Shirley broke off a string of oaths in the middle, and took a pull at the flask. This was of service to him, for he sat quiet for a minute or two, during which time the captain brought down the lantern. Looking up at him, Shirley said in a weak voice:
“Captain, is what I saw all so?”
“Yes,” was the reply, “it’s all so.”
“Then,” said the other, “help me out of this. I want to get out into common air.”
The captain raised Shirley to his feet, and, with the lantern in one hand, he assisted him to walk. But it was not easy. The man appeared to take no interest in his movements, and staggered and leaned upon the captain as if he were drunk.
As soon as they came out of the utter darkness and had reached the lighter part of the cave, the captain let Shirley sit down, and went for Maka.
“The first mate has been taken sick,” said he to the negro, “and you must come help me get him out into the open air.”
When the negro saw Shirley in a state of semi-collapse, he began to tremble from head to foot, but he obeyed orders, and, with a great deal of trouble, the two got the sailor outside of the caves and gave him another drink of whiskey.
Maka had his own ideas about this affair. There was no use telling him Mr. Shirley was sick—at least, that he was afflicted by any common ailment. He and his fellows knew very well that there were devils back in the blackness of that cave, and if the captain did not mind them, it was because they were taking care of the property, whatever it was, that he kept back here, and for which he had now returned. With what that property was, and how it happened to be there, the mind of the negro did not concern itself. Of course, it must be valuable, or the captain would not have come to get it, but that was his business. He had taken the first mate into that darkness, and the sight of the devils had nearly killed him, and now the negro’s mind was filled with but one idea, and that was that the captain might take him in there and make him see devils.
After a time Shirley felt very much better, and able to walk.
“Now, captain,” said he, “I am all right, but I tell you what we must do: I’ll go to the ship, and I’ll take charge of her, and I’ll do whatever has got to be done on shore. Yes, and, what’s more, I’ll help do the carrying part of the business,—it would be mean to sneak out of that,—and I’ll shoulder any sort of a load that’s put out on the sand in the daylight. But, captain, I don’t want to do anything to make me look into that hole. I can’t stand it, and that is the long and short of it. I am sorry that Maka saw me in such a plight—it’s bad for discipline; but it can’t be helped.”
“Never mind,” cried the captain, whose high spirits would have overlooked almost anything at that moment. “Come, let us go back and have our breakfast. That will set you up, and I won’t ask you to go into the caves again, if you don’t want to.”