A little run in the night.
When Thad thus broke in upon the little drama being enacted upon the strip of beach under the overhanging bank of the river the three negroes, as well as Maurice, looked toward the deck of the boat.
By the light of the fire on the sand Thad was seen holding the old Marlin in his hands, and keeping the frowning muzzles of the two-barrel gun pointed in the direction of the black tramp who had seemed about to interfere with the passage of Maurice to the boat.
Evidently none of the fellows were armed, at least with shooting irons, for it was almost ludicrous to see the rapidity with which they threw up their arms and showed signs of surrender.
“Don’t let dat little buster go off, mister. We ain’t meanin’ yuh no ha’m, ‘deed we ain’t now, We’s jes’ de most innercentest coons yuh eber seed, we is. All we asks is a chanct tuh wawm our fingers by dis ere blaze, an’ I reckons yuh won’t keer ’bout dat, massa,” exclaimed the leader, in a whining tone.
Maurice took advantage of the opportunity to walk around the fellow who had interfered with his free passage, and gain the deck of the boat, when Thad immediately turned the gun over to him.
Evidently the boys were in for a bad time of it.
These wandering blacks might want to lie around the fire all night, and sleep would be impossible for both lads at the same time, since there must be a watch kept lest the rascals rob them during the hours of darkness.
Maurice knew that it was best to take the situation in hand right then and there in the start; he also was aware of the fact that these negroes only yielded to force, and that any attempt to gain their good will would be absolutely wasted; for Southern boys learn that early in life, and so it is they can manage the shiftless population that is employed to work on the plantations, while Northern men make the mistake of treating such negroes too well.
Accordingly Maurice took the bull by the horns.
“See here, you fellows, we don’t object to your having all the fire you want, but we’re not going to stand having you camp right there all night. Go down the shore or up a hundred yards or so, and take some of the fire with you. Then one of you come back here and get a big fish we have no use for. I reckon you know how to cook it without a pan. Anyhow, it’s all we can let you have, for we’re on short rations ourselves. Dye understand, boys?” he said.
Maurice could assume quite an air of authority when he chose; it seemed to be a portion of his birthright; and these lazy blacks are quick to recognize this vein in the voice of anyone with whom they come in contact.
“All right, boss. We don’t wanter tuh disturb yuh, an’ we’ll go up de sho’ er bit. Dat fish he taste mighty fine, I reckons, mister, an’ we sho’ be powful glad tug git ’im, dat’s so. Hyah, yuh lazy good-for-nothin’ brack niggah, pick up some ob dat fiah an’ tote it up yander whah de p’int juts out. Dat look good enuff fur dis chile. An’ boss, ef yuh gut dat ere fish handy I cud kerry hit wid me right now,” remarked the strapping leader.