He brought his gun to his shoulder, and was slowly lowering the barrel to the line of aim, when suddenly something like a great black beast rushed past him, pushing up his arm and nearly toppling him over. It came from the cave, and in a second it was out on the plateau. Then it gave a leap upward, and rushed down toward the sea. Utterly astounded, the captain steadied himself and turned to Maka.
“What was that?” he exclaimed.
The African was on his feet, his body bent forward, his eyes peering out into the distance.
“Mok!” said he. “Look! Look!”
It was Mok who had rushed out of the cave. He was running toward the four men. He reached them, he threw up his arms, he sprang upon the first man. Then he left him, and jumped upon the others. Then Maka gave a little cry and sprang forward, but in the same instant the captain seized him.
“Stop!” he cried. “What is it?”
The African shouted: “Mok’s people! Mok knowed them. Look! Look—see! Mok!”
The party was now near enough and the day was bright enough for the captain to see that on the lower ground beyond the plateau there were five black men in a state of mad excitement. He could hear them jabbering away at a great rate. So far as he could discover, they were all unarmed, and as they stood there gesticulating, the captain might have shot them down in a bunch, if he had chosen.
“Go,” said he to Maka, “go down there and see what it all means.”
The captain now stepped back into the passage. He could see Miss Markham and Ralph peering out of the doorway of the first compartment.
“There does not seem to be any danger so far,” said he. “Some more Africans have turned up. Maka has gone to meet them. We shall find out about them in a few minutes,” and he turned back to the entrance.
He saw that the six black fellows were coming toward him, and, as he had thought, they carried no guns.
AN AMAZING NARRATION
When the captain had gone out again into the open air, he was followed by the rest of the party, for, if there were no danger, they all wanted to see what was to be seen. What they saw was a party of six black men on the plateau, Maka in the lead. There could be no doubt that the newcomers were the remainder of the party of Africans who had been enslaved by the Rackbirds, and the desire of the captain and his companions to know how they had got away, and what news they brought, was most intense.
Maka now hurried forward, leading one of the strangers. “Great things they tell,” said he. “This Cheditafa. He speak English good as me. He tell you.”
“The first thing I want,” cried the captain, “is some news of those Rackbirds. Have they found we are here? Will they be coming after these men, or have they gone off somewhere else? Tell me this, and be quick.”