By the time the last trip was made and the goods piled on the beach and covered with a large tarpaulin, it was dark and all were utterly worn out by their labors. The girls had prepared an extra good supper, and of this they ate heartily and then sat around a little while, when they went to bed.
At the beginning the castaways had kept guard during the night, but of late this had been done away with, everybody being satisfied that no harm could befall them during the darkness.
But as the doorway to the house was an open one it had been considered the duty of one or the other to sleep directly in the opening. This was Dick’s night, and the eldest Rover lay there sleeping soundly until about two in the morning.
By this time the moon had disappeared and the stars were partly hidden by some clouds. The night was quiet, save for the hum of insects in the jungle back of the house and the soft lap-lap of the waves on the beach of the bay.
Suddenly Dick awoke with a start. He sat bolt upright, wondering what had brought him to his senses so quickly. He listened intently, but nothing unusual greeted his ears.
“I must have been dreaming, or something,” he thought. “But is queer I should be so wide.. awake.”
At first he was on the point of lying down again, but then concluded to get up and get a drink of water.
He arose to his feet and stood in the open doorway, gazing into the darkness. The faint light of a few stars shone in the waters of the bay, and between the waters and himself he presently saw a dark form stealing along, close to the ground.
What could that be? Was it something real or only a shadow? Dick rubbed his eyes and peered out more sharply than ever. It was not a shadow, but a real form, slowly moving around to the rear of the house.
“An animal, or else a man crawling along,” said Dick to himself, and reached for his gun, which stood close at hand. Then he made up his mind to investigate, and stepped outside of the doorway for that purpose.
A FIGHT WITH A WILD BEAST
As Dick stepped out of the house, gun in hand, the form disappeared behind a small clump of bushes growing not fifty feet away.
“It’s gone,” he said to himself, but waited patiently, with his gun ready for use.
The clouds were increasing, making it darker than ever. Almost holding his breath, the youth took several steps forward. Then he waited again.
At last the form reappeared, crouched lower than ever, so that it was almost hidden by the rocks and low brushwood leading to the jungle. At first Dick imagined the beast, or whatever it was, was going to retreat to the timber, but soon it appeared to turn back, as if to make another semicircle, this time around to the rear of the house.
It must be admitted that Dick’s heart thumped madly in his breast. The gun was raised and he kept his finger on the trigger. But he did not dare to shoot until he was certain of the object of his aim.