As the cook had gone, Mrs. Cliff and Miss Markham prepared breakfast, and the_hey discovered how little water there was.
There was something mysterious about the successive losses of his men whic_ressed heavily upon the soul of Captain Horn, but the want of water presse_till more heavily. Ralph had just asked his permission to go down to th_each and bathe in the sea, saying that as he could not have all the water h_anted to drink, it might make him feel better to take a swim in plenty o_ater. The boy was not allowed to go so far from camp by himself, but th_aptain could not help thinking how this poor fellow would probably feel th_ext day if help had not arrived, and of the sufferings of the others, which,
by that time, would have begun. Still, as before, he spoke hopefully, and th_wo women, as brave as he, kept up good spirits, and although they eac_hought of the waterless morrow, they said nothing about it.
As for Ralph, he confidently expected the return of the men in the course o_he day, as he had done in the course of each preceding day, and two or thre_imes an hour he was at his post of observation, ready to wave his flag.
Even had he supposed that it would be of any use to go to look for Maka, _ertain superstitious feeling would have prevented the captain from doing so.
If he should go out, and not return, there would be little hope for those tw_omen and the boy. But he could not help feeling that beyond the rocky platea_hich stretched out into the sea to the southward, and which must be at leas_wo miles away, there might be seen some signs of habitation, and,
consequently, of a stream. If anything of the sort could be seen, it migh_ecome absolutely necessary for the party to make their way toward it, eithe_y land or sea, no matter how great the fatigue or the danger, and withou_egard to the fate of those who had left camp before them.
About half an hour afterwards, when the captain had mounted some rocks nea_y, from which he thought he might get a view of the flat region to the nort_n which he might discover the missing negro, Ralph, who was looking seaward,
gave a start, and then hurriedly called to his sister and Mrs. Cliff, an_ointed to the beach. There was the figure of a man which might well be Maka,
but, to their amazement and consternation, he was running, followed, not fa_ehind, by another man. The figures rapidly approached, and it was soon see_hat the first man was Maka, but that the second figure was not one of th_ailors who had left them. Could he be pursuing Maka? What on earth did i_ean?
For some moments Ralph stood dumfounded, and then ran in the direction i_hich the captain had gone, and called to him.
At the sound of his voice the second figure stopped and turned as if he wer_bout to run, but Maka—they were sure it was Maka—seized him by the arm an_eld him. Therefore this newcomer could not be pursuing their man. As the tw_ow came forward, Maka hurrying the other on, Ralph and his two companion_ere amazed to see that this second man was also an African, a negro very muc_ike Maka, and as they drew nearer, the two looked as if they might have bee_rothers.
The captain had wandered farther than he had intended, but after severa_houts from Ralph he came running back, and reached the camp-ground just a_he two negroes arrived.
At the sight of this tall man bounding toward him the strange negro appeare_o be seized with a wild terror. He broke away from Maka, and ran first i_his direction and then in that, and perceiving the cleft in the face of th_ock, he blindly rushed into it, as a rat would rush into a hole. Instantl_aka was after him, and the two were lost to view.
When the captain had been told of the strange thing which had happened, h_tood without a word. Another African! This was a puzzle too great for hi_rain.
"Are you sure it was not a native of these parts?" said he, directly.
"You know, they are very dark."
"No!" exclaimed Mrs. Cliff and her companions almost in the same breath, "i_as an African, exactly like Maka."
At this moment a wild yell was heard from the interior of the rocks, the_nother and another. Without waiting to consider anything, or hear any more,
the captain dashed into the narrow passage, Ralph close behind him. They ra_nto the room in which they had slept. They looked on all sides, but sa_othing. Again, far away, they heard another yell, and they ran out again int_he passage.
This narrow entry, as the investigating Ralph had already discovered,
continued for a dozen yards past the doorway which led to the chambers, bu_here it ended in a rocky wall about five feet high. Above this was a_perture extending to the roof of the passage, but Ralph, having a wholesom_ear of snakes, had not cared to climb over the wall to see what was beyond.
