At last I hit upon a plan, and when we returned to the village to eat I went directly to Ro-Tai. .
“I have a plan,” I said, “whereby you may make a successful raid upon Ko-va. With the loss of the twenty warriors we killed, their fighting strength has been weakened; and if you will let me help you plan the attack, we should be able to recapture all of the slaves they took from you and doubtless take all of their slaves, as well.”
Ro-Tai was very much interested. He thought the plan an excellent one and said that he would embark upon the expedition after the next sleep.
Later, I was talking the matter over with Ul-Van when a discouraging thought occurred to me. “How,” I asked him; “can you find Ko-va; if you cannot see it, any more than you can find the mainland when it is out of sight, for Ko-va is not your home?”
“Some of our women were born on Ko-va,” he said, “and captured by us. We will take one of them with us in one of the canoes, and she will direct our passage.”
“How did the Ko-vans who came to raid Ruva find the island?” I asked.
“Unquestionably, at least one of them was born on Ruva,” replied Ul-Van, “and doubtless stolen in a raid while he was a small child. We often capture Ko-van boys and raise them among us as our own warriors for the same purpose. It happened that the last two we had were killed in a recent raid; but we have several Ko-van women.”
It seemed to me an eternity before the expedition was prepared to set out; but at last all was in readiness and fifty warriors manned five canoes, one of which was that which I had converted into a lateen rigged outrigger.
Ro-Tai, the chief, and UI-Van were in this canoe with me; and we had with us a woman who had been born on Ko-va to point the way.
I was not a little concerned as to the success of my venture. I had wanted to experiment with my craft before setting forth upon this considerable voyage, but Ro-Tai would not hear of it. Now that all was ready, he wanted to get started without further delay.
I did not know what speed I could attain and there was a question as to whether the paddle-driven canoes might out-distance us. Also, I was not at all sure as to the seaworthiness of my craft. I was fearful that a good gust of wind might capsize it, for it carried considerable canvas.
The Ruvans were still skeptical about the possibility of making a canoe move through the water without paddles. Fifty pair of eyes were on me as I raised the sail and took my place in the stern with the steering paddle. Gradually the boat got under way with a brisk breeze. The warriors in the other canoes bent to their paddles; and the little armada was under way.
“It moves!” exclaimed Ro-Tai in an awe-struck tone. “It is pulling away from the other canoes,” said Ul-Van.
“Will wonders never cease!” exclaimed one of the older men. “What will they think of next? To think that I should live to see a thing like this!”
The warriors in the other canoes were paddling furiously, but still we drew away from them. I sailed on, occasionally looking back to note the position of the other canoes; and when I thought we were separated almost too far for safety, I brought the canoe into the wind and waited.
We were a savage-looking band, for the Ruvans had donned their war-paint and were hideously decorated. They had even insisted upon painting me; and when Ul-Van got through with me I could have passed for a full-blooded Ruvan, for he had succeeded in smearing every inch of my body with pigments of one color or another.
The canoes were well stocked with spears, each warrior having brought three; and I had made for myself an additional supply of arrows and one of the short, javelin-like spears which I prefer.
I discussed with Ro-Tai his plan of attack when we should have landed on Ko-va. He said that they would do as they had always done—march in a body straight to the village which lay in the center of the island. If the Ko-vans chanced to have seen us approach, they would be ready for us. If not, we might take them partially by surprise. I didn’t like this plan at all, and finally persuaded him to adopt one which I felt certain would assure us far greater success and which I explained to him in detail. He acceded with some reluctance, and he acceded at all solely because of the success I had had in our skirmish with the Ko-vans who had come to raid Ruva.
I was the first to sight the island, which was similar in all respects to Ruva except that it was a little larger. As we approached it we saw no sign of life; and I was in hope that we might be able to surprise the village, for my plan of attack would prove far more successful in such an event.
I came to a short distance from the island and lay to waiting for the other canoes to overtake us. Ul-Van and I lowered the sail, and the warriors shipped their paddles; and when the other canoes came abreast of us we all moved in together toward the shore.
