“Now, I’ve simply got to hustle!” sighed Tom Reade nervously. “If I don’t succeed in raising the wire, and in a mighty short space of time, I may be to-night’s fool yet. I’d really like to wish that on the black man, too!”
By using his eyes and his reasoning powers Reade, after twenty minutes more of search, with some sly digging, unearthed a section of the wire some dozen feet from the magneto.
“Now, it must be really the swiftest sort of work,” murmured the young engineer, after a glance seaward. He seated himself with his face turned toward the Gulf, gathered the exposed section of wire up into his lap, then drew a pair of wire nippers from his pocket.
Snip! Tom now had two ends of wire in his hands. That would have been enough, had Reade chosen to bury the ends and conceal all evidence of his work. However, he believed that a more workmanlike way could be found.
From the same pocket Tom drew out a three inch piece of pure rubber cable, wrapped in water-proof tape. This he fastened to the severed ends of the wire, binding the whole as neatly as a lineman could have done.
“Rubber is believed to be a pretty good insulator,” chuckled Reade, as he finished. “I don’t believe the spark is made that can jump three inches of rubber. Certainly magneto-power can’t do it. Now, let me see what sort of a trail-concealer I am.”
Tom laid the wire back in the ground, covering it carefully with his hands.
“I wish I dared strike a match, so that I could judge better just how my work looks,” he sighed. “However, I don’t believe Mr. Sambo Ebony will think it discreet to strike any matches either, so he won’t find the place where I’ve been fooling with his work.
“Now, I’ll get back out of sight, where I belong,” muttered Tom, rising cautiously. “I hope, though, I can find a place where I can see the look on that darkey’s face when he tries his magneto and waits for the bing! from out yonder. Oh, Sambo, you simply can’t have any idea of how I’ve been wishing it on you tonight!”
As the bushes grew thickly hereabouts, and there were many hollows in the surface of the earth, Reade had little trouble in finding what he believed to be a satisfactory hiding place. It enabled him to hide his head within fifteen feet of the handle of the magneto.
A soft, southerly wind blew in from the Gulf. As long as he could Reade fought drowsiness. Again and again he opened his eyes with a start.
“I mustn’t do this,” Tom told himself angrily. “No gentleman will go to sleep at the switch—–when it’s his train that is coming!”
Yet still he found himself nodding. Had he deemed it safe Tom would have sprung up and walked about briskly. But this, he knew, was to invite being discovered by the returning negro.
So, at last, despite himself, Tom fell asleep.
How much time had passed he never knew. At last, however, he awoke with a start. Reproachfully he rubbed his eyes.