As she sat speculating on the strange change which had come over her father her eyes had wandered aimlessly along the harbor's entrance; the low reef that protected it from the sea, and the point of land to the south, that projected far out into the strait like a gigantic index finger pointing toward the mainland, the foliage covered heights of which were just visible above the western horizon.
Presently her attention was arrested by a tossing speck far out upon the rolling bosom of the strait.For some time the girl watched the object until at length it resolved itself into a boat moving head on toward the island.Later she saw that it was long and low, propelled by a single sail and many oars, and that it carried quite a company.
Thinking it but a native trading boat, so many of which ply the southern seas, Virginia viewed its approach with but idle curiosity.When it had come to within half a mile of the anchorage of the Ithaca, and was about to enter the mouth of the harbor Sing Lee's eyes chanced to fall upon it.On the instant the old Chinaman was electrified into sudden and astounding action.
"Klick! Klick!" he cried, running toward Virginia.
"Go b'low, klick."
"Why should I go below, Sing?" queried the girl, amazed by the demeanor of the cook.
"Klick! Klick!" he urged grasping her by the arm--half leading, half dragging her toward the companion-way.
"Plilates! Mlalay plilates--Dyak plilates.""Pirates!" gasped Virginia."Oh Sing, what can we do?""You go b'low.Mebbyso Sing flighten 'em.Shoot cannon.Bling help.Maxon come klick.Bling men.
Chase'm 'way," explained the Chinaman."But plilates see 'em pletty white girl," he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head dubiously, "then old Sing no can flighten 'em 'way."The girl shuddered, and crouching close behind Sing hurried below.A moment later she heard the boom of the old brass six pounder which for many years had graced the Ithaca's stern.In the bow Professor Maxon had mounted a modern machine gun, but this was quite beyond Sing's simple gunnery.The Chinaman had not taken the time to sight the ancient weapon carefully, but a gleeful smile lit his wrinkled, yellow face as he saw the splash of the ball where it struck the water almost at the side of the prahu.
Sing realized that the boat might contain friendly natives, but he had cruised these waters too many years to take chances.
Better kill a hundred friends, he thought, than be captured by a single pirate.
At the shot the prahu slowed up, and a volley of musketry from her crew satisfied Sing that he had made no mistake in classifying her.Her fire fell short as did the ball from the small cannon mounted in her bow.
Virginia was watching the prahu from one of the cabin ports.She saw the momentary hesitation and confusion which followed Sing's first shot, and then to her dismay she saw the rowers bend to their oars again and the prahu move swiftly in the direction of the Ithaca.
It was apparent that the pirates had perceived the almost defenseless condition of the schooner.In a few minutes they would be swarming the deck, for poor old Sing would be entirely helpless to repel them.If Dr.
von Horn were only there, thought the distracted girl.
With the machine gun alone he might keep them off.
At the thought of the machine gun a sudden resolve gripped her.Why not man it herself? Von Horn had explained its mechanism to her in detail, and on one occasion had allowed her to operate it on the voyage from Singapore.With the thought came action.Running to the magazine she snatched up a feed-belt, and in another moment was on deck beside the astonished Sing.
The pirates were skimming rapidly across the smooth waters of the harbor, answering Sing's harmless shots with yells of derision and wild, savage war cries.
There were, perhaps, fifty Dyaks and Malays--fierce, barbaric men; mostly naked to the waist, or with war-coats of brilliant colors.The savage headdress of the Dyaks, the long, narrow, decorated shields, the flashing blades of parang and kris sent a shudder through the girl, so close they seemed beneath the schooner's side.
"What do? What do?" cried Sing in consternation.
"Go b'low.Klick!" But before he had finished his exhortation Virginia was racing toward the bow where the machine gun was mounted.Tearing the cover from it she swung the muzzle toward the pirate prahu, which by now was nearly within range above the vessel's side--a moment more and she would be too close to use the weapon upon the pirates.
Virginia was quick to perceive the necessity for haste, while the pirates at the same instant realized the menace of the new danger which confronted them.Ascore of muskets belched forth their missiles at the fearless girl behind the scant shield of the machine gun.Leaden pellets rained heavily upon her protection, or whizzed threateningly about her head--and then she got the gun into action.
At the rate of fifty a minute, a stream of projectiles tore into the bow of the prahu when suddenly a richly garbed Malay in the stern rose to his feet waving a white cloth upon the point of his kris.It was the Rajah Muda Saffir--he had seen the girl's face and at the sight of it the blood lust in his breast had been supplanted by another.
At sight of the emblem of peace Virginia ceased firing.
She saw the tall Malay issue a few commands, the oarsmen bent to their work, the prahu came about, making off toward the harbor's entrance.At the same moment there was a shot from the shore followed by loud yelling, and the girl turned to see her father and von Horn pulling rapidly toward the Ithaca.
Edgar Rice Burroughs