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AN INDIAN NIGHT-SCENE.
through a thicket, out of which the affrighted birds flew shrieking; then listening to try and distinguish the sound of the flying canoe from all the shrill whistles, chirrups, and drumming noises, which render an Indian jungle far more lively by night than by day. Once or twice we thought we were fast catching her, when suddenly our canoe passed from the mangrove swamp into an open forest of trees, which rose in all their solemn majesty from the dark waters.
our chance of success was now hopeless, for the scout canoe had fifty avenues by which to baffle us, and terra firma was, we knew, not far distant. It was a strange and beautiful
The water was as smooth as burnished steel, and reflected, wherever the trees left an opening, the thousand stars which strewed the sky: the tall stems of the forest trees rose from this glittering surface, and waved their sable plumes over heads; whilst the fire-fly, or some equally luminous insect, occasionally lit up first one tree and then another, as if sparks of liquid gold were being emitted from the rustling leaves.
Silently we lay on our oars, or rather paddles; not a sound of the flying canoe could be heard : it was evident that the scout had escaped, and it only remained for us to make the best of
THE WHIP AND MANGROVE SNAKES.
our way back again -- a task which, in the absence of all excitement, we found an extremely tough one; indeed, we grounded so often on the roots of the mangrove trees, that I proposed to wade through the mud and water, dragging the canoe after us. To this, however, the Malays would in nowise listen, and spoke so earnestly of the danger arising from a particular kind of snake, that we thought it better to listen to them — a piece of wisdom upon our part which gave rise to some congratulations on the morrow, when, in company with our advisers, we visited the mangrove swamp, and found in the fork of many of the trees a perfect nest of snakes. These, the Malays assured us, were very venomous, yet the reptiles were not above a foot or eighteen inches long, and about the girth of a man's little finger; the greatest peculiarity being strong black markings about the body, which gave them an appearance somewhat in keeping with their bad reputation. Having, like most youths, read every book which I could get hold of, descriptive of wild beast, bird, and reptile, I, from my reading, had been led to believe that the whip-snake was everywhere most dangerous; and I must say-when I observed a number of these long green-coloured creatures hanging like tendrils from the trees we
THE WHIP AND MANGROVE SNAKES.
had in the darkness of the previous night been pushing our way through — I felt thankful for our escape. Touching one of the Malays who were with me, I pointed at them and said, “ They are very bad.” He smiled, and assured me they were not by any means so dangerous as those in the forks of the trees in the mangrove swamps,
MAHOMET ALEE DOES NOT ATTACK.
Mahomet Alee does not attack.-Start Crane shooting.–Day
break in Malayia.— The Adjutant. — The “old Soldier !”The “old Soldier" fishing. — The “old Soldier" weathers a young Sailor.- No Cranes.—Plenty of Monkeys.—Monkeys in a Passion.-A sudden Chase of a Prahu.-Birds'-Nests and Pulo Bras Manna. — The edible-nest-building Swallow, Hirundo esculenta ; Food ; Habits. — Decide upon seeing the Nests collected.—Difficulties in the way of doing so. - Jamboo enjoying Company's pay.- Jamboo remonstrates. А scramble for Birds’-Nests.—The Malays descend the Face of the Cliff. The Home of the edible-nest-building Swallow.
The Birds'-Nest Trade. - The Nests composed of Gelatin.
The chase by night was followed by no general attack from the piratical fleet, and we surmised that the scouts, having found us on the “ qui vive," had reported unfavourably of the probability of surprising the blockading squadron,-a surmise which the inhabitants of the neighbouring village afterwards confirmed.
One middle watch in January, the look-out man awoke me, and told me my sampan and gun were ready as I had desired.
I could hardly conceive it possible to feel so cold and cheerless at the short distance of 200 miles from the equator as I then did. The mist of the early night had fallen in the shape of dew, wetting the decks and awnings as if it had been raining heavily; and a light breeze blowing down from the Patani Hills struck a chill into my bones, already stiffened by sleeping upon a hard and damp deck.
Day had as yet hardly dawned, but I was anxious to try and get a shot at some flocks of elegant white cranes of a small size which nightly roosted on a clump of trees about a mile distant from my anchorage; and my only chance of being able to get sufficiently near, was to be there before they flew off to their feeding-grounds. Half lamenting I had troubled myself with any such sporting mania, yet unwilling to let the Malay see what a lazy individual his captain was, I threw myself into the canoe, grasped the paddle, and by a stroke or two awoke to the interest of the spot before me, and the beauties of a morning in Malaya.
The day dawn had already chased the stars away from one half the bright heaven overhead ; the insect world, so noisy from set of sun on the previous day, had ceased their shrill note, whilst the gloomy forest shook off its sombre hue, and, dripping with dew,