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An Outcast of the Islands by Joseph Conrad

Part 2 out of 7

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he was not politic enough to conceal his disappoint-
ment. He declared himself to be a man from the east,
from those parts where no white man ruled, and to
be of an oppressed race, but of a princely family. And
truly enough he had all the gifts of an exiled prince.
He was discontented, ungrateful, turbulent; a man full
of envy and ready for intrigue, with brave words and
empty promises for ever on his lips. He was obstinate,
but his will was made up of short impulses that never
lasted long enough to carry him to the goal of his ambi-
tion. Received coldly by the suspicious Patalolo, he
persisted--permission or no permission--in clearing the
ground on a good spot some fourteen miles down the
river from Sambir, and built himself a house there, which
he fortified by a high palisade. As he had many fol-
lowers and seemed very reckless, the old Rajah did not


think it prudent at the time to interfere with him by
force. Once settled, he began to intrigue. The quarrel
of Patalolo with the Sultan of Koti was of his fomenting,
but failed to produce the result he expected because
the Sultan could not back him up effectively at such
a great distance. Disappointed in that scheme, he
promptly organized an outbreak of the Bugis settlers,
and besieged the old Rajah in his stockade with much
noisy valour and a fair chance of success; but Lingard
then appeared on the scene with the armed brig, and
the old seaman's hairy forefinger, shaken menacingly
in his face, quelled his martial ardour. No man cared
to encounter the Rajah Laut, and Lakamba, with
momentary resignation, subsided into a half-cultivator,
half-trader, and nursed in his fortified house his wrath
and his ambition, keeping it for use on a more pro-
pitious occasion. Still faithful to his character of a
prince-pretender, he would not recognize the con-
stituted authorities, answering sulkily the Rajah's
messenger, who claimed the tribute for the cultivated
fields, that the Rajah had better come and take it
himself. By Lingard's advice he was left alone, not-
withstanding his rebellious mood; and for many days
he lived undisturbed amongst his wives and retainers,
cherishing that persistent and causeless hope of better
times, the possession of which seems to be the universal
privilege of exiled greatness.
But the passing days brought no change. The hope
grew faint and the hot ambition burnt itself out,
leaving only a feeble and expiring spark amongst a
heap of dull and tepid ashes of indolent acquiescence
with the decrees of Fate, till Babalatchi fanned it again
into a bright flame. Babalatchi had blundered upon
the river while in search of a safe refuge for his dis-
reputable head. He was a vagabond of the seas, a


true Orang-Laut, living by rapine and plunder of coasts
and ships in his prosperous days; earning his living by
honest and irksome toil when the days of adversity
were upon him. So, although at times leading the
Sulu rovers, he had also served as Serang of country
ships, and in that wise had visited the distant seas,
beheld the glories of Bombay, the might of the Mascati
Sultan; had even struggled in a pious throng for the
privilege of touching with his lips the Sacred Stone of
the Holy City. He gathered experience and wisdom
in many lands, and after attaching himself to Omar el
Badavi, he affected great piety (as became a pilgrim),
although unable to read the inspired words of the
Prophet. He was brave and bloodthirsty without any
affection, and he hated the white men who interfered
with the manly pursuits of throat-cutting, kidnapping,
slave-dealing, and fire-raising, that were the only pos-
sible occupation for a true man of the sea. He found
favour in the eyes of his chief, the fearless Omar el
Badavi, the leader of Brunei rovers, whom he followed
with unquestioning loyalty through the long years
of successful depredation. And when that long career
of murder, robbery and violence received its first
serious check at the hands of white men, he stood faith-
fully by his chief, looked steadily at the bursting shells,
was undismayed by the flames of the burning strong-
hold, by the death of his companions, by the shrieks of
their women, the wailing of their children; by the sud-
den ruin and destruction of all that he deemed indis-
pensable to a happy and glorious existence. The beaten
ground between the houses was slippery with blood,
and the dark mangroves of the muddy creeks were full
of sighs of the dying men who were stricken down before
they could see their enemy. They died helplessly, for
into the tangled forest there was no escape, and their


swift praus, in which they had so often scoured the
coast and the seas, now wedged together in the narrow
creek, were burning fiercely. Babalatchi, with the
clear perception of the coming end, devoted all his
energies to saving if it was but only one of them.
He succeeded in time. When the end came in the
explosion of the stored powder-barrels, he was ready
to look for his chief. He found him half dead and
totally blinded, with nobody near him but his daughter
Aissa:--the sons had fallen earlier in the day, as
became men of their courage. Helped by the girl
with the steadfast heart, Babalatchi carried Omar on
board the light prau and succeeded in escaping, but
with very few companions only. As they hauled their
craft into the network of dark and silent creeks, they
could hear the cheering of the crews of the man-of-
war's boats dashing to the attack of the rover's village.
Aissa, sitting on the high after-deck, her father's
blackened and bleeding head in her lap, looked up with
fearless eyes at Babalatchi. "They shall find only
smoke, blood and dead men, and women mad with fear
there, but nothing else living," she said, mournfully.
Babalatchi, pressing with his right hand the deep gash
on his shoulder, answered sadly: "They are very strong.
When we fight with them we can only die. Yet," he
added, menacingly--"some of us still live! Some of
us still live!"
For a short time he dreamed of vengeance, but his
dream was dispelled by the cold reception of the Sultan
of Sulu, with whom they sought refuge at first and who
gave them only a contemptuous and grudging hospi-
tality. While Omar, nursed by Aissa, was recovering
from his wounds, Babalatchi attended industriously
before the exalted Presence that had extended to them
the hand of Protection. For all that, when Babalatchi


spoke into the Sultan's ear certain proposals of a great
and profitable raid, that was to sweep the islands from
Ternate to Acheen, the Sultan was very angry. "I
know you, you men from the west," he exclaimed,
angrily. "Your words are poison in a Ruler's ears.
Your talk is of fire and murder and booty--but on our
heads falls the vengeance of the blood you drink.
There was nothing to be done. Times were changed.
So changed that, when a Spanish frigate appeared
before the island and a demand was sent to the Sultan
to deliver Omar and his companions, Babalatchi was not
surprised to hear that they were going to be made the
victims of political expediency. But from that sane
appreciation of danger to tame submission was a very
long step. And then began Omar's second flight. It
began arms in hand, for the little band had to fight in
the night on the beach for the possession of the small
canoes in which those that survived got away at last.
The story of that escape lives in the hearts of brave
men even to this day. They talk of Babalatchi and of
the strong woman who carried her blind father through
the surf under the fire of the warship from the north.
The companions of that piratical and son-less AEneas
are dead now, but their ghosts wander over the waters
and the islands at night--after the manner of ghosts
--and haunt the fires by which sit armed men, as is
meet for the spirits of fearless warriors who died in
battle. There they may hear the story of their own
deeds, of their own courage, suffering and death, on
the lips of living men. That story is told in many
places. On the cool mats in breezy verandahs of
Rajahs' houses it is alluded to disdainfully by impassive
statesmen, but amongst armed men that throng the
courtyards it is a tale which stills the murmur of


voices and the tinkle of anklets; arrests the passage
of the siri-vessel, and fixes the eyes in absorbed gaze.
They talk of the fight, of the fearless woman, of the
wise man; of long suffering on the thirsty sea in leaky
canoes; of those who died. . . . Many died. A
few survived. The chief, the woman, and another one
who became great.
There was no hint of incipient greatness in Baba-
latchi's unostentatious arrival in Sambir. He came
with Omar and Aissa in a small prau loaded with green
cocoanuts, and claimed the ownership of both vessel
and cargo. How it came to pass that Babalatchi,
fleeing for his life in a small canoe, managed to end his
hazardous journey in a vessel full of a valuable com-
modity, is one of those secrets of the sea that baffle
the most searching inquiry. In truth nobody inquired
much. There were rumours of a missing trading prau
belonging to Menado, but they were vague and re-
mained mysterious. Babalatchi told a story which--
it must be said in justice to Patalolo's knowledge of the
world--was not believed. When the Rajah ventured
to state his doubts, Babalatchi asked him in tones of
calm remonstrance whether he could reasonably suppose
that two oldish men--who had only one eye amongst
them--and a young woman were likely to gain posses-
sion of anything whatever by violence? Charity was a
virtue recommended by the Prophet. There were
charitable people, and their hand was open to the de-
serving. Patalolo wagged his aged head doubtingly,
and Babalatchi withdrew with a shocked mien and put
himself forthwith under Lakamba's protection. The
two men who completed the prau's crew followed him
into that magnate's campong. The blind Omar, with
Aissa, remained under the care of the Rajah, and the
Rajah confiscated the cargo. The prau hauled up on


the mud-bank, at the junction of the two branches of the
Pantai, rotted in the rain, warped in the sun, fell to
pieces and gradually vanished into the smoke of house-
hold fires of the settlement. Only a forgotten plank
and a rib or two, sticking neglected in the shiny ooze
for a long time, served to remind Babalatchi during
many months that he was a stranger in the land.
Otherwise, he felt perfectly at home in Lakamba's
establishment, where his peculiar position and influence
were quickly recognized and soon submitted to even
by the women. He had all a true vagabond's plia-
bility to circumstances and adaptiveness to momentary
surroundings. In his readiness to learn from experi-
ence that contempt for early principles so necessary
to a true statesman, he equalled the most successful
politicians of any age; and he had enough persuasiveness
and firmness of purpose to acquire a complete mastery
over Lakamba's vacillating mind--where there was
nothing stable but an all-pervading discontent. He
kept the discontent alive, he rekindled the expiring
ambition, he moderated the poor exile's not unnatural
impatience to attain a high and lucrative position. He
--the man of violence--deprecated the use of force,
for he had a clear comprehension of the difficult situa-
tion. From the same cause, he--the hater of white
men--would to some extent admit the eventual ex-
pediency of Dutch protection. But nothing should be
done in a hurry. Whatever his master Lakamba might
think, there was no use in poisoning old Patalolo, he
maintained. It could be done, of course; but what
then? As long as Lingard's influence was paramount--
as long as Almayer, Lingard's representative, was the
only great trader of the settlement, it was not worth
Lakamba's while--even if it had been possible--to grasp
the rule of the young state. Killing Almayer and Lin-


