Page:The American review - a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (1845).djvu/145

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Jack Long; or Lynch-Law and Vengeance.

the man who did it. I could only distinguish that the Planter's tone was angry and decided, when they moved on out of hearing. How he managed to quiet him, I cannot conjecture, (Henry fortunately heard nothing of it,) but when we joined them, Hinch greeted us with a gruff sort of civility. He was a thick-set, broad-shouldered, ruffianly-looking fellow; wearing the palpable marks of the debauchee in his bloated person and red features.

We were soon under way. A ride of nearly half the day through the scenes of yesterday's adventure elicited nothing, and we were all getting impatient, when fortunately Henry's search, undertaken at my earnest suggestion, was successful in recognizing the place where he had witnessed the curious apparition of the evening before. On close examination the mocassined tracks were discovered, and with wonderful skill the Regulators traced them for several miles, till, finally, in an open glade, among the thickets, we found the fragments of a man who had been torn to pieces by the wolves, numbers of which, with buzzards and ravens, were hanging around the place. The bones had been picked so clean, that it would have been out of the question to hope to identify them, but for the fact that a gun was lying near which was instantly recognized to be Stoner's. I observed that there was a round fracture, like a bullet-hole, in the back of the skull; but it was too unpleasant an object for more minute examination. We gathered up the bones to take them home to his family—but before we left the ground, a discovery was made which startled every one. It was the distinct trail of a shod horse. Now there was hardly a horse in Shelby county that wore shoes, for where there were no stones, shoes were not necessary—certainly there was not a horse in our company that had them on. I his must be the horse of the murderer! Of course Henry was freed, even from the suspicion of these brutes. They believed that this trail could be easily followed, and felt sure now that they should soon come upon some results. They set off with great confidence, trailing the shod horse till nearly night, when, in spite of all their ingenuity, they lost it; and though they camped near the place till morning and tried it again, could never find it. They were compelled to give up in despair and scattered for their separate homes.

The very next day after their breaking up, followed the astounding report that the horse of a second one of their number had galloped up to his master's door with an empty saddle. The Regulators assembled again, and after a long search the body was found, or the fragments of it rather, bare and dismembered by the wolves. The rumor was that as in Stoner's case, the man had been shot in the back of the head, but the skull had been greatly disfigured. These two murders occurring within three days, (for the man must have been shot on the day the Regulators disbanded, and while on his way home alone) created immense sensation throughout the county. The story of Henry—which afforded the only possible clue to the perpetrator—and the singularity of all the incidents, completely aroused popular emotions What could be the motive, or who was this invisible assassin (for the last effort at trailing him had been equally unavailing) remained an utter mystery. Hinch and his band fumed and raved like madmen. They swept the county in all directions, arresting and lynching what they called suspicious persons, which meant any and every one who had rendered himself in the slightest degree obnoxious to them. It was a glorious opportunity for spreading far and wide a wholesome terror of their power, and wreaking a dastardly, hoarded vengeance in many quarters where they had not dared before to strike openly. Their fury was particularly directed against the class of Hunter Emigrants, who, as the most sturdy and unmanageably honest, had incurred in a proportionable degree their most merciless and unmitigated hate. Public sentiment justified extreme measures, for the general safety seemed to demand that the perpetrator of these secret murders should be brought to light, and great as was the license under which he had acted, Hinch yet felt the necessity of being backed by some shadow of approval growing out of the necessities of the case. He and the miscreants under his command enjoyed now, for several days, unchecked by any law of God or man, a perfect saturnalia of riotous violence. Outrages too disgustingly hideous in their details to bear recital were committed in every part of the county. Inoffensive men were caught up from the midst of their families, hung to the limbs of trees in their own yards till life was nearly extinct, and then cut down. This process