Part 4 out of 7
old seaman with haggard eyes. Lingard, returning
his stare steadily, dived slowly into various pockets,
fished out at last a box of matches and proceeded to
light his cheroot carefully, rolling it round and round
between his lips, without taking his gaze for a moment
off the distressed Almayer. Then from behind a cloud
of tobacco smoke he said calmly--
"If you had been in trouble as often as I have, my
boy, you wouldn't carry on so. I have been ruined
more than once. Well, here I am."
"Yes, here you are," interrupted Almayer. "Much
good it is to me. Had you been here a month ago it
would have been of some use. But now! . . You
might as well be a thousand miles off."
"You scold like a drunken fish-wife," said Lingard,
serenely. He got up and moved slowly to the front
rail of the verandah. The floor shook and the whole
house vibrated under his heavy step. For a moment
he stood with his back to Almayer, looking out on the
river and forest of the east bank, then turned round
and gazed mildly down upon him.
"It's very lonely this morning here. Hey?" he said.
Almayer lifted up his head.
"Ah! you notice it--don't you? I should think
it is lonely! Yes, Captain Lingard, your day is over
in Sambir. Only a month ago this verandah would
have been full of people coming to greet you. Fellows
would be coming up those steps grinning and salaam-
ing--to you and to me. But our day is over. And
not by my fault either. You can't say that. It's all
164 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
the doing of that pet rascal of yours. Ah! He is
a beauty! You should have seen him leading that
hellish crowd. You would have been proud of your
"Smart fellow that," muttered Lingard, thought-
fully. Almayer jumped up with a shriek.
"And that's all you have to say! Smart fellow!
"Don't make a show of yourself. Sit down. Let's
talk quietly. I want to know all about it. So he led?"
"He was the soul of the whole thing. He piloted
Abdulla's ship in. He ordered everything and every-
body," said Almayer, who sat down again, with a
"When did it happen--exactly?"
"On the sixteenth I heard the first rumours of
Abdulla's ship being in the river; a thing I refused to
believe at first. Next day I could not doubt any more.
There was a great council held openly in Lakamba's
place where almost everybody in Sambir attended.
On the eighteenth the Lord of the Isles was anchored in
Sambir reach, abreast of my house. Let's see. Six
weeks to-day, exactly."
"And all that happened like this? All of a sudden.
You never heard anything--no warning. Nothing.
Never had an idea that something was up? Come,
"Heard! Yes, I used to hear something every day.
Mostly lies. Is there anything else in Sambir?"
"You might not have believed them," observed
Lingard. "In fact you ought not to have believed
everything that was told to you, as if you had been a
green hand on his first voyage."
Almayer moved in his chair uneasily.
"That scoundrel came here one day," he said. "He
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 165
had been away from the house for a couple of months
living with that woman. I only heard about him now
and then from Patalolo's people when they came over.
Well one day, about noon, he appeared in this court-
yard, as if he had been jerked up from hell-where he
Lingard took his cheroot out, and, with his mouth
full of white smoke that oozed out through his parted
lips, listened, attentive. After a short pause Almayer
went on, looking at the floor moodily--
"I must say he looked awful. Had a bad bout of
the ague probably. The left shore is very unhealthy.
Strange that only the breadth of the river . . ."
He dropped off into deep thoughtfulness as if he had
forgotten his grievances in a bitter meditation upon
the unsanitary condition of the virgin forests on the
left bank. Lingard took this opportunity to expel
the smoke in a mighty expiration and threw the stump
of his cheroot over his shoulder.
"Go on," he said, after a while. "He came to see
you . . ."
"But it wasn't unhealthy enough to finish him, worse
luck!" went on Almayer, rousing himself, "and, as I
said, he turned up here with his brazen impudence. He
bullied me, he threatened vaguely. He wanted to scare
me, to blackmail me. Me! And, by heaven--he said
you would approve. You! Can you conceive such
impudence? I couldn't exactly make out what he was
driving at. Had I known, I would have approved him.
Yes! With a bang on the head. But how could I
guess that he knew enough to pilot a ship through the
entrance you always said was so difficult. And, after
all, that was the only danger. I could deal with any-
body here--but when Abdulla came. . . . That
barque of his is armed. He carries twelve brass six-
166 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
pounders, and about thirty men. Desperate beggars.
Sumatra men, from Deli and Acheen. Fight all day
and ask for more in the evening. That kind."
"I know, I know," said Lingard, impatiently.
"Of course, then, they were cheeky as much as you
please after he anchored abreast of our jetty. Willems
brought her up himself in the best berth. I could see
him from this verandah standing forward, together with
the half-caste master. And that woman was there too.
Close to him. I heard they took her on board off La-
kamba's place. Willems said he would not go higher
without her. Stormed and raged. Frightened them,
I believe. Abdulla had to interfere. She came off
alone in a canoe, and no sooner on deck than she fell
at his feet before all hands, embraced his knees, wept,
raved, begged his pardon. Why? I wonder. Every-
body in Sambir is talking of it. They never heard tell
or saw anything like it. I have all this from Ali, who
goes about in the settlement and brings me the news.
I had better know what is going on--hadn't I? From
what I can make out, they--he and that woman--are
looked upon as something mysterious--beyond compre-
hension. Some think them mad. They live alone
with an old woman in a house outside Lakamba's cam-
pong and are greatly respected--or feared, I should say
rather. At least, he is. He is very violent. She knows
nobody, sees nobody, will speak to nobody but him.
Never leaves him for a moment. It's the talk of the
place. There are other rumours. From what I hear I
suspect that Lakamba and Abdulla are tired of him.
There's also talk of him going away in the Lord of the
Isles--when she leaves here for the southward--as a
kind of Abdulla's agent. At any rate, he must take the
ship out. The half-caste is not equal to it as yet."
Lingard, who had listened absorbed till then, began
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 167
now to walk with measured steps. Almayer ceased
talking and followed him with his eyes as he paced
up and down with a quarter-deck swing, tormenting
and twisting his long white beard, his face perplexed
"So he came to you first of all, did he?" asked Lin-
gard, without stopping.
"Yes. I told you so. He did come. Came to
extort money, goods--I don't know what else. Wanted
to set up as a trader--the swine! I kicked his hat into
the courtyard, and he went after it, and that was the
last of him till he showed up with Abdulla. How could
I know that he could do harm in that way? Or in any
way at that! Any local rising I could put down easy
with my own men and with Patalolo's help."
"Oh! yes. Patalolo. No good. Eh? Did you try
him at all?"
"Didn't I!" exclaimed Almayer. "I went to see
him myself on the twelfth. That was four days before
Abdulla entered the river. In fact, same day Willems
tried to get at me. I did feel a little uneasy then.
Patalolo assured me that there was no human being that
did not love me in Sambir. Looked as wise as an owl.
Told me not to listen to the lies of wicked people from
down the river. He was alluding to that man Bulangi,
who lives up the sea reach, and who had sent me word
that a strange ship was anchored outside--which, of
course, I repeated to Patalolo. He would not believe.
Kept on mumbling 'No! No! No!' like an old parrot,
his head all of a tremble, all beslobbered with betel-nut
juice. I thought there was something queer about him.
Seemed so restless, and as if in a hurry to get rid of me.
Well. Next day that one-eyed malefactor who lives
with Lakamba--what's his name--Babalatchi, put in
an appearance here! Came about mid-day, casually
168 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
like, and stood there on this verandah chatting about
one thing and another. Asking when I expected you,
and so on. Then, incidentally, he mentioned that they
--his master and himself--were very much bothered
by a ferocious white man--my friend--who was hang-
ing about that woman--Omar's daughter. Asked my
advice. Very deferential and proper. I told him the
white man was not my friend, and that they had better
kick him out. Whereupon he went away salaaming,
and protesting his friendship and his master's goodwill.
Of course I know now the infernal nigger came to spy
and to talk over some of my men. Anyway, eight were
missing at the evening muster. Then I took alarm.
Did not dare to leave my house unguarded. You know
what my wife is, don't you? And I did not care to take
the child with me--it being late--so I sent a message to
Patalolo to say that we ought to consult; that there
were rumours and uneasiness in the settlement. Do
you know what answer I got?"
Lingard stopped short in his walk before Almayer,
who went on, after an impressive pause, with growing
"All brought it: 'The Rajah sends a friend's greeting,
and does not understand the message.' That was all.
Not a word more could Ali get out of him. I could see
that Ali was pretty well scared. He hung about, ar-
ranging my hammock--one thing and another. Then
just before going away he mentioned that the water-
gate of the Rajah's place was heavily barred, but that
he could see only very few men about the courtyard.
Finally he said, 'There is darkness in our Rajah's house,
but no sleep. Only darkness and fear and the wailing
of women.' Cheerful, wasn't it? It made me feel
cold down my back somehow. After Ali slipped away I
stood here--by this table, and listened to the shouting
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 169
and drumming in the settlement. Racket enough for
twenty weddings. It was a little past midnight then."
Again Almayer stopped in his narrative with an
abrupt shutting of lips, as if he had said all that there
was to tell, and Lingard stood staring at him, pensive
and silent. A big bluebottle fly flew in recklessly
into the cool verandah, and darted with loud buzzing
between the two men. Lingard struck at it with his
hat. The fly swerved, and Almayer dodged his head
out of the way. Then Lingard aimed another inef-
fectual blow; Almayer jumped up and waved his arms
about. The fly buzzed desperately, and the vibration
of minute wings sounded in the peace of the early morn-
ing like a far-off string orchestra accompanying the
hollow, determined stamping of the two men, who, with
heads thrown back and arms gyrating on high, or again
bending low with infuriated lunges, were intent upon
killing the intruder. But suddenly the buzz died out in
a thin thrill away in the open space of the courtyard,
leaving Lingard and Almayer standing face to face in the
fresh silence of the young day, looking very puzzled and
idle, their arms hanging uselessly by their sides--like
men disheartened by some portentous failure.
