursting through the ranks of the pirates. As
for John Marshall, the success which they had already enjoyed, the fact
that it was he who had tossed the Dutchman overboard, and the example
of coolness which Tyler had set him seemed to have raised his spirits
to the highest. With a short reckless laugh he, too, commenced to cram
cartridges into his weapons, and having completed the operation to his
satisfaction, stood close beside his companion, one hand resting upon
the bulwark and his eyes fixed upon the gathering of natives beyond.

"Helloo!" he suddenly exclaimed, as the rays from the swinging lamp
fell upon a figure ascending from the cabin below, "there's our friend
the interpreter, looking a little upset after the blow I've given him.
Just stand aside, Mr. Richardson, while I take a shot at the fellow.
He's only a murderer, and if we treat him like a dog, neither he nor his
comrades can complain."

Lifting his left arm till the wrist was on a level with his eyes, John
Marshall rested the muzzle of one of his weapons there, and took steady
aim at the bulky figure of Hans Schlott, which could be seen in the
companion-way. Squinting along the barrel, he was in the act of pulling
the trigger when a movement on the part of the criminal disturbed his
aim. Indeed it almost seemed as though Hans Schlott had dreamt of the
danger threatening him, for in spite of the fact that the figures of the
two young Englishmen were with difficulty visible through the darkness
which covered the vessel, he suddenly ducked and disappeared below,
the movement undoubtedly saving his life. A minute later he reappeared
from the direction of the bows, having crawled to the deck by way of
the men's quarters. Then he staggered towards Christian van Sonerell,
as if still suffering from the stunning blow which John Marshall had
delivered, and at once commenced to address him.

"On them!" he shrieked in high-pitched tones, which grated upon Tyler's
ears. "Rush at them, and sweep them out of existence, for if you do not,
I tell you that we are doomed. Our lives will not be safe for another
hour, for one of them, known to us as John Marshall, happened by ill
chance to be in the cabin when I fired. He saw the deed, and I know
well that neither he nor the other young fool will rest until we are
captured. They must not escape! We must kill them, and then send their
bodies to the bottom of the sea with some pounds of shot at their feet.
Quick, I say, or even now, when the odds are against them, they will
give us the slip, and bring a certain end to our fortunes."

He gripped Christian van Sonerell by the arm so fiercely that the latter
almost winced, while he bellowed the words in his ear as if the Dutchman
were a mile away. Then, leaning against the bulwarks to support his
unsteady weight, he shook his fist with frantic energy at the two dim
figures to be seen in the stern, and called loudly to them.

"Listen to me, you fools of Englishmen!" he shouted. "You think that
because you have resisted us so far you will escape us altogether. But
I tell you that that will not be the case. For lives which you have
already taken you shall pay, and I prophesy that within five minutes
both of you will be slain like your comrade below. Him I killed with my
weapon, and see now, this is for you, Tyler Richardson."

Scarcely had the words left his lips than a pistol-shot rang out, and
a bullet struck heavily against the front of the binnacle, shattering
there into a hundred fragments, which splashed the two young fellows
standing beyond. A moment later Tyler's voice broke the silence.

"A bad shot and an unsteady hand," he called out. "Now, hear my words,
Hans Schlott, and you, too, who have aided him in this murderous attack.
I swear that if I escape from this ship with my life I will never rest
till I have hunted you down, for you are murderers. In cold blood you
yourself killed my comrade, and for that act you shall be punished. Now,
take my advice, leave the ship at once, for if you attack I will fire
the gun and blow you to atoms."

That the warning to which he had given vent caused consternation amongst
the Malay pirates was evident, for up to this they had imagined that
owing to the suddenness of their attack, and to its unexpected nature,
the six-pounder in the stern of the schooner was harmless, and that
Tyler's behaviour in arranging a fuse and tossing the covering aside
was merely a blind with which to frighten them. Now, however, his own
words assured them of the fact, for quite a few were able to understand
their meaning, and instantly those who from the first had been inclined
to show the white feather retreated to the bows of the ship, where
they displayed every sign of terror. But it was not likely that two
desperate men such as the Dutchmen were would permit themselves to be
baulked of their prey in such a manner. Indeed, so carefully had their
plans been made, so completely did Hans Schlott imagine that he had
hoodwinked the leader of the expedition and his companions, that he
was convinced that the sudden attack, the rising of the crew, and the
arrival of a boat-load of Malay pirates had been unforeseen, and that
plans for defence were wholly unprepared. Thanks to the secrecy which
Tyler had observed, the crafty interpreter was ignorant of the fact
that a conspiracy was suspected, and at the news that Tyler ventured to
give him he openly scoffed, and at once turned to reassure the native
following.

"He lies!" he shouted. "Until I fired he was walking the deck half in
his sleep, while his two companions lay below resting in their bunks.
But for the weapons which they carry in their belts they have not a
cartridge between them, while I swear to you that the gun is empty.
Come, lead our men forward, Van Sonerell, and clear these Englishmen
from our way."

"Head the charge yourself," was the answer, "and show us that you too
are able to fight. For myself, I will rush at them by your side, and do
my best to help you; but much must not be expected of me, for, see here,
my strength is gone, and I am weak with loss of blood."

He pointed to his left shoulder, where Tyler's bullet had struck, and
showed a large red patch which oozed through the cloth, and, mingled
with the salt water with which his garment was saturated, splashed
heavily to the deck.

"Then join me and do your best," cried Hans Schlott, roused to
desperation by the thought that if Tyler and his companion escaped there
would be no peace for him, at any rate, in the neighbourhood of Borneo.
"Forward, my men, for I swear to you that you have nothing but their
pistols to fear. The gun contains air alone, and can do you no harm," he
continued, turning to the Malay crew. "Come, we will rush at them and
bear them from the deck."

Snatching a cutlass from one of them, he waited to see that they were
ready to aid him, and then came full tilt along the deck, his eyes
fixed upon the six-pounder, which was dimly visible, and the direction
of which he endeavoured to make out. A few seconds and he satisfied
himself that the muzzle was presenting to the right, and instantly he
changed the course of his frantic charge and came rushing along the
opposite side of the deck. As for his companions in villainy, they too
came towards the stern at their fastest pace, and, scattering as much
as the narrow space between the bulwarks would allow, charged upon the
young Englishmen, careless of the presence of the gun which Hans Schlott
had assured them was empty. And all the while Tyler and his solitary
companion stood there awaiting the conflict with steady courage, but
with the certain knowledge that on this occasion they would be beaten
back. Holding their fire until Hans Schlott and his Dutch comrade were
within a few yards, they levelled their weapons steadily, and at a word
from Tyler firmly pressed upon the trigger. Four times in succession did
they discharge a bullet into the ranks of the attackers, and on each
occasion one of the Malay crew threw his arms into the night and came
crashing to the deck. But in spite of their efforts to bring down the
leaders, Hans Schlott and Christian van Sonerell still remained unharmed
upon their feet, seeming by a miracle to escape the bullets intended
for them. Determined to slay the two Englishmen who stood between them
and the rich prize which had aroused their cupidity, and brave in the
knowledge that they had nothing to fear from the gun, they came on
without a pause, and before Tyler could have thought it possible were
at the binnacle. At once down came Hans Schlott's cutlass, severing the
tightly-stretched cable with such swiftness that it flew aside with a
twang, while the weapon itself hit the planks beneath and penetrated
deeply. A wrench, and the blade was withdrawn, while the Dutchman
prepared to sever the second and only remaining barrier which stretched
between him and the Englishmen.

"Stand aside!" shouted Tyler in warning tones, seeing that ere a minute
had passed he and his companion would be overwhelmed "They are massed in
a body, and will be upon us if we do not check them. Now, I will fire
the gun, and dive overboard immediately afterwards."

"Fire!" bellowed John, as if to encourage his young leader. "Blow them
all clear of the decks."

Swiftly placing the muzzle of his revolver against the top of the
touch-hole, Tyler waited an instant to assure himself that his friend
was clear of the discharge, and that the critical time had arrived.
Then, steeling himself to the task, he pulled at the pistol, sending a
livid flash against the breach of the gun. Fizz! The powder spluttered
up in his face, giving out a column of dense smoke, which was swallowed
up instantly by the sulphurous vapour which poured from the muzzle.
There was a loud roar as the six-pounder spoke out into the night, and
then, ere the echo had died down, and long before Hans Schlott and
his accomplice could dart to the rear of the gun and fall upon the
Englishmen, Tyler and John Marshall had sprung clear of the deck and
were swimming through the deep water which surrounded the schooner.

"For the dinghy!" said Tyler as he came to the surface, shaking the salt
water out of his eyes. "But silence, or they will learn where we are and
fire into us."

"They are over the side, and will escape us," bellowed Hanns Schlott,
peering over the bulwark in his endeavour to pierce the darkness. "Stand
still, all of you, and hold your tongues, you men. Now, listen! Where
are they?"

"Swimming for their dinghy or I am mistaken," said Christian van
Sonerell with an oath. "She lies directly aft, where the tide has set
her, and if we fire in that direction we shall blow them out of the
craft. Here, get aboard our own boat some of you lads, and after the
English pigs. Now, Hanns, level your pistols and let go."

The two Dutchmen at once leaned over the rail as far as they were
able, and having judged what must be the position of the dinghy, fired
together in that direction. But only the echoes from the neighbouring
shore answered the reports, while the surface of the water, which had
momentarily been lit by the flash from their weapons, again disappeared
in the gloom of the night.

"Missed!" growled Hanns Schlott. "It seems to me that we might as well
expect to hit a fly under the circumstances. Let us not waste our time,
but send a party after them at once. Fortunately we have a boat at our
service, and can follow them. Take charge of the vessel while I go with
our men and hunt down these Englishmen."

"Do so," answered his comrade faintly, for now that the excitement of
the contest was gone he was beginning to feel the effect of his wound.
"After them, Hanns, my friend, and do not rest till you have killed
them; for remember that one of them witnessed the shot which killed
their leader, while if that were not sufficient to bring us to the
gallows, their evidence as to this act of piracy would certainly lead to
the loss of our lives."

"I will hunt the island. I will follow as though they were rats upon
whose extermination I am determined. Make your mind easy, Christian van
Sonerell; this is a matter which concerns my safety perhaps more than
your own, for I am the man who killed this Mr. Beverley. I will go to
the end of the world to capture them, and when I have them in my hands,
ah--!"

He clenched his fists in the darkness, and ground his teeth with rage.
Then, realizing that if he was to have the smallest hope of success he
must not delay, he turned swiftly about, and, forgetful of the throbbing
pain in his head, which had followed John's lusty blow, went racing
along the deck to the point where the boat was made fast. Already a crew
of willing Malays were seated in it, and as soon as the bulky Dutchman
had lowered himself into the bows, one of the former threw off the
painter and sent the boat away from the schooner with a vigorous thrust
from his foot.

"Pull!" shouted Hanns Schlott, using the Malay tongue. "An extra share
of the prize if you lay hands upon these English dogs. Indeed, I myself
will give a special reward to anyone who is successful in killing them.
Pull! Let us not waste time, for if we are swift we shall overtake them
ere they reach the shore."

Dipping their long oars into the water, the crew of pirates sent the
boat on her course, and within a few seconds she was well away from the
schooner, with her nose directed for the island of Borneo. Meanwhile,
what had happened to Tyler and his friend?

Once their heads had risen free of the water, they had turned towards
the point where they imagined the dinghy would be, and after swimming
a few strokes had the good fortune to come across her in the darkness.
At once each grasped her by the gunwale, and hung on there while they
prepared for the final effort of climbing in. Suddenly, however, an idea
occurred to Tyler.

"No," he whispered, seeing that John was about to hoist himself up, "do
not get into the boat yet awhile, for then we should be easy targets if
they caught sight of us. Let us swim beside her, and push her away from
the schooner."

"The very thing, sir! There's the painter, and now I've slipped it from
the ring. I reckon that they will follow towards the shore, for what
would take us in the direction of the open sea?"

"Then we'll do what they least expect," said Tyler sharply. "That way,
John, and when we are a hundred yards from the ship let us lie still and
listen. Then we shall learn what steps they are taking to capture us,
and can make our plans accordingly."

Acting on this advice, they silently pushed the small craft out to sea,
swimming with one hand in the water and the other grasping the gunwale.
Soon they had put quite a respectable distance between themselves and
their enemies, and at a jerk from Tyler, who back-watered with his feet,
and so attracted his comrade's attention, they hung without a movement
in the deep water, and listened eagerly for sounds of the pursuers.

"I heard pistols fired," said Tyler softly. "The sea was about my ears
and deadened the sound, but for all that I am sure that they fired.
Perhaps they thought that they saw us in the darkness, or, more likely,
they let go their bullets in the hope of making a lucky shot."

"That's the case, I reckon," answered John. "But steady, sir, the sound
of a voice carries far across the sea on a still night like this. Listen
to that. They are in their boat, and are after us. I can hear that
ruffian's voice."

Once again both were silent, while they turned their faces towards the
shore and listened carefully. Yes, there could be no doubt about the
matter, for Hanns Schlott's voice broke the stillness of the night as he
urged his men at their oars.

"To the shore!" he shouted. "I will give a handful of dollars to the man
who lays his fingers upon them dead or alive. Can anyone see or hear
them?"

No answer was made to his question, though many eyes were staring into
the darkness, and, therefore, without further delay they pulled on
for the shore, hoping to capture the fugitives as they landed, or, if
fortune were kind to them, to arrive on the shore of Borneo before the
white men could reach it, and there lay a trap into which they would
fall. As for Tyler and John Marshall, they clung to the frail boat for
many minutes as she lay there motionless in the water, listening with
all their ears for sounds of the pirates. So calm was the atmosphere,
and so still the night, that, as the latter had remarked, the slightest
sound travelled along the surface of the sea in a remarkable manner, and
could be heard quite a distance away. Thanks to this fact, the splash of
oars as the boat was rowed away from them reached their ears distinctly,
as did also the hoarse commands of the Dutchman who accompanied the
searchers as he gave the order to cease pulling. Then there was silence
once more, and for many minutes the gentle lap of water against the
frail sides of the dinghy could alone be heard.

"We will tire their patience out by remaining where we are," whispered
Tyler, "and fortunately for us the water is so warm that we are not
likely to become chilled by remaining in it for a long period. Perhaps
they will imagine that we have already landed, and in that case they
will not venture to go far afield, for the night is too dark for
pursuit. An hour or more of waiting may convince them that it is useless
to remain, and as soon as they return to the schooner we will swim
towards the land."

"And supposing they remain ashore till the morning?" asked John Marshall
in anxious tones. "In that case we should certainly be taken, unless, of
course, we waited for, say, a couple of hours and then pushed our boat
away to the right or left, so as to land farther up or down the coast."

"It is a good idea, John," answered Tyler thoughtfully, "and if the
pirates show signs of their determination to waylay us in the morning we
will do as you say. For the present, however, I feel sure that we are
acting for the best by lying quietly here. Our movements in the future
must depend upon circumstances, though you may be sure of this, that
whatever happens we will not be taken without a struggle. Unfortunately
our weapons are practically useless, for the cartridges will have been
destroyed by the water."

"I don't know so much," whispered John hastily, "for just as I was going
overboard I thought of the matter and crammed a handful into my cap,
while I jammed it firmly down upon my head. It's made of thick pilot
cloth, and as I was only under the surface for a few seconds, it's
possible that the ammunition has escaped. Look here!"

Pulling himself a little higher out of the water, he leaned his chin on
the gunwale and gently drew his cap from his head. Then, one by one, he
picked some twenty or more cartridges from the lining and placed them
upon one of the seats.

"Not even damp," he said in low tones of delight. "Now, let's have the
revolvers and place them here to dry. The water will quickly drain away
from them, and in half an hour or so they will be fit for use again."

Dragging their weapons from their belts or pockets, as the young
boatswain had suggested, they placed them within the boat with open
breeches and muzzles pointing downwards. Then, satisfied that they had
done all that was possible, they once more turned their attention to the
schooner, and to the pirates who had landed upon the shore.

"Hush!" whispered Tyler earnestly, some little time later, as a voice
came reverberating across the water. "Someone is talking, and I think
that it is the Dutchman."

"Sure enough, sir," agreed John, "and what's more, he's hailing the
schooner. I wonder what he's saying!"

Both listened attentively, but owing to their ignorance of the Dutch
language could make nothing of what they heard. That it was Hanns
Schlott whose hail had come across the water, was evident, for both
Tyler and John were well acquainted with the tones of his voice. Then
someone shouted an answer back from the deck of the schooner, and again,
in spite of the small knowledge that they had of Christian van Sonerell,
they were certain that it was he who responded to his friend.

"There is some movement afoot," remarked Tyler, placing his lips as
close to John's ear as their respective positions would allow. "And
hark! there is someone moving ashore. Yes, I heard the boat splash as
she was run into the water, and there is the clatter of oars."

Clinging there, with their heads just above the surface and their ears
clear of the sea, both Tyler and his companion could hear the sounds
as though they were made close at hand. Indeed, the calm sea, with its
unruffled surface, seemed to accentuate the sounds and transmit them
with such clearness that, though some hundreds of feet away, the noise
of an oar falling into its place in the rowlock, and the splash as the
blade was dipped, were heard as though close at hand. Then, at a word of
command from Hanns Schlott, the boat shot from the shore, and the sound
of many oars forcing her through the water came to their ears.

"Going back to the schooner," whispered Tyler. "Have they given up the
chase and decided to content themselves with the vessel as a prize, or
are they merely returning there until the day dawns and allows them to
carry on the pursuit with energy? We will wait and keep watch, and if
there is no movement after an hour or more we will follow your plan."

"And what if they are just going aboard to get more men?" said John
Marshall eagerly. "Yer see, sir, it's a long stretch of coast to set a
watch on, and that Dutch rascal is cute enough to know it. Supposing
that's his game, then we shall find escape more difficult still, and
shall have to swim a good mile or more to get clear of the watchers."

"And when we touched the land we should never know whether we were
beyond them or not," replied Tyler thoughtfully. "How many men do you
think went ashore with Hanns Schlott?"

"Just about the number that come aboard with the other rascal, sir."

"And how many do you suppose are now aboard the schooner, John?"

"Ten at the most, and that's an outside figure," was the unhesitating
answer. "I reckon that the Dutchman cleared off with his own fellows,
leaving behind the crew which manned the schooner."

"Then we will change our plans, and for the present will decide not to
go ashore," said Tyler resolutely. "If Hanns Schlott has come to fetch
more men, as I feel sure he has, we will wait until he and the crew have
reached the shore again. Then, John, my friend, we will float silently
down upon the schooner, and will do our best to take possession of our
property. We have arms at hand to help us, and if only we can effect a
complete surprise we should be able to drive the pirates from the deck.
Steady! The boat has just reached the vessel, and by the sounds which
come to us I feel sure that some of the crew are entering her."

That this was the case was quickly evident, for within a few minutes
the splash of oars again sounded across the water, while the pirates'
boat was pulled towards the shore, this time manned by more men than had
accompanied her on her outward journey.



CHAPTER VI

Courage Wins the Day


For long did Tyler Richardson and his companion John Marshall maintain
silence as they clung to the boat, for they were conscious that the
slightest sound, even a gentle splash or hasty movement in the water,
might declare their whereabouts to the pirates who still remained upon
the schooner. Scarcely daring to breathe, they listened eagerly, and ere
long had convinced themselves that Hanns Schlott had returned to the
vessel for one purpose alone, and that was to obtain more men, whom he
might place at intervals along that part of the coast of Borneo, there
to wait for the landing of the Englishmen. Indeed, had there been any
doubt in Tyler's mind, the squeaking of the oars and the more frequent
splash of paddles told him at once that a greater number were in the
boat on this occasion. Then, too, resting there as he did with his eyes
on a level with the surface, the schooner every now and again became
dimly silhouetted against the stars, and by peering steadily in her
direction the feeble rays of the riding-lamp enabled him to distinguish
some half-dozen figures which alone seemed to occupy the deck.

"Give Hanns Schlott and his rascals half an hour to reach the shore and
separate," he whispered in John's ear. "Then we will float slowly down
upon the schooner, and endeavour to make the boat fast. After that we
will climb aboard and see how matters stand, though I am determined,
whatever the odds, to regain possession of her."

An hour later silence had once more settled down upon the neighbourhood,
and though the two young fellows had been careful to listen all the
while, nothing had occurred to arouse anxiety. Once Hanns Schlott and
his boat-load of Malays had reached the shore there had been confused
shouts and words of command, but these had quickly died down as the
pirates separated and went to their stations. An occasional cry denoted
the fact that they were still within hearing, but very soon they were
silent, and once more stillness came over the sea.

"Now for the schooner!" whispered Tyler in tones which he endeavoured
to steady; "come to the stern of the boat, John, and help me to shove
her along. But first let us discuss our plans so that there shall be
no confusion. We must make for our old position, and if it is possible
we must contrive to load the six-pounder again. Otherwise there may be
sufficient men aboard to rush upon us and sweep us into the sea."

"Not if we once get safely on her deck," answered John Marshall
stubbornly. "It'll want more than the crew of Malays to turn us out,
I reckon. Jest you take a bit of advice from me, Mr. Richardson, and
when we get aboard go tooth and nail for those fellows. A rush, a few
shots into their midst, and some hard knocks with our fists'll send 'em
leaping overboard, and once that's the case we'll up anchor and away.
Then our turn will come to talk to these Dutchmen, and Hanns Schlott and
his comrade shall take our place. We'll turn the tables on 'em, sir,
and do our best to capture 'em. But I'm under your orders, and ready to
obey."

Having given vent to his feelings, the boatswain moved gently along
the gunwale till he joined Tyler at the stern, when the two at once
commenced to push the dinghy towards the schooner. With shoulders sunk
beneath the surface, and finger-tips alone resting upon the edge of the
boat, they urged her gently through the sea, halting every now and again
to make sure that they were unobserved. At last they arrived close to
their destination, and at once, at a nudge from Tyler, turned towards
the stern.

"Now for the painter!" whispered the latter. "Remain where you are while
I go for'ard. When you feel the boat shaking you will know that all is
in readiness, and can creep along towards me."

A moment later he had disappeared in the darkness, and though his
companion peered in the direction which he had taken he could see no
sign of him. A gentle splash, however, told that he was moving, and ere
long a sharp dip as the dinghy was pulled to one side told him that
Tyler had been successful. At once the sailor commenced to move towards
him, and soon found himself beside his leader and directly beneath the
schooner's stern.

"We are in luck," whispered Tyler, placing his lips close to John's
ears, "for one of the ropes which stretched from the binnacle, and was
severed by Hanns Schlott, is trailing over the side and will help us to
ascend. Here it is. Keep the tail of it in your hand while I swarm up,
and be ready to follow immediately."

Without further explanation he thrust the end of the cable into his
companion's hand, and then, grasping the other portion, slowly raised
himself out of the water. Lifting one hand above the other, it was not
long before his fingers lit upon the bulwarks, and at once relinquishing
the rope, he clambered over on to the deck, where he was soon joined by
John Marshall.

"Now let us lie down and listen," he whispered. "Then if anyone is about
we shall get notice of their presence before they catch sight of us, and
shall know how to act. If the decks are empty we will creep below and
will see what can be done in the way of ammunition."

Crouching close to the bulwarks they lay for some five minutes without
venturing to move, peering all the while into the darkness to discover,
if possible, some trace of the Malays. But not a soul was to be seen,
and though they left their hiding-place and crept into the bows, no
trace could be found of the pirates.

"All sleeping below," whispered John Marshall with a chuckle, "and
taking it easy after the fight. The Dutchman will be down in the cabin,
occupying one of our bunks, for all the world as though he were owner
of the vessel, but we'll turn him out in double-quick time and give him
cause to regret the fact that he failed to set a watch. What's the next
move, sir?"

"Remain on deck while I go below," answered Tyler promptly. "But wait,
we have forgotten our revolvers, and must return for them. Slip along to
the stern with me and I will drop into the dinghy and hand them up to
you. That done, we shall feel more confidence, and shall have something
with which to defend ourselves should the crew discover our presence.
Now, stand by!"

Taking care to impart his orders in a whisper, Tyler quickly reached the
stern and once more grasped the rope. Then, swinging himself over the
rail, he lowered himself till his feet touched the water within a few
inches of the dinghy. Groping in the darkness as he dangled there it was
not long before his toe struck with a gentle tap against the gunwale,
and at once he began to draw the boat towards him. A moment later he was
safely on board, and had grasped the weapons for which he had returned.
A glance above showed him John Marshall's figure stretching out towards
him, and ere long the revolvers and the cartridges had been safely
transferred.

"Load them," he said shortly, as soon as he had reached the deck once
more. "That's right, and now we shall be ready for this Dutchman and
his Malays. Come with me to the companion, John, and wait there while I
descend. If you hear a suspicious sound, tap the deck gently with your
foot so as to warn me, but whatever you do be careful not to raise a
shout, for then they would know at once that we were on board."

Waiting only to make sure that the sailor understood his meaning, he
stepped upon the ladder and descended rapidly. Arrived below, he lay
down upon the floor of the cabin and listened breathlessly, till the
sound of heavy breathing from the farther end told him that Christian
van Sonerell was sleeping there.

"Let him wait," murmured Tyler beneath his breath. "Once the gun is
loaded and we are in readiness, we will drive him and those of the
Malays who remain aboard into the sea, where they must swim for their
lives. It is the only way in which we can deal with them, for if we
endeavoured to make them prisoners by securing them down below we should
never know what it was to enjoy a moment's peace until we fell in with
friends, while we should run the risk of having our plans suddenly
upset, and the tables turned upon us with a vengeance. Now for the
magazine!"

Creeping across the floor it was not long before he arrived at the
door in the bulkhead which gave admission to the cupboard in which the
powder and shot carried by the schooner was stored. Fortunately he had
failed to lock it on the previous evening, so that a gentle twist of the
handle released the catch and allowed him to enter. After that he had
no difficulty in obtaining what he wanted, for he had helped to place
the ammunition in the cabin before leaving Singapore, and knew the exact
position of the bags of powder and shot. Very soon he was outside the
magazine once more, and having crept cautiously across the cabin, went
staggering up the ladder bearing a couple of bags over each shoulder.

"To the stern!" he whispered, as John Marshall's face came into view,
"and get ready to help me with the gun. After that we'll cut away the
anchor and make ready to hoist the sail."

"It'll be a big job for the two of us alone," was the sailor's whispered
answer. "But we can get a foresail on her at any rate, and that will
take us out to sea. Give me hold of one of them bags, sir. They're a
tidy weight, and want a little carrying."

Taking a couple of the sacks which contained the ammunition, he went
softly along the deck with Tyler until they had reached the stern,
where their burdens were deposited beside the gun. Then silently, and
with every precaution to avoid making a sound which would arouse the
Malays, they crammed a charge of powder into the six-pounder, and rammed
down upon it a couple of bags of grape. A piece of sacking over all
helped to keep the bullets in position, and destroyed all chance of
their rolling from the muzzle should it be found necessary to depress
the weapon.

"And now for the anchor," said Tyler when the work had been completed to
his satisfaction.

"Jest leave that to me," was the whispered answer. "I'll let it go for
good and all by cutting the cable. It's lucky for us that we haven't a
chain one aboard, for then we'd certainly have made a noise when freeing
it. As for another anchor, there's a couple stowed away in the locker
below."

Slipping to the stern-rail he quickly laid hold of the cable, and,
drawing his knife from his pocket, severed it at one attempt. Then he
rejoined Tyler, and as if to show his coolness, indeed, as if he already
considered that the schooner had returned to the keeping of those who
had a good right to her, and Tyler was his commander, he touched his hat
briskly and asked what the next order might be.

"The sail," said Tyler shortly. "We'll hoist the foresail and leave the
others till later. But we must show some canvas, for otherwise those
fellows ashore will be after us with their boat, and, besides, we have
to think of the prahu. But one thing at a time. Let us get the sail up
and then discuss other matters. Now into the bows!"

Slipping along the deck once more, they passed the entrance to the cabin
like ghosts, and halted for a few seconds to listen. Then, satisfied
that Christian van Sonerell was sleeping peacefully, if a murderer and
a pirate can do so at all, they crept on into the bows and at once set
about hoisting the foresail. But here their difficulties were greater,
for beneath them rested the Malays who were still aboard, men with the
sharpest ears, and, moreover, sailors who slept but lightly. That
Tyler and his companion could hope to do all that they wished without
discovery was almost impossible, and neither would be surprised to be
disturbed in the midst of the work.

"Up with it now!" said Tyler quickly. "All is ready for hoisting, and
if only we can get it in position we shall feel more secure. But I hear
someone moving. Don't stop, but finish the job at once."

That someone had heard their steps above, or the clatter of a falling
rope, quickly became evident, for as they tugged and strained, a head
suddenly emerged from the hatchway leading to the men's quarters, while
a pair of sleepy eyes peered round in the half-darkness.

"I heard sounds," murmured the man, while Tyler and John Marshall
crouched motionless upon the deck. "A rope fell, and I even thought
that I distinguished a step. But no one is about. We have driven the
beggarly white men off the ship, and but for a few of us who are lucky
to be left, all are gone ashore there to waylay the Englishmen. Perhaps
our brothers have returned, and have not cared to awake us. It surely
cannot be our enemies who have been bold enough to attempt to take the
schooner!"

He scoffed at the thought, and hearing no sound to awake his suspicions,
and seeing no sign of his comrades, he turned and began to descend.
Suddenly, however, aided by the feeble rays from the swinging lantern,
his eyes fell upon the two crouching figures, and for a moment he was
dumbfounded with astonishment. Then he peered in their direction, and,
suddenly coming to the conclusion that danger threatened, he slid below
at his fastest pace, shouting so as to arouse his companions.

"The dogs are upon us!" he cried, rushing at the sleeping figures and
shaking them fiercely. "Rise and prepare for fighting, for I tell you
that the ship is taken, and that the Englishmen have returned."

"Impossible!" growled one of the Malays, sitting up and rubbing his
eyes. "Consider; they are but two, while there are seven of us in all,
not counting our Dutch leader. You are mistaken, and have been suffering
from a nightmare."

"Impossible, do you say?" was the heated answer. "I am not dreaming, and
I say to you that unless you make a movement to protect yourself, you
will quickly be killed. Ho, all of you! We are attacked! The ship is
taken!"

Meanwhile Tyler and his comrade had been busily at work. Realizing that
they still had a few moments before them while the native crew were
aroused and informed of their presence, they threw themselves upon the
sail, and by dint of tugging together at the rope managed to hoist
it into position. Then they fled back to the stern and began to make
preparations for defence.

"I can feel that we are under weigh," said Tyler, peering over the
side. "That is capital, and now all that we have to do is to drive the
crew overboard, and then clear away from the prahu. What course do you
propose, John?"

"Along the island," was the emphatic answer. "Yer see, sir, we've the
prahu to think about, and have to make our plans to get clear away from
her as well as from Hans Schlott and his villains. If we had a couple
or more men aboard to lend us their help we should be able to pile more
sail upon her, but as it is, two will not be capable of doing the work,
at least not in a hurry. Then those native boats sail like the wind, and
would overtake us easily."

"Then your suggestion is that we should coast along the island, and if
pursued by the prahu slip into some creek."

"Just so, sir; and what's more, we'll have to abandon the schooner, I
expect, for otherwise they would be down upon us, and once our guns have
been fired would easily capture us. Better to take to the swamps of the
forest than have our throats cut by these rascals."

"Hush!" whispered Tyler at this moment, "Christian van Sonerell is
coming up the ladder and the struggle will soon begin. We will wait
until all have reached the deck, and then we will call upon them to
leave the vessel. If they refuse, or do not instantly obey, we will
begin to fire amongst them, and I fancy that the contents of the
six-pounder will help them to make up their minds. Stand ready!"

As he spoke, the faint gleams of the lamp which still burned in
the rigging showed them the figure of the Dutchman standing in the
companion-way, while directly afterwards the crew of Malays who had been
left upon the schooner came climbing from their quarters, shouting in
frightened voices to one another.

"What is this commotion?" demanded the Dutchman angrily, for he was
annoyed at having his sleep disturbed. "You cry out like babies who have
been hurt, and one would think that a boat-load of British sailors was
about to board us. Go back to your quarters and let us rest at peace
during the remainder of the night, for remember, we have had many hours
of hard work, and I have a wound which troubles me."

Turning upon the Malays fiercely he shook his fist in their direction,
and growled out the words in surly tones.

"But I tell you that we are attacked," cried one of the natives rushing
up to him. "Only a few moments ago I saw two figures crouching in the
bows. The lamp which swings aloft lit the dark corner in which they hid,
and at once I recognized them as the hated white men. I tell you that we
are attacked, that these Englishmen have climbed aboard while we in our
foolishness slept, and have captured the schooner."

"Silence, idiot!" shouted Christian van Sonerell, stepping towards the
man. "The vessel captured by the two fugitives! Why, if they have dared
to come aboard it will be at the cost of their lives. Where are they?
Point them out to me and I will soon show you who is the owner of this
schooner."

"There is no need for you to be told where we are," called out Tyler
at this instant, "for we are back in our old position, and while you
slept have contrived to load the gun. It is crammed to the muzzle with
bullets, and I will fire the charge amongst you if you do not instantly
leave. Overboard with every one of you! I give you five seconds in which
to disappear."

Had a bomb-shell suddenly fallen at the feet of the Dutchman he could
not have been more startled or more taken aback, for he had never
dreamed that the fugitives would dare to return to the schooner. Indeed,
he had taken it for granted that ere he awoke in the morning Hanns
Schlott and the men who were with him would have laid hands upon them
and killed them instantly. And now to be awakened suddenly, before the
morning had dawned, and to come on deck to find that the Englishmen
had returned, was a surprise, a piece of news which astounded him. At
Tyler's words he started back as if he had been shot, while his face
flushed with indignation and with rage at the commands which had been
given.

"Leave the ship," he cried hoarsely, "and at the bidding of two who are
little more than children! Their insolence astonishes me, and for the
moment takes my breath away. Listen, you two. You have fallen into a
trap, and had better relinquish your arms. Surrender at once and my men
will bind you."

"Fire!" shouted Tyler, who had been carefully counting the seconds.
"Empty your revolver amongst them!"

Levelling their weapons at the Malay crew, the two opened upon them
without hesitation, a shriek and the thud of a falling body answering
the first shot. Then a faint-hearted attempt was made to charge towards
the stern, led by the burly Dutchman. But a lucky bullet happening to
strike the leader, checked the natives almost instantly, and, realizing
at once that they were no match for the two Englishmen, who had already
shown how stubbornly they could fight, the natives ran towards the
bulwarks and jumped overboard. As for Tyler and his companion, they
sprang to the spot and discharged their weapons into the sea in the hope
of hitting some of the fugitives, but without success. Then they turned
to the prostrate figure of the Dutchman and closely inspected it.

"Dead!" said the former quietly, rolling Christian van Sonerell upon his
back. "The bullet struck him fair between the eyes and must have killed
him instantly."

"Then he is a lucky man," cried John Marshall, "for had he lived and
escaped from the schooner he would, sooner or later, have come to the
gallows for this act of piracy. As it is, Hanns Schlott alone is left,
and we will hunt him down until he is captured and brought to justice."

"We will," agreed Tyler earnestly, "for remember, the Dutchman, who
still lives, has his hands stained with the blood of our leader. You
yourself witnessed the murder, and for that base crime he shall hang.
I swear to hunt him down, for otherwise, if I relinquish the matter
he will go unpunished, and will still continue to rob and murder in
these seas. But this man is dead, and therefore had better be tossed
overboard. Let us search his pockets and then do as I have said."

Kneeling beside the body of the Dutchman they rapidly ransacked his
pockets, and having abstracted some papers and other objects of little
importance, bore the lifeless figure to the side. Then with a heave they
sent all that remained of Christian van Sonerell splashing into the sea.

"And now to set our course," said Tyler. "Go to the stern, John, and
take the tiller, for you are a practised seaman, while I am little more
than a novice. I will go into the bows and dowse the lamp, for it would
never do to leave it hanging there. Then I shall creep below and search
every corner of the vessel to see that none of the Malays remain. Just
keep your ears and eyes open, my lad, for the shouting and the report of
our revolvers must have been heard ashore by Hanns Schlott and his men,
while those who plunged overboard will quickly reach the land, for these
natives are excellent swimmers."

Waiting to see John Marshall go into the stern and grasp the tiller,
he felt for the line by which the riding-lamp was hoisted and rapidly
lowered it to the deck. Then he took it in his hand and descended
into the cabin. Here, as he fully expected, he found everything in
confusion. Pillows and blankets lay scattered upon the floor where the
Malays had tossed them when searching the bunks for valuables. The
table which had stood in the centre lay crushed and shapeless in one
corner, while the pistol with which the murderer had slain Mr. Beverley
was half-hidden beneath it. As for the latter, there was no sign of
his body, and it became evident at once that, as in the case of those
who had lost their lives during the struggle on the deck, it had been
committed to the sea.

"Perhaps it is better so," murmured Tyler, "for had I seen him here
lying murdered in his bunk the sight could only have shocked and
distressed me. I know that he is dead, for John actually witnessed the
deed. That being the case, I have but one duty to accomplish, and that
is to bring Hanns Schlott to justice. And now for the other parts of the
schooner."

Passing into the bows, he peered closely into every corner, opening
the lockers lest one of the Malays should be concealed on board. Then,
satisfied that he and John were alone on the vessel, and that they were
in command once more, he dowsed the light and clambered to the deck.

"They're hollering fit to hurt themselves," said John with a chuckle,
"and I reckon that Hanns Schlott is jest silly with rage. He's calling
his men together, and I've no doubt that they'll be putting off from
the shore. But it's getting darker, as it often does a couple of hours
before the dawn, and now that the light has gone from the rigging, and
we have slipped away from our berth, he'll have a precious hard job to
find us. But that foresail don't send us along more than a couple of
knots an hour, and when the sun comes up we shall be still in sight of
the prahu. Then them pirates will come swooping down upon us, and we
shall have to make for the shore."

"Then we'll try to hit upon a river," said Tyler. "I had many a chat
with Mr. Beverley on our way out from England, and together we went over
the maps and charts dealing with the island of Borneo. He told me that
there were numerous bays along the coast-line, and that one or more
rivers ran into them as a rule. In fact in some parts the shore is a
swamp in which trees abound, and through which navigation is sometimes
possible. It may turn out that we shall have the fortune to strike an
opening which will allow us to sail some way into the interior, for the
water-ways are wide, and it is fairly certain that a ship can penetrate
many miles from the coast. After that a boat would be necessary, for
there are shallows higher up. But until the day breaks we can make no
plans, and as it is pretty certain that we shall be seen and followed
by Hanns Schlott and the crew of the prahu, it will be well if we make
preparations to resist them. Stay where you are, John, while I get out
some ammunition and load the gun. We'll leave the six-pounder in the
stern loaded with grape, while we'll put a ball into the one right
for'ard."

Once more the two young fellows parted company, John Marshall to stand
at the helm and listen to the shouts which came from the shore, while
Tyler promptly set about loading the gun which stood in the bows. That
done, he brought from below a supply of muskets and ammunition, and
having prepared them, placed them at intervals along the deck.

"And now for something to eat," he said to himself. "John and I have
been at work for many hours, and the fighting and the excitement of this
business have given me an appetite. It seems to me that we should be
foolish to neglect this opportunity of eating, for once the day comes
our attention will be fully occupied with the pirates. I'll just see
what is to be found in the lockers."

Lighting the lamp once more, he went to that portion of the schooner
where a supply of food and drink was kept, and quickly went swarming up
on deck with some slices of ham, a few biscuits, and a couple of bottles
of beer.

"Jest the thing!" exclaimed John Marshall, allowing a broad grin of
pleasure to overspread his features. "Jest what I wanted; and hang me!
now that the food's before me, I remember that I'm as hungry as can be.
Share and share alike, sir, and make no enemies. Here's a corkscrew in
my knife, and there's a blade as well if we want it."

Seating themselves upon the deck, Tyler and his companion fell upon the
good things with eagerness, washing down the dry biscuit and ham with
a bottle of beer. Then they chatted in low tones, John occasionally
rising to his feet to make sure that the sound of breakers as the sea
washed upon the shore was no nearer. Occasionally a faint shout came
to them across the water, and once they heard the splash of oars; but
very quickly all signs of the enemy disappeared, and they floated
along, for all they knew, alone in that portion of the world. Indeed,
the fact that they had beaten back the pirates and regained possession
of the vessel, and that Hans Schlott and his Malays had for the moment
disappeared from their view, raised their spirits to the highest, so
much so that they joked and laughed there as they crouched upon the
deck. And who could blame them, in spite of the fact that they had so
recently lost their leader? For their escape had been wonderful, and
the relief to their minds was great. Reviewing the events of the night
as he sat there beside John Marshall, Tyler could not suppress the
feeling of elation with which he was filled. Everything had been so
sudden, and almost unexpected. The death of Mr. Beverley, the advent of
the boat-load of pirates, and the desperate struggle which followed had
come with such startling swiftness that his mind was still in a whirl,
while his thoughts were so full of the narrow escape which they had
had, and of plans for the future, that his brain was as yet incapable
of appreciating to the full the loss which he had suffered. Vaguely he
mourned the death of a man who had been a good friend to him, and in his
quiet and determined manner he decided that, once he could see his way
to following Hans Schlott, he would do so with all the energy of which
he was capable. But for the present he and the boatswain were fugitives
themselves, while the rascally Dutchman and his crew of Malays were the
pursuers. How could they contrive to escape from the prahu, and if they
were forced to take refuge on the island, how would they ever be able to
communicate with their friends?

"We must make as complete preparations for an extensive journey across
the island as we possibly can," said Tyler, breaking the silence which
had been maintained between the two for almost an hour. "You see, Mr.
Beverley's intention was to land upon the coast somewhere hereabouts,
and then to strike for the interior. His object was partly to obtain
particulars as to the productiveness and mineral value of Borneo, and
partly to hunt for rubber, which is becoming very rare, and which always
obtains a high price in European markets. He equipped himself with all
manner of articles, and though we cannot hope to carry much with us, we
can at least take what will be most necessary for our safety."

"Guns, for instance!" exclaimed John Marshall shortly. "I reckon
that our revolvers, a fowling-piece, and a rifle, with the necessary
ammunition, will be far more useful to us than anything else. For food
we can rely upon our weapons, and after that what else do we want?"

"Strong boots and clothes, I should say," replied Tyler swiftly. "Mr.
Beverley told me that rain is to be expected daily in the island, and
that the journey would take us through the thickest forests and deep
swamps. Obviously, then, it will be well to look carefully to our
clothes, and assure ourselves that we are well provided in that respect."

"And what about the schooner?" John ventured to demand. "You won't
desert her and leave her for the use of Hans Schlott?"

"Certainly not. Once it becomes clear that we must abandon our ship we
will sink her or burn her, whichever is easiest. Then we can get ashore
in the dinghy, and once in the swamps I think we shall be able to laugh
at the pirates. But then there will be the natives to be considered, and
in their case we must hope for the best."

"Quite so, sir," agreed the boatswain; "and as to getting rid of
the ship, I vote that we sink her, for we can see to the necessary
arrangements now, and once the day comes shall feel that we have all in
readiness. There's a double-handed augur in my locker, and some chips of
wood which will act as plugs, and which we can knock out of the holes
once the time arrives for sinking the schooner. Lay hold of the tiller,
sir, and leave the job to me."

Handing the ship into Tyler's care, he went off along the deck and
disappeared below. Half an hour later, when he returned, it was with the
information that he had bored sufficient holes to sink the schooner, and
that a couple of minutes with a hammer would suffice to knock the plugs
out.

"And now for our preparations for landing," said Tyler. "It looks to me
as though we might expect the dawn to break at any moment, and I think
that we ought to be particularly careful to have everything in readiness
for instant flight. Take over the helm again, my lad, while I go below
and get rid of this uniform, and put a pair of strong boots on my feet.
When I come up I shall bring the weapons of which we spoke and a good
supply of ammunition. Then you can follow my example, and make ready for
a journey by land."

"Not forgetting a good hearty meal before we leave the schooner," cried
the boatswain with a laugh. "By dawn we shall have been a couple of
hours or more without a bite, and who can say when we shall be able to
get our next supply of food? So let's go prepared in every way for a
long journey and for rapid flight."

Hastily agreeing to this suggestion, Tyler once more dived into the
cabin of the schooner, and going to his own particular quarters
commenced to don the suit of clothes which he had purchased at
Singapore. A pair of thick boots and a strong felt hat completed his
apparel; while a belt around his waist, in which was a strong sheathed
knife, formed a convenient place in which to secure his revolvers.

"And now for a bag in which to carry ammunition," he said to himself.
"I know that several were included in our equipment, and I think that
if we carried one over each shoulder they would prove of the greatest
service to us, for then, besides taking powder and shot, we could carry
with us some spare stockings. Also, I must not forget that uncivilized
natives are particularly fond of cheap knick-knacks, and as we are
nearly sure to come in contact with some of them, I will certainly carry
a few scarves and looking-glasses with me. Of course, if the pursuit is
very keen, we shall have to throw all these things away and retain our
rifles only, but I hope it will not come to that; in fact, I have made
up my mind that once it becomes clear that the prahu will overtake us if
we remain at sea, I shall run in to the land as rapidly as possible so
as to get a long start. But I must not waste time, for already the sky
is getting lighter."

Bustling about in the depths of the schooner he quickly unearthed the
various articles of which he had spoken, and rapidly made a selection.
Then he came climbing to the deck, his arms loaded with weapons and
ammunition. Half an hour later John Marshall had followed his young
leader's example, and was dressed in the suit which Mr. Beverley was to
have worn. Slinging the bags over their shoulders, the two carefully
deposited in one of them an abundance of ammunition, which they had
calculated should last them with ordinary care for a considerable
period. Into the other each dropped a number of gaudy articles with
which to please the eye of any of the Dyak tribes with whom they might
come in contact. Weapons were now loaded, each of the young fellows
selecting a rifle, while a light fowling-piece was placed near at hand,
which they would take it in turns to carry. Feeling now that they had
done all that was possible, they sat down upon the deck in their old
position and waited for the morning. Nor was their patience destined
to be severely tried, for hardly was their meal finished than the sky
in the east broke suddenly, the dark clouds giving place to a bank of
dull-gray vapour. Five minutes and the latter was tinged with a rosy
hue, to change again to a glorious golden colour. Then up shot the sun,
and ere they could believe it, another eventful day was full upon them.
Instantly both searched the coast-line of Borneo and the sea in every
direction.

"The prahu," cried Tyler in startled tones, "and far closer to us than I
should have wished! See, she has already sighted us, and is bearing down
in our direction!"

"Then we must make for that bay," said the boatswain quietly. "It's a
bit of luck that we have hit it off so nicely, for I reckon that with
this wind we should reach the shore an hour ahead of the prahu. Over
with the tiller, sir, and then leave the steering to me, while you go
for'ard and train the six-pounder round upon her."

A minute later the schooner was headed directly for the opening of a
narrow bay opposite which she happened to be as the day dawned, and
through the waters of which she was soon plunging. Indeed it seemed as
though she too desired to increase the distance between herself and the
native prahu which followed, for she careened to her foresail, and,
helped by the strong tide which was making into the bay, went shooting
in through the entrance, and rounding a sharp promontory which jutted
out into the sea and which had prevented a clear view of the shore
beyond, headed straight for a narrow inlet which lay in front of her.

"A river!" exclaimed Tyler, with a shout of joy as he stood by the
for'ard gun and swung the muzzle round till it presented out to sea.
"A river, and to all appearance sufficiently wide to allow us to sail
directly in, and so get clear of Hanns Schlott and his rascals. Once
we are in fresh water, and out of their sight, we will look for a
convenient landing-place, and then out shall come those plugs. Yes, if
we cannot keep the schooner in our own hands she shall go to the bottom.
Ah! the prahu has come into view again round that point of land, and as
there is an abundance of ammunition below, I shall take a shot at her."

Carefully training the weapon upon the native prahu, he waited until she
had drawn a little closer. Then with a match he fired the powder and
sent a ball hurtling in her direction.

"A good shot!" shouted John Marshall, glancing eagerly over his shoulder
to see what success his young leader had had. "There goes the ball
ricochetting across her bows. An inch or two to the left would have
plumped it right aboard, for the elevation is just right. Try again, Mr.
Richardson, for there is luck in even numbers."

Encouraged by the success of his first attempt, Tyler dived below and
quickly returned with more ammunition; then with the greatest care he
levelled the weapon a second time and fired, with the result that the
ball struck the prahu heavily. Instantly a puff of smoke burst from her
bows, and a shot came whizzing over the schooner, narrowly missing the
mast.

"Two can play at the same game, that is evident," cried Tyler,
undismayed by their narrow escape. "I will give them another shot or
two, and then I fancy that it will be time for us to get ashore, for a
well-aimed ball from the prahu might damage us severely and spoil our
plans."

For the third time he trained the six-pounder upon the enemy, and,
waiting for a moment till the muzzle of the gun covered the prahu, he
sent a shot screeching in her direction. Crash! Even at that distance he
could almost hear the missile strike upon her deck, and a keen glance
showed him that the utmost confusion had resulted, for Malays could be
seen rushing towards the spot, while a burly figure standing beside the
tiller shook a fist furiously in the air. But whatever the damage done,
it did not retard the course of the prahu. She came on at a rapid rate,
her sails bellying out in the breeze, and her lee-rail awash with the
water.

"It is high time that we made for the shore," exclaimed Tyler. "I see
that we are now entering the river, and within five minutes we ought
to be round the bend which hides the upper reaches. Keep at your post,
John, and head her to the left. Then, the instant we are round the
corner, bring her up into the wind and put the weapons in the dinghy.
While you are doing that I will go below, and as soon as I have knocked
the plugs out of the holes we will say farewell to the schooner. Now,
over with her!"

With a swing the vessel shot round the angle of land which seemed to
bar the opening of the river, and having been allowed to run forward
some two hundred yards, until hidden by a dense mass of forest trees
which intervened between herself and the prahu, she was thrown with her
head into the wind, which set her sail flapping loosely. With a twist
of a rope attached to the bulwarks John Marshall secured the tiller in
position, and at once commenced to carry out Tyler's orders. As for the
latter, he ran below and, seizing the hammer, began to knock out the
plugs which kept the schooner from sinking. At any other time, no doubt,
he would have hesitated before doing such a thing, for the ship was not
his own property, and to sacrifice her seemed almost an act of folly.
But an instant's thought convinced him that it was the only thing that
he could do, and therefore he set to at the work with the full knowledge
that by sinking the ship he prevented her from falling into the hands of
the pirates.

"That will soon send her to the bottom!" he exclaimed as he dragged the
last plug from its position, and stood there watching some dozen columns
of clear water spouting up into the hold. "And now to get ashore."

With one last glance around he ran to the ladder and quickly rejoined
his companion. Then both hastily quitted the schooner, and, taking their
places in the tiny dinghy, pulled for the shore.



CHAPTER VII

Flight across the Land


"We will take it easy, for we have ample time in which to reach the
trees," said Tyler calmly, as he and John Marshall pulled towards the
land. "Once there, we will select a hiding-place and keep watch upon
the schooner, and upon the prahu as soon as she rounds the bend. If, as
seems more than likely, her boat is dropped and preparations are made to
send a party in pursuit, we will steal off into the forest, using the
utmost care to leave as few traces behind us as is possible. A few more
strokes and we are there. Now out you get, John, and give me a hand to
pull up the dinghy, for we will hide her amongst the bushes in case we
should have need of her on a future occasion."

Waiting until the boat struck against the soft bank of mud at the mouth
of the river, the two sprang ashore, and, lifting the dinghy bodily
from the water, carried her up amongst the bushes. A hasty search soon
discovered a mass of dense undergrowth, into the centre of which she was
thrust.

"That should keep her from all prying eyes," remarked Tyler in tones
of satisfaction, "while a cross on one of the trees near at hand will
serve as a mark by which we shall be able to find her when we come this
way again. Now for the bags and rifles, and afterwards we will turn our
attention to the schooner, and to Hanns Schlott and his friends."

Slinging bags and weapons over their shoulders, Tyler and his companion
left the dinghy in her hiding-place, and having marked an adjacent tree,
returned to the bank of the river once more. There was the schooner
with her head in the wind and her sail flapping loudly. That she was
deeper in the water both could see at once, while the manner in which
she careened to one side told them that very soon she would sink to the
bottom. As for the prahu, there was not a sign of her as yet, though
distant shouts told clearly that she could not be far away.

"She will round the bend before the schooner goes down," said Tyler in
tones of conviction, "and then Hanns Schlott will meet with another
disappointment. I have no doubt that he has guessed our object in making
for this river, and knows well that it is our intention to escape him
by that means or by the land. But he will hardly have expected such
complete preparations as we have made, and his anger will be great when
he finds how we have hoodwinked him. But let us make up our minds in
what direction we shall go. Shall we strike up along the banks of the
river, or shall we turn to the south and west?"

"The last, sir," was John Marshall's emphatic answer, "for I reckon that
if we made up the stream we should strike across creeks and smaller
rivers running into the main channel, and should be constantly delayed.
Besides this, Hanns Schlott and his fellows will have seen our dinghy,
and will guess that we have rowed up stream in her, hoping in that way
to escape them. That being the case, we must do exactly the opposite,
and must go into the forest. Then, when the search is over or night
falls, we can return to this spot and cross to the other side; for that,
I take it, is our direction."

"Sarawak is the point for which we must aim, and, as you say, it lies
south-west across the river," replied Tyler. "I happen to know that
an Englishman, by name James Brooke, is there at this moment, and if
we could only reach him we should be perfectly safe. But it is a long
journey from here, and before we can hope to come across it we shall
have to cover two hundred miles at least. However, I would far rather
travel double that distance than fall into the hands of the pirates."

"The same here, sir," exclaimed his companion. "Like you, I'd face
anything almost, for there will be little mercy if Hanns Schlott puts
his fingers on us. But look up! Here's the prahu!"

Lying concealed amongst the trees, the two watched with beating hearts
as the native craft swung round the bend and came into the river, and
each noted with feelings of alarm, which they could not easily suppress,
that her deck was covered with men. At her tiller stood Hanns Schlott,
and, catching sight of the schooner, he at once directed the prahu
towards her. Then shouts of exultation came across the water, and the
Malays were seen preparing to throw themselves on board their prize the
instant that they came up with her. It was pretty to watch the manner in
which her lateen sails were dropped when well within reach of her prize,
and at another time the fugitives would have admired the seamanlike way
in which the operation was carried out, and Hanns Schlott's handling of
the craft. But they had other and far more engrossing things to occupy
their attention, and kept their eyes riveted upon the dusky Malays who
swarmed upon her deck. Shooting up into the wind, just as the schooner
had done before her, the prahu came to rest for a few moments. Then some
twenty sweeps were shot out from her wooden sides, and like a gigantic
caterpillar she came crawling towards her prize.

"Boarders prepare!" shouted the Dutchman in stentorian tones, "and
remember the reward which I have offered. Take them alive or dead and it
belongs to you. Lose them, and you shall know what it is to experience
my anger."

With trained eye he steered the prahu for the schooner so that she
glided alongside with a gentle grating sound, and then shouted again to
his men.

"On board!" he cried, "and as they are not on deck search for them and
drag them from below."

Instantly some thirty Malays sprang from the prahu on to the planks of
the sinking schooner, and, unsuspicious as yet of her condition, at once
rushed for the steep ladder which gave access to the interior. Roused to
the utmost eagerness at the prospect of slaying the two white-faces who
had punished them so severely, and stimulated by the offer of a special
reward, the men struggled to be first, and almost fell into the cabin,
their shouts startling the peaceful scenery around. Hark, something is
wrong, for a head appears at the opening, and a shriek of terror sets
the air ringing. Then, like hunted beings, as if they were face to face
with some horror which they were endeavouring to escape, the Malays came
pouring up in a confused heap, this time struggling even more fiercely
for the leadership.

"What is it?" shouted Hanns Schlott wrathfully, his desire to capture
the fugitives and his anger preventing his seeing the sinking condition
of the schooner. "Do you wish to tell me again that two boys have
frightened you, and that you are flying from them? Back, hounds! and do
not let me see you until you have reported that they are dead, or until
you can say that they are gone from the ship."

"They would be fools to stay," called out one of the men who had
descended, leaping with one big bound to the deck of the prahu, upon
which he alighted with every sign of satisfaction. "The cabin is filled
almost to the top with water, and in less time than I care to mention
she will go to the bottom of the river. Hasten, comrades, or you will be
dragged down to the depths with her."

With shouts and screams of rage and terror the Malays who still remained
on the schooner came pouring up from below, their limbs dripping with
the water, and all at once ran at their fastest pace to the rail, where,
careless of the space which now intervened between themselves and the
prahu, they sprang outwards in their desire to escape from the sinking
vessel. Some, more fortunate than their fellows, reached their comrades
in safety, and, turning swiftly about, looked back at the schooner with
eyes which bulged from their sockets, so great was their alarm and
consternation at the trap into which they had fallen. A few, however,
who had been unable to reach the deck before owing to the narrowness of
the ladder and to the press of men, found that the jar with which the
prahu had hit against her prize had caused her to sheer off into deeper
water, leaving a gap which no one could hope to jump. For an instant
they hesitated, and then with shrill cries of fright they plunged into
the river, and went clambering into their own ship by means of the
sweeps which hung overboard. As for Hanns Schlott, he was like a madman.
Rushing along the deck, he had at first thrown himself upon the Malay
crew in his anger, and had buffeted those who had returned till they
cowered at his feet. Then, suddenly realizing that he had been fooled
for the second time, and that Tyler and his companion had been too
clever for him, he danced between the masts as if his feelings were too
much for him, and as if violent movement were necessary.

"A second time!" he cried in shrill tones of rage. "They have made me
look foolish again, and I should have guessed their plot, and, leaving
the schooner to her fate, should have landed and searched for them in
the forest or upon the river. But it is not too late even now. I must
not allow my vexation to master my reason, and I will at once see to it
that they are followed. Listen!" he went on, turning fiercely upon the
pirate crew; "the dogs have played a prank with us again, and have fled
from this spot. Did anyone see a sign of the boat which was towed behind
the schooner?"

For a few seconds there was silence as the Malays watched their comrades
climbing on board. Then one of them, anxious perhaps to appease the
anger of his leader, or drawing upon his imagination in his excitement,
ran towards Hanns Schlott and bellowed some information into his ear.

"You ask for the small boat," he cried. "I saw it disappearing round the
angle farther up, which hides the upper reaches. There you will find the
fugitives rowing for their lives. Hasten! Send after them, and when you
have captured them let them be punished for the trick which they have
played upon us."

