Mr. Sambo Ebony chuckled gleefully in appreciation of his own joke.
“There’s one thing I guess you can tell me, Sambo,” Reade suggested hopefully.
“W’at am dat, massa?”
“When are you going to change your seat and stop making me feel like a very thin pancake?”
“W’en Ah done get mah mind made up.”
“When you have your mind made up about—–what?”
“About w’at I’se gwine do wid yo’, Massa Reade.”
“Well, what do you think you’re going to do with me?” insisted Tom. “I’ll admit, Sambo, that I’m about losing my patience. Unless you get up off of me soon, and move away to a respectful distance, I shall be obliged to do something on my own account.”
“Go as far as yo’ like, massa,” returned the negro, unmoved. “I’se boun’ ter admit dat yo’ done got me fo’ curiosity. W’at yo’ done think yo’ can do?”
Plainly the negro meant to go on having sport with him. Tom decided that it would be of no use to try to deceive this great mountain of black flesh. So Reade, who had been doing some brisk thinking during the last few moments, gave a sudden heave—–a trick that he retained from the old football days.
Much to Sambo’s surprise he found himself going. Yet the black man was as agile as he was big. He leaped to his feet, bounding one step sideways, while Tom, who had been watching for this very chance, sprang to his own feet.
“Not so fas’, massa!” mocked the big black, reaching out and taking a strong clutch on. Tom’s coat collar.
Reade would have squirmed out of his coat and placed more distance between them, but Mr. Ebony, with a stout twist, gathered the two ends of the coat collar, holding the young engineer as though in the noose of a halter.
Quick as a flash Reade struck out with his right fist for the black man’s belt-line. Had the blow landed even the huge Sambo would have gone down to earth. But the negro parried with his own disengaged fist, then gave a twist to the coat collar noose that made Reade turn black in the face from choking.
“Ah might as well tell yo’,” Sambo observed dryly, “dat yo’ ain’t done got no new fight tricks dat yo’ can wish on me. Ah done seen all de tricks of fightin’ dat any man done know, an’ Ah nebber yet seen no man dat could put any kind oh a blow ober on me to hurt!”
The negro spoke boastfully, yet there could be no doubt that he believed all he said.
Tom Reade next schemed to land a hard kick against the negro’s shins. Ere he had his foot well lifted, however, the watchful Sambo seemed to divine the intent. He gave a quick twist at the coat collar that made Reade’s head swim. It was some time before the young engineer’s head recovered from that sudden confusion and blackness.
“Am’ yo’ gwine beliebe dat yo’ kain’t wish no kind oh a trick ober on me?” demanded the black man in an injured tone. “Ah nebber seen no odder w’ite man dat had such a ha’d time beliebing w’at Ah done tole him!”