"Look at that!" muttered Lingard. "Got away
"Nuisance," said Almayer in the same tone. "River-
side is overrun with them. This house is badly placed
. . . mosquitos . . . and these big flies . . .
. last week stung Nina . . . been ill four days
. . . poor child. . . . I wonder what such
damned things are made for!"
AFTER a long silence, during which Almayer had
moved towards the table and sat down, his head be-
tween his hands, staring straight before him, Lin-
gard, who had recommenced walking, cleared his throat
"What was it you were saying?"
"Ah! Yes! You should have seen this settlement
that night. I don't think anybody went to bed. I
walked down to the point, and could see them. They
had a big bonfire in the palm grove, and the talk went
on there till the morning. When I came back here
and sat in the dark verandah in this quiet house I felt
so frightfully lonely that I stole in and took the child out
of her cot and brought her here into my hammock. If
it hadn't been for her I am sure I would have gone mad;
I felt so utterly alone and helpless. Remember, I
hadn't heard from you for four months. Didn't know
whether you were alive or dead. Patalolo would have
nothing to do with me. My own men were deserting
me like rats do a sinking hulk. That was a black night
for me, Captain Lingard. A black night as I sat here
not knowing what would happen next. They were so
excited and rowdy that I really feared they would
come and burn the house over my head. I went and
brought my revolver. Laid it loaded on the table.
There were such awful yells now and then. Luckily
the child slept through it, and seeing her so pretty
and peaceful steadied me somehow. Couldn't believe
there was any violence in this world, looking at her
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 171
lying so quiet and so unconscious of what went on.
But it was very hard. Everything was at an end.
You must understand that on that night there was no
government in Sambir. Nothing to restrain those
fellows. Patalolo had collapsed. I was abandoned by
my own people, and all that lot could vent their spite
on me if they wanted. They know no gratitude.
How many times haven't I saved this settlement from
starvation? Absolute starvation. Only three months
ago I distributed again a lot of rice on credit. There
was nothing to eat in this infernal place. They came
begging on their knees. There isn't a man in Sambir,
big or little, who is not in debt to Lingard & Co. Not
one. You ought to be satisfied. You always said that
was the right policy for us. Well, I carried it out. Ah!
Captain Lingard, a policy like that should be backed by
loaded rifles . . ."
"You had them!" exclaimed Lingard in the midst
of his promenade, that went on more rapid as Almayer
talked: the headlong tramp of a man hurrying on to do
something violent. The verandah was full of dust,
oppressive and choking, which rose under the old sea-
man's feet, and made Almayer cough again and
"Yes, I had! Twenty. And not a finger to pull a
trigger. It's easy to talk," he spluttered, his face very
Lingard dropped into a chair, and leaned back with
one hand stretched out at length upon the table, the
other thrown over the back of his seat. The dust
settled, and the sun surging above the forest flooded
the verandah with a clear light. Almayer got up and
busied himself in lowering the split rattan screens that
hung between the columns of the verandah.
"Phew!" said Lingard, "it will be a hot day. That's
172 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
right, my boy. Keep the sun out. We don't want to
be roasted alive here."
Almayer came back, sat down, and spoke very
"In the morning I went across to see Patalolo. I
took the child with me, of course. I found the water-
gate barred, and had to walk round through the bushes.
Patalolo received me lying on the floor, in the dark,
all the shutters closed. I could get nothing out of
him but lamentations and groans. He said you must
be dead. That Lakamba was coming now with Ab-
dulla's guns to kill everybody. Said he did not mind
being killed, as he was an old man, but that the wish of
his heart was to make a pilgrimage. He was tired of
men's ingratitude--he had no heirs--he wanted to go
to Mecca and die there. He would ask Abdulla to let
him go. Then he abused Lakamba--between sobs--
and you, a little. You prevented him from asking for a
flag that would have been respected--he was right there
--and now when his enemies were strong he was weak,
and you were not there to help him. When I tried to
put some heart into him, telling him he had four big guns
--you know the brass six-pounders you left here last
year--and that I would get powder, and that, perhaps,
together we could make head against Lakamba, he
simply howled at me. No matter which way he turned
--he shrieked--the white men would be the death of
him, while he wanted only to be a pilgrim and be at
peace. My belief is," added Almayer, after a short
pause, and fixing a dull stare upon Lingard, "that the
old fool saw this thing coming for a long time, and was
not only too frightened to do anything himself, but
actually too scared to let you or me know of his sus-
picions. Another of your particular pets! Well! You
have a lucky hand, I must say!"
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 173
Lingard struck a sudden blow on the table with his
clenched hand. There was a sharp crack of splitting
wood. Almayer started up violently, then fell back in
his chair and looked at the table.
"There!" he said, moodily, "you don't know your
own strength. This table is completely ruined. The
only table I had been able to save from my wife. By
and by I will have to eat squatting on the floor like a
Lingard laughed heartily. "Well then, don't nag
at me like a woman at a drunken husband!" He
became very serious after awhile, and added, "If it
hadn't been for the loss of the Flash I would have been
here three months ago, and all would have been well.
No use crying over that. Don't you be uneasy, Kas-
par. We will have everything ship-shape here in a
very short time."
"What? You don't mean to expel Abdulla out of
here by force! I tell you, you can't."
"Not I!" exclaimed Lingard. "That's all over,
I am afraid. Great pity. They will suffer for it. He
will squeeze them. Great pity. Damn it! I feel
so sorry for them if I had the Flash here I would try
force. Eh! Why not? However, the poor Flash is
gone, and there is an end of it. Poor old hooker. Hey,
Almayer? You made a voyage or two with me. Was-
n't she a sweet craft? Could make her do anything but
talk. She was better than a wife to me. Never
scolded. Hey? . . . And to think that it should
come to this. That I should leave her poor old bones
sticking on a reef as though I had been a damned fool of
a southern-going man who must have half a mile of
water under his keel to be safe! Well! well! It's only
those who do nothing that make no mistakes, I suppose.
But it's hard. Hard."
174 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
He nodded sadly, with his eyes on the ground. Al-
mayer looked at him with growing indignation.
"Upon my word, you are heartless," he burst out;
"perfectly heartless--and selfish. It does not seem to
strike you--in all that--that in losing your ship--by
your recklessness, I am sure--you ruin me--us, and
my little Nina. What's going to become of me and
of her? That's what I want to know. You brought
me here, made me your partner, and now, when every-
thing is gone to the devil--through your fault, mind
you--you talk about your ship . . . ship! You
can get another. But here. This trade. That's
gone now, thanks to Willems. . . . Your dear
"Never you mind about Willems. I will look after
him," said Lingard, severely. "And as to the trade
. . . I will make your fortune yet, my boy. Never
fear. Have you got any cargo for the schooner that
brought me here?"
"The shed is full of rattans," answered Almayer,
"and I have about eighty tons of guttah in the well.
The last lot I ever will have, no doubt," he added,
"So, after all, there was no robbery. You've lost
nothing actually. Well, then, you must . . .
Hallo! What's the matter! . . . Here! . . ."
"Robbery! No!" screamed Almayer, throwing up
He fell back in the chair and his face became purple.
A little white foam appeared on his lips and trickled
down his chin, while he lay back, showing the whites of
his upturned eyes. When he came to himself he saw
Lingard standing over him, with an empty water-
chatty in his hand.
"You had a fit of some kind," said the old seaman
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 175
with much concern. "What is it? You did give me a
fright. So very sudden."
Almayer, his hair all wet and stuck to his head, as
if he had been diving, sat up and gasped.
"Outrage! A fiendish outrage. I . . ."
Lingard put the chatty on the table and looked at
him in attentive silence. Almayer passed his hand
over his forehead and went on in an unsteady tone:
"When I remember that, I lose all control," he said.
"I told you he anchored Abdulla's ship abreast our jetty,
but over to the other shore, near the Rajah's place.
The ship was surrounded with boats. From here it
looked as if she had been landed on a raft. Every dug-
out in Sambir was there. Through my glass I could
distinguish the faces of people on the poop--Abdulla,
Willems, Lakamba--everybody. That old cringing
scoundrel Sahamin was there. I could see quite plain.
There seemed to be much talk and discussion. Finally
I saw a ship's boat lowered. Some Arab got into her,
and the boat went towards Patalolo's landing-place.
It seems they had been refused admittance--so they
say. I think myself that the water-gate was not un-
barred quick enough to please the exalted messenger.
At any rate I saw the boat come back almost directly.
I was looking on, rather interested, when I saw Willems
and some more go forward--very busy about some-
thing there. That woman was also amongst them.
Ah, that woman . . ."
Almayer choked, and seemed on the point of having
a relapse, but by a violent effort regained a comparative
"All of a sudden," he continued--"bang! They
fired a shot into Patalolo's gate, and before I had time
to catch my breath--I was startled, you may believe
--they sent another and burst the gate open. Where-
176 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
upon, I suppose, they thought they had done enough
for a while, and probably felt hungry, for a feast began
aft. Abdulla sat amongst them like an idol, cross-
legged, his hands on his lap. He's too great altogether
to eat when others do, but he presided, you see. Wil-
lems kept on dodging about forward, aloof from the
crowd, and looking at my house through the ship's
long glass. I could not resist it. I shook my fist at
"Just so," said Lingard, gravely. "That was the
thing to do, of course. If you can't fight a man the
best thing is to exasperate him."
