“Now, doan’ get too prescrumptious wid me,” warned the black man, with an evil grin that displayed his big, white teeth. “Yo’ an’ me hab done been good frien’s, an’ pulled togedder. But Ah want yo’ to undahstan’, Mr. White Man, dat I doan’ allow yo’ to call me Tar Baby.”
“Oh, come, now, don’t get huffy,” yawned Evarts, who had not taken the trouble to rise. “I’m not afraid of you, Tar.”
“Stop dat!” cried the black angrily. “Yo’s takin’ big chances, yo’ is.”
“You’re big and powerful, I know that,” grinned Evarts. “But I have something with me that makes me just the same size as you are, or perhaps a little bigger. See this!”
The ex-foreman drew from one of his pockets a formidable-looking automatic revolver.
“Huh!” grunted the negro, producing a similar pistol, “yo’ ain’ no bettah fixed dan Ah be.”
“We’re quits,” laughed Evarts easily, returning his weapon to his pocket. “Put up your rain-maker.”
“Den yo’ won’t call me Tar Baby no mo?”
“All right, den.” Ebony put up his weapon.
“Now, what’s the programme?” asked Evarts. “You’ve seen the leader?”
“Yah. Ah’s done see de right man. De orders am simple.”
“What are they?”
“Misto Reade am to be killed de fust time he show himself,” declared Sambo Ebony. “He to be shot down ez soon ez Ah can lay eyes on him. Maybe Ah have to shoot from ambush, but in any case he must be daid befo’ de sun go down to-morrow. Our big men am tired to def dat Massa Reade stop do men from havin’ a little liquor and playin’ cairds evenin’s.”
“Fine!” thought Tom, with a start. “If Sambo knew how close I am he’d carry out his orders right now! He has his pistol with him.”
“An’ den, if dey’s any fuss made,” the black went on, “Misto Hazelton, he done gottah go nex’. Maybe Ah get cotch’ w’en I do fo’ Misto Reade. Ef dat happen, den dere’s anodder man ready to do fo’ Misto Hazelton.”
“And maybe the second man will get caught, too,” suggested Evarts. “Then there’ll be two of you with nooses around your necks.”
“We maybe get cotch’, an’ put in de jail,” smirked Sambo Ebony, “but doan’ yo’ beliebe nothin’ worse happen. Dere ain’ many guards at de jail, an’ do gang is on de way. De jail guards done be shot up, an’ ouah folks turn’ loose. Den we all strike out fo’ new place, an’ begin all ober again. Den a new gang come in heah and operate to get de money away from de breakwatah gangs. Dere’s so much money in dat camp yondah dat ouah folks done gottah hab it ef a dozen men has to be kill’.”
“For cold-blooded, systematic villainy I believe I am listening to the limit!” quivered Lieutenant Dick Prescott under his breath.
“They’re insane, these people,” was Tom’s inward comment. “Let this crowd of scoundrels shoot up the jail guards, and do they think the citizens would ever allow the gang to operate in camp? There’d be more likelihood of the known members of the gang being lynched!”