Without waiting to consider whether the report were a true one or not,
and roused to a high pitch of anger and vexation by the manner in which
he had been foiled, Hanns Schlott sprang upon the rail of the prahu,
and, holding there to the rigging, stared towards the upper reaches of
the river, shading his eyes with his broad palm, for the hour was an
early one and the sun as yet but low in the heavens. Then he directed a
swift glance to the schooner, as if a sudden suspicion had seized him
that another trick was attempted, and that the fugitives were still in
hiding there. But a moment's contemplation showed him that this could
not be the case, for the sinking vessel lay wallowing in the river,
which was slowly drifting her towards the bay outside. Already part
of her deck was awash, while a trembling of her rigging, a curious
fluttering of the sail, seemed to denote that her end was at hand.
Indeed, as the Dutchman observed her, and endeavoured to make up his
dull and heavy mind to the thought that she was alone, the schooner
suddenly came to a stop in her gentle course towards the bay, then
she heeled to starboard with such a jerk that her topmasts bent like
fishing-rods and threatened to break away. Next second, however, she
righted, and then her stern subsided beneath the water while her bows
cocked high in the air. Down she went inch by inch, while those on board
the prahu fixed their eyes upon her as if they were fascinated. Suddenly
there was a low report, bubbles of air came seething up beside her,
throwing the surface of the river into froth, and instantly the good
ship disappeared from view, only one of her topmasts remaining above the
river. But there was no great depth there, and ere a minute had passed
she had struck upon the bottom, and, sousing forward on to a level keel,
she came to a permanent rest with both topmasts elevated some twenty
feet in the air.

"Out with the boat!" shouted Hanns Schlott as she foundered. "Let the
crew get overboard at once and row for the shore, there to search for
traces of the fugitives, while we will sail up the river in the prahu
and give chase. If they have escaped in that direction and we do not see
them within half an hour we shall know that they have landed and hidden
in the swamps, for our progress will be far more rapid than theirs. As
for you other men, you are to search the bank of the river closely on
this side, for it is obvious that they have not crossed to the opposite
shore, for otherwise we should have seen them. If you find traces of
their presence fire a gun to recall us, and we will come back to help
you. Above all, should you see them, shoot them at once, for otherwise
they may escape you."

"Evidently a big movement afoot," said Tyler in John's ear as the
two kept watch upon the pirates. "They were nicely taken in over the
schooner, but now they are going to take up the pursuit in earnest. Here
comes a boat-load of the ruffians, while the prahu is already hoisting
her sail to proceed up the river."

"Then what are we going to do?" demanded John Marshall in tones of
anxiety. "If we remain here we shall nearly certainly be discovered, and
I for one do not look forward to becoming a prisoner."

"There will be no making prisoners," was Tyler's short and expressive
answer. "You must realize the fact that those men are the hounds who
will hunt their quarry to the death. As for remaining here, it is out
of the question, for though we have been very careful it was quite
impossible to set foot upon the soft and muddy bank without leaving
impressions behind us. These Malays are, no doubt, excellent trackers,
for they have been accustomed to these forests and swamps all their
lives. They will quickly discover our landing-place, and once that is
done they will follow us. We must leave the spot at once if we wish to
remain alive. Come, let us be going, and be careful to leave as few
traces behind you as you can."

But now the prahu had dropped her boat into the water and was standing
up the river, while the crew who had been left behind were already
putting out their paddles and preparing to row for the land. To have
waited longer would have been foolhardy in the extreme, and therefore,
without further delay, Tyler and his companion stole off into the
forest. Soon they broke into a trot, Tyler being in advance, and this
they kept up for half an hour, when the jungle thickened and made rapid
progress impossible. Squeezing between gigantic tree trunks, at times
crawling beneath tangled masses of creepers and undergrowth, they sped
on their way, taking the utmost pains all the while to replace branches
which had been pushed aside. With quick eye Tyler sought for the hardest
grass, and led his companion over it. But soon it became evident that
they were approaching a swamp, for the earth beneath their feet became
soft and spongy, and within a hundred yards they were wading knee-deep
through a mangrove swamp which seemed to stretch in every direction but
the one from which they had just come.

"Halt!" cried Tyler, lifting his hand to warn his companion as a break
in the trees denoted the fact that they had come across a creek or some
arm of the river. "Let us listen so as to make sure that we are being
followed. If that is the case we will swim across and continue our
flight on the opposite side."

Throwing themselves down upon the long and twisted root of a durian
which stood above the surface of the water, they sat there panting with
their exertions, and listening eagerly for sounds of the Malays. Nor
were they destined to be kept waiting long, for hardly had they regained
their breath than shouts came echoing through the forest, while the snap
of breaking branches, and the splash of many feet wading through the
water, told that the pursuers were near at hand.

"They have quickly got upon our track," whispered Tyler, "and I fear
that, after all, we shall have to fight for our lives. Now, how are we
to get across the river without damaging our weapons?"

"Tie the ammunition on to our heads and swim with one hand, holding the
guns above water. It ain't easy, I know, sir, but we've got to do it."

Hastily unslinging the bags in which the ammunition was stored, they
placed them upon their heads, winding the slings round till the whole
was secured. Then they pressed forward into the wide stream, which
seemed to cut its course through the heart of the forest, and, waiting
until the current almost carried them from their feet, commenced to
swim for the opposite shore. As John Marshall had truly stated, it was
no easy task which they had set themselves, for the ammunition, bearing
upon their heads, made it difficult to keep their mouths clear of the
water, while the gun, which was held at arm's-length above the surface,
added to their trouble. But they were not to be easily beaten, and
though already fatigued by their flight through the forest, they swam on
gamely till their feet touched the opposite shore.

"Now for the forest and cover," said Tyler. "Then we will sit down to
rest and watch our enemies. But I suppose that they will make nothing of
the river, and once across will rapidly pick up our trail again."

"Then it's a case of fighting," was the boatswain's dogged reply. "If
they're bound to come up with us what's the good of our tiring ourselves
out by flight? Why not look out for a likely spot at once and get ready
for 'em? With our rifles we ought to be able to kill a few of these
Malay ruffians, and as we know that Hanns Schlott is not with them,
but has gone on with the prahu, it is just possible that they may take
fright and run for their lives."

Both were silent for some minutes as they waded into shallower water
and disappeared within the forest; for the effort of pushing their
way through the stagnant river, the creepers and weeds which abounded
everywhere, demanded so much of their breath that they had none to spare
for talking. However, a few minutes brought them to higher land, and
both were about to dash forward and leave the water when a thought
suddenly occurred to Tyler, and with a quick movement of his hand he
arrested John Marshall's progress.

"Hold on a bit!" he cried. "Do not move an inch nearer to the dry land
or we may ruin all our chances. Listen to me, for an idea has suddenly
crossed my mind, and it may mean the saving of our lives. Tell me, if we
push on in the direction that we were going, would the Malays pick up
our tracks?"

"Just as quick and as true as a blood-hound, I reckon," was the rapid
answer, in tones which showed that the boatswain had no doubt of the
matter.

"And how long would it be before they came up with us and forced us to
fight?"

"Maybe half an hour, maybe less. It's jest a question of the denseness
of the forest, sir; but it wouldn't be long, I know."

"Then supposing we do not climb on to the higher land. Supposing we wade
through this shallow water, which will effectually hide our tracks, and,
turning to the right, strike along the margin of the creek, and within
this screen of trees. A mile of water should bring us to the river, when
we must consider what is best to be done, though I have the feeling that
we shall do well to return to the spot at which we started."

"Leaving these Malay blokes to push on in a dead straight line!"
interposed the sailor with a chuckle. "I see yer meaning, sir, and I
falls in with the plan right away. The success or failure of it will be
settled within the next half-hour, for if our pursuers cross the creek
and plunge on into the forest we shall know that all is well, for a time
at any rate. What's more, I've a kind of a notion that we shall find it
suit us well to fish out the dinghy and cross to the other shore of the
main stream. Then their difficulties in following and in picking up our
tracks will be so great that the chances are that they will give us up
for lost."

"Not if Hanns Schlott still remains their leader," said Tyler with
emphasis. "Do not forget that he is a vindictive man whose pride has
been severely wounded, for on two occasions we have foiled him and made
him look foolish. Then there is the other matter to consider. Murder
in these seas may be of almost daily occurrence; indeed I believe I
am right in saying that Borneo and the islands around are infested by
pirates who fall upon any and every ship with the one object of plunder.
Crews are ruthlessly slain and their bodies tossed into the sea. And
when there are no ships to be attacked these pirates make for the shore,
and, ascending one of the rivers, fall upon the peaceful tribes within,
with the sole object again of obtaining booty and the heads of their
enemies. But Mr. Beverley was an Englishman, and this Dutchman knows
well that however apathetic the British Government may be with regard to
the loss of native life, they will resent the murder of a countryman.
The Dutchman will never feel secure till he has captured us, and I tell
you now that he will follow us, even if our flight takes us right across
the island."

"Then the sooner we push on the better," answered John Marshall in tones
which showed that his leader's words had impressed him with a sense of
their danger. "If this here scoundrel will follow us across the island
it'll be well for us to obtain the longest start that is possible. I'm
with yer, sir, and if you think that this plan is a good 'un, why,
forward's the word."

That Tyler and his companion had been wise in coming to a halt ere they
reached the higher land was evident, for had they rushed on through the
swamp they could not have failed to leave impressions of their feet
upon the soil. Then again, some yards beyond the belt of trees which
fringed the edge of the creek the jungle became rapidly thicker, and
passage through it would have been slow and difficult in the extreme,
while it would have been impossible, in spite of every care, to traverse
it without leaving abundant signs of their passage behind. By keeping
to the water, however, their course would carry them through a portion
of the swamp where creepers and bushes were few and far between, and
could be easily avoided. Indeed, there was little doubt that if ordinary
caution were observed they could pass along beside the edge of the
creek without leaving a single sign to aid the Malays. And what was
more natural than that the latter, finding that the fugitives had sped
in a direct course through the forest from the point at which they had
landed, should plunge into the creek, and, gaining the opposite side,
should continue in the same line themselves without suspecting the fact
that another trick was being played upon them.

"That is what I think and hope that they will do," murmured Tyler, as
he waded on through the swamp. "No doubt they will tell by the tracks
which we have left on the opposite shore that we have but little
start of them, and in their eagerness to come up with us and revenge
themselves for the suffering which we have caused them they will rush
on thoughtlessly and in hot-headed haste. While they do so we will keep
within this belt of trees until we get close to the main river, where I
fancy that our best plan will be to float down to the dinghy. Then we
will cross to the opposite shore and take the road for Sarawak."

Anxiously did he and John Marshall listen for sounds of the enemy
as they sped on through the water, and great was their relief when,
happening to peep from their screen of trees, they caught sight of some
dusky figures swimming across the creek, while others could be heard
calling to their comrades from the forest into the depths of which the
two fugitives had almost plunged.

"On the wrong scent for sure," whispered John Marshall. "I reckon them
chaps is too bent upon laying their hands upon us to make full use of
their senses, or otherwise they would have seen in a moment that we were
fooling them. As it is, once they see through the game they will come
howling back to the edge of the creek, and then they'll be bothered."

"They'll find it difficult to make up their minds in which direction to
follow," said Tyler with decision, "and I have little doubt that they
will separate into two parties, which will go to right and left. If they
do so it will make our task an easier one, for then, should they come
up with us, we shall have fewer enemies to deal with. But do not let us
waste time. Remember, John, that our safety depends upon the length of
start which we obtain. Forward! And do not let us halt until we come
upon the river."

With ammunition-bags still strapped to their heads, in case they should
find it necessary to enter the creek again, they plunged on through the
swamp, leaving a black trail of muddy water behind them. But there was
no fear that the latter would betray them to the Malays, for scarcely
had Tyler and his companion progressed a dozen yards than the thick
mud settled upon the bottom again, leaving a clear surface above. At
length, after traversing half a mile of the swamp, a break in the trees
disclosed a wide stretch of water, while careful inspection showed them
that they had arrived at the point where the creek entered the main
stream, and where they, too, must alter their course.

"The orders, sir?" demanded the boatswain, as if a long swim were
nothing to him. "Do we cross to the opposite side of the creek and make
along to the dinghy by means of the shore? Or shall we jest give the
river a turn? It's one and the same to me, though the first'll be the
easiest."

"And the most dangerous course to follow," replied Tyler curtly, "for
once we landed on the farther bank we should leave traces of our
presence there, and sooner or later these Malays would pick them up. We
shall be wise if we leave the land alone altogether, and take entirely
to the water till we reach the southern shore of the river. Yes, that
is my proposal; for if we return, by whatever route, to the dinghy, our
pursuers will become acquainted with the fact, and, besides, how are we
to know that they have not already found and destroyed our boat?"

"Jest the thing I was about to mention, sir. And, what's more, how do
we know that men have not been left in the sampan which brought these
pirates from the prahu? Supposin' we was to drop down upon them, they'd
raise such a shoutin' that every one of the dogs would come rushing down
upon us."

For a time the prospect which had just been brought before him startled
Tyler, for the Malays' boat had escaped his memory. But a little
consideration showed him that to descend the river would be madness,
for in all likelihood the craft lay moored off the shore, with a guard
aboard her to protect her in case the fugitives should attempt her
capture. And if men were there they would certainly find some means by
which to attract the attention of their comrades away in the forest.
A shout, the report of a gun, would go echoing along the swamp, and
would soon acquaint the pursuers of the fact that their prize lay in a
different direction; then back they would come, and once more Tyler and
his companion would find themselves so closely pressed that they would
have to consider the advisability of searching for the most suitable
spot and making a stand. Yes, the dinghy was out of the question, and
that being the case it was necessary at once to hit upon some other plan.

"There is no alternative," he said, suddenly turning upon the sailor,
"and our way lies clear before us. We must now turn to the left and wade
through the swamp beside the river until we have ascended sufficiently
far to make it certain that, while venturing to swim across, we should
not drift down as far as the mouth."

"Then the angle, or jest above it, will be the spot, sir, for there the
river narrows, and while the stream will run strongly below, above it
will be pent up and there will be little flow. That should enable us to
cross easily and without being seen. But steady! Ain't that the prahu?"

He pointed eagerly between the tree trunks to the open stretch of river,
and there, swiftly coming into view, was the native craft which bore
Hanns Schlott and his crew of desperadoes.

"Drawn the upper reaches blank," said Tyler, lowering his voice to a
whisper, as though he were fearful that the ordinary tones would carry
as far as the prahu. "It is clear that they have found no trace of us
above, and are returning to rejoin their comrades. How angry their
leader will be when he finds that they are baffled, and how fortunate it
is for us that they have deserted the water above the bend!"

"Ay, it is that," was the emphatic answer, "for it was bothering me how
we were to keep out o' sight of them chaps when crossing above the bend.
Now they've jest played into our hands, and if we ain't successful,
well, we ought to be."

With a vigorous shake of his head, and a hitch to the bag suspended
about his shoulders, which had swung too far to the front owing to his
active movements, the boatswain intimated to Tyler that he was ready
to proceed, and instantly fell in behind his leader. It was nervous
work wading through that swamp with the dull echo of splashing water
reverberating amongst the trunks, for the sound which they made as
they plodded forward seemed to their anxious ears so loud that those
who were in pursuit of them would certainly hear. Then, too, the dread
lest a clearing should suddenly bring them face to face with the Malays
filled their minds, and caused them to halt every few minutes. But not a
splash, not an answering sound, came back through the dreary forest, and
but for the fact that they had full knowledge that Hanns Schlott and his
crew were in the neighbourhood, they would have imagined that they were
the only two human beings for miles around. But hark! Shouts from the
mouth of the river attract their attention, while the sight of the prahu
standing up-stream again causes them to crouch low in the water.

"Steering for the creek," whispered Tyler. "She is going there to help
our pursuers, and no doubt will soon clear up the mystery. Let us push
on without a moment's delay."

Stimulated to greater exertions by the thought that the course of
their flight was already discovered, and that even at that moment the
pirates were following in hot haste, the two forgot their weariness,
forgot the fact that their limbs ached with the effort of ploughing
through the swamp and mud, and filled with the determination to make
good their escape, they plunged forward as though they were incapable
of experiencing fatigue. Then, too, convinced that any sounds which
they might make would fail to reach the enemy, they crashed on at their
fastest pace, without care or thought for the traces which they might
leave behind them. Indeed they had already planned a clever ruse which
had gained a long start. But both knew that ere many minutes had passed
the lynx-like eyes of the searchers would discover some sign of the
fugitives, and that done, to trace them would be a matter of no great
difficulty, for their course could only take them through the swamp
which lay at the margin of creek and river. Without pausing, therefore,
to look back, Tyler and John Marshall trudged on and fought their
way through the water till they reached a spot which was some little
distance above the bend in the river which hid the upper reaches from
the view of those who entered at the mouth. And here they came to a halt
at the edge of the swamp and peered across at the opposite side.

"The current is sluggish, as you said," observed Tyler thoughtfully,
"but the distance is greater than I had anticipated. It will be a long
swim."

"But it has to be faced, sir, and we had best set about it at once. When
all's said, it's little after what we have gone through."

"We shall do it, I have no doubt," was Tyler's reply, "but I was
thinking of our weapons and of our kit. You see, this is a far longer
swim and a far bigger crossing than we had to face at the creek, and
even there I am bound to admit that I felt done. The effort of holding
a rifle in the air is by no means small."

"Then let's get something to float 'em on," said the boatswain suddenly.
"Now that we've carried our packs so far we are not going to desert them
without an effort, particularly the guns, for our lives depend upon 'em,
do yer see, Mr. Richardson. Ain't there some sticks or something of that
sort hereabouts upon which we could give them a lift to the opposite
shore?"

"Sticks? Of course there are, and creepers in abundance," cried Tyler,
leaping at the plan thus put before him. "John, you have a knowing head,
and have been of the greatest help to me. Wait here while I see to the
matter. I will get on to the dry land and out of this swamp, where I
shall be able to obtain the materials which we want."

Not for a moment did Tyler allow the fact to escape him that it was
necessary to blind their pursuers as much as possible and throw dust
in their eyes. True, he and the sailor had dashed forward through the
swamp at their topmost speed and without any great amount of care; but
they had been particularly cautious when first they had turned from
the direct course of their flight, and here, at the point where they
were again about to make a break in the line, the necessity for thought
occurred to him.

"We must not let them think that we have made across the river just
here," he said to himself as he turned from his companion. "They must be
led to imagine that we have pushed directly on, and as the river is wide
at this point they will readily believe that we are still in the swamp.
For that reason I will get to the dry strip of land beside the swamp by
other means than by my feet. Ah, here is a likely tree!"

An overhanging branch caught his eye, and in a twinkling he had sprung
at it and was swarming along. Arrived at the trunk he clambered round
it till upon a second branch, which ran close to another tree, to which
he was easily able to stretch. And thus, by making use of the fact that
the monsters of the forest were placed at close intervals, he contrived
to land upon higher land at a considerable distance from the edge of
the swamp. To draw his knife was the work of a moment only, and very
soon a shower of creepers was being directed in John's direction. For
the purpose of binding the materials together these were all that could
be desired, but for the raft itself something entirely different was
required. Fortunately a bank of thick reeds was at hand, and an armful
soon fell to his blade. A second followed, while the first had already
begun to assume shape and form at the touch of John's deft fingers. A
third completed the supply, and at once Tyler swung himself into the
same tree, and, swarming along to the others, finally came splashing
into the water again.

"We have delayed long enough already," he said, as he stood there
listening to distant shouts which came echoing through the forest,
"and I think that it is high time that we waded in and set out for the
opposite shore. Is all in readiness now?"

"All but the weapons, sir. We've to lash them to our raft, and then we
can begin the swim as soon as we like. Your ammunition-bag, please, and
now your rifle and revolvers. That's the sort, Mr. Richardson. Mine join
yours, and this length of creeper fixes the lot properly. Now for the
river, and I jest hope that that fellow Hanns Schlott and his covies
won't get a sight of us."

"And I too," was Tyler's emphatic answer. "A very great deal depends
upon our getting across unseen, and once there I propose that we take
to our heels and run for all that we are worth, so as to put a good
distance between ourselves and the pirates. Come, John, I will take my
post at one side of the raft and will push with my left hand, while you
use the opposite one."

Assuring themselves that their weapons were securely fastened to the
upper surface of the reeds, and that the latter were of sufficient
thickness to make it certain that the top would be above the surface of
the water, they began to direct their strange craft through the swamp,
guiding it carefully amongst the trees. Soon they were at a point where
the belt of jungle and swamp came to an end, and here they paused while
Tyler waded out into the stream and looked carefully about him.

"All serene!" he called out gently, after looking to left and right;
then, rejoining his companion, the two urged the raft into the river.
Very soon they were out of their depth and were forced to swim, on this
occasion finding the task of crossing to the opposite shore far easier
than before. Indeed, now that they were freed of the dead-weight of the
ammunition-bags, their progress seemed to be unusually rapid, and ere
they could have expected it they were wading in shallow water once more.

"Off with the guns and shoulder the bag," said Tyler sharply, as they
disappeared within the trees. "Now cut the creeper through and push the
raft out into the open. Yes, that will do very well, for now that they
are loose the reeds will become separated and, will soon be washed out
into the bay."

"Leaving Hanns Schlott and his men scratching their heads and jest
puzzling where we've got to and how it is that we have disappeared so
finely," laughed the boatswain, his spirits rising as the distance
between himself and the pirates steadily increased. "And now, sir,
which way? I reckon that we've got the whole of the northern portion of
the island before us, and as that is a larger piece of country than we
require, it seems to me that the best idea will be to set a course at
once and follow it."

"Exactly so, John, but first of all we have to get out of this swamp on
to dry land, and in doing so we must not forget that a trail may be left
which will help the Malays to follow us. Just recollect the fact which
I have mentioned before, that they are splendid trackers and thoroughly
used to the country. That being the case, we must use the utmost
caution, for our lives will undoubtedly depend upon our doing so. Now
let us look out for a likely tree, and then we will go through the same
movements that I practised when obtaining the reeds on the opposite
shore. Ah! this seems to me a suitable spot."

He pointed to the twisted, snake-like root of an enormous durian which,
emerging from the earth, had shot out over the water for all the world
like the branches higher up. About five feet from the surface of the
swamp it was sufficiently flexible to be drawn within an inch or two of
the water, and taking advantage of this fact, Tyler and John Marshall
in turn threw their legs astride it and shuffled along to the shoreward
end. Another branch here came to their aid, and ere many minutes had
passed both were safely on dry land, with the satisfaction of feeling
that however closely their enemies searched the fringe of trees which
bordered the river they would find no trace of the fugitives. Then would
commence a tedious hunt a few yards within the forest, and while that
was in progress the white men would be speeding away. Yes, haste was of
the utmost importance, and realizing this to the full, Tyler and his
companion took to their heels, and, setting their faces towards the
south-west, ran on in that direction with the understanding that as soon
as they had placed some five miles between themselves and the pirates
they would halt and settle the direction in which they were to march.

At length, breathless and exhausted after their exertions, for it was no
light task to push through the forest at that rate, the two arrived at a
part where the jungle was broken by a clearing, and, throwing themselves
down upon the ground, waited there to rest. Scarcely had they recovered
their breath and turned to one another to discuss the situation than
a loud shout close at hand startled them, and in an instant they had
sprung to their feet and faced about to meet the enemy.



CHAPTER VIII

Meeting the Dyaks


"Mias! Mias!"

Suddenly the words, shouted at the top of a deep bass voice, broke
the silence of the forest, and bursting from the trees near at hand
came reverberating across the clearing, bringing Tyler and his comrade
panting to their feet.

"Who is that? Can the Malays have already come up with us and be about
to attack us?" demanded the former breathlessly. "Surely they cannot
have discovered our whereabouts so soon, and those shouts must be
produced by natives of these parts."

"It ain't the pirates, that I'll swear," responded John Marshall in
startled tones. "Mias! That's how it sounded, and it seems to me, from
what I know of the lingo of folks hereabout, that it was different to
the Malay tongue. There, listen to that, sir; they're getting nearer."

"And will burst into this clearing before us," exclaimed Tyler in alarm.
"Back into the trees and let us hide! Quick! for by the sound they are
already almost upon us."

Unslinging their rifles as they ran, the two hastened across the
clearing and dived with frantic eagerness in amongst the trees. Then
once more they threw themselves full length upon the ground, and,
peering from amongst the bushes and trailers which grew in luxuriance
about them, stared out into the open. And all the while each wondered
who it was who could have given vent to those shouts, and what was
the meaning of them. To runaways attempting to escape as they were,
the shouts came with startling suddenness, and even now their hearts
beat rapidly against their ribs, so great was the consternation that
they had caused. However, a moment's reflection had been sufficient to
assure Tyler that the Malays, with Hans Schlott at their head, could not
have arrived upon the scene so quickly, and instantly he set to work
imagining who it could be who had given vent to the words. Nor was he
long kept waiting, for as he thrust his head still farther from behind
the bushes in his eagerness to catch sight of any who might come, the
shout again echoed amongst the trees, to be followed instantly by a
sight which filled his mind with amazement.

"Mias! Mias!" The call came to his ears in the shrillest of tones,
and was followed instantly by the crash of breaking branches. Then of
a sudden something short and stout, and in the shape of a man, swung
from a tree at the edge of the clearing, and went running across the
open space in a half-crouching attitude, with the knuckles of its hands
dragging upon the ground.

"An ape," exclaimed John Marshall in a whisper, "and a mighty big one
too!"

"An orang-outang," corrected Tyler, staring at the animal. "I believe
that they are very common in the island, and often grow to very large
proportions. That one, for instance, is almost as big as a man. But what
is happening? If he is being chased, like ourselves, why does he not
rush to the other side of the clearing and get away in that direction?"

"Because he can't. Because there's natives over there, natives all round
him. He's brought to bay, and he's got to fight for his life, poor
beggar!"

"And will give some trouble before he is defeated. Look! he has seized
a branch and means to use it as a cudgel, just as if he were a human
being. But listen. There is the shout again."

Scarcely had the words left Tyler's lips than the curious call again
awoke the echoes of the forest, and had barely died down when some
dozen dusky figures suddenly emerged into the clearing from opposite
directions and advanced upon the threatening figure, which now occupied
a central point. Crash! The animal raised his cudgel at the sight of his
enemies, and brought it to the ground furiously and with such force that
it was a wonder that it was not broken into a hundred pieces. Then, as
if the sight of the natives aroused his anger beyond everything, the ape
came running to meet those who were nearest to him, his body now held
fully erect. With glaring eyes and wide-open mouth, which exposed a row
of terrible fangs, he ran with silent feet towards his enemies, snarling
in his rage. Then, singling out one in particular, he leapt at him with
unexpected suddenness, and, throwing his cudgel to the ground, gripped
the unfortunate fellow in his arms.

"Look! He will kill him! The brute has caught the poor fellow's
arm between his teeth, and I heard the bone crack!" cried Tyler,
unconsciously raising his voice in his excitement at the scene. "Ah! the
others are afraid. They are hanging back, and will desert their comrade.
We must help, for we cannot lie here and see a human being killed before
our eyes by such a hideous brute. Your rifle, John! Quick! out into the
open!"

Almost before the boatswain had grasped his meaning, Tyler was on his
feet and running between the trees at his fastest pace, and ere John
Marshall could rise to follow him his leader was within a few yards
of the ape. As for the natives, one more courageous than his comrades
had thrust at the savage animal with a spear, and had left the weapon
sticking in his back. But he might just as well have used a thorn from
a neighbouring tree for all the effect it produced, for the mias did
not seem to notice it, and, turning as the man dodged round him, went
running towards him, still holding the unfortunate native between his
teeth. And now the air was full of shouts of consternation as the
natives dodged about their comrade. A few attempted to follow the
example set by one of their brothers, but the gleaming fangs, the fierce
snarl to which the animal gave vent as each approached, caused their
courage to vanish, and instead of throwing themselves upon the ape
in a body, with the firm determination to rescue their unhappy friend,
they darted farther away, and stood there brandishing their weapons and
calling in frightened voices to one another. Imagine their amazement
when a white man suddenly burst from the trees and rushed upon the scene!

[Illustration: "HE SPRANG AT TYLER"]

"Out of the way!" shouted Tyler, as if the natives could understand him.
"Now, be ready to help me should I fail in shooting the brute. John,
come up on the opposite side and let him have a bullet from your gun
also."

Stepping carefully towards the ape, Tyler advanced with outstretched
weapon, prepared to raise it to his shoulder the instant that an
opportunity presented of firing without injuring the man; but the ape
seemed to guess at his intention, for, seeing another of his enemies
approaching, he suddenly opened his mouth, and, relinquishing his grip
of the arm, tossed the native to one side. Then, with another of those
formidable and unexpected leaps he sprang at Tyler, alighting within
a few feet of him. A terrible sight he was too, with enormous fangs
exposed and his lip and nose wrinkled and contracted as he snarled. His
small, ferrety eyes seemed to flash fire at the intruder, while each
muscle of his enormous body stood out like a cord as he prepared for the
attack. Indeed, so formidable was his appearance that our hero almost
faltered and gave back. But the imminence of his peril, the fact that if
he but turned his back for a moment the beast would be upon him, kept
him with his face to the foe. And then his spirit, the fine courage
which he undoubtedly possessed, and which had already stood him in such
good stead, came to his help, and at once, levelling his weapon, he
fired at the ape.

"Jump!" shouted John Marshall, seeing that the brute had failed to drop.
"Out of the way, sir, or he will get you in his grip!"

Quickly though the warning was given, it came too late to save Tyler
from the fury of this strange enemy, for, stung to madness by the pain
of his wound, the mias gave vent to a snarl of rage and leapt full upon
our hero's shoulders. The brawny arms encircled the figure of the white
man, and once more the capacious jaws opened in readiness to bite. A
moment and the gleaming teeth would have closed upon the back of Tyler's
neck, when John Marshall sprang to his aid, and, holding his fire for
fear of killing his leader, thrust the muzzle of his weapon between the
jaws. Then all three fell upon the ground and struggled there together,
while the natives who had so unexpectedly arrived in the clearing looked
on in utter amazement, incapable of giving help to those who had come so
gallantly to the rescue.

"Hold it there! Keep your gun between his teeth for a little longer,"
shouted Tyler, with difficulty keeping his presence of mind. "My right
hand is almost free, and very soon I shall be able to draw my revolver."

Putting out all his strength, he slowly drew the arm from the powerful
grip which held it to his side, and then rapidly felt for a weapon. His
fingers lit upon the butt of a revolver, and in a trice the muzzle was
thrust against the hairy chest of his opponent. Bang! As the report rang
out the lanky arms suddenly fell away, the jaws opened wide as if in
another effort to tear the limbs of his white-faced enemy, and then with
a sigh the terrible mias collapsed upon the ground, where he lay with
arms and legs spread out in all directions. As for Tyler, he sprang to
his feet with a cry of triumph, and, forgetful of the natives around,
who as yet might prove to be enemies, he turned with extended hand to
thank his companion.

"You saved my life, old friend," he said, in tones which showed his
gratitude. "Had it not been for the fact that your weapon was thrust
between his teeth he would have killed me; he would have gripped me in
that awful mouth, and would have choked the life out of my body. I thank
you from the bottom of my heart!"

"You're welcome, sir. I'd do the same every day of my life if you was to
call for my help, for I tell yer, in this world one good turn deserves
another. Where would I ha' been if it hadn't been for you, I'd like to
know. Jest washing about in the sea outside, I reckon, and food for the
fishes. It was you, begging yer pardon, sir, who beat off them pirates,
and if it hadn't been for yer quickness we should ha' been taken by
Hans Schlott and his villains. So, yer see, we're even, and there ain't
nothing more to be said about the matter. But what about these chaps
here?"

He turned and pointed to the natives, who stood about them still
in open-mouthed amazement, looking at the white men in speechless
astonishment.

"We must make friends with them," was Tyler's instant answer. "We have
suddenly come to their help, and they will surely be grateful. But first
of all let us look at the poor fellow who was seized by the ape. I am
afraid that he has been very seriously injured."

"He's dead, sir," responded John, stepping across to the body. "That
bite would have been enough for most anyone, but I see the mias give him
a squeeze just before he threw him to the ground, and I reckon it jest
broke every rib in his body. He's dead, sure enough, and there's no use
worrying longer about him. But about these chaps. There's another coming
this way, and what's more, he's a Chinaman."

"Then he may understand our language," burst in Tyler, for he had learnt
from Mr. Beverley that the island of Borneo contained many of the race,
who frequently sailed there after residence at Singapore. "Call him
here, John, and let us attempt to talk with him."

Leaving the dead native lying upon the ground, and the enormous ape
huddled in the centre of the clearing beside him, they walked towards
the figure of a Chinaman who had emerged from the forest a few minutes
before. As for the latter, he advanced towards them with a cry of
delight and without the slightest sign of fear, and arriving within a
yard of them, halted suddenly, and salaamed to them as if he realized at
once that they were his masters.

"Li Sung him velly glad you comee," he said, with another of his curious
bobs, which set his pigtail swaying. "Li Sung him comee along with
natives and chase de mias. He reachee de edge of de forest in time to
watchee de battle. Li Sung givee kow-tow. Him see velly great brave men
before him."

"And you speak English," exclaimed Tyler with delight, "and will be able
to show these friends of yours that we are not here to injure them. Who
are they? And what do they do?"

"And where do they live?" added the boatswain suddenly. "Look here,
Johnnie, my lad, we're in want of friends, and, what's more, our object
is to get as far away from here as possible, for, like the mias, we are
chased. A Dutchman and his cruel pirates are after us, and their prahu
lies in the river beyond the trees."

"Den dey are our enemies as well," was the Chinaman's quick answer. "We
livee a few miles on through de forest, and de tribe wid whom I workee
am peaceful Dyaks. Dey sow de rice and work in de paddy-fields. But
sometimes dese pirates comee deir way and den dey fight, for if not dey
am killed and deir heads taken. Yes, de pirates am velly nasty men, and
we hatee dem."

"Then the Dyak people with whom you live will befriend us," said Tyler.
"Talk to them and tell them who we are, and why it is that we are here.
Say that we will do them no harm, but in return for the help which we
have given them just now we will ask them to shelter us for a time until
we can proceed on our journey to Sarawak."

"You go dere?" cried Li Sung eagerly, pricking up his ears at the
mention of Sarawak. "Den me comee too, for Li Sung havee wifee in
Sarawak. But me talkee to de natives."

He went off at once to do Tyler's bidding, while the latter conversed in
low tones with his companion.

"We are in luck," said Tyler, sitting upon the ground, for, now that
the excitement was over, he was feeling fatigued and somewhat shaken
after his struggle with the ape. "It seems that Li Sung, this Chinaman,
also wishes to make for Sarawak, and we will most gladly take him with
us, for it is clear that he has some acquaintance with the country, and
in addition can speak the language of these Dyaks, a fact which will be
of the utmost value to us. It is evident that he is pointing out to the
natives what we have done for them, and I could see when he was talking
to us that his bobs and kow-towing impressed them with an idea of our
importance. Nothing could be better for us, for the more they respect
us the safer we shall be. But here he comes again, and I see that he is
bringing the natives with him."

"Li Sung him say allee dat you tellee him," began the Chinaman, "and de
natives ask you to stop wid dem. Dat was deir chief," and the Chinaman
pointed to the unfortunate Dyak who had fallen a victim to the ferocity
of the ape, "and dey ask dat you takee his place. Dey also say dat dis
Dutchman has fought dem before, and coming upon dem suddenly has killed
many of deir comrades. Den he has sailed away, taking de wives and
children with him as slaves. He will follow you, dat is for sure, and
dese people will have to fight. Dey ask, den, dat you place yourself at
deir head and lead dem, for in attacking de mias allee alone you have
shown dat you am brave and strong."

Once more the pigtail swung from side to side while the Chinaman
kow-towed to Tyler. Then he stood erect again, and with outstretched
hands repeated his message.

"Helpee dem," he pleaded, "and dey will drive dis Dutchman back. Refuse,
and all whom you see here will die, while deir homes will be broken up.
Dose dey care for will become slaves, and will be taken miles and miles
away among strange people, while dose who are left with deir lives will
find deir crops ruined and deir fruit-trees, upon which dey feed far
more dan upon de rice, cut to the ground."

"Their chief!" exclaimed Tyler in astonishment. "You may tell them, Li
Sung, that I will take the place for a time, but they must understand
that at the first opportunity I shall leave for Sarawak. But we cannot
discuss the matter here, and therefore I suggest that we march at once
for their village. Lead the way and we will follow."

With a sharp bob and a shake of his pigtail the Chinaman showed that
he understood the order and fully agreed with it Then he turned about,
and, shouting some words to the Dyaks, led the way into the forest As
for the latter, they ran to the centre of the clearing, and while a few
lifted the body of their comrade and commenced to carry him away, the
remainder hastily searched for a suitable bough and made preparations
to remove the mias. A couple of lengths of creeper at once filled the
place of ropes with which to bind the wrists and ankles of the animal
together. Then a long stout bough was thrust between them, and three men
attached themselves to either end. At a given signal they lifted their
burden, and, resting the pole upon their shoulders, went staggering off
towards the forest. As for Tyler and John Marshall, they fell in behind
and trudged along, their minds so full of the turn which events had
taken, and of the strange and unexpected manner in which they had fallen
amongst friends, that conversation was impossible.

Very soon the procession came to a path which had evidently been trodden
by many feet, and turning along this they pushed their way through a
belt of forest which would have been impracticable had it not been for
the fact that the hand of man had been at work clearing the undergrowth.
On every hand enormous giants reared their leafy heads into the air,
for the most part ascending some fifty feet or more before giving out
a branch, while, crowded in between them, trailing this way and that
in fantastic festoons, and embracing their more powerful brothers as
if to protect them or to obtain support from their strength, were long
creepers, with leaves of the most delicate and vivid green.

"And look at the flowers," said Tyler, who now for the first time was
able to take note of his surroundings, and observe the beauties of the
island of Borneo. "Whenever we happen to come upon a spot where the
trees stand back and permit the rays of the sun to penetrate, orchids
and other tropical blooms can be seen in profusion, dangling often from
the tree tops."

"Yes, and there are palms, sir, and won't we jest enjoy them," was the
sailor's reply as he pointed to several of that variety. "Nothing like
cocoa-nuts to quench the thirst on a boiling hot day."

"And evidently the natives believe in them, John, for you can see that
they have erected bamboo ladders against some of the trees, and have
settled their abode in the midst of a plantation. Now how will they
receive us, I wonder?"

By now they had come to a break in the forest path, and the trees
suddenly ceased to spring up on either side. A glance at once showed
that the woodman's axe had been busy here, and had kept the jungle
at bay. Large areas of flat and open ground were to be seen, and all
under cultivation; while farther on, a plantation of palms and abundant
fruit-trees overhung an enormous house, around which swarmed numerous
natives.

"The village!" exclaimed Tyler. "Seeing that long hut reminds me
that Mr. Beverley told me that these Dyaks seldom have separate
establishments for their families, but prefer to live under the same
roof. In fact, some of their residences harbour five hundred people, and
are some hundreds of feet in length. But here we are, and now I suppose
that there will be a talk."

Reassured by the friendly glances of the natives, and by the words of
the Chinaman, who had now rejoined them, the two young fellows marched
up to the village hut with heads in the air and a smile upon their lips.
But all the while their senses were fully alert, for they had heard
before now of treachery, and it was well to be prepared. However, there
was no need for alarm, for scarcely had they reached the steep ladder
which led to the living floor than a number of women appeared bearing
food for them.

"If de Englishmen will be seated deir wants will be looked to," said
Li Sung, again kow-towing, a sign of respect which the Dyaks at once
imitated. "Li Sung can assure dem dat dere is noding to fear, for dese
men am velly friendly. Dey have seen de brave act which was meant to
save de life of a comrade, and they are for ever in the debt of deir
visitors. But dey bid you hasten, for if dere am evil men who hunt for
you, it will not do to sitee long at food. After you have eaten we will
talkee, and my master shall say what course it will be wise to follow."

"Then we shall be ready very soon, Li Sung, for we have no wish to fall
into the clutches of the Dutchman. In five minutes we shall be ready,
and you can bring the chief men along. Now bring the food."

With a wave of his hand the Chinaman bade the Dyak women come forward
with their trays, and soon the two fugitives were indulging in an
excellent meal.

"It beats everything," exclaimed John Marshall with enthusiasm as he
settled himself to do justice to the repast. "An hour ago we were flying
who knows where, and wondering whether we should escape with our lives.
And now we suddenly find ourselves in proper trim, with victuals and
drink to spare!"

"But with a great deal before us," interrupted Tyler thoughtfully,
staring hard at the ground as though that would help him to decide what
their next step was to be. "We have an enemy to think of, John, and
sitting here will not save us from him. I am wondering what chance these
Dyaks would have against Hanns Schlott, for, as you see, they are but
rudely armed, and have not a single firearm amongst them. It seems to me
that it will be better for them, perhaps better for us also, if we agree
to part company at once, for otherwise we shall be the cause of their
getting into trouble."

"And if we leave they will still have to meet the Dutchman," said the
boatswain swiftly. "I say that this Hans Schlott will come this way once
his trackers have got on our line, and, remembering that there are Dyaks
in the neighbourhood, will make a raid upon them. The rascal makes his
living by piracy, and when that fails he takes slaves and gets money by
them. So he'll attack 'em, and it'll not make so much as a farthing's
difference if we remain or not."

"De words am true," broke in the voice of Li Sung at this moment. "My
massa, Li havee already said dat dis captain of de prahu am known to
us. A year has passed since he sailed into de river, but we havee not
forgotten. See dere. De trees are but sprouting from de ground, and if
we had not had others to draw from elsewhere we should have starved."

He pointed to a portion of the plantation where numerous stumps
protruded from amongst the vegetation.

"Yes, dere are de remains of de fruit-trees," continued Li Sung, "and
deir loss was almost as bitter as de theft of de wives and children.
Massa, de men here am in terror. Were dey to knowee all dat you havee
told me dey would fly velly quick, for dis Dutchman am a monster in deir
eyes. But here am de chiefs, and we will talkee wid dem."

He beckoned to a number of natives who had squatted near at hand, and
at the signal they ascended the ladder and sat down before Tyler with
an air of gravity which showed that if they were not fully aware of the
close proximity of the pirates they were for all that fearful of some
impending danger.

"Tell the white man that we are his children," said their spokesman,
addressing his words to Li Sung, who at once interpreted them. "From
the moment when he dashed into the clearing and faced the mias in the
hope of rescuing our young chief we were his friends for life. And now
that we are without a leader we ask him to fill the place, at least for
a time. Say also that we have heard enough to show us that, the pirates
are near, and that if he and his friend leave us we shall certainly
fall victims. Would that we could change our home, for the soil is now
past the work we demand of it, and more of the jungle must be cleared.
Then, again, our lives are never safe while we remain near the river,
while the mias, tribes of which inhabit the forests near at hand, rob
our trees of their fruit, and make their cultivation hopeless. We are
dispirited, and now a new misfortune is upon us."

"Change their home! The soil is worked out, and misfortunes constantly
coming!" murmured Tyler as if to himself, while his eyes roamed round
the circle of Dyaks, "Why not change their abode? Why not come to
Sarawak with us and there have peace and safety under the Englishman?"

Unconsciously he said the words aloud, so that John Marshall overheard
them, and instantly the latter's features brightened with a smile, while
he turned with unusual eagerness to his young leader.

"I know somethin' about these here Dyaks and the China boys," he said,
"for away in Singapore one met plenty of the last who had been to
Borneo, and who told the tale that the tribes often wander in search
of new fields for cultivation. Yer see, a couple of seasons work the
nourishment out of the soil, so that it jest refuses to give good value
for the labour expended on it. Then the Dyaks pack up their goods and
jest march right away till they come to a likely neighbourhood. Having
settled upon their new home they set to work to cut down the jungle, and
then to lay out their crops. As for a house, it is nothing to build, and
takes little more than a week, for you can see for yourself that the
materials are close at hand, and everything jest done to last a short
time only. Then, too, they've got to think of enemies, and I've heard it
said that everyone is against these poor helpless people. They ain't got
no firearms as a general rule, and I reckon they're at anyone's mercy.
Now if we was to lead them, and, after beating back this Hanns Schlott
and his fellows, to march with the whole lot to Sarawak, we should be
doing them a good turn, while their company would make our journey all
the more secure."

"And at the end we should bring them under the protection of James
Brooke of Sarawak," added Tyler. "Mr. Beverley, who was an admirer of
that pioneer, told me that the latter's chief aim and object in coming
to Borneo, and in settling at Sarawak, was to look after the interests
of the unfortunate Dyaks, who are fleeced, and murdered, and taken into
slavery by powerful gangs of pirates composed of Malays and sea-coast
Dyaks as well. Their lot, indeed, is a very hard one, and by persuading
these people here to join us in our journey we should be doing them no
harm. Indeed we should be conferring a benefit upon them. I admit that
the journey is a long one, but then a brighter prospect will be before
them at the end. But let us put the suggestion to them, when they can
consider it for themselves. Listen," he went on, addressing himself
to the Chinaman, "my friend and I will do what we can to lead you and
protect you, and it has occurred to us that if these people here are
considering a move, and above all, if by remaining here they are to run
the danger of constant attack at the hands of the pirates, it would be
better for them to go far away and leave this neighbourhood altogether.
We are bound for Sarawak, where James Brooke has made his home, and is
fighting to bring peace to the natives. Ask them whether they would care
to make the journey with us, and find their new home in the place that I
have spoken of."

Leaning back against the wall of the native hut, Tyler watched the faces
of the Dyak tribesmen as the proposition was put before them, and noted
the eagerness with which they listened to Li Sung's words. That they
were impressed by the proposal became quickly evident, for at once they
began to discuss the matter with every sign of interest, and, conscious
that upon their decision the fate of their comrades would depend, they
promptly called to those who stood about them to join in their council.

"But we must not forget the pirates," said their leader, arresting the
conversation for a moment. "I have already placed a few men in the
forest to keep watch, but now I will send others to the bank of the
river there to spy upon their movements. Then if this Dutchman comes
in this direction we shall have warning of the fact, and shall be able
to stand or retire as seems most advisable. And now to settle this
important question."

For almost an hour did the tribesmen devote themselves to Tyler's
proposition, and having made up their minds as to how they would act,
turned to the Chinaman to interpret their meaning.

"Say that we are well satisfied with the wisdom of this journey," began
their spokesman, "and are prepared to make the venture. Even to this
remote part the fame of this Englishman has reached, and every report
tells how he cares for our poor brothers, and slaves so that they shall
lead peaceful lives. He knows that the Dyaks of the land are a contented
people, and that they are willing for the most part to till the soil
and live the simple life of peasants. We wish for nothing more, and
as journeying to the country about Sarawak promises a change in our
existence, we will take the risk and accompany the young Englishman who
has become our chief."

"Then we will at once make arrangements to set out," exclaimed Tyler,
rising briskly to his feet, "for I am perfectly certain that we have no
time for delay. Tell them, Li Sung, that they are to collect the women
and children together immediately, and pack up any valuables that they
may have. Nothing beyond that which is absolutely necessary must be
taken, for we shall have arms to carry with us, and, besides, a supply
of food will be of the greatest importance, for then we shall have
provisions for the first day's march, a time when our attentions are
likely to be engaged with the enemy. And that brings me to the question
of the pirates. Shall we make a stand here and endeavour to beat them
back, or shall we march on at once, leaving them to follow if they care?"

"Neither the one nor the other, that's how I reckon it," answered
John Marshall promptly. "Yer see, sir, these here natives ain't got a
single gun amongst them, and ain't a match for the Dutchman and his
crew. Mind yer, I don't think much of our enemies after the blows we
give them, but they've got guns in plenty, and what's more, they've
already come this way and scared these poor fellows. We've a forest
between us and the river, and I votes that we fill it up with our men,
giving them orders to retire gradually, but not before they have picked
off as many of the pirates as possible. They've plenty of sumpitans
amongst them, as they call their blow-pipes, and for silent forest work
no weapon could be better. If the Dutchman pushes on, our men will
retire and finally disappear altogether."

[Illustration: THE CONFERENCE WITH THE TRIBESMEN]

"An excellent plan," exclaimed Tyler, who had listened attentively all
the while, "for while a few of our men engage the enemy in the forest,
the women and children with the bulk of the tribe can be pushing on
towards Sarawak. Every half-hour gained in such a way will be of the
utmost importance, while the process of checking the pirates can be
repeated on a second occasion. Now let us learn the strength of our
forces. Tell me," he went on, addressing the Chinaman, "how many men are
there in this tribe, and what is the number of women and children to
whose safety we shall have to look."

"Three hundred allee told," replied Li Sung, elevating three fingers the
better to show his meaning, "and half can helpee you wid deir weapons,
while de others am too old or too young to joinee in de fighting."

"Then we will keep fifty in reserve, while you, John, will at once push
on with the greater force. Send a few men in advance, and throw out
a rear-guard, with whom we will endeavour to keep in touch. I shall
command the party in the forest, and shall join you when all danger
of pursuit has ended. And now let us see to preparations, for we have
already delayed too long."

Springing to their feet, they hurriedly gave their orders to Li Sung,
who interpreted them to the Dyaks. Then, leaving the boatswain to
marshal the larger proportion of the tribe and hurry them on their way,
Tyler shouldered his rifle, and, waving an adieu to his companion, went
off into the forest accompanied by Li Sung and fifty of the Dyaks.

"We will call a halt here and listen to what our scouts have to tell
us," he said when they had penetrated some little distance. "Then if
Hanns Schlott and his men have not yet put in an appearance we will
march on and lie in wait beside the river. That will give us a good five
miles of jungle through which to retire and harass the foe. Send two of
the men forward, Li Sung, so that they may recall a couple of the scouts
and take their places while the latter return to give us their tidings."

Seating himself upon the root of a tree, for the day had been a
fatiguing one and he felt in need of rest, Tyler chatted in low tones
with the Chinaman while he waited with what patience he could command
for the coming of the men who had been sent forward to spy upon the
pirates. Nor was he put severely to the test, for the men whom Li Sung
had despatched to recall them had taken to their heels at once, and had
gone running through the jungle at a pace which would have taxed the
powers of anyone less agile. Trained to the forest and to woodcraft from
their very earliest days, they seemed to find their way through the
thickest undergrowth as if they had been there hundreds of times before.
Indeed, nothing seemed to stop them, for if a dense bush or the root of
a tree were too low to be easily passed under they leapt the obstacle
without a moment's hesitation, and went on their way without faltering
and without a halt. Half an hour later two figures came bounding from
amongst the trees and drew up at Tyler's feet.

"The news?" he demanded eagerly. "Where is this Dutchman and his crew of
desperadoes?"

"De men say dat de pirates allee lightee so far," said Li Sung, rapidly
gathering their information and interpreting it to his young leader.
"Dey say dat dey have watched beside de river, where, too, they came
across de spot where you and de other massa dropped from de tree. De
Dutchman am troubled. Him not knowee where him turn, but as he not
findee you on de other shore him now sail de prahu dis way. When de man
leave de swamp de pirates just get into de boat and row dis way."

"Then they will soon hit upon our trail," exclaimed Tyler, "and we
must be there in readiness to meet them. Let the men spread out till
a few yards separate each one. We will advance upon the river in that
order, and you may tell them that they will keep the same positions when
returning. For the last movement they will take their orders direct from
me, and as soon as a word is passed down the line each will turn about
and will run back fifty yards, but no more. Later on we will repeat the
same movements, and gradually will retire through the forest. Let the
Dyaks know that I and my friend fought this Dutchman and his full crew,
and made good our escape, and inform them also that upon their bravery
will depend the safety of their wives and children. And now, forward is
the word."

Springing to his feet, Tyler followed the Chinaman through the jungle,
noting with pleasure as he did so that the Dyaks under his command had
instantly obeyed his orders, and, seeming to grasp his meaning at once,
had separated. Then, too, he could not fail to see that they were in
better spirits than formerly, and that his presence amongst them, and
the example of coolness which he set them, had already roused their
courage.

"Anoder time and dey would have run for deir lives," explained Li Sung,
twisting his pigtail into a knot upon the back of his head, so as to
keep it clear of the thorns and brambles which abounded on every hand.
"Now dey tink dat dey safe from de Dutchman, and dey smile and feel
allee merry. Dey will stand by massa velly well, for dey have seen him
fight de mias."

An hour's rapid walk through the forest at length brought Tyler and his
men to the belt of swamp which fringed the river, and here they joined
hands with the scouts who had already been sent to the spot, to learn at
once that the prahu had dropped her anchor off the shore and had sent
some fifty men into a couple of boats. The latter had been rowed towards
the forest, and a few moments before Tyler's arrival had disappeared
within the trees.

"Then we can expect them at any time," said Tyler when the report was
brought to him, "but for the present we will retire fifty yards from the
swamp, and will take up a position between our friends and the point
where I and my companion landed. When they come to that the pirates will
turn inland, and we shall be able to give them a lesson. Repeat to the
Dyaks that they are on no account to show themselves. The presence of
an enemy must be followed by the discharge of an arrow through their
blow-pipes and by withdrawal into another position close at hand. They
are not to retire more than a few feet until they get the word from me,
or unless some special circumstance makes it necessary. Now come with me
and help to place our men."

Followed by Li Sung he went off through the jungle, and ere long had the
satisfaction of feeling that all his preparations were completed. Then
he lay down under a dense mass of bramble and creeper, and waited for
the enemy to appear.

"Hush, massa! de Dutchman him coming dis way," suddenly whispered Li
Sung, pointing to the right, "and him velly much troubled. Him hunt and
hunt and not find de Englishman, and him velly angry."

"But he and his men will not be long now in picking up our tracks,"
answered Tyler beneath his breath. "Look! there are the Malays
following, and very soon they will have some news to give their leader.
That will be the moment for us to surprise them."

Peering from beneath the leaves which screened him, Tyler saw the burly
Hanns Schlott trudging along upon the higher land which lay beside the
swamp. His eyes wandered restlessly in every direction, whilst his face
looked drawn and haggard, as though fear of the punishment in store for
him for his crime were weighing upon his mind. Eagerly did he turn aside
to inspect each broken twig which caught his eye, lest at last this
should be a sign of the fugitives; and when at length one of the Malay
crew who walked beside him called his attention to some footprints in
the ground, the Dutchman gave vent to a shout of triumph which startled
the forest and at once called all his men about him. Then, placing two
possessed of the keenest sight a few paces in advance, he plunged into
the jungle, determined to follow wherever the footmarks led.



CHAPTER IX

On Foot through the Jungle


Well was it for Tyler and the Dyaks, whose chief he had so suddenly
become, that he had made arrangements for meeting the enemy with such
thoroughness; for otherwise Hanns Schlott and the fifty men or more
who accompanied him would have pushed on through the forest at a pace
which would rapidly have eclipsed that of the retreating tribe and
would have speedily overwhelmed them. But there were those lurking in
the jungle prepared to arrest the progress of the pirates, and thanks
to the resolute air which Tyler had displayed, and to the knowledge
which the Dyaks now possessed, that he, with John Marshall alone to
help him, had faced the crew of the prahu and safely escaped, they were
full of confidence in their young chief's powers to lead them and bring
them safely out of the engagement. Crouching there amongst the dense
undergrowth, each man lifted the long wooden blow-pipe which these Dyak
tribes use, and having already placed within it a sharp-pointed arrow,
at the base of which was a pith-bulb to hold the air, they pointed them
at the Malays and waited for the word to fire.

Hish! One of the pirates who had been sent in advance to follow the
tracks of the fugitives gave a gasping cry, and fell upon his face, his
hands convulsively grasping one of the tiny arrows.

"What has happened?" demanded Hans Schlott, giving a start of surprise.
"Get up at once, and do not alarm us by your antics. Come, drag the
fellow to his feet," he went on, seeing that the Malay lay still with
his head buried in the undergrowth. "He imagines himself hurt, and will
lie there till we force him to rise."

"He is dead!" exclaimed one of his comrades, rushing to his side and
turning him upon his back. "See here, someone has fired at him with a
blow-pipe. It must be the Dyaks who have been watching."

"Then they shall suffer!" burst in the Dutchman with an oath. "Once
before we raided them, and a fine fat sum we gained by our slaves, I
recollect. They shall be punished again, and in the meanwhile the death
of one of our number shall not deter us. Push on, and keep your eyes
open wide for these snakes of natives. A shot into the jungle will soon
scare them Ho there! Level your weapons, all of you, and direct them so
as to sweep close to the ground. Then pull the triggers as I give the
word."

Waiting till all his men had run to him, and had become ready to carry
out his orders, Hanns Schlott shouted "Fire!" a volley of musketry being
at once poured into the bushes. Then with an answering shout his men
sprang forward upon the trail. As for Tyler and his little force, for
the moment the Dyaks were dismayed at the swishing bullets and at the
patter of twigs and leaves which resulted. But they had suffered no
harm, and that thanks to the fact that each one had kept his eyes fixed
upon the enemy, and at the first sign of the movement had lain flat upon
the ground. But in spite of their lucky escape they would have given
back at once, and have plunged in mad flight into the forest, had it not
been for Tyler. With a shout to encourage them, he fired at the nearest
Malay and brought him staggering upon the ground. Then Li Sung's voice
joined in and helped to maintain the courage of the Dyaks.

"Fear them not!" he cried in the Dyak language. "We are as yet unseen,
and can punish them. Think of the women and children taken into
captivity by these men! Keep your places and shoot straight!"

"I heard the voice of that Englishman," shouted Hanns Schlott. "Then
he has picked up some of the Dyaks and hopes to beat us back with their
aid. But he will soon learn that they are poor fighters, and will desert
him. Forward, and do not let these men keep you!"

Striding to the front of his men, he led the way into the jungle,
feeling confident that, at the most, the white men for whom he searched
could not have obtained the help of more than a few of the natives. But
he quickly changed his mind, for ere he had traversed a dozen paces one
of the silent missiles again swished with its low peculiar note through
the air, and, striking the Dutchman in the shoulder, brought him to a
sudden halt.

"A second arrow, but not poisoned!" he cried, giving vent to an
exclamation of annoyance and pain, "Not poisoned, as I said, my men, for
that I happen to know. It is nothing--a mere pin-prick--and shall not
stop us. On! shoot them down, and capture this runaway!"

Plucking the arrow from his clothing and from the flesh beneath, Hans
Schlott sprang boldly into the underwood, a drawn revolver in each hand.
But his men held back doubtfully, their fears aroused by the sound of
Tyler's voice.

"They have guns! The white men will turn them upon us as they did on
the schooner, and we shall be killed!" called out one of their number,
retreating towards the swamp. "See! a comrade has already paid with his
life, and others of us will fall. They are unseen also, while we are an
open target."

