The truth is, I'm half starved."
With these words the Ork squatted down beside them. Very reluctantly Cap'n Bill drew another biscuit from his pocket and held it out. The Ork promptly seized it in one of its front claws and began to nibble the biscuit in much the same manner a parrot might have done.
"We haven't much grub," said the sailor-man, "but we're willin' to share it with a comrade in distress."
"That's right," returned the Ork, cocking its head sidewise in a cheerful manner, and then for a few minutes there was silence while they all ate of the biscuits. After a while Trot said:
"I've never seen or heard of an Ork before. Are there many of you?"
"We are rather few and exclusive, I believe," was the reply. "In the country where I was born we are the absolute rulers of all living things, from ants to elephants."
"What country is that?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Where does it lie?"
"I don't know, exactly. You see, I have a restless nature, for some reason, while all the rest of my race are quiet and contented Orks and seldom stray far from home. From childhood days I loved to fly long distances away, although father often warned me that I would get into trouble by so doing.
"'It's a big world, Flipper, my son,' he would say, 'and I've heard that in parts of it live queer two- legged creatures called Men, who war upon all other living things and would have little respect for even an Ork.'
"This naturally aroused my curiosity and after I had completed my education and left school I decided to fly out into the world and try to get a glimpse of the creatures called Men. So I left home without saying good-bye, an act I shall always regret. Adventures were many, I found. I sighted men several times, but have never before been so close to them as now. Also I had to fight my way through the air, for I met gigantic birds, with fluffy feathers all over them, which attacked me fiercely. Besides, it kept me busy escaping from floating airships. In my rambling I had lost all track of distance or direction, so that when I wanted to go home I had no idea where my country was located. I've now been trying to find it for several months and it was during one of my flights over the ocean that I met the whirlpool and became its victim."
Trot and Cap'n Bill listened to this recital with much interest, and from the friendly tone and harmless appearance of the Ork they judged he was not likely to prove so disagreeable a companion as at first they had feared he might be.
The Ork sat upon its haunches much as a cat does, but used the finger-like claws of its front legs almost as cleverly as if they were hands. Perhaps the most curious thing about the creature was its tail, or what ought to have been its tail. This queer arrangement of skin, bones and muscle was shaped like the propellers used on boats and airships, having fan-like surfaces and being pivoted to its body. Cap'n Bill knew something of mechanics, and observing the propeller- like tail of the Ork he said:
"I s'pose you're a pretty swift flyer?"
"Yes, indeed; the Orks are admitted to be Kings of the Air."
"Your wings don't seem to amount to much," remarked Trot.
"Well, they are not very big," admitted the Ork, waving the four hollow skins gently to and fro, "but they serve to support my body in the air while I speed along by means of my tail. Still, taken altogether, I'm very handsomely formed, don't you think?"
Trot did not like to reply, but Cap'n Bill nodded gravely. "For an Ork," said he, "you're a wonder. I've never seen one afore, but I can imagine you're as good as any."
That seemed to please the creature and it began walking around the cavern, making its way easily up the slope. while it was gone, Trot and Cap'n Bill each took another sip from the water-flask, to wash down their breakfast.
"Why, here's a hole -- an exit -- an outlet!" exclaimed the Ork from above.
"We know," said Trot. "We found it last night."
"Well, then, let's be off," continued the Ork, after sticking its head into the black hole and sniffing once or twice.