gard was so difficult and so risky that it might be dis-
missed as impracticable. What was wanted was an
alliance; somebody to set up against the white men's
influence--and somebody who, while favourable to La-
kamba, would at the same time be a person of a good
standing with the Dutch authorities. A rich and con-
sidered trader was wanted. Such a person once firmly
established in Sambir would help them to oust the old
Rajah, to remove him from power or from life if there
was no other way. Then it would be time to apply to
the Orang Blanda for a flag; for a recognition of their
meritorious services; for that protection which would
make them safe for ever! The word of a rich and
loyal trader would mean something with the Ruler
down in Batavia. The first thing to do was to find
such an ally and to induce him to settle in Sambir.
A white trader would not do. A white man would
not fall in with their ideas--would not be trustworthy.
The man they wanted should be rich, unscrupulous,
have many followers, and be a well-known personality
in the islands. Such a man might be found amongst
the Arab traders. Lingard's jealousy, said Babalatchi,
kept all the traders out of the river. Some were afraid,
and some did not know how to get there; others ig-
nored the very existence of Sambir; a good many did
not think it worth their while to run the risk of Lin-
gard's enmity for the doubtful advantage of trade
with a comparatively unknown settlement. The great
majority were undesirable or untrustworthy. And
Babalatchi mentioned regretfully the men he had
known in his young days: wealthy, resolute, courageous,
reckless, ready for any enterprise! But why lament
the past and speak about the dead? There is one man
--living--great--not far off . . .
Such was Babalatchi's line of policy laid before his


ambitious protector. Lakamba assented, his only ob-
jection being that it was very slow work. In his
extreme desire to grasp dollars and power, the unintel-
lectual exile was ready to throw himself into the arms
of any wandering cut-throat whose help could be
secured, and Babalatchi experienced great difficulty in
restraining him from unconsidered violence. It would
not do to let it be seen that they had any hand in
introducing a new element into the social and political
life of Sambir. There was always a possibility of
failure, and in that case Lingard's vengeance would be
swift and certain. No risk should be run. They must
Meantime he pervaded the settlement, squatting in
the course of each day by many household fires, testing
the public temper and public opinion--and always
talking about his impending departure. At night he
would often take Lakamba's smallest canoe and depart
silently to pay mysterious visits to his old chief on the
other side of the river. Omar lived in odour of sanc-
tity under the wing of Patalolo. Between the bamboo
fence, enclosing the houses of the Rajah, and the wild
forest, there was a banana plantation, and on its
further edge stood two little houses built on low piles
under a few precious fruit trees that grew on the banks
of a clear brook, which, bubbling up behind the house,
ran in its short and rapid course down to the big river.
Along the brook a narrow path led through the dense
second growth of a neglected clearing to the banana
plantation and to the houses in it which the Rajah had
given for residence to Omar. The Rajah was greatly
impressed by Omar's ostentatious piety, by his oracular
wisdom, by his many misfortunes, by the solemn
fortitude with which he bore his affliction. Often the
old ruler of Sambir would visit informally the blind


Arab and listen gravely to his talk during the hot hours
of an afternoon. In the night, Babalatchi would call
and interrupt Omar's repose, unrebuked. Aissa, stand-
ing silently at the door of one of the huts, could see the
two old friends as they sat very still by the fire in the
middle of the beaten ground between the two houses,
talking in an indistinct murmur far into the night. She
could not hear their words, but she watched the two
formless shadows curiously. Finally Babalatchi would
rise and, taking her father by the wrist, would lead him
back to the house, arrange his mats for him, and go out
quietly. Instead of going away, Babalatchi, uncon-
scious of Aissa's eyes, often sat again by the fire, in a
long and deep meditation. Aissa looked with respect
on that wise and brave man--she was accustomed to
see at her father's side as long as she could remember
--sitting alone and thoughtful in the silent night by
the dying fire, his body motionless and his mind wan-
dering in the land of memories, or--who knows?--
perhaps groping for a road in the waste spaces of the
uncertain future.
Babalatchi noted the arrival of Willems with alarm
at this new accession to the white men's strength.
Afterwards he changed his opinion. He met Willems
one night on the path leading to Omar's house, and
noticed later on, with only a moderate surprise, that
the blind Arab did not seem to be aware of the new
white man's visits to the neighbourhood of his dwell-
ing. Once, coming unexpectedly in the daytime,
Babalatchi fancied he could see the gleam of a white
jacket in the bushes on the other side of the brook.
That day he watched Aissa pensively as she moved
about preparing the evening rice; but after awhile he
went hurriedly away before sunset, refusing Omar's
hospitable invitation, in the name of Allah, to share


their meal. That same evening he startled Lakamba by
announcing that the time had come at last to make
the first move in their long-deferred game. Lakamba
asked excitedly for explanation. Babalatchi shook
his head and pointed to the flitting shadows of moving
women and to the vague forms of men sitting by the
evening fires in the courtyard. Not a word would he
speak here, he declared. But when the whole house-
hold was reposing, Babalatchi and Lakamba passed
silent amongst sleeping groups to the riverside, and,
taking a canoe, paddled off stealthily on their way to
the dilapidated guard-hut in the old rice-clearing.
There they were safe from all eyes and ears, and
could account, if need be, for their excursion by the
wish to kill a deer, the spot being well known as the
drinking-place of all kinds of game. In the seclu-
sion of its quiet solitude Babalatchi explained his
plan to the attentive Lakamba. His idea was to
make use of Willems for the destruction of Lingard's
"I know the white men, Tuan," he said, in con-
clusion. "In many lands have I seen them; always
the slaves of their desires, always ready to give up
their strength and their reason into the hands of some
woman. The fate of the Believers is written by the
hand of the Mighty One, but they who worship many
gods are thrown into the world with smooth foreheads,
for any woman's hand to mark their destruction there.
Let one white man destroy another. The will of the
Most High is that they should be fools. They know
how to keep faith with their enemies, but towards each
other they know only deception. Hai! I have seen!
I have seen!"
He stretched himself full length before the fire, and
closed his eye in real or simulated sleep. Lakamba,


not quite convinced, sat for a long time with his gaze
riveted on the dull embers. As the night advanced,
a slight white mist rose from the river, and the declining
moon, bowed over the tops of the forest, seemed to seek
the repose of the earth, like a wayward and wandering
lover who returns at last to lay his tired and silent head
on his beloved's breast.


"LEND me your gun, Almayer," said Willems, across
the table on which a smoky lamp shone redly above the
disorder of a finished meal. "I have a mind to go and
look for a deer when the moon rises to-night."
Almayer, sitting sidewise to the table, his elbow
pushed amongst the dirty plates, his chin on his breast
and his legs stretched stiffly out, kept his eyes steadily
on the toes of his grass slippers and laughed abruptly.
"You might say yes or no instead of making that
unpleasant noise," remarked Willems, with calm irrita-
"If I believed one word of what you say, I would,"
answered Almayer without changing his attitude and
speaking slowly, with pauses, as if dropping his words
on the floor. "As it is--what's the use? You know
where the gun is; you may take it or leave it. Gun.
Deer. Bosh! Hunt deer! Pah! It's a . . . ga-
zelle you are after, my honoured guest. You want gold
anklets and silk sarongs for that game--my mighty
hunter. And you won't get those for the asking, I
promise you. All day amongst the natives. A fine
help you are to me."
"You shouldn't drink so much, Almayer," said
Willems, disguising his fury under an affected drawl.
"You have no head. Never had, as far as I can
remember, in the old days in Macassar. You drink
too much."
"I drink my own," retorted Almayer, lifting his
head quickly and darting an angry glance at Willems.



Those two specimens of the superior race glared at
each other savagely for a minute, then turned away
their heads at the same moment as if by previous
arrangement, and both got up. Almayer kicked off his
slippers and scrambled into his hammock, which hung
between two wooden columns of the verandah so as
to catch every rare breeze of the dry season, and
Willems, after standing irresolutely by the table for
a short time, walked without a word down the steps
of the house and over the courtyard towards the little
wooden jetty, where several small canoes and a couple
of big white whale-boats were made fast, tugging at
their short painters and bumping together in the
swift current of the river. He jumped into the smallest
canoe, balancing himself clumsily, slipped the rattan
painter, and gave an unnecessary and violent shove,
which nearly sent him headlong overboard. By the
time he regained his balance the canoe had drifted
some fifty yards down the river. He knelt in the bot-
tom of his little craft and fought the current with long
sweeps of the paddle. Almayer sat up in his hammock,
grasping his feet and peering over the river with parted
lips till he made out the shadowy form of man and canoe
as they struggled past the jetty again.
"I thought you would go," he shouted. "Won't
you take the gun? Hey?" he yelled, straining his
voice. Then he fell back in his hammock and laughed
to himself feebly till he fell asleep. On the river, Wil-
lems, his eyes fixed intently ahead, swept his paddle
right and left, unheeding the words that reached him
It was now three months since Lingard had landed
Willems in Sambir and had departed hurriedly, leaving
him in Almayer's care. The two white men did not
get on well together. Almayer, remembering the time


when they both served Hudig, and when the superior
Willems treated him with offensive condescension, felt
a great dislike towards his guest. He was also jealous of
Lingard's favour. Almayer had married a Malay girl
whom the old seaman had adopted in one of his accesses
of unreasoning benevolence, and as the marriage was not
a happy one from a domestic point of view, he looked to
Lingard's fortune for compensation in his matrimonial
unhappiness. The appearance of that man, who seemed
to have a claim of some sort upon Lingard, filled him
with considerable uneasiness, the more so because the
old seaman did not choose to acquaint the husband of
his adopted daughter with Willems' history, or to
confide to him his intentions as to that individual's
future fate. Suspicious from the first, Almayer dis-
couraged Willems' attempts to help him in his trading,
and then when Willems drew back, he made, with
characteristic perverseness, a grievance of his uncon-
cern. From cold civility in their relations, the two men
drifted into silent hostility, then into outspoken
enmity, and both wished ardently for Lingard's return
and the end of a situation that grew more intolerable
from day to day. The time dragged slowly. Willems
watched the succeeding sunrises wondering dismally
whether before the evening some change would occur
in the deadly dullness of his life. He missed the com-
mercial activity of that existence which seemed to him
far off, irreparably lost, buried out of sight under the
ruins of his past success--now gone from him beyond
the possibility of redemption. He mooned disconso-
lately about Almayer's courtyard, watching from afar,
with uninterested eyes, the up-country canoes dis-
charging guttah or rattans, and loading rice or European
goods on the little wharf of Lingard & Co. Big as was
the extent of ground owned by Almayer, Willems yet felt


that there was not enough room for him inside those
neat fences. The man who, during long years, became
accustomed to think of himself as indispensable to
others, felt a bitter and savage rage at the cruel con-
sciousness of his superfluity, of his uselessness; at the
cold hostility visible in every look of the only white man
in this barbarous corner of the world. He gnashed his
teeth when he thought of the wasted days, of the life
thrown away in the unwilling company of that peevish
and suspicious fool. He heard the reproach of his idle-
ness in the murmurs of the river, in the unceasing whis-
per of the great forests. Round him everything stirred,
moved, swept by in a rush; the earth under his feet
and the heavens above his head. The very savages
around him strove, struggled, fought, worked--if only
to prolong a miserable existence; but they lived, they
lived! And it was only himself that seemed to be left
outside the scheme of creation in a hopeless immobility
filled with tormenting anger and with ever-stinging
He took to wandering about the settlement. The
afterwards flourishing Sambir was born in a swamp
and passed its youth in malodorous mud. The houses
crowded the bank, and, as if to get away from the
unhealthy shore, stepped boldly into the river, shoot-
ing over it in a close row of bamboo platforms elevated
on high piles, amongst which the current below spoke
in a soft and unceasing plaint of murmuring eddies.
There was only one path in the whole town and it ran
at the back of the houses along the succession of
blackened circular patches that marked the place of
the household fires. On the other side the virgin
forest bordered the path, coming close to it, as if to
provoke impudently any passer-by to the solution of
the gloomy problem of its depths. Nobody would


accept the deceptive challenge. There were only a
few feeble attempts at a clearing here and there, but
the ground was low and the river, retiring after its
yearly floods, left on each a gradually diminishing
mudhole, where the imported buffaloes of the Bugis
settlers wallowed happily during the heat of the day.
When Willems walked on the path, the indolent men
stretched on the shady side of the houses looked at
him with calm curiosity, the women busy round the
cooking fires would send after him wondering and timid
glances, while the children would only look once, and
then run away yelling with fright at the horrible appear-
ance of the man with a red and white face. These
manifestations of childish disgust and fear stung Wil-
lems with a sense of absurd humiliation; he sought in
his walks the comparative solitude of the rudimentary
clearings, but the very buffaloes snorted with alarm at
his sight, scrambled lumberingly out of the cool mud
and stared wildly in a compact herd at him as he tried
to slink unperceived along the edge of the forest. One
day, at some unguarded and sudden movement of his,
the whole herd stampeded down the path, scattered the
fires, sent the women flying with shrill cries, and left
behind a track of smashed pots, trampled rice, over-
turned children, and a crowd of angry men brandishing
sticks in loud-voiced pursuit. The innocent cause of
that disturbance ran shamefacedly the gauntlet of
black looks and unfriendly remarks, and hastily sought
refuge in Almayer's campong. After that he left the
settlement alone.
Later, when the enforced confinement grew irksome,
Willems took one of Almayer's many canoes and crossed
the main branch of the Pantai in search of some soli-
tary spot where he could hide his discouragement and
his weariness. He skirted in his little craft the wall of


tangled verdure, keeping in the dead water close to the
bank where the spreading nipa palms nodded their
broad leaves over his head as if in contemptuous pity
of the wandering outcast. Here and there he could see
the beginnings of chopped-out pathways, and, with the
fixed idea of getting out of sight of the busy river, he
would land and follow the narrow and winding path,
only to find that it led nowhere, ending abruptly in the
discouragement of thorny thickets. He would go back
slowly, with a bitter sense of unreasonable disappoint-
ment and sadness; oppressed by the hot smell of earth,
dampness, and decay in that forest which seemed to
push him mercilessly back into the glittering sunshine
of the river. And he would recommence paddling with
tired arms to seek another opening, to find another
As he paddled up to the point where the Rajah's
stockade came down to the river, the nipas were left
behind rattling their leaves over the brown water,
and the big trees would appear on the bank, tall,
strong, indifferent in the immense solidity of their life,
which endures for ages, to that short and fleeting life
in the heart of the man who crept painfully amongst
their shadows in search of a refuge from the unceasing
reproach of his thoughts. Amongst their smooth trunks
a clear brook meandered for a time in twining lacets
before it made up its mind to take a leap into the hurry-
ing river, over the edge of the steep bank. There was
also a pathway there and it seemed frequented. Wil-
lems landed, and following the capricious promise of the
track soon found himself in a comparatively clear space,
where the confused tracery of sunlight fell through the
branches and the foliage overhead, and lay on the
stream that shone in an easy curve like a bright sword-
blade dropped amongst the long and feathery grass.


Further on, the path continued, narrowed again in the
thick undergrowth. At the end of the first turning
Willems saw a flash of white and colour, a gleam of gold
like a sun-ray lost in shadow, and a vision of blackness
darker than the deepest shade of the forest. He stop-
ped, surprised, and fancied he had heard light footsteps
--growing lighter--ceasing. He looked around. The
grass on the bank of the stream trembled and a tremu-
lous path of its shivering, silver-grey tops ran from the
water to the beginning of the thicket. And yet there
was not a breath of wind. Somebody kind passed there.
He looked pensive while the tremor died out in a quick
tremble under his eyes; and the grass stood high, un-
stirring, with drooping heads in the warm and motion-
less air.
He hurried on, driven by a suddenly awakened curi-
osity, and entered the narrow way between the bushes.
At the next turn of the path he caught again the
glimpse of coloured stuff and of a woman's black hair
before him. He hastened his pace and came in full
view of the object of his pursuit. The woman, who
was carrying two bamboo vessels full of water, heard
his footsteps, stopped, and putting the bamboos down
half turned to look back. Willems also stood still for
a minute, then walked steadily on with a firm tread,
while the woman moved aside to let him pass. He
kept his eyes fixed straight before him, yet almost
unconsciously he took in every detail of the tall and
graceful figure. As he approached her the woman
tossed her head slightly back, and with a free gesture
of her strong, round arm, caught up the mass of loose
black hair and brought it over her shoulder and across
the lower part of her face. The next moment he was
passing her close, walking rigidly, like a man in a trance.
He heard her rapid breathing and he felt the touch of a


look darted at him from half-open eyes. It touched
his brain and his heart together. It seemed to him to
be something loud and stirring like a shout, silent and
penetrating like an inspiration. The momentum of
his motion carried him past her, but an invisible force
made up of surprise and curiosity and desire spun him
round as soon as he had passed.
She had taken up her burden already, with the in-
tention of pursuing her path. His sudden movement
arrested her at the first step, and again she stood
straight, slim, expectant, with a readiness to dart away
suggested in the light immobility of her pose. High
above, the branches of the trees met in a transparent
shimmer of waving green mist, through which the
rain of yellow rays descended upon her head, streamed
in glints down her black tresses, shone with the changing
glow of liquid metal on her face, and lost itself in vanish-
ing sparks in the sombre depths of her eyes that, wide
open now, with enlarged pupils, looked steadily at the
man in her path. And Willems stared at her, charmed
with a charm that carries with it a sense of irreparable
loss, tingling with that feeling which begins like a caress
and ends in a blow, in that sudden hurt of a new emo-
tion making its way into a human heart, with the
brusque stirring of sleeping sensations awakening sud-
denly to the rush of new hopes, new fears, new desires
--and to the flight of one's old self.
She moved a step forward and again halted. A
breath of wind that came through the trees, but in
Willems' fancy seemed to be driven by her moving
figure, rippled in a hot wave round his body and
scorched his face in a burning touch. He drew it in
with a long breath, the last long breath of a soldier
before the rush of battle, of a lover before he takes in
his arms the adored woman; the breath that gives


