“When all your men go away from you?” he asked.
The captain reflected a moment, and then answered, “About two weeks ago.”
“That’s right! That’s right!” exclaimed the negro, nodding violently as he spoke. “We talk about that. We count days. It’s just ten days and three days, and Rackbirds go ’way, and leave us high up in rock-hole, with no ladder. After a while we hear guns, guns, guns. Long time guns shooting. When they come back, it almost dark, and they want supper bad. All time they eat supper, they talk ’bout shooting sharks. Shot lots sharks, and chuck them into the water. Sharks in water already before they is shot. We say then it no sharks they shot. Now we say it must been—”
The captain turned away. He did not want to hear any more. There was no possible escape from the belief that Rynders and all his men had been shot down, and robbed, if they had anything worth taking, and then their bodies carried out to sea, most likely in their own boat, and thrown overboard.
There was nothing more at this dreadful place that Captain Horn wished to see, to consider, or to do, and calling the negroes to follow him, he set out on his return.
During the dreary walk along the beach the captain’s depression of spirits was increased by the recollection of his thoughts about the sailors and the treasure. He had hoped that these men would not come back in time to interfere with his disposal, in his own way, of the gold he had found. They would not come back now, but the thought did not lighten his heart. But before he reached the caves, he had determined to throw off the gloom and sadness which had come upon him. Under the circumstances, grief for what had happened was out of place. He must keep up a good heart, and help his companions to keep up good hearts. Now he must do something, and, like a soldier in battle, he must not think of the comrade who had fallen beside him, but of the enemy in front of him.
When he reached the caves he found supper ready, and that evening he said nothing to his companions of the important discoveries he had made, contenting himself with a general statement of the proofs that the Rackbirds and their camp had been utterly destroyed by the flood.
THE CLIFF-MAKA SCHEME
The next morning Captain Horn arose with a plan of action in his mind, and he was now ready, not only to tell the two ladies and Ralph everything he had discovered, but also what he was going to do. The announcement of the almost certain fate of Rynders and his men filled his hearers with horror, and the statement of the captain’s plans did not tend to raise their spirits.
“You see,” said he, “there is nothing now for us to wait for here. As to being taken off by a passing vessel, there is no chance of that whatever. We have gone over that matter before. Nor can we get away overland, for some of us would die on the way. As to that little boat down there, we cannot all go to sea in her, but in it I must go out and seek for help.”