Meanwhile, Commissar Tak continued his journey to the imperial court city; he had already approached close to the kraton when two companies of Dutch soldiers, led by Lieutenants Vonk and Eijgel, came to meet him.
It was not difficult to see that the greatest confusion reigned everywhere; Madurese and Javanese fled in all directions, the kampongs emptied. Loaded with goods, followed by women, old men, and children, the villagers flocked far away, some to the mountains, others to the Dutch; the greatest terror seemed to have seized them all. The sky behind the dalem was colored red by the flames that rose from the burnt dwellings of the kampong Babirong, thick clouds of smoke brushed over the stately buildings of the Imperial[ 142 ]palace; no one knew where the fire raged, where the enemies hid, where the danger most threatened; each sought his salvation only in hasty flight, no one even thought of adversity.
It was a difficult task for the newly arrived envoy to form a clear understanding of the situation. No one could speak to him calmly, the kraton was open, the poor fortress of the Dutch did not offer the slightest chance of defence; the two lieutenants, who themselves had arrived only a few days, could give no proper account of the situation.
“The Madurese prince had promised Captain-Lieutenant Grevink that he would overwhelm Soerapati himself,” it was said. “As a favor he bade even the Dutchmen to keep themselves out of the business; the help, which Grevink offered time and again, was politely but firmly declined. Now the attempt seemed to have failed, the Madurese and Javanese chose the harepath, the emperor had just sent a message to the pagger to request the help of the Dutch against Soerapati and his followers.”
“It is a net of lies and false tricks from which one cannot escape,” said Lieutenant Vonk. “It is impossible to know what the Emperor really wants. Or rather, what he wants is clear enough; he wishes nothing more than to get rid of the Dutch, if he dared. Now he is in two minds: he wants to keep Soerapati as a friend and not to anger the Dutch.”
“Then we must employ strong means,” said the Commissioner. “Lord Van Vliet, I beg you to take a company of soldiers with Lieutenant Van der Meer and to go to the palace without delay, to speak to the Emperor and tell him[ 143 ]that the Company is not to be mocked or made fun of; so he must immediately hand me over to Surapati and his people dead or alive or else it will be ill with him, his Mantris and his court. I shall regard them all as enemies of the High Government, which I have the honor to represent here.”
The Chief Merchant rode ahead with his retinue, while the Commissary proceeded without delay to the pagger which surrounded the sheds in which the soldiers of the Company were encamped. He had all the “baggage” brought in, and when his men took their place in the square in front of the pagger, he supplied them with new ammunition and thus awaited the answer of the Soesoehunans.
The Chief Merchant did not stay away long, he returned with the message that the Soesoehunan was not to be found, as the intrepid hero was on the run. Van Vliet, however, who knew the tricks of the Javanese, was not deterred and sent the lieutenant in to look for the emperor. It was not long before His Highness appeared again; pale and dismayed, he expressed in strong terms his intention to pursue the mutineer Surapati, and once more urgently enlisted the Company’s aid against the savage robbery mound.
Van Vliet replied rather sternly that it was not his job to go out against rioters himself; he had enough help, and the Dutch could protect him, if he really meant well; the Chief Merchant returned to the pagger and reported his mission.
“The futility of that brood knows no bounds,” he said. “If I may give you any advice, Sir Commissary, you’d better snatch it up, and take the old creep prisoner. He’s up to something against us.”[ 144 ]
‘But it may also be, Lord Van Vliet, that he is really in distress; It is dangerous game to be hostile to the Emperor of Mataram. My instruction says nothing about it, it prescribes peace-loving measures to the utmost limits; we must take him at his word.”
“Ued. has seen enough how false and cowardly the Javanese people are; then with the revolt of Troeno-Djojo we were victorious .”
“Since then we fought with Caesar and with the people, now we should fight both against Caesar and against people. Force majeure surrounds us from all sides. We are only in comparatively small numbers; the safest thing is to believe the imperial word and try to get hold of the Balinese.”
Van Vliet shrugged and only spoke:
“May you not regret it!”
The Commissary now sent Captain Grevink with five men to the court to guard the Emperor’s person. Meanwhile the flames seemed to be approaching; Surapati was in the kraton and spread terror and dismay wherever he went; the Dutch kept a waiting attitude, until suddenly the governor of Japara Adipati Urawan rode up on horseback and exclaimed in great emotion:
“Help us Noble Lord, the mutineers are east of the court, they set everything ablaze; it will be easy to overpower them now.”
“Then show me the way!” he ordered the Adipati, ordered Lieutenant Eygel to keep watch on the pagger with his men, and ran at a full gallop at the head of the three companies in the direction indicated by the governor of Japara riding beside him.[ 145 ]
With full drumbeat the soldiers advanced east of the imperial court; indeed, the houses were seen on fire there. Lieutenant van der Meer rode ahead but found no traces of the enemy anywhere.
“I fear we have been betrayed,” said Commissioner Tak, and turning to the Adipati, he exclaimed angrily: “You have lied to me on purpose.”
