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Mr. Pennant had some doubts about the correctness of the important information he had obtained, but he was at a loss to know how to verify it. It was a matter of course that sentinels patrolled the vicinity of the fort, or at least the principal approach to it. He decided to postpone his inquiry into this matter till a later hour of the night or morning.
"Whar you gwine, Massa Ossifer?" asked Uncle Job, after they had walked a short distance from the negro village.
"Over to the other side of the island," replied the lieutenant.
"Wot you gwine to do ober dar, massa?"
"I want to see what there is over there."
"Dis nigger kin told you wot dar is over dar."
"Well, what is there over there?"
"Dar's a steamer ober dar, an' I speck de Yankee 324 gumboat's gwine in dar to look arter dat steamer," said Uncle Job, chuckling as though he enjoyed the prospect of such an event. "Say, Massa Ossifer, is Massa Linkum in yore gumboat?"
"Not exactly; but she is well filled with his people," replied Mr. Pennant, laughing.
"I done wish dat Massa Linkum come down here hisself," added the venerable colored person.
"He can hardly spare the time to do that; his business is such that he cannot leave," replied the lieutenant, much amused at the simplicity of the negro. "Now tell me something more about this steamer in the bay. How big is she?"
"I can't told you 'zackly, massa; she as big as de fort."
"Where did she come from?" asked the lieutenant, who had more confidence in the honesty than in the intelligence of Job.
"I dunno, massa; but she done come in from de sea. When she git off dar two mile she done stick in de mud," answered the negro, pointing in the direction of the bar. "Den de little steamers from up the bay take off de loadin', and she done come in."
325 "With what was she loaded?"
"All sorts o' tings, massa; guns, and pistols, and close. Dis nigger help take de tings out ob her."
"What is she doing now in the bay?"
"Loadin' wid cotton de steamers fotch down."
"Where does she lie now?"
"Jes' off de ole Fort Lafitte, whar de water's deep."
In less than half an hour the party reached the locality indicated by Job. The officer could see the steamer which looked, in the gloom of the night, as though she was a craft of about five hundred tons. She was moored in the deep water so far in that she could not be seen by vessels in the offing. On each side of her was a small river steamer, and she seemed not to have completed her cargo.
"Do you know the name of that steamer, Uncle Job," inquired Mr. Pennant.
"Yes, sar; I knows it like my own name, but I can't spoke it if I die for't," answered Job, laughing.
"Try to do so."
"No use, Massa Ossifer; dis nigger don't hab teef enough to do dat."
326 "Can't you spell it?"
"No, sar; can't spell noffin."
But Job was very obliging, and he made a hissing sound, followed by an effort to sneeze which was a failure. Then he hissed some more, though the loss of his front teeth interfered with the effort. Then he said "fing."
"I know what he means," interposed the Russian. "I know that steamer, for she came in at Cedar Keys when I was there. He means the Sphinx."
"Dat's it, Massa Ossifer!" exclaimed Job, apparently delighted to find that he had made himself understood.
"Has she any big guns?"
"Yes, sar; she done h'ist two out ob her innards, and done took two more from de fort."
"All right; I think we understand the situation up here," said Mr. Pennant, as he led the way in the direction from which they had come.
They returned to the negro village, for the commander of the expedition did not feel as though he had yet finished his mission on shore.
"Mind yore eye, Massa Gumboat!" exclaimed Job, in a low tone, but with great earnestness.
327 "Dar's somebody comin' from de fort! He's comin' mighty quick shore."
The negro hurried the officer and Mike into one of the cabins, and shoved them into a sort of closet, while he went to the door himself. He passed out into the lane, as the man came into it from the middle of the field, for he had not been near enough to the shore to discover the boat.
"Who dar?" called Job.
"Soldier from the fort," replied the man. "What are you doing out here at this time of night?"
"I done get sick, massa, and I's gwine up to de big house to see de doctor," replied the negro, who probably used the first excuse that came into his head.
"The doctor!" exclaimed the soldier. "Is there a doctor there?"
"I reckon dar's one dar if he done habn't leabe yisterday."
"Then you can do my errand for me," added the soldier.
"Yes, sar; what's dat, massa?"
"One of our men is very sick, and we have no doctor. We are afraid he will die before morning, 328 and we want a doctor. Ours was ordered off a week ago."
"I go for de doctor if he's dar," said Job.
"Very well; I will go back and tell the sick man the doctor's coming," added the soldier. "That will give him a hope, if nothing more."
"Dis nigger's 'feered de doctor d............
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