“Oh, yes,” cried Maka, “they found out we here. But Cheditafa tell you—he tell you everything. Great things!”
“Very well, then,” said the captain. “Let him begin and be quick about it.”
The appearance of Cheditafa was quite as miserable as that of poor Mok, but his countenance was much more intelligent, and his English, although very much broken, was better even than Maka’s, and he was able to make himself perfectly understood. He spoke briefly, and this is the substance of his story:
About the middle of the afternoon of the day before, a wonderful thing happened. The Rackbirds had had their dinner, which they had cooked themselves, and they were all lying down in their huts or in the shadows of the rocks, either asleep, or smoking and telling stories. Cheditafa knew why they were resting. The Rackbirds had no idea that he understood English, for he had been careful to keep this fact from them after he found out what sort of men they were,—and this knowledge had come very soon to him,—and they spoke freely before him. He had heard some of the men who had been out looking for Mok, and who had come back early that morning, tell about some shipwrecked people in a cave up the coast, and had heard all the plans which had been made for the attack upon them during the night. He also knew why he and his fellows had been cooped up in the cave in the rock in which they lived, all that day, and had not been allowed to come down and do any work.
They were lying huddled in their little cave, feeling very hungry and miserable, and whispering together,—for if they spoke out or made any noise, one of the men below would be likely to fire a load of shot at them,—when suddenly a strange thing happened.
They heard a great roar like a thousand bulls, which came from the higher part of the ravine, and peeping out, they saw what seemed like a wall of rock stretching across the little valley. But in a second they saw it was not rock—it was water, and before they could take two breaths it had reached them. Then it passed on, and they saw only the surface of a furious and raging stream, the waves curling and dashing over each other, and reaching almost up to the floor of their cave.
They were so frightened that they pressed back as far as they could get, and even tried to climb up the sides of the rocky cavity, so fearful were they that the water would dash in upon them. But the raging flood roared and surged outside, and none of it came into their cave. Then the sound of it became not quite so loud, and grew less and less. But still Cheditafa and his companions were so frightened and so startled by this awful thing, happening so suddenly, as if it had been magic, that it was some time—he did not know how long—before they lifted their faces from the rocks against which they were pressing them.
Then Cheditafa crept forward and looked out. The great waves and the roaring water were gone. There was no water to be seen, except the brook which always ran at the bottom of the ravine, and which now seemed not very much bigger than it had been that morning.