A HORSE-DEALER APPEARS ON THE SCENE
When the brig Miranda was lying at anchor in the Rackbirds’ cove, and Mr. George Burke had silently left her in order to go on shore and pursue some investigations in which he was interested, his departure from the brig had not been, as he supposed, unnoticed. The big, good-natured African, known as Inkspot, had been on watch, and, being himself so very black that he was not generally noticeable in the dark, was standing on a part of the deck from which, without being noticed himself, he saw a person get over the taffrail and slip into the water. He knew this person to be the second mate, and having a high respect and some fear of his superiors, he did not consider it his business to interfere with him. He saw a head above the water, moving toward the shore, but it soon disappeared in the darkness. Toward the end of his watch, he had seen Mr. Burke climb up the vessel’s side as silently as he had gone down it, and disappear below.
When Inkspot went to his hammock, which he did very shortly afterwards, he reflected to the best of his ability upon what he had seen. Why did Mr. Burke slip away from the ship so silently, and come back in the same way? He must have gone ashore, and why did he want no one to know that he had gone? He must have gone to do something he ought not to do, and Inkspot could think of nothing wrong that Mr. Burke would like to do, except to drink whiskey. Captain Horn was very particular about using spirits on board, and perhaps Mr. Burke liked whiskey, and could not get it. Inkspot knew about the storehouse of the Rackbirds, but he did not know what it had contained, or what had been left there. Maka had said something about the whiskey having been poured out on the sand, but that might have been said just to keep people away from the place. If there were no whiskey there, why did Mr. Burke go on shore?
Now, it so happened that Inkspot knew a good deal about whiskey. Before he had gone into the service of the Rackbirds, he had, at different times, been drunk, and he had the liveliest and most pleasant recollections of these experiences. It had been a long time since he had had enough whiskey to make him feel happy. This had probably been the case with Mr. Burke, and he had gone on shore, and most likely had had some very happy hours, and had come back without any one knowing where he had gone. The consequence of this train of thought was that Inkspot determined that he would go on shore, the next night, and hunt for whiskey. He could do it quite as well as Mr. Burke had done it, perhaps even better. But the Miranda did not remain in the cove the next night, and poor Inkspot looked with longing eyes upon the slowly departing spot on the sands where he knew the Rackbirds’ storehouse was located.
The days and nights went on, and in the course of time the Miranda anchored in the harbor of Valparaiso; and, when this happened, Inkspot determined that now would be his chance to go on shore and get a good drink of whiskey—he had money enough for that. He could see the lights of El Puerto, or the Old Town, glittering and beckoning, and they did not appear to be very far off. It would be nothing for him to swim as far as that.