CHASED BY THE SHERIFF

Part 9 of 9

Source:  Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), March 6, 1913, Edition 1, Images 3, 8 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.

 

(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)

Continued from last week.

 

"The good Squire Brownlow," continued Zebulum, "in his excitement over the narrow escape of his only daughter, was scarcely conscious, I think, of the fact that he was still carrying Nell in his arms as he took his way toward the house. No doubt the Squire, for the time being, had forgotten the lapse of some seventeen years and imagined himself walking back and forth across his room at one o'clock a. m., dressed only in his night robes, barefooted, stepping on all loose tacks on the floor and with the fumes of paregoric penetrating his nostrils. I expected him any moment to break forth into melody to the strains of 'Rock-a-bye, baby, you're in the tree top.'

"Anyway, the picture we presented as we marched, as before said, in single file, from the road to the house, did not show up, in many respects, with the picture I had often painted in my imagination of the happy return of the triumphant bridegroom, his bride hanging timidly but confidingly to his arm. Yet, I reflected, it might have been worse, and I consoled myself with the thought that I was married just the same, and that I was not, after all, the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway.

"As I was in the rear of the procession, I was, of course, the last to reach the house; and, as I came to the porch, I stopped for a minute or two to brush the dust off Benny's best suit as well as I could with my hand, and when I entered the hall Brother Marlow, who had preceded me, was making himself quite at home and was apparently none the worse for his last few hours' experiences. He had gone into the kitchen and lit his pipe from the fire in the cook stove and was now out in the hall sitting cross-legged in a rocker, great volumes of smoke emanating from his ministerial mouth, coming out in great rings, which rose above his head, whirling, circling, intertwining, interlapping, interlocking, collapsing and finally losing themselves in the surrounding atmosphere. He was making up for lost time and was the picture of contentment.

"Squire Brownlow and Benny soon came out with their pipes and, each borrowing a light from Brother Marlow, they joined in a general smoking bout. In those days matches were not so extensively used as now, the match industry being in its infancy, a box containing twenty-five matches selling for a dime. 'Borrowing a light,' therefore, was very common among smokers in those days. To borrow a light was easy----the Squire and Benny placing their filled but unlighted pipes to Brother Marlow's lighted one, the three giving a few vigorous puffs, and presto! the thing was done.

"Nell had reached a dresser and was standing before a mirror trying to rearrange her disordered hair and wiping the dust off of her little nose and from among the little crevices around her eyes.

"'Nell,' I said----probably because I didn't know just what else to talk about----'we did go fly! flying! to Pop and Benny, didn't we?'

"'Yes, we sure did, Zeb,' she replied, 'and if you wake up in the morning, poor thing, and discover yourself bald-headed and minus a nose or other such facial protuberances, you can't blame me, can you, Zeb? I had to hold to something.'

"'Certainly, Nell,' I replied. 'I am only too glad that my nose was there for you to hold to. What else are noses for but to use in cases of emergency?'

"'And do you know, Zeb,' she said, 'that when old Slick Selim jumped that big gully, you bit one of my fingers?' Well, you did. That was when I let go of your mouth and grabbed hold of your ear.'

"'Well, I'm sorry I bit you, Nell,' I said. 'I hope you wont take hydrophobia, poor thing. But you can't blame me, can you, Nell? It was a clear case of involuntary----'

"'Zebulum, will you have a light?' interrupted Brother Marlow, seeing that I had my pipe, ready filled, in my hand.

"I was about to borrow a light from the accommodating minister when, on looking out, I saw the sheriff and his party coming up the road. They were marching along up the lane, two abreast, the sheriff and the town marshal in the lead, the deputy and Solomon Wiggleford just behind them, with Highfield Jones and Bobby Broadway bringing up the rear, all coming in a brisk walk and keeping step, like trained infantry. As they got opposite the house Squire Brownlow also saw them.

"'Hey, there!' he shouted, as he made a break for the front gate. 'Don't you know, confound you, that you can't do anything like that, by gum, while you are in the Fords Ferry country----pass right by a man's house at meal time without stopping?'

"'By grit, Squire,' answered the sheriff, 'the temptation is irresistible. What do you say, boys? Shall we tell the Squire to "get behind us, Satan?" I warn you, though, Squire, it will be a regular cleaning up of your winter's food supply, for we are all as hungry as the six men from Baghdad. These scamps haven't had a square meal for a week.'

