There was something mysterious about the successive losses of his men which pressed heavily upon the soul of Captain Horn, but the want of water pressed still more heavily. Ralph had just asked his permission to go down to the beach and bathe in the sea, saying that as he could not have all the water he wanted to drink, it might make him feel better to take a swim in plenty of water. The boy was not allowed to go so far from camp by himself, but the captain could not help thinking how this poor fellow would probably feel the next day if help had not arrived, and of the sufferings of the others, which, by that time, would have begun. Still, as before, he spoke hopefully, and the two women, as brave as he, kept up good spirits, and although they each thought of the waterless morrow, they said nothing about it.
As for Ralph, he confidently expected the return of the men in the course of the day, as he had done in the course of each preceding day, and two or three times an hour he was at his post of observation, ready to wave his flag.
Even had he supposed that it would be of any use to go to look for Maka, a certain superstitious feeling would have prevented the captain from doing so. If he should go out, and not return, there would be little hope for those two women and the boy. But he could not help feeling that beyond the rocky plateau which stretched out into the sea to the southward, and which must be at least two miles away, there might be seen some signs of habitation, and, consequently, of a stream. If anything of the sort could be seen, it might become absolutely necessary for the party to make their way toward it, either by land or sea, no matter how great the fatigue or the danger, and without regard to the fate of those who had left camp before them.
About half an hour afterwards, when the captain had mounted some rocks near by, from which he thought he might get a view of the flat region to the north on which he might discover the missing negro, Ralph, who was looking seaward, gave a start, and then hurriedly called to his sister and Mrs. Cliff, and pointed to the beach. There was the figure of a man which might well be Maka, but, to their amazement and consternation, he was running, followed, not far behind, by another man. The figures rapidly approached, and it was soon seen that the first man was Maka, but that the second figure was not one of the sailors who had left them. Could he be pursuing Maka? What on earth did it mean?
For some moments Ralph stood dumfounded, and then ran in the direction in which the captain had gone, and called to him.
At the sound of his voice the second figure stopped and turned as if he were about to run, but Maka—they were sure it was Maka—seized him by the arm and held him. Therefore this newcomer could not be pursuing their man. As the two now came forward, Maka hurrying the other on, Ralph and his two companions were amazed to see that this second man was also an African, a negro very much like Maka, and as they drew nearer, the two looked as if they might have been brothers.