When the horse-dealer had finished this pleasant tale, he laughed loudly, and the three other men laughed also because they had keen wits and appreciated a good story of real life. But their laughter was changed to astonishment—almost fright—when a big black negro bounded out of a dark corner and stood by the table, one outstretched ebony finger pointing to the piece of gold. Instantly the horse dealer snatched his treasure and thrust it into his pocket, and almost at the same moment each man sprung to his feet and put his hand on his favorite weapon. But the negro made no attempt to snatch the gold, nor did there seem to be any reason to apprehend an attack from him. He stood slapping his thighs with his hands, his mouth in a wide grin, and his eyes sparkling in apparent delight.
“What is the matter with you?” shouted the horse-dealer. “What do you want?”
Inkspot did not understand what had been said to him, nor could he have told what he wanted, for he did not know. At that moment he knew nothing, he comprehended nothing, but he felt as a stranger in a foreign land would feel should he hear some words in his native tongue. The sight of that piece of gold had given to Inkspot, by one quick flash, a view of his negro friends and companions, of Captain Horn and his two white men, of the brig he had left, of the hammock in which he had slept—of all, in fact, that he now cared for on earth.
He had seen pieces of gold like that. Before all the treasure had been carried from the caves to the Miranda, the supply of coffee-bags had given out, and during the last days of the loading it had been necessary to tie up the gold in pieces of sail-cloth, after the fashion of a wayfarer’s bundle. Before these had been put on board, their fastening had been carefully examined, and some of them had been opened and retied. Thus all the negroes had seen the little bars, for, as they knew the bags contained gold, there was no need of concealing from them the shape and size of the contents.
So, when, sitting in his gloomy corner, his spirits slowly rising under the influence of his refreshment, which he had just finished, he saw before him an object which recalled to him the life and friends of which he had bereft himself, Inkspot’s nature took entire possession of him, and he bounded to the table in ecstatic recognition of the bit of metal.