courage to confront the menace of death or the storm
of passion.
Who was she? Where did she come from? Wonder-
ingly he took his eyes off her face to look round at the
serried trees of the forest that stood big and still and
straight, as if watching him and her breathlessly. He
had been baffled, repelled, almost frightened by the
intensity of that tropical life which wants the sunshine
but works in gloom; which seems to be all grace of
colour and form, all brilliance, all smiles, but is only
the blossoming of the dead; whose mystery holds the
promise of joy and beauty, yet contains nothing but
poison and decay. He had been frightened by the
vague perception of danger before, but now, as he
looked at that life again, his eyes seemed able to pierce
the fantastic veil of creepers and leaves, to look past
the solid trunks, to see through the forbidding gloom--
and the mystery was disclosed--enchanting, subduing,
beautiful. He looked at the woman. Through the
checkered light between them she appeared to him with
the impalpable distinctness of a dream. The very
spirit of that land of mysterious forests, standing before
him like an apparition behind a transparent veil--a
veil woven of sunbeams and shadows.
She had approached him still nearer. He felt a
strange impatience within him at her advance. Con-
fused thoughts rushed through his head, disordered,
shapeless, stunning. Then he heard his own voice
"Who are you?"
"I am the daughter of the blind Omar," she answered,
in a low but steady tone. "And you," she went on, a
little louder, "you are the white trader--the great man
of this place."
"Yes," said Willems, holding her eyes with his in a


sense of extreme effort, "Yes, I am white." Then
he added, feeling as if he spoke about some other man,
"But I am the outcast of my people."
She listened to him gravely. Through the mesh of
scattered hair her face looked like the face of a golden
statue with living eyes. The heavy eyelids dropped
slightly, and from between the long eyelashes she sent
out a sidelong look: hard, keen, and narrow, like the
gleam of sharp steel. Her lips were firm and composed
in a graceful curve, but the distended nostrils, the up-
ward poise of the half-averted head, gave to her whole
person the expression of a wild and resentful defiance.
A shadow passed over Willems' face. He put his
hand over his lips as if to keep back the words that
wanted to come out in a surge of impulsive necessity,
the outcome of dominant thought that rushes from
the heart to the brain and must be spoken in the face
of doubt, of danger, of fear, of destruction itself.
"You are beautiful," he whispered.
She looked at him again with a glance that running
in one quick flash of her eyes over his sunburnt fea-
tures, his broad shoulders, his straight, tall, motion-
less figure, rested at last on the ground at his feet.
Then she smiled. In the sombre beauty of her face
that smile was like the first ray of light on a stormy
daybreak that darts evanescent and pale through the
gloomy clouds: the forerunner of sunrise and of thunder.


THERE are in our lives short periods which hold no
place in memory but only as the recollection of a
feeling. There is no remembrance of gesture, of action,
of any outward manifestation of life; those are lost in
the unearthly brilliance or in the unearthly gloom of
such moments. We are absorbed in the contemplation
of that something, within our bodies, which rejoices or
suffers while the body goes on breathing, instinctively
runs away or, not less instinctively, fights--perhaps dies.
But death in such a moment is the privilege of the for-
tunate, it is a high and rare favour, a supreme grace.
Willems never remembered how and when he parted
from Aissa. He caught himself drinking the muddy
water out of the hollow of his hand, while his canoe was
drifting in mid-stream past the last houses of Sambir.
With his returning wits came the fear of something un-
known that had taken possession of his heart, of some-
thing inarticulate and masterful which could not speak
and would be obeyed. His first impulse was that of
revolt. He would never go back there. Never! He
looked round slowly at the brilliance of things in the
deadly sunshine and took up his paddle! How changed
everything seemed! The river was broader, the sky
was higher. How fast the canoe flew under the strokes
of his paddle! Since when had he acquired the strength
of two men or more? He looked up and down the reach
at the forests of the bank with a confused notion that
with one sweep of his hand he could tumble all these
trees into the stream. His face felt burning. He



drank again, and shuddered with a depraved sense of
pleasure at the after-taste of slime in the water.
It was late when he reached Almayer's house, but
he crossed the dark and uneven courtyard, walking
lightly in the radiance of some light of his own, invisible
to other eyes. His host's sulky greeting jarred him
like a sudden fall down a great height. He took
his place at the table opposite Almayer and tried to
speak cheerfully to his gloomy companion, but when
the meal was ended and they sat smoking in silence
he felt an abrupt discouragement, a lassitude in all his
limbs, a sense of immense sadness as after some great
and irreparable loss. The darkness of the night entered
his heart, bringing with it doubt and hesitation and dull
anger with himself and all the world. He had an im-
pulse to shout horrible curses, to quarrel with Almayer,
to do something violent. Quite without any immediate
provocation he thought he would like to assault the
wretched, sulky beast. He glanced at him ferociously
from under his eyebrows. The unconscious Almayer
smoked thoughtfully, planning to-morrow's work prob-
ably. The man's composure seemed to Willems an un-
pardonable insult. Why didn't that idiot talk to-night
when he wanted him to? . . . on other nights he
was ready enough to chatter. And such dull nonsense
too! And Willems, trying hard to repress his own
senseless rage, looked fixedly through the thick tobacco-
smoke at the stained tablecloth.
They retired early, as usual, but in the middle of the
night Willems leaped out of his hammock with a stifled
execration and ran down the steps into the courtyard.
The two night watchmen, who sat by a little fire talking
together in a monotonous undertone, lifted their heads
to look wonderingly at the discomposed features of the
white man as he crossed the circle of light thrown out


by their fire. He disappeared in the darkness and then
came back again, passing them close, but with no sign
of consciousness of their presence on his face. Back-
wards and forwards he paced, muttering to himself, and
the two Malays, after a short consultation in whispers
left the fire quietly, not thinking it safe to remain in the
vicinity of a white man who behaved in such a strange
manner. They retired round the corner of the godown
and watched Willems curiously through the night, till
the short daybreak was followed by the sudden blaze
of the rising sun, and Almayer's establishment woke up
to life and work.
As soon as he could get away unnoticed in the bustle
of the busy riverside, Willems crossed the river on his
way to the place where he had met Aissa. He threw
himself down in the grass by the side of the brook and
listened for the sound of her footsteps. The brilliant
light of day fell through the irregular opening in the
high branches of the trees and streamed down, softened,
amongst the shadows of big trunks. Here and there a
narrow sunbeam touched the rugged bark of a tree with
a golden splash, sparkled on the leaping water of the
brook, or rested on a leaf that stood out, shimmering
and distinct, on the monotonous background of sombre
green tints. The clear gap of blue above his head was
crossed by the quick flight of white rice-birds whose
wings flashed in the sunlight, while through it the heat
poured down from the sky, clung about the steaming
earth, rolled among the trees, and wrapped up Willems
in the soft and odorous folds of air heavy with the faint
scent of blossoms and with the acrid smell of decaying
life. And in that atmosphere of Nature's workshop
Willems felt soothed and lulled into forgetfulness of his
past, into indifference as to his future. The recollec-
tions of his triumphs, of his wrongs and of his ambition


vanished in that warmth, which seemed to melt all
regrets, all hope, all anger, all strength out of his heart.
And he lay there, dreamily contented, in the tepid and
perfumed shelter, thinking of Aissa's eyes; recalling the
sound of her voice, the quiver of her lips--her frowns
and her smile.
She came, of course. To her he was something new,
unknown and strange. He was bigger, stronger than
any man she had seen before, and altogether different
from all those she knew. He was of the victorious race.
With a vivid remembrance of the great catastrophe of
her life he appeared to her with all the fascination of a
great and dangerous thing; of a terror vanquished, sur-
mounted, made a plaything of. They spoke with just
such a deep voice--those victorious men; they looked
with just such hard blue eyes at their enemies. And
she made that voice speak softly to her, those eyes look
tenderly at her face! He was indeed a man. She
could not understand all he told her of his life, but the
fragments she understood she made up for herself into a
story of a man great amongst his own people, valorous
and unfortunate; an undaunted fugitive dreaming of
vengeance against his enemies. He had all the at-
tractiveness of the vague and the unknown--of the
unforeseen and of the sudden; of a being strong, danger-
ous, alive, and human, ready to be enslaved.
She felt that he was ready. She felt it with the
unerring intuition of a primitive woman confronted by
a simple impulse. Day after day, when they met and
she stood a little way off, listening to his words, holding
him with her look, the undefined terror of the new con-
quest became faint and blurred like the memory of a
dream, and the certitude grew distinct, and convincing,
and visible to the eyes like some material thing in full
sunlight. It was a deep joy, a great pride, a tangible


sweetness that seemed to leave the taste of honey on her
lips. He lay stretched at her feet without moving, for
he knew from experience how a slight movement of his
could frighten her away in those first days of their inter-
course. He lay very quiet, with all the ardour of his
desire ringing in his voice and shining in his eyes, whilst
his body was still, like death itself. And he looked at
her, standing above him, her head lost in the shadow of
broad and graceful leaves that touched her cheek; while
the slender spikes of pale green orchids streamed down
from amongst the boughs and mingled with the black
hair that framed her face, as if all those plants claimed
her for their own--the animated and brilliant flower of
all that exuberant life which, born in gloom, struggles
for ever towards the sunshine.
Every day she came a little nearer. He watched her
slow progress--the gradual taming of that woman by
the words of his love. It was the monotonous song of
praise and desire that, commencing at creation, wraps
up the world like an atmosphere and shall end only in
the end of all things--when there are no lips to sing and
no ears to hear. He told her that she was beautiful
and desirable, and he repeated it again and again; for
when he told her that, he had said all there was within
him--he had expressed his only thought, his only feel-
ing. And he watched the startled look of wonder and
mistrust vanish from her face with the passing days,
her eyes soften, the smile dwell longer and longer on her
lips; a smile as of one charmed by a delightful dream;
with the slight exaltation of intoxicating triumph lurk-
tng in its dawning tenderness.
And while she was near there was nothing in the
whole world--for that idle man--but her look and her
smile. Nothing in the past, nothing in the future;
and in the present only the luminous fact of her exis-