When we had disembarked, Ro-Tai asked me to explain my plan of attack to the entire company; and when I had done so, we started into the forest in a long, thin line which gradually opened out as we approached the village. I took a position in the center of the line; Ro-Tai in the center of the left wing; Ul-Van in the center of the right wing. We kept the men close enough together so that they could see and pass on hand signals, which I explained to them and which were very simple. I sent one scout ahead to the village with explicit instructions as to what he was to do.
We moved forward in absolute silence, and when we had advanced about two miles my scout returned to me. He told me that the village was but a short distance ahead; that he had reached the edge of the clearing, and from what he could see he believed that the warriors were sleeping or away, for he saw only women, children, and slaves outside the huts.
I now gave the signal to start the enveloping movement, and it was passed on to right and left by hand signals. The center of the line moved forward now very slowly while the wings curved inward as they advanced more rapidly, the idea being to entirely surround the village before attacking.
When those in the center of the line reached a point where they could see the clearing, they lay down and hid; but always they kept in sight of the warrior next to them. Finally, the signal that I awaited came. It meant that the two wings had joined on the opposite side of the village.
So far, not a Ko-van was aware that an enemy was upon the island.
Now I gave the signal to charge. It was simply a war cry that was taken up by all the Ruvan warriors as, simultaneously, we dashed toward the village. The women and children, terrified, started to run first in one direction and then in another; but always they found Ruvan warriors blocking their escape.
Now the Ko-van warriors came crawling from their huts, heavy-eyed with sleep. Taken wholly by surprise, they fell easy prey to our spear-men. Only a few of them fell before the others surrendered.
I had expected to see ruthless slaughter; but such was not the case. As Ro-Tai explained to me afterward, if they killed all the Ko-vans they would have no one to raid for slaves and women; and even now, in victory, he exacted but little tribute. He demanded the slaves that had been stolen from Ruva and an equal number of Ko-van slaves, as well as three young boys who would be brought up as Ruvans.
My first concern was to look for Dian; but she was not among the slaves who were in the village. I questioned the chief, and he told me that a man-slave had stolen a canoe and escaped, taking Dian with him.
“He was a man from Suvi,” said the chief. “I have forgotten his name.”
“Was it Do-gad?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “that was it. Do-gad was his name.”
Once more my high hopes were dashed, and now my quest seemed hopeless and I was further harassed by the thought that Dian was again in the power of her nemesis. What was I to do? I had a sailboat, but I could not find the mainland, nor was there anyone to guide me to it.
Presently I conceived a forlorn hope, and going among the Ko-van slaves, I questioned each one, asking him from what country he came; and finally one of them, a girl, said she was from Suvi.
“Are there any other Suvian slaves here?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “not since Do-gad escaped.” I went, then, to the chief of the Ruvans. “Ro-Tai,” I said, “I have tried to serve you well—I have taught you how to catch the fish in the center of the pool. I have shown you how you may make your canoes go without paddling; and I have helped you to win two battles and take many slaves.” “Yes,” he said, “you have done all these things, David. You are a good warrior.” “I want to ask a favor in return,” I said.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I want you to promise to let me return to the mainland and my own country whenever I can.”
He shook his head. “I cannot do that, David,” he said. “You are now a Ruvan warrior, and no Ruvan may go to live in any other country.”
“I have another favor to ask, then,” I said, “that I think you will not find too difficult to grant.”
“What is it?” he asked.
“I should like to have a slave,” I said.
“Certainly,” he agreed. “When we return to Ruva, you may select one of the slaves that we have taken today.”
“I do not want any that you have selected,” I said. “I want that girl over there;” and I pointed to the slave from Suvi.
Ro-Tai raised his eyebrows and hesitated for a moment; but then he said, “Why not? You are both white. You should have a mate, and you cannot mate with a Ruvan.”
Well, I would let him think what he pleased, just so long as I acquired a slave from Suvi.
I walked over to the girl. “You are my slave,” I said. “Come with me. What is your name?”
“Lu-Bra,” she said; “but I do not want to be your slave. I do not want to go with you. I belong to a woman here, and, she is kind to me.”
“I shall be kind to you,” I said. “You need have no fear of me.”
“But I still do not want to go with you. I would rather die.”
