A Lamb to the Slaughter by Alexander Montgomery
SABI wanted a head. That wasn't much. Dyak girls often did want a
head from their suitors. But Sabi was a belle--her father was worth
many brass cannon--and the head Sabi wanted was a white man's!
Now, white men were scarce in the south-west, and their heads were
dangerous to get, single-handed. So Achang chewed betel over the
problem for a full hour, and then, being a man of action, took his
weapons and went over to Panda the blacksmith.
Panda was a Kayan--despised as a man, but mightily respected as a
sword-maker. Also, he could put two and two together. The price of
Sabi's hand he knew, and knew, too, who was the only one of her
half-hundred admirers likely to pay it. So when he saw the silk sarong
and the leopard--skin jacket his fish-like mouth twisted knowingly up
towards his over--loaded ear. Silently he received the Dyak dandy's
swords. Kris and ihlang he put aside, then took up the latok.
"This wants no help from me," he said. "Never was a better edge!"
and then, with his eye on Achang's, he made a lightning sweep with the
sword, and stooped as if to pick up with his left hand some object from
the ground. The blood-lust flashed into Achang's inky eyes, and the
muscles stiffened up under his saddle-coloured skin, as, for answer, he
rubbed his hand rapidly over his cheek and chin.
Panda understood. A beard I--and therefore a white man.
"Good!" he said. "Thou climbest high. Is it Stobsi whose neck is to
melt?--Stobsi, the stick-hunter?"
"No! thou Kayan pig! Stobsi is as one of our own people. I would
myself take his head who should take Stobsi's! Besides, fool, hath
Stobsi a beard? Scrapeth he not his face every day with a little parang
till it is smooth as a shark's belly?"
Now Stubbs, the "stick-hunter," was not loved of Panda. The
blacksmith, like many a Kayan, disspensed with a waistcloth because he
had a pair of drawers tattooea upon his dingy hide--at which thing the
little cockney had laughed hugely. But to laugh at a Kayan is to make a
deadly enemy, and Panda was ingenuously sorry that Stubbs's was not the
head to fall. Now, too, that Achang had called him a pig, he had to get
level also with that turmeric-tinted warrior, and, as he blew sullenly
at his charcoal, he saw how.
"If it isn't Stobsi," he told himself, "it must be Bekkul; no other
white men within twelve days' journey." And Bekkul--otherwise
Beckley--had a fast friend in Kamsut, the Raja of Rubianak.
Panda dropped his bellows and brought out a jar of tuak. Only at set
feasts do the Dyaks, as a rule, get drunk. Still, there are exceptions,
and Achang was one of them; so the evil-smelling stuff, having gone
liberally down his throat, got duly up into his head. Then he babbled,
and Panda lay low for him. Bekkul was to be the victim, and Achang,
with drunken circumstantiality, set forth his plan of operations. Then,
as tuak-drinkers will, he fell incontinently fast asleep; whereupon
Panda, girding up his loins with an unwonted waistclout, slipped
unostentatiously into the jungle and started eastwards.
To Beckley, two days later, there suddenly appeared, as the result
of Panda's little excursion, the Raja of Rubianak himself, with a tail
of 50 Malays and one unwilling Chinaman.
"Ask no questions, Bekkul, my father," said Kamsut. "Change now thy
garments and give to these men those thou wearest."
Beckley, who knew his man, obeyed without a word, and wondered much
to see his clothes placed upon the no less astonished Chow. The Raja
took out one of his watches--he wore three!--then looked at the sinking
"At dusk of every evening, Bekkul, thou drawest water by the
reed-bed yonder; but to-night goeth down this yellow dog in thy stead.
Why--thou shalt in due time understand!"
Down went the sun, and down went Sun Ling to the water, in Beckley's
rig, and with Beckley's jars. At the margin of the reedy wall he put
down his vessels, and was stooping to admire the reproduction of his
yellow phiz, surmounted by Beckley's topee, when the reeds parted
gently beside him, and, plunge!--reflection and reflected came suddenly
together, as Sun Ling's shaven sconce--swept clean from his
shoulders--flopped sullenly into the green-black water! The slayer
threw down his parang, dropped a knee upon the red-spouting neck, and
picked out of the water the still fatuously grinning head. Then, as he
sprang up astounded, came running from the hut the Raja's men,
spreading out to cut him off.
Achang looked, snatched up his parang, threw it down again, and
bounded far into the darkening river.
With fifty strokes he bottomed on the further side, and turned to
see how many followed him. Not one!--for now from beneath the hollow
bank behind him there stole swiftly out a mighty ripple, and a long
grey snout came towards the wader with a rush. There was a shriek that
scared to wing again a cloud of roosting copper-birds; then Achang's
brass-ringed ankles flourished for a second in the air as his body was
crushed in the five-foot jaws that took him under like a frog.