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Chapter Eleven. The Lanoons.
Certainly the most nutritious of all things eatable or drinkable is the substance, or fluid, called milk. It becomes blood almost immediately, and then flesh, or muscle, as was designed by the Creator. Hence it is the first food given to all animated creatures—not alone to the mammalia, but to the oviparous animals—even to the infantile forms of the vegetable itself. To the first it is presented in the form of simple milk, or “lacteal fluid;” to the second in the “white” of the egg; while the young tree or plant, springing from its embryo, finds it in the farina, or succulent matter, with which it is surrounded, and in which it has hitherto lain embedded and apparently lifeless, till the nursing sun calls it into a growing existence. It is albumen, gluten, and other substances combined, all existing in the udder, in the egg-shell, in the seed, root, or fruit; from which springs the progeny, whether it be man or beast, flying bird or swimming fish, creeping reptile or fast-rooted forest tree.

The meal of oyster-meat had restored to healthy action the long-fasting stomachs of the castaways; the durion fruit, coming like a dessert, had no doubt acted with an exceedingly beneficial effect; but not till they had partaken of the true “staff of life”—represented in one of its elementary forms, the egg—did they feel their blood running in its right channels, alike restoring their vigour and strength.

Murtagh was one of the first to feel revivified, and declare himself ready for anything. But they were all much invigorated, and began to think and talk of plans for the future. The question, of course, was, how they should quit the shore on which shipwreck, and afterwards a chance wind, had cast them? So far the coast appeared to be uninhabited, and although not so very inhospitable, as their experience had proved, still it would never do for them to remain there.

The American merchant-skipper had no ambition to match the Scotchman Selkirk, and make a second Crusoe of himself. Neither would Murtagh or the Malay have cared to act as his man Friday for any very prolonged period of hermitage, so long as there was a mode of escaping from it.

During the remainder of that evening, therefore, they talked of a change of quarters, and discussed various plans for bringing this about. It was a question whether they should take to their boat and again put out to sea, or endeavour, by an overland expedition, to reach some part of the coast where they might find a European, and therefore a civilised, settlement. Captain Redwood knew there were more than one of these on the great island of Borneo. There were the Dutch residencies of Sambas and Sarabang; the English government depôt on the islet of Labuan; and the strange heterogeneous settlement—half colony, half kingdom—then acknowledging the authority of the bold British adventurer, Sir James Brooke, styled “Rajah of Sarawak.” If any of these places could be attained, either coastwise or across country, our castaways might consider their sufferings at an end; and it was only a question which would be the easiest to reach, and what the best way of reaching it.

After due consideration, Labuan was the point decided upon. From that part of the coast Captain Redwood supposed himself to be, it was by far the nearest civilised settlement—in fact, the only one that offered a chance of being reached by travellers circumstanced as they. Of course they had no intention to start immediately. Their strength was not sufficiently restored, and they were only discussing the question of a journey to be undertaken before long, and the probabilities of their being able to accomplish it.

Although they were now safe on land, and need no longer dread the “dangers of the deep,” they did not yet believe themselves delivered from all peril. The part of the coast on which they had landed appeared uninhabited; but it was not this that made them uneasy. On the contrary, human beings were the very things they did not desire just then to see. From the place where his ship had been struck by the typhoon, and the distance and direction in which they had since drifted, Captain Redwood conjectured—was indeed almost sure of it—that they were on some part of the north-eastern coast of Borneo, where it fronts the Celebes Sea; and he had traded long enough among the islands of the Malayan Archipelago to know that this was a most dangerous locality, not from beasts of prey, but fierce, predatory men; from pirates, in short.

These sea-robbers, issuing from their hiding-places and strongholds among the lagoons of many of the Malayan islands—more especially Mindanao—are to be met with all through the Indian Archipelago; but their most favourite cruising-grounds are in the seas lying around the Sooloo isles, and stretching between Borneo and New Guinea.

They are usually known as “Lanoons,” from Illanon, the southern peninsula of Mindanao, their principal place of refuge and residence. But they have also other haunts and ports where they make rendezvous—many on the shores of the Celebes Sea, in the island of Celebes itself, and also along the eastern and northern coast of Borneo. In this last they are usually known as “Dyak pirates,” a name not very correct; since most of these freebooters are of pure Malayan race, while the Bornean Dyaks take but little part in their plundering, and are themselves often its victims.