"'Well, get yourselves on in,' said the Squire, pointing toward the house, 'and after supper, by gum, I will get Benny to take you to Marion in the wagon.'

"Squire Brownlow marched the six men into the house, then conducted us all into the dining room, where a table large enough to accommodate the whole crowd was spread. Squire Brownlow occupied the head of the table, Brother Marlow the foot and the rest of us, except Benny who had eaten his supper while we were down on the river, took seats along the sides.

"After Brother Marlow had returned thanks, the Squire told us to 'fall to,' and we did so, without further ceremony.

"'In the absence of Dr. Gilliam,' said the sheriff, 'I would drop a word of warning to Bobby against over-indulgence, owing to his recent convalescence. I don't want him to collapse, by grit, until we get to headquarters.

"'Well, it is this way, Sheriff,' began Bobby, 'I----'

"'Do you know, Nelly,' interrupted the sheriff, 'that there is trouble ahead for a certain bridegroom in this crowd? Well, there is. The first time I go down to old Baalam Lightfoot's, by grit, I'm going to inform Miss Annie that Zebulum has not only married another girl, but that he is guilty also of impersonating herself. And what do you think he called you, Nell? Honey Bug? Sugar Lump? Not much. Spiced Preciousness? Not much. He called you a little yeller-haired flip of a thing. (haw! haw! haw!) He----'

"'Sheriff, you may pass me another small leg of that fowl, if you will, by golly,' interrupted the deputy, reflecting no doubt, that if he had a chance at the genuine Miss Annie Lightfoot he might be more successful in his suit than he was with the bogus article.

"'And you, Solomon,' said the sheriff, 'may pass me another quarter section of that pie. This scamp of a deputy stole about half of that last batch.'

"'It was the town marshal,' spoke up the deputy, in self defense. 'I saw him do it, by golly.'

"'And Brother Highfield, you carve me another slice off the tenderloin of that chicken, if you will,' said Brother Marlow, 'I have found, in doing ministerial work, especially where one has been exposed to considerable outdoor exercise, that there is nothing so invigorating to the inner and outer man as well-cooked barnyard fowl.'

"'I suppose you will be at the Bourland school house next Sunday, Brother Marlow,' said the sheriff, 'I admired your sermon last fourth Sunday on the proper mode of b----'

"'I did too,' interrupted Solomon Wiggleford, 'I think he knocked the black out of the subject. I never was much on going down into the----'

"'Uncle Duke,' interrupted Nell, 'Zeb and I will take a little wedding excursion up to see you next Sunday, if Zeb's knees are in proper shape, and we can go to hear Brother Marlow preach.'

"'Do, Nelly,' replied the sheriff. 'Keep his knees well saturated with St. Jacob's and come ahead. My son Kit can entertain Zebulum in any manner he wishes, from running a foot race to playing marbles.'

"'And Brother Marlow,' again spoke up Nell, 'if you have not already selected your text for next Sunday, please use this text: (Baptist Revision) "And a certain young man journeyed from a far country, fell among riotous officials and became famished for bread. And he fain would have filled his gastronomic vacuum with the shucks and cobs that the swine had left over. And he said, 'I will arise and go to my wife's father.' And it came to pass that his wife's father saw him coming afar off and ran to meet him, followed by the younger son. And the younger son said, 'Pop, what about the fatted calf?' And the father said, 'son thou hast been a good boy and hast stayed with me always, and hast devoured many a fatted calf. Go, therefore, and kill the fattest in the herd. Bring also a robe to put on him; for, behold, thy sister's husband hast fallen among riotous associates, his knees shaketh with fatigue, his legs waxeth stiff and the robe thou lentest him to get married in is in tatters and he is ravenously hungry.'

"'I think, Nell,' I said, 'Brother Marlow will find that too long a text for one discourse. Here is one I think will suit him better: (Baptist Revision) "And Rebecah looked and behold, Isaac was coming to meet her, riding a camel. And Rebecah said unto her uncle Lemon and to his men servants, 'Mount your dromedaries and hike you back home, for I must just fly! fly!' and Rebecah flew----"

"'Both of these texts,' interrupted Brother Marlow, 'are favorites of mine, and I am glad you have both been reading up on the later version, which, I think brings out the meaning more clearly and adds much to it in the way of beauty of thought and simplicity of construction. However, while I was down on the river I thought of a text which I think I shall use at Bourland next Sunday, as I believe it will suit a greater number of my congregation. The text is this: (Baptist Revision) "And Phillip said unto the eunuch, 'What must I do to escape the underworld?' And the eunuch pointed out the scripture to him. And as they journeyed along, behold, they came to a place where there was much water. And Phillip said unto the eunuch, 'What's to hinder me from being immersed, here and now?' And Phillip and two of his household went straightway down into the----"

"Brother Marlow was interrupted by Benny, who came to the door of the dining room and cried out: 'Ready! All ready for Marion and way stations!'

"We left the table at once, having all finished eating, except Highfield Jones, who, however, arose also, at the same time slyly putting a couple of quarter sections of cake into his pockets to eat on the way home.

"Benny had the wagon and team ready at the front gate and we all took our way out, going two abreast, the sheriff and Squire Brownlow, the town marshal and the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford and Brother Marlow, Benny and Bobby Broadway, Nell and Highfield Jones, while I brought up the rear alone.

"While the others were getting in the wagon Highfield Jones stepped over to where I stood. 'Now, Zebulum,' he said, 'when you're down about Crooked Creek, by gosh, come to see us. Lots of good fishing holes on the creek and I've got a pack of the fox-chasingest hounds in the country. And bring Nello with you. Susan is some talker----in fact, she don't give me a chance to make the few remarks I would like to make sometimes----and she could tell Nello lots of little things that have never been put down in her philosophy. She----'

"'All aboard, Mr. Jones,' interrupted Benny, as he made ready to start. The wagon moved down the road, Benny standing up in front driving the team the sheriff and the town marshal, the deputy and Solomon Wiggleford occupying the two spring seats, and Highfield Jones and Bobby Broadway standing in the back of the wagon, the latter holding to the tail of Highfield's coat to steady himself.

"'Oh, goodness!' said Nell, as the wagon rattled down the road; 'I forgot something, as sure as my name is Nelly Brown----as sure as my name's Nelly Zimm----I forgot to tell Mr. Jones to include a new stovepipe for Brother Marlow, and also forgot to tell Benny to get a bottle of St. Jacob's. Stop'em! Stop'em!' she cried, running out to the road. 'Hey, Benny! Oh, Mr. Jo-n-es-ee!'

"Nell's voice and gestures, however, were alike lost to the occupants of the wagon, and the vehicle rattled on.

"'That's all right, Nelly,' said her father. 'There is always a way out of every difficulty. We can take up a stovepipe collection for Brother Marlow next Sunday, and as for Zebulum, you can use turpentine or mutton tallow on his knees and such other places as you think needs it, and if he does not improve by Saturday, we'll call in Dr. Gilliam.'

"'And if it develops into a case of emergency,' added Brother Marlow, 'the doctor can give Zebulum the Bobby Broadway treatment, which, it is said, never fails to have the proper effect. In fifteen minutes after treatment, no doubt, Zebulum would be out playing leap-frog with Benny.'

"Though Nell had so utterly failed to attract the attention of the occupants of the wagon, when they had got about two hundred yards up the road I saw Highfield Jones turn round in the wagon, facing the house. Doubling up his hands and again using them for a megaphone, he cried out:

"'Say, Zebulum, (haw! haw! haw!) I forgot something! By gum, I've got to get Mrs. ((haw! haw! haw!) Nolan a new----'

"'Highfield's good intentions were never fully set forth; for just then Benny urged the mules into a high trot and, not being a careful driver, the wheels struck a large rock in the road, the wagon jarred as only a farm wagon can jar, giving the occupants of the vehicle a shakeup like unto a miniature eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. For a moment Highfield struggled in the back end of the wagon, vainly trying to steady himself, lost his balance, then over the hind gate he went, Bobby still holding on to his coat and following, leap-frog fashion, after him, the two men striking the ground ker-thump!

"Fearing they were hurt, I started off in that direction in full tilt, followed by the others. Up the road we went, lickaty split, I in the lead, Squire Brownlow at my heels, Nell next and Brother Marlow in the rear.

"When we had got about half-way to the wagon, however, the two men had scrambled to their feet, climbed over the end gate into the wagon, which rattled on up the road, Highfield and Bobby standing in the rear and both waving their hats at us.

"We took our way back toward the house, Squire Brownlow and I in front and Brother Marlow and Nell following behind us.

"'They are all noble fellows,' said Squire Brownlow, as we passed through the gate. 'I'll wager Crittenden Co., never has a nicer set of officials.'

'"That's right, Pa,' I replied, 'they are fine men and are all right, if one can always manage to keep them off his trail.'

"'Pop, do you think it is wrong to run foot-races on Sunday?' Spoke up Nell. "I have made an appointment for Zebulum.'

"'Well, Nelly,' answered her father, 'that is what I might call a mooted question. Our Confession of Faith doesn't exactly disapprove of it, nor does the Westminister, though I think the Methodist Discipline rather gives it a black eye. However, you might ask Brother Marlow's advice about it.'

"'Well, I think, Nelly,' answered the minister, 'that our Confession of Faith takes the right view of it. So long as we don't bet, and if our object be only to take a little exercise, harden our muscles and fill our lungs with ozone, I think it is harmless. I think, too, the Bible rather encourages it. Take, for instance, the race between Cushi and Ahimaaz, or the race between Lot and his wife--though, unfortunately, the latter lost out by looking back. The sacred historian rather intimates that she would have won out if she had not looked behind her. Therefore, if at any time you and Zeb should engage in the pastime, I warn you against the practice of looking back. Even though you should not turn to a pillar of salt, you would be in danger of falling down and perhaps injure yourself. However, for the last few years I have discontinued foot-racing, getting rather discouraged the last time I made a race with Kit. However, I can still run some, and if the Squire wants to try me from here to the front gate,----'

"'Oh, do! do! Pop!--a race! a race!' exclaimed Nell, jumping up and down excitedly. 'Here,' she went on, making a mark across the road with her little foot, 'toe this mark, gentlemen, and wait till I count three.'

"Squire Brownlow and Brother Marlow toed the mark, I took their hats, Nell counted out one, two, three, and the race was on!

"Down the road the two men went in full tilt, splitting the moonbeams wide open and leaving a cloud of dust behind them.

"'Oh, look, Zeb! Zeb! Zeb!--look at Pop!' exclaimed Nell. 'Just look at Pop--see how Pop's legs are flying!--my money's on Pop!'

"'Hurrah, for Brother Marlow!--my bottom dollar is on the minister!' I cried out, as the two men raced on, neck and neck--or rather nose and nose--and finally I heard them thump against the gate and the race was over.

"'Brother Marlow wins!' I cried out.

"'No, Zeb, it was Pop! Pop! Pop!' returned Nell. 'Couldn't you see, Zeb dear, that Pop was in the lead?'

"Though at that distance I could not, for the life of me, determine which of the two men had won out, I readily agreed with Nell that of course Pop was really the winner, just as I would have as readily agreed that the moon was a ball of green cheese.

"'Pop is some runner, isn't he Zeb?' She said as we took our way, walking leisurely along, hand in hand toward the house. We were in no hurry. We had been in a hurry, by grab, most of the afternoon. Why keep it up? The moon shines so lovely and the dust feels so soft and nice under our feet, by grab, we'll take our time, I reflected. This is, after all a good world to live in.

"When we reached the gate Squire Brownlow and the minister had disappeared within the house, and we could hear them thumping around in the room, throwing their shoes under the bed and otherwise raising Cain in there, trying to drive the cat out.

"We passed through the gate and took our way up the leaf-strewn walk toward the house, our minds active enough but our mouths as silent as the two gate-posts, our tongues lying idly in their cozy headquarters, her little feet keeping step with my worn-out shoes, her soft little hand still clasped in mine, our two hearts thumping and pounding and cavorting away in perfect unison and, I might truthfully add, beating as one.

"'Zeb, wont you come in--awhile?' She asked, politely, yet shyly, doubtfully, as if she didn't know if it would be just the proper thing to do. 'It isn't late, you know.'

"'I don't mind if I do, Nell, being as you have asked me to,' I replied, meekly.

"We stepped upon the porch and just as we did so the cat, which had been dislodged from the Squire's room, came me-owing out to where we were.

"'Poor thing,' said Nell. 'It didn't want to be put out, did it, Zeb? If it gets to me-owing in the night would you throw your shoe at it?'

"'No, I wouldn't, Nell,' I promised, 'not even if it gets to holding high carnival. I've declared peace with all creatures here below, including the sheriff and his----'

"Before I could reach a period, by grab, or even a comma, Nell--bless her little heart----"

At this point of Zebulum's narrative a barber, who had just finished shaving a customer, touched the story-teller on the arm, in a business-like way, and cried out:

'You are next, Zebulum!'

THE END.


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