Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/33

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13
OLD-TIME WAGON SHOW

matter!" was the rough answer of the leader of the posse.

The gravity of our situation was at once grasped by every man who heard this announcement, for the stealing of a slave was then a far greater crime in the eyes of the community than unprovoked murder would now be. A desperate and bloody battle in which every follower of the show must look out for his own life as best he could seemed inevitable. We all kept our eyes on the manager, who was cool and of impressive manners. In those moments of breathless waiting for the fight to begin, I wished myself with the vehemence of despair safely back in the quiet little Hoosier office.

Then Mr. Butler made a plucky appeal to all reasonable men who might be in the posse. Was it not fair, he argued, that the man who had brought this accusation should come forward and make himself and his standing known? Was he a planter, the owner of slaves and a substantial citizen of the great commonwealth of Missouri? This kind of ready eloquence took with the crowd, and it was soon found that the man who had brought the report was unknown to the people of Booneville. He was unable to give a satisfactory account of