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Chapter Twenty Eight. Still Trusting in God.
The reader may suppose the strange conflict we have described to be a thing of the author’s imagination. Some will, no doubt, pronounce it a story of the sensational and fabulous kind—in short, a “sailor’s yarn.” So may it seem to those who give but little attention to the study of nature. To the naturalist, however, this chapter of animal life and habits will cause no astonishment; for he will know it to be a true one; and that the spectacle described, although perhaps not one coming every day under the eye of man, and especially civilised man, has nevertheless been witnessed by the inhabitants of the recesses of the Bornean forest.

Ask any old Bornean bee-hunter, and he will tell you just such a tale as the above; adding that the ourang-outang, or red gorilla, which he calls mias, is a match, and more than a match, for any animal it may encounter in forest or jungle; and that the only two creatures which dare attack it are the crocodile and the great ular or python, the latter a serpent of the boa-constructor kind, with one of which our castaways had already formed acquaintance. But the Bornean bee-hunter, usually a Dyak, will also tell you that in these conflicts the red gorilla is the victor, though each of the two great reptile antagonists that attack it is often thirty feet in length, with a girth almost equalling its own. Only fancy a snake ten yards long, and a lizard the same; either of which would reach from end to end of the largest room in which you may be seated, or across the street in which you may be walking! You will seldom find such specimens in our museums; for they are not often encountered by our naturalists or secured by our travellers. But take my word for it, there are such serpents and such lizards in existence, ay, and much larger ones. They may be found not only in the tropical isles of the Orient, but in the Western world, in the lagoons and forests of Equatorial America. Many of the “sailors’ yarns” of past times, which we have been accustomed so flippantly to discredit, on account of their appearing rather tough, have under the light of recent scientific exploration been proved true.

And although some of them may seem to be incorporated in this narrative, under the guise of mere romance, the reader need not on this account think himself misled, or treat them with sublime contempt. If it should ever be his fate or fortune to make a tour through the East Indian Archipelago, he will cease to be incredulous.

Henry Redwood and his sister Helen had no such tranquil reflections, as they stood under the shadow of the great tree, concealing themselves behind its trunk, and watching the terrible conflict between the two huge creatures, both in their eyes equally hideous.

Giving way to an instinct of justice, they would have taken sides with the party assailed and against the assailant. But, under the circumstances, their leanings were the very reverse; for in the triumphant conqueror they saw a continuance of their own danger; whereas, had the amphibious animal been victorious, this would have been at an end. The strife now terminated, they stood trembling and uncertain as ever.

The crocodile, although crushed, and no longer dangerous for any offensive manoeuvre, was not killed. Its body still writhed and wriggled upon the ground; though its movements were but the agonised efforts of mortal pain, excited convulsively and each moment becoming feebler.

And the red gorilla stood near, squatted on its haunches; at intervals tossing its long hairy arms around its head, and giving utterance to that strange coughing laughter, as if it would never leave off exulting over the victory it had achieved. How long was this spectacle to last? It was sufficiently horrid for the spectators to desire its speedy termination.

And yet they did not; they were in hopes it might continue till a voice coming from the forest, or the tread of a foot, would tell them that help was near.

Tremblingly but attentively they listened. They heard neither one nor the other—neither voice nor footstep. Now and then came the note of a bird or the cry of some four-footed creature prowling through the glades; but not uttered in accents of alarm. The hunters must have wandered far in their search for game. They might not return in time.

Again Henry bethought him of firing the musket to give them a signal. But even if heard, it might not have this effect. They knew that he was able to hold and handle the great gun, and might think some bird or animal had come near and tempted him to take a shot at it.

On the other hand, the report would strike upon the ears of the mias, might distract it from the triumph in which it was indulging, and bring it to the spot where they were standing. Then, with an empty gun in his hand, what defence could the youth make, either for himself or for his sister?

To fire the gun would never do. Better leave the trigger unpulled, and trust to Providence for protection.

And then, as the brave boy reflected on the many dangers through which they had passed, and how they had always been delivered by some fortunate interposition, he knew it must be the hand of Providence, and was content to rely upon it again.

He said so to his little sister, whispering consolation, as with one hand he drew her close to him, the other resting upon the musket. And Helen whispered back a pious response, as she nestled upon the breast of her brother.

A moment more, and the faith of both was submitted to a severe trial.

The red gorilla, after gloating for a long time over the agonised contortions of its disabled enemy, seemed at length satisfied that it was disabled to death, and facing toward the forest, showed signs of an intention to take its departure from the spot.

Now came the crisis for Henry and Helen. Which way would the animal take?

They had not time to exchange question and answer—scarce time even to shape them in their thoughts—when they saw the red satyr turn to the tree behind which they were standing, and come directly toward them.


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