tence. But in the sudden darkness of her going he
would be left weak and helpless, as though despoiled
violently of all that was himself. He who had lived
all his life with no preoccupation but that of his own
career, contemptuously indifferent to all feminine in-
fluence, full of scorn for men that would submit to it,
if ever so little; he, so strong, so superior even in his
errors, realized at last that his very individuality was
snatched from within himself by the hand of a woman.
Where was the assurance and pride of his cleverness;
the belief in success, the anger of failure, the wish to
retrieve his fortune, the certitude of his ability to
accomplish it yet? Gone. All gone. All that had
been a man within him was gone, and there remained
only the trouble of his heart--that heart which had
become a contemptible thing; which could be fluttered
by a look or a smile, tormented by a word, soothed by
a promise.
When the longed-for day came at last, when she
sank on the grass by his side and with a quick gesture
took his hand in hers, he sat up suddenly with the
movement and look of a man awakened by the crash
of his own falling house. All his blood, all his sensa-
tion, all his life seemed to rush into that hand leaving
him without strength, in a cold shiver, in the sudden
clamminess and collapse as of a deadly gun-shot wound.
He flung her hand away brutally, like something
burning, and sat motionless, his head fallen forward,
staring on the ground and catching his breath in
painful gasps. His impulse of fear and apparent horror
did not dismay her in the least. Her face was grave
and her eyes looked seriously at him. Her fingers
touched the hair of his temple, ran in a light caress
down his cheek, twisted gently the end of his long
moustache: and while he sat in the tremor of that


contact she ran off with startling fleetness and dis-
appeared in a peal of clear laughter, in the stir of grass,
in the nod of young twigs growing over the path; leav-
ing behind only a vanishing trail of motion and sound.
He scrambled to his feet slowly and painfully, like
a man with a burden on his shoulders, and walked
towards the riverside. He hugged to his breast the
recollection of his fear and of his delight, but told
himself seriously over and over again that this must
be the end of that adventure. After shoving off his
canoe into the stream he lifted his eyes to the bank
and gazed at it long and steadily, as if taking his last
look at a place of charming memories. He marched
up to Almayer's house with the concentrated expres-
sion and the determined step of a man who had just
taken a momentous resolution. His face was set and
rigid, his gestures and movements were guarded and
slow. He was keeping a tight hand on himself. A
very tight hand. He had a vivid illusion--as vivid as
reality almost--of being in charge of a slippery prisoner.
He sat opposite Almayer during that dinner--which
was their last meal together--with a perfectly calm face
and within him a growing terror of escape from his own
self. Now and then he would grasp the edge of the
table and set his teeth hard in a sudden wave of acute
despair, like one who, falling down a smooth and rapid
declivity that ends in a precipice, digs his finger nails
into the yielding surface and feels himself slipping
helplessly to inevitable destruction.
Then, abruptly, came a relaxation of his muscles,
the giving way of his will. Something seemed to
snap in his head, and that wish, that idea kept back
during all those hours, darted into his brain with the
heat and noise of a conflagration. He must see her!
See her at once! Go now! To-night! He had the


raging regret of the lost hour, of every passing moment.
There was no thought of resistance now. Yet with
the instinctive fear of the irrevocable, with the innate
falseness of the human heart, he wanted to keep open
the way of retreat. He had never absented himself
during the night. What did Almayer know? What
would Almayer think? Better ask him for the gun.
A moonlight night. . . . Look for deer. . . . A
colourable pretext. He would lie to Almayer. What did
it matter! He lied to himself every minute of his life.
And for what? For a woman. And such. . . .
Almayer's answer showed him that deception was
useless. Everything gets to be known, even in this
place. Well, he did not care. Cared for nothing but
for the lost seconds. What if he should suddenly die.
Die before he saw her. Before he could . . .
As, with the sound of Almayer's laughter in his
ears, he urged his canoe in a slanting course across the
rapid current, he tried to tell himself that he could
return at any moment. He would just go and look at
the place where they used to meet, at the tree under
which he lay when she took his hand, at the spot
where she sat by his side. Just go there and then
return--nothing more; but when his little skiff touched
the bank he leaped out, forgetting the painter, and the
canoe hung for a moment amongst the bushes and then
swung out of sight before he had time to dash into the
water and secure it. He was thunderstruck at first.
Now he could not go back unless he called up the Rajah's
people to get a boat and rowers--and the way to Pata-
lolo's campong led past Aissa's house!
He went up the path with the eager eyes and reluctant
steps of a man pursuing a phantom, and when he found
himself at a place where a narrow track branched off
to the left towards Omar's clearing he stood still, with a


look of strained attention on his face as if listening to a
far-off voice--the voice of his fate. It was a sound
inarticulate but full of meaning; and following it there
came a rending and tearing within his breast. He
twisted his fingers together, and the joints of his hands
and arms cracked. On his forehead the perspiration
stood out in small pearly drops. He looked round
wildly. Above the shapeless darkness of the forest
undergrowth rose the treetops with their high boughs
and leaves standing out black on the pale sky--like
fragments of night floating on moonbeams. Under his
feet warm steam rose from the heated earth. Round
him there was a great silence.
He was looking round for help. This silence, this
immobility of his surroundings seemed to him a cold
rebuke, a stern refusal, a cruel unconcern. There
was no safety outside of himself--and in himself there
was no refuge; there was only the image of that woman.
He had a sudden moment of lucidity--of that cruel
lucidity that comes once in life to the most benighted.
He seemed to see what went on within him, and was
horrified at the strange sight. He, a white man whose
worst fault till then had been a little want of judgment
and too much confidence in the rectitude of his kind!
That woman was a complete savage, and . . . He
tried to tell himself that the thing was of no consequence.
It was a vain effort. The novelty of the sensations he
had never experienced before in the slightest degree, yet
had despised on hearsay from his safe position of a
civilized man, destroyed his courage. He was dis-
appointed with himself. He seemed to be surrendering
to a wild creature the unstained purity of his life, of
his race, of his civilization. He had a notion of being
lost amongst shapeless things that were dangerous and
ghastly. He struggled with the sense of certain defeat


--lost his footing--fell back into the darkness. With a
faint cry and an upward throw of his arms he gave up as
a tired swimmer gives up: because the swamped craft
is gone from under his feet; because the night is dark
and the shore is far--because death is better than strife.

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THE light and heat fell upon the settlement, the
clearings, and the river as if flung down by an angry
hand. The land lay silent, still, and brilliant under
the avalanche of burning rays that had destroyed all
sound and all motion, had buried all shadows, had
choked every breath. No living thing dared to affront
the serenity of this cloudless sky, dared to revolt
against the oppression of this glorious and cruel sun-
shine. Strength and resolution, body and mind alike
were helpless, and tried to hide before the rush of the
fire from heaven. Only the frail butterflies, the fear-
less children of the sun, the capricious tyrants of the
flowers, fluttered audaciously in the open, and their
minute shadows hovered in swarms over the drooping
blossoms, ran lightly on the withering grass, or glided
on tbe dry and cracked earth. No voice was heard in
this hot noontide but the faint murmur of the river that
hurried on in swirls and eddies, its sparkling wavelets
chasing each other in their joyous course to the shel-
tering depths, to the cool refuge of the sea.
Almayer had dismissed his workmen for the midday
rest, and, his little daughter on his shoulder, ran
quickly across the courtyard, making for the shade of
the verandah of his house. He laid the sleepy child
on the seat of the big rocking-chair, on a pillow which
he took out of his own hammock, and stood for a while
looking down at her with tender and pensive eyes.
The child, tired and hot, moved uneasily, sighed, and
looked up at him with the veiled look of sleepy fatigue.



He picked up from the floor a broken palm-leaf fan,
and began fanning gently the flushed little face. Her
eyelids fluttered and Almayer smiled. A responsive
smile brightened for a second her heavy eyes, broke
with a dimple the soft outline of her cheek; then the
eyelids dropped suddenly, she drew a long breath
through the parted lips--and was in a deep sleep before
the fleeting smile could vanish from her face.
Almayer moved lightly off, took one of the wooden
armchairs, and placing it close to the balustrade of the
verandah sat down with a sigh of relief. He spread
his elbows on the top rail and resting his chin on his
clasped hands looked absently at the river, at the dance
of sunlight on the flowing water. Gradually the forest
of the further bank became smaller, as if sinking below
the level of the river. The outlines wavered, grew
thin, dissolved in the air. Before his eyes there was
now only a space of undulating blue--one big, empty
sky growing dark at times. . . . Where was the
sunshine? . . . He felt soothed and happy, as if
some gentle and invisible hand had removed from his
soul the burden of his body. In another second he
seemed to float out into a cool brightness where there
was no such thing as memory or pain. Delicious. His
eyes closed--opened--closed again.
With a sudden jerk of his whole body he sat up,
grasping the front rail with both his hands, and blinked
"What? What's that?" he muttered, looking round
"Here! Down here, Almayer."
Half rising in his chair, Almayer looked over the
rail at the foot of the verandah, and fell back with a
low whistle of astonishment.


