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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter III
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The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter III Post by :thenetre Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :January 2011 Read :1476

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"My word! I couldn't help liking the chap," would shout Lingard
when telling the story; and looking around at the eyes that
glittered at him through the smoke of cheroots, this Brixham
trawler-boy, afterward a youth in colliers, deep-water man,
gold-digger, owner and commander of "the finest brig afloat,"
knew that by his listeners--seamen, traders, adventurers like
himself--this was accepted not as the expression of a feeling,
but as the highest commendation he could give his Malay friend.

"By heavens! I shall go to Wajo!" he cried, and a semicircle of
heads nodded grave approbation while a slightly ironical voice
said deliberately--"You are a made man, Tom, if you get on the
right side of that Rajah of yours."

"Go in--and look out for yourself," cried another with a laugh.

A little professional jealousy was unavoidable, Wajo, on account
of its chronic state of disturbance, being closed to the white
traders; but there was no real ill-will in the banter of these
men, who, rising with handshakes, dropped off one by one. Lingard
went straight aboard his vessel and, till morning, walked the
poop of the brig with measured steps. The riding lights of ships
twinkled all round him; the lights ashore twinkled in rows, the
stars twinkled above his head in a black sky; and reflected in
the black water of the roadstead twinkled far below his feet. And
all these innumerable and shining points were utterly lost in the
immense darkness. Once he heard faintly the rumbling chain of
some vessel coming to an anchor far away somewhere outside the
official limits of the harbour. A stranger to the port--thought
Lingard--one of us would have stood right in. Perhaps a ship from
home? And he felt strangely touched at the thought of that ship,
weary with months of wandering, and daring not to approach the
place of rest. At sunrise, while the big ship from the West, her
sides streaked with rust and grey with the salt of the sea, was
moving slowly in to take up a berth near the shore, Lingard left
the roadstead on his way to the eastward.

A heavy gulf thunderstorm was raging, when after a long passage
and at the end of a sultry calm day, wasted in drifting
helplessly in sight of his destination, Lingard, taking advantage
of fitful gusts of wind, approached the shores of Wajo. With
characteristic audacity, he held on his way, closing in with a
coast to which he was a stranger, and on a night that would have
appalled any other man; while at every dazzling flash, Hassim's
native land seemed to leap nearer at the brig--and disappear
instantly as though it had crouched low for the next spring out
of an impenetrable darkness. During the long day of the calm, he
had obtained from the deck and from aloft, such good views of the
coast, and had noted the lay of the land and the position of the
dangers so carefully that, though at the precise moment when he
gave the order to let go the anchor, he had been for some time
able to see no further than if his head had been wrapped in a
woollen blanket, yet the next flickering bluish flash showed him
the brig, anchored almost exactly where he had judged her to be,
off a narrow white beach near the mouth of a river.

He could see on the shore a high cluster of bamboo huts perched
upon piles, a small grove of tall palms all bowed together before
the blast like stalks of grass, something that might have been a
palisade of pointed stakes near the water, and far off, a sombre
background resembling an immense wall--the forest-clad hills.
Next moment, all this vanished utterly from his sight, as if
annihilated and, before he had time to turn away, came back to
view with a sudden crash, appearing unscathed and motionless
under hooked darts of flame, like some legendary country of
immortals, withstanding the wrath and fire of Heaven.

Made uneasy by the nature of his holding ground, and fearing that
in one of the terrific off-shore gusts the brig would start her
anchor, Lingard remained on deck to watch over the safety of his
vessel. With one hand upon the lead-line which would give him
instant warning of the brig beginning to drag, he stood by the
rail, most of the time deafened and blinded, but also fascinated,
by the repeated swift visions of an unknown shore, a sight always
so inspiring, as much perhaps by its vague suggestion of danger
as by the hopes of success it never fails to awaken in the heart
of a true adventurer. And its immutable aspect of profound and
still repose, seen thus under streams of fire and in the midst of
a violent uproar, made it appear inconceivably mysterious and

Between the squalls there were short moments of calm, while now
and then even the thunder would cease as if to draw breath.
During one of those intervals. Lingard, tired and sleepy, was
beginning to doze where he stood, when suddenly it occurred to
him that, somewhere below, the sea had spoken in a human voice.
It had said, "Praise be to God--" and the voice sounded small,
clear, and confident, like the voice of a child speaking in a
cathedral. Lingard gave a start and thought--I've dreamed
this--and directly the sea said very close to him, "Give a rope."