Almayer waved his hand in a superior manner, and
"You may say what you like. You can't realize
my feelings. He saw me, and, with his eye still at
the small end of the glass, lifted his arm as if answer-
ing a hail. I thought my turn to be shot at would
come next after Patalolo, so I ran up the Union Jack
to the flagstaff in the yard. I had no other protection.
There were only three men besides Ali that stuck to me
--three cripples, for that matter, too sick to get away.
I would have fought singlehanded, I think, I was that
angry, but there was the child. What to do with her?
Couldn't send her up the river with the mother. You
know I can't trust my wife. I decided to keep very
quiet, but to let nobody land on our shore. Private
property, that; under a deed from Patalolo. I was
within my right--wasn't I? The morning was very
quiet. After they had a feed on board the barque with
Abdulla most of them went home; only the big people
remained. Towards three o'clock Sahamin crossed
alone in a small canoe. I went down on our wharf with
my gun to speak to him, but didn't let him land. The
old hypocrite said Abdulla sent greetings and wished to
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 177
talk with me on business; would I come on board?
I said no; I would not. Told him that Abdulla may
write and I would answer, but no interview, neither
on board his ship nor on shore. I also said that if
anybody attempted to land within my fences I would
shoot--no matter whom. On that he lifted his hands
to heaven, scandalized, and then paddled away pretty
smartly--to report, I suppose. An hour or so after-
wards I saw Willems land a boat party at the Rajah's.
It was very quiet. Not a shot was fired, and there
was hardly any shouting. They tumbled those brass
guns you presented to Patalolo last year down the
bank into the river. It's deep there close to. The
channel runs that way, you know. About five, Wil-
lems went back on board, and I saw him join Abdulla
by the wheel aft. He talked a lot, swinging his arms
about--seemed to explain things--pointed at my house,
then down the reach. Finally, just before sunset, they
hove upon the cable and dredged the ship down nearly
half a mile to the junction of the two branches of the
river--where she is now, as you might have seen."
"That evening, after dark--I was informed--
Abdulla landed for the first time in Sambir. He
was entertained in Sahamin's house. I sent Ali to
the settlement for news. He returned about nine,
and reported that Patalolo was sitting on Abdulla's
left hand before Sahamin's fire. There was a great
council. Ali seemed to think that Patalolo was a
prisoner, but he was wrong there. They did the
trick very neatly. Before midnight everything was
arranged as I can make out. Patalolo went back to
his demolished stockade, escorted by a dozen boats
with torches. It appears he begged Abdulla to let
him have a passage in the Lord of the Isles to Penang.
178 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
From there he would go to Mecca. The firing busi-
ness was alluded to as a mistake. No doubt it was in
a sense. Patalolo never meant resisting. So he is
going as soon as the ship is ready for sea. He went
on board next day with three women and half a dozen
fellows as old as himself. By Abdulla's orders he was
received with a salute of seven guns, and he has been
living on board ever since-five weeks. I doubt
whether he will leave the river alive. At any rate
he won't live to reach Penang. Lakamba took over
all his goods, and gave him a draft on Abdulla's house
payable in Penang. He is bound to die before he gets
there. Don't you see?"
He sat silent for a while in dejected meditation, then
"Of course there were several rows during the night.
Various fellows took the opportunity of the unsettled
state of affairs to pay off old scores and settle old
grudges. I passed the night in that chair there, dozing
uneasily. Now and then there would be a great tumult
and yelling which would make me sit up, revolver in
hand. However, nobody was killed. A few broken
heads--that's all. Early in the morning Willems
caused them to make a fresh move which I must say
surprised me not a little. As soon as there was daylight
they busied themselves in setting up a flag-pole on the
space at the other end of the settlement, where Abdulla
is having his houses built now. Shortly after sunrise
there was a great gathering at the flag-pole. All went
there. Willems was standing leaning against the mast,
one arm over that woman's shoulders. They had
brought an armchair for Patalolo, and Lakamba stood
on the right hand of the old man, who made a speech.
Everybody in Sambir was there: women, slaves, children
--everybody! Then Patalolo spoke. He said that by
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 179
the mercy of the Most High he was going on a pilgrim-
age. The dearest wish of his heart was to be accom-
plished. Then, turning to Lakamba, he begged him to
rule justly during his--Patalolo's--absence. There was
a bit of play-acting there. Lakamba said he was un-
worthy of the honourable burden, and Patalolo insisted.
Poor old fool! It must have been bitter to him. They
made him actually entreat that scoundrel. Fancy a
man compelled to beg of a robber to despoil him!
But the old Rajah was so frightened. Anyway, he did
it, and Lakamba accepted at last. Then Willems made
a speech to the crowd. Said that on his way to the west
the Rajah--he meant Patalolo--would see the Great
White Ruler in Batavia and obtain his protection for
Sambir. Meantime, he went on, I, an Orang Blanda
and your friend, hoist the flag under the shadow of
which there is safety. With that he ran up a Dutch
flag to the mast-head. It was made hurriedly, during
the night, of cotton stuffs, and, being heavy, hung down
the mast, while the crowd stared. Ali told me there
was a great sigh of surprise, but not a word was spoken
till Lakamba advanced and proclaimed in a loud voice
that during all that day every one passing by the
flagstaff must uncover his head and salaam before the
"But, hang it all!" exclaimed Lingard--"Abdulla is
"Abdulla wasn't there at all--did not go on shore
that day. Yet Ali, who has his wits about him, no-
ticed that the space where the crowd stood was under
the guns of the Lord of the Isles. They had put a coir
warp ashore, and gave the barque a cant in the current,
so as to bring the broadside to bear on the flagstaff.
Clever! Eh? But nobody dreamt of resistance. When
they recovered from the surprise there was a little quiet
180 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
jeering; and Bahassoen abused Lakamba violently till
one of Lakamba's men hit him on the head with a staff.
Frightful crack, I am told. Then they left off jeering.
Meantime Patalolo went away, and Lakamba sat in the
chair at the foot of the flagstaff, while the crowd surged
around, as if they could not make up their minds to go.
Suddenly there was a great noise behind Lakamba's
chair. It was that woman, who went for Willems. Ali
says she was like a wild beast, but he twisted her wrist
and made her grovel in the dust. Nobody knows
exactly what it was about. Some say it was about that
flag. He carried her off, flung her into a canoe, and
went on board Abdulla's ship. After that Sahamin
was the first to salaam to the flag. Others followed
suit. Before noon everything was quiet in the settle-
ment, and Ali came back and told me all this."
Almayer drew a long breath. Lingard stretched out
"Go on!" he said.
Almayer seemed to struggle with himself. At last
he spluttered out:
"The hardest is to tell yet. The most unheard-of
thing! An outrage! A fiendish outrage!"
"WELL! Let's know all about it. I can't imagine
. . ." began Lingard, after waiting for some time
"Can't imagine! I should think you couldn't,"
interrupted Almayer. "Why! . . . You just lis-
ten. When Ali came back I felt a little easier in my
mind. There was then some semblance of order in
Sambir. I had the Jack up since the morning and
began to feel safer. Some of my men turned up in the
afternoon. I did not ask any questions; set them to
work as if nothing had happened. Towards the even-
ing--it might have been five or half-past--I was on our
jetty with the child when I heard shouts at the far-off
end of the settlement. At first I didn't take much
notice. By and by Ali came to me and says, 'Master,
give me the child, there is much trouble in the settle-
ment.' So I gave him Nina and went in, took my re-
volver, and passed through the house into the back
courtyard. As I came down the steps I saw all the
serving girls clear out from the cooking shed, and I
heard a big crowd howling on the other side of the dry
ditch which is the limit of our ground. Could not see
them on account of the fringe of bushes along the ditch,
but I knew that crowd was angry and after somebody.
As I stood wondering, that Jim-Eng--you know the
Chinaman who settled here a couple of years ago?"
"He was my passenger; I brought him here," ex-
claimed Lingard. "A first-class Chinaman that."
"Did you? I had forgotten. Well, that Jim-Eng,
182 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
he burst through the bush and fell into my arms, so to
speak. He told me, panting, that they were after him
because he wouldn't take off his hat to the flag. He was
not so much scared, but he was very angry and indig-
nant. Of course he had to run for it; there were some
fifty men after him--Lakamba's friends--but he was
full of fight. Said he was an Englishman, and would
not take off his hat to any flag but English. I tried to
soothe him while the crowd was shouting on the other
side of the ditch. I told him he must take one of my
canoes and cross the river. Stop on the other side for a
couple of days. He wouldn't. Not he. He was
English, and he would fight the whole lot. Says he:
'They are only black fellows. We white men,' meaning
me and himself, 'can fight everybody in Sambir.' He
was mad with passion. The crowd quieted a little, and
I thought I could shelter Jim-Eng without much risk,
when all of a sudden I heard Willems' voice. He
shouted to me in English: 'Let four men enter your
compound to get that Chinaman!' I said nothing.
Told Jim-Eng to keep quiet too. Then after a while
Willems shouts again: 'Don't resist, Almayer. I give
you good advice. I am keeping this crowd back.
Don't resist them!' That beggar's voice enraged me;
I could not help it. I cried to him: 'You are a liar!'
and just then Jim-Eng, who had flung off his jacket and
had tucked up his trousers ready for a fight; just then
that fellow he snatches the revolver out of my hand and
lets fly at them through the bush. There was a sharp
cry--he must have hit somebody--and a great yell,
and before I could wink twice they were over the ditch
and through the bush and on top of us! Simply rolled
over us! There wasn't the slightest chance to resist.
