He went on listening, and gathered by odds and ends that it was
conjectured at first that the boys had got drowned while taking a swim;
then the small raft had been missed; next, certain boys said the missing
lads had promised that the village should "hear something" soon; the
wise-heads had "put this and that together" and decided that the lads
had gone off on that raft and would turn up at the next town below,
presently; but toward noon the raft had been found, lodged against the
Missouri shore some five or six miles below the village--and then hope
perished; they must be drowned, else hunger would have driven them home
by nightfall if not sooner. It was believed that the search for the
bodies had been a fruitless effort merely because the drowning must
have occurred in mid-channel, since the boys, being good swimmers, would
otherwise have escaped to shore. This was Wednesday night. If the bodies
continued missing until Sunday, all hope would be given over, and the
funerals would be preached on that morning. Tom shuddered.
Mrs. Harper gave a sobbing goodnight and turned to go. Then with a
mutual impulse the two bereaved women flung themselves into each other's
arms and had a good, consoling cry, and then parted. Aunt Polly was
tender far beyond her wont, in her goodnight to Sid and Mary. Sid
snuffled a bit and Mary went off crying with all her heart.
Aunt Polly knelt down and prayed for Tom so touchingly, so appealingly,
and with such measureless love in her words and her old trembling voice,
that he was weltering in tears again, long before she was through.