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The Monster Men

Chapter 10. Desperate Chance
The great chest in the bottom of Rajah Muda Saffir's prahu had awakened in other hearts
as well as his, blind greed and avarice; so that as it had been the indirect cause of his
disaster it now proved the incentive to another to turn the mishap to his own profit, and to
the final undoing of the Malay.
The panglima Ninaka of the Signana Dyaks who manned Muda Saffir's war prahu saw
his chief disappear beneath the swift waters of the river, but the word of command that
would have sent the boat hurriedly back to pick up the swimmer was not given. Instead a
lusty cry for greater speed ahead urged the sinuous muscles gliding beneath the sleek
brown hides; and when Muda Saffir rose to the surface with a cry for help upon his lips
Ninaka shouted back to him in derision, consigning his carcass to the belly of the nearest
crocodile.
In futile rage Muda Saffir called down the most terrible curses of Allah and his Prophet
upon the head of Ninaka and his progeny to the fifth generation, and upon the shades of
his forefathers, and upon the grim skulls which hung from the rafters of his long-house.
Then he turned and swam rapidly toward the shore.
Ninaka, now in possession of both the chest and the girl, was rich indeed, but with Muda
Saffir dead he scarce knew to whom he could dispose of the white girl for a price that
would make it worth while to be burdened with the danger and responsibility of retaining
her. He had had some experience of white men in the past and knew that dire were the
punishments meted to those who wronged the white man's women. All through the
remainder of the long night Ninaka pondered the question deeply. At last he turned to
Virginia.
"Why does the big white man who leads the ourang outangs follow us?" he asked. "Is it
the chest he desires, or you?"
"It is certainly not the chest," replied the girl. "He wishes to take me back to my father,
that is all. If you will return me to him you may keep the chest, if that is what you wish."
Ninaka looked at her quizzically for a moment. Evidently then she was of some value.
Possibly should he retain her he could wring a handsome ransom from the white man. He
would wait and see, it were always an easy matter to rid himself of her should
circumstances require. The river was there, deep, dark and silent, and he could place the
responsibility for her loss upon Muda Saffir.
Shortly after day break Ninaka beached his prahu before the long-house of a peaceful
river tribe. The chest he hid in the underbrush close by his boat, and with the girl
ascended the notched log that led to the verandah of the structure, which, stretching away
for three hundred yards upon its tall piles, resembled a huge centipede.
 
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