"Now," said Loker, with a tremendous oath, and striking the table with his heavy fist, "don't I know you, Dan Haley? Don't you think to come it over me! Suppose Marks and I have taken up the catchin' trade, jest to 'commodate gentlemen like you, and get nothin' for ourselves? — Not by a long chalk! we'll have the gal out and out, and you keep quiet, or, ye see, we'll have both, — what's to hinder? Han't you show'd us the game? It's as free to us as you, I hope. If you or Shelby wants to chase us, look where the partridges was last year; if you find them or us, you're quite welcome."
"O, wal, certainly, jest let it go at that," said Haley, alarmed; "you catch the boy for the job; — you allers did trade far with me, Tom, and was up to yer word."
"Ye know that," said Tom; "I don't pretend none of your snivelling ways, but I won't lie in my 'counts with the devil himself. What I ses I'll do, I will do, — you know that, Dan Haley."
"Jes so, jes so, — I said so, Tom," said Haley; "and if you'd only promise to have the boy for me in a week, at any point you'll name, that's all I want."
"But it an't all I want, by a long jump," said Tom. "Ye don't think I did business with you, down in Natchez, for nothing, Haley; I've learned to hold an eel, when I catch him. You've got to fork over fifty dollars, flat down, or this child don't start a peg. I know yer."
"Why, when you have a job in hand that may bring a clean profit of somewhere about a thousand or sixteen hundred, why, Tom, you're onreasonable," said Haley.
"Yes, and hasn't we business booked for five weeks to come, — all we can do? And suppose we leaves all, and goes to bush-whacking round arter yer young uns, and finally doesn't catch the gal, — and gals allers is the devil to catch, — what's then? would you pay us a cent — would you? I think I see you a doin' it — ugh! No, no; flap down your fifty. If we get the job, and it pays, I'll hand it back; if we don't, it's for our trouble, — that's far, an't it, Marks?"
"Certainly, certainly," said Marks, with a conciliatory tone; "it's only a retaining fee, you see, — he! he! he! — we lawyers, you know. Wal, we must all keep good-natured, — keep easy, yer know. Tom'll have the boy for yer, anywhere ye'll name; won't ye, Tom?"
"If I find the young un, I'll bring him on to Cincinnati, and leave him at Granny Belcher's, on the landing," said Loker.
Marks had got from his pocket a greasy pocket-book, and taking a long paper from thence, he sat down, and fixing his keen black eyes on it, began mumbling over its contents: "Barnes — Shelby County — boy Jim, three hundred dollars for him, dead or alive.
"Edwards — Dick and Lucy — man and wife, six hundred dollars; wench Polly and two children — six hundred for her or her head.
"I'm jest a runnin' over our business, to see if we can take up this yer handily. Loker," he said, after a pause, "we must set Adams and Springer on the track of these yer; they've been booked some time."
"They'll charge too much," said Tom.
"I'll manage that ar; they 's young in the business, and must spect to work cheap," said Marks, as he continued to read. "Ther's three on 'em easy cases, 'cause all you've got to do is to shoot 'em, or swear they is shot; they couldn't, of course, charge much for that. Them other cases," he said, folding the paper, "will bear puttin' off a spell. So now let's come to the particulars. Now, Mr. Haley, you saw this yer gal when she landed?"
"To be sure, — plain as I see you."
"And a man helpin' on her up the bank?" said Loker.
"To be sure, I did."
"Most likely," said Marks, "she's took in somewhere; but where, 's a question. Tom, what do you say?"
"We must cross the river tonight, no mistake," said Tom.
"But there's no boat about," said Marks. "The ice is running awfully, Tom; an't it dangerous?"
"Don'no nothing 'bout that, — only it's got to be done," said Tom, decidedly.
"Dear me," said Marks, fidgeting, "it'll be — I say," he said, walking to the window, "it's dark as a wolf's mouth, and, Tom — "
"The long and short is, you're scared, Marks; but I can't help that, — you've got to go. Suppose you want to lie by a day or two, till the gal 's been carried on the underground line up to Sandusky or so, before you start."
"O, no; I an't a grain afraid," said Marks, "only — "
"Only what?" said Tom.
"Well, about the boat. Yer see there an't any boat."
"I heard the woman say there was one coming along this evening, and that a man was going to cross over in it. Neck or nothing, we must go with him," said Tom.
"I s'pose you've got good dogs," said Haley.
"First rate," said Marks. "But what's the use? you han't got nothin' o' hers to smell on."
"Yes, I have," said Haley, triumphantly. "Here's her shawl she left on the bed in her hurry; she left her bonnet, too."
"That ar's lucky," said Loker; "fork over."
"Though the dogs might damage the gal, if they come on her unawars," said Haley.
"That ar's a consideration," said Marks. "Our dogs tore a feller half to pieces, once, down in Mobile, 'fore we could get 'em off."
"Well, ye see, for this sort that's to be sold for their looks, that ar won't answer, ye see," said Haley.
"I do see," said Marks. "Besides, if she's got took in, 'tan't no go, neither. Dogs is no 'count in these yer up states where these critters gets carried; of course, ye can't get on their track. They only does down in plantations, where niggers, when they runs, has to do their own running, and don't get no help."
"Well," said Loker, who had just stepped out to the bar to make some inquiries, "they say the man's come with the boat; so, Marks — "
That worthy cast a rueful look at the comfortable quarters he was leaving, but slowly rose to obey. After exchanging a few words of further arrangement, Haley, with visible reluctance, handed over the fifty dollars to Tom, and the worthy trio separated for the night.