The sounding-boat pulled away, and the Judge retired to his stateroom. The ladies, with very pale faces, gathered in a group and whispered earnestly with each other; then ensued visits to each other’s staterooms, and the final regathering of the ladies with two or three bundles. The soundings were taken, and, as the steamer dropped down-stream, men were seen cutting a path down the rather steep clay bank. The captain put his hands to his mouth and shouted:
“Dig only one grave—make it wide enough for two.”
And all the passengers nodded assent and satisfaction.
Time had been short since the news reached the steamer, but the Bennett’s carpenter, who was himself a married man, had made a plain coffin by the time the boat tied up, and another by the time the grave was dug. The first one was put upon a long handbarrow, over which the captain had previously spread a tablecloth, and, followed by the ladies, was deposited by the side of the body of Red. Half an hour later, the men placed Black in the other coffin, removed both to the side of the grave, and signalled the boat.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen,” said the captain.
The Judge appeared with a very solemn face, his coat buttoned tight to his throat, and the party started. Colonel May, of Missouri, who read Voltaire and didn’t believe in anything, maliciously took the Judge’s arm, and remarked:
“You didn’t finish your story, Judge.”
The Judge frowned reprovingly.
“But, really,” persisted the colonel, “I don’t want curiosity to divert my mind from the solemn services about to take place. Do tell me if they ever caught the rascals.”
“They never did,” replied the Judge. “The sheriff hunted and advertised, but he could never hear a word of either of them. But I’d know either one of them at sight. Sh—h—here we are at the grave.”
The passengers, officers, and crew gathered about the grave. The Judge removed his hat, and, as the captain uncovered the faces of the dead, commenced:
“’I am the resurrection and the life’—Why, there’s the horse-thief now, colonel! I beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen. ’He that believeth in—’”
Just then the Judge’s eye fell upon the dead woman’s face, and he screamed:
“And there’s the sheriff’s assailant!”
Bowerton was a very quiet place. It had no factories, mills, or mines, or other special inducements to offer people looking for new localities; and as it was not on a railroad line, nor even on an important post-road, it gained but few new inhabitants.
Even of travelers Bowerton saw very few. An occasional enterprising peddler or venturesome thief found his way to the town, and took away such cash as came in their way while pursuing their respective callings; but peddlers were not considered exactly trustworthy as news-bearers, while house-breakers, when detained long enough to be questioned, were not in that communicative frame of mind which is essential to one who would interest the general public.