A Bornean Revenge by Alexander Montgomery
"TIRE not thy tongue, Dusi-Mota! My daughter's word is my word. All
good be unto thee, but when everything is said thou art but a Kayan,
and the Sea-Dyaks like not to mate with the scratchers of the
Little Dusi's innumerable brass rings clinked as he struck his hands
together above his head, and his answer spluttered fiercely through his
"Glad enough are the Sea-Dyaks to use the Kayan swords! There is not
a man among ye, Saghais and Illinoans and all, that could forge such a
parang as that at thy side, O father of Sinsha! No better are your own
blades than the rotten steel of the white man!"
Muniad turned a fond eye upon his weapon, bedecked with tufts of
dyed human hair. "Truth is with thee," he acknowledged. "From the grave
of a Kayan chief came this, and never did a better one cut pig. But
what of that? Cowards may well make weapons for brave men to use!"
The Kayan's yellow face turned green, and his hand went to his side,
but brought therefrom only his rattan-knife, with which from the bunch
of pendants at his ear he cut away a tiger-cat's tooth, spat thrice
upon it, flung it at Muniad's feet, and went.
"Do thy worst, son of a crocodile's uncle!" the Sea-Dyak called
after him. "Sinsha laughs at thee, and Sinsha's father fears not thee
nor all thy filth--cating tribe!"
The white man sat on the platform of Muniad's house, and talked of
many things, while the moon climbed out of the dusky eastern forests
and sparkled against the faces of the long rollers marching
rhythmically in upon the beach below. The white man asked questions,
the brown man answered them, and Sinsha winnowed rice and listened. The
broad equatorial moon sent a sheen off her glossy skin, struck fire
from the brass wire coiled upon her shapely arms, and deepened the
shadows of her long--lashed eyes. "What a pity that another ten years
will see her a withered old hag!" thought Medlow. But he might have
spared his commiseration on that head.
Talk turned upon the sumpitan, and Sinsha, dropping fan and shovel,
ran to fetch the instrument. Medlow looked curiously at the eight-foot
tube, with its heavy spear-blade, fixed, bayonet-like, outside the line
of propulsion, and Muniad laughed to see how respectfully the other
handled the sago-thorn darts. No danger with these arrows, explained
the Dyak. The poison was no poison after a few hours' exposure to the
air. And then he brought the little bamboo tube into which the potent
upas-sap had been trebly sealed with wooden plug, beeswax, and
lizard-skin. A "hand of the sun"--about fifteen minutes--a man might
live, he said, if the poison were fresh upon the arrow that wounded
Medlow laughed incredulously. He was but a book-naturalist at that
time, and his knowledge of the strychniferous Astocarpae was
theoretical. "I'll believe it when I see it!" he said; and, for answer,
Sinsha clapped a hand to her neck, sprang to her feet, and held out to
her father--a sumpitan-arrow! "What dog has--" the old man was
beginning furiously, when, piff! another of the tiny darts stood in his
own shoulder. Then he guessed. "Dusi!" he shouted.
"Ay, Dusi!" said a voice from below, where stood in the moonlight a
squat, dark figure, with the deadly tube still levelled at the
platform. Medlow whipped out his Dean-and-Adams, but the Kayan went
with a ten--foot spring into a rhododendron-clump.
"I see thee, white master!" he cried in Malay; "but thou canst not
see me. Therefore shoot not, neither come down hither, unless thy skin
is thicker than Muniad's--or Sinsha's!" and the little devil cackled
hideously amongst the branches.
But Sinsha was already past hearing, and the old man, swaying as he
stood, repeated his slayer's advice. "Why should'st thou die also, and
uselessly?" he said. "As for me, I am old, and my daughter goeth with
me into the mists."
"Good God!" cried Medlow, "is there nothing to be done?"
"Nothing that thou canst do. Take now thy time-measurer, and wait to
see if my words were truth."
Medlow looked at the dying girl and sighed, but then--scientist to
the marrow--he took out his watch. The moonlight showed the half-hour
after seven. When the hands stood at ten minutes to eight he knew that
Muniad was right!