The men now swore at Inkspot, but as they saw he was unarmed, and not inclined to violence, they were not afraid of him, but they wondered at him. The horse-dealer took the piece of gold out of his pocket and held it in his hand.
“Did you ever see anything like that before?” he asked. He was a shrewd man, the horse-dealer, and really wanted to know what was the matter with the negro.
Inkspot did not answer, but jabbered in African.
“Try him in English,” suggested the thin-nosed man, and this the horse-dealer did.
Many of the English words Inkspot understood. He had seen things like that. Yes, yes! Great heaps! Heaps! Bags! Bags! He carried them! Throwing an imaginary package over his shoulder, he staggered under it across the floor. Heaps! Piles! Bags! Days and days and days he carried many bags! Then, in a state of exalted mental action, produced by his recollections and his whiskey, he suddenly conceived a scorn for a man who prized so highly just one of these lumps, and who was nearly frightened out of his wits if a person merely pointed to it. He shrugged his shoulders, he spread out the palms of his hands toward the piece of gold, he turned away his head and walked off sniffing. Then he came back and pointed to it, and, saying “One!” he laughed, and then he said “One!” and laughed again. Suddenly he became possessed with a new idea. His contemptuous manner dropped from him, and in eager excitement he leaned forward and exclaimed:
The four men looked at each other and at him in wonder, and asked what, in the name of his satanic majesty, the fellow was driving at. This apparent question, now repeated over and over again in turn to each of them, they did not understand at all. But they could comprehend that the negro had carried bags of lumps like that. This was very interesting.
The subject of the labors of an African Hercules, mythical as these labors might be, was so interesting to the four men who had been drinking and smoking in the tavern, that they determined to pursue it as far as their ignorance of the African’s language, and his ignorance of English and Spanish, would permit. In the first place, they made him sit down with them, and offered him something to drink. It was not whiskey, but Inkspot liked it very much, and felt all sorts of good effects from it. In fact, it gave him a power of expressing himself by gestures and single words in a manner wonderful. After a time, the men gave him something to eat, for they imagined he might be hungry, and this also helped him very much, and his heart went out to these new friends. Then he had a little more to drink, but only a little, for the horse-dealer and the thin-nosed man, who superintended the entertainment, were very sagacious, and did not want him to drink too much.