"A ghost, by heavens!" he exclaimed softly to him-
"Will you listen to me?" went on the husky voice
from the courtyard. "May I come up, Almayer?"
Almayer stood up and leaned over the rail.
"Don't you dare," he said, in a voice subdued but
distinct. "Don't you dare! The child sleeps here.
And I don't want to hear you--or speak to you either."
"You must listen to me! It's something important."
"Not to me, surely."
"Yes! To you. Very important."
"You were always a humbug," said Almayer, after
a short silence, in an indulgent tone. "Always! I
remember the old days. Some fellows used to say
there was no one like you for smartness--but you never
took me in. Not quite. I never quite believed in you,
Mr. Willems."
"I admit your superior intelligence," retorted Wil-
lems, with scornful impatience, from below. "Listen-
ing to me would be a further proof of it. You will be
sorry if you don't."
"Oh, you funny fellow!" said Almayer, banteringly.
"Well, come up. Don't make a noise, but come up.
You'll catch a sunstroke down there and die on my
doorstep perhaps. I don't want any tragedy here.
Come on!"
Before he finished speaking Willems' head appeared
above the level of the floor, then his shoulders rose
gradually and he stood at last before Almayer--a
masquerading spectre of the once so very confidential
clerk of the richest merchant in the islands. His
jacket was soiled and torn; below the waist he was
clothed in a worn-out and faded sarong. He flung off
his hat, uncovering his long, tangled hair that stuck
in wisps on his perspiring forehead and straggled over


his eyes, which glittered deep down in the sockets
like the last sparks amongst the black embers of a
burnt-out fire. An unclean beard grew out of the
caverns of his sunburnt cheeks. The hand he put
out towards Almayer was very unsteady. The once
firm mouth had the tell-tale droop of mental suffer-
ing and physical exhaustion. He was barefooted.
Almayer surveyed him with leisurely composure.
"Well!" he said at last, without taking the extended
hand which dropped slowly along Willems' body.
"I am come," began Willems.
"So I see," interrupted Almayer. "You might
have spared me this treat without making me unhappy.
You have been away five weeks, if I am not mistaken.
I got on very well without you--and now you are here
you are not pretty to look at."
"Let me speak, will you!" exclaimed Willems.
"Don't shout like this. Do you think yourself in the
forest with your . . . your friends? This is a civil-
ized man's house. A white man's. Understand?"
"I am come," began Willems again; "I am come
for your good and mine."
"You look as if you had come for a good feed,"
chimed in the irrepressible Almayer, while Willems
waved his hand in a discouraged gesture. "Don't
they give you enough to eat," went on Almayer, in
a tone of easy banter, "those--what am I to call them
--those new relations of yours? That old blind scoun-
drel must be delighted with your company. You know,
he was the greatest thief and murderer of those seas.
Say! do you exchange confidences? Tell me, Willems,
did you kill somebody in Macassar or did you only steal
"It is not true!" exclaimed Willems, hotly. "I
only borrowed. . . . They all lied! I . . ."


"Sh-sh!" hissed Almayer, warningly, with a look
at the sleeping child. "So you did steal," he went on,
with repressed exultation. "I thought there was
something of the kind. And now, here, you steal
For the first time Willems raised his eyes to Almayer's
"Oh, I don't mean from me. I haven't missed any-
thing," said Almayer, with mocking haste. "But that
girl. Hey! You stole her. You did not pay the old
fellow. She is no good to him now, is she?"
"Stop that. Almayer!"
Something in Willems' tone caused Almayer to
pause. He looked narrowly at the man before him,
and could not help being shocked at his appearance.
"Almayer," went on Willems, "listen to me. If
you are a human being you will. I suffer horribly--
and for your sake."
Almayer lifted his eyebrows. "Indeed! How? But
you are raving," he added, negligently.
"Ah! You don't know," whispered Willems. "She
is gone. Gone," he repeated, with tears in his voice,
"gone two days ago."
"No!" exclaimed the surprised Almayer. "Gone!
I haven't heard that news yet." He burst into a sub-
dued laugh. "How funny! Had enough of you
already? You know it's not flattering for you, my
superior countryman."
Willems--as if not hearing him--leaned against
one of the columns of the roof and looked over the
river. "At first," he whispered, dreamily, "my life
was like a vision of heaven--or hell; I didn't know
which. Since she went I know what perdition means;
what darkness is. I know what it is to be torn to
pieces alive. That's how I feel."


"You may come and live with me again," said
Almayer, coldly. "After all, Lingard--whom I call
my father and respect as such--left you under my
care. You pleased yourself by going away. Very
good. Now you want to come back. Be it so. I
am no friend of yours. I act for Captain Lingard."
"Come back?" repeated Willems, passionately.
"Come back to you and abandon her? Do you think
I am mad? Without her! Man! what are you
made of? To think that she moves, lives, breathes out
of my sight. I am jealous of the wind that fans her, of
the air she breathes, of the earth that receives the caress
of her foot, of the sun that looks at her now while I
. . . I haven't seen her for two days--two days."
The intensity of Willems' feeling moved Almayer
somewhat, but he affected to yawn elaborately
"You do bore me," he muttered. "Why don't you
go after her instead of coming here?"
"Why indeed?"
"Don't you know where she is? She can't be very
far. No native craft has left this river for the last
"No! not very far--and I will tell you where she is.
She is in Lakamba's campong." And Willems fixed
his eyes steadily on Almayer's face.
"Phew! Patalolo never sent to let me know.
Strange," said Almayer, thoughtfully. "Are you
afraid of that lot?" he added, after a short pause.
"Then is it the care of your dignity which pre-
vents you from following her there, my high-minded
friend?" asked Almayer, with mock solicitude. "How
noble of you!"
There was a short silence; then Willems said, quietly,
"You are a fool. I should like to kick you."


"No fear," answered Almayer, carelessly; "you are
too weak for that. You look starved."
"I don't think I have eaten anything for the last
two days; perhaps more--I don't remember. It does
not matter. I am full of live embers," said Willems,
gloomily. "Look!" and he bared an arm covered
with fresh scars. "I have been biting myself to forget
in that pain the fire that hurts me there!" He struck
his breast violently with his fist, reeled under his own
blow, fell into a chair that stood near and closed his
eyes slowly.
"Disgusting exhibition," said Almayer, loftily.
"What could father ever see in you? You are as
estimable as a heap of garbage."
"You talk like that! You, who sold your soul for
a few guilders," muttered Willems, wearily, without
opening his eyes.
"Not so few," said Almayer, with instinctive readi-
ness, and stopped confused for a moment. He re-
covered himself quickly, however, and went on: "But
you--you have thrown yours away for nothing; flung
it under the feet of a damned savage woman who has
made you already the thing you are, and will kill you
very soon, one way or another, with her love or with
her hate. You spoke just now about guilders. You
meant Lingard's money, I suppose. Well, whatever
I have sold, and for whatever price, I never meant you
--you of all people--to spoil my bargain. I feel pretty
safe though. Even father, even Captain Lingard,
would not touch you now with a pair of tongs; not with
a ten-foot pole. . . ."
He spoke excitedly, all in one breath, and, ceasing
suddenly, glared at Willems and breathed hard through
his nose in sulky resentment. Willems looked at him
steadily for a moment, then got up.


"Almayer," he said resolutely, "I want to become a
trader in this place."
Almayer shrugged his shoulders.
"Yes. And you shall set me up. I want a house and
trade goods--perhaps a little money. I ask you for it."
"Anything else you want? Perhaps this coat?"
and here Almayer unbuttoned his jacket--"or my house
--or my boots?"
"After all it's natural," went on Willems, without
paying any attention to Almayer--"it's natural that
she should expect the advantages which . . . and
then I could shut up that old wretch and then . . ."
He paused, his face brightened with the soft light
of dreamy enthusiasm, and he turned his eyes upwards.
With his gaunt figure and dilapidated appearance he
looked like some ascetic dweller in a wilderness, finding
the reward of a self-denying life in a vision of dazzling
glory. He went on in an impassioned murmur--
"And then I would have her all to myself away
from her people--all to myself--under my own influence
--to fashion--to mould--to adore--to soften--to . . .
Oh! Delight! And then--then go away to some
distant place where, far from all she knew, I would be
all the world to her! All the world to her!"
His face changed suddenly. His eyes wandered for
awhile and then became steady all at once.
"I would repay every cent, of course," he said, in a
business-like tone, with something of his old assurance,
of his old belief in himself, in it. "Every cent. I
need not interfere with your business. I shall cut out
the small native traders. I have ideas--but never
mind that now. And Captain Lingard would approve,
I feel sure. After all it's a loan, and I shall be at hand.
Safe thing for you."
"Ah! Captain Lingard would approve! He would


app . . ." Almayer choked. The notion of Lin-
gard doing something for Willems enraged him. His
face was purple. He spluttered insulting words. Wil-
lems looked at him coolly.
"I assure you, Almayer," he said, gently, "that I
have good grounds for my demand."
"Your cursed impudence!"
"Believe me, Almayer, your position here is not so
safe as you may think. An unscrupulous rival here
would destroy your trade in a year. It would be ruin.
Now Lingard's long absence gives courage to certain
individuals. You know?--I have heard much lately.
They made proposals to me . . . You are very
much alone here. Even Patalolo . . ."
"Damn Patalolo! I am master in this place."
"But, Almayer, don't you see . . ."
"Yes, I see. I see a mysterious ass," interrupted
Almayer, violently. "What is the meaning of your
veiled threats? Don't you think I know something
also? They have been intriguing for years--and
nothing has happened. The Arabs have been hanging
about outside this river for years--and I am still the
only trader here; the master here. Do you bring me a
declaration of war? Then it's from yourself only. I
know all my other enemies. I ought to knock you on
the head. You are not worth powder and shot though.
You ought to be destroyed with a stick--like a snake."
Almayer's voice woke up the little girl, who sat up
on the pillow with a sharp cry. He rushed over to
the chair, caught up the child in his arms, walked back
blindly, stumbled against Willems' hat which lay on
the floor, and kicked it furiously down the steps.
"Clear out of this! Clear out!" he shouted.
Willems made an attempt to speak, but Almayer
howled him down.


