A glorious morning had followed the stormy night, moist mists hung like transparent veils over the face of the mountains, enveloping them in softly melting shades of rosy-red, [ 19 ]lemon yellow, amethyst or azure. Those darker shadows, set against the clear background of the sky, only betrayed the presence of the formidable beasts.
The sun gently swept away the veils that moved between her and the earth, like the bridegroom, who, however eager to behold the face of his bride, yet with reverent trepidation reveals her virginal features; streams of gold and purple the sun king sent down and adorned his beloved with all the treasures at his disposal, and she looked up at him with a smile full of charm and love, radiant with diamonds and pearls.
Even the bare walls of the volcano glittered in the caresses of the light; at his foot stretched a plain, overgrown with the luxuriant alang-alang. A sea of silver like so glittered the millions of raindrops that covered its undulating stalks, interspersed here and there by the sky-blue flowers of the gentian. Scattered among the alang-alang loom islands of green, in which the crimson flowers of the plosa glow in the still slanting sunlight, and the malaka tree raises the gnarled trunk, with which it wears its fine velvety tuft of leaves, but still more beautiful is the forest belt that slopes covered, a forest of gigantic ramalasaras, the kings of the forests, stretching their broad crowns to the left and right, whether they choke other trees in their growth thereby, itself entwined by a world of usury plants, which make a dense mass of greenery of the whole forest. Amid that green, the bright colors of the golden-yellow corollas of the Ipomea shine next to the purple-blue flowers of the Argyreia, the dark red fruits of the Mordecca give[ 20 ]glow on the gloomy foliage; the bamboo gracefully hangs down its rustling branches at the entrance as if trying to form the most beautiful gate of honor for the forest, and at the edge where the forest adjoins the sea of grass, graceful groups of small licuala palms rise.
Beyond the forest, nature is even more savage, there rise the rocky mountain sides, adorned with nothing but an infinite variety of creepers, which cast their shadows on the bare walls and with their thin aerial roots cling to the rock where they can take their posts and cast a lovely veil of greenery and flowers upon the bare, menacing rockwork; gigantic fig trees penetrate every crevice and gorge, diligently seeking the sustenance necessary for their subsistence.
Where there is still a spot of bare vegetation, there the brilliant white moss spreads like a natural carpet to defend the boulders against the persistent action of the elements.
In a savage gorge, the fall of a rushing stream clatters from either side; with force the red water breaks through the rocks, throws itself from dizzying heights into the abyss on one side and spreads fan-shaped on the other over a jutting stone to form further on the Tji-Kendoel River which flows between a deciduous roof of ferns hasten down; a narrow footpath winds up through the forest between two formidable rock pillars, which, according to the natives, are the remains of a gate erected by one of the mighty princes of Panjajaran. Here several springs bubble up, cold and warm, half hidden in the greenery, and betraying themselves only by their endless murmuring and by the fresh dew they send, and[ 21 ]with which they refresh the ferns and creepers in their beds.
Soon the forest ceases, a vast field of rubble and stones marks the place, devastated by the eruptions of the still mighty volcano; from here the eye rejoices in the incomparably beautiful nature on the slope and on the plain; on the horizon, unwrapped from their shrouds of clouds and vapors, rise the numerous peaks of the Gedeh Mountains, joining the no less awe-inspiring Salak, radiant in his green robes; close to the virgin forest, beyond the sea of grass, and at last the cultivated land, bounded again by other hills and mountains, other forests and woods and over all the resplendent Eye of the Day climbing ever higher and higher like a frost that begins its triumphal march and puts all enemies to flight at his approach.
At this point Surapati stood alone and unaccompanied; with his arms crossed over his chest he looked down upon the glittering spectacle at his feet, or lifted his gaze to the source of light and glow which poured over it.
Far from there his thoughts floated; he greeted that sun with jubilation and jubilation as the source of light and life on this fair earth, as the image of the God of whom he remembered that his Christian bride had told him, who commanded all the forces of nature, those mountains and valleys from the bay had called forth by his mighty word, which had clothed them with this wealth of plants and flowers, which made the waters flow and gave voice to the birds, which spoke in the rumble of thunder, in the roar of volcanoes, but also in the murmur of the cool, in the murmur of the brook.
He remembered those lessons he had learned from [ 22 ]Susanna’s clean lips, and the confirmation of which he read in the sweet look of her sky-blue eyes, for they too had come from the hand of that same great, infinitely good Creator.
And perhaps unwittingly he paid homage to the Lord whom Susanna worshipped, greater than the Allah which was forced upon him, mightier than Shiwa the destroyer whom his ancestors revered. He may not have realized the feeling that his soul was overflowing, but it was a new life of strength and courage that trembled all his veins. The fresh morning hour, the brilliant sunlight after the horrors of the night, reminded him of his future as it now seemed to him; the past had ended with its slavery and rebellion. He had reached his goal, the fleeing prince surrendered to him, he would take him to Batavia; perhaps he received the rank of captain there, all sins and crimes of Sie Oentoeng, for the fugitive slave was forgiven. It was Soerapati, officer of the mighty Company,
And then? Then, yes, he could call Suzanna his own.