"You at least are in sight," was the Dutchman's answer, as he swung
round upon his cowardly follower. "Move another step backwards and
I will fire! Come, do not be frightened by his tale," he went on as
the man came to a sudden halt and stood trembling before the weapon
which his leader held levelled at his breast. "You are not all so
chicken-hearted as this girl! Will you be driven back, and for the third
time at least, by a couple of boys without hair on their white faces,
and by a few half-starved natives whose knees knock at the mention of
your names? Forward! Charge through the forest and hunt these rats out!"

Emboldened by his words, the pirates quickly recovered their spirit,
and, seeing that Hanns Schlott was prepared to lead them in person, at
once fell in behind him, and, rifle in hand, plunged into the jungle.
Separating, so that a considerable interval lay between each man, they
threw themselves down upon their knees so as to render themselves less
visible, and in this manner began to stalk their enemies.

"We will retire at once," said Tyler, perceiving their action, and
realizing that, now that they were fully alarmed and had knowledge of
the presence of enemies, the pirates would creep to close quarters and
ruin his plans. "By remaining here we run the chance of having the
Malays upon us and of engaging in a hand-to-hand struggle. That is just
what I do not want, for then the Dyaks will be beaten, and at the sight
of their old enemies will turn and fly. We will retire some two hundred
yards, and perhaps when Hanns Schlott and his men see that the forest
directly in front of them is clear they will imagine that we have gone
altogether. In that case we shall be able to surprise them again. Give
the word, Li Sung."

"I will give de signal which all know," was the answer. "Li Sung him
make de sound of de parrot. Plenty same bird in de forest, and men of
Dyak tribe know at once that dey are to creep back. Dere!"

Rising swiftly to his feet the Chinaman sounded the note of a parrot,
and again falling upon his knees began to crawl off through the
undergrowth. Tyler also turned about, and went off swiftly in the wake
of Li Sung, taking good care to keep his head low. When he had traversed
some two hundred yards, and all sounds of the pirates had ceased for
some little time, he called gently to his guide and motioned to him to
come to a halt.

"We are far enough now, I think," he said calmly. "Give the signal
again, and then lead me round to inspect the positions taken up by
the natives. Give each one directions also to be ready to retire again
at any moment, only they are not to forget that on the next occasion
they are to crawl only some fifty yards, unless, as has happened this
time, they see me retire still farther. Now hurry, and, above all, keep
silence."

Having brought the Dyaks to a halt by the signal, Li Sung went off
on all-fours at a rapid rate, taxing Tyler's strength to the full to
keep up with him. A gentle call as they went soon brought them to the
lurking-place which each individual had selected, and at once the orders
were handed to him, the Chinaman acting as interpreter.

"Now back," said Tyler, when all was to his satisfaction. "Let me know
the instant that the pirates come near us."

"No need to tellee dat," said Li Sung. "Massa him keepee little ear
widee open and him hear. De Malay man come swift velly soon. Him tink no
little man wait for de pirates, but allee gone. 'Velly fine,' him say to
himself, but wait. Li Sung know muchee better dan dat. S-s-s-s-h! I tink
I hear dem."

The gentle rustle of leaves brushed aside, and the snap of breaking
twigs under foot, broke upon the ear and brought Tyler full length to
the earth once more, where, burying his head in the centre of a dense
bush, he peered amongst the trees.

"Hish! S-s-s-sh!" came again from the pigtailed Chinaman. "Li Sung him
can hear men over dere, and dey not creeping. Dey walking wid head velly
high, and dem say dat de white man whom dey hate havee gone away. Wait a
little bitee. De Dyaks and deir friend soon tellee anoder story. Hish!"

Lying beside Tyler, he whispered the words into his ear, and then pulled
him by the sleeve as louder sounds than usual issued from the jungle.
Then as both peered from their leafy screen, first one, and then some
thirty of the Malays came into view, while behind them their comrades
could be heard calling. As for the Dutchman, he was not long in putting
in an appearance, for, as the last of the pirates hurried up, he too
walked forward, all unconscious of the fact that fifty pair of watching
eyes were fixed upon him.

"A wild-goose chase!" he was saying to his men, while a sneer wreathed
his features. "The white hero has at last given way, and has fled
with these savages. But we will soon catch them up, for they are but
poorly fed, and will be hampered with their women and children. Keep
together, and let one only take the lead, so that the tracks shall not
be smothered. Now."

In a bunch all came forward at his bidding, while one of their number
whom Hanns Schlott called by name sprang to their front and began to
lead the way. Now was the time for Tyler and his men, and waiting only
till the enemy were within easy shot of the blow-pipes, the former
shouted so that all could hear, and at the same time fired his rifle
into the middle of the Malays. A second discharge followed, and ere
Hanns Schlott and his men could recover from their astonishment, or
could realize the fact that six of their number had fallen, the silent
watchers had stolen off on hands and knees and had taken up another
position some fifty yards in rear.

Twice again did the Dyaks under Tyler's lead cause loss to the enemy,
for though the latter now came through the jungle feeling their way
by inches, and probing every bush with their bullets, the watchers
constantly moved their position, and always directed their arrows from a
different quarter. At length Hanns Schlott realized that to go farther
would be to risk being surrounded and cut off, and with an oath at once
ordered a retreat.

"Walk back to the swamp slowly, and keep in hiding all the time," he
said as he turned about. "Then they will not be able to rush us, and we
shall reach our boats in safety. I will keep in your centre, so that
all may know that I am with you. As for you, Tyler Richardson," he
shouted over his shoulder, "you have beaten me this time, and have won
handsomely; but you shall know what it is to be hunted. I tell you that
I will sail at once to my friends, and when I return it will be with
hundreds. Yes, hundreds shall come who will be willing and eager to do
my bidding. Then I will follow across the land, even as far as Sarawak,
where your countryman has set up his rule. And more than that, I will
cut off your journey on the way, for there are rivers to be crossed,
my friend, and you shall find that some of the sea Dyaks are there to
stop you and to fall upon their brothers of the land, whom they hate
and whose heads they long for. Adieu for the present! Soon, very soon,
I shall have your head, and then I tell you that I will place it in a
basket and hang it at the foretop of the prahu so that all who care can
see what is the fate of a beggarly Englishman."

"I will not deign to answer," said Tyler in Li Sung's ear. "He is full
of threats and nothing more. I do not fear him, and as for this tale
of more men, I do not believe that he has them. It is more than likely
that he is merely trying to frighten me, and that until I search for him
myself and come upon him I shall not see him again. He has been badly
beaten, and he will do all that he can after this to keep out of the
way. But he shall not escape, for he is a murderer, and I owe it to my
dead friend to follow till he is taken."

"Den it must be later on," answered Li Sung, elevating his eyebrows and
looking at his young leader with wrinkled brow. "Listen, massa, and Li
Sung him tellee you little ting about de Dutchman. He say he comee after
you wid plenty much men. Him speakee de truth."

"How do you know?" demanded Tyler, turning upon him in surprise.

"Li Sung him know because him once pirate too," was the simple reply.
"Him sail from Singapore for Borneo with plenty dollar in him pocket,
and get captured by de pirates. Dis Dutchman deir leader, wid anoder of
de same country."

"Christian van Sonerell!" exclaimed Tyler, listening eagerly to the news
which the Chinaman was giving him. "He is dead, for he fell when my
friend and I captured the schooner."

"Den he one velly bad man out of de way, massa. Him cruel man and beat
and kick poor Li Sung till him shout for mercy. But me tellee you all.
Dis pirate makee me slave, and set me to pull de oar of one of de
prahus. Dere Li sit for many days, and wid de prahu him go to de Sarebus
tribes."

"The Sarebus tribe! Why, they are notorious pirates," said Tyler. "My
friend who owned the schooner which the pirates captured, and which we
stole from them again, told me that the Malays and Dyaks of the Sarebus
were bloodthirsty in the extreme, and were for ever raiding the coast.
And you went there?"

"Many times, massa. Li Sung him chained to de oar wid many anoder slave,
and him pull and pull until de hands blister and get sore, while de lash
of de pirates cutee him shoulders. But massa not knowee allee about
dese Sarebus men. Dey havee plenty fine prahus, and often dey put to
sea wid fifty or more ships and many hundred men. Den dey cruise along
about Borneo, sometimes going as far even as de China Sea, and ebery
day dey pounce upon de merchant-ships. Sometimes him a native filled
with birds'-nests or gum. And den it am a ship wid white-faces on board.
Dey all suffer de same. De crew am killed wid the kriss, and de ship am
sunk after all her cargo am taken. Dey fear no man, dese pirates, and de
Dutchman am now deir leader. Him follow for sure, massa, and him send
news to de Sarebus tribe to lie in de way."

The Chinaman became suddenly silent, as if the prospect which he had
so suddenly opened out were too much for him. As for Tyler, the news
amazed him, and filled his mind with anxious forebodings. He, too,
had heard of the pirates about Borneo, and had had many a chat on the
subject with Mr. Beverley, from whom he had learned their history. The
Archipelago was, in fact, overrun with these sea-robbers and murderers,
and it had been at first somewhat difficult to realize who were the
peaceful natives and who the piratical ones. But at length Tyler had
come to know that Borneo was peopled with many races, and that the
Malays inhabited many of the coast towns. For years they had beaten down
their Dyak neighbours, and though as a general rule the latter would
have preferred to live quiet lives and till the soil, they had been
compelled to join the Malays simply because of the fact that existence
was impossible in any other way. Still, numbers who lived farther
inland would have nothing to do with the pirates, and had they had the
opportunities would have become contented tribes. But here again the
baneful influence of the new-comers was evidenced, for the Malays ground
down these poor people and fleeced them shamefully. And so, finding
that in spite of diligence and hard work they could not better their
condition, the inland tribes took to making war upon one another.

Head-hunting, which had always been the vogue, became a mania with many
of the tribes, and bloodshed was of daily occurrence. To marry or to
make any change in his existence a man had to obtain a head or heads,
and it mattered little how he came by the trophies. Often he waylaid his
enemy in the forest and slew him without a word of warning, returning in
triumph as though he had done the bravest deed. The death of a king or
chief, a birth, in fact any unusual occasion, had to be celebrated by
the taking of heads, and often, too, by the slaying of slaves.

Again, slavery was common, and the Malays were for ever raiding these
inland tribes by means of the rivers, for the purpose of making
captives, whom they sold. And thus when Tyler landed on the coast of
Borneo it was to find the country in a state of chaos and misery, except
perhaps in the neighbourhood of Sarawak, where James Brooke had settled.
Elsewhere all was given over to violence and piracy, the Dyaks of the
land fighting one another and taking heads, while the Malays and the
Dyaks of the coast, known as the sea Dyaks, ravaged the river towns and
cruised in the open sea. Within a hundred miles of Sarawak there were
many of their strongholds, and perhaps the most important of all was
that at Sarebus, where dwelt the ruffians under Hanns Schlott's command.

For long did Tyler lie there thinking the matter out, until the Chinaman
touched him upon the arm and urged him to retire.

"De pirates gone, but velly soon dey come again in plenty big numbers,"
he said, with a doleful shake of his head. "Better put as much of de
land between us as we can, den de Dutchman have furder to walk, and
perhaps we havee time to comee to Sarawak."

"Then we will retire at once and catch the tribe up, Li Sung. Call the
men together, and send four of the best scouts after the pirates to see
that they really embark. Once they have watched them depart they can
rejoin us, and I have no doubt that they will have little difficulty in
doing so, for they are used to the forest."

"And can run for many hours, massa. Leavee it to dem, and Li Sung him
tellee you dat dey reach de tribe before we are dere."

Once again the shriek of a parrot awoke the forest, bringing all the
men together at once. Then, having taken the precaution to send some
of their number back to the river, there to watch the pirates till
they had gone, and to throw out a few scouts in advance and on either
hand, the main body pushed on at a rapid pace in the wake of their
friends. And now, as they trudged through the jungle, Tyler had ample
opportunity of observing his strange companions. He saw that they were
fine, athletic-looking men, with muscular figures and powerful limbs.
All were almost naked, and the only clothing of which they boasted was
a loin-cloth and a handkerchief of gaudy colouring which encircled the
head. At the waist was slung a pouch containing betel-nut, which all
delighted to chew, while in addition a bundle of arrows was carried.
A short sword, with a handle of carved wood, completed the weapons
of offence, while a big shield of bark, which was slung over the
shoulders, afforded some protection in hand-to-hand contests.

That evening, as the sun was about to set, Tyler and his men came up
with the main portion of the tribe, and found them encamped on the edge
of a small stream which provided abundant water.

"And now to discuss the situation and prepare for to-morrow," said
Tyler, when he had taken something to eat and had thrown himself down
beside John Marshall. "We have a big journey before us, and many dangers
to face. Already I have told you of Hanns Schlott's threat, and of the
Sarebus pirates who will waylay us. What course shall we take? Tell me
what you think, for you have had little else to do for the last few
hours."

"And I can't say that I've been able to fix the matter," was the
sailor's candid answer. "Yer see, sir, I wasn't aware of these here
Sarebus fellers. They jest makes all the difference, and when you tell
me that they're goin' to waylay us, why, it makes me think that we'll
have to retire on the river. We ain't fit to fight a tribe of them
Malays, and if we go on we'll get chopped to pieces. Now there's the
schooner. She'd float with a little help."

"And we should sail away, leaving these unfortunate Dyaks to meet Hanns
Schlott alone," said Tyler quietly. "You did not think of that, did you,
John?"

"You're right there, sir, I didn't, or I'd never have proposed the move.
But I don't see no other way out of the trouble."

"Then we will push on and trust to good fortune and to careful leading.
I have watched the men I had with me in the forest, and I could see
that they were full of excitement at first, and that the very sound
of an approaching pirate made them tremble and think of flight. After
the first brush, however, they began to have confidence in themselves,
and now they are bursting with their own importance. Their spirit will
extend to the others, and if we only foster it, and let them see that
they are as good as the Malays, they will fight hard for their lives,
and for the sake of their women and children.

"But they are useless as they are, for they rush about in a mob, and
there is no commanding them. For that reason we will divide them up
into three companies of fifty, one of which I will look after, while
you and Li Sung lead the others. The remainder will guard the women
and children. We will march in that order, and when we get in the
neighbourhood of the Sarebus river we will send scouts ahead. What do
you think of that plan?"

"It's a good 'un, and of that there ain't a doubt," was John's emphatic
answer; "and next to the idea of a boat I think it's the best. Yer see,
if it had been possible to pack the whole lot on to the schooner we
could have sailed right into Sarawak, and could have easily beaten off
a prahu or two. But it's no use bothering when we all know that the
schooner isn't big enough for half the number."

"While Hanns Schlott may very well have thought of the same thing,"
burst in Tyler, "and for fear that we should refloat her and sail away,
may blow her to pieces, or take her himself. No, a journey by land is
the only thing for us, though should the opportunity arrive of seizing
boats belonging to the pirates I should not hesitate. But now to see to
the camp and to the guards. To-morrow we will arrange the companies and
instruct the men."

Rising to their feet Tyler and his companion went the round of the
camp, taking Li Sung with them to interpret. Then, having seen that
guards were thrown out in the forest, and all precautions taken against
surprise, they wrapped themselves in some rough cloth which the natives
had provided and fell into a deep sleep. Early on the following morning
they were afoot, and calling all the men of the tribe together at once
informed them of their intention to divide them into companies.

"It is the way in which the white men of our race fight," said Tyler,
addressing himself to Li Sung, who obediently interpreted to the
Dyaks. "By splitting our numbers in the way I propose, we provide three
companies capable of acting independently of one another, or together,
while we set them free of the care of the women and children. Of course
if we were hard pressed we should place the latter in the centre, so as
to give them more safety, but we shall hope that it will never come to
that. Again, on the march one company can go in advance, and to it will
be given the task of seeing that the jungle is clear of the enemy. The
second will march in rear and guard that portion, while the third can
roam at will and can replenish our stock of food. I understand that all
of the tribe are trained hunters, and that being the case there should
be no need for us to starve."

"The words of our leader are full of wisdom," replied the young chief
who had formerly addressed Tyler, "and we are willing to do his bidding.
More than that, we are pleased at the manner in which he led the men who
held the pirates back, and we say that while he is with us we are ready
to fight, whatever the numbers opposed to us and whatever the dangers.
He has proved himself a great and wise commander, and we know also that
he is brave. Can we ask for a better leader, and can we refuse what his
experience dictates?"

A guttural exclamation of approval burst from his fellows as Li Sung
turned to interpret the words, while a few who had formed part of the
rear-guard on the previous day sprang to their feet and waved their
weapons above their heads in their excitement.

"Say that we will even fight all these Sarebus pirates," called out one
of them, a fine stalwart man of light complexion. "They will be thinking
of pursuit only, and will never dream, my friends, that we should be
bold enough to throw ourselves upon them. Why, then, should we not take
them by surprise, and ere they could turn upon us in their full numbers,
having recovered from their astonishment, disappear like ghosts, just as
we did but yesterday when in the forest?"

Again a shout of approval burst from the assembled warriors, while the
young chief rose to his feet and, mastering his excitement with an
effort, addressed Tyler for the second time.

"We are even ready to do that," he said slowly. "As our comrade says,
let us change for once from being those who fly. For years it has been
our fate to be hunted. We have toiled and striven for comfort and peace,
and all that we have asked is to be allowed to remain in our homes,
there to live quietly. But time and again have these pirates come upon
us and rooted us out. They have taken wives and children from the tribe,
and they have sent us homeless and scattered into the jungle. Brothers,
the time has come to change all this. But yesterday I should have been
afraid to mention such a thing; indeed, the thought would never have
crossed my brain. But the fighting in the forest, the ease with which we
drove this hated Dutchman and his men back, and the fact that we have
as a leader a man who is brave, who faced the mias without fear, and
who has even escaped from the pirates, having beaten them with the help
of one companion alone, induces me to urge you to think of punishment,
of retaliation. Let us fall upon these pirates swiftly, and when least
expected, and then, as our brother says, and as our leader suggested
yesterday, let us do all that is possible to them and retire into the
depths of the forest ere they can attack us in force. Surely that is a
brighter prospect than to be ever flying? Surely if we are men this is a
plan which should meet with our approval!"

Drawing himself to his full height, the young Dyak looked round at
the tribesmen, searching each face closely. Had he had any doubt of
their wishes in the matter, or of their determination to turn the
tables on their enemies, it was at once dispelled, for with the usual
impulsiveness of these savage people they all with one accord leapt to
their feet, and, brandishing their shields and weapons in the air, set
up a shout of defiance.

"There," said the chief, turning with a grave smile to Tyler, "you see
what can be expected. Two days ago these warriors were only warriors
in name, for all were dispirited. No one has ever led them, and when
we have met the pirates it has always been in scattered groups. Now
you have shown us that by keeping together, by coming upon the enemy
unawares, and by retiring before they can assemble to harm us, we can
meet them with success. We will follow you blindly, and since it is
clear that this Dutchman will do all that he can to take us, and that
death will stare us all in the face, while our women and children will
be captured and made slaves, why, we will fight hard and do all that men
can to defeat our opponents."

"Then we will set about the division of the tribe, and will draw up
rules for the guidance of each company," said Tyler, as soon as the
words had been conveyed to him by the Chinaman. "You can tell them, Li
Sung, that absolute obedience must be given, and that the arrangement
must be carried out at once."

At his orders all sat down again, and then the young chief rapidly
called the men apart, telling each individual off to one of the three
companies. All who were left were sent to take charge of the women and
children, while the others listened while Li Sung interpreted their
white leader's directions.

"Tell them that those who march in advance will send back news and
orders immediately they come upon the enemy," he said. "They are then to
close in to the women and children, while those who are abroad hunting
will at once return so as to be at hand in case they are required. On no
account is a warrior to betray his presence to an enemy. He is to send
back a comrade to the main body and to me, so that others may be sent to
the scene. See that they understand thoroughly, for it would never do to
have confusion."

An hour later the tribe of Dyaks marched from their bivouac, Tyler,
with one of the companies, leading the way. Marching through dense
jungle again, it was some considerable time before more open ground was
reached, for the island of Borneo is a thickly wooded one. At length,
however, they emerged upon a stony plain, and trudged on for miles over
rocks and boulders till more trees came into view, and in their midst a
river of great depth, which barred their onward progress.

"What shall we do to cross?" asked Tyler of Li Sung, who had accompanied
him, handing over the command of his own company to the native chief.
"The river is too deep for the women and children, so that it will not
help us if we men swim across."

"You will see, massa," was the Chinaman's laconic reply. "De Dyaks used
to de forest, and de river, and dey show you how to cross velly soon.
See, dey am searching for a tree, and will cut it down."

Standing on one side, our hero watched with interest as the natives
searched along the bank for a suitable tree. Soon they came upon a
long, stout bamboo, at the foot of which two lusty youths commenced to
hack with their swords, while others leant against the trunk so as to
direct it across the stream. It was wonderful to see how quickly they
cut it down, and with what dexterity they caused it to fall in the right
direction. Scarcely was it fallen, and its boughs safely lodged upon the
farther bank, than one of the Dyaks sprang upon the trunk, and without
the help of a guide-rail or of a stick, ran across it. Others followed
swiftly and commenced to hack the branches away, and when it came to
Tyler's turn to essay the crossing, only a long slim trunk stretched
from bank to bank. Very different was it to him with his boots on his
feet to balance upon the frail bridge, but his followers were looking
on, and, therefore, though the trunk bent and swayed in an alarming
manner, and though the water was some twenty feet beneath, he went on
without a halt and without so much as a falter.

"Massa has done velly fine," said Li Sung, following across the stream
and kow-towing. "The crossing am one which asks for all de courage, and
de white man was not likee dese natives, for he has boots of leather
upon his feet. But we shall be able to go on plenty quick, and de tribe
will follow without a halt. If we meet another river we shall do de
same, and I can tellee de massa dat de Borneans are never stopped by
such a thing. Bamboos help dem everywhere, and if dey require to do
anyding they turn to dat tree. Deir houses am framed with de bamboo, dey
make stockades wid de trunks, and if dey wish to climb de tallest tree
for fruit or for honey, de same wood comes to aid dem. But shall we go
on, massa? De country am open and de day am velly fine."

Halting occasionally to rest the men and to allow those in rear to catch
them up, Tyler and his company kept on a direct course towards the
distant town of Sarawak. Not for one moment would their young leader
allow the line to be departed from, or a detour to be made so as to
avoid the river upon which was situated the stronghold of the Sarebus
pirates.

"They would fall in with us just the same," he said to John, when
discussing the question, "and by going farther to the left, into the
heart of the island, we shall be giving ourselves a longer tramp and to
no purpose. And besides, by missing the river we shall lose all chance
of capturing boats and taking to the sea."

"Yer ain't thinking of taking their prahus?" exclaimed John in
amazement. "It's a big job, and might cost us our lives."

"It might," had been Tyler's answer, "but I am inclined to think that
it would be the best course for us to pursue, for if not, we shall have
to retreat to Sarawak by land with all these pirates hanging on to our
rear. In that way they would manage to kill many of our men, while we
should be constantly harassed. By doing as I suggest we shall come upon
these Malays and their comrades when they least expect us, and with a
little fortune on our side shall defeat them. Then, if we have laid our
plans well, we may be able to embark the whole tribe and set sail. I
would far rather face them at sea than know that they were hanging on
our heels as we trudged through the jungle, and that at any moment,
and particularly during the night, they might charge down upon us and
stampede the men. A bold course will best help us to reach safety."

Day after day did the tribe push on in the direction of Sarawak.
Occasionally, when there happened to be a wide break in the trees, they
would catch a sight of the blue ocean, but very soon it would be hidden
by the forest or by the hills. On their left, and many miles inland of
them, a long blue range of hills stretched unbrokenly, cutting them off
from the centre of Borneo, while here and there an isolated mountain
reared its peak into the sky. Overhead a hot sun poured down upon them,
blistering Tyler's face and tanning his skin; but it troubled him far
less than it would have done had they been marching across plains, for
the leaves above sheltered them greatly, while when passing across a
clearing of wide extent a palm leaf thrust beneath his wide-brimmed hat
made him secure against sunstroke. At length the retreating tribe came
within some sixty miles of the winding river of Sarebus, where Hanns
Schlott and his pirates might be expected, and at once Tyler set to work
to prepare for the struggle.

"At present we have not instructed our men in the attack," he said,
calling John Marshall and the Chinaman to him. "Coming through the
forest we have kept one formation, and the Dyaks have learnt how to
march in safety very well. I think that there has never been a day when
an enemy could have taken us unawares, while ample watch has been kept
at night. But now we ought to have some practice in working together for
the attack, and I propose that we devote an hour or more each evening
to the purpose. Let it be understood that at about two hours before
sunset the company in advance is to turn round and act as an enemy. The
remainder will march with one company in rear as before, and with half
the third company between the women and children and the men who have
gone in advance, and who are for the time being to take the part of
pirates. To make sure that no accidents can happen, we will let them
wear a strip of cloth on their arms, or, better still, let them attack
bareheaded. Then we shall know at once that they are really friends.

"As to their method of approaching us, I leave that to them, but
they must do their best to surround us and cut us off, while we will
place our men so as to drive them away. No harm can possibly result,
while the practice cannot fail to do good, and steady the men for our
approaching fight with the Sarebus pirates. Li Sung, you will call the
chiefs together and tell them what I say, and also that we will commence
practising to-morrow evening."

On the following day it was evident that the spirits of the warriors of
the Dyak tribe of which Tyler was the leader were considerably raised
at the prospect before them, while their whole demeanour was changed.
Instead of being down at heart and fearful of the future, they seemed to
have imbibed some of their white chief's enthusiasm, and they set about
the work of making themselves efficient with a zeal which showed how
eager they were. Marching quietly through the day, with an occasional
rest so as not to overtire the women and children, they came to a halt
some two hours before the sun would set, and went silently to the posts
which had been assigned to them. Very soon scouts came running in to say
that men who were bareheaded were creeping through the jungle, and ere
long the two bodies were engaged, blunted arrows being used so as to
make the practice more real. For three evenings in succession was the
same movement carried out, and when at length the scouts who had been
sent far in advance returned with the news that the Sarebus river was
in sight, and that they had seen one of the many piratical strongholds,
Tyler had his men well in hand. Thanks to his forethought the natives
now kept together, and instead of making frantic and useless rushes,
waited for the signal from their captain. A shrill call, too, would
bring all the companies together to one spot, while those who had the
important post of guarding the women and children thoroughly understood
how to protect them against the enemy, and how, when the day seemed to
be going against their comrades, to steal away with their charges into
the jungle and there seek safety in flight.

And so it turned out that when the news arrived that the foe was at
hand, the Dyaks heard it with cries of pleasure instead of with those of
fear and dismay, for they were more than anxious to try conclusions with
an enemy from whom they had suffered heavily.



CHAPTER X

The Pirate Stronghold


"At last we are close to these Malays and the sea Dyaks," said Tyler
with a sigh of relief, when the news of the proximity of the Sarebus
river was brought to him, "and as it is very necessary that the leader
of our party should be fully acquainted with their haunts, I shall
leave the tribe at once and push on with a few followers. To you, John,
I leave the post of commander during my absence, with instructions to
remain here in hiding till I return or send for you. You will place
scouts all round, and keep a most careful watch, for were you to be seen
by any stray native the news would buzz to the ears of Hanns Schlott
and his men, and we should have to turn tail and run for our lives.
Remember that sudden attack, and still more rapid disappearance, are the
only movements for us, and that to stand up to all the pirates would be
fatal, for they have firearms in plenty, while we have none."

"Then the orders are to remain here for the present," replied the young
boatswain, touching his cap. "Right, sir! and I'll obey so long as all
goes well. But supposing you fall into this Dutchman's clutches? What'll
I do then?"

"Whatever seems most sensible, but rescue will be out of the question.
Don't imagine that Hanns Schlott would keep me a prisoner for long. He
would have me killed at once, and it is that fact which will make me
fight all the harder in case I am attacked. But it will not come to
that, I hope, for I and the men who are to accompany me will steal upon
them like ghosts."

"But massa may happen to be seen," interrupted Li Sung, who had listened
intently. "Supposing Malay or sea Dyak come suddenly up while huntin' in
de forest, and see de white man? Den him runee for him life, and shout
dat de enemy am near. And velly soon de white man havee him head right
off--a-a-ah!"

Li Sung grasped at his pigtail, and, lifting it well above his head,
made as if to sever his neck with the long blade which dangled from his
belt.

"Not nicee, dat," he went on with a grimace. "Dis Dutchman wantee de
head of massa, and massa him likee to choppee de head of de pirate
leader. Velly fine, but massa must havee plenty care. Suppose you go
like de Dyak? Den if de pirates see you dey tink you one of demselves
and not shout and try to takee de head."

Li Sung cocked his head knowingly on one side and looked at Tyler
anxiously, for he thought much of the young Englishman who had so
suddenly come into his life, and was fearful for his safety.

"Den p'r'aps you be able to takee plenty fine sight of de stockade," he
added eagerly. "Besides, Li Sung him knowee de river, and draw him for
you so."

Reminding Tyler that he had once been one of the pirates, though much
against his will, and had been with them into the Sarebus river, the
Chinaman again dragged his sword from his belt, and, clearing a wide
patch of sandy ground from fallen leaves, began to roughly outline the
course of the river and the position of the Malay towns and stockades.

As for our hero, the suggestion which Li Sung had just made occupied his
thoughts almost to the exclusion of all others, though when the sketch
was completed he followed each line with the utmost attention, and, not
satisfied with that, transferred the drawing to a scrap of crinkled
and dirty paper which he happened by good chance to have with him. But
he did not allow the question of disguise to escape him, and at once
returned to it.

"There is no doubt that the sight of a white man other than the
Dutchman or a European who is in league with him would at once raise
the neighbourhood. Hanns Schlott and his men would immediately guess
that I was near at hand, and that would put them on their guard and
ruin our plans. Besides, there is no doubt that it would mean the
destruction of the tribe who have selected me as leader, for our numbers
are ridiculously small when compared with the pirates, while we are
practically unarmed. We should be cut to pieces in the jungle, and that
would be the end of our journey. No, I must go as a Dyak or as a Malay,
and in that way escape observation."

"And I reckon as it wouldn't be a bad thing for me to do the same,
sir," broke in John Marshall. "Yer see, there ain't any knowing when we
may drop on some of these covies, and the sight of me would send 'em
howling, jest the same as it would if they dropped their eyes on you.
Let's both get made into darkies, and then we'll be ready for anything."

"And Li Sung him see dat allee managed for you," said the Chinaman with
a smile. "Him velly fine man, de China boy, and him done same ting often
and often. Plenty dye wid de Dyaks, and if massa and his friend havee
little patience Li Sung bring de stuff. De dress am noding. Ebery man
here help wid dat."

"And what about our feet?" demanded Tyler suddenly, realizing that
it would be impossible to trudge through the forest without becoming
rapidly lame. Indeed, he knew that it would require more than a week of
careful walking to harden the skin sufficiently to allow them to cross
smooth ground, but when there were stones and thorns progress would be
impossible, or, at any rate, exceedingly painful.

"You see," he went on, "we have worn boots up to this, and I am sure
that it would never do for us to go barefooted. We should be laid up
after the very first day's tramp."

"Then why not get these darkies to make sandals or some such
foot-covering for us, sir?" asked the boatswain. "They're clever enough
at that sort of thing, and I ain't a doubt but what they'll be able to
turn out something suitable from bamboo or some of the leaves in the
forest. What do yer say, Johnnie?"

"Dat you am velly right. De Dyaks makee plenty fine sandal velly soon.
Leave it to Li Sung, and him comee back wid de tings."

"Then be as quick as you can," said Tyler, "for I wish to push on at
once. We have made a fairly rapid march up to this, and it is probable
that the pirates are not expecting us as yet. Indeed I hope that they
will have taken it for granted that we have made a wide detour, in which
case they will have sent men towards the mountains, the line which we
should have taken had it been our object and intention to avoid this
river on which they have their stronghold. In any case, as I have
said, they would hardly expect us here at present, if at all, and by
seeing that we do not delay, we shall have all the more opportunity of
effecting a surprise. How long will you be, Li Sung?"

"One, p'r'aps two little hour, massa. But Li go see at once, and come
back velly soon."

With this reply the Chinaman went away towards the encamped tribe of
Dyaks, with his pigtail dangling over his arm. Evidently the cunning
fellow was busily thinking over his master's wants, for his chin was
on his breast and his face lined with wrinkles. But, like all of his
country, his wits were sharp, and as he went he had already made up
his mind how to carry out Tyler's wishes. In fact, only half the time
mentioned by him had elapsed when he was seen to be returning, carrying
a bundle.

"If de massa and him friend will stripee off de clothes Li will stain de
bodies of both wid dis stuff," he said, producing a gourd filled with
an oily liquid of reddish-brown colour. "Dey need not fear dat dis am
poison, for me tellee dem dat it only de juice of de betel-nut. When
deir bodies seen to, Li havee someting else for dem."

With a grin of pleasure at the thought of his success, and at the
rapidity with which he had carried out the matter, Li Sung accompanied
Tyler and John Marshall to their bivouac, where the latter quickly
removed their clothing. Then, with a splintered end of bamboo which he
had pounded between a couple of smooth boulders till it was as pliable
and soft as any brush, the Chinaman set about the work of transforming
them from clear-complexioned Englishmen to the colour of Dyaks. Twice
did he go over the surface of their bodies, and then, standing some
paces away, he inspected them critically, his head on one side and a
comical air of severity and anxiety upon his features. As for the two
young fellows, they stood before him with grave faces, which bore only
the smallest traces of trouble, for they were confident of the ability
of Li Sung to convert them to the appearance of Dyaks.

"After all," said Tyler, with a little laugh which he attempted to make
careless in tone, "we need only be disguised sufficiently to escape
detection at some distance, for if the enemy actually come within a few
paces of either of us it will be a case of fighting, for they are bound
to discover that we are not what we seem to be. You must recollect that
we do not speak more than a few words of the language."

"But de massa may pass with oders who am plenty able to talkee Dyak,"
cried Li Sung. "S'pose him go soon to de strong place of de pirates and
wish to enter. Den if he stay behind de oders, and not seem to have de
lead, one of de warriors speakee to de enemy. But me not satisfied. One
little moment and me see how you lookee. Massa and him friend must put
on de Dyak cloths."

Unfastening the bundle which he had brought under his arm, and which
was enclosed in a couple of enormous leaves, he produced a couple of
the loin-cloths worn by the natives, and also two gaudy handkerchiefs
to bind about their heads. Within them were wrapped two pairs of neat
sandals manufactured by the Dyaks, and composed of thin slips of
flexible bamboo thickly padded with strips of skin.

"De hide make him soft to de feet," explained Li Sung, holding them up
for inspection with great pride. "Den dey velly silent, so dat massa
and him friend can comee plenty near to de pirate without making noise.
Now for de betel-nut and de stain again. Please to open de mouth of you
both, and Li him paint de teeth."

Baring their teeth in obedience to his wish, both Tyler and John
Marshall submitted to the operation of having them coloured
reddish-brown with the stain, and then chewed at the nut which their
Chinese helper had thrust between their lips.

"I suppose that it is a custom which one has to acquire," remarked Tyler
with a grimace. "I must say that if I had any choice in the matter I
would rather not chew anything, and least of all the betel-nut. Still,
all the natives have the habit, and it will be as well for us to develop
it also."

"I'd rather a plug of twist any day," grunted John in disgust. "Sour!
Why, this here betel's worse than anythin'. But as yer say, it's for
the best, and as I reckon our safety'll depend upon sich little things,
why--"

The boatswain turned the nut into his other cheek with another
exclamation of disgust, and set to work to chew it with an air of
resignation which called a smile to Tyler's features. A moment later the
Chinaman again demanded their attention.

"P'r'aps de massa and him friend smilee at de China boy," he said in
engaging tones. "Me wishee to see how de mouths look, and then me tellee
you if de dress and eberyting am allee nicee."

Once more did Tyler and his companion follow the wishes of Li Sung,
and, turning towards him, opened their mouths and smiled, so as to show
their coloured teeth. Then they walked up and down the clearing while he
stared at them, his head still on one side, and his fingers grasping his
pigtail.

"Massa and de friend of massa will do plenty fine," he said at length.
"Dey Dyaks now in eberyting but de tongue, and him dey can keep still.
Li have done him best and am satisfied."

"And we too," responded Tyler. "But I have delayed long enough already,
and will at once set out to reconnoitre. John, take command of the camp
and of the tribe while I am gone. Li, you can come with me as far as the
liver, but after that you had better keep in the forest, for some of
your old comrades might recognize you."

At once there was a stir in the camp, while those who were to accompany
their leader hastily gathered their weapons together and prepared to
march. Then one of the scouts who had returned with the news that the
Sarebus river was at hand placed himself at the head of the little band
and led them into the forest, their departure being watched with the
greatest interest by all who remained behind. Indeed there was an air
of excitement and of anticipation about all the warriors, for upon the
report which their leader and his friends brought would depend their
future actions, and no doubt their success. Had it not been for the fear
that some of the enemy might be in the neighbourhood, hunting the forest
for game, the tribesmen would have shouted their farewell to their
leader, and would have accompanied him some distance on his journey.
As it was, however, they remained in the camp, and at once set about
placing themselves in a position of defence. As for Tyler, marching at
the head of his little band, he could not help but be gratified by the
willing obedience which each of the warriors gave him. That his change
in costume had won him still more of their esteem was evident also, for
they realized that he had made the alteration so as to assure the safety
of the tribe. Stalking ahead of them, Tyler found his sandals even more
comfortable than boots, while his light clothing, the fact that his
limbs were freer now than ever before, and that the heat was so great
that he had no feeling of being cold, made him more active than ever.
About his shoulder he still carried his rifle, while the betel-pouch
at his waist was filled with ammunition. In his waist-cloth, hidden by
the folds, were his revolvers, while a shield of enormous dimensions was
slung to his back for the sake of appearances alone.

"Once within easy distance of the river we will search for a path,"
he said as Li Sung came up beside him. "Perhaps if the forest is very
dense, as seems to be the case close to the rivers, we will hunt for a
boat and borrow it. But then we should be more easily seen, and my aim
and object is to remain unobserved. One thing I am particularly anxious
to search for is a fleet of their prahus, for with boats at our command
we could laugh at Hanns Schlott and all his men."

"But dere are de booms to be thought of," said the Chinaman. "Dey are
below de forts, but sometimes, no one knowee when, dey am moved, and den
no prahu can sail down de river."

"Nothing would stop a fleet of boats coming down with wind and stream,"
answered Tyler, undismayed by the prospect which the Chinaman had
suddenly unfolded. "These booms will be made of bamboo and other trees,
and will be chained to the banks by means of enormous posts. Very well,
if the boom itself is too strong for us, we must hack the posts to
pieces. But the weight of the fleet alone should be enough. However,
that is a question for the future. For the present we have to think of
the pirates and their lair, and before considering booms have to come
across the prahus."

"Dat you will do plenty easy, massa. If de pirate at home de ships am
dere also. But me tink dat all de men better go out into de forest and
keep eye wide open."

"Then give them the order," said Tyler. "You and I will walk together,
and they can keep up with us by following the sounds."

Accordingly the men who formed the party which had set out from the
camp for the purpose of watching the enemy divided, and, plunging into
the trees on either hand, quickly became lost to view. Nor was it
possible to hear them, as a general rule, so silent were they in their
movements. At length, after a hot and weary tramp, the little band came
upon a narrow stream, which the scout at once proclaimed to be part of
the Sarebus river.

"We follow this for an hour," he said, "and then we strike the main
channel. Another half-hour will bring us to another river, which forks
with the one we shall be following, and with it pours into the wide bed
of the water-way which is known as the Sarebus. There will our leader
come upon the pirates, and at that spot he will see that they have a
town and many forts. I myself was there in the early hours, and at once
turned to come swiftly with the news. As for a path, there is one beside
the larger of the streams, and we shall be able to make use of it. Is it
our leader's wish that we push on?"

"Do so at once," answered Tyler, Li Sung interpreting the words. "We
will halt when we come to the larger stream, and will then go more
carefully."

Once again did the little party set forward, and, plunging through
the trees, finally came to a spot where the smaller tributary emerged
into a larger one, which in its turn discharged its contents into the
main channel. And now each one prepared for instant flight or for
hostilities, and, unslinging weapons, advanced in a crouching attitude
beside the water.

"See, massa," suddenly whispered Li Sung when they had crept forward
half a mile, "there are de huts and de stockades or forts. Dat am Paddi,
de big place of de pirates, where all de gold and riches go, and where
de slaves am kept. Me knowee him velly well, for it am dere dat China
boy first taken when him captive, and from Paddi him pull down de river
on de prahu, for de first time in him life living wid de pirates."

"And the next time you sail to the sea let us hope it will be more
as your own master," murmured Tyler, scarcely able to repress his
excitement at the sight of the stockades before him. "But let us get to
some more advantageous point from which we can look down upon this place
which you say is called Paddi. Lead us into the bushes, Li, for you must
know better than anyone where we shall be able to obtain the best view."

Emboldened by the fact that no one seemed to be stirring in the
neighbourhood of the pirates' stronghold, and that not a single sampan
or boat of any description ferried across the water, the party of scouts
pressed on, led by the cunning Chinaman, and at length arrived at a spot
which permitted them to look over the walls of the bamboo stockade which
surrounded Paddi, and see all that was taking place within.

"One would almost imagine that the town had been deserted," remarked
Tyler in a whisper, after staring into the stronghold for some minutes.
"The huts seem for the most part to be empty, and so far I have seen
only women and a few old men and children. What can it mean? Surely
Hanns Schlott and his followers are not scared at the thought of our
coming."

"De Dutchman am too wise and too bold for dat," answered Li Sung
emphatically. "Him havee some little game. Him gone into de forest,
p'r'aps, to find de white men and deir Dyak friends, or him at sea
looking out for oder ships to makee up for de loss of de schooner. Him
not deserted Paddi, dat China boy knowee for sure."

"For how long does he cruise away from this place?" asked Tyler
thoughtfully, after another long interval during which his eyes were
fixed upon the town which lay before him.

"P'r'aps one day, p'r'aps many. Li him not say for sure. If ships to be
found in plenty outside, he stay dere and take dem every one."

"We might even destroy the whole stronghold," murmured Tyler to himself,
"for it seems to me that it is practically without men. Of course I
don't like the thought of attacking a place which has only women and
children to defend it, but I would see that they were not harmed,
and, after all, the burning of this town would, I fear, be too big
an undertaking. Li once said that there were other places on this
river, and as they must be lower down it is probable that they would at
once take the alarm, and their prahus would put out into the river to
stop our escape. No, silence is what we must aim at, and a dark night
would be the best, only navigation then of the water-way would be very
difficult. As to Hanns Schlott and his men, it is clear that they are
away on an expedition, though whether in search of ourselves or not it
is difficult to decide. Where do you think that they have gone?" he
suddenly demanded, turning upon the Chinaman.

"Dat Li can only guessee at, massa. But dere no prahus here, and so
de China boy him tink dat de Dutchman and him Malays at sea looking
along de coast in case de white man and him friends come dat way. Oders
go into de forest and lie in wait along by de mountains. Scouts left
between de two, and when we am found de news taken to both de parties."

That the question was difficult to decide was clear, and for long Tyler
lay flat upon the ground, hidden in the undergrowth, thinking the matter
out; and all the while his eyes were busily engaged in taking in every
part of the town and forts of Paddi. Lying at the fork of the river,
the huts in which the pirates lived were protected on the water side by
stockades of bamboo, strongly erected and placed in most advantageous
positions, so that the Sarebus was commanded for some hundreds of
yards. In the rear there were other forts, but of less strength and
importance, for attack from that direction could not be very dangerous,
seeing that the forest was there of the densest, and would almost forbid
the approach of an enemy. Stretching across the mouths of each of the
tributaries which poured into the main channel, and between which lay
the town, were two enormous booms, awash in the water, and half-covered
with twigs and reeds which had been swept against them and caught. Each
boom was anchored by means of chain-cable to a tree on either shore,
while the same material bound the bamboos together.

"A heavy ship would soon break through," thought Tyler, "but to light
boats the task would be a difficult one, and axes would be needed. But I
doubt very much whether the pirates place their prahus above the booms.
It is pretty certain that they anchor them in the river below, so as
to be able to drop down stream without a moment's delay. But in case
of attack in force by an enemy coming up the river I have little doubt
that they would swing one of the booms aside for a time until all the
prahus had passed through, and would then close it again. Well, nothing
is stirring, and for the time we must be content to remain where we
are and keep watch. If their fleet was here now I should call up all
the tribe and let them lie in the forest while I told them off to the
different boats. Then as soon as darkness fell we would slip aboard and
float down-stream. Once in safety we would search for our friends, and
if only the _Dido_ came in sight would lead an attacking-party against
the stronghold. Yes, that would be fine, but it is too bright a prospect
to hope for. It is more than likely that we shall have to fight for our
lives, and for the ships should the latter come upon the scene. Halloo!"

His exclamation, which was whispered in low tones, was caused by a
movement on the part of Li Sung and the Dyaks who lay beside him; for of
a sudden, while staring at the stronghold before them each had turned
his head to the right, while an onlooker could see that they were
listening intently.

"H-h-ush!" said the Chinaman, creeping closer to his leader. "We hearee
plenty noise down de stream, and we tink dat de pirates come. Li him
say dat de prahus am using de sweeps, and dat dere am many of dem. But
waitee a little longer and we see all. P'r'aps de enemy returning home
to search for us."

Lying there upon his face it was not long before Tyler too could
distinguish some distant sounds, and soon these came to his ear as the
splash of many oars. Then voices could be heard, sweeping up the surface
of the water, though as yet a bend in the banks of the Sarebus hid
the oncomers from view. Ah! Each of the watchers gave vent to a gasp
of surprise, for of a sudden a huge prahu came into sight, her decks
loaded with dusky pirates, while, above, an immense spread of sail
flapped loosely against her masts. On either side projected some twenty
long sweeps, and, propelled by these, she was coming up the stream at a
wonderful rate. In an instant Tyler recognized her as the vessel which
had lain in the harbour of Singapore, and the one to which Hanns Schlott
had retreated when beaten back by the Dyak tribe. Nor was it long before
he caught sight of the rascally leader, the man who had murdered Mr.
Beverley, for, thanks to the pace at which she was driven, the prahu
was very quickly sweeping before them, and a glance showed the Dutchman
standing in his old place at the helm, his eyes fixed upon the town of
Paddi before him.

"He is anxious to learn whether there is any news of us," thought Tyler,
"and I am sure that he has not the faintest notion that we are watching
him at this moment. Wait, my friend, and I will show you that an English
lad can beat you, even though you have so many villains to count upon
and to come to your aid. But what is coming now?"

His gaze left the leading prahu and went back to the bend of the
Sarebus, round which other vessels were now appearing. But on this
occasion their progress was slower, though it seemed that they were
employing a similar number of sweeps. But closer inspection soon showed
the reason, for a rope was seen stretching taut behind the foremost to a
second prahu, which again was made fast to a third.

"Towing something, a prize of some sort," said Tyler, "and in a few
seconds we shall be able to see. Perhaps they have been making a raid
upon some of the neighbouring towns, or have captured a prahu sailing
with merchandise from Singapore. By Jove!"

A startled cry escaped his lips as another object came round the bend;
and well it might, for, dragged into sight at the tail of the last of
the three prahus, came a vessel of European build, with high bulwarks
and tapering masts, which seemed to strike against the trees which
overhung the river. On her deck were some ten of the Malays, with long
poles in their hands with which to propel her should she come to shallow
water and show signs of holding there. In addition, four of their
comrades had placed themselves in the bows, and were busily seeing to
the anchor, preparing to let it go.

"Where could the ship have come from? Who was the owner, and what had
became of the unfortunate crew?" Tyler found himself wondering vaguely,
and attempting to find a solution to the questions. "The last is easy
to reply to," he said bitterly. "Hanns and his rascals will have killed
them without mercy, and will have thrown them overboard. But a European
vessel! That must be a prize indeed, and adds another to the many
serious crimes which Hanns Schlott has committed. But they are nearly
at their berth, and we shall see what is to happen; and here are other
prahus coming round the bend."

Breathless with excitement, and almost unable to remain still in hiding,
he watched eagerly the scene taking place before his eyes. It was
evident that the pirates were filled with elation at their capture, and
that they had returned to their stronghold in the best of spirits, for
they shouted to one another, and as the walls of the fort were lined
with their women and children, they answered their cries of welcome with
thunderous shouts of joy and triumph. Then, as the leading prahu came
opposite the first of the stockades, and within a stone's-throw of the
boom across the entrance to the river beside which Tyler was hiding,
she was thrown into the wind, the sweeps were taken in, and an anchor
dropped. Almost at the same moment a big sampan splashed from her deck
and Hanns Schlott descended into it.

"Let all come to their moorings and bring our prizes ashore," he called
out so loudly that the words came clearly to the ears of the watchers
and were promptly interpreted by Li Sung. "When we have had a meal we
will see to that beggarly Englishman who is journeying this way, and I
shall hope to hear from the men whom we sent towards the mountains that
they have sighted them, and are merely awaiting our help to fall upon
them and kill every one of the tribe, their leaders included."

Waving his arm to his followers he sprang into the sampan, his bulky
weight causing the frail boat to rock dangerously and ship some water.
Then the oarsman, who stood in the stern with a couple of long paddles,
the handles of which crossed, bent to his work and ferried his leader
to the forts. A minute later and the rascally Dutchman had disappeared
behind the stockade, and later on was seen to enter the largest of the
huts which lay inside. By now the remaining prahus had reached their
moorings, and at once a busy scene ensued, the men dropping into their
sampans, which the majority of the vessels had in tow, and taking the
ropes to the barrels and kegs which floated on the surface of the
river with an anchor or a heavy stone to hold them to the bottom. As
for the big ship which had fallen a prize, her new crew kept her with
head up-stream, and conscious that she would require more than a single
anchor, for the stream came strong and swift, sent out a couple of extra
cables which were made fast to trees which grew on the bank. Then they
prepared to leave her and go to their homes.

"Let us hope that they will remain there over the night," said Tyler in
a whisper, scarcely able to repress the excitement with which he was
filled. "Or better, perhaps they will send off a large party to join
those who have gone to the mountains in search of ourselves, leaving
fewer for us to deal with. How many men do you think there are?"

"First count de prahus, massa, and den easy tell. Dey carry fifty to
eighty on board, and sometimes more. Plenty men dere, massa."

At once Tyler and the Chinaman set to work to count the prahus assembled
at their moorings, and, thanks to the fact that all had come well
round the bend, they had little difficulty at arriving at their correct
numbers.

"Fifty-four prahus," said Tyler with something approaching a groan, for
the odds were desperately against them. "With, say, sixty on board each
there will be three thousand of the pirates to deal with, and we are
only to be counted as about three hundred. The numbers are dreadfully
against us, and were it not for the fact that we hope to take them at a
disadvantage, and also that our object is to disappear when they shows
signs of collecting together to attack in force, I should feel quite
disheartened. But we shall see."

"And massa him must keep in him mind dat some of dese men havee gone to
de mountains, and dat oders will follow dem. Den we plenty fine numbers
to fight them, and de Dyaks show dem dat dey have something to punish
dem for. Wait a little bitee, massa. De time comee velly velly soon for
de Dyaks to shout and laugh, and for de pirate to run. Li him feel velly
sure of dat."

The Chinaman gave a knowing nod, and once more turned to the prahus
to go over each one again and count them on his fingers, while his
slit-like eyes followed the movements of their crews closely as they
prepared to leave.

"Dey all plenty fine spirit," he said suddenly, as though a thought had
occurred to him. "Dey havee returned to deir place wid a velly great
ship, and dey feel dat dey am rich. Wait, and massa see dat dey go to
deir homes and make jolly. To-night dey dance and sing, and de women
come round de watch-fires wid plenty to drink. Den, as de ashes die
down, and all am cold and dark, dey creep into de hut and sleep like
pig."

He looked at his young leader with an encouraging smile, and snored
heavily, the better to show his meaning.

"To-night am de time for de Dyaks and for massa," he went on earnestly.
"Dey creep to dis spot and dey wait and watch. Soon as de fires die
down and de men crawl off to deir beds dey cross de river. Dey go to
Paddi like de ghosts, and only de night know. Den massa give one little
signal, and ebery man of de tribe creep and run dis way and dat into
de huts. Take velly little time to kill all of de pirates, and den de
Dyaks smile and laugh. Dey go to de prahus, and dey cut de ropes. Den in
de morning dey find demselves at sea, and plenty soon sail rightee to
Sarawak."

Carried away by the thought of the possible victory in store for
those in whose company he was, the Chinaman forgot for the moment his
accustomed tranquillity. His usually impassive features became wrinkled
as he indulged in a smile, while he turned to Tyler with questioning
eyes as if to demand his approval.

"Can't be done," said the latter curtly, favouring him with a frown.
"Englishmen do not fight in that manner, and I would never consent to
killing a single one of the pirates while in his sleep. It would be
murder, and that I cannot think of. No, I know well that they deserve
such a death, for who can say how many poor unhappy people the ruffians
have killed in cold blood? Who that does not know all of their doings
can tell how many deaths they are responsible for, what miseries they
have caused? But men of my country do not make war in such ways. Fight
openly, if at all, is our motto, and it is one which I will carry out
to the letter. There shall be no massacre, but if necessary we will
fight them for the prahus, and do our best to beat them handsomely. As
to their being overcome by wine to-night, I hope that that may be the
case, for it will help us greatly. We will wait till they are quiet and
will then steal upon their boats. If we are cautious and organize the
movement well we shall be able to embark all the woman and children and
each member of the tribe without making a sound and without alarming the
pirates. Then we will cut the cables, as you suggested, and drift down
upon the stream till we are in the open sea. After that Sarawak shall be
our destination, where these poor Dyaks shall find a home. I shall have
more to do then, for at the first opportunity I shall offer to be the
guide for an expedition to Paddi, with the object of hunting out these
pests and of capturing their leader. But I see that the majority of the
crews have already set foot ashore, and soon the prahus will be left to
themselves."

Once more there was silence between them, the Chinaman lying there in
perplexity, wondering at the words which his leader had given vent to.

"Not take advantage of the pirates, the men who had harmed the Dyaks
so often and so severely, and slay them in their beds!" To this man of
the East it was the maddest and strangest of decisions, and his cunning
mind, trained to take advantage of an enemy in any manner, failed to
grasp its meaning. "Could his young master have suddenly lost his
wisdom?" he asked himself. "Was it possible that the sight of all these
pirates had brought fear into his heart, so that he refused the only
course open to brave men?" For long did Li Sung ponder over the matter
till he was bound to confess that he was bewildered. Indeed, a very
little consideration had shown him that the Englishman, who alone had
attacked the mias, was not the one to be so easily scared, and then,
all through the march, it was Tyler who had shown coolness and courage,
and whose fine example of cheerfulness and whose bright view of the
future had encouraged the tribe of Dyaks, and had converted them from a
downtrodden dispirited race to one which was filled with energy and with
confidence in themselves.

"Li Sung him not see velly fine how you not do as him say," he whispered
in tones of perplexity, taking his pigtail in his hand and twisting it
into a knot. "If not fall on de pirate when him sleep, and when him
heavy wid wine, den dey allee escape and de Dutchman come to worry us
again."

"When we shall be fully prepared for him," answered Tyler with a smile.
"It is useless to suggest such a course as a wholesale massacre, for
it is one which I will never consent to. We will beat them fairly and
handsomely, and once we join our friends we will throw our lot in with
theirs and will help them to exterminate these rascals. But I think that
it is almost time that we were moving in the direction of our friends,
for if we are to make the attempt to capture their boats to-night we
shall have little time to lose. Signal to the other men, Li Sung, and
tell them to make ready."

"One little minute, massa. De big ship not empty, and Li him tink dat
dere someting dere to keep us. De Malays still on board, and dey have
shouted for anoder sampan. Perhaps dey bring de bags of gold which dey
have captured from de English, and look, massa, me see de name of de
ship."

He pointed to the stern of the captured vessel, which had swung round
with the stream sufficiently to allow the name painted there to be
legible, and instantly Tyler read _The Queen_, Liverpool.

"English!" he gasped. "Then there is all the more reason why I should
take her from these men. But wait. What is happening?"

As he spoke, the remaining Malays came running upon deck and went
towards the side where the sampan lay, with something in their midst.
Arrived at the rail they lifted their burden over and returned to
the companion ladder which led to the cabin, only to repeat the same
movement. Then two of their number swung themselves into the boat and
began to paddle her to the shore. A minute later the little sampan had
swung clear of the vessel's side, and was visible to the watchers, who
at once gave vent to cries of surprise.

"Prisoners!" exclaimed Tyler, starting to his knees and thrusting his
head so far between the leaves that Li Sung placed a warning hand upon
his arm. "White prisoners, too, and, as I live, they are not men."

"The one is little more than a babe, massa," broke in the Chinaman,
"while the other is a woman of twenty years."

Not daring to move, lest they should attract attention to themselves,
and yet filled with eagerness to rush forth and rescue the hapless
prisoners who had fallen into the hands of the pirates, Tyler and his
followers watched with staring eyes as the sampan was rowed to the
shore. They saw a little girl of some seven years of age lifted from the
boat, and gazed with saddened faces as she turned with outstretched hand
to clasp that of the young woman who accompanied her. Then they watched
as the two white and forlorn figures were led into the stockade and were
ushered into a hut.

"Time to be returning," said Tyler suddenly, and in such determined
tones that the Chinaman was startled. "Give the word and let us hurry."

Without waiting for his followers he sprang to his feet and went off
through the jungle, his brow deeply furrowed and his mind full of the
last scene which he had witnessed.



CHAPTER XI

A Midnight Encounter


Six hours and more had passed since Tyler and his little band of Dyak
followers had witnessed the passage of the two helpless captives from
the English vessel to the pirates' stronghold, and already darkness had
fallen over the island of Borneo. The scream of thousands of parrots,
the chatter and hoarse voice of many a monkey, had ceased for the night,
while the hush of the forest, which but for birds and monkeys would have
been almost unbroken during the hot day, had now been replaced by the
buzz and hum of myriads of insects, and by the calls and weird cries of
other denizens of the jungle whose habit it was to set out during the
hours of darkness in search of their food.

What were those objects filing in and out between the trees, each so
ghost-like and so silent? Were they human beings lost in the jungle, or
a collection of wild beasts? Well might the question have been asked,
had anyone happened to catch sight of them, for they came without so
much as a sound, each one treading noiselessly where the other had been,
all bent low as if to escape the overhanging boughs, and everyone with
eyes which glared into the depths of the dark forest. Occasionally the
weird note of some animal in advance came to their ears, and instantly
they lifted their heads for a second, and then changed their direction.
In front marched a lithe and active leader, and happening to emerge at
that moment from the darkness of the forest the pale rays of a small
moon, which had risen early and would soon be gone, fell upon him and
showed that it was Tyler. Then these were, after all, human beings, and
none other than the tribe of Dyaks who were on their way to Sarawak.
Yes, led by our hero, who had returned from the haunt of the pirates,
the Dyaks were on their way to the spot before which floated the fleet
of prahus upon the possession of which their safety depended.