The thunder growled wickedly, and Lingard, after shouting to the
men on deck, peered down at the water, until at last he made out
floating close alongside the upturned face of a man with staring
eyes that gleamed at him and then blinked quickly to a flash of
lightning. By that time all hands in the brig were wildly active
and many ropes-ends had been thrown over. Then together with a
gust of wind, and, as if blown on board, a man tumbled over the
rail and fell all in a heap upon the deck. Before any one had the
time to pick him up, he leaped to his feet, causing the people
around him to step back hurriedly. A sinister blue glare showed
the bewildered faces and the petrified attitudes of men
completely deafened by the accompanying peal of thunder. After a
time, as if to beings plunged in the abyss of eternal silence,
there came to their ears an unfamiliar thin, far-away voice

"I seek the white man."

"Here," cried Lingard. Then, when he had the stranger, dripping
and naked but for a soaked waistcloth, under the lamp of the
cabin, he said, "I don't know you."

"My name is Jaffir, and I come from Pata Hassim, who is my chief
and your friend. Do you know this?"

He held up a thick gold ring, set with a fairly good emerald.

"I have seen it before on the Rajah's finger," said Lingard,
looking very grave.

"It is the witness of the truth I speak--the message from Hassim
is--'Depart and forget!'"

"I don't forget," said Lingard, slowly. "I am not that kind of
man. What folly is this?"

It is unnecessary to give at full length the story told by
Jaffir. It appears that on his return home, after the meeting
with Lingard, Hassim found his relative dying and a strong party
formed to oppose his rightful successor. The old Rajah Tulla died
late at night and --as Jaffir put it--before the sun rose there
were already blows exchanged in the courtyard of the ruler's
dalam. This was the preliminary fight of a civil war, fostered by
foreign intrigues; a war of jungle and river, of assaulted
stockades and forest ambushes. In this contest, both parties--
according to Jaffir--displayed great courage, and one of them an
unswerving devotion to what, almost from the first, was a lost
cause. Before a month elapsed Hassim, though still chief of an
armed band, was already a fugitive. He kept up the struggle,
however, with some vague notion that Lingard's arrival would turn
the tide.

"For weeks we lived on wild rice; for days we fought with nothing
but water in our bellies," declaimed Jaffir in the tone of a true

And then he went on to relate, how, driven steadily down to the
sea, Hassim, with a small band of followers, had been for days
holding the stockade by the waterside.

"But every night some men disappeared," confessed Jaffir. "They
were weary and hungry and they went to eat with their enemies.
We are only ten now--ten men and a woman with the heart of a man,
who are tonight starving, and to-morrow shall die swiftly. We saw
your ship afar all day; but you have come too late. And for fear
of treachery and lest harm should befall you--his friend--the
Rajah gave me the ring and I crept on my stomach over the sand,
and I swam in the night--and I, Jaffir, the best swimmer in Wajo,
and the slave of Hassim, tell you--his message to you is 'Depart
and forget'--and this is his gift--take!"

He caught hold suddenly of Lingard's hand, thrust roughly into it
the ring, and then for the first time looked round the cabin with
wondering but fearless eyes. They lingered over the semicircle of
bayonets and rested fondly on musket-racks. He grunted in

"Ya-wa, this is strength!" he murmured as if to himself. "But it
has come too late."

"Perhaps not," cried Lingard.

"Too late," said Jaffir, "we are ten only, and at sunrise we go
out to die." He went to the cabin door and hesitated there with a
puzzled air, being unused to locks and door handles.

"What are you going to do?" asked Lingard.

"I shall swim back," replied Jaffir. "The message is spoken and
the night can not last forever."

"You can stop with me," said Lingard, looking at the man

"Hassim waits," was the curt answer.

'Did he tell you to return?" asked Lingard.

"No! What need?" said the other in a surprised tone.

Lingard seized his hand impulsively.

"If I had ten men like you!" he cried.