The craft in which they carry on their nefarious calling are large junk-like vessels termed “praus,” with short, stumpy masts and huge square sails of woven matting stuff. But they place more dependence upon their broad paddle-bladed oars and skilled oarsmen, each prau having from thirty to forty rowers, and some very large ones a much greater number. These, seated in double rows along each side of the vessel, take no part in the fighting, which is done by the chiefs and warriors stationed above on a sort of platform or upper deck that extends nearly the whole length of the prau. The advantage derived from the oars is, that in the tropical seas very light winds and calms are of common occurrence, during either of which the prau can easily overtake an ordinary sailing-ship. And when a brisk wind arises, and it is desirable to avoid any vessel that may be endeavouring to come up with them, they can, by means of their strong rowing force, get to windward of the chasing craft, and so out of harm’s way.

Ships are not always the objects of their piratical cruisings, or they might at times find it but an unprofitable business. Combined with sea piracy, they make frequent land expeditions along the coasts of the different islands, going up the inlets and rivers, and plundering the towns or other settlements situated on their banks. And their booty does not always consist of goods, chattels, and money, but of men, women, and children; for they are men-robbers as well as murderers and pirates. Their captives are carried off to their places of rendezvous, and there kept until they can be sold into slavery—a market for this kind of commodity being easily found in almost every island of the Malayan Archipelago—whether it be Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, or under the dominion of its own native rulers, the sultans and rajahs.

Well aware of all these circumstances, Captain Redwood knew the danger he and his party would incur should they fall into the hands of the Lanoons. So long as they were out upon the open sea, and in fear of perishing by starvation, they had never had a thought about pirates. Then the sight of a prau—even with the certainty of its being a piratical craft—would have been welcome; since death by the Malay kris, or slavery to the most cruel taskmaster, would have been a relief from the sufferings they were enduring, from hunger as from thirst. Now, however, that these were things of the past, and they were not only safe delivered from the perils of the deep, but seemed in no farther danger of starvation, the pirates had become the subject of their gravest fears, and their eyes were habitually on the alert—now scanning the sea-shore on both sides, and now directed toward the forest, whenever any noise from that quarter occurred to excite suspicion.

While in this frame of mind, the boat which had brought them safely ashore caused them a good deal of apprehension. They might themselves have easily found concealment among the trees that stood thickly on the land-side; but the large pinnace lying upon the open beach was a conspicuous object, and could be seen miles off by any one straying along the shore, or coming abruptly out of the forest. If there were any pirates’ nest near, the boat would surely betray them, and the question arose as to what should be done with it.

To have dragged it up the sand, and hidden it among the underwood, is probably what they would have done had they been possessed of sufficient strength. But they knew that they were not, and therefore the thing was not thought of. It was as much as they could yet do to drag their own bodies about, much less a heavy ship’s boat.

Murtagh suggested breaking it up, and letting the fragments float off upon the waves. But Captain Redwood did not approve of this mode. The craft that had so long carried them through an unknown sea, and at length set them safely ashore, deserved different treatment. Besides, they might again stand in need of it; for it was not yet certain whether they were on the coast of the Bornean mainland, or one of the numerous outlying islets to be found along its eastern side. If an island, the boat would still be required to carry them across to the main.

While they were engaged in discussing this subject on the day they had made discovery of the maleos’ eggs, Saloo’s sharp eye, wandering about, caught sight of something that promised a solution of the difficulty. It was the little stream not far off, or rather, the estuary formed by its current, which, flowing out through the sands, had cut a channel deep enough for the keel of a much larger craft than a ship’s pinnace.

“Why we no blingee boat up libba?” he asked.

“Saloo is right; it may be done,” assented the captain.

“Troth an’ that may it. It’s clivver of the nigger to be the first of us to think of that same. Then we’d betther set about it at once—hadn’t we, captin?”

“By all means,” was the reply; and the three men, rising to their feet, walked off toward the boat, leaving the young people under the tree.


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