"Remember the orders," said Tyler, as he emerged into the clearing,
turning to a swarthy native beside him, whose features bore an
unmistakable resemblance to those possessed by John Marshall. "We
arrive at the place agreed upon, and the men at once divide as already
arranged. Then the leaders of the companies come to me and we discuss
the situation. After that we set about the embarkation without delay.
Now get back to your own men, for they will miss you."

With an involuntary lift of his hand to his head, as was the custom
aboard ship, the boatswain turned in obedience to the order, and
threaded his way through the trees till he arrived at the rear of the
procession, where he sat down till the tribe moved forward again.
Meanwhile Tyler stood in the centre of the clearing, waiting till his
scouts brought news that no one was at hand.

"We can advance in safety again," said Li Sung some minutes later, as a
dusky figure crept silently to their side and whispered something in the
Chinaman's ear. "De report of de man sent to de front is dat de forest
am alone, and dat de pirate shout and makee merry."

"Then lead the way again," was Tyler's curt answer, "and let us not stop
until we are in position. All this waiting is trying, and I am sure that
we shall all be glad when we are in sight of our object."

Once more the column of ghost-like figures pushed on into the jungle,
and, undismayed by the noise of distant revelry, which soon came to
their ears, at length arrived at the spot from which the landing of
Hanns Schlott and his men had been watched. And here the tribe settled
itself in the undergrowth with such readiness that it was easy to tell
that they had been drilled to the movement.

"The women and children are together?" asked Tyler of John, as the
latter came to his side. "And there are an equal number of men to help
them to embark?"

"Jest as you said, sir. The poor things is crouching there in the bush,
a shiverin' at the noise them pirates is makin' and wondering what'll
happen to 'em and their babies. But it'll be all right in the end, for I
reckon that we're jest goin' to give that chap Hanns Schlott the slip,
and sail right away without his being a penny the wiser. What's next,
sir?"

"Wait and watch till those fellows are silent and have turned in for
the night. Then we will see about the prahus. There should be no delay
about that part of the work, for the men have been told off, and they
know exactly how many of the vessels we mean to take. You see, as I
returned from this spot I thought the whole matter out, and I could see
at once that if we were to arrive before the pirate's stronghold without
any plans for escape, everything would be muddled in the darkness, and
the alarm probably given. As you say, John, we want to get clear away
without a suspicion reaching the Dutchman, and we shall feel all the
more successful if we contrive that not one of our tribe is overlooked
and left behind for the pirates to kill. It was for that reason that I
suggested practising the embarkation, and, thanks to that precaution, I
think that each and every one knows the work he has to do. Once those
fellows go to bed we shall swim across to their sampans, and while some
return to this shore, the remainder will lie down and prepare to beat
back the enemy should they take the alarm."

"And that's my partic'lar part of the job," exclaimed John Marshall
quickly. "It's jest the one to suit me, too, for I owe 'em one and hope
to repay it."

"If they attack, you will give them trouble, no doubt," said Tyler
sternly. "But recollect, there must be no noise on any account, and
however much you desire to come to blows with these men of the river,
you are to avoid doing so on this occasion if you possibly can. Later
on, when we have joined in with those of Sarawak, you may have an
opportunity. Indeed, I sincerely hope that you will. But for this time
silence is essential. And now to go on with our plans; and by the way,
John, if I have missed a point be sure to tell me of it. We line the
farther shore, and half our numbers return with some of the sampans.
The embarkation then commences, and when it is ended, those who can be
spared go to the empty prahus and scuttle them, cutting them adrift when
the signal is given. When word reaches me that all is ready--"

"You'll come to us, and we'll get aboard the sampans and join our
friends," whispered John, giving vent to a low chuckle which denoted his
pleasure at the prospect. "And then we'll up anchor and away. I guess
that the stream'll carry us clear of the banks, and if we do happen to
hit up against one, it won't matter so very much, for the mud will do
our timbers no harm, and a push with a couple of poles will soon send us
off again. Then we'll be in the ocean afore you can turn yer head."

"Quite so," replied Tyler calmly; "but before that happens we have
another little matter to carry out. You have forgotten the woman and the
child, my friend."

"But you ain't--" gasped the boatswain, peering into his face as well
as the darkness would permit. "You don't mean to say as though you're
thinkin' of them. Why--"

Evidently the idea of such a project had never entered the sailor's
head, and no wonder, considering the magnitude of the task which he and
his young leader had set themselves. And now that all was settled, and
it almost seemed that they were at the end of their long and arduous
journey, something else had cropped up to delay them and endanger their
safety.

"But what about the tribe? Suppose you get nabbed by that 'ere Hanns!"
he said, swinging round upon Tyler as the thought startled him. "It's
risking a lot for the sake of two whom yer never did more than set eyes
on. Are yer sure yer mean it, sir?"

"Quite!" was Tyler's emphatic answer. "We cannot retire from this place
and leave them to their fate. The thing is impossible! As for risk, of
course there is that, and it will be increased by the attempt to enter
the stronghold. But, then, the alarm will not in that case come so early
as to ruin all our plans, for the bulk of the tribe will be embarked,
and a cut with a sword will set the prahus free. Pursuit on the part of
this gang of rascals will be out of the question, as we shall have taken
the majority of their vessels, while the remainder will, I hope, be at
the bottom of the river. So that we should only have to face the pirates
who live below, and I think that we can do that cheerfully."

"We'd beat them and more like 'em," exclaimed the boatswain with energy.
"But what about yerself? Ain't you runnin' the chance of getting took by
the Dutchman? in which case he'd make an end of yer on the spot."

"One must expect danger in such cases, and must consider whether the
rescue of those poor captives is worth it," responded Tyler calmly.
"For my part I should be ashamed to meet James Brooke of Sarawak or the
commander of the _Dido_ if I were to leave this spot without making at
least an attempt. Why, consider their position, John. Two poor, helpless
things at the mercy of these men!"

"Ay, and one of 'em's a child, and t'other ain't no more than twenty,"
murmured the sailor. "You're right, sir, and I oughtn't never to have
wanted yer to clear from the river without taking them with yer. Yer
couldn't do it, as yer say. Them shipmates what'll be yours as soon as
yer reach the _Dido_ wouldn't forgive yer for such a act And how can I
help yer?"

"By remaining at your post on the farther shore, and by rushing forward
if there is trouble. If not, all that you will have to do will be to see
the poor things safely on board one of the prahus, and then follow at
your best pace. On the other hand, if I am discovered, and the pirates
rush down in force, you and your men will have to take to the river and
leave me to myself. After all, the safety of the whole tribe must not be
endangered for the life of one man."

"It all depends on who he is," was John's dogged reply. "If jest one of
themselves, p'r'aps not. If their leader, the chap as come along to save
'em in the first place from these here fellers, the one what's led 'em
all this distance, why, I tell yer that they won't move till you're dead
or with 'em. But it ain't coming to that, sir. You'll manage to rescue
them two without giving so much as a sound, and we'll all find ourselves
in Sarawak afore we can think it possible. We've everything jest cut and
dried, and as soon as them 'ere fellers'll clear off to bed we'll set to
at the job."

Having come to a decision on the matter, and settled every point which
occurred to them, the two lay silently upon the bank, their eyes fixed
upon the blazing fires beyond, and upon the outline of the stockade
which stood out clearly against the dark background of the forest. That
the Malays, and their friends the sea Dyaks, were making merry was
very evident, for they lay about the blazing logs in great numbers,
while the women tended to their wants. As for the Dutchman, the night
was too hot to allow of his eating in comfort within the large shed
which he occupied when at the stronghold, and instead, he sat at a
roughly-improvised table, composed of a large packing-case, which was
placed before his door. Before him burnt a bright fire, while several of
the native women hung about him, bringing food and wine to his board. So
clearly, indeed, was he outlined by the light that it might have been
possible to pick him off with a rifle, and Tyler even lifted his weapon
to his shoulder. An instant later, however, he had dropped it with an
exclamation of disgust, and once more contented himself with watching
the Dutchman.

"It would be like murdering the lot in their beds," he said to himself,
"just the thing that would appeal to men of his class and to fellows
like Li Sung, who know no better and who are brought up to that way
of killing their enemies. But to an Englishman it is impossible, and
besides, the shot might and might not be successful, while it would
certainly give the alarm and bring a hundred and more of the pirates
rushing across in this direction. Ah, there is food going to the
prisoners! So that it is clear that they are to be well treated for the
time being. I will watch what is happening."

As he spoke, two women advanced across the open space which was enclosed
by the bamboo stockade, and, arriving at the tiny hut which harboured
the captives, entered with a platter of food and a gourd of water. Ten
minutes later they emerged again, dragging the woman with them, while
the child followed behind, weeping bitterly at the scene.

"Brutes!" thought Tyler; "but I am sure that the captives' lives are not
threatened, for otherwise they would not have fed them. Ah, they are
being taken to the Dutchman!"

Directing their steps to the spot where Hanns Schlott sat, the native
women dragged their captive up to his table and forced her to seat
herself upon a box close at hand; then they stood beside her while the
leader of the pirates spoke with her, and amused himself at the obvious
terror under which she laboured. As for the child, she clung to her
white companion, and stood looking at the man who had suddenly come so
prominently into her life as if he were a monster, as indeed he was.

"The Dutchman is jeering at them, that is evident," said Tyler to
himself, as he looked on at the distant scene. "I only wish that I was
beside him to hear what he was saying, so that I could punish him later
on. One would have thought that any man would have taken pity upon those
poor things, but he is a hardened villain, and I really believe that
they would receive better treatment from the natives. Now he is sending
them back, and let us hope that very soon he and his followers will take
themselves off to their beds."

For three hours in succession did our hero and his followers lie in
the jungle with their eyes glued upon the distant lair of the pirates.
Indeed it seemed as though Hanns Schlott and his men had made up their
minds to sit the hours of darkness out, and to indulge in revelry till
morning came, for they made no movement to go to their huts, and instead
remained grouped about the fires.

"Supposing they stayed there till daylight came? What if they never went
to their beds, but as soon as morning was come jumped into their sampans
and entered the forest in search of fruit or some other food."

Tyler asked himself the questions, and sat bolt upright as he puzzled
for an answer. Then he sank back into his old position with an air of
resignation.

"Then they must look to themselves," he said to himself. "If they come
this way they will certainly discover us, and we shall have to fight for
our lives. But it occurs to me that they would be taken by surprise,
and that they might easily think that we were another lot of pirates
attacking them, and not the fugitives whom they are hoping to waylay
on their journey to Sarawak. That being the case we must take a bold
course, and I shall at once make for the prahus. All the men and many of
the women and children can swim as well as they can walk, and we will
dive into the river without delay. A few minutes should see us masters
of the fleet of prahus, and little time would be taken in embarking the
remainder of our party. Then we would sail for the sea, and trust to
our men to beat off any who might follow. Yes, now that I come to think
of the matter I am sure that a bold course will pay us best, though,
if possible, we will get away without discovery; for their numbers are
very large, while ours are small. Then again, by putting off the attack
we shall be able perhaps to return on a later date, and with a European
force, when I feel sure that the days of the pirates will be ended. But
Hanns is moving. The rascal is going to talk with his men."

Rising from the rough table at which he had eaten, the Dutchman walked
across the clearing and entered into conversation with his men.
Evidently he had something pleasant to propose, for they all sprang to
their feet and set up a shout of joy. Then some of their number raced
off to a certain portion of the stronghold, and returned very shortly
with enormous jars upon their shoulders.

"Drink to our success!" shouted Hanns Schlott, motioning to all to help
themselves. "Drink death to the hated Englishmen who have escaped us so
far, and a quick end to all who may try to oppose us in the open sea. We
are the only men in and about Borneo, and I am the only leader who can
bring you fortune and much gold. Fill up, then, and drink to the future."

Waiting till all had filled the rough gourds which did duty for mugs,
the Dutchman lifted his glass to his lips and drained it at a draught.
Then he repeated the process with a swaggering air, and having done so
strolled off to his seat once more.

"Now enjoy yourselves!" he shouted out as he retired. "There is wine
in plenty, so do not spare it, for the English ship has a big store to
replace what you may happen to use. Drink, then, and dance, for now you
have the time, while to-morrow you will be marching through the jungle
on the way to catch the white-faces, and those who were foolish enough
to throw in their lot with them. For myself, I have much to think of,
for remember, your safety, your success depend upon me. And therefore I
will retire at once, leaving you to follow at your wish."

With a lordly wave of the hand he went to his hut and disappeared
within, leaving his men to themselves. Nor were they slow in following
his advice as to making merry, for up to now they had but lain basking
in the heat of the numerous fires which blazed in the clearing. Now,
however, stimulated by the extra allowance of wine, and by the thought
that there was more to follow, they leapt to their feet and began to
dance in circles, while their womenfolk beat time upon the ground with
their hands. And when one lot of natives were exhausted, and had thrown
themselves upon the earth beside the fires, to lie there panting till
refreshment was brought them, others sprang to take their places, and
the mad dance was carried on.

Strange, indeed, was the sight, and for long did Tyler and his men look
on, though to John Marshall and to his leader it was one which they had
never witnessed before. As if fascinated they watched as the pirates
flung their limbs into the air and swung their arms aloft, while they
wondered how long they would be able to continue, and where came the
pleasure of such rapid movement. Then each one began to observe that
less energy was displayed, while some of the dancers had entirely given
in, and lay as if asleep upon the ground.

"The drink telling," whispered John Marshall. "Them chaps'll be asleep
afore very long, and then it'll be our turn to play the tune. I reckon
it's getting towards morning, too; so the sooner they go off the better
it'll be. How long will yer give 'em to settle, sir?"

"No more than half an hour. By then the majority will be asleep, and we
shall only have the women to fear. Besides, the first part of our work
should be carried out noiselessly, while the tribe should be embarked
without giving any alarm. It is during the last part, when I attempt to
enter the stronghold, that we shall have to be most cautious, and it is
then that we can expect trouble."

"A fig for the trouble, sir!" cried John Marshall, snapping his fingers.
"Them fellers is too much overcome already to be able to do much
fighting, and if it comes to hand-grips with them, why, I reckon I know
who'll get the best of the scuffle. Don't you worry, Mr. Richardson, for
if they drop upon you when you're inside, me and the men with me will
rush in and bring you out. Hist! Didn't I hear something over there?
Listen and see if you can't make it out."

At once he became rigid in every limb, while his eyes seemed to start
from their sockets. Then he stretched across to where Tyler was
crouching, and taking him by the arm, directed his attention to the
second of the two booms, which guarded the other river at the point
where it flowed into the main channel of the Sarebus.

"Someone moving there," said our hero decidedly. "A boat, I think,
though it is so dark in that direction that one cannot distinguish
anything. There! I heard a splash as if a sampan had been dropped into
the water, or an anchor had been let go. Hush!"

"And them's voices," came from the boatswain in the lowest of whispers.
"You can hear 'em coming over the water as plain as if they was
alongside of this very spot. What'll it be? Pirates come to have a fight
with these here fellers? or friends?"

"Dey friends, I tink," said a voice at their side, causing Tyler and his
companion to give a start of surprise. "Li Sung and de Dyak hear dem
plenty time ago as dey float down de oder river, and from de very first
we tink dat dey de men who am sent to de mountains to meet us. P'r'aps
not, but me feel velly certain."

"Then they must have had some reason for returning," exclaimed Tyler
anxiously, "for, no doubt, their orders were strictly to the effect
that they were to lie in wait till we came along, and then send news to
the stronghold, while they followed our tracks. This is serious, for it
proves that they know more than we gave them credit for. Can they have
already discovered that we have made directly in this line with the
intention of falling upon their ships? Or do they imagine, because they
have not seen us near the mountain range, that we have turned back and
abandoned the journey?"

"Me cannot say, but me velly sure dem am de ones de Dutchman send off to
de mountain," repeated the Chinaman with an emphatic wag of his head.
"But keep little silence and velly soon we hear, for dey go into de
stockade and speak to deir friends."

Conscious that they could do nothing for the present, for as yet the
revellers still lounged before their fires, and a sudden dash upon the
ships would have been doomed to failure, Tyler and his friends crouched
in the jungle, fretting at the delay, chafing at the thought that even
now something might have occurred to upset all their carefully-prepared
plans, and with minds filled with anxious forebodings. And behind them,
in every attitude, crouched the remainder of their followers, a prey for
the most part to vague fears, which, in spite of their new spirit and of
the fact that they had a trusted leader, would assail them however much
they fought to be brave.

Would these men, these new-comers, join with their brothers and spend
the night in revelry, or would they go to their huts at once and rest
after an arduous march? The questions troubled Tyler considerably, and
think as he would he could find no solution, for as yet it was not even
certain that the men who manned the vessel which had just brought-to
against the farther boom, and whose voices had been heard across the
water, were those who had been sent to the mountains to waylay the
Englishman and his Dyak followers. Perhaps they would turn out to be
friends on a visit to the pirates.

Then did these rovers of the river and sea possess any who could
be called by that name? Could any of their neighbours trust them
sufficiently, or be trusted by the Dutchman and his men?

"It is out of the question," said Tyler to himself. "If these fellows
were on a visit they would send someone ahead to announce their coming,
for otherwise it is more likely that a bullet or the contents of one of
those brass cannon which are mounted on the stockade would greet them.
It is clear that they belong to Hanns Schlott and his gang, and that
being the case I shall be astonished if they do not prove to be the ones
sent to capture us or to gain tidings of our approach. But if so, why
have they returned?"

With head firmly held between his hands he endeavoured to think the
matter out and come to a satisfactory conclusion. Then with a gesture of
disgust he put it aside, and, uncovering his eyes, again stared in the
direction of the second river.

"The future must tell," he whispered in John's ear. "We will wait
patiently, and should it turn out that these men are from the mountains,
and know of our presence near at hand, we will at once set about the
capture of the prahus and the embarkation of the tribe. That done we
shall be able to sail away to the sea, where we can laugh at them. At
least, you and the others will be able to do so."

"And what about yerself, sir?" demanded John Marshall with a start,
turning upon him suddenly and peering anxiously into his face. "Ain't
you a-coming? Do yer mean to say that after all you've gone through you
mean to get left behind? I reckon it would be murder. It's suicide, and
nothing else."

He gave vent to an indignant snort, and lay there staring into the
darkness in the direction of the new-comers, as if he could not trust
himself to look any longer at his leader. A moment later, however, he
had swung his head round again and had grasped Tyler by the wrist.

"What's the game?" he demanded roughly, and in a curiously hoarse
whisper. "Still thinkin' of the kid and her nurse? What are yer after?"

"I'm considering their case," was Tyler's cool answer. "I have put
myself in their position and asked myself whether I should like to be
deserted under the circumstances. Then I have imagined that I am someone
else, who is the leader on this occasion, and I have wondered what he'd
do in such a case."

"Do! He'd clear with a whole skin as a general rule!"

"And what action would you take, John, if you were in my shoes? Imagine
that for a few seconds, and recollect that as the leader you would be
responsible for the safety of each and every member before you thought
of a haven for yourself. The child and the woman, who, I suppose, is her
nurse, are there. We saw them put into the hut, and we have already
made them part of our following. Would you desert them and leave them in
the clutches of that tiger?"

It was Tyler's turn now to face his companion in the darkness, and
address him as though he had a grievance. It was he who now spoke curtly
and with roughness. Placing his lips close to the sailor's ear he spoke
sternly and shortly, in such determined tones that John Marshall was
amazed and astounded.

"Well?" Tyler demanded curtly again of the boatswain. "You are the
leader for the moment; will you clear from the spot and save your own
miserable skin, or will you hang back for the sake of the child and the
woman?"

There was a long pause ere the silence was broken between them, and all
the while John Marshall stared across at the blazing fires and at the
figures of the pirates lying about them. He heard as if in a dream the
sounds made by those who had lately put in an appearance, and watched
listlessly for their appearance in the stockade. But he was thinking
of someone else. In his mind's eye he pictured the child of seven, and
the woman, the only survivors of those who had been aboard the English
ship, and he remembered that they were of his own country, strangers,
and helpless strangers at that, in a foreign country, without friends to
help them, unless he and his bold young leader went to the rescue, and
took them from the clutches of Hanns and his men.

What if he, John Marshall, of the mercantile marine, who prided himself
upon the fact of being a British sailor and a man, together with his
friend, Tyler Richardson, had failed to catch sight of the prisoners?
What if, knowing them to be so close at hand, they deserted them and
left them to their fate?

The boatswain almost started to his feet as this new side of the
question occurred to him; but a moment later he was lying down again,
with his face close to Tyler's.

"We'd be thunderin' curs!" he blurted out with a curious catch in
his breath. "You and me stands alone between them two and a life of
misery. And I was for making off with me tail between me legs! Bah. John
Marshall, you ain't half the chap you think!"

His disgust was so great that the better to express it he would have
brought his fist violently against the ground had not discretion
suddenly arrested his arm in the midst of the movement.

"Might wake 'em up over there," he said, as if to himself. "We can't
afford to be doin' that, for we've got to rescue the kid and the woman.
What's the idea, sir?"

"There is no idea as yet, John. All depends upon the pirates and their
friends who have lately arrived. If they settle down for the night we
shall be able to go on with the original programme. If not, then we
must see what can be done. But I will take all away or remain myself.
Supposing it is possible to embark the tribe, but we cannot get at
the captives, then I propose to remain behind in the forest, and try
on another occasion, or while they are absent in pursuit But, steady!
Something is occurring over there, and we had better listen."

Becoming silent at once they leaned as far towards the bank of the
river as the undergrowth would permit, and watched the spot where the
prahu had moored beside the boom. Thanks to the fires which blazed in
the central portion of the stockade, they were soon able to make out
her sails and her exact position, and even imagined that they could
observe the crew who still remained on board. Some minutes later
there was a movement amongst the latter, who disappeared from sight,
only to reappear within a short space of time at the entrance to the
stockade. And here they found nothing to prevent their moving forward,
for no enemies were expected, and, safe in the thought that they were
too powerful to fear a sudden attack, the pirates had neglected, as
was their wont, to close the gap which led through the timbers of the
stockade. With a shout some eighty men ran forward to the fires, and at
once mingled with their comrades.

"The gate is open. You observe that?" whispered Tyler in accents
of delight "If they do not trouble to close it I shall have little
difficulty in entering where those men went, and in bringing the
captives out by the same way. What is going to happen now?"

"They have news, sir, and that's what's troubling 'em. I reckon they'll
soon bring the Dutchman out of his bed."

That something out of the ordinary had occurred was very obvious, for
whereas those of the pirates who had been lounging about the fires had
at first greeted their comrades who had just arrived with nonchalance
and with a few questions as to their success and as to the cause which
had brought about their return, now they had all endeavoured to leap
to their feet, and had set up a babel of shouts. Some, however, had
indulged in the wine which their leader had given them to such an extent
that they were beyond caring, and lay as still as logs. But many were
not so stupefied that they could not realize that something out of the
ordinary had happened, and crowding about their brothers they gave vent
to shouts which were louder and more angry on account of their condition.

"We took it for granted that you had killed them all, that you were
amongst us again with a tale to tell," cried one of them plaintively.
"And now you come amongst us at a time when we are tired out with our
day of work, and when we are about to sleep, and fill our ears with
news which should make us feel alarm. Surely you are mistaken. You have
allowed yourselves to be misled, for it is madness to imagine that those
white fools would dare to come this way."

"There is no madness about it so far as we can see," was the answer
of the one who had been the leader of the returned party. "What is
more natural than that these men should take the most direct line? for
otherwise, by going by way of the mountains, they would increase the
length of their journey by a great deal, a matter of much importance
when we have news that women and children accompany them. Then again,
by making for the river they run the chance of obtaining boats; and
remember, my comrade, to desperate men the idea of capturing prahus from
the very people whom they have to fear is not an impossibility."

"Run away with our prahus! Take them from beneath our very noses!
Why, what can you have been doing? Surely you and those who went with
you have come upon a store of wine like ourselves, and have indulged
so freely that your minds are disturbed. Capture our fleet indeed! A
beggarly handful of starving Dyaks, with women and children to feed
and protect, and a couple of white-faces to lead them. The idea is
laughable!"

The man shouted the words at his companion, and then turned to his
comrades with a disdainful laugh and a half-drunken grimace which set
them roaring.

"He will say soon that we are in danger," broke in another, pushing his
way to the front, "and he will bid us fly to our wives to beg protection
from them. Quickly let me find my way to my own particular hut, where
dwells a woman who works hard all through the day, and has gained
thereby such strength that she will be able to beat off all whom the
white-faces may send."

He staggered away through the crowd, who stepped aside with many a
guffaw and roar of laughter, and went towards one of the huts near by.
As for his comrades, they enjoyed the joke immensely. It suited their
mood to a nicety, and, determined to make the most of it and enjoy
themselves to the full, they again crowded about the new-comers and
plied them with questions.

"Shall we run now? And where can we go?" demanded one of them, making
pretence to be full of terror.

"Do you say that we ourselves should get aboard the fleet at once,
dragging with us those who lie insensible about the fires, and sail for
the sea? There is much of the ocean outside, and there we might even
manage to escape these dangerous men!"

"And then, when they had in their largeness of heart decided to be
merciful, and had retired from this spot, we might even venture to
return to our homes," said the one who had first spoken, giving vent to
a sneer. "But come, my friends, admit that this is madness, or we shall
quarrel. Say that you are in error, and join us in our jollity."

"We will do neither," was the indignant reply. "Here are we, returned
after much trouble and full of weariness, and you jeer at us and tell
us that we are fools. Were it not that you are our brothers we would
chastise you as you deserve."

The threat, to men in the excited condition of the pirates, who had been
lying about the fires and drinking the Dutchman's wine, was one which
could not be easily passed over, and besides, all belonged to a race
accustomed to bloodshed, and ready at any moment to resent an insult
or to repay a wrong with violence. Hardly, therefore, had the words
left the lips of the speaker than the two parties were on the verge of
a conflict. Glaring at one another as though they were the worst of
enemies, each member of the piratical gang seized the kriss which was
thrust in his waist-cloth and flashed it in the firelight. A little more
and angry words would have led to bloodshed had not an interruption
occurred. Fortunately for the gang, the noise of the altercation
had come to the Dutchman's ears, and just as blows were about to be
exchanged he came from his hut, looking dishevelled and as though he had
but just risen from his bed, as was the case. In an instant he realized
what was about to happen, and rushing forward with an angry shout he
threw himself upon the men, buffeting them, and kicking those within
reach of his foot unmercifully.

"Dogs!" he shouted wrathfully. "Have I not told you often and often that
there is to be no quarrelling, that you are to do no fighting except at
my bidding? Put your weapons away, then, or some of you shall be shot as
the dawn breaks. And now what is the trouble? What has caused you all to
lose your tempers? Ah, I see that those who were sent to the mountains
have returned! Then you have good news. You have come up with this
tribe of runaways, and have killed them. Where are the heads of those
white men?"

He started back in his astonishment when the leader of the party told
him that he and his companions had failed to discover the tribe under
Tyler's command, but that they had ascertained that they were making
direct for the very river where Hanns Schlott and his gang had their
head-quarters, perhaps with the intention of attacking.

"We tracked them to within a very few miles," said the man, "and they
may even now be lying near at hand about to fall upon us. For that
reason we returned here at once and gave our warning to these men. But
they are fools, or rather their brains are dulled with the wine which
they have been drinking."

"And you will tell me that this white man and his tribe will attack us
here?" said Hanns Schlott suddenly, breaking into a derisive laugh. "Go
to your beds, men. It is clear that you are tired, or you would realize
that sane men do not put their heads into the open mouth of a lion; you
would see that attack from a puny force of three hundred at the most is
not to be feared by one which numbers more than three thousand. Get to
your huts, for a sleep will do you good. As for you other drunken dogs,
it is time that you, too, retired. To your couches, then, and let us
pass the remainder of the night in peace."

Without a second look in their direction he strode off to his own
abode, while his followers obeyed his orders like beaten curs, showing
that they held their Dutch leader in great fear. Soon the clearing was
deserted, and but for the fires, which were fast burning down, and for
one or two unconscious figures beside them, the stockade was deserted,
all having retired to their huts.

"And now comes the time for us," said Tyler in a voice which trembled,
so greatly was he excited. "Li Sung, you can go back to your men now
that you have told me all that went on over there, and you can send the
signal round. In three minutes the first company will be at the edge of
the water."

Gathering up his pigtail, the Chinaman slunk off into the darkness, and
ere long some fifty dusky and silent figures were creeping to the bank
of the Sarebus. A low hoot sounded in the night, and at the signal the
Dyak warriors, with Tyler and John Marshall at their head, lay flat upon
their faces and crept forward into the water. There was no wading, for
that would undoubtedly have given rise to much splashing. Instead, each
one immersed his body at once, and creeping along through the mud was
quickly in deep water. Then, breasting the stream, they turned to the
shelving bank above which was erected the bamboo stockade enclosing the
huts of the pirate gang.



CHAPTER XII

Captain of a Fleet


"Halt!" The whispered word of command to which Tyler gave vent once
he and his followers had set foot upon the opposite bank was scarcely
necessary, so well did each man understand his duties, and so sensibly
did they act. But Li Sung interpreted the order, and instantly some
fifty dripping figures came to a stand-still and dropped full length
upon the mud.

"Advance those who have to keep watch and beat back the enemy," said
Tyler, with difficulty keeping calm. "John, that is your command. Post
the men so as to hold the entrance, and look out for me when I come. Now
for the boat party."

Leading half the company to the left, he took them to the spot where the
sampans were drawn up on the beach, and stood by while the men carried
the tiny boats down into the water. Then, as silently as ghosts, they
pushed off from the bank, half the number making direct for the opposite
shore, while the remainder drifted down-stream to the prahus.

"Commence to embark the women and children and the remaining men," said
Tyler, as soon as the party which he had accompanied had reached the
opposite bank. "Let there be no crushing or pushing. Each will come down
in turn and be rowed to the prahus. Men last of all, as a general rule;
only, as soon as one of the vessels is filled, the crew will be put on
board, so as to be prepared to manoeuvre it should the alarm be given.
Quickly, please, for the morning is dangerously near at hand."

Standing beside the spot where the sampans had been drawn up, he watched
as the Dyak women and children embarked, enjoining strict silence upon
all of them. But they had been well drilled to the movement, and, thanks
to that, they all passed swiftly and without confusion from their
hiding-place in the jungle above to the sampans, and in the latter to
the prahu selected for them. Once a certain number were on board, the
sampans returned for a crew of men, and thus in an incredibly short
space of time all but the half-company watching beside the stockade, and
those who had gone amongst the fleet of prahus, were safely on board
awaiting the order to let go. But there was still something else to do,
and all watched anxiously as they realized that the stockade was to
be entered, and that the figure of a man crawling across the firelit
clearing would be that of their leader.

"Now for the two captives," said Tyler in matter-of-fact tones, when the
embarkation had been carried out to his satisfaction. "I feel satisfied
now that the larger proportion of the tribe will make good its escape,
for they are on board, and even if the alarm be given now, they are safe
from Hanns Schlott and his friends. Even at this moment I think I see
some of the prahus sinking, and certainly more than one has been cut
from its moorings and is floating away upon the river, and gradually
getting lower. That being the case, the Dutchman and his friends will
have to swim after us if they discover our trick, for we shall leave
nothing. And now for the captives."

For a few moments he stood up in the sampan, while Li Sung went ashore
with some of the Dyaks and hunted carefully through the jungle near at
hand, lest by chance some child should have been overlooked, or one
of the women, tired out by the long journey which she had borne so
well, and by this long night of anxious watching and waiting, should
have fallen asleep and remained behind, forgetful of the fact that her
sisters were embarking.

"That is well," he said in tones of satisfaction, when the Chinaman had
returned with the report that not a soul was to be seen, and that the
jungle was untenanted. "We can now see to the other matter. Li, you will
come with me to the other shore, while the men here who have managed the
embarkation will ferry their boats after us, and will lie off the bank
prepared to come in close and take the remainder of the party off. Tell
them that they are to leave an interval between each sampan, so as to
have plenty of room in case of having to beat a rapid retreat, and that
they are on no account to retire till all their comrades have joined
them. Take the oars now, and let us push over."

He gave the words of command in a calm voice, which betrayed no sign
of excitement or of confusion, but for all that Tyler could scarcely
keep his limbs from trembling, while his lips twitched spasmodically
and he was obliged to press them close together to keep them still; for
the thought of those helpless captives stirred him strangely, the fear
that their fate depended upon himself, and that upon his courage and
discretion their rescue or continued imprisonment would result, kept his
mind ill at ease and filled him with a feeling of nervousness to which
he had up to this been a stranger.

"It must be done," he kept saying to himself as he was being wafted to
the opposite shore, "and after all, why should I not be successful?
for the part which has already been carried out so silently has been
far larger and more full of difficulties, and yet see how smoothly it
has worked. Yes, I will rescue those two helpless prisoners whatever
happens."

With this resolution before him he became calmer and more at his ease,
and prepared to set about the task in a manner which at once showed that
he was full of courage and determination.

"Stand ready to embark rapidly," he said, as he crept to John Marshall
and lay down beside him in the darkness. "If you hear me shout you will
know that I require help, but otherwise you are not to come nearer to
the stockade. Now I am going, but before I go I will remind you that
this company will embark on the English vessel which the pirates towed
in. Men have already made a small prahu fast to her bows, and once the
signal is given, and we are aboard, they will cut the cables and swing
her round. After that she will be carried down by the stream."

"And it won't be long afore we get some of her canvas up," whispered the
sailor. "Then if this here Dutchman and his men come after us, or any
of them coves down the river attempt to stop us, why, we shall be able
to tackle 'em in proper style. Now, sir, be careful, please, for you're
our leader. Jest think of that, for these here Dyaks jest think a deal
of yer and would be sorry if yer came to harm. There's me, too, you
must remember"--and the honest fellow felt for Tyler's hand and gripped
it firmly,--"what would I do to get on without yer? But you'll take
the best of care, that I'm sure of, and you'll carry this through like
the rest. If yer shout I'll be there in a twinkling, and if yer should
happen to come up with that Dutch chap, jest think of how I downed him.
Put yer fist in his face, and it'll silence him sooner than anything.
Good-bye, and good luck!"

With another squeeze of the hand he released Tyler, the latter springing
to his feet at once.

"Then all is settled," he said quietly. "If I shout, you come to help;
if not, you remain here or embark at once. My orders are that the safety
of the tribe is not on any account to be risked on my behalf."

A second later, when the sailor would have spoken to his leader, he was
astonished to find that he had gone, and that his place was occupied by
thinnest air. It gave him a start when he considered with what silence
Tyler had gone, but a moment's reflection reminded him of the fact that
his leader was dressed in native costume, and that he wore soft sandals
upon his feet.

"All the better," murmured John Marshall, "for it'll make his chances
brighter. I don't half like this game of his, and never did, though I
see that he's right in making the attempt. But it's risky. It's the
worst part of all this little adventure, and I shall be thankful when I
see him safe amongst us again. Ah! there he goes through the entrance,
and it will be well for him to hurry, for a few minutes ago the stockade
was out of sight, while now one can see it fairly easily, showing that
morning is coming."

That this was the case became evident to all the watchers, for as they
lay there on the bank their figures up to this had been invisible to one
another, while now a keen searcher of the spot would have discovered
them to a certainty had he been within close range of them. Indeed the
night seemed to have gone quite suddenly, while a damp mist, which often
precedes the morn in Borneo, lay over river and land, wrapping them in
semi-obscurity.

"In ten minutes it will go, de sun will suck up de water from de air,
and all will be bright," whispered Li Sung, who had thrown himself down
beside John Marshall. "When massa comes, and we get aboard, de pirate
see us sailing away, and dey get velly angry at de sight. He, he, he! De
Dutchman him rave velly fine, and say many tings, but him not be able to
follow, for he no havee ships."

The Chinaman again indulged in a half-audible chuckle, which caused the
sailor to stretch out his hand and grip him by the shoulder.

"Silence," he said sternly, "and listen! Laugh and cackle as much as you
wish when the master is with us again, but make a sound now and I'll--"

Exactly what the boatswain would have threatened to do to the faithful
Chinaman it would be difficult to state, though his wrinkled forehead
and the scowl upon his face might have indicated something terrible.
However, a sound within the stockade suddenly arrested the altercation,
and both lay there listening eagerly.

Creak! creak! Was it the door of the hut in which the prisoners were
kept, or could some native have suddenly awakened before the dawn had
come, as was so often their custom, and thrown wide the gate of his
humble abode?

Both longed to clear up the question, but found it impossible, for from
the position which they had taken up they were unable to command a view
of the whole of the clearing within the stockade. Those on the prahus,
however, could have enlightened them, for from the river the dull glare
of the embers of the dying fires, the bamboo stockade, and every hut
within were distinctly within view, while the dusky figure crawling
across to that part where the captives had been taken was plainly
discernible. With straining eyes each one of the Dyak tribe aboard the
prahus watched the young leader whom they had come to look up to and
admire. They saw him creep rapidly, but with every caution, through the
entrance to the stockade and then across the clearing. As they stared at
him through the misty haze, which was gradually and insensibly giving
place to the light of day, they noted how he paused before the hut
occupied by the rascally Dutch leader of the pirates, and each wondered
with beating heart whether any sound had alarmed him.

Creak! creak! Ah! they, too, heard the noise of a wicket thrown open,
and started at the sound. Then they stood there on the sloping decks
listening for a shout, for a pistol-shot, for the roar of a hundred and
more voices to tell them that the young Englishman had been discovered.
But no, not another sound disturbed the silence of the awakening day,
and the dusky figure was seen to be advancing again. Ah, he was at the
hut where the prisoners were kept! Was he entering? Why did he pause
at the door, and for what reason did he so hurriedly dart behind the
dwelling?

Well might each member of the watching tribe of Dyaks ask the question,
for the movements of their leader seemed unaccountable. But Tyler knew
well what he was doing, and sounds which failed to spread so far as the
men lying on the bank without the stockade, or those others waiting
aboard the prahus, reached his ears distinctly.

"There is someone moving," he said to himself, as he reached the hut
which harboured the prisoners. "Who can it be? Perhaps some fellow
turning in his couch."

Sitting up as high as possible, he listened eagerly, and then crept on a
few paces. Then of a sudden he became aware of the fact that a door had
been thrown open, and realizing that the sound came from the Dutchman's
hut, he scrambled hastily behind the one close to which he was crouching.

"Hanns Schlott!" he exclaimed in tones of vexation. "His guilty mind
will not allow him to sleep, and so he has come out to walk about the
clearing. Ah, I have had my mind so fully occupied that I did not notice
that it is already getting light, and he will be able to see me! Yes,
even now I can observe his figure."

Staring through the mist and haze, which had so suddenly risen, Tyler
watched the Dutchman emerge from his abode and stalk out into the
clearing. Then, realizing with a start that to delay would be more
dangerous than to proceed with the rescue, he waited for a few moments
to allow a second hut to come between himself and the Dutchman, and then
scrambled at his fastest pace to the door which would give access to the
dwelling within which were the prisoners. A second later he had thrust
it in, and was crawling through the opening.

"Who is that?" he heard someone demand in frightened tones, while there
was the sound of a shriek commenced but suddenly arrested. "Oh, what is
happening to us?"

"Hush! Do not make a sound for your lives," answered Tyler in low tones,
crawling right into the hut and closing the door. "Do not be frightened,
for I have come to help you and take you away."

"Then you are English? But I caught sight of a native, and that is what
frightened me. Who are you?"

The question was asked in a whisper, while the young woman leant forward
till she was close to Tyler, for his voice had reassured her.

"It is too long a story to tell you, but I have come to rescue you and
the little girl. Follow me at once, please, and do exactly as I say.
Now, to the door!"

Waiting only to see that they had risen, and that the young woman had
whispered reassuring words to the child, and had cautioned her against
making a sound, Tyler went to the door and gently opened it.

"We shall have day with us in a few moments," he said, turning swiftly
and with an involuntary exclamation of dismay. "Now, listen to me. We
have captured the English ship from the pirates, and have also taken the
prahus. My men are Dyaks, and they will be your friends. You must follow
me at once, keeping well behind the huts. When we get to the opening
through the stockade we will run. Do you understand? Then follow."

Glancing swiftly around, and failing to catch sight of Hanns Schlott,
Tyler led the way into the clearing, and then, stealing along through
the mist, he directed the prisoners amongst the huts so as to keep them
out of sight. Very soon they came to a point where the dwellings ended,
and where nothing but open ground stretched between the fugitives and
the stockade. And here they came to an abrupt halt, while a feeling of
dismay came over them; for there in the opening stood the burly figure
of Hanns Schlott, his face turned to the river, while he stared into the
mist as if something had occurred to awaken his suspicions.

"Strange!" he was murmuring; "is it the wine which I drank last night,
or can it be the thought of that beggarly Englishman, by name Tyler
Richardson, who threatened to follow me and see me hanged as a murderer?
Tush! My eyes are playing me a trick, and I am out of sorts."

He stamped upon the ground in his vexation, and turned from the river
for a moment. But again his eyes went back in that direction as if
he were fascinated, while on this occasion he started forward, and,
sheltering his eyes with his hand, stared into the cloud of watery
vapour with an eagerness which showed that he was still ill at ease.

"Surely that is strange!" he said in hesitating tones. "Of course the
mist is thickest over the water, but the prahus are outlined in it,
though dimly, I admit. But how comes it that the ship which we captured
is turned with stern this way, and her bows pointing to the sea? It is
beyond my comprehension, for the tide does not make this way for three
hours at least. And--am I really bewildered this morning and muddled by
the wine?--half the fleet seems to have disappeared!"

He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, and, tearing his hat from his
head, thrust his fingers through his hair. Then once more he fixed his
attention on the river, and stood there as if undecided still, and
as though hesitating how to act. Meanwhile Tyler and his charges had
watched him with feelings approaching dismay.

"We cannot possibly afford to wait more than three or four minutes,"
said the former, "and if he does not move then, we must rush past him.
But I do not like to see him staring so hard at the river, for it seems
to me that he suspects something, and I know that whatever he thinks at
the moment he will soon realize what is happening once the sun clears
the mist away. Get ready, miss, and if you see me start forward at a
walk, be prepared to rush after me and go straight through the opening.
I will see to that fellow."

The seconds seemed to be minutes, so slowly did they pass, and though
Tyler only permitted some three of the latter to elapse before making a
move, almost half an hour seemed to have been occupied in watching the
burly Dutchman. Indeed, now that he had come so close to success in the
undertaking which he had set himself, the fear that, after all, he would
be beaten, that Hanns Schlott would cut off his retreat and retain his
prisoners, filled Tyler's mind with apprehension and anxiety, and those
few minutes seemed almost a lifetime. And all the while the Dutchman
stood as if rooted to the spot, still unable to make up his feeble mind
as to what was happening, and hesitating to awake his followers at this
early hour and bring them rushing forth on a fool's errand, which would
cause them to grumble and laugh at their leader.

Suddenly, as he turned to the collection of huts behind him, his eye
fell upon the figure of a swarthy Dyak, with sandalled feet, who was
advancing towards him, and taking him for one of his own men he called
eagerly to him.

"Come here and tell me what you see," he said in commanding tones. "My
sight is not very certain in these early morning mists, and often plays
me false. Say, are the prahus still at their moorings, and why is it
that the vessel which we captured has her head turned to the sea?"

He was in the act of turning once more to the river, to direct the
gaze of the native who had advanced towards him, when another doubt,
something unusual about the man, seemed to strike him, and he swung
round, to face Tyler with a start of surprise.

"Sandals!" he gasped. "Sopping waist-cloth, and--and colour which runs
in streaks down the body and leaves white beneath!"

Like a flash he recognized who this native must be, and stood there
staring at him as though the discovery stifled him, as though the
boldness of the Englishman took his breath away. Then, quick as
lightning, a thought, a horrible dread, came over him.

"Had the Englishman come to the stockade with others of his country? Was
that the reason of the disappearance of some of the prahus? And had this
man, this youth whom he had openly called a cub, but whom in his heart
he feared not a little, and whose persistence had amazed him, had this
Tyler Richardson tracked him to this spot, and by some uncanny means
induced him, the leader of this gang of pirates, to emerge from his hut
at that early hour in the morning and walk alone, like a helpless fly,
into the web which had been woven to catch him?"

The thought sent the blood surging to his face, only to recede in an
instant and leave him deadly pale. He gasped, threw back his head to
take in a much-needed breath, and would have set the air ringing with a
shriek of dismay had not Tyler suddenly stopped him. Instantly realizing
that he had been recognized, and that his disguise was discovered, he
threw himself upon the Dutchman like a hound, and, mindful of the advice
which John Marshall had given him just before they had parted, dealt
Hanns Schlott a terrific blow between the eyes.

"For you!" he shouted, throwing silence and caution to the winds in his
excitement as he delivered the blow. "That to show you that a Dutchman
cannot stop an Englishman!"

Had he been struck by a hammer Hanns Schlott could not have been more
staggered, or thrown off his balance. Indeed, the suddenness and the
unexpected nature of the attack, and the force with which the fist
crashed upon his face, had combined to send him to the ground, and but
for the fact that the edge of the stockade happened to be close at hand
he would have gone upon his back in the clearing, just as he had on a
former occasion fallen crash to the floor of the schooner's cabin before
the fist of John Marshall. Instead, however, his bulky figure was driven
heavily against the bamboos, and, recoiling from them with the force of
the impact, he was thrown once more in the direction of his opponent.
Nor did Tyler hesitate how to act. Drawing back a pace he leapt again at
the leader of the pirates, sending both his fists beneath his chin. Ah!
That was sufficient to stop Hanns Schlott, in spite of his great weight.
As the doubled fingers struck him his chin shot into the air and his
head was doubled back. Then, throwing his arms helplessly before him, he
fell like a log, his back coming into violent contact with the ground.

"Quickly!" called Tyler, turning to beckon to the two who followed him.
"Now give me a hand and together we will run to the boats."

Grasping the child by her disengaged hand he, together with the young
woman whom he had rescued, ran at their fastest pace down to the river,
bearing their charge between them. A second later John Marshall and his
men confronted the fugitives and hastened them to the boats.

"Jest a proper whop!" cried the former in tones of delight, his
enthusiasm urging him to give his congratulations without delay. "I tell
yer I saw it all, for I had taken good care to creep to a spot where I
had the entrance under view, and I reckon I could hear the fist strike
him. But he's only downed for a minute. He's silly just now, but he'll
be shouting afore we are well on the river, and then there will be some
fun. This way, my dear. Give the child to me, and you'll see that John
Marshall can take care of her."

Lifting the child in his arms he went to one of the sampans and
embarked, the young woman following. As for Tyler, he too ran down to
the water's edge, and stood there while his men scrambled aboard their
boats.

"All there?" he demanded quietly. "Then push off at once and make for
the English ship. Li Sung, you can shout to the others to cut away from
their moorings and make for the sea."

Leaping into one of the sampans he took his place in the bows and stood
there eagerly watching the scene before him. Nor had he any difficulty
in observing each one of the prahus which the tribe commanded, for,
as is so often the case in the East, the sun had risen with startling
suddenness, and, streaming along the open space left by the river,
had swept the mist away as if with a broom. And there, as if with the
movement of a magician's wand, a brilliant day had suddenly displaced
the gloom, showing the broad surface of the Sarebus flashing in the
morning rays, and stirred here and there by the keels of the prahus,
while on either side and behind was a net-work of green, enormous trees
standing in serried lines and huddled together till it scarcely seemed
to need the trailing creepers, the ferns, and the festoons of dazzling
blooms to fill up the intervals. And lower down, with the rising sun as
a setting to them, were a score of piratical vessels, some with masts
alone to be seen, while others floated upon the river in ungainly
positions, careening this way and that, some with bows thrust high into
the air, and others with their decks on the point of being submerged.

"The remainder of Hanns Schlott's fleet," said Tyler with just the trace
of a smile wreathing his lips. "He will be at a loss without them. But
listen to the noise he is making. He is bellowing as if he had been
hurt."

"And he will shout so loud and will rush by the paths along the river so
that de men below hear," chimed in Li Sung, who stood by his master's
side. "You see; China boy him tellee you dat de Dutchman havee a velly
big try to turn de table. He shout and him halloo, and as me say, he
send de men along de river bank. But who cares? Li him quite happy. He
hab big ship velly soon, and him sail to meet him wife and family."

"If those below will let you," laughed Tyler, feeling now as though a
load of anxious care had been lifted from his mind. "But, as you say,
Li, it does not matter very much, for the tribe is now a hundred times
better off than an hour ago, for we have ships, and we have weapons, and
there is liberty and freedom before us. But here is the ship. Up we go!"

Thanks to the careful drilling which the Dyaks had received there was no
confusion at this, almost the last stage of their adventurous journey.
Obedient to the orders of their leader, those who had been told off to
look to the English schooner had warped her round till her head pointed
down-stream, and had then hung on to her, prepared at any moment to tow
her towards the bend, while two of their comrades, placed in a sampan
at the stern, severed the cables with their swords. Waiting, therefore,
for a shout from Tyler, they pulled at their sweeps, and hardly had the
rescued prisoners and their escort scrambled aboard than the schooner
was under weigh.

"We will keep in rear," said Tyler, calling John Marshall to his side.
"Take the tiller, my lad, and keep her in the centre of the stream.
I will go with Li Sung, and will arrange to have a sail or two bent.
There will be no difficulty either, for many are hanging in their places
half-furled."

"And what wind there is is down-stream," added the boatswain. "Give the
sheets a pull to bring 'em tight, and then get the darkies to shy a
bucket or two of water over the sails. It'll make 'em draw, and send us
along bowling."

"I'll see what can be done about guns, too," went on Tyler, "for I fancy
that we shall have to fight for it later on. But it will be a small
affair compared with what we have had already, and somehow I don't seem
to mind much."

"And I don't think no more of the idea than that," burst in the sailor,
snapping his fingers. "I'm jest light-hearted, I am, and I keeps on
a-roaring at the Dutchman. Lor', didn't he catch it!"

The honest fellow went to the tiller with a broad grin upon his
features, looking a peculiar object indeed as he stood there in his
strange garb of a Dyak. As for Tyler, it was a wonder that he did not
see the ridiculous side of his appearance also, for the swim across the
river had not improved his disguise by any means. In fact the merest
glance was sufficient to show that he was no native, for long white
streaks extended from his neck to his feet, while his face presented a
mottled appearance. Then, owing to his swim across the river, and to
the subsequent grovelling in mud and in the dust within the stockade,
he had obtained a coating which matched but badly with the stain of the
betel-nut, while his waist-cloth and turban were much discoloured. But
he had no time for the subject, and indeed, when he looked toward the
stern to see the boatswain in similar attire, he found nothing wrong,
nothing out of the ordinary, and it seemed only what was to be expected
to have a big raw-boned native there, watching the rigging with nautical
eye, and standing at his tiller in a business-like manner which showed
that he was a sailor born and bred.

"The sails first and the guns afterwards," said Tyler, running forward
with Li Sung. "Get to work, like a good fellow, and take charge of one
gang. I will do what I can with the other."

Thanks to the fact that the vessel had been sailed into the river, and
that those who had captured her had not taken the trouble to strip her
of her canvas, but had merely furled the sheets to the yards, the new
owners of the schooner had little difficulty in setting a large amount
of sail, so much so that ere long those on board the prahu were being
overhauled, and seeing that their sweeps were no longer needed, prepared
to come aboard.

"Make her fast to the stern and we will drop a ladder for you," shouted
Tyler, Li Sung interpreting the order. "She may be useful to us later
on, or I would have her scuttled. Now, how are the others doing?"

He turned his face down the river, and watched the other prahus which
bore the tribe of Dyaks who had journeyed with him so far.

"Good!" he exclaimed. "My followers evidently understand all about
vessels of that description, and they have them now fairly under weigh.
Then the stream is helping them along, and as they are smaller and more
easily manoeuvred than this schooner, they should be able to keep well
ahead. But we will see to that, and should any be lagging we will keep
them company, for it would never do to leave them behind. How are they
behaving at the pirate's stronghold?"

"Dey velly angry," said Li Sung with twinkling eyes, shaking his head
at Tyler. "Dey not know velly fine what have happened, but dey see de
prahus going, and dey watch dose which have not sunk. Ah! dis morning am
a velly bad one for dem."

"But there will be a worse to follow, Li. I hope to come this way again
later on, and drive them out altogether. But for the time being we have
enough to do without talking of that. I see that a number of the pirates
have plunged into the jungle, and are no doubt bound for their friends
lower down. When can we expect to come across another stockade?"

"Plenty quick, massa. De pirates havee anoder place a mile below, on de
right of de bank, and before velly long we be dere. Dey be ready for us
too, me tink, and den de guns fire and de swords flash."

"We shall see to that," said Tyler calmly, "and as there seems to be no
doubt that we shall have to encounter these fellows I will see what can
be done in the way of defence. But let us get our men aboard, and then
set more sails."

Turning abruptly to the stern again, he ran there with the Chinaman and
threw a rope-ladder overboard, up which the dusky Dyaks ascended with
the agility of monkeys. Then he took them along the deck with him and
set them to work at the rigging. Fortunately there was little difficulty
about the matter, and very soon the schooner was showing quite a large
amount of canvas, which, now that it was drenched with water, as John
Marshall had advised, caught the wind and sent the ship surging towards
the sea. And meanwhile the other prahus had made good way, and, keeping
to the centre of the river, which broadened rapidly now that they had
passed out of sight of Paddi, went sweeping along in front of the
English vessel which bore their leader. That the Dyaks were full of
excitement and of courage there was no doubt, for they crowded to the
bulwarks of their several prahus and flung shouts of defiance at the
pirates who raced along beside them. Indeed, never before had they been
in the position of being able to taunt these fierce enemies, and now
that the opportunity had come, and they realized to the full that for
the very first time it was they who were masters of the situation, while
those who had so often attacked them and caused them untold suffering
were helpless and beaten, they taunted them till the pirates raged with
anger, and waved swords, blow-pipes, and spears at them as if bidding
them wait but a little time and then join in combat with those who in
former days had trembled at the approach of one even of these fierce
warriors of the sea.

As for the pirates, they were utterly beaten and baffled, and helpless
to follow those who had made such an audacious attack upon them, by
means of the river, for not a sampan had been left to them, while every
prahu that they had possessed was now sailing for the sea or was beneath
the water. They raced down the stream by forest paths, sometimes being
within full view of Tyler and his men, and at others buried in the
jungle which completely hid them from sight. But their intention was
obvious, for as they ran they fired their flint muskets and shouted at
the top of their voices, with the one object of warning their comrades
below.

"The shots will have been heard long ago," said Tyler quietly, as he
gazed with satisfaction at the rigging, "and when we come to this other
stronghold we shall have to face more enemies. Let us see at once to the
guns."

With Li Sung in close attendance he went to the cabin, and then
thoroughly searched the ship, returning before very long with an
abundance of ammunition and small-arms, while the Chinaman staggered
beneath the weight of shot for a swivel-gun which was secured to the
deck amidships.

"Can the Dyaks be trusted to fire these weapons?" asked Tyler,
indicating the flint-locks. "It would never do to give them into their
hands if they were unaccustomed to firearms, for otherwise they would be
shooting one another."

"Massa need havee no fear. De Dyaks plenty knowee de gun, but dey too
poor to buy, and de powder and de shot too dear for dem to havee when
at home," replied Li Sung with elevated eyebrows. "But dey knowee allee
about dese tings. Oh yes, massa, dey fire de gun plenty time before, and
you see, Li soon showee dem allee about dese."

With a knowing wag of his head the Chinaman called the Dyaks about him
and began to distribute the firearms amongst them, cautioning them at
the same time to be careful in their use of them, for fear of accidents.

"And let them know that they are not to open fire until I have given the
word," interposed Tyler in the middle of Li's explanations. "A scattered
volley will be useless to us, and I have been told that natives always
waste ammunition by firing when still long out of range of the enemy. We
must endeavour to cool their excitement, and to make them wait till the
prahus are close upon us. But what is that down lower? Surely I see a
stockade of some sort there?"

"Dat de oder place," responded Li Sung quickly, shading his eyes from
the glare of the sun for the space of a minute ere he gave the reply.
"Dat Pakoo, massa, and dere am de pirates. Li see dem wid de boom, and
dey trying to close de river."

At once all eyes were turned down the stream, where, some hundreds of
yards away, a number of prahus and sampans of large size could be seen
floating on the water. A careful inspection soon showed Tyler that the
Chinaman had made no mistake, for as he looked he distinctly saw four of
the largest sampans linked together in line, while their crews tugged at
the sweeps which the craft carried instead of the oars used on smaller
boats of a similar description. Behind the boats a long curling cable of
large dimensions was being towed, and very soon it became clear to all
aboard the escaping prahus that this was a boom which the pirates were
endeavouring to make fast to the opposite shore and so bar the progress
of the fugitives.

"We will soon make an end of that for them," said Tyler quietly, "for I
should think that the boom would hardly hold a couple of the prahus, and
much less the fleet which we have captured. But this schooner will rip
through the chains and logs as if the boom were composed of string, and
will open the passage to our comrades. Keep her for the very centre," he
shouted, turning his head towards the boatswain, "and see if you cannot
overtake our friends."

Coming down-stream with a brisk breeze and a swift current to aid them,
Tyler and his friends approached the boom, which had by now been firmly
secured, at a rapid pace, and very soon two of the prahus, which were
somewhat in advance of their consorts, reached the obstruction, and were
brought to a stand-still, for the boom was unusually powerful. A third
struck against it with the same result, and it began to look as though,
after all, escape for the tribe and their young leader would not be so
easy. Indeed, to the pirates, who had streamed from their stronghold at
the warning shouts of their comrades of Paddi, victory already appeared
to be on their side, and they rent the air with hoarse shouts of
delight. Crowded upon their prahus, which they had manned in all haste,
they pulled into the river to the lower side of the boom, and there hung
on their oars while they watched the enemy coming down upon the stream.
As a fourth and a fifth vessel lodged upon the boom their excitement
and delight became even greater, and, unable to contain themselves any
longer, and being led by the largest of their prahus, they pulled at the
boom, and prepared to come to close quarters with the men who had dared
to make such an attack upon their friends. Leaping into sampans, which
each of the prahus towed in her wake, some rowed at once for the boom,
and gliding over it, or lifting their boat across the logs and chains,
embarked again and came towards their victims at a furious pace. Others,
discarding the aid of a boat, leapt into the water and swam to the boom,
upon which they climbed. Then, balancing upon it with as much ease as
an average European does on a wide pavement, they came splashing along,
brandishing their weapons and shouting fiercely to terrify those whom
they were about to attack.

