How did she know?" "A free negress, who had been employed by Amos Shrunk. She was the other prisoner on the keel-boat when you were captured, kept locked below in the cabin. Surely you knew there was another woman taken aboard the Adventurer?" "Yes, but we never spoke; she was below, and they kept me on deck. How could she know who I was?" "She did not.
I watched this closely, until convinced the craft was bound down stream and moving swiftly. The smudge became a mere whisp and finally vanished entirely. I waited some time for the vessel to appear at the lower end of the bend, but it was then only a speck, scarcely distinguishable. I felt no doubt but what this was the stolen keel-boat, speeding toward St. Louis.
We kain't say fairer'n this, can we, at our time o' life, fer favor o' the old times, Bill? We got to do somethin', so's to kind o' git rested up." "No man kin say fairer," said his friend. They shook hands solemnly and went onward with their devil-may-care test, devised in a historic keel-boat man's brain, as inflamed then by alcohol as their own were now.
"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?"
All kinds of craft were used, even bark canoes and pirogues, or dugouts; but the keel-boat, and especially the flat-bottomed scow with square ends, were the ordinary means of conveyance. They were of all sizes. The passengers and their live stock were of course huddled together so as to take up as little room as possible.
The ceaseless noise of the engine told me accurately the position of the keel-boat, although, by this time, there was a stretch of rushing water between us which prevented me even seeing the hulking shadow of the craft.
"I once met a man that had boated on the river he names," observed the eldest son, speaking in a low tone of voice, like one who distrusted his knowledge, and deemed it prudent to assume a becoming diffidence in the presence of a man who had seen so much: "from his tell, it must be a considerable stream, and deep enough for a keel-boat, from top to bottom."
At Pittsburg they found the Alleghany still open, but the Monongahela was frozen over. They purchased a small keel-boat, which they found lying upon the ice, and with considerable difficulty transported it to a point where they could launch it in the open water, though the stream was encumbered with vast masses of floating ice.
Think of the industry of it, of the enthusiasm behind it! Twenty stands of colors! Clark took them all, and in due time it will be told how the colors took Vincennes. This was because Colonel Clark was a man of destiny. Furthermore, Colonel Clark was off the next morning at dawn to buy a Mississippi keel-boat.
The flatboat and the keel-boat were soon laid up to rot on the banks; and the boatmen either became respectable steamboat hands and farmers, or went into the Far West, where wild life was still possible. Shipment on the river, in the flatboat days, was only during the spring and autumnal floods; although an occasional summer rise, such as we are now getting, would cause a general activity.