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Baboo’s Pirates
by [?]

An Adventure in the Pahang River

There was a scuffle in the outer office, and a thin, piping voice was calling down all the curses of the Koran on the heads of my great top-heavy Hindu guards.

“Sons of dogs,” I heard in the most withering contempt, “I will see the Tuan Consul. Know he is my father.”

A tall Sikh, with his great red turban awry and his brown kaki uniform torn and soiled, pushed through the bamboo chicks and into my presence.

He was dragging a small bit of naked humanity by the folds of its faded cotton sarong.

The powerful soldier was hot and flushed, and a little stream of blood trickling from his finger tips showed where they had come in contact with his captive’s teeth. It was as though an elephant had been worried by a pariah cur.

“Your Excellency,” he said, salaaming and gasping for breath.

“It is Baboo, the Harimau-Anak!”

Baboo wrenched from the guard’s grasp and glided up to my desk. The back of his open palm went to his forehead, and his big brown eyes looked up appealingly into mine.

“What is it, Tiger-Child?” I asked, bestowing on him the title the Malays of Kampong Glam had given him as a perpetual reminder of his famous adventure.

Dimples came into either tear-stained cheek. He smoothed out the rents in his small sarong, and without deigning to notice his late captor, said in a soft sing-song voice:–

“Tuan Consul, Baboo want to go with the Heaven-Born to Pahang. Baboo six years old,–can fight pirates like Aboo Din, the father. May Mohammed make Tuan as odorous as musk!”

“You are a boaster before Allah, Baboo,” I said, smiling.

Baboo dropped his head in perfectly simulated contrition.

“I have thought much, Tuan.”

News had come to me that an American merchant ship had been wrecked near the mouth of the Pahang River, and that the Malays, who were at the time in revolt against the English Resident, had taken possession of its cargo of petroleum and made prisoners of the crew.

I had asked the colonial governor for a guard of five Sikhs and a launch, that I might steam up the coast and investigate the alleged outrage before appealing officially to the British government.

Of course Baboo went, much to the disgust of Aboo Din, the syce.

I never was able to refuse the little fellow anything, and I knew if I left him behind he would be revenged by running away.

I had vowed again and again that Baboo should stay lost the next time he indulged in his periodical vanishing act, but each time when night came and Aboo Din, the syce, and Fatima, the mother, crept pathetically along the veranda to where I was smoking and steeling my heart against the little rascal, I would snatch up my cork helmet and spring into my cart, which Aboo Din had kept waiting inside the stables for the moment when I should relent.

Since Baboo had become a hero and earned the appellation of the Harimau-Anak, his vanity directed his footsteps toward Kampong Glam, the Malay quarter of Singapore. Here he was generally to be found, seated on a richly hued Indian rug, with his feet drawn up under him, amid a circle of admiring shopkeepers, syces, kebuns, and fishermen, narrating for the hundredth time how he had been caught at Changhi by a tiger, carried through the jungle on its back until he came to a great banian tree, into which he had crawled while the tiger slept, how a sladang (wild bull) came out of the lagoon and killed the tiger, and how Tuan Consul and Aboo Din, the father, had found him and kissed him many times.

Often he enlarged on the well-known story and repeated long conversations that he had carried on with the tiger while they were journeying through the jungle.

A brass lamp hung above his head in which the cocoanut oil sputtered and burned and cast a fitful half-light about the box-like stall.