“Here he has cooked his meals,” said the captain—for the pallet made up of all the others had convinced him that it had been one man who had been here after his party had left. “He stayed long enough to cook his meals and sleep,” thought the captain. “I’ll look into this provision business.” Passing through the other rooms, he went to a deep niche in the wall of the entrance passage where his party had kept their stores, and where Edna had written him they had left provisions enough for the immediate use of himself and the men who should return. Here he found tin cans tumbled about at the bottom of the niche, and every one of them absolutely empty. On a little ledge stood a tin box in which they had kept the matches and candles. The box was open, but there was nothing in it. On the floor near by was a tin biscuit-box, crushed nearly flat, as if some one had stamped upon it.
“He has eaten everything that was left,” said the captain, “and he has been starved out. Very likely, too, he got out of water, for, of course, those pools would dry up, and it is not likely he found the stream outside.”
Now the captain let down the hammer of his revolver, and put it in his belt. He felt sure that the man was not here. Being out of provisions, he had to go away, but where he had gone to was useless to conjecture. Of another thing the captain was now convinced: the intruder had not been a Rackbird, for, while waiting for the disappearance of the Chilian schooner, he had gone over to the concealed storehouse of the bandits, and had found it just as he had left it on his last visit, with a considerable quantity of stores remaining in it. If the man had known of the Rackbirds’ camp and this storehouse, it would not have been necessary for him to consume every crumb and vestige of food which had been left in these caves.
“No,” said the captain, “it could not have been a Rackbird, but who he was, and where he has gone, is beyond my comprehension.”
When Captain Horn felt quite sure that it was not Ralph, that it was not Cheditafa, that it was not a Rackbird, who had visited the treasure mound, he stood and reflected. What had happened was a great misfortune,—possibly it was a great danger,—but it was no use standing there thinking about it. His reason could not help him; it had done for him all that it could, and it would be foolish to waste time in looking for the man, for it was plain enough that he had gone away. Of course, he had taken some gold with him, but that did not matter much. The danger was that he or others might come back for more, but this could not be prevented, and it was needless to consider it. The captain had come to this deserted shore for a purpose, and it was his duty, without loss of time, to go to work and carry out that purpose. If in any way he should be interfered with, he would meet that interference as well as he could, but until it came he would go on with his work. Having come to this conclusion, he got over the wall, lighted his lantern, and proceeded to the mound.