"Here comes John with the blacksnake!" shouted someone, and a tremor ran through Tope Sorley's shivering body.
I pushed aside the butt of the ugly whip thrust eagerly into my hand.
"Tope," I said, "you've worked one of my father's farms for years. Has any Buckner ever treated you any way but square?"
"Nossuh," came faintly.
"Then what are you afraid of? Why don't you speak up? Something's going on in the swamps. You know, and I want you to tell us why the town niggers have all run away, why Ridge Jackson was killed, why the swamp niggers are acting so mysteriously."
"And what kind of devilment that cussed Saul Stark's cookin' up over on Tularoosa!" shouted one of the men.
Tope seemed to shrink into himself at the mention of Stark.
"I don't dast," he shuddered. "He'd put me in de swamp!"
"Who?" I demanded. "Stark? Is Stark a conjer man?"
Tope sank his head in his hands and did not answer. I laid my hand on his shoulder.