"For the centre!" shouted Tyler, turning again to John Marshall. "Cut
through the boom, and then throw her up into the wind till we see that
all our friends are through. If we fail to break it, I will lead a party
with axes."

Knowing that he could have full confidence in the boatswain, he left him
to carry out the order unaided, and at once ran in search of something
with which to cut the boom should the weight of the schooner prove
insufficient. But there was really no need for him to have fears on
the matter, for, thanks to the powerful stream and to the pull of her
canvas, the English vessel which he and his men had appropriated rushed
at the obstruction at such a pace that it was clear that nothing could
stop her. Steered by the deft hand of the sailor, she headed for the
very centre, the weakest spot, and, striking it with all her force,
severed it as if it had been paper. Then, plunging on in her course,
she bore down upon the large prahu which had led the attack upon those
who had been arrested by the boom, and ere the latter could be moved
aside by means of her sweeps the schooner was upon her. Ah! The crash
of rending wood-work filled the air, while shrieks and shouts of alarm
were heard on every side. But the schooner never faltered, indeed her
frame never even seemed to feel the jar, but, plunging on, she rolled
the prahu upon her beam-ends, and then drove clean over her, sending her
straight to the bottom. As for those of her crew who had leapt upon the
boom, or had taken to the sampans, they were left upon the surface of
the river gazing at the retreating fleet in consternation, as yet unable
to realize that those who a minute before seemed at their mercy had so
suddenly made good their escape, and had robbed them of one of their
finest prahus. With fear in their hearts they turned to their stockade
again, and disappeared within, feeling that to attempt pursuit of such
an enemy would end only in further suffering.

"And now for Sarawak!" shouted Tyler, as the fleet of prahus sailed
clear of the boom, and headed for the sea once more. "Our troubles are
almost over, and within a day we should be safely amongst friends.
Hurrah for Sarawak!"



CHAPTER XIII

The Rajah of Sarawak


Standing down-stream under a cloud of canvas the fleet of prahus, with
the English schooner escorting, made an imposing sight, and Tyler could
not but feel proud as he looked on at the scene; for it was wonderful to
think that he and the humble Dyaks should have met with such success,
and that the termination of their journey should have found them better
off by far than they were at the commencement.

"Why, these prahus alone will be enough to set the tribe up once we
have arrived," mused Tyler, "and no doubt we shall be able to sell them
with ease. Then, again, the fact that the Sarebus pirates have met with
a reverse at our hands will ensure a welcome for the Dyaks. But I must
not run too far ahead, for we are not yet out of the river. Tell me,"
he went on, calling the Chinaman to him, "are there any others to be
feared? This river seems to be infested with pirates, and it will not
surprise me to hear that there are others."

"Den you will see dat dat is so, massa. De Rembas men live some miles
below, and dey velly fierce, velly bad. But dey not always friends wid
de men of Paddi and de oders whom we havee beaten. Perhaps dey not
interfere, and if dey do, well, massa, sail de schooner down upon dem
and dey sink, dey goee to de bottom."

The news that more enemies might yet have to be encountered scarcely
caused our hero any uneasiness, for he had come to understand that
the prahus manned by the pirates were no match for an English ship,
unless, indeed, the latter were becalmed, or in some way unable to offer
resistance. But for all that he did not allow the subject to escape him,
and having, by dint of shouts and signals, induced his followers to draw
close together, and lay-to for a time, he sent a message to each one of
the prahus that they were to keep behind the schooner, and that on no
account were the men to show their arms, or to wave to the enemy. Then,
turning the schooner's bows once more towards the sea, he led the way a
ship's length ahead of the fleet, and ere long arrived off the tributary
upon which the Rembas pirates had their lair. But there was no sign of
the latter, and, indeed, not a boat crossed the water till the coast was
at hand and they were making through the wide mouth of the river.

"A fleet making in," said John Marshall in Tyler's ear, suddenly
pointing to one edge of the wide bay into which the Sarebus poured.
"They will pass close to us as we run into the sea, and from the looks
of them they are pirates."

"And we have much the same appearance," said Tyler calmly. "We will keep
on without an attempt to alter our course, and perhaps they will take us
for their friends. One moment and I will get rid of this colour from my
face, and will hunt out a coat. Then I can take the helm and pretend to
be the Dutchman."

Running below he quickly unearthed a coat from one of the cabins, and,
having obtained a bucket and a piece of soap, immersed his face in
water. Five minutes later he returned to the deck with a less dusky
complexion, and with the coat about his shoulders.

"Now for the helm," he said, noticing that the fleet was now close at
hand, and that the pirates would pass within hailing distance. "It seems
to me that they will not even question us, for they will know that the
men of Paddi have recently captured an English schooner, and will think
nothing of the fact that the latter is leading the prahus to sea. But
I do hope that our fellows will not allow their excitement to get the
better of them, and shout and jeer at these strangers."

By now the gathering of prahus, which had been sighted entering the
mouth of the river Sarebus, was close at hand, steering a course which
would take it close beside the fleet under Tyler's command. But it was
evident that the leader, whatever his feelings with regard to the men of
Paddi, had no suspicions of the new-comers, for he had posted himself
in the bows of his own particular command, and as he swept past the
schooner he leapt upon the rail and shouted a greeting, to which Tyler
responded by waving his arm. Then all the dusky pirates from Rembas, a
gang as celebrated in those seas for their bloodthirstiness and acts of
violence as were the men of Paddi, lined the bulwarks and sent their
cheers across the narrow space which intervened as the two fleets sailed
by one another. Quick to grasp the fact that they were undiscovered, the
Dyaks replied with loud cries and much waving of the arms, and then, ere
there was time for any more, or for the exchange of words, the prahus
had separated and were swiftly running away from one another.

"And now there is nothing but the open sea and a grand passage between
us and friends," exclaimed Tyler, with every sign of satisfaction, "and,
that being the case, I am reminded that we have eaten nothing for many
hours. Li Sung, just get below and see what is to be found. We will
divide the provisions, and send their share to the men and women on the
other prahus. And now I can devote a little time to the captives whom we
rescued."

Six hours later, having coasted along within easy distance of the line
of surf which beat without cessation upon the land of Borneo, the fleet
bore up to the left, and entered the river which led to the town of
Sarawak, and ere very long had sighted the collection of buildings which
went by that name.

"And there's two ships of some sort," cried John Marshall as he stood by
his leader's side, suddenly pointing to a creek close beside the houses.
"They're English too, and what's more, they're sending their boats
away. It looks as though they were coming in this direction."

[Illustration: ELUDING THE PIRATES]

"That is certainly the case," replied Tyler, at once catching sight of
the vessels to which the sailor had alluded, and noticing that each had
lowered three boats, which were being rowed towards the incoming fleet.
"I suppose that they are coming to give us a welcome, or perhaps to see
who we are."

"What do we look like, do yer think, sir?" cried the boatswain gruffly.
"Why, back there at the mouth of the Sarebus river you said that we were
jest like pirates, and if that hadn't been the case, them men of Rembas
would soon have been at our throats. Well, don't yer see? These fellers
here, under the Englishman I suppose, take us for what we look to be,
and if we're not partic'lar careful they'll be firing into us."

That this was a possibility all very quickly saw, for as the fleet of
prahus and the six open boats approached one another the latter were
seen to be manned by men in naval dress, while in the bows of each a
swivel-gun was carried. Indeed, as if to show the strangers that their
arrival at Sarawak would be contested, a spout of flame and smoke shot
out from one of the guns at that moment, and a ball came hurtling across
the forefoot of the schooner. A second followed swiftly, ricochetting
across the water, and then hulling the vessel, striking with a thud
which could be heard far away.

"And now come the bullets," said Tyler with a smile, as the patter
of musketry broke the silence, and the water was splashed beside the
schooner. "But the mistake has gone far enough, and we must let them see
their error. Stand aside, John, and just tell Li Sung to warn the others
to get under cover. I will go forward and shout to them."

Running into the bows, he sprang upon the rail there, and with one hand
holding the rigging so as to retain his position, waved a piece of
sail-cloth to the men who were approaching.

"Friends!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "Don't fire any more,
or you will be killing those who are coming here to ask for your
protection."

His words carried easily across the water, and almost at once an officer
was seen to rise to his feet.

"Cease fire!" they heard him shout. "Now, surround that schooner, as she
seems to be the leader, and train your guns upon her. You can lie off
so as to be out of range of their spears, but do not be so far away as
to make a rush impossible. I will go closer in, and see who it is that
called to us."

Careless of the fact that he might have been running into a trap, the
officer gave an order for the boat to be pulled closer in, and then
stood in the bows awaiting the moment when he would be able to go aboard
the stranger. As for Tyler, with a shout to attract John Marshall's
attention, and a wave of his arm, he had caused the latter to throw the
schooner into the wind, a movement which was at once imitated by those
in command of the other vessels. Then in his quaint costume, consisting
of an old coat which had been made for a man of a smaller size than
himself, and with the remains of his old disguise about him, he stood at
the top of a rope-ladder which was lowered over the side.

"Eh! what's this?" demanded the officer as he scrambled over the rail.
"And who are you who sail into the river at the head of a fleet which we
could not help but take for pirates? Why, you're a youngster, surely,
and an Englishman!"

"Tyler Richardson by name," responded our hero, stepping forward with
his hand held to his forehead in salute. "Gazetted to the _Dido_, sir,
and pursued by pirates on my way to join my ship."

"And you understand how to salute an officer of superior rank," cried
the one who had boarded the schooner, in astonished tones. "Tyler
Richardson! Why, that is the name of the young fellow who was to come to
us, the lad who rescued two naval officers from the hold of a ship which
lay in Southampton."

"I am the one of whom you speak," said Tyler modestly. "As I have said,
I came out to Singapore, and hearing that the _Dido_ had left the China
seas, I obtained permission to accompany a gentleman who was coming
to Borneo to explore certain parts of the island. A Dutchman, who had
shipped with us as interpreter, and who turned out to be one of two
leaders of the pirates of Sarebus, murdered my friend, and then helped
his followers to capture our ship. Our boatswain, John Marshall, who
stands beside you, actually saw the ruffian fire the shot which killed
Mr. Beverley. Then he came to my aid, and together we were able to
regain possession of the schooner by means of a trick."

"And this is the same vessel, I presume?" interrupted the officer, whose
face showed his amazement.

"No, sir, this is another," replied Tyler quietly. "This fellow of whom
I speak, the Dutchman--"

"I beg your pardon, but what is his name, and where did he and his
scoundrels hail from?" suddenly asked the officer, interrupting for the
second time.

"He commanded the men of Sarebus, and was helped by a countryman of the
name of Christian van Sonerell."

"Then we know of them, and a precious couple they are too! But we shall
catch them some day, and then they will have much to answer for. But
please go on with your tale, Mr. Richardson, and let me say at once,
before we go any further, that I give you a hearty welcome to Sarawak
and the _Dido_. Shake hands."

He grasped Tyler warmly by the fingers, and then turned to greet John
Marshall in the same manner.

"Very glad to welcome you," he added. "You will be an addition to our
company, and will find many friends. Now for these Dutchmen, please, and
for news of their whereabouts."

"The murderer, Hans Schlott, is within his stronghold at Paddi, where we
left him this morning," said Tyler, "and the other--"

"Paddi! You left him there! But, excuse me, I will not interrupt again."


The officer managed to repress his astonishment, and stood there staring
at our hero as he detailed what had happened to himself and to John
Marshall.

"And so you and the boatswain managed to get clear away from this
rascal, and have arrived here with a whole tribe of Dyaks," he said at
last, when Tyler had ended. "Well, I can scarcely credit the story at
present, though please do not imagine for a moment that I doubt your
word. But you must understand that the whole thing is so out of the
common, the adventure so strange and perplexing, that I am unable to
grasp its details at present. How you and this lad here managed to beat
the Dutchman so often is beyond me, and your audacity in making for
Paddi takes my breath away. Why, sir, I can tell you that the Rajah of
Sarawak hesitates to attack the stronghold for fear of being beaten
back, and also because he needs a guide. But we shall alter that now,
or I am much mistaken; for if we went for no other purpose we should be
bound to hunt out this rascal who murdered your friend Mr. Beverley. But
we have been speaking for long, and my men will be firing into you if
we are not careful, imagining that you have laid your hands on me. One
moment and I will explain matters to them."

Leaving Tyler and the boatswain for a few moments, he went to the rail
and called to those who manned the boats to come closer to the schooner.
Then in a few hurried words he explained that those who had so suddenly
appeared opposite Sarawak were friends, and were not pirates, as had at
first appeared to be the case.

"And now, Mr. Richardson, I think that you should report your arrival
first to Captain Keppel and then to the Rajah of Sarawak, Mr. Brooke, of
whom you have heard," he continued, approaching Tyler with a friendly
smile. "If you will leave the tribe to me I will see that they are
housed and fed, while my men will board the prahus and take them to
their moorings. As for your comrade, he had better go with you, and
afterwards perhaps some post will be found for him, for we must
remember that he does not belong to the royal navy, but to the merchant
service."

"Then we had better look out some clothes, sir," said Tyler contrasting
his own appearance with that of the smart officer who had accosted him.
"Will you allow us to go below before we report ourselves? Then we shall
be able to make ourselves respectable."

"By all means, Mr. Richardson," was the hearty answer, "and while you
are below I will undertake to have the little girl and her nurse taken
ashore. It was a gallant act to rescue them, and you will have the
thanks of your captain for it. But there, I see that you do not like to
have overmuch praise, so go below. I shall be here when you return, so
as to give you an introduction."

Saluting him again, Tyler turned about, and, accompanied by John
Marshall, slipped down to the cabin of the schooner. And here, thanks
to the fact that the pirates had put off stripping their prize till the
morning after their arrival at Paddi, the two were able to discover an
abundance of clothing, and soon made their appearance on deck dressed in
thin suits of blue.

"An excellent change," said the officer with a smile, as they went up to
him. "It was no wonder that I took you for dangerous individuals when
you arrived, for your disguises made you look more than fierce. But now
you are like the rest of us, and are fully prepared for an interview
with those who lead us. You can hop into the boat at once and come with
me, and by the way, Mr. Richardson, my name is Horton, Lieutenant Wilmot
Horton of the _Dido."_

Responding promptly to the invitation to enter the boat which awaited
them, Tyler and the companion who had stood beside him through their
long and adventurous journey clambered down the rope-ladder which
dangled over the side, and having been instantly followed by the
lieutenant, were soon on their way to the largest of the two vessels
moored off the town of Sarawak.

"Follow me," said the officer, taking Tyler by the sleeve as they
reached the deck. "You can go forward till we send for you, my lad," he
added, turning to John Marshall. "Now, Mr. Richardson, our captain is on
the poop, and we will go to him. Please remember to touch your hat as
you mount the companion ladder, and again as you stand before him."

Hearty indeed was the welcome which was given to our hero when it was
known who he was. From the commander of the _Dido_ downwards all vied
with one another in showing him how glad they were to see him.

"Of course I know that you are somewhat over the ordinary age," said
Captain Keppel, as he chatted with him in his cabin; "but then you have
won a commission by bravery, and that is sufficient to recommend you and
to make the Lords of the Admiralty overlook your years. Not that you are
so very old, my lad," he added with a smile. "Then you have come to us
with a tale which will procure much commendation, for you have actually
been in the lair which these pirates inhabit, and will be able to guide
us there and tell us of their doings.

"But I must not keep you longer, for it is necessary that you should go
to Mr. Brooke, who is now the Rajah of the province of Sarawak, and tell
him what has occurred. You will oblige me by taking this young officer
ashore, Mr. Horton, and introducing him to the rajah. Send the man who
accompanied him to me, so that I may listen to the story and hear every
detail."

Both at once turned about, touching their caps as they did so, and
repeating the action as they descended from the poop. Then they
re-entered the boat which lay alongside, and were pulled to the
landing-stage which had been erected close to the rajah's residence.

"Not at home just now," said the lieutenant, after he had made enquiries
of a Dyak lad who stood at the door. "Then we will wait, and as the
rajah keeps open house, and gives the officers an invitation to enter
whether he is here or not, we will go in and shelter from the heat.
Follow me, and I will show you where you can be comfortable. By the
way, my lad, I suppose you know all about Mr. Brooke and his doings?"

"Very little, I am afraid," answered Tyler. "Of course Mr. Beverley told
me that he was here, and that he had come to better the condition of the
natives. But I did not know more than that, and do not now."

"Then I will spin you a yarn about this man, who is a wonder in many
respects, and who has gained the esteem and affection of every one of
us, from our commander downwards. Let me see; yes, I will commence
by telling you that one time he belonged to our sister service, the
army, and saw a considerable amount of fighting in India and Burmah,
distinguishing himself in the latter country, where he led the assault
upon a stockade, and was shot through the chest. That wound sent him
home, and it is by the merest good luck, and thanks also to the fact
that he had an excellent constitution, that our friend lived to come
to Sarawak; for he was badly hurt, and hovered between life and death
for many a month. However, recover he did at last, when he set about
finding a task which would occupy all his thoughts and all his energy,
and which would at the same time help to lighten the condition of those
of his fellow-beings who were worse off than himself. And that brings
me to a point which I have not mentioned. This wounded soldier was a
thinker, and is, too, at this moment. He did not waste his time in
frivolity, in games and pastimes, as do so many in both services. But
he devoted much of his life to work, and to investigating the condition
of men in various parts of the world. Thanks to that fact, and also to
the opportunity which a trading venture had given him, he became aware
of the misery existing in this island of Borneo, and from that moment
he was bent upon relieving the condition of the people. Now you will
admit that there are few who would have set about such a matter, for
when you come to consider the facts you will see that Borneo is, in
the first place, an island of large extent, while this portion, called
Borneo Proper, is perhaps as large as England herself. Then, again, the
rajah knew well that pirates abounded, and that if he escaped attack
from them he was likely at any moment to have the Dyaks seeking for his
life, for some of the tribes are very ferocious. Still, whatever their
nature, there was no doubt that life was but a misery to the majority of
the people, that they were constantly robbed, killed, or hurried into
slavery by the pirates, and that that condition of affairs had existed
for untold years. To all of this Mr. Brooke determined to put a stop.

"You will ask very naturally: 'How did he set about the matter?' and
I will at once admit that, to anyone faced with the same question and
the same difficulty, an answer would be hard to find. How could one
man, without the aid of his Government, without soldiers or sailors
to help him, hope to set foot in the island, and control the deeds
of thousands of human beings, men who knew nothing of his aims and
objects, and cared less? Why, even those for whose relief he aimed were
too absorbed in their misery, too used to their lives, to think that
change was possible, and when he first came, some of them were amongst
his bitterest enemies, for they could not understand that one man, and
he a foreigner, could take such interest in a race of natives who were
strangers to him.

"Thus you will see from what I have said that from the very first the
prospect of success was not too bright, while the method by which reform
could be brought about was so obscure and difficult to arrive at that a
man endowed with similar courage and persistence might well have given
the task up in despair, feeling that to make a commencement on the work
was well-nigh impossible. Not so our friend the Rajah of Sarawak. His
heart was set upon the undertaking, and he allowed nothing to stand in
his way. When I tell you that he had absolutely nothing to gain, that
his mission was not one for the purpose of profit-making, and that he
ran the risk of losing anything that he already possessed, I think that
you too will be filled with admiration.

"As an example of his dogged perseverance, he did not rush at this
enterprise with the impetuosity of a young man, only to give up the idea
at the first rebuff, or when real difficulties commenced to stare him in
the face. But he set himself, first of all, to train a crew of men upon
whom he could rely, and for that purpose he bought, out of his private
fortune, a schooner, the _Royalist_, which lies alongside the _Dido_ at
this moment. For three years he cruised in her, for the most part in the
Mediterranean, and during the whole of that time he was busily engaged
in hunting up records of the island of Borneo and the surroundings. At
length, feeling that his preparations were completed, he sailed from
Devonport on December 16th, 1838, having a crew of twenty men, and a
supply of arms aboard, including six six-pounder guns. On arrival at
Singapore he shipped a few Malay hands to help with the wooding and
watering of the ship, and then shaped a course for Sarawak.

"Now Marudu, which is in the north of the island, had been the part
for which he had intended to sail when leaving England, thinking that
that port would be the best at which to commence his labours. But news
gathered in Singapore caused him to change his mind, and therefore he
came to Sarawak, anchoring at the very spot where the two vessels are
now moored. Imagine his pleasure when, on landing, he found himself
received with every honour by Rajah Muda Hassim, uncle of the Sultan of
Borneo. It was indeed a pleasant surprise, for our friend had expected
anything but a welcome; and had he carried out his first idea, and
sailed for Marudu, there is little doubt that a very different reception
would have awaited him, for that district was ruled over by a notorious
chief who favoured piracy, and in consequence the bay was the rendezvous
for all the robbers and ruffians in and about the island.

"This Muda Hassim, however, was a very different class of individual,
for he had some education, and, in place of being fierce and
unscrupulous, he was gentle in manner, while, for a Malay, he was
possessed of honest intentions.

"And now to tell you how Mr. Brooke commenced this work of his, to
describe how the first seeds were sown, the thin end of the wedge
introduced, and the old miserable order, with its cruelties and
oppression, slowly banished. Do not think that change was brought about
from the very first, and that, because a pleasant welcome had greeted
him, his influence was to have weight with the natives simply on account
of the fact that he was an Englishman, and because men of that race
were thought much of in that part of Borneo. The rajah would have done
nothing, would have met with failure, had it not been for the fact that
this native, Muda Hassim, was in difficulties and in need of help, and
that by coming to his aid our friend first of all made him his debtor
for life, while at the same time he showed the natives what a man he
was; that his word was reliable, and that he could fight as well as he
could talk. Yes, that was the secret of his success. From the very first
he had enemies, and there is no doubt that his life was often in danger;
but the rajah never thought of his position seriously, but boldly went
amongst the natives. Then, too, he showed an ever-ready disposition to
protect those who lived beneath the sway of this Muda Hassim, and on
one occasion, when a fleet of pirates arrived in the river, with the
intention of sailing farther up and raiding the Dyaks in the interior,
this commander of the _Royalist_ manned his guns and let the marauders
see that they would have to fight an action before they could pass. For
that he gained the gratitude of many who had never set eyes upon him,
but who at that time knew him vaguely as the Englishman.

"Very soon, however, his name and his appearance were known everywhere,
for Muda Hassim was, as I have already said, in great difficulties.
It seems that a rebellion had broken out in the district of Sarawak,
owing to the oppression of a chief of the name of Makota, and that
for many months matters had been at a stand-still. The rebels were
entrenched in stockades, and an army under this Makota was opposed to
them. But there was no fighting, and instead the combatants watched one
another listlessly, the besiegers unable to attack, simply because they
possessed no leader who had the courage to direct them, and the rebels
because they were too few. Instead, therefore, the first lounged the
days away, while the Dyaks and Malays who were in rebellion sought for
food, of which they were in great need. And all the while the country
was at a stand-still, there was no trade, while the wretched people were
rapidly becoming destitute.

"It was at this juncture that Mr. Brooke came to the rescue. Having
looked into the matter thoroughly, and run back to Singapore for a time,
he was at length induced to proceed to the part where the rebels were
entrenched; for Muda Hassim had besought his aid. In fact, for three
years the latter had been helpless; and all the while he and the Sultan
of Borneo were afraid lest, finding that terms were not to be obtained
from their own people, the rebels should apply to the men of Sambas,
pirates for the most part, to take up their cause. If that were to
happen, and the latter be successful, then Sarawak and the neighbourhood
would come under the sway of the Dutch, for Sambas was controlled by
that nation. Thus, Muda Hassim and the sultan had much to lose, and
longer delay might prove disastrous.

"But our friend was not the man to enter upon a conflict of this nature
for the purpose of gain, and it was only when he became convinced of the
misery which existed on account of the rebellion, and of the starving
condition of the people, that he finally consented to accompany Muda
Hassim to the army and see what could be done.

"I will not tell you any of the details, Richardson, for they are of
little interest, but will simply say that the energy of this Englishman
soon brought an end to the little war. A rush on the part of his men,
with himself at their head, soon changed the ideas of the rebels--so
much so that Mr. Brooke was able to make terms with them and induce
them to surrender. Finally, with the help of his crew he prevented all
attempts at massacre, which would have taken place had it not been
for his watchfulness, and, having obtained hostages, sent the rebels
to their homes. There, that is the first step in the present rajah's
popularity. He showed these natives that he was bold and strong, while
at the same time he gained their confidence, for he would not permit a
beaten foe to be ill-treated, and once the war was over he set about
increasing the prosperity of the natives, instead of robbing them and
making them even more miserable than before, as would have been the
case had anyone else been in his place. Indeed, he had many a wordy
fight with this man Macota, and with Muda Hassim too, before he gained
security for the defeated rebels, and many a time afterwards, had it not
been for his energy and his powerful influence, robbery and violence
would have been practised upon the humble Dyaks of the interior. And so,
little by little did his fame reach the ears of far-distant people, till
the name of Brooke, the great and powerful Englishman, the defender of
the weak and poor, the friend of all Dyaks and the enemy of all rogues
and pirates, become one to conjure with. Indeed, if not rajah in fact,
he was as good as leader of this province, and when at last the sultan
conferred the title upon him, and handed over the government of Sarawak
to our friend and his heirs for ever, the people received him with
gladness, and save for a few, such as Macota, and others who had fallen
foul of him, accepted him as their chief with every sign of satisfaction.

"From that moment Rajah Brooke has been busily engaged in touring
through his district, in issuing laws for the guidance of the people,
and in suppressing all attempts at slavery, all head-hunting, and all
acts of violence and robbery. So energetic has he been, so powerful has
he become, that all who are bent on the old life fear him more than a
little, while the majority, the Dyaks of the interior, the peaceful
Malays, and the hard-working and ever-contented Chinese--all, in fact,
who long for a life spent in agriculture, in mining, or in trade--have
settled down wonderfully, placing full reliance in the Englishman and in
his word that, so far as he can prevent it, they shall be undisturbed.

"But reform cannot be brought about in a day, or in a year for the
matter of that, and there are still numbers of Dyaks who, instead of
using all their energies in trade, have constant wars with one another,
often with the sole object of obtaining heads. Then, too, the pirates
have always been a severe thorn in the side of our friend, and, indeed,
have become so audacious that the _Dido_ has been sent to render help
to the English rajah. And that is the reason why you failed to find
her at Singapore, and also for our sailing from China. But you are
here at last, and will be able to tell us much that is valuable, for
our commander and the rajah have put their heads together, and have
decided to hunt these pirates out of their nests. Those at Sarebus,
or, I ought to say, at Paddi, on the Sarebus river, will come in for
particular attention, for the Dutchmen who commanded them have made them
notorious. In fact, had it not been for their presence I doubt that so
many ships of European build would have been set upon, for the Malays
fear a white man more than they do fifty or sixty of the Dyaks. However,
these Dutchmen have led them, and have done much harm to the trade with
Singapore. For that reason partly, and now because you tell us that one
has committed a deliberate murder, we shall pay attention to Paddi, and
before very long, I hope, we shall be able to let everyone know that the
pirates who live there are no more.

"But come. We will call for some refreshment, and when we have finished,
the rajah should make his appearance, for it is already near to
nightfall, and it is his custom to return before that hour if possible."

The officer went to a bell and sounded it with a stick which hung beside
it. Then, on a Dyak lad presenting himself, he spoke a few words of
English, which, with a few in the native tongue, helped to make his
wants known.

"They are wonderfully sharp, as I dare say you have observed," he said
as he threw himself back in his chair, "and this lad who serves the
rajah is very quick at gathering one's meaning. But we have still a
little time before us, my lad and if you are not too tired I'd like
to hear more of your story. I have told you what I know of the rajah,
and it is only fair that you should let me know how it was that you
reached your ship. Come, you sailed from Singapore, hoping to pick up
the _Dido_ in these seas, in which attempt you have been successful.
You ran foul of this Dutchman, by name Hanns Schlott--for whom his
countrymen are looking, so I hear,--and you took to the land. Then you
seem to have made friends with a tribe of Dyaks, in what manner I do not
know; and finally you have come to Sarawak with a fleet of prahus which
you and this small army took from the pirates of Sarebus. That is the
bare outline as you gave it to me, but there must be more behind, and I
should be glad to listen to the tale. Out with it, and do not keep back
a single item."

Lieutenant Horton turned upon Tyler with an encouraging smile, and then
sat watching him as he told of the adventures which had befallen himself
and John Marshall on their way to Sarawak.

"You will do well, and deserve to have early mention in the despatches
which our commander will send to the admiral," said the lieutenant
when the tale was finished; "and it is easy to see that you and the
boatswain have had many an anxious moment. For myself, the conflict
with the mias seems to be the most dangerous, for the natives in these
parts tell stories of how the orang-outang can fight. In any case they
are fierce-looking monsters, and I am sure that there are few who would
willingly place themselves in reach of such murderous teeth and arms.
Indeed, many in your case would have been content to lie in the jungle
and remain hidden, for these Dyaks might well have proved enemies, and
for the sake of their own safety might have handed you over to the
Dutchman and his pirates. However, all turned out well, and you are
here. But what is that? Ah, the rajah has returned, and here he comes!"

He sprang from his seat to greet a tall gentleman who entered the room
at that moment, and then introduced Tyler.

"A new arrival," he said with a smile. "Come to join the _Dido_, but by
the strangest route possible. Permit me to present Mr. Tyler Richardson,
who was granted a commission for bravery in England, where he rescued
two naval officers from a grain ship, in the hold of which they had been
overcome by foul gas which had accumulated; and who, on his way to join
the _Dido_, has crossed many miles of Borneo, arriving here with a tribe
of friendly Dyaks, and with an imposing fleet of prahus, captured from
the redoubtable Dutchman who commands the pirates of Sarebus."

"Journey across Borneo! Sarebus pirates!" cried the new-comer, a
tall energetic-looking man, with clean-shaven and handsome features.
"Impossible! But, your pardon! I did not mean that I caught sight of
the strange vessels lying beside the _Royalist_ and the _Dido_, and
knowing by that fact that they could not be enemies, I hastened here
with the intention of sending off at once to ascertain where they came
from. You see," he added with a little smile, "we have to be careful of
all strangers, for a fleet of prahus is apt to be manned by pirates,
and should they manage to escape the notice of our ships, and pass our
guns, the poor Dyaks up the river would suffer. But I am interrupting.
You spoke of the Dutchman, Horton. What is the meaning of this riddle?
Surely you cannot mean that Mr. Richardson has been to Paddi, that
he has been a captive there? A Malay might have that fortune, but an
Englishman is never taken prisoner. He is killed without any mercy."

"And so would our young friend have been," was the prompt reply. "The
facts are as I briefly stated them, Rajah. This young officer was
compelled to take to the land, and there he fell in with some Dyaks,
who feared the pirates. Together they have made for Sarawak, and on
their way here have contrived to capture or sink every prahu lying at
Paddi, while they have brought with them a ship lately taken from the
traders of Singapore, together with a child and her nurse. But there;
he has just given me the yarn, and it will not hurt him to repeat it,
particularly when he is aware that the facts will be of the utmost
importance."

Thus bidden, Tyler repeated his story, the Rajah of Sarawak listening
carefully to every word, and interrupting him at times to ask questions
as to the exact position of the stronghold at Paddi, the strength of the
enemy, and the precautions taken against attack.

"You have done us a great service," said the latter at length, when he
had obtained all the details, "for you are, with the exception of these
rascally Dutchmen, the only white men who have ascended the Sarebus
river. Thanks to you and your comrade, we shall be able to increase our
knowledge of the various bends and reaches, and, with the information
we already have derived from the natives, shall be able to find our
way to Paddi. But Rembas must be seen to first before we come to this
Hanns Schlott. However, the odds shall not deter us, for these pirates
must and shall be exterminated. They are the one great drawback to my
scheme, and were it not for them the natives of this part of Borneo
would already be settling down to a life of peace and prosperity. As it
is, their goods and their lives are never safe, while in the country
commanded and reached by the tributaries of the Sarebus the condition
of the unfortunate people is similar to that which existed here on my
arrival, when the rebellion was in progress. Yes, an expedition shall
be arranged without delay, and with you to guide us, Mr. Richardson,
and the men of the _Dido_ and of the _Royalist_ to follow us, we will
sweep these pests away and bring happiness and prosperity to the people.
But it is already dark and I am detaining you. Please come here again
to-morrow, so that I may talk the matter over more fully."

With a hearty shake of the hand he dismissed them, the lieutenant and
Tyler returning at once to the _Dido_, where the latter found that all
was in readiness for him. Indeed, thanks to the fact that the tale of
his adventures had buzzed through the ship, his comrades, who were all
of about his own age, having already had more than a year's service,
greeted him as if he were an old messmate, and carried him away to their
own special sanctum without delay, there to pour questions innumerable
upon him, and to beg of him to tell them everything. But they were
destined to be disappointed, for scarcely had Tyler seated himself than
a marine arrived at the door with a request that he would dine in the
captain's cabin, and thither he betook himself without delay. When he
retired to his hammock that night, and rolled himself in a blanket, it
was with the knowledge that stirring times were ahead, and that ere
many days had elapsed he and his new friends would be on their way to
Sarebus, there to come hand to hand with the pirates.



CHAPTER XIV

A Dangerous Enterprise


"Pass the word for Mr. Richardson, please. He's wanted in the captain's
cabin immediately."

The order, conveyed by means of a marine, was called in stentorian tones
down the companion ladder leading to the narrow quarters in which Tyler
had breakfasted, and brought him to his feet with a flush upon his
cheeks.

"A wigging! He's going to catch it nicely!" sang out one of his new
messmates, giving vent to a bantering laugh. "The skipper wants to know
what he means to do with his fleet, and whether he has made arrangements
to victual his Dyaks. Stand aside there, you fellows, and permit the
admiral to pass! This way, sir, and if you're wanting a mate of sorts,
why, look about you, for here are the men!"

The young fellow who had shouted the words indulged in a comical
grimace, and placing his hand to his heart bowed in mock deference to
the lad who, up to a few hours before, had, indeed, been as good as an
admiral, for he had had command of quite a number of vessels, while the
fate of many individuals had been in his hands. However, Tyler was not
the one to take offence, particularly when his comrades had greeted him
in such a manner, and with a laugh, and a sudden dash at the banterer
which sent the latter sprawling on one side, he gained the companion and
commenced to mount to the deck above.

"Right!" he called back with a merry laugh, "you shall all come with me,
and as for the victualling, you shall have the management of that, for
you have shown that you possess a hearty appetite, which will keep the
food question before you. But sorry I can't wait, you fellows. I'll send
for my first mate when I want him!"

A roar of good-natured laughter followed him up the ladder, and he
emerged upon the deck with smiling features, well pleased with the
manner in which he was treated by those with whom he had to live. Then,
straightening his dress, he went aft to the cabin in which Captain
Keppel had his quarters, and was announced by the marine who stood on
guard outside the door.

"Mr. Tyler Richardson," said the latter, throwing open the door. "Shall
he enter, sir?"

"Show him in, please," was the answer, "and send to Lieutenant Horton
with my compliments and with the request that he will kindly attend
here."

Next moment Tyler found himself in the presence of his commanding
officer, before whom he stood cap in hand.

"Come and sit here," said Captain Keppel, taking him by the shoulder,
"and make yourself comfortable, for I am going to have a discussion in
which you will have to take a part. You must know that Mr. Brooke has
at length managed to arouse the interest of the Government, who have
for very many years been indifferent to the trade which might result
to England by suppressing bloodshed in these parts, and in consequence
the _Dido_ has been sent here to help him, and with the main object of
putting an end to these acts of piracy which are so frequent, and which
invariably end in cruel murders and in slavery. That is the way. Sit
down in that chair, and try to remember every point in your journey down
the river Sarebus, for the information which you can give us will be of
the utmost value. But tell me, have you seen the little captive since
you brought her to Sarawak?"

"She was taken ashore at once, sir," responded Tyler, his interest in
the child being at once aroused. "You see, while on the schooner I had
so many things to arrange and to look to that I never had an opportunity
of speaking to the captives, or of asking them how it was that they had
fallen into the hands of the Dutchman."

"Then I can tell you all about them," said the captain. "The child is
the daughter of a naval officer stationed with the China fleet, and at
present doing duty at Hong-Kong. She was on her way home to England for
the purpose of education, and was despatched by a schooner which would
take her to Singapore, where she would tranship to a mail boat bound for
home waters. The tale of her capture is nothing out of the ordinary, and
it suffices to say that this scoundrel of a Dutchman, of whom I hope to
hear more, came upon the vessel and took her without difficulty, for she
was manned by Chinese for the most part. They were killed at once, while
the nurse and the child were kept, probably with the idea that money
might be obtained for them. It was a gallant deed, Mr. Richardson, and
reflects the greatest credit upon you, for it would have been far easier
and far less dangerous for you to have gone off with the prahus and your
followers, leaving the two to their fate.

"But there, I see that you do not like to hear much about that part of
the matter; though before dropping the subject I consider that it is
only right for me to acquaint you with the fact that I have given a full
description of the rescue in despatches which I wrote after your arrival
here, and also that I have sent a letter to the officer whose child you
rescued.

"And now let us turn to these pirates, for I hear Mr. Horton's step
outside."

He turned to greet the chief officer of the _Dido_, and having motioned
him to a chair, placed himself at the end of the dining-table which
occupied a central position in the cabin.

"Oblige me by drawing closer," he said, "and cast your eyes over these
rough charts. They are some which I have prepared with the help of
natives who have ascended the Sarebus, and may or may not be correct.
And now, Mr. Richardson, kindly tell me which are the towns on the
river, adding any points which may be of importance."

Thus bidden, Tyler scanned the charts which his commander put before
him, and having asked for a pen and ink, and for a piece of blank paper,
began at once to sketch the true course of the river, as observed by
himself when escaping from Paddi.

"Rembas is the first of the strongholds, and is said to be the most
powerful," he remarked. "But we had the good fortune to pass the pirates
of that name, they mistaking us for friends. Pakoo comes next, and then
Paddi, where this Dutchman has his residence. The river there divides
into two, and Paddi is placed on the tongue of land between the two
tributaries."

"And what about the bore?" demanded Captain Keppel eagerly. "I am told
that these pirates seem not to fear attack, and, indeed, scarcely make
any preparations for defence, except such as is necessary to keep native
tribes out, for they imagine that this bore protects them. It is caused
by the tide running into a wide mouth, and then suddenly finding only
a narrow course. The mass of water is still forced on, and, unable to
spread to either side, it rises till it forms quite a wall, and advances
up the river in that manner."

"With the result that it swamps any but boats of fairly large size,"
added the lieutenant. "At least, that is the account which the rajah
gave me, and he heard the tale from natives who had ascended the river."

"It may be so," Tyler answered, "but we did not meet with this bore on
our way down to the sea. Should there be such a thing, and I can well
imagine it, considering the straight course of the river and the manner
in which it suddenly narrows, it would not be very difficult to avoid
being swamped, for the bore will come with the tide, and at that time
any boats which might be conveying an expedition could be rowed into a
bay or creek, many of which exist all along the banks."

"And in there they could lie in safety!" exclaimed the commander of the
_Dido_, looking swiftly at his first officer. "It is a good suggestion,
Mr. Richardson, and I now perceive how it is that you managed to bring
the tribe of Dyaks through. Depend upon it, the man--or lad for the
matter of that, for you are scarcely more--who is gifted with common
sense, and with sufficient steadiness to use it, finds his resources
many, and a way out of difficulties which would be unsurmountable to
others less inclined to think. Then you would lie up in one of these
creeks if you were in command of the expedition?"

"Yes, sir," replied Tyler with a flush. "I should row up for a quarter
of a mile, and then, if it were possible, I should disembark and haul
each boat into the jungle. Then there would be no danger of being
swamped, and once the bore had passed the expedition could push on
again."

"And probably take the enemy by surprise, for the latter would hardly
expect them, and would, in fact, believe that all had been drowned by
the bore. Yes, the plan will prove a good one, I am sure. And now to
discuss the other part, and to obtain a full description of the river
from you."

For more than an hour did the three pore over the charts, and discuss
the measures to be taken for the suppression of the pirates. Then Tyler
was addressed once more by his commander.

"And now I have a request to make," said the latter gravely, turning
to him slowly and scanning his features closely, as though he would
read his character by that means. "You have had more fortune than falls
to the lot of the vast majority of young fellows, for you have passed
through part of a country which is considered impossible for Englishmen,
a part where the Dutch have never dared to go. Moreover, you have met
these pirates face to face, and you have beaten them soundly; not in
actual hand-to-hand combat, you understand me, but in wits, in sharpness
and decision. Thanks to you and the information which you have given
so clearly, we are in a better position now to attack these pests than
ever before. But we are ignorant of the special precautions which
they will take; for, rest assured, they will hear of this intended
expedition, for their friends and sympathizers are everywhere, and
Sarawak is not without spies who carry tales to the enemy. That being
the case, they will make strenuous efforts to resist us, for they have
existed for a century and more and no one has ever been successful in
repressing them. For that reason they will fight the harder to beat
us back, and as a careful leader, who desires to lose as few men as
possible, I wish for fuller information if it can be obtained. You have
once before been in disguise. Will you don the same dress again, and
go to the Sarebus river in advance of our party, with the object of
spying upon the pirates, and of furnishing us with a warning as to their
intended movement?"

For more than a minute did Captain Keppel keep his eyes fixed upon our
hero, searching closely as if to see whether he would flinch at such a
request, or show by a twitch of the lips, a wavering eye, or in some
other manner, that the task was likely to be too much, and would make
too great a call upon his fortitude.

"Mind," he went on, seeing that Tyler returned his searching gaze
unflinchingly and without so much as a tremor, "I make a definite
request, a suggestion that you should undertake this matter, for I am
well aware that you are the most fitted for it. But I realize the great
danger to be incurred, particularly when I bear in mind the fact that
you have a personal enemy in this rascally Dutchman, who has sworn
to obtain your head; and for that reason, and because a task of this
description is essentially one for a volunteer, I make no order. I do
not, on the strength of my being the commander of this vessel, while you
are a subordinate, tell you that you are to go. Come, think the matter
over. Go to your quarters and discuss it if you wish, returning here in
a couple of hours, when you will have had time to make up your mind. And
recollect this, that should you refuse to undertake the task I shall
not think the worse of you, for the adventure will be full of danger
and difficulty, and will take you right amongst the pirates and amongst
enemies from whom you were most fortunate to escape."

Once more did the captain of the _Dido_ lean back in his chair while he
gazed at our hero. But, had he expected to find any hesitation on the
latter's part to accept the post assigned to him, he was destined to be
mistaken, for not once had Tyler shown the slightest trace of fear.

"I would have answered at once," he said, suddenly breaking the silence
which he had maintained up to this, "but I have been busily thinking
whether I could possibly do as you say, whether the disguise of a native
of these parts would be sufficient, seeing that I am wholly ignorant
of the language. But what I have done once I can attempt again, and I
thank you, sir, for giving me the opportunity. I do not require to think
it over, as my mind is already made up. I will do my best to obtain
the fullest information, and bring you warning of the movements of the
pirates. When can I set out?"

"As soon as you are ready, my lad; and let me say that I admire you for
giving a decision so readily. There are few who would undertake the
matter, and, as I have said, not many who could make the attempt with as
much hope of success as yourself. You will, of course, want a companion,
for you do not speak the Dyak language, and might get into difficulties.
Make your own selection and your own plans without reference to me, for
you have shown such sense up to this that I can trust you to choose
well. When you are quite prepared for the journey, come to me, and I
will give you any further instructions which I may happen to have."

"And perhaps it would be as well, considering the fact that Sarawak
has many spies, to beg Mr. Richardson to keep silence on the matter,"
broke in Lieutenant Horton. "After all, a discussion amongst the other
officers might find its way elsewhere, and spoil our young friend's
chances of success."

"And perhaps endanger his life," said Captain Keppel eagerly. "Quite
right, Mr. Horton! and I thank you for the advice. Very well, my lad,
return as soon as you are ready, and tell me then how you mean to tackle
this matter. Remember that I leave it all to you, including the means by
which you are to reach the Sarebus."

With a bow and a hearty shake of the hand, which was repeated by the
first officer, Tyler was dismissed, and at once walked forward into the
bows of the _Dido_, well knowing that he would have no opportunity for
thinking if he rejoined his comrades below. Behind him he left the two
officers, still conversing eagerly, and wondering how this quiet young
fellow, who had joined the ship in such strange fashion and after the
most extraordinary adventures, would elect to carry out the matter which
had been entrusted to him.

"He is decidedly older than his age," remarked the lieutenant, "and I
will wager that he carries the task through brilliantly. He has his
head screwed on, and has a fine spirit. We shall see him charging at
the head of our men before these pirates are done with, and I prophesy
quick promotion for him. But I will leave you now, sir, if you no longer
require me, for I may be able to help our young friend in this matter."

While the commander of the _Dido_ remains in his cabin or on the
poop of his vessel, restlessly trudging backwards and forwards, with
his thoughts for ever bent upon the coming expedition and upon the
precautions necessary to be taken, let us once more seek for Tyler in
the secluded spot away in the bows of the ship, where he had hidden
himself, well knowing that only there would he obtain that peace
and uninterrupted quietness which would permit him to give his full
attention to the journey which was before him. Seating himself upon the
sprit, where it came in through the rail, he bent his head on his hand
for the space of a few moments, while he rubbed his eyes as though the
action would enable him to see clearly into the future. Then he turned
his gaze in the direction of Sarawak, and let his eyes pass from hut to
hut, from the so-called palace of Rajah Brooke, the great Englishman
who had devoted himself to the cause of the Dyaks and of all people
inhabiting that portion of Borneo, to the quaint and straggling street
which cut through the main part of the town. Then, dreamily, and as
if his thoughts were too much occupied to take in all the details, he
allowed his view to cross a strip of jungle and fall upon a neat and
orderly settlement beyond. Houses built of bamboo, and displaying many
a flaring signboard in front, were clustered together in an orderly
manner, while many a thin wisp of smoke curled into the air. And about
the houses, engaged in the yards which most seemed to have attached to
them, were numbers of figures, working for their living, at peace with
all the world, and settled in this town of Sarawak as if they had been
there for years.

"Busy fellows," thought Tyler, suddenly attracted by the scene, and
indulging in a closer look. "The Chinaman is a wonderful worker, and a
very contented man. And I suppose that Li Sung is over there, having
found his wife and child."

He ceased speaking, and looked again with increased attention. Then he
rose to his feet, and, leaning on the rail, stared at the collection of
huts.

"He is a shrewd fellow," he murmured, as though some thought had
suddenly come to him. "All Chinamen are clever and cunning; and Li is
thoroughly trustworthy. I will go across to him and chat the matter
over."

Conscious that the expedition before him was one which demanded no
little thought, and that to attempt to carry it out hastily, and with
little preparation, could only lead to misfortune, Tyler had determined
to take every precaution, and make every necessary enquiry before
setting out.

"Then whom else could I go to who is better able to give advice?" he
said to himself. "Li is a faithful fellow, and I believe is attached to
me. He has suffered at the hands of these pirates, and he will be glad
to see them exterminated. If I go to him he will be able to give me a
hint as to a disguise, and I can rely upon him to keep a silent tongue
in his head. I'll go across at once."

To act upon this decision was the work of a few moments only, for about
the _Dido_, keeping, however, at a respectful distance, a number of
native craft always hovered during the day. To hail a sampan, therefore,
was an easy matter, and very soon Tyler was being ferried to the shore.

"I quite forgot to ask permission to go!" he exclaimed, suddenly
recollecting that he was no longer his own master, and that he was
subject to the discipline of the ship. "However, I dare say that they
will accept my excuses, particularly when they hear for what reason I
have gone. Ah! here we are, and a short walk will take me to the Chinese
town."

Leaping upon the little landing-stage which had been erected, he tossed
a coin to the oarsman, for the paymaster of the _Dido_ had advanced him
a couple of months' pay. Then he strode off towards the houses which he
had seen from the ship, and was very soon in the street which divided
the dwellings.

"Where is Li Sung?" he demanded of the first man he met.

"Li Sung? Ah, him comee here wid de Dyaks and de whitee man!" said the
Chinee, using the curious pigeon-English which is common to men of
the race who attempt our language. "Yes, you findee him dere;" and he
pointed to one of the neat houses. "Li him velly sad."

"Sad! For what reason?" thought Tyler. Then, thanking the man, he strode
to the door of the house and knocked, entering as a voice bade him do so.

"What is the matter?" he demanded, suddenly catching sight of a figure
huddled in a corner. "Is that you, Li Sung?"

At the sound of his voice the Chinaman sprang to his feet with a cry
of delight, exposing, however, a face which was woebegone to the last
degree. Then he darted forward and clasped Tyler by the hand.

"Li am velly sad man," he said. "He comee through so much, and he lookee
to de time when he comee home and meet him wife and child. But dey not
here, massa. Dey tink poor Li dead, he stay away so long, and dey sail
back to Singapore. Li all alonee!"

"Then you will be able to listen to me, and it will do you good not to
think of your trouble," said Tyler, taking him kindly by the arm. "You
can help me if you will."

"Den I listen, for Li am de servant. De massa am always kind to de
Chinee boy. He no kickee and hitee him, and him bringee Li through wid
de Dyaks. What does de massa say?"

"That you can do something for me. Come, let us sit down and talk."

Taking their seats beside one another, Tyler began to tell Li Sung of
the task before him; then for an hour or more the two chatted in low
whispers, the Chinaman asking many a question, and lapsing into silence,
often for the space of a minute, as he considered the matter.

"De plan do velly well," he said at length, with smiling features, which
were a contrast indeed to the air of sorrow which he had worn when first
his white master had accosted him. "De way to Paddi am open, and de
Chinamen go dere velly easy. De massa am wise, for he tink of dis, and
he say to Li: 'You comee wid me, and later on you havee money to go to
Singapore.' Dat allee dat Li want, and him not afraid of de Dutchman."

"I should think not!" exclaimed Tyler, delighted at the thought that he
had obtained a companion who would be so useful to him. "As you say, the
plan seems a good one, and I do not see why we should not be successful.
All depends on the disguise, and upon whom we meet in the river. But we
have been talking for long. Let us set about the preparations without
further delay."

Some two hours later, when the sun was overhead, and a hot haze hung
over the water, a sampan was seen to be rowing from the creek upon the
banks of which the Chinese town was situated, and was observed to
direct its course towards the _Dido_. At first the marine who was doing
sentry-go at the summit of the gangway paused listlessly in his weary
tramp, glad of anything, however small, which would break the monotony
of his hours of duty, and favoured the craft with a half-pitying gaze.
Then he stifled a yawn, remarked upon the heat and discomfort of such
latitudes when compared to Old England, and would have pursued his
beat had not a second movement on the part of the sampan attracted his
attention.

"Well, that does for me!" he exclaimed, bringing his musket from the
shoulder to the deck with a clash which startled the mid-day silence.
"Making this way against orders! All these here blacks, and the China
boys too, know well that the rule is that they are not to come alongside
unless a chief or big gun o' some sort is along with 'em. And here's
a sampan, with a couple of cheeky chaps aboard, making direct for us!
Who knows? they might have a keg of powder aboard. Hi, you two monkeys!
Clear right off, or I'll--!"

He brought the butt of his musket to his shoulder and made pretence to
aim. Then, as the Chinaman who occupied a seat in front of the one who
was plying the oars rose to his feet and faced about, the sentry came to
the rail, and leaned over it to inspect the craft and its contents more
closely.

"It ain't no use yer kow-towing," he called out, seeing that the
individual who had just risen to his feet was bowing to him. "I tell yer
that it ain't allowed, so clear off, and quick about it too."

Whether the Chinaman understood what was said it would be difficult to
state, but it would appear as though he did, for he at once thrust his
hand into the interior of his capacious coat and produced a document,
which he held above his head.

"For de chief!" he called out. "Dis am a letter, and de man here and me
comee to speak to de captain about de pirates."

"Oh, yer've got a letter, 'ave yer? Well, sit tight there till I've
called the sergeant," shouted the sentry. "Hi, sergeant, there's two
China boys wanting to come aboard!"

A few minutes' parley sufficed to obtain the necessary permission,
and then the two Chinamen having been searched to make sure that they
carried no arms and had no murderous intentions, they were allowed to
mount the gangway and step upon the deck.

"This way," said the sergeant, "and jest stop that 'ere kow-towing. I
ain't the captain."

Apparently it annoyed him to see the Chinamen bobbing there in that
senseless way, for he turned from them with a scowl and led the way to
the poop, where Captain Keppel was standing.

"Two men to see yer, sir," he said, shouldering his musket in salute.
"Two Chinamen, what says they've a letter for yer. Shall they come up,
sir?"

"A letter! Two Chinamen! Perhaps they have some information about the
pirates!" exclaimed the commander with a start. "Send them up, sergeant."

A minute later the two strangers were before him, to find that his chief
officer had joined him, while both were staring at these intruders, no
doubt wondering what information they had to bring.

"Well, what is it?" demanded the commander. "You have a letter, and as
far as I have been led to understand, you have some information to give
me. Now, get along with the business, and do stop that kow-towing."

At the words a half-hidden smile wreathed the features of the man who
had stood up in the craft, and who had had possession of the letter. But
in a moment it was suppressed, and, at once ceasing the bows with which
he had favoured the white man, he drew the document out of an inner
pocket and handed it to the captain.

"Dat am de plan of de river Sarebus," he said. "Fo Sing knowee de water
velly well, and Li Sung been dere many a time. De news in de town am
dat de Englishmen am to go to de river to fight de pirate, and Fo Sing
and Li Sung comee here to say dat dey willee go dere too, and take de
news to de pirates. If we not go, den de news reach dem all de same.
But s'posing we am dere, den we makee friends, we laugh and we eat
wid de pirate, and one velly fine day we come away again, and tell de
Englishmen allee dat we see."

"Why, the man is proposing exactly what we had arranged!" gasped Captain
Keppel. "But I must keep that to myself. What do you think of this
offer, Horton? It seems uncanny that these fellows should have come
at such a time. One really begins to think that they have guessed our
plans."

"They can hardly have done that, sir," was the answer. "But would not a
second party be advisable? Then if one failed--you understand?"

"Quite so, exactly, though I trust that there will be no mishap. But
this fellow says that he has been to the Sarebus before. Probably one of
the pirates, if one could only get at the truth."

"Yes, that may be the case," replied the chief officer, with elevated
eyebrows, "but a Chinaman will do anything for gold. Here, what are you
asking for this work?"

He turned to the spokesman of the two who had come aboard, and demanded
his price, while he stared closely at him, watching him narrowly.

"For me, nothing, sir. I shall do my utmost for the navy. For Li Sung,
the Chinaman who accompanied me through a part of Borneo, and then down
the Sarebus, he asks merely that a passage shall be paid for him so that
he may sail for Singapore, there to rejoin his wife and family."

In a moment the tones of the Chinaman's voice had changed, and the
captain of the _Dido_ and his chief officer found themselves listening
to the young fellow who had so recently joined them. In utter amazement
they stared at him, only to find that he returned their glances gravely,
and with never a smile, for Tyler was in desperate earnest, and had come
aboard in this manner, not to make fun of those who were his superiors,
but to test the effectiveness of his disguise. Seeing that matters had
gone far enough already, and that, in spite of the brilliant light, and
of the fact that Captain Keppel and Mr. Horton were so close to him,
they had failed to recognize him, he at once spoke in his natural tones,
so that it might become clear who he was.

"What! Impossible!" exclaimed the commander, stepping forward swiftly
and thrusting his face close to Tyler's. "Mr. Richardson in disguise! It
cannot be; for this is a real Chinaman if ever I saw one. What do you
say, Horton?"

"It is wonderful. The lad would pass inspection anywhere, and has
completely taken us in. I have no fears for him, for, dressed as he is,
even the Dutchman will fail to recognize him. But what are we to do? It
will never do to declare who is here, for the tale would fly round the
deck, and our men would have it before half an hour had passed."

"And the safety of the expedition and of these two might be
jeopardized," cried the commander. "Come down to the cabin, Mr.
Richardson, and leave your companion here with instructions to say
nothing and to keep his tongue between his teeth."

As if too dazed to say more, Captain Keppel turned about and led the way
to his cabin, the chief officer following closely upon his heels, and
Tyler bringing up the rear, kow-towing with the gravest of faces and the
most servile of manners as they passed him. Once the door had closed
upon them, however, the officers burst into hearty roars of laughter,
and for some little time could do nothing more than stare at our hero
and walk round and round him, closely scrutinizing his apparel. And well
they might, too, for the special duty which was about to take Tyler to
the Sarebus was one fraught with the gravest danger, and he was well
aware that discovery would mean death. For that reason Li Sung had taken
the utmost pains to transform him, and, thanks to the fact that on this
occasion he was at home, and surrounded with all that was necessary
for the purpose, he had contrived to provide a disguise which could
not have been improved upon. Indeed, as he stood there in the cabin,
Tyler was a Chinaman from his bald pate, with its dangling pigtail,
to his thick-soled shoes. Nothing had been passed over, and so clever
and painstaking had been Li Sung that the eyes seemed to be precisely
the same as those possessed by the normal Chinaman. In short, as the
interview upon the poop had proved, no one could recognize in the taller
of the two Chinaman the young officer who had but just come to the
ship; while even the leader of the pirates at Paddi would have passed
him by without a suspicion that this humble individual, who seemed to
find it necessary to kow-tow to every person of note or of the smallest
consequence, was the Englishman for whom he sought, and whom he had last
encountered in the guise of a Dyak chief.

"Your acting is superb," Captain Keppel was at length able to blurt out,
"and I must really congratulate you, Mr. Richardson, upon the excellence
of your appearance. But tell me how you propose to proceed? Surely, if
you go up the river as you are, they will think that you are a man of
some wealth and will pounce upon you, for your clothes are better than
those worn, as a rule, by the Chinamen here."

"They are put on simply for the purpose of coming here, sir," replied
Tyler earnestly. "If one of the country which I am supposed to represent
had occasion to come to you, he would certainly don his best clothing
for the purpose. But I shall take others with me, and once up the river
I have but to strip off these outer garments and I become in a moment a
coolie, one of the men who is to be come across in every part, at work
upon the forest-trees, preparing a clearing in which to cultivate rice.
The pirates do not molest them as a rule, though the Chinaman's fear of
the former makes him keep at a distance from them generally. As to the
river, sir, I shall act as circumstances demand, but my idea is to row
boldly up to Rembas or to Pakoo and make friends with the pirates, with
the idea of escaping later on."

