As soon as the negro saw him, he began to beckon wildly for him to come on. But there was no need now of keeping quiet and beckoning. The first shout had aroused everybody inside, and the two ladies and Ralph were already in the passage. The captain, however, made them keep back, while he and Maka, on their hands and knees, crawled toward the outer opening. From this point one could see over the plateau, and the uneven ground beyond, down to the beach and the sea; but there was still so little light upon this western slope that at first the captain could not see anything noticeable in the direction in which Maka was pointing. But in a few moments his mariner eyes asserted themselves, and he saw some black spots on the strip of beach, which seemed to move. Then he knew they were moving, and moving toward him—coming up to the cave! They were men!
“Sit here,” said the captain to Maka, and then, with his gun in his hand, he rushed back to the rest of the party.
“They seem to be coming,” said he, speaking as calmly as he could, “but we have discovered them in good time, and I shall have some shots at them before they reach here. Let us hope that they will never get here at all. You two,” said he to Mrs. Cliff and Ralph, “are to be under command of Miss Markham. You must do exactly what she tells you to.” Then, turning to Edna, he said, “You have your pistol ready?”
“Yes,” said she, “I am ready.”
Without another word, the captain took his other gun and all his ammunition, and went back into the passage. Here he found Mok, who had come to see what was the matter. Motioning the negro to go back to his post, the captain, with his loaded guns, went again to the entrance. Looking out, he could now plainly see the men. There were four of them. It was lighter down toward the sea, for the rocks still threw a heavy shadow over the plateau. The sight sent a thrill of brave excitement through the captain.
“If they come in squads of four,” thought he, “I may be a match for them. They can’t see me, and I can see them. If I could trust Maka to load a gun, I would have a better chance, but if I could pick off two, or even one, that might stop the others and give me time to reload. Come on, you black-hearted scoundrels,” he muttered through his teeth, as he knelt outside the cave, one gun partly raised, and the other on the ground beside him. “If I could only know that none of your band could come in at that hole in the back of the cave, I’d call the odds even.”
The dawn grew brighter, and the four men drew nearer. They came slowly, one considerably ahead of the others. Two or three times they stopped and appeared to be consulting, and then again moved slowly forward straight toward the plateau.
When the leading man was nearly within gunshot, the captain’s face began to burn, and his pulses to throb hard and fast.
“The sooner I pick off the head one,” he thought, “the better chance I have at the others.”