When the captain and Ralph had reached the end of the passage, they hear_nother cry, and there could be no doubt that it came through the aperture b_hich they stood. Instantly Ralph scrambled to the top of the wall, pushe_imself head foremost through the opening, and came down on the other side,
partly on his hands and partly on his feet. Had the captain been first, h_ould not have made such a rash leap, but now he did not hesitate a second. H_nstantly followed the boy, taking care, however, to let himself down on hi_eet.
The passage on the other side of the dividing wall seemed to be the same a_hat they had just left, although perhaps a little lighter. After pushing o_or a short distance, they found that the passage made a turn to the right,
and then in a few moments the captain and Ralph emerged into open space. Wha_ort of space it was they could not comprehend.
"It seemed to me," said Ralph, afterwards, "as if I had fallen into the sky a_ight. I was afraid to move, for fear I should tumble into astronomica_istances."
The captain stared about him, apparently as much confounded by the situatio_s was the boy. But his mind was quickly brought to the consideration o_hings which he could understand. Almost at his feet was Maka, lying on hi_ace, his arms and head over the edge of what might be a bank or a bottomles_recipice, and yelling piteously. Making a step toward him, the captain sa_hat he had hold of another man, several feet below him, and that he could no_ull him up.
"Hold on tight, Maka," he cried, and then, taking hold of the African'_houlders, he gave one mighty heave, lifted both men, and set them on thei_eet beside him.
Ralph would have willingly sacrificed the rest of his school-days to be abl_o perform such a feat as that. But the Africans were small, and the captai_as wildly excited.
Well might he be excited. He was wet! The strange man whom he had pulled u_ad stumbled against him, and he was dripping with water. Ralph was by th_aptain, tightly gripping his arm, and, without speaking, they both stoo_azing before them and around them.
At their feet, stretching away in one direction, farther than they could see,
and what at first sight they had taken to be air, was a body of water—a lake!
Above them were rocks, and, as far as they could see to the right, the wate_eemed to be overhung by a cavernous roof. But in front of them, on the othe_ide of the lake, which here did not seem to be more than a hundred feet wide,
there was a great upright opening in the side of the cave, through which the_ould see the distant mountains and a portion of the sky.
"Water!" said Ralph, in a low tone, as if he had been speaking in church, an_hen, letting go of the captain's arm, he began to examine the ledge, but fiv_r six feet wide, on which they stood. At his feet the water was at least _ard below them, but a little distance on he saw that the ledge shelved dow_o the surface of the lake, and in a moment he had reached this spot, and,
throwing himself down on his breast, he plunged his face into the water an_egan drinking like a thirsty horse. Presently he rose to his knees with _reat sigh of satisfaction.
"Oh, captain," he cried, "it is cold and delicious. I believe that in one hou_ore I should have died of thirst."
But the captain did not answer, nor did he move from the spot where he stood.
His thoughts whirled around in his mind like chaff in a winnowing-machine.
Water! A lake in the bosom of the rocks! Half an hour ago he must have bee_tanding over it as he scrambled up the hillside. Visions that he had had o_he morrow, when all their eyes should be standing out of their faces, lik_he eyes of shipwrecked sailors he had seen in boats, came back to him, an_ther visions of his mate and his men toiling southward for perhaps a hundre_iles without reaching a port or a landing, and then the long, long dela_efore a vessel could be procured. And here was water!
Ralph stood beside him for an instant. "Captain," he cried, "I am going to ge_ pail, and take some to Edna and Mrs. Cliff." And then he was gone.
Recalled thus to the present, the captain stepped back. He must d_omething—he must speak to some one. He must take some advantage of thi_onderful, this overpowering discovery. But before he could bring his min_own to its practical workings, Maka had clutched him by the coat.
"Cap'n," he said, "I must tell you. I must speak it. I must tell you now,