"It sounds terribly risky, my lad," exclaimed Captain Keppel, as though
a feeling of remorse had suddenly come to him for having selected this
young officer for such a task. "Do you think that it will be necessary
to actually throw in your lot with these men?"

"But, no--I will not interfere in any manner," he cried, after a
moment's thought, interrupting Tyler before he could give an answer to
the question. "I will leave the carrying out of the duty entirely to
you, well knowing that you will not be impetuous, and that you have had
an experience already which will be invaluable. You shall leave this
ship when our chat is ended, and shall make your way to the Sarebus when
and how you like. On your return to the _Dido_ I shall have something to
say, and let me remind you now that we have appointed the island at the
mouth of the river as a rendezvous, and that we shall sail there shortly
after you have left us. Till we meet--the very best of fortune, my dear
lad! As to getting there, I may say that the men who are looking after
the prahus which you brought from the Sarebus will at once hand any of
the vessels over when you show them this order."

Stepping to a bureau, which was fastened to one wall of the cabin, the
commander of the _Dido_ scrawled a few hurried lines, and then handed
the note to Tyler. A second later the latter was kow-towing himself from
the presence of the two officers, his fingers aching with the hearty
shake and grip which each had given him.

"A remarkably fine young fellow, and with wits!" exclaimed the captain.
"He is an acquisition, Horton, and is as smart an officer as I ever came
across."

"And he is not spoilt by success, as so many would be, sir," burst
in the lieutenant "He is always in earnest, it seems to me, unless
skylarking with lads of his own age, and he is clever. Look at the way
he acted. Why, even a moment ago he did not allow himself to forget his
rôle, and I'll be bound that the marine on sentry-go outside has not the
faintest idea who it was he passed on to the deck."

That this was the case was abundantly evident, and had the door only
remained open, those within the cabin would have quickly learnt
the fact; for no sooner had the door closed than the sentry, an
ill-conditioned fellow with a particular dislike to foreigners, grasped
the Chinaman by the shoulders and hustled him on to the deck without
ceremony. Then with a scowl and a "Git on with yer!" he went back to
his beat, little thinking that his act was one likely to entail serious
consequences later on.

But Tyler did not allow his temper to be ruffled, and, hastening along
the deck, soon joined Li Sung. A moment or two later they were passing
down the gangway, and very soon the two officers, watching from the
gun-port in the cabin right aft, saw a tiny sampan swing out into the
stream and pull for the prahus which lay moored some little distance
away. A strong pull and it disappeared from sight, leaving the watchers
to wonder when they would see Tyler Richardson again, and what would be
his tale when he rejoined them.



CHAPTER XV

Off to the River Sarebus


Armed with the note with which the captain of the _Dido_ had had the
forethought to provide him, Tyler made direct for the prahus which had
been such a short while before in the possession of the men at Paddi,
and, still acting the rôle of a humble Chinee, clambered to the deck of
one upon which he caught sight of some British sailors.

"From de captain," he said quietly. "Him say dat Fo Sing ask for one of
de boats and takee him away a little."

Tearing the letter open, the man to whom he had handed it read the
contents with a puzzled expression, for he was no great scholar.

"Deliver to the bearer, Fo Sing, any of the prahus which he may ask for,
and do not question him," ran the lines.

"Well, it's a rum order, and I can't say as I see what it's for,"
grumbled the tar, "but it's there, in the skipper's hand, and so it'll
have to be. Which'll yer have, Johnnie? There's a number of sail here,
and yer are to pick and choose. Jest look round and think a bit."

But Tyler had no need to think, for already he had selected the one
which he considered most suitable. And, therefore, he at once motioned
to the small prahu with which the head of the schooner had been warped
round when she lay at her moorings before the pirates' stockade, and
indicated that that was the one which he would select.

"Then you ain't greedy," was the answer, "and since the order's plain,
you'd better skip with the craft as soon as yer can, else perhaps the
skipper'll change his mind."

This difficulty settled, Tyler with his companion, Li Sung, were not
long in transferring themselves to the prahu, and at once, making their
sampan fast to her stern, they manned two of the sweeps, and rowed the
craft away to the creek from which they had originally set out.

"De China boy dere tink dat we buy him, and so not talk velly much,"
said Li Sung as they arrived in the tiny harbour. "Be sure dat dey see
us comee here, and dey wonder why and who you am. But I tellee dem dat
you a friend from de coast, and that satisfy dem. I say dat we go on a
trading voyage, and end at Singapore, so dat allee right, for dey know
dat poor Li wish to go dere. We must be plenty careful, massa, for dere
am bad men everywhere, and here am some who lovee de Dutchman and his
pirates."

"Then we will be very cautious," agreed Tyler, "and as I should be
certainly questioned if I were to come ashore, I shall remain here till
you have been able to do all that I have asked. Food we must have, and
for that purpose you will row back to the _Dido_ when the night comes,
and will take off a supply which will be prepared for you. Then there
will be weapons to be fetched also, and another boat is necessary, for
to enter the river with this would be madness. We shall want one of the
river-boats, which are without decks and which are propelled by means of
paddles. Here is money, and you must see what can be done in the matter.
Return as soon as the sun falls, and then we will row out to the ship."

Having moored the prahu to a buoy in the centre of the creek, Tyler lay
down upon the floor and set himself to think, while Li Sung went ashore
in the sampan to carry out his master's wishes. As for the latter, he
had already thought the matter over, and realizing at length that no
amount of cogitation would help him, for who could say what difficulties
would confront him, he settled himself comfortably and very soon fell
asleep, overcome by the closeness of the atmosphere. When he awoke it
was near the hour of sunset, and happening to peep over the rail he saw
a figure approaching him in a small river-boat which would accommodate
two or three men, and could be easily managed by them.

"Good!" he said to himself; "he has managed that part of the matter,
and with that craft we ought to be easily able to ascend the river,
particularly when the tide makes in. Now for the food and other things."

Two hours later, when the sun had long disappeared and darkness covered
the water, the prahu cast loose from her moorings, and was rowed from
the creek with the river-boat in tow. Then, once in open water, her sail
was hoisted and her head turned down the stream which led from Sarawak
to the open sea.

"There will be a moon by the time we arrive at the mouth," said Tyler
as they swept along, "and we shall be able to set a course by its aid.
After that we can take it turn and turn about to steer and keep a watch.
How long will it take us to get to the Sarebus, Li?"

"P'r'aps two day, p'r'aps less, massa. Me no tellee now. Allee according
to de wind. Plenty same now, and if him hold, then we make de Sarebus
velly soon. But better keep de silence, for dere am ships in de river,
and p'r'aps de _Dido_ hail for us to stop."

Following this piece of good advice, for in those days none were allowed
to arrive in the river or depart from Sarawak without being challenged,
Tyler, who was at the helm, directed the prahu for the centre of the
stream, and kept her there till well at the mouth. Once someone sent a
hail in their direction, but it was instantly suppressed, perhaps by the
orders of those on board the _Dido_, who knew that their messenger must
be leaving about that hour. After that all was silence and darkness till
a gentle swell told them that they were at sea.

"And here is the moon," exclaimed Tyler in tones of satisfaction. "We've
a long sail before us, and so I propose that we at once settle the
watches. You turn in, Li, while I take her on for three hours. Then you
can take the helm. When day comes we'll pull into some creek, and lie
up till night returns. Now, off you go!"

With a nod he sent the Chinaman to the bows, where he at once lay down,
and, accustomed to a hard bed and to his surroundings, promptly fell
asleep. As for Tyler, he stood upright there beside the helm, wondering
what was in store for him, and whether this expedition was destined
to result in similar success to that which had favoured the previous
one, or whether dire disaster was about to come upon himself and his
companion.

"In any case I shall do my best, and can a fellow do more?" he said. "If
possible, I shall remain hidden from the pirates, and return without
having given them a suspicion that they have been spied upon. But if
that is out of the question, I shall go to Rembas or to Pakoo, and trust
to luck. To hand myself over to the men at Paddi would be madness, for
the Dutchman suspects everyone, and would soon get to the bottom of my
disguise. Well, it's no use wondering, so I'll just jog along and be
thankful that the night is fine."

For three hours did Tyler maintain his position at the helm, steering a
course parallel with the coast, which he was able to distinguish dimly
on his right. Then, judging that he had done his turn of duty, he made
the tiller fast and went to awake the Chinaman.

"Your watch," he said, as he shook him. "It's a fine night, with a moon
and stars, so you will have no difficulty in keeping the course. Wake me
if anything disturbs you."

Leaving the prahu in the hands of Li Sung, Tyler lay down in the bows
and soon fell asleep, for by now he was hardened to an outdoor life, and
had become so used to lying down to rest in a different and a strange
place on every occasion, that nothing disturbed him or robbed him of his
sleep; indeed, not even the prospect of the expedition before him could
keep him awake, while the thought of danger and of difficulty produced
no anxiety in his mind.

"I must just do my best, and after all this is a duty for which I have
been selected," he said to himself, as he curled his limbs on the floor
of the prahu. "If all goes well, then it will be a fine thing, and no
doubt the commander of the _Dido_ will be pleased. If we are captured or
get into trouble it will be by mischance, and I shall probably not be
alive to mind. In any case I cannot alter the future by worrying now, so
I'll get a good long sleep so as to be fresh for to-morrow."

With this resolution made, he closed his eyes, and, lulled by the sough
of the wind as it bellied the great sail overhead, and by the hiss and
swish of water alongside, he quickly lost consciousness, and did not
awake till day was dawning.

"Time to open de eyes," said Li Sung as he gently shook his young
master. "Velly soon we able to see far, and by den dese two China boys
better be hidden away out of de sight."

"And the sooner we are in safe quarters the better," exclaimed Tyler,
springing to his feet and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "Over with
the helm, and let us run in to the land. With a wooded coast before us
we shall have no difficulty in finding a likely spot, and then we two--a
couple of friendly China boys, as you say--will hide up for the day,
and make ready to satisfy our appetites. Ah, the darkness is lifting
rapidly, and there is the coast!"

As he spoke he lifted his hand and pointed to a high-lying stretch of
land, a strip of the north-western coast of Borneo, which had just come
into view.

"Good!" he exclaimed, noticing that it was thickly wooded down to the
water's edge. "There will be ample cover there, and as it is just
commencing to rain we are not likely to be seen by anyone. Give the
tiller over to me, Li Sung, and go forward. If you post yourself in the
bows you will be able to keep a look-out for shoals and rocks, and can
shout a warning to me. Just pull in that sheet as you go, and we shall
sail all the quicker."

Grasping the helm, Tyler set the prahu in the direction of the coast,
the Chinaman pulling in the sail till it stretched taut across the mast
and allowed them to sail their craft close-hauled. Then, obedient to
the order of his young master, he went forward into the bows, where,
reclining at full length, he fastened his pigtail in a knot at the back
of his head to keep it from trailing in the water, and then bent his
gaze on the surface before him.

"If massa puts de helm a little up we strikee straight for a small place
between de trees," he said when they had sailed for some ten minutes
through the driving rain. "Li see a creek dere, and he say dat if we
sail de prahu right in, den we hidden, and no one see us, for dey all in
deir huts just now."

Following the direction indicated by his companion, Tyler pointed
the prahu for the opening, which was dimly visible, and soon had the
satisfaction of arriving within a few lengths of a rift between the
trees, through which a clear stream of water was issuing.

"A tiny river," he said to himself, "and just the place for us, for it
will give us shelter, and at the same time will allow us to get our
drinking-supply without leaving the vessel. Lower away that sail, Li,
for the way on her will carry us in; and stand ready to make fast to a
tree. I shall run her in till well out of sight of any who may happen to
be cruising along the coast, though we must not go too far, and above
all we must find out that there are no natives near at hand. Remember
that secrecy is a thing which we have to think of, and our lives may
very well depend upon how we observe it."

"Li him knowee dat well, massa," was the answer, the Chinaman nodding
his head at Tyler in a manner which seemed to say that he was a cunning
fellow. "China boy not wishee to have de head cuttee off. He likee him
life, and him can be velly silent when him want. But mind de rock on de
side of de opening, for it am big, and de water rises about it."

He pointed swiftly to a spot beside the exit of the river, where the
stream frothed and bubbled against some unseen object and was heaped
high in the air. But the caution was unneeded, for Tyler had already
guessed the cause, and had seen the commotion in that direction, and,
moving his tiller just a trifle, guided the prahu safely past the shoal.
A minute later they were running up-stream, with a high bank on either
side of them and a canopy of leaves and branches overhead. Selecting a
likely-looking tree, our hero steered for it, and, seeing that the banks
were soft and moss-grown, ran the bows into the mud close alongside. In
an instant Li Sung was overboard, rope in hand, and within a very short
space of time the prahu was tugging gently at her mooring as the stream
made efforts to bear her down to the sea.

"And now for a look round, and then for something to eat," cried Tyler,
beginning to search in the lockers in which their provisions had been
stored. "Boiled rice for the Chinaman and his friend, and a little
besides. Cut away, Li, and take a look about you. When you return, the
water will be hot, and you can complete the cooking."

At once the faithful fellow dived into the jungle which grew close up to
the edge of the river, leaving Tyler to make the preparations necessary
for a meal. Nor was the latter long in setting about the matter, for his
long sail had given him an appetite. Dragging out a kettle, which he
filled by dipping it in the stream, he placed it upon an oil-lamp which
he had had the forethought to bring with him, and then hunted for the
rice, which was the staple food of the Chinaman who accompanied him. A
frying-pan soon made its appearance, together with a second stove, and
by the time Li Sung returned to the prahu a couple of rashers of bacon
were frizzling over the flame, while the kettle was singing merrily.

"De forest am alone, massa," said Li, as he sprang from the bank on to
the craft. "Dere no one near, and we can live and sleep here velly fine.
Ah, de water am boiling, and Li put de rice in! It am a good ting to eat
in de morning."

Thanks to the leafy covering which wrapped them in, Tyler and his
companion passed a peaceful day, which was undisturbed by the rain which
continued to fall in torrents. Nor did anyone come to upset them. As
soon as evening arrived, and they had eaten another meal, they prepared
to set out once more, and at once began to hoist the sail.

"Not start yet awhile," said Li Sung, casting his eyes towards the
entrance. "It still am light enough to see out dere, and p'r'aps dere am
a ship passing. Wait, and soon we go. Li just run on shore again for a
little bittee, and come back wid de coats which keep de rain away."

Without further explanation he leapt to the bank and went into the
jungle, where Tyler could hear him breaking branches down. Ten minutes
later, as the sun disappeared and darkness began to fall, he leapt once
more upon the prahu and presented his master with a mat composed of
leaves and reeds which had been roughly secured together.

"Dere," he said in accents of pleasure, "dat light, and stay on de
shoulder easy, while it keep de rain away. Massa try him, please."

Motioning to Tyler that he was to put his head through the hole which
had been left in the centre, Li spread a mat over his own shoulders,
the tail of the leaves falling well over the arms and body, but lying
so loosely and lightly that the limbs could be freely moved. And thus
equipped with a protection against the rain commonly used by the Dyaks,
and known as a kajan, they cast off the mooring, and having hoisted the
sail, stood boldly for the sea. Then, turning up the coast, they held on
their course without interruption till the following morning found them
standing in to the mouth of the river Sarebus.

"And now we must be doubly cautious," said Tyler, as they ran the prahu
into an out-of-the-way nook and lowered the sail. "No doubt pirates
are about in all directions, and they will be familiar with those who
live in the neighbourhood. For that reason they would want to inspect
strangers if they happened to see them, and though we look innocent
enough, and have a good tale to tell, yet the fact that I do not speak
Chinese or the Dyak tongue is so much against me that I should always
stand the great risk of being discovered; and if that happened--"

"De pirate choppee de head," exclaimed Li. "Massa no need to tell him
servant dat. But we havee velly fine tale to tellee de men of Rembas and
of Pakoo, though Li not tink it safe for massa to go to Paddi, where de
Dutchman am. We only poor China boys, who not likee de British and deir
ships, and who am wanting money. We hear dat de white people come velly
soon to fight de pirate, and we come ever so fast to tell him. We say we
will fightee for dem, and when dey not lookin' we run away and come back
to our friends. Oh yes! Li him see velly clear, and he say dat allee be
well. But we must be plenty careful. What does de massa wish to do?"

"Sit down there and listen. I will tell you in a few words, for we are
at our destination now, and we must not delay. My proposal is that we
make the prahu very fast, so that we may be sure that she will be here
on our return. Then we will take to the river-boat and the paddles, and
will row into the river, getting as far up-stream as possible before the
day dawns. It is already much lighter, though I think that we can count
upon a good hour longer. By that time, with the tide to help us, we
should be some distance up, and shall, perhaps, have gained a position
from which we can set a watch upon our enemies. After that all depends
upon the pirates and upon circumstances. Come, bustle up, Li! Get out a
gun for each of us, leaving the spare ones here, for we could not manage
to carry them. Then we will take a bag of ammunition beneath our coats,
for we may suddenly find that we require a large amount, and, of course,
we must not forget food. There is a lot of cooked and preserved stuff
which will suit very well, and for water we can rely upon the river.
There, look lively while I see to the vessel."

At once all was movement upon the prahu, for if Tyler and his companion
were really to make a commencement of their task, and were to occupy
a position of advantage before the day dawned and the light came to
show them to the enemy, they must move without further delay. That both
realized this to the full, and that their safety would now depend on
their caution and discretion, was abundantly evident, for they set to
work silently, but with a bustle and an energy which showed that their
hearts were in the matter. Leaping to the shore, Tyler rapidly bent
another cable in position, and lashed it to a tree, just as had been
done on the previous night. Then a third was taken from the stern, and
the vessel brought tight up against the bank.

"That will do for her, I think," muttered Tyler, running swiftly over
the knots to see that they were fast. "If she is found lying here, of
course anyone can walk aboard her. But it would have been very difficult
to moor her farther out in the stream, and even then a sampan would have
taken the finder to her. And now for the river-boat."

Going aft, he found that Li Sung had already provisioned the tiny craft,
and was standing in the bows awaiting his master, with a rifle in either
hand and a couple of waterproof bags of ammunition over his shoulder.

"Li am ready for massa," he said simply. "Where am he to sit? Li wait
for orders, and him will do just what him am told."

"Then stay here in the bows," said Tyler shortly, "for you have keener
sight than I have. When I have passed you, take the paddle and cast off
the painter. But first, just sling that rifle over your shoulder. I will
do the same."

Suiting the action to the word, he and his companion were soon in
position, each with a paddle in his hand. Then the painter was cast off,
and at once the tiny craft shot from beneath the trees and out into the
river.

"The tide is still on the ebb, so we will keep in near the trees,"
called Tyler gently, as they swept away from the bank. "By doing so we
shall have less difficulty in making good progress, for the current will
be less swift. A glance overhead will always tell you whether we are
keeping the right course, and as you will be the first to notice when
we go astray, just call to me so that I may know it. Now, in with the
paddles."

Keeping time with one another, they sent the light boat up the stream at
a good pace, and when an hour had gone had the satisfaction of knowing
that they had made excellent progress, while half an hour, perhaps, of
darkness remained to them. And now their course was shaped for the bank,
for they did not dare to run the risk of being observed. Very soon they
came to a part where the trees grew close down to the water, and here
they remained till the day dawned, clinging to the boughs so that the
stream should not carry them down again.

"It is light enough to see now," said Tyler at length, "and we will
push in and take up a position from which we shall be able to see
without being observed by people who may be passing on the river. Lift
the boughs gently, Li, and pull us in. That's the way. Now we are in
open water again, though it is only a narrow stretch, and can use our
paddles."

Gently propelling the craft, they sent her on beneath the low-hanging
boughs, and finally came to a halt when they had traversed about half
a mile of the leafy avenue. And here they made fast with the painter
and at once began to eat, for there was no saying when they would have
another opportunity. Then they turned their faces to the river and
peered from amongst the covering, being able to see right across the
river.

"We have a long row before us, and have need of all our strength," said
Tyler, "and for that reason we will take it in turns to rest, for this
night-work is very tiring. You lie down, Li Sung, and I will wake you
later on."

And so, whilst one kept watch on the river, noting the boats which
passed, the other slept, the following night finding them both refreshed
and prepared for the work before them. Issuing from the trees they once
more took to the stream, and when the following day was at hand were in
the neighbourhood of Rembas, the lowest of the piratical strongholds.

"What is that?" demanded Tyler suddenly as they lay on their paddles,
staring at the opposite bank, and wondering whether or not they were
opposite Rembas. "I heard a sound behind us, and I am sure that it did
not come from the bank."

Both sat up and listened eagerly, only to turn to one another in
perplexity, for neither could fathom the nature of the sound which had
caused them alarm.

"It is a curious hissing," said Tyler in troubled tones, "and as I said
before, I am sure that it comes from the direction of the mouth of the
river. But what can it be? To me it sounds like water."

"Perhaps it am de tide, de sea making into de river," suddenly suggested
the Chinaman in tones of alarm. "If so, we better row, massa, for de
bore am terrible, and would fill dis boat to de top. Yes, Li have
listened, and he not like de sound. Row, massa, or we be drowned."

That Li Sung was alarmed there could be no doubt, for he had spent some
time on the river in the service of the men of Paddi, and he well knew
of the danger of the bore caused by the tide as it swept into the upper
reaches. Indeed, at any other time he would have thought of the matter
and would have warned his young master; but the fact that they were on a
spying expedition, and that all their energies were devoted to keeping
watch for the enemy, had caused him to forget it. Now, however, as the
sound swept with great rapidity towards them, he recognized the meaning
of that ominous hissing, and, turning swiftly to Tyler, urged him to
row for his life. Plunging paddles into the water the two strained at
their work, in the desperate attempt to reach the bank before the tide
overwhelmed them. But they were too late to escape, and hardly had they
gained more than twenty yards when the full strength of the bore rushed
upon them. In the gathering light each saw a moving wall of water,
some five feet in height, rushing towards them, and though at a shout
from Tyler the bows of the craft were swept round to meet it, in the
hope of riding over it, the oncoming water seized them in its powerful
grasp, swung the boat round as if it had been a top, and then washed
clean over it, upsetting it and turning it bottom upwards. As for the
two occupants, they were torn from their seats, and carried on with the
flood for some feet. A minute later they appeared upon the surface,
swimming for their lives.

"Make for the boat," shouted Tyler, striking out in that direction. "The
bore has passed now, and the water is smooth; but the tide runs strong,
and we must have support."

Without wasting further breath he swam lustily in the direction of the
overturned boat, and very soon reached it. In an instant he had slipped
the bag of ammunition from his shoulders, and had placed it on the flat
bottom of the craft. The rifle followed, and then, conscious that he was
now free to help, he turned to see how Li Sung was faring.

"He is drowning," he suddenly gasped, catching sight of the unfortunate
Chinaman struggling in the water feebly, with head almost submerged, and
a look of terror and despair on his face. "Hold on a little! Stick to
it, Li, and I will be with you."

Without hesitation he relinquished his grasp of the upturned boat and
struck out for the Chinaman. A moment or two and he was beside him,
when he at once clasped him by the shoulders, and, putting out all his
strength, turned the unfortunate man upon his back.

"Lie still and I will tow you to the boat," he shouted in his ear. "The
rifle and ammunition are evidently too much for you. That's it. There is
nothing to fear, and you will soon be safe."

Fortunately for our hero, Li Sung, though near to the point of sinking,
had still retained consciousness, and as soon as he heard Tyler's voice,
lay perfectly still on his back, not daring to struggle lest he should
ruin his own chances as well as his master's. A moment later he felt
himself being gently towed through the water, and at once instinct told
him that he could help by kicking out with his legs.

"That's the way," sang out Tyler encouragingly, though in breathless
tones. "Stick to the job and we shall be there very soon. Now, one
moment while I turn you over, and there you are."

The whole incident had happened so quickly that when the two found
themselves clinging to the boat, and staring at one another in the
gathering light of another day, they could scarcely realize how they
came to be there, nor the fact that the bore had caught them in its
terrible embrace and had overwhelmed them. For several minutes they
retained their hold, while they looked about them with anxious eyes and
panted to regain their breath.

"A narrow shave," said Tyler at last, "and we are lucky not to be at the
bottom of the river. But we cannot stay here, for the day has come, and
we shall be seen. Come, rouse yourself, Li, and let us get to the bank.
There should be no difficulty, for the tide is sweeping us there."

"One little bit and Li be ready," was the answer, as the Chinaman gasped
for breath. "Dis boy not be alivee at allee if massa not dere. Li say
dat you save him, and he tank you. Now me ready. Which way, massa?"

"The shortest road, and the quicker we are there the better, for I
think that I see a collection of huts on the opposite bank, and it may
be Rembas. Come, let me take your bag of ammunition and your rifle.
Fortunately this boat has a flat floor, and the things will stay on
top without difficulty. There, you are ready now, and so put all your
strength into it."

Thanks to the rest which they had had, and to the fact that they were so
quickly able to relieve themselves of the weight of the rifle and bag
which had weighed them down, the two were able to strike out lustily
for the bank which was on their right, and, aided by the tide, were
soon within easy distance of it. By now, too, the light had increased,
so much so that they could see that the object to which Tyler had drawn
attention was indeed Rembas, the home of a horde of pirates, and at
once fear lent power to their limbs, and they sent the overturned boat
rapidly on her way.

"Kick with all your might," shouted Tyler, glancing uneasily over his
shoulder. "If we can get to the trees within the next few minutes we
may escape the eyes of the people over there, for the day has only just
dawned. Send her along, for I tell you that our lives depend upon our
exertions."

That the Chinaman understood was evidenced by the manner in which he
lent his aid to the task, and so lustily did the two thrust at the boat
that very little time had elapsed before they had disappeared beneath
the boughs which overgrew the water, and were standing upon the bottom.

"Drag her to the shore and turn her up," said Tyler quickly. "Now, lift
the ammunition-bags and the guns, and over she goes. That's the way, and
now we are ready in case we have been seen."

"Massa can knowee for sure dat dat am de case," cried Li Sung, with a
shake of the head. "As we kick and push along Li turn him head and see
men over deir, and him velly certain dat dey see him. P'r'aps dey tink
dat it am fishermen only, but den dey not catched by de bore. Dey talk
it over while dey eat de morning rice, and den some of de young men
comee dis way to lookee what havee happened."

"In which case we shall be discovered," said Tyler curtly. "Then we will
make a fight of it. I am inclined to think like you, Li, and believe
that in spite of our exertions we shall be followed. Curiosity will
get the better of those people, and they will cross the river to see
who it was who was swamped by the tide. We cannot possibly meet them
as friends, for that was to be our last resource, and just now, with
my disguise in this condition, I should certainly be discovered. So
we shall have to keep them at a distance, and that being the prospect
before us, I vote that we at once search for a spot suited to our needs.
What about that rock over there?"

He pointed along the avenue formed by the overhanging boughs to an open
patch, into the centre of which a steep rock jutted.

"It seems at this distance to be suitable," he went on, "for it has some
bushes on it to form a covering, and it is not overgrown by trees. We
should be able to get shelter by piling up a few boulders, and, while
hidden ourselves, could tell the instant an enemy attempted to approach
us."

"Den let us go, massa," cried Li, "for me see dat a boat have put out
from Rembas, and velly soon de pirates be here."

Stepping into the boat they grasped the paddles and had very soon
reached the edge of the trees. And here Tyler sprang ashore and dived
into the jungle, for to have taken the boat out into the open would
have been madness, as she would at once have stood out against the bank
and have been seen by those in the boat which had just shot from the
opposite shore.

"It will do well," cried Tyler in tones of delight as he reached the
back of the rock and closely inspected its surface. "I reckon it to
be at least a hundred feet in height, and at the back it is almost as
smooth as glass, while it is far too steep to be climbed, even by the
most active of natives. Then, as I remarked before, the trees seem to
have fought shy of this spot, probably because the ground about is
rocky, and so there is a wide clearing all round. Yes, it will be a
refuge, and if the worst comes to the worst we can hold it against the
enemy. Now for the boat."

Running back to his companion he beckoned to him to bring the craft
close in, and then hastily issued his orders, for he realized that there
was no time to be lost if they wished to take up their position on the
rock.

"We will run her up and then carry her as near to the rock as possible,"
he said. "By turning well away from the water we shall be able to
reach a point from which we can move into the open without being seen,
and there we can leave the boat if we wish, for she will be under our
rifle-fire."

"But at night de pirates burn her or carry her off, and den what will Li
and massa do?" demanded the Chinaman. "Dere am no great weight here, and
de two of us carry him easily."

"Very well, then, we will carry her as she is right up to the rock. When
she is there we can hide her amongst the bushes, and can carry up what
provisions are left, though I fear that the majority of our supply has
been washed away. But we shall see, and if we are pressed for food we
can make a line with the help of a creeper, and a hook from one of the
forest thorns, and do our best to catch a few fish. Now, up with her and
let us trot."

Grasping either end of the river-boat they lifted it upon their
shoulders and went into the jungle at a run. Then, as soon as they had
arrived at the point from which they were no longer visible to those on
the river, for the rock rose up between them and it, they boldly crossed
the open space and deposited their burden in a thick bush at the base. A
rapid search discovered a bag of provisions which had escaped the bore
owing to the fact that it had become jammed in the bows, and with this,
their muskets, and bags of ammunition, they commenced to scale that face
of the rock which looked out to the river, and which was so broken and
irregular that it gave ample facilities for climbing.

"Creep on all-fours and keep as low as you can," said Tyler in low
tones, casting a glance towards the boat which was being rowed in their
direction. "By that means we may escape discovery, and we shall be able
to entrench ourselves. Of course I know that those fellows will track
us, but if we are careful they will not know exactly where we are, and
when the time comes for fighting we shall have the advantage of taking
them by surprise. Ah, here is a likely spot! It is high up, gives us a
wide flat space upon which to lie, and has an ample covering of bushes.
Give a hand here, Li, while I pile up a few of these boulders."

Placing their burdens upon the ground, and still taking the precaution
to creep on hands and knees, they quickly arranged a number of boulders
into a semicircle, piling them one on the other till they formed a wall
which would give protection against rifle-fire, but through which the
defenders could keep watch upon the enemy and return their shots. Then
they turned to their weapons and carefully inspected them.

"Two rifles and two revolvers," said Tyler, dragging the latter from
beneath his coat.

"And a knife, massa," burst in Li Sung, displaying a formidable weapon
which was thrust into the cloth which he wore about his waist.

"Then we ought to do well, Li. We will make an equal division, taking a
gun and a revolver each. Now for the ammunition. How glad I am that the
bags were waterproof! It was my captain's suggestion, and it may save
our lives. We will open them and spread the contents in the sun. Then
any dampness will be dried, and we shall have no fear of miss-fires."

It took little time to make all their preparations, and ere many
minutes had passed all four weapons were loaded, and their muzzles were
protruding from the face of the wall, having been thrust through the
embrasures purposely left between the boulders. As for the defenders
of this solitary position, they had taken their posts behind the wall,
and lay there, with fingers upon their triggers and eyes glued upon
the boat, which by now had approached so close to the bank that the
occupants were easily visible.

"Ten of them in all, and a fierce set of fellows they look," said Tyler
in the coolest of tones. "I see, too, that they have muskets with them,
so we may expect a fusillade before long. But first let them find us and
make up their minds that we are enemies and then the fun will begin."

"Dey make no doubt dat we not friends," exclaimed Li Sung with an
emphatic wag of his head. "Dey knowee dat no man enter de river unless
he belong to de pirate. And if he am a friend he come straight to dem.
But we not dare to do dat, and when dey see dat we reach de shore, and
not try to row over to Rembas when de boat am floating again, dey knowee
for sure dat we enemies. Velly soon massa will hear de pop of de gun,
and den we havee to fightee. Li Sung likee dat velly well, for dese men
am de same as dose who took him from him little wife and him child, and
he hate dem."

"Then you will stand beside me to the last," said Tyler, turning upon
him and staring into his eyes. "Remember that we cannot save our lives
by giving in to these people, for they are the sort of men who do
not understand mercy. So to submit to them would merely be to bring
instant death. For that reason we will make a big fight of it, and
let us recollect that to do that we must hold our fire till they are
climbing the rock, and then make every bullet tell. We need not answer
a shot from their guns till they are close upon us, for we are out of
their range, and the bullets will not pass through this wall. Once they
attempt to rush us, however, we will let them have a volley and drive
them back."

"Yes, and Chinee boy makee de sling," cried Li Sung with a show of
excitement which was strange to him. "You watchee, massa, and see what
him do. When Li one little boy in China him killee de bird and beast wid
stones from de sling, and he do de same for dese men. Lookee at dat."

For once the stolid nature of this son of the East broke down under the
excitement of the moment, and his usually impassive and wooden face
became wreathed with cunning smiles as he spoke to his master. Then,
with dexterous fingers, and with a rapidity which was wonderful, he tore
a strip from his strong cotton clothing, folded it into a long band, and
at once began to select a suitable stone.

"Find plenty here," he said as he groped about, "and enough to last
velly fine time. Massa watch dat tree over dere. Li hit him just above
de water."

Pointing to a durian which grew on the bank of the river, with its trunk
emerging from the water, he placed a stone in his improvised sling, and
raising himself till his figure almost showed above the wall and the
surrounding bushes, he sent the missile hurtling at his target. Thud!
Even at that distance the sound of its blow could be heard, while a
splash immediately following told that it had fallen into the river.

"Pirate not likee dat," he said with a smile of pleasure on his face.
"Stone hittee velly hard."

"And these boulders still harder," chimed in Tyler, delighted at the
thought that they had at their feet a means by which they might husband
their ammunition and yet exchange blows with the enemy should the latter
see fit to attack them. "If they try to climb up here I will give them a
few boulders while you tickle them with the sling. But, steady, Li, for
they are now close at hand. Evidently they mean to look into the matter
thoroughly, for they are making for the spot where we entered beneath
the boughs. Then they will follow us up, and will soon come across us
here. Keep out of sight whatever you do."

Breathless with excitement, the two upon the rock watched the ten
pirates by means of the embrasures in their hastily-built wall, and
losing sight of them for some few minutes as they disappeared beneath
the trees, soon saw them again as they too came to the part where the
jungle ceased, and the open space intervened between it and the rock.

"Sending men into the forest on our tracks," said Tyler calmly. "Get
your sling ready, but remember, not a shot till I give the word."

With fast-beating hearts the two awaited the reappearance of the men,
and very soon they were seen running towards the rock. At the same
time those who had remained in the boat paddled forward till they were
opposite their hidden enemies. Then for some few minutes the two parties
shouted to one another, for they were uncertain how to act. However,
remembering that two alone had been seen in the boat which had been
overturned by the bore, and that they were ten in number, the pirates
decided to probe the mystery to the bottom, and those in the boat having
landed, all came towards the rock with the evident intention of scaling
it and capturing the fugitives.



CHAPTER XVI

Hemmed in


"Wait while I call to these fools and order them to come to us," cried
one of the enemy, as he and his comrades walked at a leisurely rate
towards the rock near the summit of which Tyler and Li Sung were in
hiding. "They are probably merely Dyak fishermen who have been washed
into the river and swamped, and why should we take the trouble to climb
for them. Let them come down to us."

"But supposing they are spies?" demanded another. "We know that those
at Sarawak, under the tuan besar (great chief--James Brooke), are
about to attack us, and no doubt they will send some here to see what
preparations we are making; not that we need trouble ourselves, for
they will certainly be beaten. Still, of what use is it to call men who
are spies, for will they descend and come to us like children when they
know that within a minute they will be kneeling before us with their
hands lashed, while one of our number stands above them with his sword
and prepares to sever their necks? Call if you wish, but you waste your
breath."

"That we will see," was the answer, "but if there be no answer you shall
be the first to climb, for I as the leader give you the order. Now,
cease chattering while I shout."

Stepping to a large boulder which lay near at hand he leapt upon it,
and, placing a hand to his mouth, shouted at the top of his voice,
telling those who might be hidden above to come down at once.

"It is useless for you to remain," he said, "for we are ten while you
are but two, and also there are hundreds to follow us. Come then
quietly, for the end will be the same whatever you do. You are caught,
and we claim you as our prisoners."

"Let him claim and shout as much as he likes," said Tyler, with a
reckless laugh, as Li Sung whispered the message in his ear, "I don't
care to hand myself over; for the idea of cold steel and a severed neck
is not enticing. We will just lie perfectly still till we are obliged
to make a move, and then let our action be swift. See here, Li. I will
raise this big boulder upon the wall just where this bush covers the
front. Then, when one of the attackers happens to cross the line it will
follow, I will heave it over and step back at once. You can pick one of
them off with the sling with the same smartness, and perhaps they will
fail to discover our exact position. Look out! That fellow is shouting
again."

Once more did the leader of the little band of pirates spring upon the
boulder, the better to observe the rock, and shout a message at those
who he was sure were in hiding there. Then, hearing no answer, he and
his men put their heads together and once more discussed the matter.

"We waste time," at last said their leader. "Finding that the dogs will
not come to us, which perhaps is not to be wondered at, seeing that they
have nothing to gain, but their heads and their lives to lose, we will
go to them, and afterwards reward ourselves at the expense of their
convenience and comfort. Come, Penchu, yours is the post in advance.
Show us the way."

For a moment it looked as though the dusky Malay who had at first
proposed that the rock be searched would decline the honour thus thrust
upon him, for he glanced above him, and then doubtfully at the bushes
which grew in all directions, wondering which of them hid the enemy.
But his comrades were there to aid him, and, besides, there were only
two above, and they were undoubtedly half-drowned by their upset in
the river. With a scowl at his leader, and a second glance above, he
suddenly made up his mind, and drawing a kriss of large size from his
belt, gripped it between his teeth and turned to the rock.

"Follow me," he shouted, removing the weapon as he did so, "and this
kriss to the man who can be before me in the race to the top. Mind, this
weapon, which I had from my father, goes to the man who can reach these
dogs and slay them in spite of my efforts. Now, I am about to make the
attempt."

He waited a moment to give his comrades time to take up the challenge
and to draw their own weapons. Then he sprang at the obstacle before
him, and, using both hands and feet, came clambering up at a rapid rate.
Beside and behind him rushed his comrades, all eager to be first in the
race, for the prospect of winning a kriss had the greatest attraction
for them, while there was always the hope that one particular man would
have the honour of slaying those who were in hiding.

"Wait for the word," said Tyler, with difficulty restraining his
excitement. "The time has not yet come, but will be here very soon. Are
you ready? Then watch me, and as I lift the boulder take aim with the
sling."

It was hard work to lie there behind that wall and watch with calmness
as ten fierce Malay pirates climbed to the assault, and more than once
was Tyler tempted to give full play to his impetuosity and spirit, and
commence the battle by flinging his boulder down the rock. But as yet
the distance was so great that he might well have missed his aim, and
for that reason he still remained in a crouching attitude, his hands
clasping the boulder, and his eyes fixed upon the figures below.

"Time's up!" he said quietly, when he judged that they were near enough.
"Ready? Then fire!"

Putting out all his strength he shouldered the piece of rock and rose
from behind the bush. A swift glance told him that three of the enemy
were directly beneath him, and in an instant, and without a trace of
hesitation, he launched the missile at them, watching as it fell
to learn what success he had. Crash! The boulder with ever-increasing
pace fell upon a moss-clad spot some twenty feet above the pirates,
causing them to raise their eyes in that direction and come to a sudden
halt. Then, leaping as if it were alive, it cannoned from the place,
and, twirling with frightful rapidity, flew into their midst, sending
all three rolling to the bank below, where they lay stunned or killed
by the impact. As for Li Sung, stealthily leaning over the barrier he
selected the leading man, the one who had been given the post of honour,
and, flourishing the sling about his head, suddenly let the stone free.
Ah! more sudden than the boulder which had disposed of three of the
attackers the sling sent the stone swiftly to the mark, and ere the
Malay could cry out in dismay, or lift a hand to ward off the blow, it
struck him full upon the forehead, causing him to toss his arm above
his head and then roll to the foot of the rock a helpless and lifeless
object.

[Illustration: "HE LAUNCHED THE MISSILE AT THEM"]

"That will teach them caution," said Tyler, sinking down into his old
position and at once beginning to place another boulder upon the edge
of the wall, "and I believe that none of them saw where the shots came
from. We will play the same game again, though they will certainly
discover us next time, for they will keep their eyes turned to the upper
part of the rock, and will not do as they did before, and rush headlong
and with their gaze bent upon the path immediately at their feet. Ah,
they are having a talk, and do not seem to like the affair!"

Peering through one of the embrasures he could obtain an uninterrupted
view of the bank of the river and of the surroundings of the rock, and
watched eagerly as the surviving natives, filled with alarm at the
sudden misfortune which had fallen upon their comrades, turned as if
with common consent and went rolling and scrambling down to the ground
below, each eager to get to a place of safety. Then they gathered
together at the edge of the water, and for a little time it looked as
though they would take to their boat and fly to the opposite shore. But
their leader restrained them, and at his orders they returned, and began
to walk cautiously towards the foot of the rock.

"We were scared by the suddenness of it all," said the man who was in
command, a long, lanky Malay of forbidding appearance, who carried a
kriss of unusual dimensions. "But we can never think of retiring; for
recollect, my brothers, we are in better case than they, for they are
but two, and are probably barely able to stand after their upset in the
river and their struggle to reach land. Take heart, then, and first,
before renewing the attack, let us take a look at our comrades who have
fallen. For myself, I scarcely know how it is that they came to their
end, for I was climbing with hands and feet, and with my eyes engaged
in picking out the best path by which to reach the top. Then there was
the thud of the boulder falling, and when I looked, three of our good
friends were falling, while Penchu, who led us, had sprung into the air
for all the world like a beast which had just been struck with an arrow.
Come, let us move forward, for our comrades at Rembas would laugh us to
shame were we to return and tell them that we had been driven off by two
half-drowned Dyaks."

Flashing his kriss in the sun he led the way to the fallen pirates, and
turned each one on his back.

"Dead!" he said as he looked at them. "Comrades, their end was swift
and sure, as may ours be when the time comes. Now for Penchu. Ah, see!
he was struck by a stone thrown with great force, for his forehead is
driven in and the skull cracked. Then all the better for us, I say, for
this proves that our birds up there are unarmed."

"Which is just what one could expect, my brother," cried one of the
number crowding about him. "Men who are caught in the bore are lucky
indeed if they escape with their lives at all, while to do so they would
certainly have to discard their weapons. We have them safely, and I
propose that we make the attack again."

"For what reason should we run the risk of having our bodies crushed
with another boulder?" demanded another swiftly. "They are above us,
that we know, though where they are hidden is another matter. Very well,
they will have seen long ere this that resistance is useless, and that
to prolong the fighting and kill more of our party will only lead to
suffering on their part. Let that be pointed out to them, and I warrant
that they will come down to us gladly and submit quietly to what is
bound to follow even as surely as the night comes after the day."

"A grand suggestion, and one which we will put in practice," exclaimed
the leader, snatching at the chance of avoiding further danger. "Stand
quiet, all of you, and listen as I shout to them. Above there!"

Once more he placed his hands to his mouth, so as to make the sounds
carry farther, and called to those in hiding. But there was no answer,
though he repeated the words on four occasions.

"Then I will say what I have to say to the rock, well knowing that they
will hear," he cried, seeing that his call had been ignored. "Above
there! You who are in hiding on the rock, and who have killed four of
my men, I give you warning that we will kill you, as you deserve, if
you resist us again. For the loss which you have caused your lives are
forfeit, and I call upon you to come down to us and suffer the penalty.
Failing that we will drag you down by the neck, and then you shall learn
what it is to lose a life with difficulty. Come, we wish you no worse
than those others whom we have captured on former occasions. Come down
and let the matter be ended."

It was strange to hear his quaint suggestion, and at another time Tyler
would have been amused at the naïveness of it. But danger threatened
now, and life was at stake. As Li Sung interpreted the message, word for
word, a feeling almost of fear assailed our hero, and his heart sank at
the prospect of early death. Then, remembering that he and his companion
were as yet unseen, and that they might still do as well as formerly,
his spirits rose, and he turned to the Chinaman with a smile upon his
face.

"We will lie like mice and make no move. At least that is what I say.
For you, Li Sung, you may issue from our hiding-place if you wish, and
descend. For myself, the idea of being beheaded is sufficient to make me
fight like a tiger and until I am killed."

"And for me, too, massa. De Chinee boy been wid de Malays, and he know
dat dey not tink de same of life. A man am happy in dis world, but when
him dead he happier still, so dey say. And when de time come for choppee
de head, dey kneel wid a laugh on dem lips, and dey die easy. Chinamen
am de same, but Li velly different. He not likee to lose de life, for he
havee little wife and child in Singapore."

"Then we will stay quietly here and await events. Those fellows will
scarcely dare to return to Rembas and tell their comrades that they have
been defeated by two men alone, and for that reason they will remain
till they see that their case is hopeless. That will suit us well, for
we can easily beat them off, and if only we can defer the arrival of
reinforcements till night has fallen, we shall have a better chance of
escape. But what are they doing?"

Thrusting his head as close to the boulders as was possible, he peered
through the narrow opening and watched the party of pirates with
interest. As for the latter, the fact that their extraordinary demand
had met with no reply, and that silence alone had followed, filled them
with astonishment; for these Malays, with their comrades of the Dyak
race who had thrown in their lot with the men of the sea in place of
tilling the soil as did so many of their people, had a peculiar code of
their own, and held life in such little esteem that, as in China, it was
almost possible to buy a reprieve for one about to die by paying for a
substitute. Fate was fate to them, and when all was lost, when sickness
came, and when capture seemed imminent, it was a simple and an easy way
to step forward to meet the inevitable, and to pass from the world
with as little trouble as possible. Then was this not a desperate case?
Could those above who were hidden on the rock hope to escape? Absurd!
They were cornered, and sooner or later, and in any case within an hour
or two, they would be captives, and their fate would be upon them. Then
why go to the labour of putting it off? Why not come down and end the
matter, so that these men might return to the opposite shore and prepare
to meet the foreigners who were about to enter the river? Extraordinary
though the idea was, it was in keeping with the upbringing of the Malays
and the Dyaks, for they, like the Chinese, thought nothing of death, and
met their end for the most part with a smile upon their faces. However,
on this occasion the pirates had foes to deal with of a different
stamp, and finding that no answer came to their warning, they collected
together again to discuss the situation.

"The day advances, and soon the noonday heat will be upon us," said
their leader in tones of vexation. "Let us put an end to this matter at
once, and then return to Rembas. It is plain to all that the dogs who
killed our friend will keep to their lair till we hunt them out, and
that being the case, we will rush to the attack again. Keep your eyes
open and fixed well above you. Your hands and feet will be sufficient to
allow you to choose a good path."

He turned to look each of his men in the face, and then, seeing that
none of them held back, he did as his dead comrade had done when leading
the first charge, and having placed his kriss between his teeth came at
the rock at a fast run, hoping to scale it rapidly.

"Steady!" whispered Tyler, seeing that Li Sung had swung his sling about
his shoulder. "Wait till they are upon us as before, and then let them
have your stone. In any case we must try to avoid a shot, for the sounds
would at once attract others from over the water."

"Makee noise not matter," exclaimed Li Sung with a shake of his head.
"De men of Rembas know dat dere am fighting, and dey sending oders to
see. Velly soon Li and Massa havee de bullets about dem."

As he spoke he pointed eagerly over the top of the wall to the river
beyond, and a glance in that direction caused Tyler to give vent to an
exclamation of dismay.

"Three more sampans," he cried in accents of alarm. "And all filled with
men. That will add thirty at least to the attacking force, and will
increase our difficulties immensely."

For the instant the same feeling of consternation as had assailed him
before came suddenly upon him; and then, as he took in the situation,
and realized the strength of the position which he and the Chinaman
held, his face brightened, and he turned to look at the seven remaining
men below with spirits as high as ever they were before.

"Of course we are cornered," he said to himself, "and we are in a
desperately tight place. But others have managed to do well under
similar circumstances, and we shall do the same. After all, I think that
we have much to be thankful for, for we might well have been drowned in
the river, and then again, what luck to have struck upon such a spot as
this! Why, fifty shall not turn us out, for after our escape from the
bore I do not mean to be easily beaten. Ah, here comes the leader! and,
foolishly for himself, he has chosen a line which I can reach. In a
minute he will be hurled to the bottom of the rock."

With courage renewed by his reflections, Tyler stared at the pirates,
and watched as they slowly clambered up the steep face of the rock.
Unlike the occasion which had preceded this attack, he was as cool and
as collected as if he were on the _Dido_ eating his dinner amongst his
messmates, and at once checked the Chinaman's eagerness to deliver a
shot.

"Wait," said Tyler shortly. "When the boulder goes you can fire, but
till then remain behind the wall."

Panting with their exertions, and led by the man who had first rushed to
the assault, the seven pirates came clambering up the rock, their eyes
searching every likely spot above, while they wondered which of them
would be the one to sight the fugitives. Then, as they neared the summit
without a sign of their presence having been come upon, and without a
stone or boulder having been thrown, they began to doubt that they were
still there, and halted to stare at one another questioningly.

"Are the birds flown then?" demanded their leader, sitting down to rest.
"Fools that we were, not to have set a watch upon the back of this rock,
for while we have talked they have slipped away."

"Not so," shouted one of his men. "I myself strolled in that direction,
and I tell you that no living man could descend the rock on the farther
side unless possessed of a long rope. They are here, above us, and we
shall come upon them crouching in the bushes and whining for their
lives."

"Then forward!" cried the leader. "Let us make an end of them, but
remember, they are not to die here. For the trouble which they have
given us in thus climbing, for the loss of our friends, we must demand
of them a price, and they shall pay it. Before they take their last
breath they shall be sad at the thought that they did not fall in with
our wishes when first we called to them. But let us not delay. Follow
me!"

This time with kriss in hand he came clambering up the steep slope, with
eyes watching eagerly for some movement to tell him of the presence
of the fugitives. But there was not so much as the tremble of a leaf,
while not & sound broke the silence. A minute passed, and just as the
Malay was about to call for a second halt, convinced that the birds were
flown, a figure suddenly erected itself before him, and, half-hidden by
an enormous bush, reared a boulder on high. Ah! The Chinaman took aim at
his man with the utmost calmness, and then, ere the poor wretch could
spring aside, or could shout in his terror, the mass of stone caught him
on the breast and bore him backwards. A second and he was rolling and
pitching on his way to the bottom, and even while his comrades were
wondering how it had all happened, and were marvelling at the sight of
the Chinaman, the unfortunate leader came with a thud on the bank of the
river, and, rolling forward for all the world like a rabbit which had
just been shot, came to a halt with face buried in the mud and limbs
which were strangely contorted.

Once more it looked as though the attackers would lose heart and fly
for their lives. But, emboldened by the thought that they had at length
located the enemy, they suddenly plucked up their courage and, urged on
by one of their number possessed of more spirit than his comrades, they
came panting and struggling up the steep slope, determined to reach the
lair of the Chinaman and wreak their vengeance upon him.

"A Chinaman!" shouted the one in advance. "We will swing him to the
highest branch by means of his tail of hair, and we will spend the day
and amuse ourselves by emptying our guns at his body. Fear him not,
for he has boulders alone to hit us with, and those we can avoid by
spreading out. Scatter at once, and be sure that none of you advance
directly beneath the spot."

Acting upon this advice, and warned by the fate which had so suddenly
and unexpectedly overtaken their leader, the surviving Malays at once
separated till wide intervals lay between them, and then advanced upon
the wall behind which Tyler and Li Sung were crouching, at a pace which
promised to bring them to close quarters before many seconds had passed.

"One little moment," gasped Li Sung, peering at them over the barrier.
"China boy soon stop de little game. He pick out de man who am in front,
and he send him to join him brother. Watch de sling, massa."

With deft hand and unerring eye, which showed that he had spent many
an hour in practising the use of his weapon, Li Sung stood erect and
leant over the wall. Round swung the sling till it churned the air into
a high-pitched whistle. Then, as the finger loosed one of the strings,
the band fell limply upon his wrist and hand, while the stone which had
lain in the pouch flew down the side of the rock as if it had been fired
from a gun, and, as in the former case, struck full upon the forehead of
the Malay who had taken it upon himself to lead his comrades. Like an ox
felled with the stroke of a pole-axe he collapsed upon the moss-grown
path, and then, with nothing there to retain its position, the limp and
lifeless body slid downwards, toppled over, and, gathering way as it
went, rolled over and over till its further progress was arrested by the
bank beneath.

"That should stop them," exclaimed Tyler as he watched the body fall,
"and it was a capital shot, Li Sung. I watched him, and feel sure that
the stone must have battered a hole in his skull. But wait. Will they go
after all, or are they determined to come closer to us?"

Once again it was a doubtful point whether the Malays would retire on
the death of their comrade, or whether they would push up the face of
the rock and come to hand-grips with those whom they were attacking.
Indeed, it wanted very little to cause their determination to waver and
send them down to the bank, or to infuse fresh courage into their hearts
and cause them to dash headlong at their enemies. They paused, looked
doubtfully at one another, and then turned to watch the body of the man
who had gone to the bank below. Then one of them happened to cast a
glance across the river, as if to measure the distance in case he wished
to make good his escape. Instantly his eye fell upon the three sampans
which were being rowed across, and realizing that they must contain
companions and brothers-in-arms who were coming to help, he shouted a
few words to his comrades.

"They will jeer at us," he cried, attracting the attention of all to
the approaching boats. "When they learn that there are only two on this
rock, and that we have failed to take them, they will bid us return to
Rembas and mind the children and the flocks! We must capture and kill
these beggarly Chinamen. Who will follow me?"

For a moment he turned to stare at his brothers, and then, with
flashing kriss in his hand, and eyes fixed upon the low wall with its
covering of bush, he came clambering up towards it, ready to leap the
obstacle as soon as he was near enough, and slaughter those who lay
behind. As for the others, stung to the quick by the thought that their
companions of Rembas would jeer and laugh at them, they turned with
desperation to renew the assault, determined to die there rather than be
dishonoured.

"We need not fear them greatly," said Tyler quietly, as he watched them
ascending, "for the rock is very steep, and we are placed at a great
advantage. Remember that we may have to fight hard for our lives later
on, and for that reason deal gently with the ammunition. I shall make
use of these boulders as long as possible."

Standing behind the barricade each selected a missile, Li Sung twirling
his sling aloft and sending stone after stone at the Malays, while
Tyler rolled huge boulders down upon them. But the pirates had learnt
their lesson, and as they came they took advantage of every bit of
available cover. Each hollow and nook held an enemy, crouching out of
range of the stones and boulders, and with eye following every movement
of the defenders. Waiting till they had need to select another missile,
the figure would spring from the patch of cover and dart to another
favourable spot higher up. And thus, with the cunning and stealth of an
Indian, they came closer and closer to the barrier, till it wanted only
a short rush to come up with it.

"Revolvers and rifles!" said Tyler, seeing that stones were of little
avail. "We shall be able to pick them off, and you will see how quickly
they will scamper to the bottom. Look! there is the man who called to
them to encourage them! He is watching you with the sling, and when you
have let the stone go he will make a rush. Now, I have covered him with
the revolver, so you can fire."

Grasping his master's meaning immediately, Li Sung slung the missile
at the Malay, and then snatched at the second revolver. As he did so
the pirate leapt to his feet, and judging that he was now sufficiently
near to reach the wall, and would be upon the enemy before another stone
could be fitted, he came directly up the slope, discarding the boulders
and rocks which lay there, and which would have afforded him cover.
Snap! The report of Tyler's weapon set the echoes ringing, while the
heavy bullet which his revolver carried hit the man plump in the chest,
bringing him to an abrupt halt. There was a shout and a shriek as the
pirate felt the blow, and then, summoning all his remaining power, he
swung his kriss back over his shoulder, and taking rapid aim at the
Chinaman above, sent the keen blade of steel hissing towards him. Next
moment he had tumbled back upon the ground, where, clutching madly
at moss and bush, he slowly slid to the bottom. As for Tyler, he had
expected the man to fall dead at once, and started back as the kriss
flew in his direction. But it was hopeless to expect to escape it, and
ere he had time to dodge to either side the point of the blade struck
upon his fore-arm, and, pressed onward by the weight of the metal,
perforated the limb.

"First blood to the enemy," said Tyler quietly. "A flea-bite which
will do me no harm, but which will teach me to keep an eye upon their
weapons. It was quickly done, and proved an excellent shot, made under
the most unfavourable circumstances."

"It am a velly lucky escape, massa," cried Li Sung, darting to Tyler's
side and removing the kriss. "Li havee seen one fine man hit in de body,
and de blade go right through him, so dat he fallee dead. Massa one
velly quick, and if him not move one little piecee him dead too. Wait
there while China boy ties up de aim. Nothing to fear from de pirate."

Tearing a shred of linen from his coat, Li Sung rapidly applied it
as a bandage to the arm, thereby arresting the flow of blood, which
threatened to be free. Then he pointed triumphantly to the bank below,
where the remaining Malays were gathered.

"Dey velly angry," he said with a little snigger, the nearest approach
to a laugh which this son of the East would indulge in. "Dey not knowee
what dey do, and dey fear deir friends and what dey say. Velly soon Li
and de massa have to fight plenty hard."

The prospect of hard knocks and a desperate encounter seemed to please
Li Sung, for he beamed upon Tyler as though this was the happiest day
in his life. "Li havee been in nasty place before dis wid de massa, and
he knowee dat allee turn out right. Massa Tyler bring him allee de way
through de jungle, he lead Chinee boy and de Dyaks to Paddi, and den to
Sarawak with de prahus. But dat am not allee. Him save Li when de water
nearly cover him, and now him lies beside him servant and helps him to
make de Malays run."

"Then you think that we shall be hotly engaged before very long," said
Tyler, staring down at the pirates below. "It seems to me that we are
cornered, and that we shall be lucky if either of us see the _Dido_ and
Sarawak again. Not that we are going to be beaten easily, for we have a
splendid position, and will make the most of it. During the day we can
beat our enemies off, but at nighttime it will be a different matter.
Then they will creep to the top like so many snakes, and before we can
deal with them they will rush upon us. We shall have to go once the
darkness falls, and it becomes a question as to how the retreat is to be
carried out."

"Plenty easy to creep down de rock in de dark till near de bottom," said
Li Sung thoughtfully. "De Malays climb up de hill, and we go down. Dey
not knowee, and we not knowee. Dey rush to dis wall with deir krisses
in deir hands, and massa and him servant slip away in de dark into de
jungle. Who am to stop dem?"

"A splendid idea, and one which we will follow," exclaimed Tyler with
enthusiasm. "The matter had troubled me very much, and I was wondering
what we could do, for I am sure that to remain here once night has come
will be to lose our lives. But this is a plan which will meet the case.
They will crawl here in the hope of falling suddenly upon us, and we
will slip down. If we meet, all the worse for our plan, though I fancy
that in the confusion we could make good our escape. If not, we gain our
object, and they reach this lair to find the birds gone. Pick up your
rifle, Li, and let us teach the rogues that it is death to come close to
the rock."

