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A Bornean Revenge by Alexander Montgomery

 

"TIRE not thy tongue, Dusi-Mota! My daughter's word is my word. All good be unto thee, but when everything is said thou art but a Kayan, and the Sea-Dyaks like not to mate with the scratchers of the soil!"

Little Dusi's innumerable brass rings clinked as he struck his hands together above his head, and his answer spluttered fiercely through his file--pointed teeth.

"Glad enough are the Sea-Dyaks to use the Kayan swords! There is not a man among ye, Saghais and Illinoans and all, that could forge such a parang as that at thy side, O father of Sinsha! No better are your own blades than the rotten steel of the white man!"

Muniad turned a fond eye upon his weapon, bedecked with tufts of dyed human hair. "Truth is with thee," he acknowledged. "From the grave of a Kayan chief came this, and never did a better one cut pig. But what of that? Cowards may well make weapons for brave men to use!"

The Kayan's yellow face turned green, and his hand went to his side, but brought therefrom only his rattan-knife, with which from the bunch of pendants at his ear he cut away a tiger-cat's tooth, spat thrice upon it, flung it at Muniad's feet, and went.

"Do thy worst, son of a crocodile's uncle!" the Sea-Dyak called after him. "Sinsha laughs at thee, and Sinsha's father fears not thee nor all thy filth--cating tribe!"


The white man sat on the platform of Muniad's house, and talked of many things, while the moon climbed out of the dusky eastern forests and sparkled against the faces of the long rollers marching rhythmically in upon the beach below. The white man asked questions, the brown man answered them, and Sinsha winnowed rice and listened. The broad equatorial moon sent a sheen off her glossy skin, struck fire from the brass wire coiled upon her shapely arms, and deepened the shadows of her long--lashed eyes. "What a pity that another ten years will see her a withered old hag!" thought Medlow. But he might have spared his commiseration on that head.

Talk turned upon the sumpitan, and Sinsha, dropping fan and shovel, ran to fetch the instrument. Medlow looked curiously at the eight-foot tube, with its heavy spear-blade, fixed, bayonet-like, outside the line of propulsion, and Muniad laughed to see how respectfully the other handled the sago-thorn darts. No danger with these arrows, explained the Dyak. The poison was no poison after a few hours' exposure to the air. And then he brought the little bamboo tube into which the potent upas-sap had been trebly sealed with wooden plug, beeswax, and lizard-skin. A "hand of the sun"--about fifteen minutes--a man might live, he said, if the poison were fresh upon the arrow that wounded him.

Medlow laughed incredulously. He was but a book-naturalist at that time, and his knowledge of the strychniferous Astocarpae was theoretical. "I'll believe it when I see it!" he said; and, for answer, Sinsha clapped a hand to her neck, sprang to her feet, and held out to her father--a sumpitan-arrow! "What dog has--" the old man was beginning furiously, when, piff! another of the tiny darts stood in his own shoulder. Then he guessed. "Dusi!" he shouted.

"Ay, Dusi!" said a voice from below, where stood in the moonlight a squat, dark figure, with the deadly tube still levelled at the platform. Medlow whipped out his Dean-and-Adams, but the Kayan went with a ten--foot spring into a rhododendron-clump.

"I see thee, white master!" he cried in Malay; "but thou canst not see me. Therefore shoot not, neither come down hither, unless thy skin is thicker than Muniad's--or Sinsha's!" and the little devil cackled hideously amongst the branches.

But Sinsha was already past hearing, and the old man, swaying as he stood, repeated his slayer's advice. "Why should'st thou die also, and uselessly?" he said. "As for me, I am old, and my daughter goeth with me into the mists."

"Good God!" cried Medlow, "is there nothing to be done?"

"Nothing that thou canst do. Take now thy time-measurer, and wait to see if my words were truth."

Medlow looked at the dying girl and sighed, but then--scientist to the marrow--he took out his watch. The moonlight showed the half-hour after seven. When the hands stood at ten minutes to eight he knew that Muniad was right!

 
 
 

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