At this moment a wet and bedraggled sailor, almost exhausted with a swim of nearly a mile, staggered upon the beach, and fell down upon the sand near the spot from which the Mary Bartlett’s boat had recently been pushed off. When, an hour before, he had slipped down the side of the ship, he had swum under water as long as his breath held out, and had dived again as soon as he had filled his lungs. Then he had floated on his back, paddling along with little but his face above the surface of the waves, until he had thought it safe to turn over and strike out for land. It had been a long pull, and the surf had treated him badly, but he was safe on shore at last, and in a few minutes he was sound asleep, stretched upon the sand.
Toward the end of the afternoon he awoke and rose to his feet. The warm sand, the desiccating air, and the sun had dried his clothes, and his nap had refreshed him. He was a sharp-faced, quick-eyed man, a Scotchman, and the first thing he did was to shade his face with his hands and look out over the sea. Then he turned, with a shrug of his shoulders and a grunt.
“She’s gone,” said he, “and I will be up to them caves.” After a dozen steps he gave another shrug. “Humph!” said he, “those fools! Do they think everybody is blind? They left victuals, they left cooking-things. Blasted careful they were to leave matches and candles in a tin box. I watched them. If everybody else was blind, I kenned they expected somebody was comin’ back. That captain, that blasted captain, I’ll wager! Wi’ sae much business on his hands, he couldna sail wi’ us to show us where his wife was stranded!”
For fifty yards more he plodded along, looking from side to side at the rocks and sand.
“A dreary place and lonely,” thought he, “and I can peer out things at me ease. I’ll find out what’s at the end o’ that dark alley. They were so fearsome that we’d go into her room. Her room, indeed! When the other woman had a big lighted cave! They expected somebody to come back, did they? Well, blast their eyes, he’s here!”
AT THE RACKBIRDS’ COVE
It was about six weeks after the Mary Bartlett had sailed away from that desolate spot on the coast of Peru from which she had taken the shipwrecked party, that the great stone face might have seen, if its wide-open eyes had been capable of vision, a small schooner beating in toward shore. This vessel, which was manned by a Chilian captain, a mate, and four men, and was a somewhat dirty and altogether disagreeable craft, carried Captain Horn, his four negroes, and three hundred and thirty bags of guano.
In good truth the captain was coming back to get the gold, or as much of it as he could take away with him. But his apparent purpose was to establish on this desert coast a depot for which he would have nothing to pay for rent and storage, and where he would be able to deposit, from time to time, such guano as he had been able to purchase at a bargain at two of the guano islands, until he should have enough to make it worth while for a large vessel, trading with the United States or Mexico, to touch here and take on board his accumulated stock of odorous merchandise.