I was trampled under foot, Jim-Eng got a dozen gashes
about his body, and we were carried halfway up the
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 183
yard in the first rush. My eyes and mouth were full
of dust; I was on my back with three or four fellows
sitting on me. I could hear Jim-Eng trying to shout
not very far from me. Now and then they would
throttle him and he would gurgle. I could hardly
breathe myself with two heavy fellows on my chest.
Willems came up running and ordered them to raise me
up, but to keep good hold. They led me into the
verandah. I looked round, but did not see either Ali
or the child. Felt easier. Struggled a little. . . .
Oh, my God!"
Almayer's face was distorted with a passing spasm
of rage. Lingard moved in his chair slightly. Al-
mayer went on after a short pause:
"They held me, shouting threats in my face. Wil-
lems took down my hammock and threw it to them. He
pulled out the drawer of this table, and found there a
palm and needle and some sail-twine. We were making
awnings for your brig, as you had asked me last voyage
before you left. He knew, of course, where to look for
what he wanted. By his orders they laid me out on
the floor, wrapped me in my hammock, and he started
to stitch me in, as if I had been a corpse, beginning at
the feet. While he worked he laughed wickedly. I
called him all the names I could think of. He told
them to put their dirty paws over my mouth and nose.
I was nearly choked. Whenever I moved they punched
me in the ribs. He went on taking fresh needlefuls as he
wanted them, and working steadily. Sewed me up to
my throat. Then he rose, saying, 'That will do; let
go.' That woman had been standing by; they must
have been reconciled. She clapped her hands. I lay
on the floor like a bale of goods while he stared at me,
and the woman shrieked with delight. Like a bale of
goods! There was a grin on every face, and the ve-
184 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
randah was full of them. I wished myself dead--'pon
my word, Captain Lingard, I did! I do now whenever
I think of it!"
Lingard's face expressed sympathetic indignation.
Almayer dropped his head upon his arms on the table,
and spoke in that position in an indistinct and muffled
voice, without looking up.
"Finally, by his directions, they flung me into the
big rocking-chair. I was sewed in so tight that I was
stiff like a piece of wood. He was giving orders in a
very loud voice, and that man Babalatchi saw that they
were executed. They obeyed him implicitly. Mean-
time I lay there in the chair like a log, and that woman
capered before me and made faces; snapped her fingers
before my nose. Women are bad!--ain't they? I
never saw her before, as far as I know. Never done
anything to her. Yet she was perfectly fiendish.
Can you understand it? Now and then she would
leave me alone to hang round his neck for awhile,
and then she would return before my chair and begin
her exercises again. He looked on, indulgent. The
perspiration ran down my face, got into my eyes--my
arms were sewn in. I was blinded half the time; at
times I could see better. She drags him before my
chair. 'I am like white women,' she says, her arms
round his neck. You should have seen the faces of
the fellows in the verandah! They were scandalized
and ashamed of themselves to see her behaviour.
Suddenly she asks him, alluding to me: 'When are you
going to kill him?' Imagine how I felt. I must have
swooned; I don't remember exactly. I fancy there was
a row; he was angry. When I got my wits again he was
sitting close to me, and she was gone. I understood
he sent her to my wife, who was hiding in the back room
and never came out during this affair. Willems says
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 185
to me--I fancy I can hear his voice, hoarse and dull--
he says to me: 'Not a hair of your head shall be touched.'
I made no sound. Then he goes on: 'Please remark that
the flag you have hoisted--which, by the by, is not yours
--has been respected. Tell Captain Lingard so when
you do see him. But,' he says, 'you first fired at the
crowd.' 'You are a liar, you blackguard!' I shouted.
He winced, I am sure. It hurt him to see I was not
frightened. 'Anyways,' he says, 'a shot had been fired
out of your compound and a man was hit. Still, all
your property shall be respected on account of the
Union Jack. Moreover, I have no quarrel with Cap-
tain Lingard, who is the senior partner in this business.
As to you,' he continued, 'you will not forget this day--
not if you live to be a hundred years old--or I don't
know your nature. You will keep the bitter taste of
this humiliation to the last day of your life, and so your
kindness to me shall be repaid. I shall remove all the
powder you have. This coast is under the protection
of the Netherlands, and you have no right to have any
powder. There are the Governor's Orders in Council
to that effect, and you know it. Tell me where the key
of the small storehouse is?' I said not a word, and he
waited a little, then rose, saying: 'It's your own fault
if there is any damage done.' He ordered Babalatchi
to have the lock of the office-room forced, and went in--
rummaged amongst my drawers--could not find the
key. Then that woman Aissa asked my wife, and she
gave them the key. After awhile they tumbled every
barrel into the river. Eighty-three hundredweight!
He superintended himself, and saw every barrel roll
into the water. There were mutterings. Babalatchi
was angry and tried to expostulate, but he gave him a
good shaking. I must say he was perfectly fearless
with those fellows. Then he came back to the veran-
186 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
dah, sat down by me again, and says: 'We found your
man Ali with your little daughter hiding in the bushes
up the river. We brought them in. They are perfectly
safe, of course. Let me congratulate you, Almayer,
upon the cleverness of your child. She recognized me
at once, and cried "pig" as naturally as you would your-
self. Circumstances alter feelings. You should have
seen how frightened your man Ali was. Clapped his
hands over her mouth. I think you spoil her, Almayer.
But I am not angry. Really, you look so ridiculous in
this chair that I can't feel angry.' I made a frantic
effort to burst out of my hammock to get at that scoun-
drel's throat, but I only fell off and upset the chair over
myself. He laughed and said only: 'I leave you half of
your revolver cartridges and take half myself; they will
fit mine. We are both white men, and should back
each other up. I may want them.' I shouted at him
from under the chair: 'You are a thief,' but he never
looked, and went away, one hand round that woman's
waist, the other on Babalatchi's shoulder, to whom he
was talking--laying down the law about something or
other. In less than five minutes there was nobody
inside our fences. After awhile Ali came to look for
me and cut me free. I haven't seen Willems since--
nor anybody else for that matter. I have been left
alone. I offered sixty dollars to the man who had
been wounded, which were accepted. They released
Jim-Eng the next day, when the flag had been hauled
down. He sent six cases of opium to me for safe
keeping but has not left his house. I think he is safe
enough now. Everything is very quiet."
Towards the end of his narrative Almayer lifted his
head off the table, and now sat back in his chair and
stared at the bamboo rafters of the roof above him.
Lingard lolled in his seat with his legs stretched out.
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 187
In the peaceful gloom of the verandah, with its lowered
screens, they heard faint noises from the world outside
in the blazing sunshine: a hail on the river, the answer
from the shore, the creak of a pulley; sounds short, inter-
rupted, as if lost suddenly in the brilliance of noonday.
Lingard got up slowly, walked to the front rail, and
holding one of the screens aside, looked out in silence.
Over the water and the empty courtyard came a distinct
voice from a small schooner anchored abreast of the
"Serang! Take a pull at the main peak halyards.
This gaff is down on the boom.''
There was a shrill pipe dying in long-drawn cadence,
the song of the men swinging on the rope. The voice
said sharply: "That will do!" Another voice--the
serang's probably--shouted: "Ikat!" and as Lingard
dropped the blind and turned away all was silent again,
as if there had been nothing on the other side of the
swaying screen; nothing but the light, brilliant, crude,
heavy, lying on a dead land like a pall of fire. Lingard
sat down again, facing Almayer, his elbow on the table,
in a thoughtful attitude.
"Nice little schooner," muttered Almayer, wearily.
"Did you buy her?"
"No," answered Lingard. "After I lost the Flash we
got to Palembang in our boats. I chartered her there,
for six months. From young Ford, you know. Belongs
to him. He wanted a spell ashore, so I took charge my-
self. Of course all Ford's people on board. Strangers
to me. I had to go to Singapore about the insurance;
then I went to Macassar, of course. Had long pas-
sages. No wind. It was like a curse on me. I had lots
of trouble with old Hudig. That delayed me much."
"Ah! Hudig! Why with Hudig?" asked Almayer,
in a perfunctory manner.
188 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
"Oh! about a . . . a woman," mumbled Lin-
Almayer looked at him with languid surprise. The
old seaman had twisted his white beard into a point,
and now was busy giving his moustaches a fierce curl.
His little red eyes--those eyes that had smarted under
the salt sprays of every sea, that had looked unwinking
to windward in the gales of all latitudes--now glared
at Almayer from behind the lowered eyebrows like a
pair of frightened wild beasts crouching in a bush.
"Extraordinary! So like you! What can you have
to do with Hudig's women? The old sinner!" said Al-
"What are you talking about! Wife of a friend of
. . . I mean of a man I know . . ."
"Still, I don't see . . ." interjected Almayer care-
"Of a man you know too. Well. Very well."
"I knew so many men before you made me bury
myself in this hole!" growled Almayer, unamiably.
"If she had anything to do with Hudig--that wife--
then she can't be up to much. I would be sorry for
the man," added Almayer, brightening up with the
recollection of the scandalous tittle-tattle of the past,
when he was a young man in the second capital of
the Islands--and so well informed, so well informed.
He laughed. Lingard's frown deepened.
"Don't talk foolish! It's Willems' wife."
Almayer grasped the sides of his seat, his eyes and
mouth opened wide.
"What? Why!" he exclaimed, bewildered.
"Willems'--wife," repeated Lingard distinctly.
"You ain't deaf, are you? The wife of Willems.
Just so. As to why! There was a promise. And I
did not know what had happened here."
