She felt a strange sense of confidence and security in the broad back of the man beside her. His jaw was set. His cheeks pale, his eyes burning with the intensity that thrilled his whole being. The strong white hand clutched the club fiercely. He was no longer the light-hearted, inconsequent youth she had known on board the ship.
The brown figures came into sight again, flitting here and there, pausing in wonder beside the stone table, inspecting the cracked nuts critically, and closely examining the ground on all sides. At last four or five of them sped up the ledge to the cave.
“They have found our hotel,” said Hugh grimly. She gulped and could do no more than nod.
A tall fellow with a long spear and a huge shield, stripped to the loins, about which was a white cloth, ventured up the slope. Suddenly he halted and called his companions to his side. He had found a footprint in a bit of sand on the rocky surface. Without more ado the squad scattered and began the ascent, each man eyeing the ground eagerly. Occasionally those nearest the centre would pause and point to a track. “The good Lord help us!” murmured Ridgeway.
Both were fascinated by the approach of the savages. It was not until they were within a hundred feet of them that Hugh bethought himself and drew her back, entirely out of sight. At least, he thought she could not be seen, but he was mistaken. A portion of her white dress protruded, and a triumphant yell announced the fact that it had met the eyes of a searcher. Wondering what had caused the sudden yell, Hugh peered around the corner of the rock, and to his dismay found the whole band staring at their hiding place.
“They have seen us,” he cried. “Remember, Tennys, what I told you. It’s probably a case of fight on my part. Let ’em come, spears and all!” He stood erect, his eyes flashing with excitement and eagerness. Taking a few steps to one side, he stood in full view of the searchers, glaring down upon them defiantly, his club in his rigid right hand. He expected a shower of spears. To his utter amazement, however, the fierce-looking warriors, open mouthed and apparently terror-stricken, slunk backward, huddling together, all the time staring at him with bulging eyes. His first thought was that they were surprised to find him so bold, but the next act on their part caused him to gasp with wonder.
With one accord the entire band cast weapons aside and fell face downward, beating their heads against the rock, just as he had seen Arabians and Nubians perform in saluting some mighty potentate. The brown backs remained in that position for a full minute before he could call his trembling companion to his side.
“What does it mean?” whispered she at last. “Are they dead?”
“They are really there, then? By George, I thought I was dreaming. Tennys, they are actually doing us homage.”
“Then they are harmless,” she cried joyously.