Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The hanging (Nora's Post)

fall of 1865

Dirty, dusty, stinky, smelly, too loud, constant moving, these were all the things I thought about of the train that I had taken from New York City to St. Louis. I supposed I was very lucky to even be able to take a train to St. Louis. But I absolutely hated trains. Boats, I didn’t mind so much for some reason. I never got sea sick. But trains were an entirely different story. They were loud, and noisy and smelly and dirty. And the people inside the trains where simply appalling. I couldn’t understand why the train system in America didn’t run the same way it did in England. In England the trains were much more civilized. In America, the passengers were all jammed together. Train rides in America always made me a little ill.

So by the time I finally stepped off the train in St. Louis, all I wanted was a warm bubble bath, a nice hot meal and to crawl into some clean white sheets. Instead, I found the city bustling with activity, and I had a hard time securing help with my luggage. Once I finally found someone to help, it was drawing on noon. Two hours after I had arrived in St. Louis. I looked at the man in front of me. He had a limp and a southern accident.

“What’s going on?” I asked, trailing behind my hired help.

“There’s to be a hanging at 1 Missus.” The man said. “You traveling alone?” He asked suddenly as if it finally occurred to him that I did not have a chaperone. I frowned.

“What of it?” I asked.

“Just seems strange that a young lady from England would be traveling alone is all.”

“I’m not from England.” I protested. It was true that my current residence was England, but I was an American just as much as he was.

“Than what’s with the accent?”

“I’ve been away at a boarding school for a very long time. It isnt my fault I picked up the accent. But I’m American.”

“Still, isnt right that you’re traveling alone.”

“Well, I didn’t much have choice in the matter.” I said. I wasn’t about to tell him why I came back to America. Besides, he didn’t need to know my full story.

***************

Once I found myself a boarding house and had a bath I crept down to the dining room. There was several long rows of tables with white table clothes and benches to sit upon. It was rather crude compared to what I was used too. When I came in, everyone stopped and stared at me. There were no gentlemen or ladies from my class anywhere and I felt slightly out of place in all my finery. Perhaps I should have chosen a less elegant dress. I thought touching the light blue of my silk skirt. At any rate, I took my seat beside a cowboy. At least I thought he was a cowboy, and waited to be served.

“You here for the hanging Miss?” A man wearing little more than his long johns and a pair of trousers asked me. He had food in his long shaggy gray beard. I cringed at the smell of him.

“ No sir.” I said politely.

“Ever seen a hangin’?” The man continued to ask. I shook my head. The very idea of seeing a hanging was rather appalling. That was why I had to find Charlie and explain to the authorities that he couldn’t possibly be wanted for anything more than breaking a pencil.

“Maybe you should.” The man next to me said.

“Why on earth would I want to see men being hanged?” I asked biting into a hard biscuit. I missed the food at the boarding school, but I could endure this. I had to find my brother. I sighed as I reached for my fork and noticed that the man across the table from me had a newspaper. On the front page was Charlie’s picture.

“May I see that paper please?” I asked, trying to keep my voice calm, even though I was far from calm. The man shrugged and handed me the paper.

Wanted Bloody Charlie for the murder of several bankers, cowboys and even Indians! Bloody Charlie was last seen in the Oregon territory, robbing a stage coach station. There is a 1000 dollar reward for anyone who finds him dead or alive.

I folded the paper back up and gave it back to the old man. “What do they do with wanted men?” I asked.

“If they make it as far as the jail house, normally they hang them.” The shaggy beard man said. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason.” I said finishing my stew and standing up to leave.

***************

I stuffed a yawn as I stood in a jostling crowd of angry people outside the gallows. There a man stood who claimed to be a murder of sorts. His wrists were bound behind his back and a rope was around his neck. The man wasn’t a bit afraid, instead he sneered at the crowd.

“My men will come after every last one of ye. Just wait and see.” The man spit tobacco on the ground. Then, someone placed a black sack over his head and they hanged him. I gasped and jumped backwards, watched the man struggle for a few moments and then go still. The whole thing was completely appalling. I put my handkerchief up to my mouth and swallowed hard to keep down the vomit I knew was trying to come up. I would never; never let them do that to my brother. Charlie wasn’t a murder. He was a good, kind honest man who was a lawyer. They couldn’t hang a lawyer could they?

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