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 189
"What is it. You've been giving her money, I bet,"
"Well, no!" said Lingard, deliberately. "Although
I suppose I shall have to . . ."
"The fact is," went on Lingard, speaking slowly
and steadily, "the fact is that I have . . . I have
brought her here. Here. To Sambir."
"In heaven's name! why?" shouted Almayer, jump-
ing up. The chair tilted and fell slowly over. He
raised his clasped hands above his head and brought
them down jerkily, separating his fingers with an effort,
as if tearing them apart. Lingard nodded, quickly,
"I have. Awkward. Hey?" he said, with a puzzled
"Upon my word," said Almayer, tearfully. "I
can't understand you at all. What will you do next!
"Wife and child. Small boy, you know. They are
on board the schooner."
Almayer looked at Lingard with sudden suspicion,
then turning away busied himself in picking up the
chair, sat down in it turning his back upon the old sea-
man, and tried to whistle, but gave it up directly. Lin-
gard went on--
"Fact is, the fellow got into trouble with Hudig.
Worked upon my feelings. I promised to arrange
matters. I did. With much trouble. Hudig was
angry with her for wishing to join her husband. Un-
principled old fellow. You know she is his daughter.
Well, I said I would see her through it all right; help
Willems to a fresh start and so on. I spoke to Craig in
Palembang. He is getting on in years, and wanted a
manager or partner. I promised to guarantee Willems'
190 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
good behaviour. We settled all that. Craig is an old
crony of mine. Been shipmates in the forties. He's
waiting for him now. A pretty mess! What do you
Almayer shrugged his shoulders.
"That woman broke with Hudig on my assurance
that all would be well," went on Lingard, with grow-
ing dismay. "She did. Proper thing, of course.
Wife, husband . . . together . . . as it should be
. . . Smart fellow . . . Impossible scoundrel
. . . Jolly old go! Oh! damn!"
Almayer laughed spitefully.
"How delighted he will be," he said, softly. "You
will make two people happy. Two at least!" He
laughed again, while Lingard looked at his shaking
shoulders in consternation.
"I am jammed on a lee shore this time, if ever I
was," muttered Lingard.
"Send her back quick," suggested Almayer, stifling
"What are you sniggering at?" growled Lingard,
angrily. "I'll work it out all clear yet. Meantime
you must receive her into this house."
"My house!" cried Almayer, turning round.
"It's mine too--a little isn't it?" said Lingard.
"Don't argue," he shouted, as Almayer opened his
mouth. "Obey orders and hold your tongue!"
"Oh! If you take it in that tone!" mumbled Al-
mayer, sulkily, with a gesture of assent.
"You are so aggravating too, my boy," said the old
seaman, with unexpected placidity "You must give
me time to turn round. I can't keep her on board all
the time. I must tell her something. Say, for instance,
that he is gone up the river. Expected back every
day. That's it. D'ye hear? You must put her on
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 191
that tack and dodge her along easy, while I take the
kinks out of the situation. By God!" he exclaimed,
mournfully, after a short pause, "life is foul! Foul like
a lee forebrace on a dirty night. And yet. And yet.
One must see it clear for running before going below--
for good. Now you attend to what I said," he added,
sharply, "if you don't want to quarrel with me, my
"I don't want to quarrel with you," murmured
Almayer with unwilling deference. "Only I wish I
could understand you. I know you are my best
friend, Captain Lingard; only, upon my word, I can't
make you out sometimes! I wish I could . . ."
Lingard burst into a loud laugh which ended shortly
in a deep sigh. He closed his eyes, tilting his head over
the back of his armchair; and on his face, baked by the
unclouded suns of many hard years, there appeared for
a moment a weariness and a look of age which startled
Almayer, like an unexpected disclosure of evil.
"I am done up," said Lingard, gently. "Perfectly
done up. All night on deck getting that schooner up
the river. Then talking with you. Seems to me I
could go to sleep on a clothes-line. I should like to eat
something though. Just see about that, Kaspar."
Almayer clapped his hands, and receiving no response
was going to call, when in the central passage of the
house, behind the red curtain of the doorway opening
upon the verandah, they heard a child's imperious voice
"Take me up at once. I want to be carried into the
verandah. I shall be very angry. Take me up."
A man's voice answered, subdued, in humble re-
monstrance. The faces of Almayer and Lingard bright-
ened at once. The old seaman called out--
"Bring the child. Lekas!"
192 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
"You will see how she has grown," exclaimed Al-
mayer, in a jubilant tone.
Through the curtained doorway Ali appeared with
little Nina Almayer in his arms. The child had one
arm round his neck, and with the other she hugged a
ripe pumelo nearly as big as her own head. Her little
pink, sleeveless robe had half slipped off her shoulders,
but the long black hair, that framed her olive face,
in which the big black eyes looked out in childish
solemnity, fell in luxuriant profusion over her shoulders,
all round her and over Ali's arms, like a close-meshed
and delicate net of silken threads. Lingard got up
to meet Ali, and as soon as she caught sight of the
old seaman she dropped the fruit and put out both
her hands with a cry of delight. He took her from
the Malay, and she laid hold of his moustaches with
an affectionate goodwill that brought unaccustomed
tears into his little red eyes.
"Not so hard, little one, not so hard," he mur-
mured, pressing with an enormous hand, that covered
it entirely, the child's head to his face.
"Pick up my pumelo, O Rajah of the sea!" she said,
speaking in a high-pitched, clear voice with great
volubility. "There, under the table. I want it quick!
Quick! You have been away fighting with many men.
Ali says so. You are a mighty fighter. Ali says so.
On the great sea far away, away, away."
She waved her hand, staring with dreamy vacancy,
while Lingard looked at her, and squatting down
groped under the table after the pumelo.
"Where does she get those notions?" said Lingard,
getting up cautiously, to Almayer, who had been giving
orders to Ali.
"She is always with the men. Many a time I've
found her with her fingers in their rice dish, of an
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 193
evening. She does not care for her mother though--
I am glad to say. How pretty she is--and so sharp.
My very image!"
Lingard had put the child on the table, and both men
stood looking at her with radiant faces.
"A perfect little woman," whispered Lingard. "Yes,
my dear boy, we shall make her somebody. You'll
"Very little chance of that now," remarked Almayer,
"You do not know!" exclaimed Lingard, taking up
the child again, and beginning to walk up and down the
verandah. "I have my plans. I have--listen."
And he began to explain to the interested Almayer
his plans for the future. He would interview Abdulla
and Lakamba. There must be some understanding
with those fellows now they had the upper hand.
Here he interrupted himself to swear freely, while the
child, who had been diligently fumbling about his neck,
had found his whistle and blew a loud blast now and
then close to his ear--which made him wince and
laugh as he put her hands down, scolding her lovingly.
Yes--that would be easily settled. He was a man to
be reckoned with yet. Nobody knew that better than
Almayer. Very well. Then he must patiently try and
keep some little trade together. It would be all right.
But the great thing--and here Lingard spoke lower,
bringing himself to a sudden standstill before the en-
tranced Almayer--the great thing would be the gold
hunt up the river. He--Lingard--would devote him-
self to it. He had been in the interior before. There
were immense deposits of alluvial gold there. Fabulous.
He felt sure. Had seen places. Dangerous work? Of
course! But what a reward! He would explore--and
find. Not a shadow of doubt. Hang the danger!
194 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
They would first get as much as they could for them-
selves. Keep the thing quiet. Then after a time form
a Company. In Batavia or in England. Yes, in
England. Much better. Splendid! Why, of course.
And that baby would be the richest woman in the
world. He--Lingard--would not, perhaps, see it--
although he felt good for many years yet--but Almayer
would. Here was something to live for yet! Hey?
But the richest woman in the world had been for the
last five minutes shouting shrilly--"Rajah Laut!
Rajah Laut! Hai! Give ear!" while the old
seaman had been speaking louder, unconsciously, to
make his deep bass heard above the impatient clamour.
He stopped now and said tenderly--
"What is it, little woman?"
"I am not a little woman. I am a white child.
Anak Putih. A white child; and the white men are
my brothers. Father says so. And Ali says so too.
Ali knows as much as father. Everything."
Almayer almost danced with paternal delight.
"I taught her. I taught her," he repeated, laughing
with tears in his eyes. "Isn't she sharp?"
"I am the slave of the white child," said Lingard,
with playful solemnity. "What is the order?"
"I want a house," she warbled, with great eager-
ness. "I want a house, and another house on the
roof, and another on the roof--high. High! Like
the places where they dwell--my brothers--in the
land where the sun sleeps."
"To the westward," explained Almayer, under his
breath. "She remembers everything. She wants you
to build a house of cards. You did, last time you were
Lingard sat down with the child on his knees, and
Almayer pulled out violently one drawer after another,
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 195
looking for the cards, as if the fate of the world de-
pended upon his haste. He produced a dirty double
pack which was only used during Lingard's visit to
Sambir, when he would sometimes play--of an evening
--with Almayer, a game which he called Chinese
bezique. It bored Almayer, but the old seaman de-
lighted in it, considering it a remarkable product of
Chinese genius--a race for which he had an unac-
countable liking and admiration.
"Now we will get on, my little pearl," he said,
putting together with extreme precaution two cards
that looked absurdly flimsy between his big fingers.
Little Nina watched him with intense seriousness as
he went on erecting the ground floor, while he con-
tinued to speak to Almayer with his head over his
shoulder so as not to endanger the structure with
"I know what I am talking about. . . . Been in
California in forty-nine. . . . Not that I made
much . . . then in Victoria in the early days.