She would teach him to become like the Dutch; he already knew their language, he appreciated their civilization, it was his highest ambition to serve them and thereby have the right to draw nearer to them, for he had been in their environment long enough and from childhood to be in them. to recognize a higher, nobler race than that to which he belonged. Susanna’s love had lifted him up to her; as long as he had it he felt strong and courageous to stand by her side.[ 23 ]
These thoughts filled his soul with their rosy radiance; because of the education he had received from his master, the Council of India Moor, he possessed a world of thought quite different from that in which his countrymen used to live; his field of vision had expanded; his inclinations and desires had taken another direction. He judged everything from a different point of view than she did; Between him and his comrades there yawned a chasm, which was scarcely visible in those days as a common danger and a similar fear bound them, but which now threatened time and again, now that he had committed himself wholeheartedly to the Hollanders, while they were only out of necessity. who had accepted forgiveness and bowed murmuring under the yoke of foreign masters.
Surapati had great superiority over his men; he was still their chief, though he wore the Company uniform; he had rescued most of them from prison and death, they had followed him faithfully into the wilderness and into the stranger’s camp, as faithfully in rebellion against authority as in submission, but he saw enough with what reluctance. No more commandment would they receive from him than that of turning their weapons against the new masters; every time he had to intervene to calm quarrels between his Balinese and the European soldiers; his task was difficult, but he hoped to fulfill it faithfully and then, in return, to win the full forgiveness of the Company, the hand of his white bride.
No brighter future could dawn for Java, he thought, than if the two peoples united, as Islam had once absorbed the ancient Hindu religion. Still more brilliant would the victory now be, than before Java would become mighty, mighty and one in the material and spiritual interests.[ 24 ]of politics and religion. There would be no more oppressors and no oppressed; the terrible arbitrariness of the native courts, the stupid oppression, the needless cruelty would be put to an end, and beautiful as the morning a bright, glorious future spread over Java, which he would help to establish through his loyal help and cooperation with the Dutch. offered.
Such were the dreams that filled Surapati’s mind, the visions he beheld in the first golden glory of the morning sun, as he soared aloft while the landscape sent up its scents and radiances to heaven as an awe-inspiring thanksgiving offering.
A cautious step was heard on the stones that covered the ground here; he looked back and noticed a woman approaching him; she wore the sarong about the waist, fastened by a gold band; this sarong was of a fine sort, diamond stones glittered in her ears, and a yellow silk sikepan or bat fell from her shoulders, which were additionally adorned with a red slendang (sash). Her face was the pale yellow color peculiar to high-ranking Javanese women; to her native her features were fine and regular, some flowers were tucked coquettishly into her thick, shiny locks; her gait had that casual insecurity which seems so charming in that national garb, but which becomes ridiculous and uneasy in European garb.
“Allah grant you a happy day followed by a long, blessed life!” she said in a low voice, lowering her large, dark eyes shyly.
Sourapati looked at her.
“Thank you for that good wish, sister!” he said courteously, “and I hope it may be fulfilled in you too.”[ 25 ]
“It will certainly come true with me, if you please.”
“Please me! Tell me, sister, by which I may bestow upon you such a good gift as is a long blessed life.”
She approached him a little closer and now looked up to his face.
“Don’t you recognize me, Lord?” she asked.
“The privilege of seeing you has not yet been bestowed upon me, Lady!” replied Surapati, ‘but I see that enough, you are of noble lineage; why then dost thou wander here alone through the forest, and wound thy tender feet on the sharp stones? This is no place fit for a beautiful young woman like yourself, let me tell you!”
“You are right, Lord, and I would not have gone here with my maidservant who waits for me yonder at the springs, if no weighty interests obliged me. I must speak to you, and therefore chose this early morning hour, on the pretext of me going to bathe in the forest. Do you want to hear me?”
“Speak, noble Lady! Thy words ring in my ears as sweet as the song of the kaso, the singer of our forests! If you ask me anything that I can grant you, I swear to you by my kris, I will get it from you!”
The young woman threw herself at his feet and looked at him pleadingly.
“Get up, if you want me to hear you!” said Surapati, ‘I don’t want to see you in this attitude. It is not for you to humble yourself before a simple man like me.”
“The supplicant should speak with humble attitude to him on whom her salvation depends; that has always been a fitting custom. Thou dost not recognize me, Lord, but thy countenance and countenance are impressed upon my soul, as the saints left their footprints[ 26 ]in the cold stone which they once trod. I Radhen Goesik Koesoema , the second wife of the once so mighty and now fleeing Pangeran Poerbaya. Last night I saw you with my lord, I heard that you speak a language full of wisdom, and therefore I come to ask of you for help and support.”
“For your husband?”