"We are ten, but they are twenty to one," said Jaffir, simply.

Lingard opened the door.

"Do you want anything that a man can give?" he asked.

The Malay had a moment of hesitation, and Lingard noticed the
sunken eyes, the prominent ribs, and the worn-out look of the

"Speak out," he urged with a smile; "the bearer of a gift must
have a reward."

"A drink of water and a handful of rice for strength to reach the
shore," said Jaffir sturdily. "For over there"--he tossed his
head--"we had nothing to eat to-day."

"You shall have it--give it to you with my own hands," muttered

He did so, and thus lowered himself in Jaffir's estimation for a
time. While the messenger, squatting on the floor, ate without
haste but with considerable earnestness, Lingard thought out a
plan of action. In his ignorance as to the true state of affairs
in the country, to save Hassim from the immediate danger of his
position was all that he could reasonably attempt. To that end
Lingard proposed to swing out his long-boat and send her close
inshore to take off Hassim and his men. He knew enough of Malays
to feel sure that on such a night the besiegers, now certain of
success, and being, Jaffir said, in possession of everything that
could float, would not be very vigilant, especially on the sea
front of the stockade. The very fact of Jaffir having managed to
swim off undetected proved that much. The brig's boat could--when
the frequency of lightning abated--approach unseen close to the
beach, and the defeated party, either stealing out one by one or
making a rush in a body, would embark and be received in the

This plan was explained to Jaffir, who heard it without the
slightest mark of interest, being apparently too busy eating.
When the last grain of rice was gone, he stood up, took a long
pull at the water bottle, muttered: "I hear. Good. I will tell
Hassim," and tightening the rag round his loins, prepared to go.
"Give me time to swim ashore," he said, "and when the boat
starts, put another light beside the one that burns now like a
star above your vessel. We shall see and understand. And don't
send the boat till there is less lightning: a boat is bigger than
a man in the water. Tell the rowers to pull for the palm-grove
and cease when an oar, thrust down with a strong arm, touches the
bottom. Very soon they will hear our hail; but if no one comes
they must go away before daylight. A chief may prefer death to
life, and we who are left are all of true heart. Do you
understand, O big man?"

"The chap has plenty of sense," muttered Lingard to himself, and
when they stood side by side on the deck, he said: " But there
may be enemies on the beach, O Jaffir, and they also may shout to
deceive my men. So let your hail be Lightning! Will you

For a time Jaffir seemed to be choking.

"Lit-ing! Is that right? I say--is that right, O strong man?"
Next moment he appeared upright and shadowy on the rail.

"Yes. That's right. Go now," said Lingard, and Jaffir leaped off,
becoming invisible long before he struck the water. Then there
was a splash; after a while a spluttering voice cried faintly,
"Lit-ing! Ah, ha!" and suddenly the next thunder-squall burst
upon the coast. In the crashing flares of light Lingard had again
and again the quick vision of a white beach, the inclined
palm-trees of the grove, the stockade by the sea, the forest far
away: a vast landscape mysterious and still--Hassim's native
country sleeping unmoved under the wrath and fire of Heaven.

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The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter IV The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter IV

The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter IV
A Traveller visiting Wajo to-day may, if he deserves theconfidence of the common people, hear the traditional account ofthe last civil war, together with the legend of a chief and hissister, whose mother had been a great princess suspected ofsorcery and on her death-bed had communicated to these two thesecrets of the art of magic. The chief's sister especially, "withthe aspect of a child and the fearlessness of a great fighter,"became skilled in casting spells. They were defeated by the sonof their uncle, because--will explain the narrator simply--"Thecourage of us Wajo people is so great that magic can do nothingagainst it.

The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter II The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter II

The Rescue - PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE - Chapter II
It was in the most unknown perhaps of such spots, a small bay onthe coast of New Guinea, that young Pata Hassim, the nephew ofone of the greatest chiefs of Wajo, met Lingard for the firsttime.He was a trader after the Wajo manner, and in a stout sea-goingprau armed with two guns and manned by young men who were relatedto his family by blood or dependence, had come in there to buysome birds of paradise skins for the old Sultan of Ternate; arisky expedition undertaken not in the way of business but as amatter of courtesy toward the aged Sultan who