Determined to keep the enemy as far away as possible till evening fell,
Tyler and his companion disposed themselves upon the ground, and with
their weapons resting upon the piled-up boulders took steady aim at the
pirates. As the three boats arrived, and were drawn up on the bank, they
sent two bullets amongst the assembled natives, with the result that a
couple tumbled on their faces, while the remainder separated with cries
of indignation and surprise. But they were not permitted to enjoy more
than a moment's peace, for very shortly another shot rang out in the
still air, and a huge Malay, who seemed to occupy the post of chief,
and about whom the men had been gathered, gave vent to a shriek, and,
plunging forward on the edge of the river-bank, went splashing headlong
into the water.

"A long shot, but I gave a little elevation, and aimed for the
centre of his shoulders," said Tyler to himself. "That will give us
breathing-space. Now, Li, I am hungry, and, as we always say in England
that a man fights better when he has had some food, we will open that
bag and see what there is to eat. We can keep a watch upon those
fellows as we have our meal, and can plant a shot amongst them whenever
necessary."

It was wonderful to see the calm manner in which the two sat down to
their meal, the Chinaman contenting himself with some rice which they
had had the forethought to have boiled before setting out on their
expedition, and Tyler directing his attention to some biscuit and meat,
which formed part of their store. Of water they had none, but that
mattered very little at the moment, for they had been chilled by their
upset in the river, and, though hot, the sun had done little more than
warm them, without inducing thirst. But the lack of something with which
to moisten their lips made retreat from the rock all the more essential,
and as they ate they discussed the matter eagerly.

"It is our only chance," said Tyler thoughtfully. "To remain here till
to-morrow will mean certain ruin, for we should be parched with thirst,
and then again, our ammunition will not last long enough. That is why I
have suggested keeping the enemy at bay now, and making good use of our
weapons. But there is a point which we have not considered. Once we are
down below, which direction are we to take? Are we to steal one of their
boats or make into the jungle?"

"The last, massa," said Li Sung. "Den, later on, we steal down upon de
bank, and we take one of de sampan and sail for Sarawak."

"And what about our orders?" demanded Tyler with some warmth. "After
coming all this way, and being almost drowned in the river, I am not
going back with my tail between my legs and with no information to give.
Not a bit of it. I shall stay near Rembas and do my best to spy upon
them. Then, if you like, I will drop down to the mouth of the river and
wait there for the expedition to arrive."

"Massa am de chief, and he say what we do," said Li Sung, with a shrug
of his ungainly shoulders and a look of resignation. "If him say dat
we go and be killed, Li havee to obey. But me not likee dis stay in de
river. Me plenty much afraid."

"Then you are a foolish fellow," exclaimed Tyler angrily, for he was
determined not to be thwarted in his attempt to learn tidings of the
pirates, and in what he considered a duty, for which he had had the
great honour to be specially selected. "If you don't like to stay, go
back by yourself, though I shall be sorry to lose you. I have firmly
made up my mind that I remain in the neighbourhood till I have satisfied
my curiosity. But watch those men below. Something seems to have upset
them."

At once both stared eagerly over their barricade, and saw with some
concern that the pirates had collected at such a distance that they
could not suffer loss from the bullets of the defenders. And there,
grouped about the one who was in command, they stared out into the river
with their eyes fixed upon a tiny object which was approaching.

"A swift sampan, and one dat brings de orders and de news," said Li Sung
with the assurance of one who was well acquainted with the facts. "De
man who am chief in Rembas havee one of de long tubes through which de
white man lookee wid de eye, and he see allee dat havee happened. He
send to dem to say must take de Chinamen. Well, we see to dat when de
time come."

"We shall have something to say, I have no doubt," agreed Tyler, "and we
must not spare a man. It will be a case of rapid shooting and loading.
Here, let us arrange the ammunition in a handy form, so that there
will be no loss of time in sorting, and so that we can ram a charge in
without delay. Now, what is their next move?"

By now the narrow sampan which they had seen flying across the river,
propelled by a dozen lusty oarsmen, had reached the bank, and had
deposited there a Malay of forbidding appearance. That he was a man of
some consequence was evident, for they showed him every deference, and,
after listening to a short harangue which he delivered, followed him
with loud shouts towards the rock.

"He will lead them, and we shall have to fight," said Tyler with a
calmness which astonished himself. "Fire quickly, Li, and see that you
do not miss, for we want to show them that to approach the rock is
dangerous. Then they will put off the real attack till darkness has
fallen, and will aid us in our plan."

That strict orders had been received to capture the insolent foreigners
who had dared to come into the river Sarebus, and who had suffered
shipwreck there, was plainly to be seen, for now that they had a new
leader the pirates ran towards the rock with shouts of exultation, and,
unmindful of the warning which they had already received, commenced to
climb it in scattered knots and groups, evidently with the intention
of approaching the wall from many quarters and so annihilating the
defenders. But they had a couple of marksmen to contend with, for Tyler
had had sufficient practice by now to make certain of his man, while
the Chinaman's trained eye only required the steadiness which his young
leader constantly urged upon him to enable him to hit the mark on every
occasion.

"Not a shot to be thrown away, just remember that," exclaimed Tyler
sternly as the pirates came running along the bank. "Pick out your man,
follow him for a second, and then press the trigger gently."

Almost at once his own weapon snapped, and the man who ran just behind
the leader doubled up and rolled in a heap.

"A little high," said Tyler calmly, "but otherwise straight enough. We
will see what this will do."

Once more he brought the weapon to his shoulder, and was about to press
the trigger, when the Malay at whom he aimed disappeared in a hollow
and caused him to pick out another man. But Tyler was not so easily to
be put off, and conscious that a blow at the leader would have far more
effect than one at his followers, he watched till the big Malay again
made his appearance. His rifle snapped instantly, and the pirate fell
upon his face, where he lay without a move.

"A few more like that and they will run," shouted Tyler. "Pick off those
in advance, so that their comrades may see them fall. That will make
them afraid, and they will soon hang back and long for shelter."

That his advice was good there could be no doubt, for nothing is more
demoralizing in such an engagement than for those who are attacking in
the open, and advancing up a hill, to suddenly find the lifeless bodies
of their comrades rushing past them, or to be swept away and carried
to the ground below by the weight of one tumbling upon them. At once
the prospect of a similar fate cools their ardour, and if they be not
filled with courage and determined upon victory they are apt to retire
in disorder. And so, neglecting those who clambered in rear, Tyler and
his companion fired as rapidly as possible on those who were in the
forefront, sending man after man rolling to the bottom. Then, as the
attackers clustered together on the hill-side, attracted unconsciously
by the thought of mutual protection and aid, our hero suddenly
relinquished his weapon, and, with a shout to Li Sung to do the same,
began to toss boulders down upon the enemy. Nor did he have to continue
long at the task, for very soon the pirates turned with shrill cries of
dismay and went sliding to the bottom, where they took to their heels
and did not stop till they had put a safe distance between themselves
and the defenders.

"That will keep them quiet for a time, and if only they will remain
inactive till the darkness falls we shall be safe. Come, help me to
build up the wall again and gather a store of boulders."

Without taking the trouble to crouch, for they knew that the pirates
had seen them, Tyler and his companion set about the work, and having
accomplished it sat down to rest, waiting impatiently for the night to
come when they would put their plan to the test and do their utmost to
escape from a trap which might well prove disastrous.



CHAPTER XVII

Danger and Difficulty


Twice in succession did the collection of Malays and Dyaks who composed
the attacking force endeavour to overcome the gallant defenders of the
steep rock beside the bank of the river Sarebus. And on each occasion
the leader of the gang who had their quarters in Rembas sat at his
leisure before his hut on the opposite side of the water, and with glass
fixed to his eye watched the fighting with interest.

"They are curs," he cried at last, when the final attempt to reach the
barricade above had been defeated, "and as a punishment I swear that no
help shall come to these dogs of mine till they have these two strangers
in their hands. Are they not two only, while my men number twenty times
as many? Then they shall stay till all are killed or until they can
bring me tidings of their success. But I will send them a message to the
effect that if they allow the enemy to escape I shall vent my anger upon
them. Yes, I will warn them that the attempt must be made, and will say
that if it prove too much for them then they shall suffer."

With this resolution before him the leader of the Rembas pirates
despatched a boat to the farther bank, and with it one of his chief men,
with instructions to give his message and then return.

"You can say that no food or drink shall be sent till they have captured
these men, and that it will be better for them to die on the side of
the rock than to return here unsuccessful," said he, as the man set out
to do his bidding. "It is absurd to think that so many of my men are
defied by a couple of natives from China!"

"A messenger," said Tyler, who caught sight of the sampan as it shot out
into the stream. "Will it recall these men, or will it bring news that
reinforcements are to come?"

"Not dat, massa," answered Li Sung with assurance, accompanying the
remark with the customary shake of his head, as if to add emphasis to
his words. "Dese pirates tink dey knowee how to fight, and de leader
over deir say dat not a man comee to help till we taken. He tell dem to
takee plenty care unless we slip away. Dat all he comee for."

"Then we shall have to be doubly cautious," said Tyler, "and I'm going
to set myself to work to think out the matter, for escape we must. In an
hour it will be dark, so that we can count upon that time in which to
make up our minds, and I think that we are not likely to be disturbed.
Unless, of course, the message which is coming to our attackers rouses
them to fury, and they throw themselves upon us again. Now, how could we
manage to get away?"

Throwing himself upon the ground he fixed his eyes upon the figures of
the enemy beneath, and watched them half listlessly while he endeavoured
to find a means whereby he and Li Sung could slip from their retreat and
get safely away.

"It must be done," he kept murmuring to himself. "For to-day this has
been the very best of havens, but to-morrow it will be untenable, for
thirst will be our greatest enemy, and up here we have no means of
satisfying it. So leave we must, at the risk of our lives. By Jove!"

"Massa keepee plenty quiet," cried Li Sung at this moment, suddenly
pointing to the bank beneath. "De messenger havee come, and Li tink dat
some little game be played. What for dey light de torches?"

He asked the question with a puzzled expression on his face, and
pointed again with a long lean finger to some figures which could be
seen flitting about amongst the jungle. That they were the pirates was
perfectly clear, though for what reason they ran hither and thither,
while some of their number advanced with flaring bundles of some
material in their arms, was a matter of some difficulty to determine.

"I have it!" exclaimed Tyler at last, having watched them carefully.
"They find that we are prepared to make a fight of it, and as you have
said, the message from the other side has made them determined to try
again before the darkness falls. They know that we should shoot them
down when they had gained the rock, and that we have boulders ready for
them, so they have thought of another way of beating us. Some fellow
amongst them has his wits about him, for he has pointed out to them that
though there is a clear space round this rock, yet bushes crop out from
one side almost to the edge of the jungle which surrounds us. Those same
bushes are continuous with the ones by which the rock is clothed, and
there are sufficient here to roast us. Do you follow now?"

"And de men over deir?" demanded Li Sung thoughtfully, after having
maintained silence for more than a minute as he puzzled over the matter.

"They have been cutting and collecting reeds and long, dry grass. There
is no difficulty about that, for beyond a day's rain we have had very
hot weather of late, and everything is dry. They have made the grass
and reeds into bundles, and you can see that they are running forward
with them and are tossing them down in a line from the jungle. It will
require very few indeed to reach the belt of dry bushes which joins
those upon the rock, and then--"

Tyler did not finish the sentence, but began to reach for his rifle, and
place a pile of ammunition close to his hand.

"We must stop them," he said sternly, "or else we shall be roasted and
smoked like pigs. Get your weapon, Li, and let them know that we can
reach them; for I tell you that if the bushes here are set alight this
place will be impossible. The flames will flare all round it, and there
are sufficient leaves about to cause the densest of smoke, which would
choke us."

That he had not overstated the case was abundantly clear to the wily
Chinaman, and once the latter's cunning mind had grasped the meaning
of the movement below, and he had become alive to the danger of the
situation, he set about the defence of the rock with alacrity. Snatching
at his rifle, he rested it upon a boulder, and peered amongst the
stones, awaiting an opportunity for a shot. As for Tyler, his weapon
spoke out almost instantly, and one of the dusky figures which was
loaded with a bundle of reeds fell forward into the jungle, while those
who were near at hand ran to a place of shelter with a howl of dismay.

"One," said Tyler quietly, replacing the charge. "I can see that those
fellows are scared, and that they fear our guns. We have shown them that
when we fire we hit the mark as a rule, and it will be disconcerting
to them to discover that we have them still in range. However, I have
little doubt that one of their number will pluck up courage before very
long, and will make a dash forward. In that case we shall be unable to
stop him."

For half an hour the pirates hidden below in the jungle, or watching
the rock from a safe distance on the bank of the river, made no further
movement. Then a flaring light suddenly appeared amongst the trees,
attracting the attention of the defenders of the rock and occupying all
their thoughts.

"Some fellow about to make a rush," thought Tyler. "Keep your eye on
him, Li, and fire when you see him run. Ah, there he is moving, but only
to one side! In a few moments he will make up his mind to risk it, and
then there will be a rush, and we shall have to do as well as we can."

Twice or three times was the blazing mass moved to a different part of
the jungle, on each occasion causing alarm to Tyler and his companion,
and making them think that the moment had arrived when the man who had
charge of it would summon all his courage, and, determined to risk the
bullets of the defenders, would dash out into the open, with the object
of crossing the narrow space which stretched between the jungle and the
straggling line of bushes which extended from the base of the rock. With
rifles at their shoulders, and eyes glued to the sights, they watched,
ready to pull the triggers the instant they sighted the man. Then of
a sudden each gave vent to a startled cry, and, swinging round to the
left, emptied their weapons at the retreating figure of a man who had
run out from an entirely different point, and, safe in the thought that
the attention of the defenders was occupied in another direction, had
dashed at the bushes and flung a mass of blazing reeds upon them.

"Cleverly done, and the man deserves to escape," cried Tyler, seeing
that both he and Li Sung had missed the mark. "It was an artful ruse,
and we were taken in. It just shows that they have a fellow down there
who has sharp wits, for by attracting our notice to one part of the
jungle they made the task of setting the bush on fire possible. But what
are we to do? Sit still and be roasted or smothered by the flames and
smoke, or descend the rock and make a fight of it?"

"That no savee us, massa," exclaimed Li Sung. "We dead all de same, and
de pirate takee de head. Li say stay here a little bittee and see which
way de wind blow. P'r'aps it send de fire along de rock and not reach
us."

"There is no use in thinking that that will happen," replied Tyler, "for
there is hardly any breeze just now, and once well alight the bushes
will burn up in this direction. What about the top? Surely by hanging
over the other side we might escape the heat and smoke."

As he spoke he turned and stared at the summit of the rock, which cut
clear and sharp across the sky, showing a thin ridge on the farther side
of which the mass fell away abruptly, forming a slope which was so
precipitous that no one could hope to retain a footing.

"If we could get over there we should be safe for a time," he said to
himself, "and the enemy could not reach us with the poor muskets which
they possess. We will wait and see how the fire goes, and then, if
necessary, we will retreat to the top. Now how could we manage to retain
a position there for a time? Our strength would soon give way if we had
to cling with our hands."

Unconsciously he asked the question aloud, and as if it had been
addressed to him the cunning Chinaman turned and answered it without the
slightest delay.

"Massa havee saved de China boy more dan once," he said in grateful
tones. "Him catchee Li Sung by de coat when him almost smothered wid de
water, and now him show how both keep away from de fire. Li say dat we
hang on de oder side easy. We take de cloth from de waist and make him
into a loop. Den we put de leg into him and sit dere easy till de flames
havee gone. He, he, he! We not catched yet by a velly long way."

The prospect of dangling over the steep cliff seemed to afford this
son of the East the greatest satisfaction, for again he beamed upon
his young leader, while he whipped the cloth from about his waist, and
with a deft twist fashioned it into a loop. At the opposite end he
formed another, and then twisted the material on itself till it had the
appearance of a rope.

"Plenty fine and strong," he said, holding it up with pride. "De one end
hang on a rock or de stump of a bush, and de oder for de leg."

"I believe you have thought of the very thing," exclaimed Tyler in
delight. "With a sling like that we could sit all day long and never
tire. We will wait till the heat gets too great for us and then we will
retire. Get hold of your share of the ammunition and food while I take
mine. Now, how is the bonfire going."

He almost laughed as he spoke, but a moment later his face wore a
serious expression, for though but little time had elapsed since the man
below had so daringly set fire to the bushes, yet the hot sun overhead
had dried the wood till it was like tinder, and scarcely had it felt
the flame than it flared in all directions. Then, as if there had been
a train of powder laid beneath, the conflagration spread almost as fast
as a man could run, for all the world like the veldt fires in Africa,
and, sweeping along the straggling line, quickly reached the base of the
rock. And here, with abundant material before it upon which to vent its
power, the flame spread to either hand, and thence came marching up the
steep rock, fanned by a gentle breeze from the river. Like an army in
straggling array it swept the rock before it, and halting here, falling
back there for an instant as it met with a bush of more succulent wood,
which defied its power on account of its moisture, it came staggering
upwards, ever upwards, roaring as it went, and sending forth dense
masses of blinding, hot smoke. Very quickly the bushes which grew just
below the retreat in which Tyler and the Chinaman had taken up their
station were singed and frizzled by the heat, while they themselves were
driven backwards. A minute and they were racing up the steep slope,
madly eager to escape from the fire and get to a safe distance.

"Here is a clear spot with only one strong bush growing," gasped Tyler,
as they reached the summit, halting at a spot which was clear and bare
of growth save for a solitary bush. "Out with your knife, Li, and hack
it down. That's the way. Leave enough to fasten our slings to."

Desperately and in all haste did the Chinaman carry out the order, for a
hot wave fanned his cheek, and a cloud of smoke and sparks told him that
he had no time for delay. In a few minutes, therefore, he had lopped off
the greater part of the bush, leaving the base of it alone. And to this,
thrusting their slings over the gnarled and twisted root till they were
close to the ground, did the two suspend their weight, hoping that it
would not fail them and send them tumbling to the ground beneath.

Meanwhile the pirates below had watched with eager eyes as the fire
advanced, and set up a babel of discordant shouts as they saw the two
figures above forced to retreat. With loud and discordant yells they
followed their course to the summit of the rock, and then, as they
watched and noted the methodical way in which the bush was lopped off
and the slings attached, a doubt, and fear that after all they were to
be beaten in this, their final attempt, assailed them. With a shout of
indignation and annoyance they raced through the jungle to the back of
the rock, and, arrived there, stared up at Tyler and Li Sung, who swung
easily at their posts, their weight supported by the slings, while they
prevented their bodies from swaying too much by grasping the edge of
the rock with their fingers. Instantly a fusillade was opened in their
direction, the bullets for the most part falling short, or pattering
harmlessly against the rock. A few, however, struck with resounding
thuds, warning Tyler that a blow from one, while it would not penetrate
perhaps, would be likely to stun the one who was hit should it happen to
come in contact with his head.

"We must put a stop to that game," he said suddenly. "They seem to have
forgotten that we, too, are armed, and we must remind them. Just place
your hand on my shoulder to steady me, and I will give them a shot.
That's the way. Now I can lift my rifle without swinging round and
running the risk of toppling over."

That the precaution was very necessary both could see, for, suspended
as they were, with one leg thrust through the sling till the latter
gripped them about the thigh, the greater part of their weight was
above the point of support, and had it not been for the grip which each
had obtained on the edge of the rock they would have run the danger
of capsizing and slipping from the sling. It was a matter of some
difficulty, therefore, to make use of a weapon, but with Li to help
him Tyler contrived to get his rifle to his shoulder. Then he calmly
selected the nearest of the pirates, and just as the latter was about to
fire at him, he pressed the trigger and sent his bullet into the man.

"See how they scamper away," he cried with a laugh, as the Malays took
to their heels. "We shall not be troubled again by their firing, I
fancy, and very soon darkness will hide them from our view. I suppose
that it is not possible to clamber down this side, for it has suddenly
struck me that the rock will be very hot on the farther slope."

Both looked well about them before deciding upon the matter, and
searched the steep face upon which they hung with the hope that they
would be able to discover some ledge, a few projections perhaps, which
would afford a means by which they would be able to reach the ground
below. But a goat could not have hoped to retain a footing there, for
the rock might very well have been cut with a knife, so smooth and
unbroken was its surface, and so precipitous was its slope. Therefore
both gave up the idea, and at once prepared to clamber over the ridge
once more.

"We have been here a quarter of an hour, and at the rate at which the
flames were advancing I imagine that the fire will have burnt itself
out by now," said Tyler, as he attempted to peer over the top. "How
lucky for us that we had this place to retreat to, and that the edge
of the rock kept the heat and smoke away! But for that we should have
been stifled, and should have rolled in a helpless condition to the
bank below. But I fancy that there is very little smoke now, and when I
have waited ten minutes longer I shall hoist myself up, and see what is
happening. After that we can sit on the very top and wait for the rock
to cool."

The time he had mentioned having at length passed, Tyler hoisted himself
with all gentleness by means of the sling, and peered over the summit
of the ridge, to find that the farther side had been swept clear of all
bushes, and lay blackened and smoking below him. Here and there a tiny
flame still existed, feeding upon the underwood beneath some mass of
vegetation which had been of large proportions. But for the most part
the fire was gone, while the smoke was disappearing every minute. Of the
pirates there was no sign at first, but as Tyler's head appeared over
the top, they emerged from the edge of the jungle and set up a shout of
defiance.

"Aloft there!" called out the one who had now assumed the leadership;
"do not think that you will escape us, for we are determined to capture
you. Indeed, our lives are forfeited if we fail to do so. Up to this you
have kept us at bay, for your guns are good, and can reach farther than
ours, while the boulders and rocks protect you. But men can climb in the
dark, and seeing that we cannot drive you to submission by means of a
fire, we will close upon you in the night. Think and dream of that. If
you lie down and sleep, or sit there watchful as a hawk, the end will
still be the same, for we shall creep silently upon you. When you feel
most secure we shall lay our hands upon you, and then, my friends, a
time awaits you in Rembas. We hear that the men of Sarawak are coming
up, and since that is the case we will kill you both with certain
ceremonies, so that luck may come to us. I who am one of the sea Dyaks
swear that this shall be your fate."

With a defiant wave of his hand the man disappeared in the forest, and
though Tyler stared after him, and watched the intervals between the
trees, he could see no one else. Then he turned to Li Sung to gather the
man's meaning, and afterwards directed his gaze to the river.

"Evidently they mean to cut off escape in that direction," he said, "for
one of their sampans is taking up a position off the bank, and will lie
there during the night, moving slowly backwards and forwards. Perhaps
they expect us to steal down and capture one of their boats, but they
will be mistaken. And that reminds me. Come up, Li Sung, and point out
to me the spot where we hid the craft in which we entered the river."

It wanted but a few seconds to enable the active Chinee to come to his
master's side, and at once he swung to the right and pointed eagerly to
the edge of the rock.

"Allee rightee," he exclaimed in a whisper. "De pirate below not find
him for sure, and de fire not go dat way. Massa can see dat dere am no
bushes till de ones dat hidee de boat, so allee velly fine. We runnee
away in him."

"Yes, and the sooner the better," said Tyler with unusual decision. "We
have to go. That is perfectly clear, for we shall be killed or starved
to death if we remain. Very well, then the question follows as to when
we shall go. Shall it be at once, when the darkness has fallen, or shall
it be during the night? My vote is given for an instant start, for
otherwise the pirates will discover the boat as they creep this way;
and then, again, they will rush us as we are preparing to leave. Better
go as soon as the night comes, so as to get away before they can have
surrounded the rock."

"And massa will choose de river and de boat?" asked Li Sung.

"Yes, the jungle is out of the question. It will be filled with scouts,
who will be at points all round the edge of the clearing."

"Den you say dat we sneak to de sampan and out into de river?"

"Yes, Li, but not at once. You may be sure that those fellows are
watching all round, and I think that to attempt to embark opposite here
will end in discovery. If we go to the right, or strike into the jungle
behind, the same will happen."

"Den massa says go de oder way?" demanded Li in amazement. "He say go
where all de pirates am now, and where dey arrive to attack us?"

The proposition was, to say the least of it, a startling one, and
yet Tyler was not inclined to relinquish it. For he had had long to
think the matter over, and as he sat there looking down through the
semi-darkness which had now covered the land, he felt sure that an
attempt to leave the rock would be suspected. Indeed it was more
than likely that the threat which the Dyak leader had shouted to him
was merely meant to throw dust in his eyes, to make him think that an
attempt would be made to assault during the night. Instead of doing
that, however, the pirates would probably at once take up commanding
positions, and then, in the belief that the two Chinamen would descend
and slip into the darkness, would keep their eyes alert and make every
effort to take them. Would they think to guard every spot alike? No. As
Tyler considered the point he felt sure that that part of the forest
where they were at that moment would be deserted, and that it was by
that path that they must escape.

"You see," he said, suddenly turning upon Li Sung, "they know that we
have seen them land, and that their boats are pulled up there. They have
been in that position ever since they came, and they will reckon that
we shall keep away from it as far as possible. Is that not what others
would do?"

For answer the Chinaman gently scratched the top of his head, for though
cunning he was no reasoner, and, to tell the truth, had he been alone
would have elected to go in the opposite direction to that which his
leader had suggested.

"Well," demanded Tyler, staring into his face eagerly, "what would a man
of your country do? What would you do?"

"Me go de oder way. Me slip into de forest and runnee for de life,"
gasped Li Sung.

"And that is what the majority of fellows would do. That is what the
pirates would do, and will expect of us. Then we take the road I have
pointed out, and if we are discovered--"

"Li Sung plenty knowee den," exclaimed his follower, snatching at his
knife and brandishing it in the air. "Li not care how he go, so long as
massa lead de way; but he can fight. He hate de pirate!"

"Then we will settle the matter, for it is already almost time to set
out."

For some thirty minutes the two crouched there on their perch,
discussing their plans and listening eagerly for sounds of the enemy.
Then, having tucked their revolvers into their belts, and swung their
rifles over their shoulders, they began to creep down the steep slope of
the rock, taking a line which would bring them to the spot where they
had hidden the boat. Soon slight sounds came to their ears, and as they
halted to listen each realized that the enemy was on either hand and
behind, and that the noise which they could hear was made by the pirates
as they stole through the forest to take up their positions.

"They are preparing to catch us, but are not quite ready yet," whispered
Tyler. "Then we will not waste a moment, for while they move into
position we will slip away."

Sweeping the ground before him with his hands ere he ventured to take
a step in advance, Tyler at length reached the foot of the rock, and
at once crept into the bushes which, owing to the fact that they were
growing far to one side, had escaped the conflagration. Ah, there was
the light river-boat! and in a trice the two silent figures were bearing
it away on their shoulders. Turning to that part of the bank which had
been occupied by the enemy they stole along in that direction, their
feet buried in the hot ashes left by the fire, which effectually masked
any sounds which might have been made. Soon a belt of trees barred their
progress, and at once dropping the boat they grasped it with both hands
and bore it along dangling at arm's-length. A hundred yards were covered
in absolute silence, and both were beginning to think that fortune had
befriended them and that freedom was before them, when Tyler gave vent
to a startled cry, and of a sudden, as if the ground had been cut from
beneath his feet, disappeared from view.

"Quick, massa! Where am you?" demanded Li Sung eagerly, while a shout
in the forest told that Tyler's cry had been heard. "You speakee plenty
quick, and Li comee to helpee you."

"I'm down below in a hole of some sort," answered Tyler swiftly,
picking himself up and feeling about in the darkness. "I have got into a
trap of some sort, for I can feel a number of pointed bamboos all about
me, and was lucky to miss falling upon them and being spiked. Lean down
and haul me up quickly. Now up with the boat again and run. This way to
the river!"

Realizing the plight into which his master had fallen, Li Sung no sooner
heard what had happened than he threw himself upon his face at the edge
of the yawning pit into which Tyler had tumbled, and, stretching out a
hand, rapidly hoisted the latter out. Then both grasped the boat once
more and set off for the river at the fastest pace. As for the pirates,
they set the jungle ringing with their shouts, and, uncertain what had
happened, for the trap had not been of their setting, but had been
prepared for some old engagement now long forgotten, they rushed hither
and thither, calling to one another to tell them where the enemy were.

"Into the water with her, and on board," said Tyler as they reached the
bank of the river and waded in. "Now, have you a paddle? Then let every
stroke tell."

There was no need for explanation, for both knew that they must pull
for their lives. Kneeling, therefore, in the bottom of the boat, they
each grasped a paddle with both hands and thrust the blade deep into the
river. Then the surface swirled behind them, the craft gathered way, and
ere a minute had passed they were shooting along beneath the overhanging
branches.

"Keep where we are," gasped Tyler as he laboured at his paddle. "It is
pitch dark in here, while outside the sharp eyes of the natives would
pick us out. Keep a good look-out, and be ready to push her off in case
we run into the bank."

That the latter was a likely occurrence was to be expected, for
beneath the leafy avenue even in brilliant daylight all was sombre and
clouded with gloom, while now that darkness had fallen and the sun had
disappeared the tunnel under the trees presented not a ray, and indeed
was buried in such obscurity that the two fugitives felt as though
hemmed in by it, as though they could actually feel the darkness which
surrounded them. But what could they do? Emerge into the open, so as to
escape the risk of plunging into the trunk of a tree or running aground?
That would be madness, for, as Tyler had observed, the night outside was
not so black that the eyes of the Malays and sea Dyaks would fail to
pierce it. And once they caught even the faintest glimpse of the flying
boat, a suspicion even that it was paddling in that direction would
bring them howling after it, and then the fate of the two Chinamen would
be sealed. Yes, in an instant Tyler realized their precarious position;
and though for the moment he considered whether it would not be better
to halt where they were and lie still beneath the trees, he dismissed
the idea next second, feeling that were they to do so the pirates would
soon surround the spot, and, confident that they had cut off escape,
would remain patiently till morning came and allowed them to surge down
upon their daring enemies. Forward, therefore, and at all speed, was the
order, and, reckless of the consequences, they plunged their paddles
still deeper into the water till the bows of the tiny river-boat hissed
against the stream, and sent the foam scudding on either side.

Hark! A shout, louder and more piercing than any which had preceded it,
suddenly burst from the forest behind them, while the babel of voices
came to an abrupt end. Then the cry was repeated, and ere a second had
passed an answering hail came from up and down the river. Almost at the
same moment the prow of the river-boat dashed into a pile of drift-wood,
and, running forward till half her length was piled upon it, came to a
halt, stranded there beneath the tunnel of trees.

"Hop out and float her again," whispered Tyler calmly. "Now stand still
and listen. You heard the hail? Then did you catch those which answered
it?"

"Yes, massa. A shout came from up de river, and anoder from down below.
We am caught. We am prisoner at last, and when de day comee again poor
Li and him massa die. Dey lose de head, and when de men comee from
Sarawak and kill de pirate dey find dem slung to de back of de Dyaks."

Many a time, no doubt, had the humble Chinee seen men of the race which
inhabited Borneo setting out upon an expedition to levy war upon their
neighbours, and time and again had he observed the fact that all, or
nearly all, of the warriors carried the heads of former victims slung to
their girdles, for that was their custom. No wonder, therefore, as the
prospect of imprisonment conjured up the scene and brought it afresh to
his memory, that he shivered there, and, seeing that the end seemed so
near, thought only of the worst. But Tyler also had heard of the custom,
and indeed had even seen it with his own eyes. However, he was not the
lad to be so easily frightened, and moreover he recognized the fact
that life was sweet, and that to retain it now all his thoughts must be
directed to escape, and not to the consequences of capture.

"Silence!" he exclaimed in low but commanding tones, the firmness of
which caused the Chinaman to suddenly cease his whining. "We are not
caught yet, and even if we are, what will it matter to either of us if
our heads are taken and carried about, for we shall be dead? Don't be
foolish, for, as I have said, we are not taken yet. There is a saying
amongst my people which runs: 'First catch your bird, then cook him'.
Let the pirates lay hands on us, then, and it will be time to moan about
our fate. For the present it is our work to get away from them, and for
my part I mean to escape whatever the difficulties. Now, get hold of the
bows and lift. That's the way. Turn to the left and scramble into the
jungle."

Abashed by the lecture which he had received, and encouraged by the
bravery and calmness shown by his leader, Li Sung obediently carried out
the order, and, lifting the head of the boat, carried it towards the
bank. Tyler picked up the stern, and together they bore their craft into
the jungle close at hand, and deposited it silently there.

"They shall have their patience tried," he said, as he threw himself
upon the ground. "No doubt that shout warned men who were watching up
and down the river, and now that they have been put on their guard the
others will embark and will scour every foot of the water. If we had
stayed on the drift-wood we should have been discovered, for they will
search with torches to help them. Now we are hidden again, and can wait
till the noise and the keenness of the hunt have died down."

"Hush, massa! Li hear someting, and him tink he see a light too."

Whispering the words the faithful fellow stretched forth a warning hand
and touched Tyler on the sleeve. Then both stared through the jungle,
and made sure that they could hear faint sounds, as of someone paddling,
approaching close to them. As for the light, at first it was difficult
to determine whether Li Sung had been drawing on his imagination, or
whether he had actually seen one. But presently a dull reflection on the
water as it rippled beneath the trees attracted their attention, and
they became aware of the fact that a distant flare, which was all but
hidden by the leaves, was illuminating the stream before them.

"Searching the part beneath the boughs," whispered Tyler; "and over
there are other torches. Lie still for your life, and do not make a
sound. But first get hold of your rifle."

Instantly each swung his weapon to the front, and brought the butt to
his shoulder. Then, prepared to fire if occasion should call for it,
they lay still as ghosts amongst the bushes, peering at the enemy.
It was a strange scene to look upon, and to Tyler as he lay there it
brought back memories of many a jolly day at home. For here was a long,
narrow native boat, drifting slowly down beneath the boughs, with two
men to send it along with an occasional stroke, while some twenty
others, all with the scantiest of clothing and with weapons bared, stood
or kneeled up and stared at the leaves, into the trees, and amongst the
bushes which lined the bank, hoping, with the aid of the light cast
from a torch which was thrust into a bed of clay in the bows, that they
would be able to find a trace of the fugitives for whom they sought.
Uncanny though the scene was, and in spite of the fact that his life
was at stake, Tyler's thoughts flew involuntarily to a day of days
which he had spent not so long ago with his school comrades. There was
a regatta, and at its end the boats had rowed in procession through the
darkness, sending up fireworks, while the majority of the crew stood as
well as the craft would permit and called loudly to their friends upon
the bank. At the head of each of the craft had smoked and flared a torch
of pine-wood which served to lighten the scene. How similar it had been
to this at which he was now looking! For a moment he almost forgot the
circumstances as he recalled old friends, comrades in the days when he
was a lad at school, before the _Dido_ had been thought of. Then with a
start he remembered his position at that moment, and at once his hand
tightened upon the stock of his weapon, while the fingers of his other
hand felt for the revolver which was thrust in his belt.

"If they find us, fire the rifle, then give them a few shots with the
revolver and fly. But we must take the boat, and must embark within a
few seconds."

He whispered the words in his companion's ear, and then watched to see
him nod. A second later the native boat drew opposite, and both lay
as if glued to the ground, scarcely daring to breathe lest the sound
should be heard. Then with feelings of relief they noted that the craft
was gradually passing beyond them, and were preparing to turn and
congratulate themselves on their good fortune, when one of the natives
gave vent to a cry of astonishment, while the boat came to a sudden halt.

"Aground!" cried the man who was stationed in the bows, at once
springing over the side; "and--do my eyes deceive me, or is this the
mark of a second boat, perhaps the one in which the Chinamen escaped?
Remember, comrades, we know that it was by that means that they left us,
for they had hidden the craft which brought them here, and their guns
prevented us from finding her. What have you others to say?"

He stood aside while his comrades splashed in the water and waded
towards him. Then the torch was snatched from its support and brought to
the spot, over which all bent eagerly.

As for Tyler and Li Sung, they almost trembled with apprehension, and,
believing that they were about to be discovered, brought their weapons
to bear upon the gathering of natives, and made ready to discharge them
and then run for their lives.

"It is your fancy, comrade," at length cried one of the pirates. "The
bows of our boat crashed upon the drift-wood here, as you can see
for yourself, for there is a deep furrow. Then you sprang overboard,
lightening the load and causing her to move again. There is nothing in
these signs, and I therefore urge you to press on. Remember, all of
you, that our lives are forfeit if the day dawns and still finds us
unsuccessful. Push on then, and let us not delay."

"As you will," grumbled the one who had at first raised the question,
and who had spent the time in staring into the jungle towards the spot
where Tyler lay. "Only if we lose them on account of the fact that you
will not take my warning, then it will be sad for all of us. For me,
Rembas shall not see me again, for to return would be to die."

"Then, as we all love the lives which we lead, and desire to go back to
our homes, let us push on in all haste," cried his comrade. "Then shall
we be more sure of coming upon these rascals."

With a heave they lifted the craft from the obstruction and placed her
in deep water. Then they sprang aboard, and before the fugitives could
believe their eyes, their enemies were sweeping down the stream, only
the reflection of the light being there to show that they actually
existed.

"We will let them tire of the search," said Tyler, with a big sigh of
relief, "and then we will take to the water ourselves and make for the
lower reaches. For the present we will lie still and listen, for others
may come this way."

And so with ears straining for sounds which would warn them of the near
presence of the enemy, and with all their senses alert, they waited in
the forest for some three hours or more, not daring to stir from their
hiding-place. Then, judging that the keenness of the search was over
and that they might venture to take to the river, they crept from the
jungle, lifted their boat into the stream, and embarked. A thrust of
the foot and she was afloat, and a stroke of the paddle directed her
on her way. Then, with the current to carry them, they let her drift
silently through the night, being careful, however, to keep her still
beneath the overhanging boughs. At length the latter came to an end, and
the open river was before them. At once they took to their paddles, and
were urging their craft into the centre of the Sarebus when a long, dark
object which had been lying in close to the bank shot out behind them
and came racing in their wake. Then a dusky figure in the front grasped
at a pole, at the end of which was attached a hook with which it was the
custom of the pirates of Borneo to tear their enemies from their prahus,
and, thrusting it out into the night, made a dash at the unconscious
figure of the rearmost of the two at the paddles. It caught; the hook
passed beneath his arm and became entangled in his clothing.

"Back!" shouted the pirate. "Hold on your paddles!"

There was a startled cry of surprise, the guttural exclamation of a
Chinaman, and ere Tyler had time to think, he was over the side and
being dragged into the enemy's boat. Down came the shaft of the pole
upon his head, rendering him unconscious of the roughness with which he
was handled. Thrust here and there, hauled this way and that, he was at
length pushed into the stern and left to lie there, while the pirates
turned their attention to the remaining fugitive. But of him there was
not a sign. The darkness or the river had swallowed him up.



CHAPTER XVIII

A Narrow Escape


Swift indeed had been the misfortune which had fallen on Tyler and
his comrade as they escaped down the river Sarebus. So sudden and
unexpected, in fact, that the former hardly realized that he had been
caught by means of some instrument and was being dragged through the
water, while the boat in which he had been kneeling, plying his paddle
with all his might, swept on and away from him, urged by the powerful
arm of the Chinaman. As for the latter, until the shout of the pirate
who wielded the long pole and hook broke on his ear, he had no suspicion
that the enemy was at hand, for the hiss of the water as it surged
against the prow drowned all other sounds. But the sudden call caused
him to sit upright with a jerk and turn his head, only to perceive the
figure of his young master disappearing in the darkness. A moment later
he had shot away from the pursuers, and, turning the craft with a dip of
the paddle, lay still upon the surface, while the latter, still plying
their oars, swept away in advance, searching there for the second of the
gallant Chinamen who had caused them so much suffering.

Ten minutes later Tyler regained consciousness, and would have started
to his feet had not a naked foot pressed him to the floor.

"What has happened?" he demanded in bewildered tones. "We were running
down-stream, and it began to look as though we were going to give those
fellows the slip. Then--Li Sung, you may not know it, but you are
standing on my chest, which is not very comfortable. Just take your
foot away and allow me to sit up."

"Lie still, you dog!" was the answer, in a language which he did not
understand, but which he knew must be Dyak. "Lie quiet where you are, I
say, and stir not if you value your comfort. Would you warn your comrade
then? That will silence you."

The native who had charge of the prisoner lifted his paddle and hit at
the prostrate figure lying beneath him in the darkness. But, fortunately
for the latter, the blow failed to reach the mark, and, striking the
bottom of the boat within an inch of his head, almost dashed a hole
through the wood-work. But it had the desired effect, for Tyler at
once realized his position and held his tongue, while the recollection
of what had happened came to him like a flash in spite of his dizzy
condition.

"I remember now," he said to himself with something approaching a groan.
"A hook caught me under the arm, and before I could make out what was
up, I was splashing in the water and was being dragged into another
boat. Then some fellow caught me a crack over the head, and--by Jove!
how sore I am! They must have pulled me about and kicked me pretty
savagely, for I feel as though every bone in my body were broken. And
I'm a prisoner."

The thought set him wondering what would be his fate, though that was a
question which required little answering. Then he began to think of Li
Sung, and with a feeling of gladness he realized that the Chinaman had
made good his escape.

"Then, after all, there may be some chance for me," he said to himself.
"Captain Keppel and the Rajah of Sarawak were to put in an appearance at
the mouth of the river on this date, and were to await our report there.
If Li has got clear away he will, no doubt, lie up in some quiet spot
and think the matter out. Then he will see that he can do no good alone,
and he will at once set his face down-stream, and will row for all he
is worth. The tide will help him, and by the time the night comes again
he will be at the rendezvous. Then the anchors will be raised, and the
schooners will sail up with the flood, and may, perhaps, be here by the
following evening. By then I shall be--"

Once more he broke off suddenly, realizing with a feeling akin to
despair that he would be dead, for was it likely that the pirates would
keep him a captive for long?

"Hardly," whispered Tyler to himself. "They will be angry, and men who
are in that condition do not pause and allow time to keep them from
their revenge. To-day, within a few hours, they will commence to torture
me, and then all will be over, and Li will have had his journey for
nothing, while I shall be another of the victims to be added to the long
list already set down to the brutality of these pirates."

The conviction was not a very cheerful one, and for long it occupied
our hero's thoughts to the exclusion of all others. And all the while,
as he lay there prostrate on the floor of the boat, with throbbing head
and limbs which ached in every part, the native who stood guard over him
still rested a naked foot heavily on his chest, while ever and anon he
turned his eyes from the dark surface of the river to the spot where his
prisoner lay.

"One of the dogs at least is in our power," he kept saying to himself,
"and when the day comes, and the sun sails up to the sky, the second
will come beneath our eyes. Then we shall return to Rembas in great
favour, and our comrades will speak well of us. And afterwards there
shall be a feast, when our prisoners shall afford us some amusement. And
supposing the other dog escapes?"

The question set him wondering what would be their reception at Rembas,
and he was bound to confess to himself that the chief who had sent them
out to make the captures would have something to say.

"He will scowl at us, and call us cowards and dogs," said the native.
"But he will do us no evil, for have we not been partially successful?
For that reason he will talk, and then he will forgive. But we shall
have to incur the laughter of our comrades."

Once more the man lapsed into silence, while the boat sped on its
course. But nowhere was there a sign of Li Sung, though they searched
every foot of that portion of the river, and shouted a warning to their
comrades who had taken up their posts above and below, in the hope of
capturing the fugitives as they passed. Then, slowly at first, and later
with the same swiftness with which it was wont to leave the earth, the
day came full upon them, and they could see for miles along the surface.

"Not a boat in sight, comrades," said the leader, the native who had
charge of Tyler. "One of the men we have with us, but where is the
other? Has anyone seen or heard aught of him?"

He looked round at his crew with questioning eyes, and, hearing no
response, spoke to them again.

"Then what are we to do?" he demanded fiercely. "You have all heard
what our chief has promised to do to us if we who were so many returned
unsuccessful. Well, we are that. We have but one captive, while the
second is at large. Shall we return at once, or will it meet your views
if we kill this dog who lies beneath my foot, and then sail for the
lower reaches? For myself, I fear to enter Rembas again, for the thought
that our companions will jeer at me is worse than the fear of death."

"And with us also," cried his companions. "We have fought hard, and are
weary. But rather than go now to our homes to rest, we will row on if to
return is to mean trouble with those who remained behind."

"It was a bad day for all of us when we were chosen for the duty," burst
in another when his comrades had done and there was silence in the boat;
"but I fail to see why we should fear to return to Rembas. Tell me, my
friends, who can say where the second of the Chinamen has got to? Is
there a man here who set eyes on him or on his boat after we captured
the fool who lies at the bottom of our own craft?"

The Dyak, a shrivelled-up and aged man, peered at each one of the
crew in turn, his beady eyes passing their faces one by one without
discovering an answer.

"No one responds," he went on with a cunning smile. "Then can our
brothers in Rembas tell more? Can they say that he has escaped simply
because we have not laid hands upon him? Ye are children, who need a man
of my years and experience to nurse you. Listen to me, and say whether
this will suit our case. We were told off for this matter, and the fates
willed it that we should meet with great trouble; for how were we to
guess that these Chinese dogs would prove so cunning? And how could we
foretell the fact that the two who were caught by the bore would be
armed with guns, good guns, mark you, my brothers, which shot better
than our own? Others would have found the task impossible, but we were
not to be so easily beaten, and though weary we clung to our ground.
Then fortune came our way, and we captured one of the dogs, while with
a blow of the pole to which the hook is attached the boat in which they
rowed was sent to the bottom, with a big hole through the boards. Tell
me, does not the stream on the river Sarebus run fast, and are not men
easily drowned in its waters? Then that is the fate which has befallen
the second of the Chinamen. He is dead, and by to-night the body will
be washing out to sea, there to satisfy the mouths of the sharks which
keep watch there. It is all plain and simple, and those at Rembas will
recognize the truth of the story we tell."

With another cunning glance the man took his seat, and, dipping his
paddle into the stream, turned the head of the boat towards the distant
town of Rembas.

"Come," he continued persuasively, "believe what I say, and agree to
tell the tale as I have told it. And recollect that we have with us one
prisoner who will help to make us welcome."

For some little time the others, who sat or kneeled in the boat, looked
at one another doubtfully, while they discussed the matter in low tones.
Then they began to see that their comrade had pointed out the only path
which they could take, and on considering it they saw that the tale was
a likely one.

"And besides," said the man who had had the post in the bows, "I
remember that as I thrust a second time at the figure of the man who
still remained to be taken, the hook struck heavily against the craft,
and may well have capsized it or battered a hole in the boards. Yes, the
tale is good, and we should agree to it."

And so, after a deal of discussion and eager conversation, the head of
the boat was turned again to Rembas, for the stream had swung her round.
Then the paddles dipped in the water, and very soon they were at their
journey's end.

"Rise! The chief awaits you!"

The words were shouted in Tyler's ear, while his custodian kicked him
savagely in the ribs. Then signs were made that he was to mount the
slope which led to a formidable-looking stockade, and was to enter the
gate which stood wide open.

"Come," shrieked the man, angered at the delay which had occurred in the
carrying out of his orders, "stir yourself and be quick, or I will find
something better and more persuasive than a foot. Here, stand on your
legs!"

With that he clutched at Tyler's clothing and swung him over the gunwale
of the boat and on to the ground beside the edge of the water. Then two
others came to his aid, and in a moment they had set him upon his feet
and had given him a push in the direction in which he was to go. But, to
their amazement, the prisoner collapsed at once, and fell heavily upon
his face.

"He would make believe that he cannot stand. He is a cunning dog!" cried
one of them. "Let us try again, and set something beneath him to keep
him upright. Ah, perhaps the point of a knife will help him!"

Once more Tyler was hoisted to his feet, while the ruffian who had
spoken last whipped a knife from his waist-cloth, and held it so that
the prisoner would meet with an injury if he was so foolish as to fall.
Then his comrades were in the act of starting aside when a by-stander
interfered.

"You will kill the man and rob us of our fun," he called out suddenly,
starting forward as he did so. "See! Have you no eyes? The fellow is
weak with loss of blood, and here is the spot from which it comes."

He pointed to the arm where the knife had struck some few hours before,
and then to the garments below, which were stained red with blood.
As for Tyler, he made no movement, but watched his captors through
half-closed eyes; for he had a difficult game to play, and felt that the
moment was a critical one.

"If I show fight, or am strong and can walk, they will treat me badly,"
he had said to himself as he lay upon the floor of the boat and thought
the matter out. "Then their chief will have me brought before him, and
will endeavour to get some information from me; for the chances are that
he will guess that I have something to do with the English of Sarawak. I
should refuse, of course, and then, seeing that I was of no further use,
he would give the order for my execution. That will not suit me, for
my object is to gain time. Captain Keppel will be at the mouth of the
river by now, and Li Sung will reach him to-night. To-morrow night at
the earliest is the hour when I may expect them. I must pretend to know
a lot, and yet be too weak to talk. Then in the hope of getting news
from me when I am stronger they will curb their impatience and treat me
well. Also, finding that I am helpless, they will not be so watchful,
and perhaps I may manage to give them the slip."

The plan seemed to be a good one, and as Tyler had thought it out in the
darkness, and had sought for a good excuse for his weakness, the wound
produced by the kriss which had struck him in the arm occurred to him,
and he had at once commenced to tear the bandage from it.

"That will allow the wound to bleed freely for a time and to stain my
clothing," he said to himself. "I am wet from head to foot, so that a
little blood will spread and look like a lot, and so mislead them. Yes,
when the day comes I shall pretend to be almost on the point of death,
and shall be incapable of standing."

"See!" cried the man again, drawing attention to the prisoner's arm. "He
has a wound, and it has bled freely, which accounts for his weakness.
Let me tie a cloth about it, and then carry him, for we do not desire
to see our captive slip from our fingers, and so rob us of the pleasure
which we hope to have. Stand aside, you who gape and hold the knife,
while I see to the man."

Evidently the one who had spoken was of some consequence, for his
comrades did not demur, and instead stood on one side; while the one
who had drawn his kriss returned it to its place looking abashed and
uncomfortable as he did so. A few moments later the wound was roughly
bound, and Tyler was being carried up into the stockade. A sheltered
spot was found for him, and he was placed upon the ground, while orders
were given for water and food to be brought to him. Then those who had
captured him went in a body to their chief to tell him the tale which
they had agreed upon. As for Tyler, left alone in the shadow of one of
the huts, he dared not so much as move an arm lest someone should be
watching.

"I must remember the part I am playing," he said to himself, "and must
on no account appear to be shamming. When they see that I am helpless
they will leave me alone, and perhaps I shall have the night to myself.
Ah, here comes someone!"

Through his half-closed lids he caught sight of a woman advancing
towards him, and at once made ready to act his part. Closing his eyes,
he lay so still that he might have been dead, and made no movement when
the woman spoke to him. A second later his hand was grasped and the
arm lifted to its fullest height, only to be dropped again, to see,
perhaps, whether it would fall with a crash, or whether this seemingly
unconscious man had power to control it. However, Tyler guessed the
object of the movement, and allowed the limb to fall with all its
weight. Then he felt a gourd placed to his lips, while a few drops of
cold water were allowed to trickle into his mouth.

"He is but young, and will recover," said the woman in soft tones. "He
is one of a race whom we admire, for their men are hard and can fight
and work well, and by the tale which has come to us this lad and his
comrade, who is dead, made a fine stand against our men. Well, it is
a pity, for he must die. But the chief has sent word that he is to be
carefully tended, for the rogue may have news of these white people who
propose to come up the river and attack us. Not that we care much for
the tale, for Rembas is safe against thousands. There, I have sent some
water down his throat, and in a little time he will be better and will
be sensible. He shall have some food then, and perhaps to-morrow morning
he will be well enough to be killed."

She did not seem to see the strangeness of her words, but took it for
granted that once her charge was better he would be executed. Indeed, to
her mind such a course seemed only natural, for if the prisoner were not
strong and fully alive, how could he afford amusement to the pirates, a
collection of people who revelled in cruelty? And therefore, having done
her best for him, she left him to himself and went about her daily work,
wondering where the youthful Chinaman had come from, and how it was that
he happened to be in the river Sarebus. As for Tyler, no sooner had the
woman left him to himself than he gently opened his eyes and looked
about him, carefully taking stock of the buildings and of the forts
which were erected on every hand.

"Evidently making preparations for the attack which is expected," he
said, observing that guns had been placed in position in many places,
so as to command the approach from the river, and that stockades were
being built. "But our guns would quickly send them flat to the ground,
and scatter the pirates. How much I should like to be present at the
engagement, and what would I not give to be able to get away now and
inform my commander of the preparations being made to resist him? Yes,
when the guns have done their work the real excitement will begin, for
the boats will row right in till they are within gun-shot, and then they
will have to surmount the booms which are outside. And there is another
question of importance. Captain Keppel ought to know the exact position
of those booms, so as to send a boat ahead to blow a hole through them.
I must get away! The very first chance I get I shall take to my heels
and make a bolt for it."

It was a desperate resolve to make, but a natural one under the
circumstances; for what else could he do? To lie there simply meant that
his end was put off for a few hours. Sooner or later, if he but waited
for it, he would be dragged to execution, and then no one could save
him. Why not, then, snatch at the smallest chance which offered, and
trust to his heels to carry him to safety?

So determined was our hero that, seeing that no one was at hand, he
was almost in the act of springing to his feet, when sounds broke upon
his ear, and he became aware of the fact that a number of men were
approaching, and in their midst the leader of the Rembas pirates.
Instantly his eyes closed as if he were still insensible.

"So that is the man who kept you all at bay?" said the chief, looking
critically at the unconscious figure at his feet. "A lanky Chinaman, you
tell me? But--no, surely not one of that country, for see, his pigtail
is almost severed, while the arm which is bandaged is too white for one
of that race. This is no Chinaman, but an Englishman. I can tell him at
a glance, for I have been at Singapore and at Sarawak."

The news that their prisoner was of greater consequence than they had
imagined caused the Malays and Dyaks the greatest astonishment and
pleasure, and as their chief assured them that he was an Englishman they
danced with delight.

"He will be all the more valuable," said the chief thoughtfully, "for we
will contrive to gather news of the intended attack from him. Remember,
though we of Rembas are not always on terms of friendship with those
who live at Pakoo and at Paddi, yet on this occasion, when all are to
meet the foreigner, we shall bury our differences and make common cause
against the enemy. For that reason the Dutchman, Hans Schlott, will
not refuse if I ask him a favour, and will come hither at my bidding.
We will send to him at once, for he can speak the language of these
Englishmen, and we will ask him to interview the prisoner. Come, no time
must be lost, for many miles of river lie between him and us."

Fortunate for Tyler was it that he could not understand what was said,
for then he would have realized that his case was almost hopeless. Hans
Schlott to come and interview him as he lay a prisoner at Rembas! Why,
the crafty Dutchman would recognize him in a moment, and would at once
insist on his execution. That such would be the consequence of a meeting
between the man who had murdered Mr. Beverley and Tyler Richardson could
not be doubted, and had our hero but known of the proposal to send for
him, have but dreamed that ere noon of the following day the Dutchman
would be there in the stockade which surrounded Rembas, there is no
doubt that he would have watched eagerly for the smallest loophole for
escape, and would have snatched at it instantly, however desperate
the chance which it offered. However, perhaps it was as well that he
was ignorant of the facts, for his peace of mind was less disturbed
in consequence, and he was able to devote more attention to his
surroundings and to plans for getting away than would have been possible
had the dread of an interview with Hans Schlott been before him.

"Yes, he is an Englishman, and comes from Sarawak, I'll be bound," went
on the chief of the Rembas pirates, closely inspecting the unconscious
prisoner again. "He may have come here by accident, having been washed
in by the flood from the sea, or he may have come hither with the object
of spying upon us. The last is the most likely. But we shall soon
know, for the Dutchman will interrogate him, and if his tongue wags but
slowly in reply, we shall have a means to quicken it. But let us see to
the message. To you," and he took one of the by-standers by the arm,
"I give the post of honour. Take a boat and crew this instant, and row
for Paddi, bearing this from me: 'The lord of Rembas bids the lord of
Paddi greeting, and asks that he take passage in this boat, or in any
one of his own vessels, and come to Rembas at once, as we are in need of
his services. We have a prisoner, a young Englishman, who is tall and
lanky, and we desire to have him questioned, thinking that he has been
sent to spy upon us.' There, that should be sufficient. Go now, without
loss of time, and nightfall should see you at Paddi. An hour will do for
discussion, and after that you will set out to return. By noon to-morrow
you will be here with our guest, and we shall be able to look into this
matter. When that is done, and the night is fallen, we will have a
bonfire in the centre of the stockade, and there we will pass the time
pleasantly at the expense of the prisoner."

Once more he ran his eye over the apparently unconscious figure at his
feet. Then he turned away and went to see that his orders were carried
out without delay. As for the others, they, too, soon went to their
huts, and Tyler was left lying in the shadow alone.

"They suspect me," he said to himself, opening his eyes and looking
around. "I am not certain, but I think I overheard the word 'Englis',
which would make it appear that the chief recognized that I was not a
Chinaman. If that is so, he is likely to question me very closely, and
he will certainly not be inclined to show me any mercy on account of the
fact that I am one of those who are about to attack him. Well, I must
wait for night to fall, and then I shall make a dash for it. Ah, they
have forgotten to search me for arms!"

With a sudden flush of pleasure he realized that his revolvers still
occupied their place in his waist-cloth, and that he had a means of
defence. Then, as there was nothing more to be done, he looked about him
till he felt that he knew every corner of Rembas, and then fell into a
doze. When he awoke again, the woman who had previously come to his help
was standing beside him, and at once she lifted the gourd of water to
his lips.

"You are better, but still weak," she said. "Drink, and afterwards I
will give you food, for it is only in that way that you will become a
man again. There, lie still while I place the food in your mouth."

In her way she was kind to this forlorn prisoner, and seeing that he
still appeared to be so weak as to be unable to lift his hands, she fed
him with rice, which she conveyed to his lips by means of her fingers.
Then she gave him another drink of water, and having placed a roll of
matting beneath his head, and the gourd beside him, she left him for the
night.

"Sleep," she said, "and when to-morrow comes I will come to you again to
feed you. A fine rest to you!"

