“None of ’em,” sobbed the woman. “We walked, an’ I took turns totin’ the young uns. My husband! Oh, God! my husband!”
“Beg yer pardon, ma’am,” said Bowney’s captor, “but nobody can’t b’leeve that; it’s nigh onto twenty mile.”
“I’d ha’ done it ef it had been fifty,” cried the woman, angrily, “when he wuz in trouble. Oh, God! Oh, God! Don’t yer b’leeve it? Then look here!” She picked up the smallest child as she spoke, and in the dim light the men saw that its little feet were torn and bleeding. “’Twas their blood or his’n,” cried the woman, rapidly, “an’ I didn’t know how to choose between ’em. God hev mercy on me! I’m nigh crazy!”
Caney, of Texas, took the child from its mother and carried it to where the moonlight was unobstructed. He looked carefully at its feet, and then shouted:
“Bring the prisoner out here.”
Two men carried Bowney to where Caney was standing, and the whole party, with the woman and remaining children, followed.
“Bill,” said Caney, “I ain’t a askin’ yer to go back on yer friends, but them is—look at ’em.”
And Caney held the child’s feet before the father’s eyes, while the woman threw her arms around his neck, and the two older children crept up to the prisoner, and laid their faces against his legs.
“They’re a-talkin’ to yer, Bill,” resumed Caney, of Texas, “an’ they’re the convincenist talkers I ever seed.”
The desperado turned his eyes away; but Caney moved the child so its bleeding feet were still before its father’s eyes.
The remaining men all retired beneath the shadow of the tree, for the tender little feet were talking to them, too, and they were ashamed of the results.
Suddenly Bowney uttered a deep groan.
“’Tain’t no use a-tryin’,” said he, in a resigned tone. “Everybody’ll be down on me, an’ after all I’ve done, too! But yer ken hev their names, curse yer!”
The woman went into hysterics; the children cried; Caney, of Texas, ejaculated, “Bully!” and then kissed the poor little bruised feet.
The New Englander fervently exclaimed, “Thank God!”
“I’ll answer fur him till we get ’em,” said Caney, after the major had written down the names Bowney gave him; “an’,” continued Caney, “somebody git the rest of these young uns an’ ther mother to my cabin powerful quick. Good Lord, don’t I jist wish they wuz boys! I’d adopt the hull family.”
The court informally adjourned sine die, but had so many meetings afterward at the same place to dispose of Bowney’s accomplices, that his freedom was considered fairly purchased, and he and his family were located a good way from the scenes of his most noted exploits.
Just after two o’clock, on a July afternoon, Mr. Putchett mounted several steps of the Sub-Treasury in Wall Street, and gazed inquiringly up and down the street.