This threat was given in a tone that left no doubt on the mind of the hearer but that Mr. Stevens would carry out his expressed intention; and the reflections thereby engendered by no means added to the comfort or sense of security that McCloskey had flattered himself he was in future to enjoy; he, therefore, began to discover the bad policy of offending one who might prove so formidable an enemy—of incensing one who had it in his power to retaliate by such terrible measures.
He therefore turned to Mr. Stevens, with a somewhat humbled manner, and said: “You needn’t get so mad, squire—sure it’s but natural that a man shouldn’t want to get any deeper in the mire than he can help; and I’ve enough on my hands now to make them too red to look at wid comfort—sure it’s not a shade deeper you’d have ’em?” he asked, looking inquiringly at Mr. Stevens, who was compelled to turn away his face for a moment to hide his agitation.
At last he mastered his countenance, and, in as cool a tone as he could assume, replied: “Oh, a little more on them will be scarcely a perceptible addition. You know the old adage, ‘In for a penny, in for a pound.’ You need have no fear,” said he, lowering his voice almost to a whisper; “it can be done in a crowd—and at night—no one will notice it.”
“I don’t know about that, squire—in a crowd some one will be sure to notice it. It’s, too dangerous—I can’t do it.”
“Tut, tut, man; don’t talk like a fool. I tell you there is no danger. You, in company with a mob of others, are to attack this man’s house. When he makes his appearance, as he will be sure to do, shoot him down.”
“Good God! squire,” said McCloskey, his face growing pale at the prospect of what was required of him, “you talk of murder as if it was mere play!”
“And still, I never murdered any one,” rejoined Mr. Stevens, significantly; “come, come—put your scruples in your pocket, and make up your mind to go through with it like a man. When the thing is done, you shall have five thousand dollars in hard cash, and you can go with it where you please. Now, what do you think of that?”
“Ah, squire, the money’s a great timptation! but it’s an awful job.”
“No worse than you did for nothing,” replied Mr. Stevens.
“But that was in a fair fight, and in hot blood; it isn’t like planning to kill a man, squire.”
“Do you call it a fair fight when you steal up behind a man, and break his skull with a slung shot?” asked Mr. Stevens.
McCloskey was unable to answer this, and sat moodily regarding his tempter.
“Come, make up your mind to it—you might as well,” resumed Mr. Stevens, in a coaxing tone.
“Ye seem bent on not giving it up, and I suppose I’ll have to do it,” replied McCloskey, reluctantly; “but what has the man done to ye’s, squire, that you’re so down upon him?”
“Oh, he is one of those infernal Abolitionists, and one of the very worst kind; he lives with a nigger woman—and, what is more, he is married to her!”