Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/377

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

MISS MULOCH (MRS. CRAIK).

371

threatened to swamp her. They surged up in one simultaneous bound; in a moment's space the ripples swelled to ponderous hills of water. Sheets of rain skimmed along the sea, mist and spray wrapped the boat like a curtain. Thought is scarcely quicker than the change. But as that veil closed round, Harris saw, or believed he saw, a craft emerge from that whirling darkness, and shoot across their trail. He crawled hurriedly to the tow-rope — it came loose to his hand.

For half an hour they ran before the storm. A soaked mattress held by men prostrate in the bows kept the sampan spinning at an awful rate. The Malays had all stripped to swim; through teeth chattering with cold, they commended their souls to Allah, or shouted unmeaningly as inaudibly. Almost as suddenly as it had begun, the hurly-burly ceased. For some moments more the rain fell, then lightened, then gave over — the mist vanished — and from the top of mountainous rollers they saw land at fifty yards' distance; they saw also the canoe beating upset on the sands, and a large prau just making shore beside it.

Harris snatched a paddle and turned his sampan to intercept. Summoned by their master's call, Dyaks and servants seconded him, for the crew sat uncomprehending or unwilling. It was a race not ill-matched. The pursued had more men, but a heavier boat, and both together came as near the sands as it was safe to venture without waiting an opportunity. At that point the other crew suddenly leaped overboard, abandoning their vessel. Harris did not hesitate. Gripping my knife between his teeth, he plunged into the rollers, dived, found footing; blinded, buffeted, he gained the shore.

But the pursued were quicker. With a cry of fury and dismay, they watched Harris advancing. He recognized the hadji, and, grasping his knife, rushed at him. But Malays are not easily caught betwixt sea and forest. Some ran to the near jungle, others, with the hadji, dashed again through the surf, gripped their vessel tossing on the rollers, and swung themselves aboard. They caught up the paddles, those still in the water shoved, and before justice could reach them they had recovered control of their prau. Harris ran waist deep into the surf. Swung off his legs, he swam. But it was no use. The hadji leaned over and mocked him as the boat fast drew off. In the last effort of rage, Harris struck with all his might. Perhaps he injured his enemy — for certain, he made a great gap in the edge of my knife.

"And what became of the fugitive?" asked every one in Sarawak, when this adventure was reported.

"I cannot tell," Harris used to answer.

"I half think I saw some women lying in the prau, but it may have been fancy." The hadji would care very little whether his slave was recovered living or dead. If it was the former case, I pity her, for Malay laws against torture do "not apply to runaways. Hadji Mummin was not heard of so long as I stopped in the country, and his fifteen wives remained, not disconsolate it was given us to understand, in a state of widowhood. Frederick Boyle.




From The Victoria Magazine.

MISS MULOCH (MRS. CRAIK).

The year 1826 gave us, among other things and persons, the now well-known novelist Miss Muloch. This lady's works are much read, which fact is corroborated by the testimony of certain articles in the shape of well-worn, well-soiled library volumes. Her readers are culled from a wide circle. Young people agree with her because her books tend to strengthen the idea that "there's nothing half so sweet in life as love's young dream;" but this thoughtful writer appeals not to youthful sympathies only; she does not throw all the poetry of life into its spring; she remembers those seven ages of man which drew forth the eloquence of Jacques in the forest of Arden. A paterfamilias, little addicted to novel-reading, has been known to grow earnest in praise of "John Halifax, Gentleman," and eyes dim with age have grown dimmer still behind their spectacles, while listening to passages from the same book.

It is evident that Miss Muloch early commenced studying a thing, small enough in its way, but one which has puzzled philosophers and moralists in all ages, viz.: the human heart; it is evident also that she made rapid progress in her acquaintance with this complex piece of machinery - that she soon learnt to play upon it, to command it, and to draw from it sweet sounds and solemn symphonies, as does a skilled performer from a musical instrument, otherwise she would not have written "Olive" before she was twenty-four years of age.

The publication of "John Halifax, Gen-