There was blood before the negro’s eyes, or he would sooner have recognized his victim. But at last he did see.
“So, I’se gwine cotch Mistah Reade himself!” snorted Sambo. “An’ Ah reckon I’se gwine foun’ de differculty wid my magernetto at de same time! Huh?”
Again he shook Tom, with an ease and yet a force that further drove the breath from the young engineer’s body.
“Why doan’ yo’ talk!” glared the negro, holding Tom out at arm’s length with one hand.
Tom could only groan. Yet that method of communication carried its own explanation to the big black.
“Reckon yo’ gwine talk w’en yo’ get gale enough in yo’ lungs,” grinned the negro. “In dat case Ah gwine lay yo’ down on de groun’ to fin’ yo’ breff.”
Sambo’s idea of laying Tom down was to give him a violent twist that brought the lad flat on the ground at his captor’s feet. Then the negro sat on his captive to make sure that the latter did not escape.
“Take yo’ time—–ah got plenty,” grimaced the black man.
Slowly the beaten-out breath came back to Tom Reade. Sambo, watching, knew finally that his quarry was at last able to talk.
“Wha’ yo’ do to mah magernetto?” demanded Sambo.
“Guess,” breathed Tom.
“Oh, take yo’ time, boss. Ah got plenty ob dat accommerdation”
“What magneto are you talking about?” Reade queried innocently.
“Nebber heard ob it befo’, eh, boss?”
“I’ve heard of plenty of magnetos, of course,” admitted Tom. “But what have you to do with one?”
For a brief instant Sambo was almost inclined to believe that Reade did not fully know his secret. Finally it dawned on the brain of the big black man that he was being hoaxed.
“Ef yo’ doan wanter tell, yo’ doan hab to, ob co’se,” proposed Sambo. “It ain’t mah way to be too persistency wid de w’ite quality gemmen. But Ah done thought maybe yo’ know somethin’ dat yo’s burnin’ to tell.”
“Who are you, and what are you doing around here?” asked Tom. “I’m certain you don’t belong to my force of workmen—–unless you just joined yesterday. Are you working on the breakwater job?”
“Yessah,” promptly answered Sambo with momentary gravity. Then his mood changed to a chuckle.
“Dat am all right, Massa Reade,” he allowed. “But yo’ doan’ fool dis nigger as easy as yo’ maybe think. Ah know what yo’ watchin’ me fo’, and Ah done know I’se been doin’ jess w’at yo’ think. So I guess we doan’ need no mo’ conversationin’, unless yo’ willing to talk right out and tell me w’at’s w’at.”
“Sambo,” said Reade solemnly, “I imagine I’m not very intelligent, after all. I listened to you attentively, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t make out what you were talking about.”
“Kain’t yo’?” the negro demanded, mockingly. “Den Ah done reckon Ah must be a good deal of a scholar, ef Ah can talk so dat er w’ite quality gemmen kain’t undahstan’ me.”