Weldon; then, continuing, "what is Negoro doing?" she asked.
"He is doing what Dingo is doing," replied Dick Sand. "He goes, he comes! After all, he is free here. I have no longer the right to control him. His service ended with the stranding of the Pilgrim.'"
In fact, Negoro surveyed the strand, turned back, and looked at the shore and the cliff like a man trying to recall recollections and to fix them. Did he, then, know this country? He would probably have refused to reply to that question if it had been asked. The best thing was still to have nothing to do with that very unsociable personage. Dick Sand soon saw him walk from the side of the little river, and when Negoro had disappeared on the other side of the cliff, he ceased to think of him.
Dingo had indeed barked when the cook had arrived on the steep bank, but became silent almost immediately.
It was necessary, now, to consider the most pressing wants. Now, the most pressing was to find a refuge, a shelter of some kind, where they could install themselves for the time, and partake of some nourishment. Then they would take counsel, and they would decide what it would be convenient to do.
As to food, they had not to trouble themselves. Without speaking of the resources which the country must offer, the ship's store-room had emptied itself for the benefit of the survivors of the shipwreck. The surf had thrown here and there among the rocks, then uncovered by the ebb-tide, a great quantity of objects. Tom and his companions had already picked up some barrels of biscuit, boxes of alimentary preserves, cases of dried meat. The water not having yet damaged them, food for the little troop was secured for more time, doubtless, than they would require to reach a town or a village. In that respect there was nothing to fear. These different waifs, already put in a safe place, could no longer be taken back by a rising sea.
Neither was sweet water lacking. First of all Dick Sand had taken care to send Hercules to the little river for a few pints. But it was a cask which the vigorous negro brought back on his shoulder, after having filled it with water fresh and pure, which the ebb of the tide left perfectly drinkable.
As to a fire, if it were necessary to light one, dead wood was not lacking in the neighborhood, and the roots of the old mangroves ought to furnish all the fuel of which they would have need. Old Tom, an ardent smoker, was provided with a certain quantity of German tinder, well preserved in a box hermetically closed, and when they wanted it, he would only have to strike the tinder-box with the flint of the strand.
It remained, then, to discover the hole in which the little troop would lie down, in case they must take one night's rest before setting out.
And, indeed, it was little Jack who found the bedroom in question, While trotting about at the foot of the cliff, he discovered, behind a turn of the rock, one of those grottoes well polished, well hollowed out, which the sea herself digs, when the waves, enlarged by the tempest, beat the coast.
The young child was delighted. He called his mother with cries of joy, and triumphantly showed her his discovery.
"Good, my Jack!" replied Mrs. Weldon. "If we were Robinson Crusoes, destined to live a long time on this shore, we should not forget to give your name to that grotto!"
The grotto was only from ten to twelve feet long, and as many wide; but, in little Jack's eyes, it was an enormous cavern. At all events, it must suffice to contain the shipwrecked ones; and, as Mrs. Weldon and Nan noted with satisfaction, it was very dry. The moon being then in her first quarter, they need not fear that those neap-tides would reach the foot of the cliff, and the grotto in consequence. Then, nothing more was needed for a few hours' rest.
Ten minutes after everybody was stretched out on a carpet of sea-weed. Negoro himself thought he must rejoin the little troop and take his part of the repast, which was going to be made in common. Doubtless he had not judged it proper to venture alone under the thick forest, through which the winding river made its way.