"Take yourself off! Don't you see you frighten the
child--you scarecrow! No, no! dear," he went on to
his little daughter, soothingly, while Willems walked
down the steps slowly. "No. Don't cry. See! Bad
man going away. Look! He is afraid of your papa.
Nasty, bad man. Never come back again. He shall
live in the woods and never come near my little girl.
If he comes papa will kill him--so!" He struck his
fist on the rail of the balustrade to show how he would
kill Willems, and, perching the consoled child on his
shoulder held her with one hand, while he pointed
toward the retreating figure of his visitor.
"Look how he runs away, dearest," he said, coax-
ingly. "Isn't he funny. Call 'pig' after him, dearest.
Call after him."
The seriousness of her face vanished into dimples.
Under the long eyelashes, glistening with recent tears,
her big eyes sparkled and danced with fun. She took
firm hold of Almayer's hair with one hand, while she
waved the other joyously and called out with all her
might, in a clear note, soft and distinct like the pipe
of a bird:--
"Pig! Pig! Pig!"


A SIGH under the flaming blue, a shiver of the sleeping
sea, a cool breath as if a door had been swung upon
the frozen spaces of the universe, and with a stir of
leaves, with the nod of boughs, with the tremble of
slender branches the sea breeze struck the coast, rushed
up the river, swept round the broad reaches, and
travelled on in a soft ripple of darkening water, in
the whisper of branches, in the rustle of leaves of the
awakened forests. It fanned in Lakamba's campong
the dull red of expiring embers into a pale brilliance;
and, under its touch, the slender, upright spirals of
smoke that rose from every glowing heap swayed,
wavered, and eddying down filled the twilight of
clustered shade trees with the aromatic scent of the
burning wood. The men who had been dozing in
the shade during the hot hours of the afternoon woke
up, and the silence of the big courtyard was broken
by the hesitating murmur of yet sleepy voices, by
coughs and yawns, with now and then a burst of laugh-
ter, a loud hail, a name or a joke sent out in a soft
drawl. Small groups squatted round the little fires,
and the monotonous undertone of talk filled the en-
closure; the talk of barbarians, persistent, steady,
repeating itself in the soft syllables, in musical tones
of the never-ending discourses of those men of the
forests and the sea, who can talk most of the day and
all the night; who never exhaust a subject, never
seem able to thresh a matter out; to whom that talk
is poetry and painting and music, all art, all history;



their only accomplishment, their only superiority, their
only amusement. The talk of camp fires, which speaks
of bravery and cunning, of strange events and of far
countries, of the news of yesterday and the news of
to-morrow. The talk about the dead and the living--
about those who fought and those who loved.
Lakamba came out on the platform before his own
house and sat down--perspiring, half asleep, and sulky
--in a wooden armchair under the shade of the over-
hanging eaves. Through the darkness of the doorway
he could hear the soft warbling of his womenkind, busy
round the looms where they were weaving the checkered
pattern of his gala sarongs. Right and left of him on
the flexible bamboo floor those of his followers to whom
their distinguished birth, long devotion, or faithful
service had given the privilege of using the chief's
house, were sleeping on mats or just sat up rubbing
their eyes: while the more wakeful had mustered enough
energy to draw a chessboard with red clay on a fine
mat and were now meditating silently over their moves.
Above the prostrate forms of the players, who lay face
downward supported on elbow, the soles of their feet
waving irresolutely about, in the absorbed meditation
of the game, there towered here and there the straight
figure of an attentive spectator looking down with
dispassionate but profound interest. On the edge of
the platform a row of high-heeled leather sandals stood
ranged carefully in a level line, and against the rough
wooden rail leaned the slender shafts of the spears
belonging to these gentlemen, the broad blades of
dulled steel looking very black in the reddening light
of approaching sunset.
A boy of about twelve--the personal attendant of
Lakamba--squatted at his master's feet and held up
towards him a silver siri box. Slowly Lakamba took


the box, opened it, and tearing off a piece of green
leaf deposited in it a pinch of lime, a morsel of gambier,
a small bit of areca nut, and wrapped up the whole
with a dexterous twist. He paused, morsel in hand,
seemed to miss something, turned his head from side to
side, slowly, like a man with a stiff neck, and ejacu-
lated in an ill-humoured bass--
The players glanced up quickly, and looked down
again directly. Those men who were standing stirred
uneasily as if prodded by the sound of the chief's voice.
The one nearest to Lakamba repeated the call, after a
while, over the rail into the courtyard. There was a
movement of upturned faces below by the fires, and
the cry trailed over the enclosure in sing-song tones.
The thumping of wooden pestles husking the evening
rice stopped for a moment and Babalatchi's name rang
afresh shrilly on women's lips in various keys. A
voice far off shouted something--another, nearer,
repeated it; there was a short hubbub which died out
with extreme suddenness. The first crier turned to
Lakamba, saying indolently--
"He is with the blind Omar."
Lakamba's lips moved inaudibly. The man who
had just spoken was again deeply absorbed in the
game going on at his feet; and the chief--as if he had
forgotten all about it already--sat with a stolid face
amongst his silent followers, leaning back squarely in
his chair, his hands on the arms of his seat, his knees
apart, his big blood-shot eyes blinking solemnly, as if
dazzled by the noble vacuity of his thoughts.
Babalatchi had gone to see old Omar late in the
afternoon. The delicate manipulation of the ancient
pirate's susceptibilities, the skilful management of
Aissa's violent impulses engrossed him to the exclusion


of every other business--interfered with his regular
attendance upon his chief and protector--even dis-
turbed his sleep for the last three nights. That day
when he left his own bamboo hut--which stood amongst
others in Lakamba's campong--his heart was heavy
with anxiety and with doubt as to the success of his
intrigue. He walked slowly, with his usual air of
detachment from his surroundings, as if unaware
that many sleepy eyes watched from all parts of the
courtyard his progress towards a small gate at its upper
end. That gate gave access to a separate enclosure
in which a rather large house, built of planks, had
been prepared by Lakamba's orders for the reception
of Omar and Aissa. It was a superior kind of habita-
tion which Lakamba intended for the dwelling of his
chief adviser--whose abilities were worth that honour,
he thought. But after the consultation in the deserted
clearing--when Babalatchi had disclosed his plan--
they both had agreed that the new house should be
used at first to shelter Omar and Aissa after they had
been persuaded to leave the Rajah's place, or had been
kidnapped from there--as the case might be. Babalat-
chi did not mind in the least the putting off of his own
occupation of the house of honour, because it had many
advantages for the quiet working out of his plans. It
had a certain seclusion, having an enclosure of its own,
and that enclosure communicated also with Lakamba's
private courtyard at the back of his residence--a place
set apart for the female household of the chief. The
only communication with the river was through the
great front courtyard always full of armed men and
watchful eyes. Behind the whole group of buildings
there stretched the level ground of rice-clearings, which
in their turn were closed in by the wall of untouched
forests with undergrowth so thick and tangled that


nothing but a bullet--and that fired at pretty close
range--could penetrate any distance there.
Babalatchi slipped quietly through the little gate
and, closing it, tied up carefully the rattan fastenings.
Before the house there was a square space of ground,
beaten hard into the level smoothness of asphalte.
A big buttressed tree, a giant left there on purpose
during the process of clearing the land, roofed in the
clear space with a high canopy of gnarled boughs and
thick, sombre leaves. To the right--and some small
distance away from the large house--a little hut of
reeds, covered with mats, had been put up for the special
convenience of Omar, who, being blind and infirm,
had some difficulty in ascending the steep plankway
that led to the more substantial dwelling, which was
built on low posts and had an uncovered verandah.
Close by the trunk of the tree, and facing the doorway
of the hut, the household fire glowed in a small handful
of embers in the midst of a large circle of white ashes.
An old woman--some humble relation of one of La-
kamba's wives, who had been ordered to attend on
Aissa--was squatting over the fire and lifted up her
bleared eyes to gaze at Babalatchi in an uninterested
manner, as he advanced rapidly across the courtyard.
Babalatchi took in the courtyard with a keen glance
of his solitary eye, and without looking down at the
old woman muttered a question. Silently, the woman
stretched a tremulous and emaciated arm towards the
hut. Babalatchi made a few steps towards the door-
way, but stopped outside in the sunlight.
"O! Tuan Omar, Omar besar! It is I--Baba-
Within the hut there was a feeble groan, a fit of
coughing and an indistinct murmur in the broken
tones of a vague plaint. Encouraged evidently by those


signs of dismal life within, Babalatchi entered the hut,
and after some time came out leading with rigid care-
fulness the blind Omar, who followed with both his
hands on his guide's shoulders. There was a rude
seat under the tree, and there Babalatchi led his old
chief, who sat down with a sigh of relief and leaned
wearily against the rugged trunk. The rays of the
setting sun, darting under the spreading branches,
rested on the white-robed figure sitting with head
thrown back in stiff dignity, on the thin hands moving
uneasily, and on the stolid face with its eyelids dropped
over the destroyed eyeballs; a face set into the immo-
bility of a plaster cast yellowed by age.
"Is the sun near its setting?" asked Omar, in a dull
"Very near," answered Babalatchi.
"Where am I? Why have I been taken away from
the place which I knew--where I, blind, could move
without fear? It is like black night to those who see.
And the sun is near its setting--and I have not heard
the sound of her footsteps since the morning! Twice
a strange hand has given me my food to-day. Why?
Why? Where is she?"
"She is near," said Babalatchi.
"And he?" went on Omar, with sudden eagerness,
and a drop in his voice. "Where is he? Not here.
Not here!" he repeated, turning his head from side to
side as if in deliberate attempt to see.
"No! He is not here now," said Babalatchi, sooth-
ingly. Then, after a pause, he added very low, "But
he shall soon return."
"Return! O crafty one! Will he return? I have
cursed him three times," exclaimed Omar, with weak
"He is--no doubt--accursed," assented Babalatchi,


