“Live round yere, I reckon?”
“No; just floating. Came down the Illinois. Where is this steamer bound?”
“Hell alone knows,” dryly. “Yeller Banks furst, enyhow; we’re loaded with supplies.”
“Supplies! For Yellow Banks?” in surprise. “Why; what’s going on there? My friend, there aren’t ten families within a hundred miles of that place.”
Mapes laughed, his mouth opening like a red gash, exhibiting a row of yellow fangs.
“No, I reckon not; but thar’s a hell ov a lot o’ fellers thar whut ain’t families, but kin eat. Didn’t yer know, pardner, thar’s a right smart war on? thet the Illinoy militia is called out, an’ is a marchin’ now fer Yeller Banks? They’re liable fer ter be thar too afore ever this damn scow makes it, if we hav’ ter stop an’ pick eny mor’ blame fools outer the river. Come on, let’s go up.”
“Wait a minute. This is an Indian war? Black Hawk has broken loose?”
“Sure; raised perticular hell. We heerd down et Saint Louee he’d killed ‘bout a hundred whites, an’ burned sum ov ’em—ther ol’ devil.”
“And where is he now?”
“Dunno; never wus up in yer afore. We bin runnin’ ’tween Saint Louee an’ New Orleans, ’till the Gov’ment took us. Maybe the captain kin tell yer—sumwhar up Rock River, I reckon, wharever that is.”
We climbed the steep steps to the upper deck, and were met at the head of the ladder by the captain, evidently desirous of looking me over. He was a solidly-built individual, wearing white side-whiskers, and a bulbous nose, and confronted me not altogether pleasantly.
“All right, are you? Water pretty cold yet, I reckon. Been sticking on that snag for long?”
“Several hours; but my boat was wrecked before we lodged there.”
The captain laughed, and winked aside at the mate.
“Seems to be a mighty populous river up this way, hey, Mapes?” he remarked genially. “Castaways round every bend.”
“What do you mean? Have you picked up others?”
“Certainly have. Hit a keel-boat twenty miles below.”
“A keel-boat, operated by steam?”
“Couldn’t say as to that. Was it, Mapes? The craft had gone down when I got on deck. Had four aboard, but we got ’em all off, an’ stowed ’em back there in the texas. You better get along now, and shuck those wet clothes.”
ON BOARD THE ADVENTURER
The captain turned rather sharply away, and I was thrust through an open cabin door by the grasp of the mate before I could really sense the true meaning of this unexpected news. Mapes paused long enough to gruffly indicate a coarse suit of clothes draped over a stool, and was about to retire without further words, when I recovered sufficiently from the shock to halt him with a question.
“I suppose you saw those people picked up from the keel-boat?”