The Rajah of DahGeorge Manville Fenn
Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
The Rajah of Dah, by George Manville Fenn.
Here is another book by George Manville Fenn, full of mystery, suspenseand terror--to coin a phrase. Ned, a boy of sixteen, who has just leftschool, and who has been brought up by an uncle who is a naturalist andwho is often away, begs that he may be allowed to come on the uncle'snext expedition. By the way, how could he have been brought up by anuncle who was often away? Simple, he was placed as a boarder in thehouse of a local clergyman, who educated a few boys in his house: thiswas often the case in the nineteenth century.
They get to somewhere in Burma, and travel up a river till they come toa settlement where there are some British. At that time Burma was aBritish Protectorate. The local Burmese ruler is an absurd andloathsome tyrant. Ned makes friends with a local English boy, Frank,and they have various adventures together, including the capture of aneighteen foot crocodile. However, the British people in the settlementfall out with the Rajah, who has his eye on a 21-year-old British girl,and wishes to add her to his harem. This is where the major perilsbegin.
Some of the perils are similar to those in "The Middy and the Ensign",which is not surprising, as the action takes place in the same part ofthe world.
As always with this author, it is a brilliant read or listen.
THE RAJAH OF DAH, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
OFF AT LAST!
"Ahoy, there! All on board?"
"Yes; all right."
"Got all your tackle?"
"I think so."
"Haven't forgotten your cartridges!"
"No; here they are."
"I'll be bound to say you've forgotten something. Yes: fishing-tackle?"
"That we haven't, Mr Wilson," said a fresh voice, that of abright-looking lad of sixteen, as he rose up in the long boat lying bythe bamboo-made wharf at Dindong, the little trading port at the mouthof the Salan River, on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula.
"Trust you for the fish-hooks, squire," said the first speaker. "But, Isay, take a good look round, Murray. It's an awful fix to be in to findyourself right up in the wilderness with the very thing you want mostleft behind."
"It's very good of you, Wilson," said the gentleman addressed, abroad-shouldered man of forty, tanned and freckled by the eastern sun,and stooping low to avoid striking his head against the attap thatchrigged up over the stern of the boat, and giving it the aspect of afloating hut. "It's very good of you, but I think we have everything;eh, Ned?"
"Yes, uncle; I can't think of anything else."
"Knives, medicine, sticking-plaster, brandy, boxes, spirit-can, lamp,nets. Ah, I know, Ned: we've no needles and thread."
The lad laughed merrily, and took out a kind of pocket-book, which heopened to display the above necessaries, with scissors and penknife aswell.
"Well done, Ned! I believe you have more brains than I have. I can'tthink of anything else, Wilson. I only want your good wishes."
"Matches?" said the gentleman on the wharf.
"Plenty, and we have each a burning-glass."
"That's right, and now once more: take my advice."
Johnstone Murray, enthusiast over matters of natural history, shook hishead, and rather a stern look came into his eyes as his nephew watchedhim eagerly.
"But, hang it, man! you can make excursions up and down the river fromDindong, and up the little branches as well. Surely you can get all youwant from here, and not lose touch of civilisation."
"But we want to lose touch of civilisation, my dear fellow.--What do yousay, Ned? Shall we stop here?"
"No, no, uncle; let's go now."
"Why, you foolish boy!" cried the gentleman addressed as Wilson, "you donot know what you are saying, or what risks you are going to run."
"Oh, uncle will be careful, sir."
"If he can," said the other, gruffly. "I believe you two think you aregoing on quite a picnic, instead of what must be a dangerousexpedition."
"My dear Wilson," said the principal occupant of the boat, merrily, "youshut yourself up so much in your bungalow, and lead such a seriousplodding life over your merchandise and cargoes, that you see danger ina paddle across the river."
"Ah, well, perhaps I do," said the merchant, taking off his light pithsun-hat to wipe his shining brow. "You really mean to go right up theriver, then?"
"Of course. What did you think I made these preparations for?"
"To make a few short expeditions, and come back to me to sleep and feed.Well, if you will go, good-luck go with you. I don't think I can doany more for you. I believe you may trust those fellows," he added in alow voice, after a glance at the four bronzed-looking strong-armed Malayboatmen, each with a scarlet handkerchief bound about his black hair ashe sat listlessly in the boat, his lids nearly drawn over his brownlurid-looking eyes, and his thick lips more protruded than was natural,as he seemed to have turned himself into an ox-like animal and to bechewing his cud.
"You could not have done more for me, Wilson, if I had been yourbrother."
"All Englishmen and Scotsmen are brothers out in a place like this,"said the merchant, warmly. "Go rather hard with some of us if we didnot stick to that creed. Well, look here, if ever you get into anyscrape up yonder, send down a message to me at once."
"To say, for instance, that a tiger has walked off with Ned here."
"Oh I say, uncle!" cried the boy.
"No, no, I mean with the niggers. They're a rum lot, some of them.Trust them as far as you can see them. Be firm. They're cunning; butjust like children in some things."
"They're right enough, man, if you don't tread on their corns. I alwaysfind them civil enough to me. But if we do get into trouble, what shallyou do?"
"Send you help of course, somehow. But you will not be able to send aletter," added the merchant thoughtfully. "Look here. If you are introuble from sickness, or hurt by any wild animal, get some Malay fellowfrom one of the campongs to bring down a handkerchief--a white one. Butif you are in peril from the people up yonder, send a red one, eitheryour own or one of the boatmen's. You will find it easy to get a redrag of some sort."
"I see," said Murray, smiling. "White, sickness; red, bloodshed.--I sayNed, hear all this?"
"Well; don't you feel scared?"
"Horribly, uncle," said the boy, coolly.
"Will you give up, and stop here in Dindong?"
The boy looked full in the speaker's face, thrust his hands into thepockets of his brown linen trousers, and began to whistle softly.
"There, good-bye, Wilson. The sun will soon be overpowering, and I wantto get on."
"Well, you've got the tide to help you for the next three hours. Sorryyou're going. I'll take great care of the specimens you send down. Youcan trust any of the boat-people--they know me so well. Any fellowcoming down with rice or tin will bring a box or basket. God bless youboth! Good-bye!"
There was a warm hand-shaking.
"Take care of yourself, Ned, my boy, and don't let your uncle work youtoo hard.--Good-bye, my lads. Take great care of the sahibs."
The Malay boatmen seemed to have suddenly wakened up, and they sprang totheir places, responded with a grave smile to the merchant's adjuration,pushed off the boat, and in a few minutes were rowing easily out intothe full tide, whose muddy waters flowed like so much oil up past thelittle settlement, upon whose wharf the white figure of the merchantcould be seen in the brilliant sunshine waving his hand. Then, as theoccupants of the boat sat in the shade of their
palm-leaf awning, theysaw a faint blue smoke arise, as he lit a cigar and stood watching theretiring party. The house, huts, and stores about the little wharfbegan to grow distant and look toy-like, the shores to display the dull,green fringe of mangrove, with its curiously-arched roots joiningtogether where the stem shot up, and beneath which the muddy waterglided, whispering and lapping. And then the oars creaked faintly, asthe boat was urged more and more out into mid-stream, till the shore wasa quarter of a mile away; and at last the silence was broken by the boy,whose face was flushed with excitement, as he stood gazing up the smoothriver, while they glided on and on through what seemed to be oneinterminable winding grove of dull-green trees; for he made the calm,grave, dark-skinned boatmen start and look round for danger, as he criedout excitedly:
"Hurrah! Off at last!"