“No, my lord! Allah knows that I believed in good faith that the Balinese had attacked the eastern part of the Dalem; they came to tell me from the palace.”
“Viper brood!” murmured the Commissioner, “they themselves cannot tell lies from truth.”
Heavy gunfire was heard behind them; certainly there had been a clash within the court. Tak turned and saw clouds of smoke, leaked by fiery tongues, hovering high in the air.
“The missit is on fire!” exclaimed the Adipati, “then the enemy is upon the alon-alun!”
“Back, back to the Pagger of the Company!” commanded Tak, “soon, soon!”
And they withdrew with the greatest possible haste toward the burning mosque. When they got there, the fugitives rushed to meet them; Captain Grevink had already been killed with his soldiers. Soerapati had entrenched himself behind the buildings, his companions had a lust for murder and fire, everywhere they waved their burning torches, so that retreat was out of the question.
Before them the troops of the Company gathered, determined to take them alive or dead, there seemed no way out; so they were cramped between fire and weapons.[ 146 ]
The Soesoehunan’s troops were not to be seen; in his wives’ quarters the effeminate emperor had trembling and shivering crouched in ostrich fashion, not wanting to see the danger, hoping it would drift away.
Soerapati surveyed the dire situation; behind him stretched higher and higher a wall of flames, the cowardly Javanese greats had left the terrain to the Balinese mutineers.
“Comrades,” he exclaimed, “we have endured much together, but the need was never so urgent! What is your desire? You see how far things have come; ordinary bravery no longer avails here, only the desire to try the utmost can avail. We must seek death, for only in death’s contempt lies the only chance of salvation for the hopeless. But if you don’t want to go to this extreme, let us negotiate with the Company!”
“Never, never,” cried all, “rather death than slavery.”
“Well, follow me then! They will promise forgiveness, but surely a terrible death awaits us with them. Death gapes at us from all sides. So let us meet him as fearless warriors, and perhaps he will not take us, for death refuses voluntary gifts. Go on then, go on!”
The Balinese raised a fierce battle cry and rushed after their leader at a wild pace. Terrible was Surapati’s sight, his hair smeared with soot fluttered about his bare head, his war shirt hung in tatters about his bare shoulders, the blood dripped down his naked limbs; a lad behind him wore his peaks, he flung them before him with a steady hand, while with the other he swung his kris high above his head and loudly uttered the bloody cry:[ 147 ]
Commissioner Tak had stationed his men in the square; Lieutenant van der Meer’s Company on the right, Van Vonk on the left and Van Eygel in the middle, Madurese and Javanese were placed to one side; he himself continued to give his orders at the front when the maddened troop rushed out through the gate, screaming and raving; the fire of the Dutch made them retreat, and they were forced back again to the gate.
“Courage, men, courage!” shouted Surapati, ‘do you fear death? He alone can save us. Amok, amok!”
“Amok!” they all repeated shrilly shrieks, and tried once more for the lunge; the Madurese began to retreat.
“It is the devil leading them!” they cried, throwing away their weapons and fleeing to the advancing Dutch; the vapor of the burning buildings filled the alon-alun, and obscured all view.
“Save you, save yourself,” yelled the Madurese, a general panic ensued, the soldiers of the various companies confused themselves. The enemy marched closer blindly, hacking at it with sheer fury; neither friend nor foe was recognized anymore. One stumbled over the other, blinded by gunpowder vapor, confused by the desperate cries of the wounded and the infernal cries of the attackers, no one listened to the commands of the commanders anymore, the banners sank, everything shook and swarmed in indescribable disorder. Left and right the victims fell, officers and vile soldiers sank to the ground side by side, pierced by lances. The envoy was killed, when and how no one knew, his body was later found wounded by twenty knife wounds; also the Chief Merchant[ 148 ]van Vliet, the lieutenants van der Meer and Vonk, were among the fallen. Like a mountain stream, overturning and destroying everything in its passage, the Balinese fell over and over on their attackers with overwhelming force, until they either succumbed to the dust before them or fled to all sides.
Only a fraction of the Company’s soldiers were allowed to reach the pagger , where Captain Leeman was in command and soon learned from the despairing cries of the fugitives the extent of the great disaster. Surapati and his heroes withdrew after fighting their way over the corpses of their attackers, heading south-east toward the mountain range.
There they found women and children under the care of the small scissors at whose head stood Kiai Hemboong. Jubilantly hurried Koesoema meet her husband, the victorious but exhausted and wounded returning from the battle.
“And now?” she asked him, “what shall we do now, my hero, my Prince?”
“Now I believe the dwarf’s prediction is true; the Company now knows which friend it has spurned, and our enmity is not yet over. We move to the East; I can rely on my comrades, with such heroes it is easy to build a kingdom!”
“Allah be praised!” whispered Koesuma to Kiai Hemboong, „now he has lost Nonna Suzanna for good! What fears did I not bear this day, fearing that he would rejoin the cursed whites; but now a deep river of blood separates him from his former friends, and such streams are no more to be forded.”