. . . I know all about it. Trust me. Moreover a
blind man could . . . Be quiet, little sister, or you
will knock this affair down. . . . My hand pretty
steady yet! Hey, Kaspar? . . . Now, delight of
my heart, we shall put a third house on the top of these
two . . . keep very quiet. . . . As I was
saying, you got only to stoop and gather handfuls of
gold . . . dust . . . there. Now here we
are. Three houses on top of one another. Grand!"
He leaned back in his chair, one hand on the child's
head, which he smoothed mechanically, and gesticu-
lated with the other, speaking to Almayer.
"Once on the spot, there would be only the trouble
to pick up the stuff. Then we shall all go to Europe.
The child must be educated. We shall be rich. Rich
196 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
is no name for it. Down in Devonshire where I
belong, there was a fellow who built a house near
Teignmouth which had as many windows as a three-
decker has ports. Made all his money somewhere out
here in the good old days. People around said he had
been a pirate. We boys--I was a boy in a Brixham
trawler then--certainly believed that. He went
about in a bath-chair in his grounds. Had a glass
eye . . ."
"Higher, Higher!" called out Nina, pulling the
old seaman's beard.
"You do worry me--don't you?" said Lingard,
gently, giving her a tender kiss. "What? One
more house on top of all these? Well! I will try."
The child watched him breathlessly. When the
difficult feat was accomplished she clapped her hands,
looked on steadily, and after a while gave a great sigh
"Oh! Look out!" shouted Almayer.
The structure collapsed suddenly before the child's
light breath. Lingard looked discomposed for a
moment. Almayer laughed, but the little girl began
"Take her," said the old seaman, abruptly. Then,
after Almayer went away with the crying child, he
remained sitting by the table, looking gloomily at the
heap of cards.
"Damn this Willems," he muttered to himself.
"But I will do it yet!"
He got up, and with an angry push of his hand swept
the cards off the table. Then he fell back in his chair.
"Tired as a dog," he sighed out, closing his eyes.
CONSCIOUSLY or unconsciously, men are proud of
their firmness, steadfastness of purpose, directness of
aim. They go straight towards their desire, to the
accomplishment of virtue--sometimes of crime--in an
uplifting persuasion of their firmness. They walk
the road of life, the road fenced in by their tastes,
prejudices, disdains or enthusiasms, generally honest,
invariably stupid, and are proud of never losing their
way. If they do stop, it is to look for a moment over
the hedges that make them safe, to look at the misty
valleys, at the distant peaks, at cliffs and morasses, at
the dark forests and the hazy plains where other human
beings grope their days painfully away, stumbling over
the bones of the wise, over the unburied remains of their
predecessors who died alone, in gloom or in sunshine,
halfway from anywhere. The man of purpose does
not understand, and goes on, full of contempt. He
never loses his way. He knows where he is going
and what he wants. Travelling on, he achieves great
length without any breadth, and battered, besmirched,
and weary, he touches the goal at last; he grasps the
reward of his perseverance, of his virtue, of his healthy
optimism: an untruthful tombstone over a dark and
soon forgotten grave.
Lingard had never hesitated in his life. Why
should he? He had been a most successful trader,
and a man lucky in his fights, skilful in navigation,
undeniably first in seamanship in those seas. He
knew it. Had he not heard the voice of common
198 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
consent? The voice of the world that respected him
so much; the whole world to him--for to us the limits
of the universe are strictly defined by those we know.
There is nothing for us outside the babble of praise
and blame on familiar lips, and beyond our last ac-
quaintance there lies only a vast chaos; a chaos of
laughter and tears which concerns us not; laughter
and tears unpleasant, wicked, morbid, contemptible--
because heard imperfectly by ears rebellious to strange
sounds. To Lingard--simple himself--all things
were simple. He seldom read. Books were not
much in his way, and he had to work hard navigating,
trading, and also, in obedience to his benevolent
instincts, shaping stray lives he found here and there
under his busy hand. He remembered the Sunday-
school teachings of his native village and the dis-
courses of the black-coated gentleman connected with
the Mission to Fishermen and Seamen, whose yawl-
rigged boat darting through rain-squalls amongst the
coasters wind-bound in Falmouth Bay, was part of
those precious pictures of his youthful days that
lingered in his memory. "As clever a sky-pilot as
you could wish to see," he would say with conviction,
"and the best man to handle a boat in any weather I
ever did meet!" Such were the agencies that had
roughly shaped his young soul before he went away to
see the world in a southern-going ship--before he
went, ignorant and happy, heavy of hand, pure in
heart, profane in speech, to give himself up to the
great sea that took his life and gave him his fortune.
When thinking of his rise in the world--commander
of ships, then shipowner, then a man of much capital,
respected wherever he went, Lingard in a word, the
Rajah Laut--he was amazed and awed by his fate,
that seemed to his ill-informed mind the most won-
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 199
drous known in the annals of men. His experience
appeared to him immense and conclusive, teaching
him the lesson of the simplicity of life. In life--as in
seamanship--there were only two ways of doing a
thing: the right way and the wrong way. Common
sense and experience taught a man the way that was
right. The other was for lubbers and fools, and led,
in seamanship, to loss of spars and sails or shipwreck;
in life, to loss of money and consideration, or to an
unlucky knock on the head. He did not consider it
his duty to be angry with rascals. He was only angry
with things he could not understand, but for the
weaknesses of humanity he could find a contemptuous
tolerance. It being manifest that he was wise and
lucky--otherwise how could he have been as successful
in life as he had been?--he had an inclination to set
right the lives of other people, just as he could hardly
refrain--in defiance of nautical etiquette--from in-
terfering with his chief officer when the crew was sending
up a new topmast, or generally when busy about, what
he called, "a heavy job." He was meddlesome with
perfect modesty; if he knew a thing or two there was
no merit in it. "Hard knocks taught me wisdom, my
boy," he used to say, "and you had better take the
advice of a man who has been a fool in his time. Have
another." And "my boy" as a rule took the cool
drink, the advice, and the consequent help which Lin-
gard felt himself bound in honour to give, so as to back
up his opinion like an honest man. Captain Tom went
sailing from island to island, appearing unexpectedly
in various localities, beaming, noisy, anecdotal, com-
mendatory or comminatory, but always welcome.
It was only since his return to Sambir that the old
seaman had for the first time known doubt and un-
happiness, The loss of the Flash--planted firmly
200 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
and for ever on a ledge of rock at the north end of
Gaspar Straits in the uncertain light of a cloudy morn-
ing--shook him considerably; and the amazing news
which he heard on his arrival in Sambir were not made
to soothe his feelings. A good many years ago--
prompted by his love of adventure--he, with infinite
trouble, had found out and surveyed--for his own
benefit only--the entrances to that river, where,
he had heard through native report, a new settlement
of Malays was forming. No doubt he thought at the
time mostly of personal gain; but, received with hearty
friendliness by Patalolo, he soon came to like the ruler
and the people, offered his counsel and his help, and--
knowing nothing of Arcadia--he dreamed of Arcadian
happiness for that little corner of the world which he
loved to think all his own. His deep-seated and
immovable conviction that only he--he, Lingard--
knew what was good for them was characteristic of him.
and, after all, not so very far wrong. He would make
them happy whether or no, he said, and he meant it.
His trade brought prosperity to the young state, and
the fear of his heavy hand secured its internal peace for
He looked proudly upon his work. With every
passing year he loved more the land, the people, the
muddy river that, if he could help it, would carry no
other craft but the Flash on its unclean and friendly
surface. As he slowly warped his vessel up-stream he
would scan with knowing looks the riverside clearings,
and pronounce solemn judgment upon the prospects of
the season's rice-crop. He knew every settler on the
banks between the sea and Sambir; he knew their
wives, their children; he knew every individual of
the multi-coloured groups that, standing on the flimsy
platforms of tiny reed dwellings built over the water,
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 201
waved their hands and shouted shrilly: "O! Kapal
layer! Hai!" while the Flash swept slowly through
the populated reach, to enter the lonely stretches of
sparkling brown water bordered by the dense and
silent forest, whose big trees nodded their outspread
boughs gently in the faint, warm breeze--as if in sign
of tender but melancholy welcome. He loved it all:
the landscape of brown golds and brilliant emeralds
under the dome of hot sapphire; the whispering big
trees; the loquacious nipa-palms that rattled their
leaves volubly in the night breeze, as if in haste to
tell him all the secrets of the great forest behind them.
He loved the heavy scents of blossoms and black earth,
that breath of life and of death which lingered over
his brig in the damp air of tepid and peaceful nights.
He loved the narrow and sombre creeks, strangers to
sunshine: black, smooth, tortuous--like byways of
despair. He liked even the troops of sorrowful-faced
monkeys that profaned the quiet spots with capricious
gambols and insane gestures of inhuman madness.
He loved everything there, animated or inanimated;
the very mud of the riverside; the very alligators,
enormous and stolid, basking on it with impertinent
unconcern. Their size was a source of pride to him.
"Immense fellows! Make two of them Palembang
reptiles! I tell you, old man!" he would shout, poking
some crony of his playfully in the ribs: "I tell you,
big as you are, they could swallow you in one gulp,
hat, boots and all! Magnificent beggars! Wouldn't
you like to see them? Wouldn't you! Ha! ha!
ha!" His thunderous laughter filled the verandah,
rolled over the hotel garden, overflowed into the
street, paralyzing for a short moment the noiseless traffic
of bare brown feet; and its loud reverberations would
even startle the landlord's tame bird--a shame-
202 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
less mynah--into a momentary propriety of behaviour
under the nearest chair. In the big billiard-room
perspiring men in thin cotton singlets would stop the
game, listen, cue in hand, for a while through the
open windows, then nod their moist faces at each
other sagaciously and whisper: "The old fellow is
talking about his river."
