Then appeared George, with an expression of mingled sorrow, shame, wonder and injured pride on his big ebony features, his eyes rolling about like those of a dying calf. At first he was mute.
“Know anything about this business, George?” asked Bill.
“Don’t know a thing but what Ah does know an’ dat’s a plenty. What’s happened here?”
“The plant has been damaged; that’s all.”
“Damage? When? Las’ night, close on t’ mawnin’? Well, suh, Ah ’low that there ghos’ done it.”
“Ghost? What—where was any ghost?”
“Right yer at de tool house. Come walkin’ roun’ de corner fo’ Ah could grab up man stick an’ Ah jes’ lef’ de place.”
“What? Ran away and from your duty? You were put here to guard the plant; not to let any old—”
“Didn’t ‘low t’ guard it ‘gainst no ghos’es. Dey don’ count in de contrac’. Folks is one thing an’ ghos’es—”
“Ghosts! Bosh! There’s no such thing as a ghost! If you had swung your club at the silly thing you’d have knocked over some dub of a man that we could pretty well describe right now, and saved us a heap of trouble and expense—and you’d have kept your job!” Bill was disgusted and angry.
“Lawsee! Ah ain’t gwine lose mah job jes’ fo’ dodgin’ a ghos’, is I?”
“What did this fellow look like?” asked Gus.
“Ah nevah could tell ‘bout it; didn’t take no time for’ t’ look sharp. Ah wuz on’y jes’ leavin’.”
“Now, see here, George,” said Bill, his native gentleness dominating, “if you’ll promise to say nothing about this, keep on the job and grab the next ghost, we’ll let you stay on. And we’ll make an awful good guess when we tell you that you’ll find the ghost is Mr. Hooper’s nephew. If you do grab him, George, and lock him in the tool house, we’ll see that you’re very nicely rewarded,—a matter of cold cash. Are you on?”
“Ah shore is, an’ Ah’ll git him, fo’ Ah reckon he’s gwine come again. ‘Tain’t no fun tacklin’ whut looks lak a ghos’, but Ah reckon Ah’ll make that smahty think he’s real flesh an’ blood fo’ Ah gits through with him!”
The boys were two days making repairs, which time encroached upon their plan to get their promised radio receiver into action. Having no shop nor proper tools for finer work, they would be handicapped, for they had decided, because of the pleasure and satisfaction in so doing, to make many of the necessary parts that generally are purchased outright. Bill made the suggestion, on account of this delay, that they abandon their original plan, but Gus, ever hopeful, believed that something might turn up to carry out their first ideas.
The afternoon that they had everything in normal condition again, Mr. Hooper came down to see them; he knew nothing of the tampering with the work, but it became evident at once that his nephew had slyly and forcibly put it into his head that amateur radio construction was largely newspaper bunk, without any real foundation of fact. Thad may have had some new scheme, but at any rate the unlettered old man would swallow pretty nearly everything Thad said, even though he often repudiated Thad’s acts. Again Mr. Hooper, Bill and Gus got on the subject of radio and the old gentleman repeated his convictions: