After slowly looking through several pages, the old woman seemed to grow impatient, and started turning over leaf after leaf at a frightfully rapid pace. Not a word, not a one did she find. Unable to see what she wanted to see, she stamped her foot in disgust, and turned to the very last page. She moved in closer and leaned over, putting her face within inches of the book, as if she’d finally found something to read. Following those invisible sentences as they went across the page, she turned her head from the left to the right four times. Right away, she stood up and stepped back into the rose bed. In shock and disbelief, the trembling began and she covered her eyes with both hands. But the little old lady’s grief was quickly discarded in exchange for an earnest fit of anger. She moved forwards again, and reached out to grab the back cover of the book. A slight hesitation ensued, and then she slammed it shut. The closed book stood still for a second before falling over backwards onto the grass. After the ledger had been laid to rest, she raised her arm, and pointed her finger at it. Shaking the bony digit up and down, she appeared to be speaking her mind. Perhaps, she had to make sure that she’d be the one getting in the last word. Once she had her say, she put her hands on her hips, and looked at the chief, but before she had a chance to open her mouth, something else caught her attention. When the spiteful old hag turned to look down the road, those eyes of Mark’s did the same.
The targeted object was found about a block out of town in the middle of the road. The eyes then set their sight, and Mark beheld the tall black stallion majestically prancing its way towards Bedlam. The saddle was still empty, but there was one major difference now which added to the horse’s overall appearance. A wreath of white flowers had been handsomely draped around its thick, black neck. Aided by the pure light of day, Mark was then truly able to see the horse’s beastly beautiful nature. Mark’s uncontrollable view stayed glued to the visiting stud as it made its way north for town. As the stallion pranced along, it began to nod it’s big, long head with a show of friendly gestures, which seemed to be intended for the fast-approaching preacher and his band of marching drummers. With a spring to his lively steps, the dark horse high-tailed it past the graveyard, and paid no heed whatsoever to the ongoing nag, nor to her quietly sitting side-kick chief. By the time the steed had reached the road directly in front of Mark, all of the attendees of the festival had gotten up, and aligned themselves up and down the other side of the parade’s chosen route. Musicians, dancers, and picnickers alike, all stood and clapped their hands as the proud and distinguished guest passed them by.
Soon thereafter, the angle of the view was such that Mark could see it all coming together. The pastor clothed in white, and the fine black stallion were about to meet each other on the southernmost edge of Bedlam. The gap was quickly closing, and once they were within twenty feet of each other, both man and horse stopped their steps. The minister spun himself around in place to face the marching band, and raised his silver flute to the sky. Altogether, the drummers caught the signal, stopped their march, and ceased their beats. The leader of the band then turned back around to welcome the mighty guest with loving open arms. Standing tall and firmly in place, the stallion returned the greeting with one swift swish of its black bushy tail. Bending his neck forward, he put his chin to his chest, and bowed his head for a short half-second. Then he raised himself back up, and stuck his nose high in the air. Slowly and carefully, the preacher walked up to the splendid steed with arms held wide. Seemingly unsure about the whole situation, the horse kept his ground. He allowed the pastor to come to him, and graciously accepted a few affectionate strokes on his nose and several pats on his neck. The minister took hold of the flowery wreath, and brought it close to his face. Cautiously, he then moved alongside, and reached up to grab the horn with his left hand. The stallion stood still, and permitted his new friend to saddle up.
Now endowed with one of Nature’s finest creations, the musically ministering man raised the flute for all to see, and begged the horse to spin around. The stallion offered up his full cooperation by turning himself and his rider in the opposite direction. The pastor promptly proceeded to restart the march. He lowered his arm, and pointed the conjuring instrument straightaway down the road. The preacher then leaned over, and whispered into the stallion’s right ear. Having revealed the master plan, he gently tapped the flute two times on top of the horse’s head. Now ready to strike up the band, he brought the silver pipe to his lips, and began to play anew. The magical tune may have remained the same, but the pace of the beat had slowed considerably. In an easygoing manner, the steed started walking down the middle of the road. Hearing the delightful song that they seemed to know by heart, the tuxedoed drummers resumed their march as before, keeping the rhythm smoothly perfect with a beat between each step.
The highly interested spectators in town were enchanted by the glorious sound. They each fell in line as the last row passed. Rejoicing for reasons unknown, they happily followed the parade out-of-town. The awaiting festive crowd continued their cheerful applause, but the minstrel and the stallion ignored them completely, as if they weren’t even there. The leader carried on with his morale-boosting tune until they’d made it as far as the hanging tree. At that point, he once again brought the performance to a halt. When he gave the band the signal, he pulled back on the reins with his free hand simultaneously, and the stallion stopped in his tracks. Preacher man looked over at the base of the tree, and faintly smiled. Wanting the horse to go that way, he tugged the reins to the right, but the steed refused to budge. Understanding as he was, the pastor forgave him for his obvious aversion to trespassing. He placed the flute behind the cantle of the saddle, and climbed down.
Back on his own two feet, he walked around front until he was face to face with the stallion. The pastor put his left hand under the horse’s whiskery chin, and tenderly stroked the bridge of his nose with his right. After the preacher spoke a few comforting words, the stallion lowered his head, and allowed him to remove the flowery wreath from his neck. The pastor took the wreath, and hung it around his own neck, and then he began to make his way under the branches of the hanging tree. Mark’s eyes stayed focused on the flower-bearing fellow as he walked towards the mighty oak, and he finally got to see what lay below him on the ground. Two wide rings of freshly bloomed flowers encircled the base of the tree. Bright red tulips made up the inside ring, and yellow daffodils composed themselves in the border. Not far from the trunk on the north side of the tree stood a three-foot high wooden cross. The loose dirt around it was barren of life, as if it had only recently been planted. It appeared to be standing in the exact place where the murderer had buried his treasure.
Over to that old rugged cross, the pastor carefully tread. With great caution, he stepped between the flowers of yellow and red, and placed himself in front of the sacred memorial. He then removed the garland from around his neck, and draped it o’er the emblematic sign. As he did thus, the jovial expression on his face was replaced by a reverently toned look of sadness. The pastor closed his eyes, and placed the palms of his hands together. After he’d said his silent prayer, he opened his eyes, and raised them to the heavens, but instead of seeing God, he saw Mark up in the tree. When those eyes of Mark’s met up with the preacher’s, the pastor motioned him down with his hand, and mouthed these words that the Kid clearly heard, “Mark! Mark! C’mon, let’s go!” Mark awoke with a start, and raised himself from the floor to see Sam yelling at him. “C’mon now, Kid. We’ve got to get a move on. Someone’s up there messing around by the hanging tree.”