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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Adventures Of Captain Horn - Chapter 8. The Alarm
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The Adventures Of Captain Horn - Chapter 8. The Alarm Post by :gabby Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2489

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The Adventures Of Captain Horn - Chapter 8. The Alarm

CHAPTER VIII. THE ALARM

It was still dark when the captain woke, and he struck a match to look at
his watch. It was three o'clock.

"Is that you, captain?" said a voice from the next room. "Is it time for
you to begin watch again?"

"Yes," said the captain, "it is about time. How do you happen to be
awake, Miss Markham? Ralph! I believe the boy is snoring."

"Of course he is," said Edna, speaking in a low voice. "We cannot expect
such a boy to keep awake, and so I have been on watch. It was easy enough
for me to keep my eyes open."

"It is too bad," said the captain, and then, listening for a moment, he
said: "I truly believe that Maka is snoring, too, and as for that black
fellow over there, I suspect that he sleeps all the time. Miss Markham,
you have been the only person awake."

"Why shouldn't I be?" said she. "I am sure that a woman is just as good
as a man for keeping watch."

"If they should come," thought the captain, as he again sat in the dark,
"I must not try to fight them in the passage. That would have been my
best chance, but now some of them might pick me off from behind. No, I
must fight them in this chamber. I can put everybody else in the middle
apartment. Perhaps before to-morrow night it might be well to bring some
of those loose rocks here and build a barricade. I wish I had thought of
that before."

The captain sat and listened and thought. His listening brought him no
return, and his thinking brought him too much. The most mournful ideas of
what might happen if more than two or three of the desperadoes attacked
the place crowded into his mind. If they came, they came to rob, and they
were men who left behind them no living witnesses of their whereabouts or
their crimes. And if two or three should come, and be repulsed, it would
not be long before the rest would arrive. In fact, the only real hope
they had was founded on the early return of Rynders--that is, if Rynders
and his men were living.

The captain waited and listened, but nothing came but daylight. As
soon as he was able to discern objects outside the opening on the
plateau, he awoke Maka, and, leaving him on guard, he made his way to
the lake cavern.

Here the light was beginning to come freely through the chasm which faced
nearly east. Mok was sitting with his eyes open, and showed that he was
alive by a little grunt when the captain approached. If there were such a
thing here as a subterranean tide, it had not risen. There was no water
where the lake had been.

Gazing across the empty basin, the captain felt a strong desire to go
over, climb up to the opening, and discover whether or not the cavern
was accessible on that side. It would be very important for him to know
this, and it would not take long for him to make an investigation. One
side of the rocky shelf which has been before mentioned sloped down to
the lake, and the captain was just about to descend this when he heard a
cry from the passage, and, at the same moment, a shout from Mok which
seemed to be in answer to it. Instantly the captain turned and dashed
into the passage, and, leaping over the barrier, found Maka standing near
the entrance.

As soon as the negro saw him, he began to beckon wildly for him to come
on. But there was no need now of keeping quiet and beckoning. The first
shout had aroused everybody inside, and the two ladies and Ralph were
already in the passage. The captain, however, made them keep back, while
he and Maka, on their hands and knees, crawled toward the outer opening.
From this point one could see over the plateau, and the uneven ground
beyond, down to the beach and the sea; but there was still so little
light upon this western slope that at first the captain could not see
anything noticeable in the direction in which Maka was pointing. But in a
few moments his mariner eyes asserted themselves, and he saw some black
spots on the strip of beach, which seemed to move. Then he knew they were
moving, and moving toward him--coming up to the cave! They were men!

"Sit here," said the captain to Maka, and then, with his gun in his hand,
he rushed back to the rest of the party.

"They seem to be coming," said he, speaking as calmly as he could, "but
we have discovered them in good time, and I shall have some shots at
them before they reach here. Let us hope that they will never get here at
all. You two," said he to Mrs. Cliff and Ralph, "are to be under command
of Miss Markham. You must do exactly what she tells you to." Then,
turning to Edna, he said, "You have your pistol ready?"

"Yes," said she, "I am ready."

Without another word, the captain took his other gun and all his
ammunition, and went back into the passage. Here he found Mok, who had
come to see what was the matter. Motioning the negro to go back to his
post, the captain, with his loaded guns, went again to the entrance.
Looking out, he could now plainly see the men. There were four of them.
It was lighter down toward the sea, for the rocks still threw a heavy
shadow over the plateau. The sight sent a thrill of brave excitement
through the captain.

"If they come in squads of four," thought he, "I may be a match for them.
They can't see me, and I can see them. If I could trust Maka to load a
gun, I would have a better chance, but if I could pick off two, or even
one, that might stop the others and give me time to reload. Come on, you
black-hearted scoundrels," he muttered through his teeth, as he knelt
outside the cave, one gun partly raised, and the other on the ground
beside him. "If I could only know that none of your band could come in at
that hole in the back of the cave, I'd call the odds even."

The dawn grew brighter, and the four men drew nearer. They came slowly,
one considerably ahead of the others. Two or three times they stopped and
appeared to be consulting, and then again moved slowly forward straight
toward the plateau.

When the leading man was nearly within gunshot, the captain's face began
to burn, and his pulses to throb hard and fast.

"The sooner I pick off the head one," he thought, "the better chance I
have at the others."

He brought his gun to his shoulder, and was slowly lowering the barrel to
the line of aim, when suddenly something like a great black beast rushed
past him, pushing up his arm and nearly toppling him over. It came from
the cave, and in a second it was out on the plateau. Then it gave a leap
upward, and rushed down toward the sea. Utterly astounded, the captain
steadied himself and turned to Maka.

"What was that?" he exclaimed.

The African was on his feet, his body bent forward, his eyes peering out
into the distance.

"Mok!" said he. "Look! Look!"

It was Mok who had rushed out of the cave. He was running toward the four
men. He reached them, he threw up his arms, he sprang upon the first man.
Then he left him, and jumped upon the others. Then Maka gave a little cry
and sprang forward, but in the same instant the captain seized him.

"Stop!" he cried. "What is it?"

The African shouted: "Mok's people! Mok knowed them. Look!
Look--see! Mok!"

The party was now near enough and the day was bright enough for the
captain to see that on the lower ground beyond the plateau there were
five black men in a state of mad excitement. He could hear them jabbering
away at a great rate. So far as he could discover, they were all
unarmed, and as they stood there gesticulating, the captain might have
shot them down in a bunch, if he had chosen.

"Go," said he to Maka, "go down there and see what it all means."

The captain now stepped back into the passage. He could see Miss Markham
and Ralph peering out of the doorway of the first compartment.

"There does not seem to be any danger so far," said he. "Some more
Africans have turned up. Maka has gone to meet them. We shall find out
about them in a few minutes," and he turned back to the entrance.

He saw that the six black fellows were coming toward him, and, as he had
thought, they carried no guns.

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