Just beyond the second ridge of rock which Maka had discovered, the stream ran into a little bay, and the shores near its mouth showed evident signs that they had recently been washed by a flood. On points of rock and against the sides of the sand mounds, he saw bits of debris from the Rackbirds’ camp. Here were sticks which had formed the timbers of their huts; there were pieces of clothing and cooking-utensils; and here and there, partly buried by the shifting sands, were seen the bodies of Rackbirds, already desiccated by the dry air and the hot sun of the region. But the captain saw no vessel.
“Dat up here,” said Cheditafa. “Dey hide dat well. Come ’long, captain.”
Following his black guide, the captain skirted a little promontory of rocks, and behind it found a cove in which, well concealed, lay the Rackbirds’ vessel. It was a sloop of about twenty tons, and from the ocean, or even from the beach, it could not be seen. But as the captain stood and gazed upon this craft his heart sank. It had no masts nor sails, and it was a vessel that could not be propelled by oars.
Wading through the shallow water,—for it was now low tide,—the captain climbed on board. The deck was bare, without a sign of spar or sail, and when, with Cheditafa’s help, he had forced the entrance of the little companionway, and had gone below, he found that the vessel had been entirely stripped of everything that could be carried away, and when he went on deck again he saw that even the rudder had been unshipped and removed. Cheditafa could give him no information upon this state of things, but after a little while Captain Horn imagined the cause for this dismantled condition of the sloop. The Rackbirds’ captain could not trust his men, he said to himself, and he made it impossible for any of them to escape or set out on an expedition for themselves. It was likely that the masts and sails had been carried up to the camp, from which place it would have been impossible to remove them without the leader knowing it.
When he spoke to Cheditafa on the subject, the negro told him that after the little ship came in from one of its voyages he and his companions had always carried the masts, sails, and a lot of other things up to the camp. But there was nothing of the sort there now. Every spar and sail must have been carried out to sea by the flood, for if they had been left on the shores of the stream the captain would have seen them.
This was hard lines for Captain Horn. If the Rackbirds’ vessel had been in sailing condition, everything would have been very simple and easy for him. He could have taken on board not only his own party, but a large portion of the treasure, and could have sailed away as free as a bird, without reference to the return of Rynders and his men. A note tied to a pole set up in a conspicuous place on the beach would have informed Mr. Rynders of their escape from the place, and it was not likely that any of the party would have thought it worth while to go farther on shore. But it was of no use to think of getting away in this vessel. In its present condition it was absolutely useless.