in a conciliating manner--"and yet he will be here
before very long--I know!"
"You are crafty and faithless. I have made you
great. You were dirt under my feet--less than dirt,"
said Omar, with tremulous energy.
"I have fought by your side many times," said
Babalatchi, calmly.
"Why did he come?" went on Omar. "Did you
send him? Why did he come to defile the air I breathe
--to mock at my fate--to poison her mind and steal
her body? She has grown hard of heart to me. Hard
and merciless and stealthy like rocks that tear a ship's
life out under the smooth sea." He drew a long breath,
struggled with his anger, then broke down suddenly.
"I have been hungry," he continued, in a whimpering
tone--"often I have been very hungry--and cold--
and neglected--and nobody near me. She has often
forgotten me--and my sons are dead, and that man is an
infidel and a dog. Why did he come? Did you show
him the way?"
"He found the way himself, O Leader of the
brave," said Babalatchi, sadly. "I only saw a way
for their destruction and our own greatness. And if
I saw aright, then you shall never suffer from hunger
any more. There shall be peace for us, and glory and
"And I shall die to-morrow," murmured Omar,
"Who knows? Those things have been written since
the beginning of the world," whispered Babalatchi,
"Do not let him come back," exclaimed Omar.
"Neither can he escape his fate," went on Baba-
latchi. "He shall come back, and the power of men
we always hated, you and I, shall crumble into dust


in our hand." Then he added with enthusiasm, "They
shall fight amongst themselves and perish both."
"And you shall see all this, while, I . . ."
"True!" murmured Babalatchi, regretfully. "To
you life is darkness."
"No! Flame!" exclaimed the old Arab, half rising,
then falling back in his seat. "The flame of that last
day! I see it yet--the last thing I saw! And I hear
the noise of the rent earth--when they all died. And I
live to be the plaything of a crafty one," he added, with
inconsequential peevishness.
"You are my master still," said Babalatchi, humbly.
"You are very wise--and in your wisdom you shall
speak to Syed Abdulla when he comes here--you shall
speak to him as I advised, I, your servant, the man
who fought at your right hand for many years. I
have heard by a messenger that the Syed Abdulla
is coming to-night, perhaps late; for those things must
be done secretly, lest the white man, the trader up
the river, should know of them. But he will be here.
There has been a surat delivered to Lakamba. In it,
Syed Abdulla says he will leave his ship, which is
anchored outside the river, at the hour of noon to-day.
He will be here before daylight if Allah wills."
He spoke with his eye fixed on the ground, and did
not become aware of Aissa's presence till he lifted his
head when he ceased speaking. She had approached
so quietly that even Omar did not hear her footsteps,
and she stood now looking at them with troubled
eyes and parted lips, as if she was going to speak; but
at Babalatchi's entreating gesture she remained silent.
Omar sat absorbed in thought.
"Ay wa! Even so!" he said at last, in a weak voice.
"I am to speak your wisdom, O Babalatchi! Tell him
to trust the white man! I do not understand. I am


old and blind and weak. I do not understand. I am
very cold," he continued, in a lower tone, moving his
shoulders uneasily. He ceased, then went on rambling
in a faint whisper. "They are the sons of witches,
and their father is Satan the stoned. Sons of witches.
Sons of witches." After a short silence he asked sud-
denly, in a firmer voice--"How many white men are
there here, O crafty one?"
"There are two here. Two white men to fight one
another," answered Babalatchi, with alacrity.
"And how many will be left then? How many?
Tell me, you who are wise."
"The downfall of an enemy is the consolation of the
unfortunate," said Babalatchi, sententiously. "They
are on every sea; only the wisdom of the Most High
knows their number--but you shall know that some of
them suffer."
"Tell me, Babalatchi, will they die? Will they both
die?" asked Omar, in sudden agitation.
Aissa made a movement. Babalatchi held up a
warning hand.
"They shall, surely, die," he said steadily, looking
at the girl with unflinching eye.
"Ay wa! But die soon! So that I can pass my hand
over their faces when Allah has made them stiff."
"If such is their fate and yours," answered Baba-
latchi, without hesitation. "God is great!"
A violent fit of coughing doubled Omar up, and he
rocked himself to and fro, vvheezing and moaning in turns,
while Babalatchi and the girl looked at him in silence.
Then he leaned back against the tree, exhausted.
"I am alone, I am alone," he wailed feebly, groping
vaguely about with his trembling hands. "Is there
anybody near me? Is there anybody? I am afraid of
this strange place."


"I am by your side, O Leader of the brave," said
Babalatchi, touching his shoulder lightly. "Always
by your side as in the days when we both were young:
as in the time when we both went with arms in our
"Has there been such a time, Babalatchi?" said
Omar, wildly; "I have forgotten. And now when I
die there will be no man, no fearless man to speak
of his father's bravery. There was a woman! A
woman! And she has forsaken me for an infidel dog.
The hand of the Compassionate is heavy on my head!
Oh, my calamity! Oh, my shame!"
He calmed down after a while, and asked quietly--
"Is the sun set, Babalatchi?"
"It is now as low as the highest tree I can see from
here," answered Babalatchi.
"It is the time of prayer," said Omar, attempting
to get up.
Dutifully Babalatchi helped his old chief to rise, and
they walked slowly towards the hut. Omar waited
outside, while Babalatchi went in and came out directly,
dragging after him the old Arab's praying carpet.
Out of a brass vessel he poured the water of ablution
on Omar's outstretched hands, and eased him carefully
down into a kneeling posture, for the venerable robber
was far too infirm to be able to stand. Then as Omar
droned out the first words and made his first bow
towards the Holy City, Babalatchi stepped noiselessly
towards Aissa, who did not move all the time.
Aissa looked steadily at the one-eyed sage, who was
approaching her slowly and with a great show of defer-
ence. For a moment they stood facing each other in
silence. Babalatchi appeared embarrassed. With a
sudden and quick gesture she caught hold of his arm,
and with the other hand pointed towards the sinking


red disc that glowed, rayless, through the floating mists
of the evening.
"The third sunset! The last! And he is not here,"
she whispered; "what have you done, man without
faith? What have you done?"
"Indeed I have kept my word," murmured Baba-
latchi, earnestly. "This morning Bulangi went with
a canoe to look for him. He is a strange man, but our
friend, and shall keep close to him and watch him
without ostentation. And at the third hour of the
day I have sent another canoe with four rowers. In-
deed, the man you long for, O daughter of Omar!
may come when he likes."
"But he is not here! I waited for him yesterday.
To-day! To-morrow I shall go."
"Not alive!" muttered Babalatchi to himself.
"And do you doubt your power," he went on in a
louder tone--"you that to him are more beautiful
than an houri of the seventh Heaven? He is your slave."
"A slave does run away sometimes," she said, gloom-
ily, "and then the master must go and seek him
"And do you want to live and die a beggar?" asked
Babalatchi, impatiently.
"I care not," she exclaimed, wringing her hands;
and the black pupils of her wide-open eyes darted
wildly here and there like petrels before the storm.
"Sh! Sh!" hissed Babalatchi, with a glance towards
Omar. "Do you think, O girl! that he himself would
live like a beggar, even with you?"
"He is great," she said, ardently. "He despises you
all! He despises you all! He is indeed a man!"
"You know that best," muttered Babalatchi, with
a fugitive smile--"but remember, woman with the
strong heart, that to hold him now you must be to


him like the great sea to thirsty men--a never-ceasing
torment, and a madness."
He ceased and they stood in silence, both looking on
the ground, and for a time nothing was heard above
the crackling of the fire but the intoning of Omar
glorifying the God--his God, and the Faith--his faith.
Then Babalatchi cocked his head on one side and ap-
peared to listen intently to the hum of voices in the
big courtyard. The dull noise swelled into distinct
shouts, then into a great tumult of voices, dying away,
recommencing, growing louder, to cease again abruptly;
and in those short pauses the shrill vociferations of
women rushed up, as if released, towards the quiet
heaven. Aissa and Babalatchi started, but the latter
gripped in his turn the girl's arm and restrained her
with a strong grasp.
"Wait," he whispered.
The little door in the heavy stockade which sepa-
rated Lakamba's private ground from Omar's enclosure
swung back quickly, and the noble exile appeared with
disturbed mien and a naked short sword in his hand.
His turban was half unrolled, and the end trailed on
the ground behind him. His jacket was open. He
breathed thickly for a moment before he spoke.
"He came in Bulangi's boat," he said, "and walked
quietly till he was in my presence, when the senseless
fury of white men caused him to rush upon me. I
have been in great danger," went on the ambitious
nobleman in an aggrieved tone. "Do you hear that,
Babalatchi? That eater of swine aimed a blow at my
face with his unclean fist. He tried to rush amongst
my household. Six men are holding him now."
A fresh outburst of yells stopped Lakamba's dis-
course. Angry voices shouted: "Hold him. Beat him
down. Strike at his head." Then the clamour ceased


with sudden completeness, as if strangled by a mighty
hand, and after a second of surprising silence the voice
of Willems was heard alone, howling maledictions in

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