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H. Irving Hancock
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 140 pages of information about The Young Engineers on the Gulf.

“Not a bit too soon!” he muttered, as his ears caught sound of an approaching step, and his eyes showed him the hulking form of the massive foe.  “Here comes my black man!”

CHAPTER XIV

THE BLACK MAN’S TURN

Closer to the earth Tom tried to burrow.  As to a plan, Tom Reade had none now, save to watch, and, if possible, to learn something that he did not already know.

Soft-footed, despite his great bulk, the negro approached with an air of little concern.  Plainly, the wretch did not much fear discovery—–­still less interference.

Humming an old plantation melody the negro reached his concealed magneto, then stood up for a brief moment, staring seaward in the direction from which he had just come.  His garments dripped water; his whole appearance was bedraggled, yet there was something utterly shaggy, majestic, in this huge specimen of the human race.

“Ah done reckon dem gemmen gwine lose some mo’ of deir wall to-night,” chuckled the negro softly.

“Go as far as you like, Mr. Sambo Ebony!” grinned Tom Reade, under his breath.  “I’ve wished something else on you this time.”

Carelessly the negro bent over his magneto, seized the handle and gave a push.

Then he straightened up, listening.  Only the soft sighing of the southern wind came to his ears.

“Yo’ shuah done gotta use a mo’ greasy elbow dan dat, chile,” chuckled this imp of Satan aloud, though in a soft voice that seemed out of all proportion to his bulk.

Then he gave a half dozen indolent though steady strokes to the handle of the magneto.

“Whah am dat ’splosion?” he asked himself in wonderment.  “Am mah eardrum done gone busted?  Moke, yo’ am plumb lazy this night!”

This time the huge negro pumped at the handle of the magneto until he was all but out of breath.  Several dozen shoves he had administered before he halted, let go of the magneto and raised himself to his full, majestic height.

“Some black witch hab done gwine wish a big hoodoo on me!” grunted the negro suspiciously.  “Dis am do fust time dat de magernetto gwine back on me like dis!”

In his bewilderment the one whom Tom had named Sambo glared around him.  His eyes gleamed with a phosphorescence like that which one sees on the water on a lowering night.  What Reade did not know was that this black man possessed eyes that were a little keener in the dark than a bat’s.

With a sudden “Woof!” Sambo went up in the air, moved sideways, and came down on the startled Tom Reade with the force of a pile driver.

“Wha’ yo’ doing heah?” demanded the negro, gripping Reade by the coat collar and dragging that hapless engineer to his feet.

Tom did not answer.  To save his life he couldn’t have answered just then, his breath utterly gone.

“Wha’ yo’ want heah, anyway?” insisted Sambo, giving the youth a vicious shake.

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