“No, for myself. Thou hast seen well, I am of a high and noble family; the Solo prince Amirang KoesoemoGovernor of the Empire Mataram is my foster father. The Pangeran Purbaya obtained my hand, but he never loved me, the Cheribon princess Sepu is his favorite wife, the mother of his sons, yet I followed him when he was forced to flee by the misfortune of his arms. I have shared with him the exile and his wandering life; For months we suffered hunger and thirst, fatigue and heat, alternating only with the dampness of the rain, in these wildernesses, and yet to the last I advised my Lord and husband to take heart and not submit. If it doesn’t work, he will now crawl before the white men, he will give you his weapons and then eat the rice of the victors. O shame!”
“Fear not, princess! the yoke of masters is not heavy!”
“Shame is always heavy! I, the daughter of princes, I will not bear it, rather I leave my already feeble husband, and return to my father, who has opened to me the gates of his house, and therefore I will beg thee the favour, let me do not leave for Batavia, take me back to my homeland!”
“But, my dear Woman, how shall I get thee that favor if thy husband does not desire it? The Prince is now your Lord and Master, you must not leave him, but if he grant you leave.”
“I have married the Bantamschen prince and not the mercenary.” [ 27 ]of the Dutch; he will not grant me that leave, for he loves me as one caresss a child for his sweetness, but whose words one hears smiling like children’s language. O Lord, let me not go to Batavia, let me not languish in captivity, however gilded the chains are, they remain chains. There you will soon have compared my voice with that of the kaso. Well, what will be the bird’s fate, if thou shut it up in a cage, however graceful; it will languish with nostalgia for its mountains and forests. So shall it be with me, if I must share the prince’s captivity. You yourself, you know what it is to lack freedom; the rice of slavery tastes hard and bitter, it is difficult to eat, it chokes our throats and takes our breath away! Let me not share the prince’s fate! I beg you, by her whom you love,
Her voice was sweet and flattering, her beautiful eyes were upon him pleadingly. It was inevitable that the Balinese should be struck by the urgent plea of the prince’s daughter.
“But don’t you understand,” he asked, “that any attempt made by me will appear to the prince as treason? I cannot arbitrarily exclude you from the safe-conduct which I shall bestow on the Pangeran and his family.”
„I understand only one thing! You can save me, you alone! I don’t ask how. Oh,” she continued in a half-whisper, “if you would allow me to reward you, how would I help you in the course you must take, for you are destined for great things. Bulu Kiddur, the dwarf, who has knowledge of things to come, has seen you in his dream, with a crown on your head, shining like the sun. If your heart were not devoted to the whites, I would give you glory and[ 28 ]bring prestige. My father is all-powerful in the emperor’s realm, I am his dearest daughter; he knows how to value courage and wit, he would shower you with honours, he would make you climb to a higher post of honor than you could ever reach in the service of the whites. If you leave them and take me to Karta-Sura, no reward will be too great for you.”
Surapati smiled pityingly.
“You speak like a real woman, princess! and therefore I forgive the weakness of thy speech; I now serve the Dutch and no power in the world can persuade me to be unfaithful to them. Ask the prince’s leave to return to your homeland, and I will see that your wish is fulfilled, I swear to you!”
“Is that the only thing,” she asked, and tears welled up in her eyes, “the only thing you can do for me?”
“Unfortunately! Nothing else, my dear lady, and if I may advise you, the sun is already high in the sky; return to the prince your husband, soon I will follow you. He must not know that I have spoken to you here; and your presence betrays me that he is near. I promise you my support if you will ask your husband for leave to return to your homeland.”
“Gratefully I accept this support if you will not give me anything else!” replied Kusuma , greeting him from on high. She turned and disappeared into the woods.
“She is beautiful,” thought Soerapati, “but the blond daughters of the Dutch are much more beautiful.”
The princess, meanwhile, had returned to the well, where a slave girl and Bulu Kidur the dwarf awaited her.
“What did he answer you?” the dwarf asked, waddling towards her.
“It is hard as the wood of the jati tree; i only have[ 29 ]won little, but I don’t give up hope. O Boeloe! had I never seen his fair form, had not that love so suddenly entered my heart through the eyes, or has it crept through my ears with its voice? Now I have nowhere to rest where he is not. Would Allah have decided to give it to me, or has the evil spirit of these regions kindled in my heart that fatal fire? Boeloe, I promise you my finest gold pending one , and makes you suppose he will be king and I his queen. ”
“King! He will be one day, princess! and whether thou become his queen, it depends only upon thee; will you listen to the words of the dwarf?”
“Ah, it won’t help, Boeloe! The white woman fills his heart, how shall I find place there?”
“One mountain cannot reach where the other has stood for ages, but nothing easier for the woman who loves than to take the place of another who is absent!”
“Were she my countryman, I would not fear her, dwarf, but she is white, and those women with her blue eyes and yellow hair have more power than we.”
“We’ll see who is stronger!” chuckled the dwarf.