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The Port Adams Crowd
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Nobody replied, and he repeated his demand, more of mastery in his voice this time, and a hint of growing anger. The blacks moved uneasily, like a herd of cattle, at the sound of his voice. But not one spoke. All eyes, however, were staring at him in certitude of expectancy. Something was about to happen, and they were waiting for it, waiting with the unanimous, unstable mob-mind for the one of them who would make the first action that would precipitate all of them into a common action. Sheldon looked for this one, for such was the one to fear. Directly beneath him he caught sight of the muzzle of a rifle, barely projecting between two black bodies, that was slowly elevating toward him. It was held at the hip by a man in the second row.
"What name you?" Sheldon suddenly shouted, pointing directly at the man who held the gun, who startled and lowered the muzzle.
Sheldon still held the whip hand, and he intended to keep it.
"Clear out, all you fella boys," he ordered. "Clear out and walk along salt water. Savvee!"
"Me talk," spoke up a fat and filthy savage whose hairy chest was caked with the unwashed dirt of years.
"Oh, is that you, Telepasse?" the white man queried genially. "You tell 'm boys clear out, and you stop and talk along me."
"Him good fella boy," was the reply. "Him stop along."
"Well, what do you want?" Sheldon asked, striving to hide under assumed carelessness the weakness of concession.
"That fella boy belong along me." The old chief pointed out Gogoomy, whom Sheldon recognized.
"White Mary belong you too much no good," Telepasse went on. "Bang 'm head belong Gogoomy. Gogoomy all the same chief. Bimeby me finish, Gogoomy big fella chief. White Mary bang 'm head. No good. You pay me plenty tobacco, plenty powder, plenty calico."
"You old scoundrel," was Sheldon's comment. An hour before, he had been chuckling over Joan's recital of the episode, and here, an hour later, was Telepasse himself come to collect damages.
"Gogoomy," Sheldon ordered, "what name you walk about here? You get along quarters plenty quick."
"Me stop," was the defiant answer.
"White Mary b'long you bang 'm head," old Telepasse began again. "My word, plenty big fella trouble you no pay."
"You talk along boys," Sheldon said, with increasing irritation. "You tell 'm get to hell along beach. Then I talk with you."
Sheldon felt a slight vibration of the veranda, and knew that Joan had come out and was standing by his side. But he did not dare glance at her. There were too many rifles down below there, and rifles had a way of going off from the hip.
Again the veranda vibrated with her moving weight, and he knew that Joan had gone into the house. A minute later she was back beside him. He had never seen her smoke, and it struck him as peculiar that she should be smoking now. Then he guessed the reason. With a quick glance, he noted the hand at her side, and in it the familiar, paper-wrapped dynamite. He noted, also, the end of fuse, split properly, into which had been inserted the head of a wax match.
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