His river! The whispers of curious men, the mystery
of the thing, were to Lingard a source of never-ending
delight. The common talk of ignorance exaggerated
the profits of his queer monopoly, and, although
strictly truthful in general, he liked, on that matter, to
mislead speculation still further by boasts full of cold
raillery. His river! By it he was not only rich--he
was interesting. This secret of his which made him
different to the other traders of those seas gave inti-
mate satisfaction to that desire for singularity which
he shared with the rest of mankind, without being
aware of its presence within his breast. It was the
greater part of his happiness, but he only knew it
after its loss, so unforeseen, so sudden and so cruel.
After his conversation with Almayer he went on
board the schooner, sent Joanna on shore, and shut
himself up in his cabin, feeling very unwell. He
made the most of his indisposition to Almayer, who
came to visit him twice a day. It was an excuse for
doing nothing just yet. He wanted to think. He
was very angry. Angry with himself, with Willems.
Angry at what Willems had done--and also angry at
what he had left undone. The scoundrel was not
complete. The conception was perfect, but the execu-
tion, unaccountably, fell short. Why? He ought to
have cut Almayer's throat and burnt the place to
ashes--then cleared out. Got out of his way; of him,
Lingard! Yet he didn't. Was it impudence, con-
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 203
tempt--or what? He felt hurt at the implied dis-
respect of his power, and the incomplete rascality
of the proceeding disturbed him exceedingly. There
was something short, something wanting, something
that would have given him a free hand in the work of
retribution. The obvious, the right thing to do, was
to shoot Willems. Yet how could he? Had the
fellow resisted, showed fight, or ran away; had he
shown any consciousness of harm done, it would have
been more possible, more natural. But no! The
fellow actually had sent him a message. Wanted to
see him. What for? The thing could not be
explained. An unexampled, cold-blooded treachery,
awful, incomprehensible. Why did he do it? Why?
Why? The old seaman in the stuffy solitude of his
little cabin on board the schooner groaned out many
times that question, striking with an open palm his
During his four days of seclusion he had received
two messages from the outer world; from that world
of Sambir which had, so suddenly and so finally,
slipped from his grasp. One, a few words from Willems
written on a torn-out page of a small notebook; the
other, a communication from Abdulla caligraphed
carefully on a large sheet of flimsy paper and delivered
to him in a green silk wrapper. The first he could not
understand. It said: "Come and see me. I am not
afraid. Are you? W." He tore it up angrily, but
before the small bits of dirty paper had the time to
flutter down and settle on the floor, the anger was gone
and was replaced by a sentiment that induced him to
go on his knees, pick up the fragments of the torn
message, piece it together on the top of his chronometer
box, and contemplate it long and thoughtfully, as if he
had hoped to read the answer of the horrible riddle in
204 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
the very form of the letters that went to make up that
fresh insult. Abdulla's letter he read carefully and
rammed it into his pocket, also with anger, but with
anger that ended in a half-resigned, half-amused smile.
He would never give in as long as there was a chance.
"It's generally the safest way to stick to the ship as
long as she will swim," was one of his favourite sayings:
"The safest and the right way. To abandon a craft
because it leaks is easy--but poor work. Poor work!"
Yet he was intelligent enough to know when he was
beaten, and to accept the situation like a man, without
repining. When Almayer came on board that after-
noon he handed him the letter without comment.
Almayer read it, returned it in silence, and leaning
over the taffrail (the two men were on deck) looked
down for some time at the play of the eddies round
the schooner's rudder. At last he said without looking
"That's a decent enough letter. Abdulla gives him
up to you. I told you they were getting sick of him.
What are you going to do?"
Lingard cleared his throat, shuffled his feet, opened
his mouth with great determination, but said nothing
for a while. At last he murmured--
"I'll be hanged if I know--just yet."
"I wish you would do something soon . . ."
"What's the hurry?" interrupted Lingard. "He
can't get away. As it stands he is at my mercy, as far
as I can see."
"Yes," said Almayer, reflectively--"and very little
mercy he deserves too. Abdulla's meaning--as I can
make it out amongst all those compliments--is: 'Get
rid for me of that white man--and we shall live in peace
and share the trade."'
"You believe that?" asked Lingard, contemptuously.
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 205
"Not altogether," answered Almayer. "No doubt
we will share the trade for a time--till he can grab the
lot. Well, what are you going to do?"
He looked up as he spoke and was surprised to see
Lingard's discomposed face.
"You ain't well. Pain anywhere?" he asked, with
"I have been queer--you know--these last few days,
but no pain." He struck his broad chest several
times, cleared his throat with a powerful "Hem!"
and repeated: "No. No pain. Good for a few
years yet. But I am bothered with all this, I can tell
"You must take care of yourself," said Almayer.
Then after a pause he added: "You will see Abdulla.
"I don't know. Not yet. There's plenty of time,"
said Lingard, impatiently.
"I wish you would do something," urged Almayer,
moodily. "You know, that woman is a perfect
nuisance to me. She and her brat! Yelps all day.
And the children don't get on together. Yesterday
the little devil wanted to fight with my Nina.
Scratched her face, too. A perfect savage! Like his
honourable papa. Yes, really. She worries about her
husband, and whimpers from morning to night. When
she isn't weeping she is furious with me. Yesterday
she tormented me to tell her when he would be back
and cried because he was engaged in such dangerous
work. I said something about it being all right--no
necessity to make a fool of herself, when she turned upon
me like a wild cat. Called me a brute, selfish, heartless;
raved about her beloved Peter risking his life for my
benefit, while I did not care. Said I took advantage of
his generous good-nature to get him to do dangerous
206 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
work--my work. That he was worth twenty of
the likes of me. That she would tell you--open
your eyes as to the kind of man I was, and so on.
That's what I've got to put up with for your sake.
You really might consider me a little. I haven't
robbed anybody," went on Almayer, with an attempt
at bitter irony--"or sold my best friend, but still
you ought to have some pity on me. It's like living
in a hot fever. She is out of her wits. You make
my house a refuge for scoundrels and lunatics. It
isn't fair. 'Pon my word it isn't! When she is
in her tantrums she is ridiculously ugly and screeches
so--it sets my teeth on edge. Thank God! my
wife got a fit of the sulks and cleared out of the house.
Lives in a riverside hut since that affair--you know.
But this Willems' wife by herself is almost more than I
can bear. And I ask myself why should I? You
are exacting and no mistake. This morning I thought
she was going to claw me. Only think! She wanted
to go prancing about the settlement. She might have
heard something there, so I told her she mustn't. It
wasn't safe outside our fences, I said. Thereupon she
rushes at me with her ten nails up to my eyes. 'You
miserable man,' she yells, 'even this place is not safe,
and you've sent him up this awful river where he may
lose his head. If he dies before forgiving me, Heaven
will punish you for your crime . . .' My crime! I
ask myself sometimes whether I am dreaming! It will
make me ill, all this. I've lost my appetite already."
He flung his hat on deck and laid hold of his hair
despairingly. Lingard looked at him with concern.
"What did she mean by it?" he muttered, thought-
"Mean! She is crazy, I tell you--and I will be, very
soon, if this lasts!"
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 207
"Just a little patience, Kaspar," pleaded Lingard.
"A day or so more."
Relieved or tired by his violent outburst, Almayer
calmed down, picked up his hat and, leaning against
the bulwark, commenced to fan himself with it.
"Days do pass," he said, resignedly--"but that
kind of thing makes a man old before his time. What
is there to think about?--I can't imagine! Abdulla
says plainly that if you undertake to pilot his ship out
and instruct the half-caste, he will drop Willems like
a hot potato and be your friend ever after. I believe
him perfectly, as to Willems. It's so natural. As to
being your friend it's a lie of course, but we need not
bother about that just yet. You just say yes to Ab-
dulla, and then whatever happens to Willems will be
He interrupted himself and remained silent for a
while, glaring about with set teeth and dilated nostrils.
"You leave it to me. I'll see to it that something
happens to him," he said at last, with calm ferocity.
Lingard smiled faintly.
"The fellow isn't worth a shot. Not the trouble
of it," he whispered, as if to himself. Almayer fired
"That's what you think," he cried. "You haven't
been sewn up in your hammock to be made a laughing-
stock of before a parcel of savages. Why! I daren't
look anybody here in the face while that scoundrel is
alive. I will . . . I will settle him."
"I don't think you will," growled Lingard.
"Do you think I am afraid of him?"
"Bless you! no!" said Lingard with alacrity.
"Afraid! Not you. I know you. I don't doubt
your courage. It's your head, my boy, your head
that I . . ."
208 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
"That's it," said the aggrieved Almayer. "Go
on. Why don't you call me a fool at once?"
"Because I don't want to," burst out Lingard,
with nervous irritability. "If I wanted to call you
a fool, I would do so without asking your leave."
He began to walk athwart the narrow quarter-deck,
kicking ropes' ends out of his way and growling to
himself: "Delicate gentleman . . . what next?
. . . I've done man's work before you could toddle.
Understand . . . say what I like."
"Well! well!" said Almayer, with affected resignation.
"There's no talking to you these last few days." He
put on his hat, strolled to the gangway and stopped,
one foot on the little inside ladder, as if hesitating,
came back and planted himself in Lingard's way,
compelling him to stand still and listen.