A moment later she was out of sight, and Tyler found himself alone
lying in the lengthening shadow of a hut which was situated in the very
centre of the town of Rembas. Other huts clustered about him, but they
seemed to be untenanted, and he soon made sure that they must contain
provisions and arms and ammunition. As for the inhabitants, numbers were
to be seen at work on the fortifications, busily making them more secure
against the expected attack, while others went about their ordinary
business. Every now and again someone would stroll past the spot where
the prisoner lay, perhaps to satisfy his curiosity; but on each occasion
Tyler was lying in precisely the same spot, his head propped upon the
roll of matting, and his limbs spread out in a manner which showed that
he was helpless. Apparently the pirates were satisfied that there was no
deceit, for when the sun went down, and the long shadow cast by the hut
suddenly became merged into the general darkness, they did not trouble
to move him, but left him there, feeling that he was secure.

"He can come to no harm, and the night air will serve to revive him,"
said the leader of the Rembas pirates as he passed to his hut. "These
pale-faces are not like us, and a very little takes their strength away.
But you will see that he will revive by the morning, for he has already
taken food. Leave him, and perhaps when the day comes he will be able to
sit up, or even to stand upon his feet with help. As for escape, it is
out of the question in his case."

Two hours later, when all sounds in the stockade had died down, Tyler
prepared to make an attempt to escape, and, as a preliminary, thrust his
hand into his waist-cloth and brought his revolvers out, one at a time.
Carefully running his hands over them, he made sure that they were ready
for use, though whether or not the powder had been spoilt by his short
immersion in the river he could not say. Then, having stared about him,
and listened eagerly for sounds of any pirate who might happen to be
abroad, he rose to his feet and began to steal away in the dense shadow
of the hut.

"I must keep out of the rays of the moon," he said to himself, glancing
at the sky, where a crescent of the orb was calmly floating. "The light
is quite sufficient to show me to an enemy, and, on the other hand, it
will enable me to detect one who may be approaching. I'll stick close to
the huts, and when I am bound to cross an open space will make a dash
for it. Here goes!"

With a revolver in either hand he stole along beside the wall of beaten
clay and bamboo, and soon came to the end of the hut. Then, having
paused for some moments, he flitted across the space which intervened
between it and a second, and once more was buried in deep darkness.

Ah! As he stood there, looking about him with eager eyes in case someone
should have seen him, a sound, the rustle of a garment, broke upon
his ear, and instantly he became riveted to the spot, his limbs held
rigidly, while he searched the shadows with his eyes. There it was
again, and as he looked he fancied he caught sight of a dusky figure
away on his right. Was it a Dyak sent to watch the prisoner, and who,
seeing that he was about to escape, was following with the intention of
springing upon him as his hopes were about to be realized? Yes, that
must be the solution of this mystery, and the fellow over there was
tracking him, following him like a cat.

At the thought a cold perspiration broke from Tyler's forehead, while
his heart thumped so fiercely against his ribs that he even dreaded lest
the sound was audible. Then, too, his head throbbed, partly with the
rough treatment which he had received when captured, and partly owing to
the excitement under which he laboured. He could scarcely think, could
hardly gather his wits, and stood there for some seconds scarcely daring
to breathe. Then the courage which had helped him thus far through the
many dangers which he had of late been called upon to face came to his
aid, his old spirit of determination returned to him, and in an instant,
it seemed, Tyler Richardson was himself again, peering into the darkness
with all his senses alert, and judging the situation with that calmness
which had astounded his friends on former occasions.

"Dyak or Malay," he whispered to himself, "it makes no difference to
me, for I have met both before, and have beaten them. I will not allow
this fellow to spoil my hopes, and will shoot him like a dog if he
interferes. But does he see me? I am in the shade, and it is possible
that he has lost sight of my figure. Ah, I will play a prank upon him!"

Suddenly perceiving that if the man, whoever he was, had been following,
he would have seen him dart across the space lit by the feeble rays of
the moon, and that, having watched the prisoner gain the shadow of the
hut, the pirate would expect him to creep along beside the latter and
emerge again at the farther end, Tyler decided to remain where he was
for a time, and so mislead the man.

"By not moving myself I may force him to disclose his own position," he
thought, "and then I shall be able to deal with him. And, besides, it
is not at all certain that he is actually following me. Perhaps he has
some other game to carry out, and cares nothing for the prisoner."

However improbable the last might be, Tyler did not mean to lose sight
of it, and, in accordance with his resolution, crouched in the shadow,
and remained perfectly still there, peering out into the comparative
light beyond in the hope that he would catch sight of the stranger.

There he was. The swish of a linen garment and the patter of a sandalled
foot broke the silence, and a tall figure was seen to glide along beside
a hut across the way and disappear round the corner. Strange! He was
moving away from Tyler, for now the hut stood between them. But not for
long; for ere many moments had passed the same sounds were heard again,
and the same ghostly object came into view, this time more easily seen,
for the reason that a few stray rays of the moon reached him. Why, he
had made a round of the dwelling, and, as if he had failed to find that
for which he was searching, was now flitting across to another near at
hand! Instantly Tyler turned to follow his movements, wondering what the
man could want. Then he suddenly swung right round, for the muzzle of
one of his weapons had tapped against the woodwork of the hut, and had
given rise to a sharp noise which had instantly brought the stranger to
a stop.

"He heard it, and if he did not know of my presence here before he
suspects it now," thought Tyler. "It was a piece of carelessness and bad
luck, and may cost me my life. Ah, he too is hiding in the shadow and
peering in this direction!"

For many minutes did the two silent figures watch each other, or,
rather, search the shadows in the vain endeavour to recognize who was
hidden there. And more than once did Tyler lift his arm and take aim at
his opponent, thinking that to risk a shot would be better, perhaps,
than to wait there in such uncertainty, and always with the fear in
his heart that another of the pirates might put in an appearance. But
however justified the deed, he could not reconcile himself to it. It
seemed so much like murder, like shooting a man from behind; and as the
thought came to him our hero lowered his weapon, while he puzzled his
brains as to how he should act.

As for the stranger, his patience seemed to swiftly come to an end, and
at length he commenced to creep from the shadow towards the spot where
Tyler was in hiding. A tall, lanky individual, in that half-light he
appeared almost like a giant as he stood for the space of a second to
his full height. Then, snatching at a weapon which was thrust in a band
of linen about his waist, he dropped on hands and knees and stealthily
crawled forward.

"He hopes to attack me in the shadow," thought Tyler, at his wits' end
how to act. "If I stay here he will crawl into the shadow higher up, and
will then come down beside the wall of the hut, where I shall be unable
to see him. That will not do, and as it is clear that I am discovered,
and that I shall have to fight for my life, I too will make for the
open. If he gives a shout I shall fire and then run for my life."

His mind made up to act in this manner, he threw himself on hands and
knees also, and at once crawled out into the open, one weapon thrust
into his girdle, and the other held in his right hand. And thus, like
two panthers awaiting the moment to spring upon one another, the two
ghostly figures advanced across the open. Rapidly did the distance
between them lessen, till at last only some fifteen feet separated the
combatants. Now was the time to act, and as each grasped the fact, they
sprang to their feet. Instantly Tyler's figure stiffened, his arm swung
up to the horizontal, and he covered his man with an aim which never
left the mark, and which never trembled in spite of his excitement. As
for his opponent, he seemed even taller and more forbidding than before,
and as he stood to his full height, and raised his naked weapon above
his head, the rays of the moon flashed upon him, increasing the ferocity
of his appearance. But Tyler was not to be frightened so easily, and
indeed scarcely seemed to have taken note of the features of the man.
As if to make more certain of his aim he squinted along the barrel of
his revolver and elevated the muzzle just a little till it lit upon some
object which glinted brightly upon the naked chest of the man. Then
his finger went to the trigger, there was a pause, and slowly the grip
tightened. A second and the haunt of the river pirates would have been
awakened by the report of a shot, when an exclamation of astonishment
burst from our hero.

"What!" he exclaimed in low tones. "Can it be possible, or am I
dreaming?"

As if some sight had dazed him, he passed his hand across his eyes, and
stared again at his opponent, keeping his revolver levelled at him all
the while. Then he advanced a step or two and peered at the stranger. As
for the latter, he, too, was acting in a manner strangely different from
that which one would have expected. As Tyler had levelled his weapon he
had started back a pace. Then he had suddenly leaned forward and stared
into the face of the man who stood before him. What were his thoughts
no one could say, but there he stood as if spell-bound, not uttering a
sound, staring at his silent opponent. A moment later, however, as Tyler
gave vent to the words, the figure opposite him had sprung forward, the
naked weapon had dropped to the ground, and two hands were groping for
his in the semi-darkness.

"Massa! Massa Tyler Richardson! You! de prisoner!"

"And that is Li Sung!" gasped Tyler. "I cannot believe it possible. I am
escaping. I thought you were a pirate about to stop me, and in less time
than I can think I should have shot you. Then the moon showed me that
the bright point at which I aimed was a small brass box in which you
carry snuff, and instantly I realized that it must be you. What are you
doing here? Speak! We have no time to lose!"

For a few seconds the faithful Li Sung could not respond to his master,
so utterly taken aback and staggered was he by the extraordinary ending
of what had appeared to be a serious danger. This his master! And the
latter had recognized his servant but just in time, had told him by
the snuff-box which dangled about his neck, and which, had he been away
in China, amongst his countrymen, would never have been there. Yes, it
was strange that a habit which he had learned from the Malays of Borneo
should save his life, and that the wearing of a box of metal about
his neck should enable his master to find him. His delight was beyond
everything. This stoical, placid Chinee was a different being, and for
the first time for many a year he was at a loss for words, while his
lips trembled and tears started to his slit-like eyes.

"Massa!" he managed to gasp at last. "Li he comee here to find you.
He watch de town of Rembas and sneak here when de light die down. Den
he creep close to de stockade, and he hear plenty fine words from de
sentry who talkee to one of de men. He learn dat you am velly weak, and
am wandering in de head. Den Li say dat dat not right. He must getee
you away from de place, and he kill de sentry Yes, him not wait to tink
velly much, but kill him wid de knife. Den him sneakee into de town,
and--"

"And happened to run up against the weak and helpless prisoner," burst
in Tyler in a whisper. "It is all plain now, and the rest can be left to
later on. Only this I know. You stood by me. You came here at the risk
of your life to save me. I shall not forget, and later on will thank
you."

"No needee to do dat, massa," was the Chinaman's reply. "Li not alivee
to come here if massa not savee him in de river. But time we left de
town. What am de orders?"

"That you lead the way to the river, and that we make for the mouth as
soon as possible."

Without further conversation they turned their faces to the stockade
which surrounded the town of Rembas. At the gate lay the figure of the
sentry who had been keeping watch, and whom Li Sung had killed, and over
his body each stepped in turn. The gate gave to a slight push, and ere
very long they were on the bank of the river which ran direct into the
Sarebus.

"De boat or a prahu? What does massa say?"

"The first till we are in the stream, and then the last," was the sharp
and unhesitating reply. "Lead the way."

Grasping the edge of the Chinaman's cloak, for it was dark beneath the
trees which fringed the bank, Tyler followed Li Sung without a doubt
of his ability to lead him. Then, arrived at the spot where the boat
was moored, each stepped into her, while a thrust from the Chinaman's
brawny leg sent her afloat. There, standing up cutting the silvery beams
with a line of black, was the mast of a small river prahu, and at once,
as if they had chosen it by common consent, the boat was rowed in that
direction. No need to hoist an anchor, for a rope of rattan alone held
the barque, and a swift flash of the knife severed it Then the two dusky
figures went to the ropes, and soon the prahu was standing down-stream
with bellying sail.

"De bore am gone and de tide am falling," said Li Sung, coming aft to
where Tyler stood at the helm. "Keep de ship to de centre of de river
and all am safe. Comee de morning and de sea am in sight."

"And perhaps the friends who are waiting for us. Get along forward, Li
Sung, and keep a bright look-out, for it would be hard if we were to run
on a bank after all that has happened."

Alone upon the wide sweep of water they sailed swiftly towards the mouth
of the river Sarebus, and, just as the sun rose, emerged into the sea.
Instantly a shout left their lips, and they turned to shake one another
by the hand; for anchored behind a tiny sandy promontory were two
vessels, one of European build, which was undoubtedly the _Dido_.



CHAPTER XIX

An Attack upon the Stockades


"Back again! We scarcely expected you, and a load of anxiety is lifted
from my mind," cried the captain of the _Dido_ in hearty tones as Tyler
swarmed to the deck of the war vessel, and, leaving Li Sung in the prahu
made fast to the gangway below, went striding to the poop. "Come, tell
me the news, for I am eager to hear it. Here we are, you see, at the
rendezvous appointed, and I may say that all are eager to be moving. Let
us get down into the cabin and have a chat."

Seizing the Chinaman, who had boarded the vessel, by the hand, Captain
Keppel wrung it with enthusiasm, and then, ere he led the way to his
cabin beneath the poop, took a step backwards, the better to be able
to survey the gallant young fellow who had so willingly undertaken
to ascend the Sarebus and gain tidings of the enemy. As for the crew
of the _Dido_, they were not slow to guess what was happening, and,
remembering the fact that two Chinamen had so recently taken possession
of a prahu, much to their mystification, and that the young fellow who
had so recently joined them had been absent ever since, they recognized
that this Chinaman who had just come aboard in his tattered and
travel-stained garments must be the same. For some moments they waited
watching the interview upon the poop. Then, as their commander was seen
to grasp the stranger by the hand, their excitement was roused to the
highest.

"Took 'im by the 'and!" shouted one lusty tar, lifting an enormous palm
to shade his eyes from the sun. "Then if that don't prove that that
feller ain't a Chinee after all, well--bust me!"

He paused for a moment to find an expression adequate for the occasion,
and then, changing his plug to the other cheek, looked round at his
comrades.

"It's the young orfficer what come aboard a few days gone back," he
whispered hoarsely. "Him what arrived at Sarawak with the fleet of
prahus and a crew of darkies. Strike me! but what's he been up to this
time?"

"Been sailing up the river Sarebus," shouted John Marshall, the
boatswain of the old schooner, who had taken up his quarters on the
_Dido_ for the time being, instantly recognizing Tyler as he stood there
on the upper deck. "He's been risking his life again. He's been after
them 'ere pirates and the Dutch bloke as I told yer about. Here, let's
give him a rouser. One, two, now all together!"

Thanks to the fact that John Marshall had a busy and a ready tongue,
the crew of the _Dido_, and indeed the greater part of the inhabitants
of Sarawak, had long ere this gained news of all the adventures which
had befallen Tyler on his way to join his ship, and now that something
more had happened, and they gathered the fact that this lad--for he
was little more than that--had dared to ascend the river and spy upon
the pirates themselves, their enthusiasm knew no bounds, and, leaping
forward at John's shout, they rent the air with their cheers, repeating
them till Captain Keppel advanced to the rail and lifted his hand to ask
for their silence.

"Nicely done, my lads!" he said, in tones of satisfaction. "He will
appreciate your cheers far more perhaps than the poor thanks which I can
give him. Let me tell you that this officer is a gallant one indeed, and
that although he is still practically a new-comer and a stranger to most
of you, yet that he has already earned distinction. For the splendid
manner in which he brought through the tribe of Dyaks he will deserve
commendation at the hands of his seniors, but now he has added something
more, and I shall strongly recommend him for reward. There, my lads,
I'm even more pleased than are you, and to celebrate the occasion, and
because we have some fun ahead, I'll give orders for a round of grog to
be served. Then you can drink success to our friend and to the coming
expedition."

Turning away from the men as they sent up another cheer, the commander
inspected Tyler closely, and then spoke again.

"You have had a rough time, that I can perceive at a glance," he said
with a start. "You are wounded, and there is a hunted look on your face.
Come below. A good meal and a glass of wine will do you no harm, and
then you can let me have your information."

Taking his junior by the arm he led him to the companion, and ushered
him into the cabin. Then he called for food and drink, and would not
hear a word from Tyler till the latter had had his wants satisfied. Then
the ship's surgeon was called in, and speedily dressed the wound.

"A clean cut, which would have done better had it been dressed at once,"
he said, as he looked at the arm critically. "But that, of course, is
not always possible. Yes, there has been severe hemorrhage, and by the
appearance of your cheeks you are still somewhat weak from loss of
blood. But that is a matter which can soon be set right. Shall I place
Mr. Richardson on the sick-list, sir."

For answer Captain Keppel smiled at our hero, and then turned to his
interrogator.

"Ask the lad himself," he said with a laugh. "He does not look to me
like the fellow who would willingly miss the fun which we have before
us."

"Well, what do you say? Shall it be the sick-list and a bunk in the
sick-bay, or a hammock and a good sleep in your own quarters?" demanded
the doctor.

"The last, please," answered Tyler without hesitation. "As to the wound,
it is really nothing, I assure you. The kriss went through the arm, and
almost dropped out by its own weight. It does not hurt at all, and all
that I have suffered has been from loss of blood. To that I owe the
fact that I am alive at this moment. But I am dog-tired and want a
sleep."

"Then you shall have it, my lad," cried the commander. "But first I must
get your news, for time is precious and we have much to do. Come, out
with it, and then off to your hammock."

Thus bidden, Tyler rapidly outlined the preparations which he had seen
in progress at Rembas, and told Captain Keppel that, having now seen
that stronghold in addition to Paddi, he was sure that the former would
offer a fiercer resistance. Then, urged by those who were listening,
he narrated how he and the Chinaman had held the rock, and had finally
taken flight; how he had been hauled into the enemy's boat; and how,
while making his escape from the stronghold of Rembas, a strange figure
had dogged his footsteps, and had almost joined in combat with him.

"I call it a wonderful piece of luck," exclaimed Lieutenant Horton, who
had also joined the party in time to hear the tale. "Anyone else would
probably have fired point-blank, and only discovered that the opponent
was a friend in reality when it was too late. How fortunate that you
caught sight of the tin about the neck of this Li Sung!"

For some little time those who had listened to the tidings which Tyler
had brought discussed the matter, commenting on the news and upon the
steps which he had taken to make good his escape. Indeed, so interested
did they become that their attention was withdrawn from our hero, and
when at last they turned to question him further, they discovered that
he was fast asleep, his head reclining upon his hands on the cabin
table, while his breathing was long and deep, showing how much he was in
need of rest.

"Done to a turn," said Captain Keppel in a whisper. "The lad has worked
like a Trojan, and has been at it almost since the time when he left
Sarawak. We know at any rate that he has not had a wink of sleep for two
nights, while he has been fighting most of the time. Catch hold of his
legs, Doctor, while I take his head and shoulders. We'll pop him into
his bunk without disturbing him."

In a trice they had Tyler between them, and in less than a minute he was
between the blankets, snoring heavily and utterly unconscious of his
surroundings. When his eyes opened again, and he looked about him in
bewilderment, it was to discover that sunlight was streaming down into
his quarters, and that his comrades were hastily donning their clothes.

"Halloo! Still day?" he asked, peering at the others and rubbing his
eyes. "What a sleep I've had!"

"Should say so, old chap," was the laughing answer. "At any rate you've
lain there like a log since you arrived here, and that was somewhere
before noon yesterday."

"Yesterday? Impossible!"

"Not a bit of it. You've slept for twenty hours on end, and if you're
not precious slippy you'll be too late to hear all about the expedition.
All hands are to muster at once while the skipper reads out the orders."

Tyler was out of his bunk like a shot, and rapidly scrambled into a suit
of clothes, tearing the old ones off in a moment. Then he hastily washed
his face and hands, and darted up on deck in the wake of his comrades.
Above, all were assembled, and listened eagerly as the captain read the
orders for the day. Then each man went to the magazine, there to be
served with arms, which all at once set to work to clean and put in the
best of order. That some big movement was afoot anyone could see, for
there was an air of half-suppressed excitement about the tars, and they
discussed in eager terms the chances of a hand-to-hand conflict with the
enemy.

Early on the following morning all was in readiness, and no sooner had
breakfast been finished and swept away than the shrill notes of a pipe
rang out, while the bugle of the marines awoke the echoes. Then a boat
came pulling alongside, bearing the Rajah of Sarawak.

"We propose to leave Rembas till the last," said Captain Keppel, as
Tyler stood before him and the rajah, having been called on to the poop
to speak with them. "We shall leave the _Dido_ here and pull up in open
boats, taking that tope over there with us. She is well supplied with
food and with ammunition, and must be well guarded. And now for the
force. Lieutenant Wilmot Horton will be in command, for it is one of
the perquisites of his rank to lead an expedition of this nature. But I
propose to go also, in my gig, and with me will be the rajah. You will
accompany us, Mr. Richardson, and, since you have now been face to face
with these pirates on two occasions, we shall expect you to take good
care of us.

"And now for the actual men to be taken," he went on, turning away from
Tyler with a smile as the latter flushed red at his remarks. "The force
of officers and men, sailors and marines, will be approximately eighty
in number. We shall take the pinnace, two cutters, my gig, and the
_Jolly Bachelor_, which the rajah has kindly placed at my disposal. She
is native built, and admirably suited to our needs, for she will take
thirty men with ease, besides a six-pounder. The pinnace will be armed
with a twelve. The tope will accompany the expedition with food and
ammunition, and strung on to our forces we shall have nearly a thousand
natives, Borneans, Malays, and Dyaks, but mostly the latter, and a
goodly few the same who accompanied Mr. Richardson from along the coast.
They may not be of much use in the attack, but I promise you that they
will be to the fore if flight is attempted by the enemy, for they do not
love them, and have suffered much at their hands."

"They have indeed," burst in the Rajah. "For a century and more their
children and wives have been enslaved, and the men killed, while their
fruit-trees and their plantations have been cut down and ruined. But you
will have to keep a close hand upon these natives, Keppel, for they do
not know what discipline means."

"I mean to," was the emphatic answer, "and for that purpose I am
placing one of my officers over them, with strict injunctions to watch
them. And now, if you are ready, Rajah, we will set out."

The ruler of Sarawak having assented, the bugles and whistles once more
set the echoes ringing, and very soon the boats of the expedition had
been marshalled. Drawing a rifle from the magazine, Tyler dropped into
the gig and awaited the coming of his commander. Half an hour later
all were in readiness, and having turned the bows of the boats in that
direction they were pulled into the river Sarebus. In spite of the
fact that a deluge of rain poured down upon their heads not one of the
attacking-party seemed to mind, or to have his high spirits damped. For
the weather was warm, and each one wore a kajan, a mat through which
the head was thrust, which effectually protected them from the wet.
Then, again, who could say what would happen? Perhaps heavy and fierce
fighting was in store for the force, for these pirates of the river had
had their quarters there, father and son, for more than a generation,
and would not be likely to yield them without a struggle. Then, again,
they would be ashore, behind stockades, and would have the advantage of
knowing every inch of the river, while the attackers would have to come
up in the open, exposed to every gun and rifle. But if the enemy counted
upon the fact that the British tars would be dismayed at the thought,
they were doomed to disappointment, for all that the latter did was to
joke and laugh, with an occasional grumble at the long pull which must
intervene between themselves and the enemy.

"Well, there's one thing about the business that I like," cried one of
them as he pulled at his oar. "A long pull's a long pull, and yer can't
alter it nohow, but yer can have it made easy like if the flood's with
yer. That's what we've got, and yer can feel the rush at every stroke.
With a stream like this well be there against to-morrow night."

"And then the guns'll be popping," burst in another.

"Bet yer a quid o' 'bacca I'm in their show afore you, Billie."

"Done with yer," was the answer, growled in the huskiest of voices.
"It's a fair bet, and our mates'll see who's the winner."

Laughing and chatting as they rowed, the hours swiftly passed away,
Tyler having much to occupy his attention. Indeed, every bend of the
river brought some recollection to his mind. It was there that they had
hidden their prahu, that low sandy bank was the spot where they had
landed in search of inhabitants, while, higher up, the land became even
more familiar.

"That is the rock which Li Sung and I defended," he ventured to remark,
when at last the expedition was close to the branch of the river upon
which Rembas was situated, "and by turning to the left now we should be
under their guns before we could believe it."

"Then we will keep straight on," was the reply. "But that was a capital
site for defence, Mr. Richardson. For two alone it was just the isolated
position which would offer a chance of success, and you were fortunate
to have it so close at hand when you were capsized. But that reminds me
of the bore. We will look out for a spot in which to pass the night."

When darkness fell the boats of the expedition lay snugly under the
banks, while the men lay in them, smoking and waiting for the meal. Then
fires were lighted and kettles set to boil, while certain of the men
were told off to act as sentries. And thus, pulling cautiously by day,
and tying up to the banks at night, the winding course of the river was
slowly followed and Paddi approached. At length the latter was close at
hand, and one fine morning, after the bore had gone sweeping past on
its course, with its usual accompaniment of brushwood and drift from
the banks of the stream, the expedition loaded weapons, and, pulling
up their moorings, took the flood which went racing on to Paddi. Had
they wished to go slow to their destination it would have been almost
impossible, so strong and rapid was the stream in these upper reaches.
But the pace suited the spirit of every man, and particularly of those
who occupied the gig. At the helm, sitting in his shirt sleeves, was the
Rajah of Sarawak, as calm as if before his own home at Sarawak, while
close at hand were Captain Keppel and Tyler. Forward of them were the
crew, a set of lusty fellows, whose hands itched to toss their oars
aside and snatch at the cutlass which each carried in his belt. Hark! A
murmur in front, a bend in the river, and nothing but trees and jungle
to be seen. Was it the enemy? The commander turned his face towards his
companion questioningly, and in reply Tyler nodded.

"We are close on them," he said in calm tones. "I remember that there
is a hill on the left, some little distance from the main stockade, and
that it has a fort on top. That is where the noise comes from."

"And here we are in sight," exclaimed the Rajah. "Now we can prepare for
a peppering with slugs. But we are a bad mark to aim at, for the stream
is sweeping us on at a pace. Keep a sharp look-out, for it is about here
that we shall run upon a boom, and it would be bad for us if we became
entangled. They will have the range to a nicety, you may be sure, and
they would blow us out of the water."

The warning was given in the calmest of tones, for the Rajah was no
alarmist, but a man of great courage and a tried soldier. Gripping his
helm he steered the gig up the very centre of the stream, and as he
reached the bend ahead shot her over to the farther side.

"There may be skulkers lying on the edge of the bank," he remarked, "and
they would have us within easy range. Ah, listen to that!"

So swift was the current that the banks seemed to leap past them,
and long before those aboard had time to consider what was about to
happen, or realize the fact that they were practically alone, a wide
interval separating them from the other boats and the main part of the
expedition, the gig had swung round the bend and was in full sight of
the enemy. A thousand of them, or thereabouts, lined the hill, and set
up a yell of defiance which caused even the boldest of the attackers
to change colour. Rushing hither and thither, and filling the air with
their cries, the pirates watched the gig advance, while some of their
comrades, as if to add to the note of defiance already sent up, danced a
mad war-fling on the roof of the fort erected on the summit of the hill.

"Number one," said the captain coolly, emptying one of the barrels of
his gun at the multitude. "But those are not the fellows we have to deal
with just now. We are for the main stockade."

"And there it is, sir," shouted Tyler, as he came into view of the
bamboo palisading which surrounded Paddi. "There is the main fort, sir,
and in front of it is the boom. It is a different one from that which
was here some days ago, and I think that it has been constructed more
strongly."

"It is composed of trees driven into the bed of the river," said the
rajah, taking a hurried look. "Others are laid across the top and lashed
there with rattans. We must cut them adrift."

"Wait, there is an opening," called out Captain Keppel, standing up
in the gig and pointing ahead. "Yes, I am sure of it, but it is very
narrow. Send her at it, Rajah. Put her nose full tilt at the opening and
squeeze her through."

In their excitement not one of the crew of the gig recollected the fact
that they were still practically alone, and that to pierce the boom
and enter on the farther side would expose them to the attack of every
one of the enemy. Swept on by the river, which matched well with their
eagerness, they turned the head of the gig for the narrow opening in the
boom, and went at it with a will. Bump! It was hardly wide enough, and
the timbers grated against the trees. But nothing could stop her, and
in an instant she was through the narrow neck and shooting on towards
the stockade beyond, and the shelving hill, on the foot of which John
Marshall and his party of natives had remained while Tyler entered in
search of the prisoners.

"'Bout ship!" called out the captain. "Nicely does it, my lads. Now,
keep her there while I give 'em a barrel or two. Mr. Richardson, you had
better join me."

Obeying the order without hesitation, the gig was turned swiftly, and by
means of the paddles was prevented from drifting down upon the stockade,
where she and her crew would undoubtedly have fallen victims to the
pirates, for they would have been overwhelmed. Then, with a steadiness
which did them credit, the commander, Tyler, and the coxswain raised
their weapons to their shoulders and opened a fusillade.

Crash! Bang! A roar and a couple of thunderous reports; then a spurt of
flame and smoke from the embrasures along the face of the fort.

"Aimed for the boom, and easily missed us," said the Rajah with a smile,
as the discharge swept over the gig and churned the water about the boom
into foam. "But a few of the bullets are dropping about us, so we'll
move aside. Steady there, starboard! Strongly does it with the port.
There she is, and soon our comrades will be here."

By now a warm musketry fire had commenced upon the gig, and the bullets
were splashing on every side. But not a man flinched from his task.
Indeed the tars who manned the oars scorned even to turn their heads,
for they were steady old salts, and had been in many a scuffle. Instead,
they kept their eyes on their companions, and watched as the remaining
boats came down upon the boom. Swept by the current the pinnace struck
it broadside on, and was held there for a moment, receiving several
bullets amongst her crew, three of whom were wounded. But others soon
came to her assistance, and with the help of the natives the rattans
were cut through and the boom dragged aside. Then the twelve-pounder
answered the boom of the brass cannon set up in the stockade, and a
burst of grape went shrieking and hurtling through the town of Paddi.

Meanwhile the gig had slowly and insensibly approached the bank below
the stockade, and, thinking to take her easily, the pirates dashed down
to the water's edge, where they rushed to and fro, almost delirious
with excitement, while they discharged their guns at the crew. Suddenly
a figure pushed to their front, and Tyler, who had kept a watchful eye
upon them, instantly recognized the Dutchman. So short was the distance
which separated them that each recognized the other, and at once a
weapon flew to the Dutchman's shoulder and he fired, the bullet striking
the gunwale of the boat close beside Tyler. A moment later Captain
Keppel pressed his trigger, a Malay beside the Dutchman falling full
length to the ground.

"A bad shot!" he cried in disgust. "Give me your rifle, and I will see
whether I cannot bag the fellow for you, for I recognize him as the
notorious Hans Schlott."

Reaching for Tyler's weapon, he swung it to his shoulder and would have
fired had not the Dutchman leapt aside and darted amongst his men.
Indeed the knowledge that Tyler was there amongst the attackers seemed
suddenly to have caused him to lose his nerve, for as they stared,
hoping to catch a good view of him, they saw his figure pushing through
the throng of frantic natives, and presently he was at the entrance to
the stockade.

"Halt!" shouted Tyler, standing in his excitement and at once becoming
the target for a hundred rifles. "Hans Schlott, I call upon you to stop
and hand yourself over to justice! Move a step forward and I will shoot
you like a dog!"

As he spoke he stretched out his hand and took his rifle from Captain
Keppel. Then, raising it to his shoulder, he covered the Dutchman and
waited for his answer. Had he been an older man, and one more full of
wariness, no doubt he would have fired then and there and ended the
matter. But Tyler hesitated, and the moment gave Hans Schlott his
liberty. At the sound of Tyler's voice he stopped abruptly and swung
round, displaying features which were livid with terror. His lips moved
as if he were repeating the order and the warning. Then, as the thought
of flight occurred to him, he suddenly threw himself upon the ground,
and, diving forward, was behind the bamboo barricade before the shot
could reach him. Then, with terror written upon his face and the fear
of death in his heart, he leapt to his feet and went scampering away
through the town and out into the jungle. As for Tyler, seeing that he
had missed his mark, he rapidly reloaded, determined to capture his man
when the stockade was taken.

"Ah! here are some of the boats, so we will pull for the bank," shouted
Captain Keppel a moment later. "Give way, my lads, and do not let it be
said that we were the last to set foot in the enemy's fort."

With a cheer the crew of the gig bent to their oars, and, helped by the
tide, soon brought the boat up to the bank. A second earlier one of the
cutters had reached the same part, and instantly her commander, a Mr.
D'Aeth, led a charge up the slope against the bamboo stockade. Leaping
into the water, Tyler was only a few paces behind him, and, accompanied
by a collection of sailors and marines, dashed at the stockade. Behind
them, racing for the same goal as soon as their boats deposited them
upon the bank, came more of the men of the _Dido_, and amongst them
Dyaks and natives of Borneo. Here and there shots rang out in the air,
and shrill cries resounded. Then a sheet of flame suddenly licked round
the central hut, and almost before it could have been thought possible
Paddi was burning to the ground, while the host of warriors who had
manned the stockade, and who in their time had wrought such misery, were
fleeing for their lives, with a score and more of hungry Dyaks at their
heels, who longed for this opportunity of revenge, and for the heads
which victory might bring.

"And now for the other fellows, and then we will follow up the river,"
said Captain Keppel. "You will naturally want to go in pursuit, Mr.
Richardson, and therefore you will at once report to Mr. Horton. Ask him
to take you in his own boat, and tell him, with my compliments, that
he is to do all that is possible to capture the rogue who led these
pirates. Now, to the gig, my lads, and let us clear the neighbourhood!"

Filled with exultation at the success which had attended their efforts,
and at the thought that they had suffered little loss, the sailors and
marines soon sent the remainder of the enemy flying, and then prepared
to follow them with a readiness which showed that their hearts were
in the matter. Dividing into two parties, one at once set to work to
dismantle the forts and toss the guns into the river, while the other
boarded the pinnace, and with the Rajah for company, and Lieutenant
Horton in command, ascended the tributary which entered the river
Sarebus on the right of the spit of land upon which Paddi had been
built. A short pull, however, disclosed the fact that it was too shallow
for navigation, even with boats drawing so little water. The expedition
returned, therefore, and, having rested and eaten, pulled for the
tributary on the left, the very one along which Tyler and his natives
had approached the piratical stronghold.

"They will wait for us higher up, and will make a stand there," said
the Rajah. "If we can come up with them during the day we shall be able
to scatter them, for they are thoroughly upset at our success, and only
want a little more to persuade them that they are beaten. Then they will
come in and ask for terms. But you will have to be careful, Mr. Horton,
for the river is very narrow, and you may be certain that hundreds
of eyes are watching us from the jungle. We must never give them an
opportunity of rushing us."

Carefully keeping his pinnace in the centre of the stream, the
lieutenant placed himself between the Rajah and Tyler, for he knew that
both had had experience of the pirates, and was anxious to be in reach
of advice. Then, with the tars pulling with all their might, and the
marines with loaded weapons in readiness for instant action, he steered
his craft so as to avoid all obstacles. Presently there was the sound
of gongs from the jungle, and ere long hundreds of the enemy were to be
seen.

"They are in force," said the Rajah, "that is evident, and I fancy that
we shall have some difficulty in ferreting them out. Listen to the
fellows! Why, they make even more noise than before."

That the natives were aroused was very evident, for as the pinnace came
within sight of the thick jungle which they had selected for defence,
the crash of gongs and war-drums became deafening, while shrill cries of
anger and defiance filled the air.

"Just let them see that we can make a noise too," sang out the
lieutenant cheerily. "Steady there, my lads! Hang on your oars while we
get the gun ranged! You can fire when you are ready, gunner."

"Ay, ay, sir. Grape, or shall I give the varmint a ball?"

"The first, please, and send it well amongst them."

"You can trust me for that, sir. I've waited for this here day for a
year back, and bust me--"

The remainder of his conversation became inaudible as he turned to
the twelve-pounder and began to adjust the sights; but that he was in
earnest was clear, for he paid particular attention to the levelling of
the weapon, taking so much time that those who were looking on could
almost have struck him, so greatly was their patience tried. But now all
was in readiness, and with a glance at his commander the gunner of the
pinnace sent the contents of his weapon splattering into the forest.
At once a deafening babel of shouts and shrieks arose, while a hail of
slugs, leaden pellets, and pieces of iron and stone came swishing in the
direction of the pinnace.

"Marines to watch and pick off their men. Pull, my lads, and let us give
them the cold steel," sang out the lieutenant, standing in his place to
watch the enemy. "Now, all together, send her ahead."

There was no confusion on the pinnace, thanks to the fact that all had
been previously arranged, and to the discipline which existed. In a
moment the bows were pointing for the bank, and hardly had the keel
grated, and the twelve-pounder again spoken out, than more than half of
those aboard sprang ashore. Seizing cutlasses, they waited only to allow
their officers to take post in advance, when they went pell-mell for the
enemy.

"Keep together, lads, and be sure that you do not separate from your
comrades," shouted the lieutenant, for the jungle was extremely dense,
and to have rushed into its midst without any caution would certainly
have led to death. But the men who composed the expedition were hardened
to warfare and were perfectly steady. By no means lacking the necessary
dash, they, for all that, held themselves together, and, without losing
their heads in the excitement of the moment, obeyed their officers to
the full. Bearing to the left, where a number of the enemy were located,
the gallant little band threw itself upon them, cutlasses and revolvers
meeting kriss and knife, while overhead flew spears thrown by the Dyaks.

"Charge!" shrieked Lieutenant Horton as they came to close quarters.
"Beat them back and then prepare to retreat."

Without glancing back at his men, for he knew well enough that he would
not be allowed to attack alone, he rushed at the nearest pirate, and,
fending a swishing blow aimed at him with a kriss, cut the man down
with his sword. The Rajah was beside him, and he too was confronted by
a formidable pirate. But there was no standing against him, for this
Rajah was the Englishman whose name was known and feared far and wide,
and who had shown that he was as good in the fight as he was in ordering
the affairs of the people of Sarawak. An arm shot from his shoulder,
and the fist lit full upon the face of the nearest pirate, while a shot
from his revolver sent a second sprawling to the ground. A third at once
took to his heels, an example which his comrades instantly followed.
As for Tyler, a busy three minutes was before him. Running beside the
Rajah and the lieutenant, he had at once become engaged with the enemy,
and had shot down a man with his weapon. Then in the background he
once again caught sight of the familiar, bulky figure of the Dutchman,
and, instantly forgetting the caution which had been given, he rushed
forward, hoping to capture him.

"The murderer!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "After him!"

Forgetful of the danger he would incur, and of the fact that he was
disobeying an order, he plunged forward and snatched at the collar of
Hanns Schlott, while he held a revolver to his ear. A second later he
was hurled aside by a Dyak who happened to be close beside his rascally
leader, and hardly had he reached the earth than his opponent was
standing over him, about to bury a murderous-looking kriss in his body.

"Fire!" shouted a voice some few yards away, and instantly, as if the
order had been meant for him, Tyler pressed a trigger and brought his
opponent stumbling upon his face.

"And now for Hanns Schlott," he called out, springing to his feet and
looking about him. "Where is he? Surely he has not escaped."

"He has, sure enough," was the reply, in the well-known voice of John
Marshall. "This kind of thing is too much for a chap like him. But we'd
better be going, sir, for our chaps are retiring, and we ought never to
have come so far."

That the advice was good was certain, and turning at once the two ran
back to the main party, a shower of spears and a few bullets following
them. Then the order was given to make for the pinnace, and very shortly
all were aboard, staring into the jungle, while the twelve-pounder broke
the silence with its boom.

"Looks as though we were surrounded," said the Rajah, turning his head.
"Shots are coming from the jungle on either side, and from ahead also.
Then I can see numbers of the enemy behind."

"Then we had better see how we are to get out of the muddle," replied
the lieutenant coolly. "Ah, there's the spot, for us! Over with the
tiller there, and head her for that little bay."

He pointed to a portion of the bank where there was a bend, and where
in the course of many years the earth had been washed away till quite
a little bay had been formed, with a perpendicular bank. And into this
the pinnace and the few native boats which also formed part of the
expedition were rowed.

"Marines to remain in the pinnace and keep up a musketry fire," cried
the lieutenant in the calmest tones. "Men of the _Dido_ to climb the
bank and take up position there."

In a moment the tars were over the side, wading through the shallow
water, and ere long had scrambled to the level of the jungle.

"A few minutes with their cutlasses would be a good thing, I think," the
Rajah ventured to suggest. "I know these pirates well, and if you leave
them cover through which to crawl they will be a constant danger and
annoyance."

"Quite so, and many thanks, Rajah! I had not thought of that. Now,
lads," continued the lieutenant, "all lie down and get your muskets
ready. Mr. Richardson, take a party of twelve forward, and cut down the
reeds and grass within thirty yards."

It seemed quite natural to Tyler to touch his cap and answer "Ay,
ay, sir," and then, picking his men haphazard, he went to carry out
the order. When that was done, the marines and sailors lay down flat
upon the ground, firing now and again, but only when a figure showed
itself. And round about them every tree hid an enemy, while the jungle
was alive with the voices of the pirates, and the incessant jangle of
gongs and the beat of war-drums. Spears flashed in the sunlight, cast
by hands which could not be seen, while a shower of darts and arrows
hissed through the air and struck the ground within a few inches of the
defenders. And, drowning every other sound, the twelve-pounder every now
and again spoke out, as it sent a charge of grape amidst the pirates.

When darkness came it found Tyler and his friends in sorry plight,
surrounded by enemies, and deafened by the clamour which came from every
quarter of the jungle.



CHAPTER XX

The End of the Chase


"Ahoy there! Horton, ahoy! Where are you, Rajah?" Strangely weird and
uncanny did the sounds appear as they left the lips of Captain Keppel
and floated across the rushing stream away into the jungle. "Ahoy! Ahoy!"

Three times in succession did the gallant commander give tongue to the
words as he sat in his gig with his gun across his knees. Then, hearing
the beat of gongs and of drums, and the shouts of the combatants, and
detecting no voice which he could recognize as coming from his junior
or from the Rajah of Sarawak, he lifted his weapon and fired it in the
direction from which the loudest sounds came.

"Ahoy!" back came the answering shout, but almost drowned by the noise
of shallow water rushing over a pebbly bottom. "Ahoy there! Don't fire
or you will hit one of us. We are dead ahead of you."

"Then we will join you," called out the captain, and at once his gig, in
which he had set out to relieve or help the forward party immediately
prolonged firing had been heard, was rowed towards the bay in which the
native craft lay, and just outside which the pinnace was moored, so as
to allow her to make use of her gun.

Weird indeed, and hazardous in the extreme, was the position in which
the British lay, and as he reclined upon the grass, with the Rajah on
one side of him and John Marshall on the other, Tyler had to confess
that never before had he been in a worse predicament.

"We were in a tight place when upon the schooner," he whispered to
his companion, the boatswain, "and that rock, where Li Sung and I were
caught and surrounded was a ticklish position, but here there is no
knowing where the enemy are. They are everywhere, and bullets and spears
come from every direction. Halloo! There's a shot, and that is Captain
Keppel's voice or I am much mistaken."

A few seconds later the crew of the gig joined hands with Lieutenant
Horton's party, and a council of war was held, the Rajah joining in,
together with Tyler.

"Come," said Captain Keppel in pleasant tones, "we of the navy do not
pretend to know everything, and there is no doubt that in a case like
this, when the lives of all our men are at stake, the best advice should
be taken. You have had experience with these people, Rajah, and so have
you, young Richardson. What shall we do? For my part I fancy that it
will take us all our time to keep the enemy from rushing in upon us."

"I cannot see that we can do otherwise than remain here and do our
best," was the emphatic answer, "for if we attempt to retire we may very
well get into greater difficulties, and besides, it is a bad thing to
give way before these fellows."

"Not to be thought of," burst in the captain with energy. "Either we
remain, or we go forward."

"Why not scatter the men a little, keeping them sufficiently close to
allow them to regain the centre with ease, and yet so far apart as to
extend their radius of fire?" asked Tyler as the commander of the _Dido_
turned to him. "Then if the men were instructed only to discharge their
muskets when they actually saw one of the enemy, the latter might think
that we were retiring, and might be induced to show up a little more. In
that case we should give them a lesson."

"Capital! The lad has a head for these situations," exclaimed Captain
Keppel. "We will do as he suggests and see what happens. As we have
heard very truly, we are running the danger here of being rushed and of
being slowly picked off, while the enemy are never seen. Let us entice
them forward and then give them a few volleys. Come, I will take post on
the left, and, Mr. Richardson, oblige me by going to the right. Rajah,
will you come with me? while our lieutenant takes the post of honour in
the centre."

The matter was arranged without further delay, and very shortly the
movement had been carried out in absolute silence. With John Marshall
beside him, Tyler crept into the jungle on the right, and, holding close
to the bank of the river, pushed on till the voices of some of the enemy
were close at hand.

Then, selecting a wooded part, before which the ground was more than
usually open, he lay at full length and waited for some of the pirates
to appear.

"Uncanny work," he whispered in his companion's ear. "I would far rather
feel that the others were close at hand; but I suggested the movement
and must carry my part of it through. Keep a bright look-out, and on no
account fire unless I give the order."

Spread like a fan round the edge of the little bay, the sailors and
marines took up their positions in couples, for even the boldest of
men are apt to take fright when sent out into an unknown part in the
darkness, and with enemies close at hand. Then silence came over the
British force, and even the twelve-pounder, which had at intervals
deafened all those within reach, and drowned the babel of the enemy,
ceased its clamour. In silence, with locks at full cock and pieces at
their shoulders, the men of the expedition waited; and as they lay there
the deep and sonorous tones of hundreds of gongs came to an end also,
and the war-drums remained unbeaten. Even the shouts and the babel of
voices died down, and presently the jungle was at peace.

"One would imagine that we were alone," whispered Tyler. "But you may be
sure that every tree hides some dark figure, and that away behind, out
of hearing of ourselves, those who are leading the enemy are talking the
matter over. Look over there. There are lights, and there is the sound
of an axe."

He pointed to the right, up-stream, some fifty yards away, and both saw
three dark figures standing close beside the water, holding torches
above their heads. With them were some twenty others, who were attacking
the trunks of the trees which grew on the edge of the bank, evidently
with the object of causing them to fall across the stream.

"They want to keep us from going farther, which makes it look as though
they had taken their women and children and their wealth to some spot up
this tributary," said Tyler in low tones. "It will take them a little
time to get through those trunks, so that we can leave them to it for
the present. But later on we shall have to fire at them and drive them
away. I wonder whether they will do the same down-stream, and so bar our
retreat should we have cause to fly?"

The question was one which could not fail to cause him anxiety, for
then the safety of all in the expedition would be jeopardized. But he
had little time to think about it, for scarcely had his attention again
returned to the jungle in front of him when some dozen dusky figures
appeared, creeping across the open space which separated them from the
bank. Instantly the muskets covered them, fingers went to the triggers,
while heads sank down to the right till the eye could glance along the
sights. But so deep was the gloom that that was impossible; so that
those who were defending the position could only point their weapons
where they thought the enemy were, in the hope of hitting them.

"Fire!" In stentorian tones the command came from the captain of the
_Dido_, and at once a volley burst from the waiting men, causing the
enemy to come to a halt, and then take to their heels with shrill cries
of terror. Then once more the shouting and the incessant beat of gongs
was heard, while the jungle became alive with moving figures, who fired
at their foes and sent spears and arrows swishing in their direction.

"Now for the others," said Tyler, noticing that those who were engaged
in cutting the trees were still at their work. "Ready? Then let them
have a bullet."

Both fired together, while, ere the report of their rifles had died
down, the boom of the twelve-pounder was heard, and a mass of grape went
crashing in amongst the trees.

"That will be their last effort," said Tyler. "They must have lost
heavily during the night, and seeing that we are not intending to retire
they will begin to feel hopeless. To-morrow, when we start to ascend the
river, they will feel that their cause is ruined."

And this proved to be the case. Lying or squatting upon the edge of the
bank, the British force spent the long hours of darkness in keeping
watch and in firing occasionally into the trees. Morning found them worn
out with their exertions, and some of them actually asleep in spite of
the danger. But a call from their leader soon brought them to their
feet, and at once they prepared to embark.

"Get aboard, and smartly, my lads," he called out in cheery tones. "We
have shown those fellows that we are not to be easily driven off, and
now that the morning has come we will let them see that we have plenty
of life left in us. Aboard, all of you, and let us hurry, for I am
hungry, and until the matter is ended we shall be unable to breakfast."

The words brought a cheer and a shout of merriment from the sailors
and marines, and all at once leapt to obey him. Soon the pinnace was
manned, and with the gunner at his piece, and the marines with weapons
ready, began to push up the river, followed by the gig in which sat
Captain Keppel. Hardly had they rowed fifty yards when a man appeared
with a white flag, and very soon the Rajah of Sarawak was engaged in
conversation with him.

"Their women and children and all their possessions are up the stream,"
he said, when he had questioned the Malay, "and so they wish to lay down
their arms on any terms, but with the hope that we will spare those who
are helpless."

"Where is their leader?" asked the commander of the _Dido_. "They must
hand him over to me immediately, for he is a murderer, and I have more
interest in capturing the fellow than in taking hundreds of these
natives."

"They say that that is impossible," was the Rajah's answer, when he had
again spoken with the Malay who bore the white flag. "Hanns Schlott, the
murderer, bolted early in the night, and has not been seen since."

"Then they must provide trackers and a force to go in search," said
Captain Keppel without hesitation. "Mr. Richardson, you will take half a
dozen men and go in command, for I will not deprive you of a task which
belongs to you by rights. Get your breakfast at once, and set out as
soon as you can. Now, Rajah, we will discuss this matter in full, and
then I fancy that you, like myself, will be glad of something to eat."

At a shout from the Malay several of the head men amongst the pirates
came forward, and entered into conversation with the great white man of
whom all had heard. Thanks to the fact that the Rajah spoke the language
like a native of Borneo the negotiations were soon completed, and in
less than half an hour it had been arranged that a final meeting should
take place in the afternoon, when the terms to be granted should be
published. When that hour arrived, the chiefs came forward once more,
looking dejected and down at heart, and sat down in a circle about the
Rajah. Great was their surprise and delight when they were told that
only hostages would be required for their good behaviour, and that they
were to abstain from piracy, or their country would be again invaded.
Beyond that there was no punishment, but they were urgently advised to
take to trade and live at peace with their neighbours.

As for Tyler, he was delighted with the permission given him, and with
the thought that the capture of the murderer was to be left to him
entirely. Hastily gulping down a breakfast, he took his place at the
head of the six men whom he had selected, and at once called for the
natives who were to lead the party. Then he plunged into the jungle in
their wake, for all the world as if these guides were the Dyaks whom
he had met farther along the coast, and they were making their way to
Sarawak.

"Dutchman here," said one of the trackers suddenly, coming to a halt and
pointing eagerly at the ground. "Here," he said, making use of the small
stock of English which he possessed. "Follow, and we catch."

Like hounds let loose upon the trail the party of Malays and Dyaks who
were leading plunged through the jungle, taxing the strength of Tyler
and his men to the full. For an hour they kept on without a halt, and
just as Tyler was about to call to them and beg of them to stop for a
time, their leader threw his arms into the air, and spread them out, as
a signal to all that he had made a discovery.

"Come along here," he said, pointing with his finger to the trail left
by the Dutchman as he fled. "Him big and heavy, and him sit there. See?"

Tyler glanced at the spot, and at once grasped the fact that Hanns
Schlott had rested himself upon the root of a tree. But he could not
tell that which was clear to the native.

"Him have gun," said the latter positively. "Him sit and point into
tree. Then him let gun drop beside him. There are the marks."

As if he had actually witnessed the act, the man pointed to some
scratches upon the bark where the lock of the gun must have struck. Then
he led Tyler a few paces ahead, drawing his attention to the trail as he
did so.

"Him silly," he said with a disdainful smile for the memory of his old
leader. "Ever since he take the boat from the Englishman and kill the
owner, him so silly. Him frightened at him own shadow. See here. He
start and turn round at every step. Him stop and raise the rifle. Him
fire. Look!"

The eagle glance of this pirate allowed nothing to escape him, and as he
spoke he drew Tyler's attention to various spots. Before them ran the
trail, still freshly shown by the trampled grass and reed. And as the
tracker had said, it came to a stop here and there, while a small patch
was more trodden than the other. Here it was that Hanns Schlott, the
cowardly Dutchman, and the villain who had murdered Mr. Beverley, had
halted to stare about him. His conscience perhaps disturbed him. Or he
imagined that he heard a sound, or saw a figure. Fear of capture and of
death unnerved him, and, giving credence to his imagination, he peered
amidst the jungle, and then fired his piece at some shadow. Yes, that
was what had happened, for Tyler could see with his own eyes the huge
patch where the shot had struck a tree close at hand and ripped the bark
from it.

"We shall have to be careful," he said, "or this fellow will be shooting
us as we come up with him. He is a desperate man, and will stop at
nothing."

"Looks as if he was daft," burst in John Marshall. "Seems to me as if
the trouble had turned his head. But the fellow's beckoning, sir. He
wants us to go ahead."

"He not far away. Soon find the Dutchman," said the Malay, dragging his
kriss from his pocket. "Shall he be killed, or taken a prisoner?"

"The last," was Tyler's answer, "for he has a crime to answer for. Come,
push ahead and let us capture him."

Once more the party of natives and Englishmen took up the trail, and
a mile farther on were rewarded by the sound of a rifle-shot which
suddenly rang out in the jungle. Instantly they redoubled their pace,
and did not halt till the leading Malay again threw his arms into the
air and motioned to them to do so. A moment or two later their eyes
fell upon the figure of Hanns Schlott. But what a change! Once a burly
individual, with enormous, unwieldy limbs and rounded cheeks, he was
now a haggard man. True, the time had been too short to allow of much
change in his weight or in his general appearance; but it was the
Dutchman's face and eyes which attracted attention, while the droop of
his head, the stoop of his broad shoulders, added to the change which
could be observed. No longer was he the leader of a band of pirates
whose ill fame had spread far and wide, and who committed any sort of
atrocity with impunity. He was a criminal escaping from the law, and
every shadow, each tree and bush, contained one of the pursuers. That
young Englishman who had been aboard the schooner when the murder of
Mr. Beverley was carried out was forever in his memory, and each object
which his imagination conjured into human shape was Tyler's figure. Our
hero's name was forever on his lips, and each shot from his smoking
rifle was meant to pierce his body.

"That killed him! I saw the bullet strike on his body and perforate,"
the Dutchman was shouting as Tyler and his friends came up with the
fugitive.

"Ha, ha, ha! At last I have paid off the score. He said he would follow
me and hang me, and instead I drove him ashore. Then he went to Paddi
and robbed us of our prahus. For that my shot has paid. And now to give
him what is due, to return in full the trouble which he has caused me.
I will go within an inch of him, and will place the muzzle against his
ear. Then I shall be free."

As he spoke Hanns Schlott glared at one portion of the jungle, with eyes
which seemed to protrude from their sockets and to be capable of seeing
nothing else. Then he grasped his rifle with feverish hands, and in
spite of the fact that it was still hot rammed a charge in. Then another
thought came to his tortured mind, and he clutched his head in despair.

"Beaten!" he shouted in high-pitched tones. "Even then I am not sure of
my life, for there is another. The beggarly sailor, John Marshall they
called him, knew of the deed. He saw it, and swore, too, that he would
follow me to the end of the world. Of what use to struggle further?"

He paused in the process of ramming down a charge, and attempted to
consider the question. But his wits had gone astray, and, unable to
grasp the matter, his mind again turned to Tyler.

"What!" he screamed, suddenly facing about, and pointing at another part
of the jungle. "He is still alive and laughs at me. Ha!"

His face was like a demon's as, gun in hand, he crept stealthily towards
the spot in which he fancied his victim was hidden. The lips twitched
and were withdrawn from the teeth. The pallid cheeks hung loosely and
quivered, while the eyes blazed with the intensity of the madness which
filled him. Falling upon his hands and knees, he crawled softly across
the leaves and twigs as if anxious not to disturb his enemy. Then once
more the rifle came to his shoulder. There was a pause ere the trigger
was pressed, and then another report startled the jungle. Ere the echoes
had died down the madman had sprung forward and hurled himself upon a
twisted tree which he had imagined to be his victim.

It was a terrible sight to look upon, and filled Tyler and his little
party with horror; for never before had it been their lot to watch
the ravings of a madman bereft of his senses through fear of the
consequences of his crime. It was horrible to watch, and our hero at
once decided to put a stop to it.

"His weapon is empty now," he whispered to his men, "and therefore we
will capture him. Separate at once and get into position. When you are
ready I will give the word, and we will make a rush. Quick! for I see
that he is sitting down and getting ready to ram down another charge."

Realizing the importance of haste in the matter, the tars rapidly
scattered, and ere long had formed a cordon about the madman. Then, at
a shout from Tyler they threw themselves upon him and made him their
prisoner. His weapon was taken from him and his arms bound, for he was
frantic with rage. Then the murderer, who had already suffered much for
his crime, was led back through the forest, and in the course of time
found his way to Singapore. But no gallows waited for him, for another
form of punishment was to be his. An asylum for criminal lunatics became
his home, where for years he dragged out a terrible existence. As for
Tyler, satisfied at the thought that he had done what was right in the
matter, he reported his arrival to his commander and waited for further
orders. Nor had he long to wait, for once Paddi had been destroyed, and
the pirates defeated, the expedition turned its attention to Pakoo,
which was easily captured. Then came the turn of Rembas, where severe
resistance was met with. But the British were not to be turned back,
and in spite of the hot fire directed against them, and the numbers of
the enemy, they pushed forward and took the place. Then, feeling that
they had done all that was possible, they returned to Sarawak with the
knowledge that a scourge had been put down, and that something more had
been done to bring about the peace for which the Rajah of Sarawak strove.

For Tyler there was little merry-making, for a bullet had struck him in
the elbow as he charged against the stockade at Rembas, and that same
evening he had lain in an open boat, with teeth fast set, while the
surgeons amputated the limb. But he had gone through so much already
that this was not likely to disturb him very much. Indeed, within a
month he was up and about, and ere long back at his duty.

Years have passed since then, and the lad who went down into the hold
of the grain ship alone to rescue the unconscious officers, and who
afterwards led a tribe of Dyaks in far-away Borneo, is an old man, who
steps with far less agility than in those young days. But the old spirit
is there. The white beard and moustache, with their decidedly nautical
cut, cannot disguise the square chin and the firm lips. The eyes sparkle
as of yore, and return a glance without flinching, while even now there
is a swing in the shoulders, a poise of the head, which distinguishes
Tyler. Yes, in spite of the loss of an arm, he has led a life of
activity, and has only recently settled down to enjoy the remainder of
his allotted years peacefully and in quietness. In his time, while
on active service with the Royal Navy, he has seen much fighting, has
experienced many an adventure. But it is safe to say that never has he
encountered so much danger as in the old days, when fighting close to
the men of the _Dido_ and with the Dyaks of Borneo.


PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

_At the Villafield Press, Glasgow, Scotland_



"English boys owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Henty."--_Athenæum_.


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Transcriber's Note

In this version, oe ligatures have been replaced with the separate
letters, e.g. manoeuvre.





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