“No,” said Captain Horn, “I can’t trust to that. A coasting-vessel might put in here for water. Some of them may know that there is a stream here, and with this convenient pier, and a cargo ready to their hands, my guano would be in danger. No, sir. I intend to send you off to-morrow, if the wind is favorable, for the second cargo for which we have contracted, and I shall stay here and guard my warehouse.”
“What!” exclaimed the Chilian, “alone?”
“Why not?” said Captain Horn. “Our force is small, and we can only spare one man. In loading the schooner on this trip, I would be the least useful man on board, and, besides, do you think there is any one among you who would volunteer to stay here instead of me?”
The Chilian laughed and shook his head. “But what can one man do,” said he, “to defend all this, if there should be need?”
“Oh, I don’t intend to defend it,” said the other. “The point is to have somebody here to claim it in case a coaster should touch here. I don’t expect to be murdered for the sake of a lot of guano. But I shall keep my two rifles and other arms inside that little fort, and if I should see any signs of rascality I shall jump inside and talk over the guano-bags, and I am a good shot.”
The Chilian shrugged his shoulders. “If I stayed here alone,” said he, “I should be afraid of nothing but the devil, and I am sure he would come to me, with all his angels. But you are different from me.”
“Yes,” said Captain Horn, “I don’t mind the devil. I have often camped out by myself, and I have not seen him yet.”
When Maka heard that the captain intended staying alone, he was greatly disturbed. If the captain had not built the little fort with the guano-bags, he would have begged to be allowed to remain with him, but those defensive works had greatly alarmed him, for they made him believe that the captain feared that some of the Rackbirds might come back. He had had a great deal of talk with the other negroes about those bandits, and he was fully impressed with their capacity for atrocity. It grieved his soul to think that the captain would stay here alone, but the captain was a man who could defend himself against half a dozen Rackbirds, while he knew very well that he would not be a match for half a one. With tears in his eyes, he begged Captain Horn not to stay, for Rackbirds would not steal guano, even if any of them should return.
But his entreaties were of no avail. Captain Horn explained the matter to him, and tried to make him understand that it was as a claimant, more than as a defender of his property, that he remained, and that there was not the smallest reason to suspect any Rackbirds or other source of danger. The negro saw that the captain had made up his mind, and mournfully joined his fellows. In half an hour, however, he came back to the captain and offered to stay with him until the schooner should return. If Captain Horn had known the terrible mental struggle which had preceded this offer, he would have been more grateful to Maka than he had ever yet been to any human being, but he did not know it, and declined the proposition pleasantly but firmly.