Inside the first apartment was Captain Horn, fast asleep, his two guns by his side. He had kept watch until an hour before, but Ralph had insisted upon taking his turn, and, as the captain knew he could not keep awake always, he allowed the boy to take a short watch. But now Ralph was leaning back against one of the walls, snoring evenly and steadily. In the next room sat Edna Markham, wide awake. She knew of the arrangement made with Ralph, and she knew the boy’s healthy, sleepy nature, so that when he went on watch she went on watch.
Outside of the cave were three wild beasts. One of them was crouching on the farther end of the plateau. Another, on the lower ground a little below, stood, gun in hand, and barely visible in the starlight. A third, barefooted, and in garments dingy as the night, and armed only with a knife, crept softly toward the entrance of the cave. There he stopped and listened. He could plainly hear the breathing of the sleepers. He tried to separate these sounds one from another, so that he should be able to determine how many persons were sleeping inside, but this he could not do. Then his cat-like eyes, becoming more and more accustomed to the darkness within the entrance, saw the round head of Maka close upon the ground.
The soul of the listening fiend laughed within him. “Pretty watchers they are,” he said to himself. “Not three hours after midnight, and they are all snoring!” Then, as stealthily and as slowly as he had come, he slipped away, and joining the others, they all glided through the darkness down to the beach, and then set off at their best speed back to their rendezvous.
After they had discovered that there were people in the cave, they had not thought of entering. They were not fully armed, and they did not know how many persons were inside. But they knew one thing, and that was that these shipwrecked people—for that was what they must be—kept a very poor watch, and if the whole band came on the following night, the affair would probably be settled with but very little trouble, no matter how large the party in the cave might be. It was not necessary to look any further for the escaped negro. Of course, he had been picked up by these people.
The three beasts reached their camp about daybreak, and everybody was soon awakened and the tale was told.
“It is a comfort,” said the leader, lighting the stump of a black pipe which he thrust under his great mustache, and speaking in his native tongue, which some of them understood, and others did not, “to know that to-night’s work is all cut out for us. Now we can take it easy to-day, and rest our bones. The order of the day is to keep close. No straggling, nor wandering. Keep those four niggers up in the pigeonhole. We will do our own cooking to-day, for we can’t afford to run after any more of them. Lucky the fellow who got away can’t speak English, for he can’t tell anything about us, any more than if he was an ape. So snooze to-day, if you want to. I will give you work to do for to-night.”