“Cap’n,” he said, “I must tell you. I must speak it. I must tell you now, quick. Wait! Don’t go!”
The new African was sitting on the ground, as far back from the edge of the ledge as he could get, shivering and shaking, for the water was cold. He had apparently reached the culmination and termination of his fright. After his tumble into the water, which had happened because he had been unable to stop in his mad flight, he had not nerve enough left to do anything more, no matter what should appear to scare him, and there was really no reason why he should be afraid of this big white man, who did not even look at him or give him a thought.
Maka’s tale, which he told so rapidly and incoherently that he was frequently obliged to repeat portions of it, was to the following effect: He had thought a great deal about the scarcity of water, and it had troubled him so that he could not sleep. What a dreadful thing it would be for those poor ladies and the captain and the boy to die because they had no water! His recollections of experiences in his native land made him well understand that streams of water are to be looked for between high ridges, and the idea forced itself upon him very strongly that on the other side of the ridge to the south there might be a stream. He knew the captain would not allow him to leave the camp if he asked permission, and so he rose very early, even before it was light, and going down to the shore, made his way along the beach—on the same route, in fact, that the Englishman Davis had taken. He was a good deal frightened sometimes, he said, by the waves, which dashed up as if they would pull him into the water. When he reached the point of the rocky ridge, he had no difficulty whatever in getting round it, as he could easily keep away from the water by climbing over the rocks.
He found that the land on the other side began to recede from the ocean, and that there was a small sandy beach below him. This widened until it reached another and smaller point of rock, and beyond this Maka believed he would find the stream for which he was searching. And while he was considering whether he should climb over it or wade around it, suddenly a man jumped down from the rock, almost on top of him. This man fell down on his back, and was at first so frightened that he did not try to move. Maka’s wits entirely deserted him, he said, and he did not know anything, except that most likely he was going to die.
But on looking at the man on the ground, he saw that he was an African like himself, and in a moment he recognized him as one of his fellow-slaves, with whom he had worked in Guiana, and also for a short time on the Panama Canal. This made him think that perhaps he was not going to die, and he went up to the other man and spoke to him. Then the other man thought perhaps he was not going to die, and he sat up and spoke.