"Of course you will do what you like. You never
take advice--I know that; but let me tell you that
it wouldn't be honest to let that fellow get away
from here. If you do nothing, that scoundrel will
leave in Abdulla's ship for sure. Abdulla will make
use of him to hurt you and others elsewhere. Willems
knows too much about your affairs. He will cause you
lots of trouble. You mark my words. Lots of trouble.
To you--and to others perhaps. Think of that,
Captain Lingard. That's all I've got to say. Now
I must go back on shore. There's lots of work. We
will begin loading this schooner to-morrow morning,
first thing. All the bundles are ready. If you should
want me for anything, hoist some kind of flag on the
mainmast. At night two shots will fetch me." Then
he added, in a friendly tone, "Won't you come and dine
in the house to-night? It can't be good for you to stew
on board like that, day after day."
Lingard did not answer. The image evoked by
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 209
Almayer; the picture of Willems ranging over the
islands and disturbing the harmony of the universe
by robbery, treachery, and violence, held him silent,
entranced--painfully spellbound. Almayer, after wait-
ing for a little while, moved reluctantly towards the
gangway, lingered there, then sighed and got over the
side, going down step by step. His head disappeared
slowly below the rail. Lingard, who had been staring
at him absently, started suddenly, ran to the side, and
looking over, called out--
"Hey! Kaspar! Hold on a bit!"
Almayer signed to his boatmen to cease paddling,
and turned his head towards the schooner. The
boat drifted back slowly abreast of Lingard, nearly
"Look here," said Lingard, looking down--"I
want a good canoe with four men to-day."
"Do you want it now?" asked Almayer.
"No! Catch this rope. Oh, you clumsy devil!
. . . No, Kaspar," went on Lingard, after the bow-
man had got hold of the end of the brace he had thrown
down into the canoe--"No, Kaspar. The sun is too
much for me. And it would be better to keep my affairs
quiet, too. Send the canoe--four good paddlers,
mind, and your canvas chair for me to sit in. Send it
about sunset. D'ye hear?"
"All right, father," said Almayer, cheerfully--"I
will send Ali for a steersman, and the best men I've
got. Anything else?"
"No, my lad. Only don't let them be late."
"I suppose it's no use asking you where you are
going," said Almayer, tentatively. "Because if it is
to see Abdulla, I . . ."
"I am not going to see Abdulla. Not to-day. Now
be off with you."
210 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
He watched the canoe dart away shorewards, waved
his hand in response to Almayer's nod, and walked
to the taffrail smoothing out Abdulla's letter, which
he had pulled out of his pocket. He read it over
carefully, crumpled it up slowly, smiling the while
and closing his fingers firmly over the crackling paper
as though he had hold there of Abdulla's throat. Half-
way to his pocket he changed his mind, and flinging
the ball overboard looked at it thoughtfully as it spun
round in the eddies for a moment, before the current
bore it away down-stream, towards the sea.
[page intentionally blank]
THE night was very dark. For the first time in
many months the East Coast slept unseen by the stars
under a veil of motionless cloud that, driven before
the first breath of the rainy monsoon, had drifted
slowly from the eastward all the afternoon; pursuing
the declining sun with its masses of black and grey
that seemed to chase the light with wicked intent,
and with an ominous and gloomy steadiness, as though
conscious of the message of violence and turmoil they
carried. At the sun's disappearance below the western
horizon, the immense cloud, in quickened motion,
grappled with the glow of retreating light, and rolling
down to the clear and jagged outline of the distant
mountains, hung arrested above the steaming forests;
hanging low, silent and menacing over the unstirring
tree-tops; withholding the blessing of rain, nursing
the wrath of its thunder; undecided--as if brooding
over its own power for good or for evil.
Babalatchi, coming out of the red and smoky light
of his little bamboo house, glanced upwards, drew in
a long breath of the warm and stagnant air, and stood
for a moment with his good eye closed tightly, as if
intimidated by the unwonted and deep silence of
Lakamba's courtyard. When he opened his eye he
had recovered his sight so far, that he could dis-
tinguish the various degrees of formless blackness
which marked the places of trees, of abandoned houses,
of riverside bushes, on the dark background of the
night. The careworn sage walked cautiously down
214 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
the deserted courtyard to the waterside, and stood
on the bank listening to the voice of the invisible
river that flowed at his feet; listening to the soft
whispers, to the deep murmurs, to the sudden gurgles
and the short hisses of the swift current racing along
the bank through the hot darkness.
He stood with his face turned to the river, and it
seemed to him that he could breathe easier with the
knowledge of the clear vast space before him; then,
after a while he leaned heavily forward on his staff,
his chin fell on his breast, and a deep sigh was his
answer to the selfish discourse of the river that hurried
on unceasing and fast, regardless of joy or sorrow, of
suffering and of strife, of failures and triumphs that
lived on its banks. The brown water was there,
ready to carry friends or enemies, to nurse love or hate
on its submissive and heartless bosom, to help or to
hinder, to save life or give death; the great and rapid
river: a deliverance, a prison, a refuge or a grave.
Perchance such thoughts as these caused Babalatchi
to send another mournful sigh into the trailing mists
of the unconcerned Pantai. The barbarous politician
had forgotten the recent success of his plottings in the
melancholy contemplation of a sorrow that made the
night blacker, the clammy heat more oppressive, the
still air more heavy, the dumb solitude more signifi-
cant of torment than of peace. He had spent the night
before by the side of the dying Omar, and now, after
twenty-four hours, his memory persisted in returning
to that low and sombre reed hut from which the fierce
spirit of the incomparably accomplished pirate took its
flight, to learn too late, in a worse world, the error of its
earthly ways. The mind of the savage statesman,
chastened by bereavement, felt for a moment the weight
of his loneliness with keen perception worthy even of a
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 215
sensibility exasperated by all the refinements of tender
sentiment that a glorious civilization brings in its train,
among other blessings and virtues, into this excellent
world. For the space of about thirty seconds, a half-
naked, betel-chewing pessimist stood upon the bank of
the tropical river, on the edge of the still and immense
forests; a man angry, powerless, empty-handed, with
a cry of bitter discontent ready on his lips; a cry
that, had it come out, would have rung through the
virgin solitudes of the woods, as true, as great, as pro-
found, as any philosophical shriek that ever came
from the depths of an easy-chair to disturb the impure
wilderness of chimneys and roofs.
For half a minute and no more did Babalatchi face
the gods in the sublime privilege of his revolt, and
then the one-eyed puller of wires became himself
again, full of care and wisdom and far-reaching plans,
and a victim to the tormenting superstitions of his
race. The night, no matter how quiet, is never per-
fectly silent to attentive ears, and now Babalatchi
fancied he could detect in it other noises than those
caused by the ripples and eddies of the river. He
turned his head sharply to the right and to the left in
succession, and then spun round quickly in a startled
and watchful manner, as if he had expected to see the
blind ghost of his departed leader wandering in the
obscurity of the empty courtyard behind his back.
Nothing there. Yet he had heard a noise; a strange
noise! No doubt a ghostly voice of a complaining
and angry spirit. He listened. Not a sound. Re-
assured, Babalatchi made a few paces towards his
house, when a very human noise, that of hoarse cough-
ing, reached him from the river. He stopped, listened
attentively, but now without any sign of emotion, and
moving briskly back to the waterside stood expectant
216 AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS
with parted lips, trying to pierce with his eye the waver-
ing curtain of mist that hung low over the water.
He could see nothing, yet some people in a canoe must
have been very near, for he heard words spoken in an
"Do you think this is the place, Ali? I can see
"It must be near here, Tuan," answered another
voice. "Shall we try the bank?"
"No! . . . Let drift a little. If you go poking
into the bank in the dark you might stove the canoe
on some log. We must be careful. . . . Let drift!
Let drift! . . . This does seem to be a clearing of
some sort. We may see a light by and by from some
house or other. In Lakamba's campong there are
many houses? Hey?"
"A great number, Tuan . . . I do not see any
"Nor I," grumbled the first voice again, this time
nearly abreast of the silent Babalatchi who looked
uneasily towards his own house, the doorway of which
glowed with the dim light of a torch burning within.
The house stood end on to the river, and its doorway
faced down-stream, so Babalatchi reasoned rapidly
that the strangers on the river could not see the light
from the position their boat was in at the moment.
He could not make up his mind to call out to them,
and while he hesitated he heard the voices again, but
now some way below the landing-place where he stood.
"Nothing. This cannot be it. Let them give
way, Ali! Dayong there!"
That order was followed by the splash of paddles,
then a sudden cry--
"I see a light. I see it! Now I know where to
AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS 217
There was more splashing as the canoe was paddled
sharply round and came back up-stream close to the
"Call out," said very near a deep voice, which
Babalatchi felt sure must belong to a white man.
"Call out--and somebody may come with a torch.
I can't see anything."
The loud hail that succeeded these words was
emitted nearly under the silent listener's nose. Baba-
latchi, to preserve appearances, ran with long but noise-
less strides halfway up the courtyard, and only then
shouted in answer and kept on shouting as he walked
slowly back again towards the river bank. He saw
there an indistinct shape of a boat, not quite along-
side the landing-place.
"Who speaks on the river?" asked Babalatchi,
throwing a tone of surprise into his question.
"A white man," answered Lingard from the canoe.
"Is there not one torch in rich Lakamba's campong
to light a guest on his landing?"
"There are no torches and no men. I am alone
here," said Babalatchi, with some hesitation.
"Alone!" exclaimed Lingard. "Who are you?"
"Only a servant of Lakamba. But land, Tuan
Putih, and see my face. Here is my hand. No!
Here! . . . By your mercy. . . . Ada! . . .
Now you are safe."