“You are going with me, nevertheless, and you are not going to die, and you, are not going to be harmed in any way. You may believe me that you are going to be very glad that I selected you.”
Well, she had to come along with me. There was nothing she could do about it; but she was not very happy. I didn’t want to tell her what I had in mind, for the success of the plan I had concocted depended solely upon the secrecy with which I could carry it out.
The warriors of Ruva ate in the village of the Ko-vans, who were their unwilling hosts; and then we returned to the ocean with our slaves and embarked for Ruva; and Lu-Bra, the slave-girl from Suvi, went with me.
The wind had risen since we landed on Ko-va; and now it was blowing half a gale and the seas were commencing to run high. It looked to me like a risky venture to embark in the face of such ominous weather; but the Ruvans seemed to think nothing of it. The wind had not only freshened but it had changed; so that now I could run directly before it, and our canoe fairly flew through the water. We didn’t have to wait for the others this time, and they were soon specks far astern; The warriors who were fortunate enough to have been selected as the crew of this boat were highly enthusiastic! They had never traveled so fast before, and they had never traveled at all without hard work. Now they just sat idle and contented, and watched the waves go by.
But I was not so contented. My improvised mast and cordage were being subjected to terrific strain. There were creakings and squeakings that filled me with apprehension; and the sea and the wind were rising. I can tell you that I breathed a sigh of relief when I glimpsed Ruva in the distance, although there was still plenty of time for disaster to overtake us before we ran into one of her sheltering coves.
The sky was overcast with ominous clouds. The air about us was filled with spindrift. The wind howled and shrieked like malevolent demons seeking to terrify those whom they were about to destroy. The seas became mountainous. I glanced at my companions, and I was aware that for the first time they were showing marked concern. I was considerably worried myself, for I didn’t see how this frail craft could possibly survive the fury of the storm. Why my sail and mast did not carry away, I still cannot conceive; but they held. The great following seas never quite engulfed us, and we drew rapidly nearer and nearer the shore.
As we came closer, I witnessed a strange and terrifying sight. The entire island, as far as I could see, was rising and falling as though in the throes of a terrific and continuous earthquake. Mountainous waves were breaking on the low shoreline and carrying tons of water into the forest. Pieces of the island were breaking off and disintegrating. How could we hope to make a landing under such conditions? And then Ro-Tai voiced that very doubt.
“We can’t land here,” he said. “We must try to make the lee side of the island.”
I knew that that would be impossible. To change our course now would throw us into the trough of these enormous seas, and the craft would be capsized almost immediately. There was just one slender hope; and I held my course straight for that tossing, leaping shoreline.
We were almost upon it. I held my breath, and I imagine the Ruvans did likewise. We rose to the crest of a great sea. With my stone knife I cut the sheet, and the sail streamed out, flapping in the gale. We were only a few yards from the shore toward which we were rushing with the speed of an express train; and, for the few seconds that were required to assure the success of my mad scheme, the canoe clung to the crest of a great wave and we were carried inland and hurled among the trees of the forest.
Why no one was killed is still a mystery to me. Some were injured; but the rest of us managed to hold the canoe from being carried back into the ocean by the receding waters.
Before another large wave descended upon us, we stumbled deeper into the forest. We were being constantly hurled to the ground by the upheaval of the ground beneath us; and sometimes a wave would reach us but broken and rendered harmless by the trees of the forest.
At last we reached the village, where we found most of the huts lying collapsed upon the ground, while the Ruvans who had not accompanied the expedition, and the slaves, lay prone and terrified in the clearing.
My fear was that the entire island would disintegrate. I did not see how it could withstand the terrific forces that were wrenching at it, pulling it this way and that, raising and lowering it, twisting and turning it. I asked Ul-Van what he thought our chances were.
“I have seen but one such storm before in my lifetime,” he said. “Portions of the island were broken off and lost; but the main part of the island withstood the worst that wind and sea could do. If the storm does not last too long, I think that we are safe.”
“And what about the men in the other canoes?” I asked.
Ul-Van shrugged. “Some of them may reach shore,” he said; “but it is more likely that none of them ever will. It was your sail that saved us, David.”