“The negro’s boat is some distance away, is it not?”
“Four miles, over the worst road I ever traveled.” A sudden remembrance swept into my mind, bringing with it inspiration.
“Have you ever visited the mouth of Saunder’s Creek? You have! How far away is that from here?”
“Not more than half a mile, it enters the river just below the Landing.”
“And, if I understood you rightly,” I urged, eagerly, “you said that these fellows left their keel-boat there; that it had been rigged up to run by steam, and had no guard aboard except the engineer; you are sure of this?”
“That was what the man who talked to me first said—the deputy sheriff. He boasted that they had the only keel-boat on the river equipped with an engine and had come up from St. Louis in two hours. The Sheriff had it fitted up to carry him back and forth between river towns. You—you think we could use that?”
“It seems to be all that is left us. I intend to make the effort, anyway. You had better show me the road.”
WE CAPTURE A KEEL-BOAT
I followed her closely, a mere shadow, as she silently led the way along the edge of the wood and back of the negro quarters. The path was narrow and apparently little used, extremely rough at first until we finally came out upon what was seemingly a well-built road descending to a lower level in the general direction of the river. The girl, however, was sufficiently familiar with her surroundings to advance rapidly even in the dark, and I managed to stumble blindly along after her at a pace which kept her in sight, comprehending the urgent need of haste. We crossed the front of the house, but at a distance enabling us to gain no glimpse of the two men who guarded the porch, or to even hear their voices. The only evidence of their presence there still was the dim glow of a pipe. Here we were cautious enough, slinking past in complete silence, watchful of where we placed our feet; but once beyond this point of danger I joined her more closely, and we continued down the sharp decline together side by side, exchanging a few words in whispers as she attempted to describe to me briefly the lay of the land about the mouth of the creek and where the boat probably rested, awaiting the return of its owners.
She made this sufficiently clear, answering my few questions promptly, so that I easily visioned the scene and felt confident of being able to safely approach the unsuspecting engineer and overcome any resistance before he should realize the possibility of attack. I was obliged to rely upon a guess at the time of night, yet surely it could not be long after twelve and there must yet remain hours of darkness amply sufficient for our purpose. With the boat once securely in our possession, the engineer compelled to serve, for I had no skill in that line, we could