Part 2 of 9
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), January 16, 1913, Edition 1, Image 3 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)
Continued from last week.
Our readers who have followed Zebulum's story, as given in this department last week, know that we left that young gentleman, with his marriage license in his pocket, fleeing the town of Marion in all possible speed, heading toward Fords Ferry. They know, too, that he was being hotly pursued by the sheriff and his swift going assistants, they having ample proof that he was the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway and, as Highfield Jones expressed it, "put his light out." But we will now let Zebulum continue his own story in his own way.
"The town marshall was in front--not because he was more anxious than the others to annihilate the space between me and them, but because he had the longest legs. The sheriff's running-gear, however, was not to be grinned at, besides he had the best wind. He also had an idea, perhaps, that as he ranked first as an officer of the law, his proper position was at the head of the procession when it came to running down fugitives from justice.
"So the next time I looked back the sheriff was in the lead, with the town marshall and Highfield Jones right behind him, while the deputy and Solomon Wiggleford followed closely upon the heels of the others. Highfield Jones carried in his hand a big walking stick with a crook on the end of it. He would wave the stick in the air, the crook upward and outward, as though to make the impression that he would hook it around my neck if he got close enough to me.
"I was about one hundred yards in advance and they were coming after me in full tilt, arranged in the order just named, still yelling and waving their hands frantically and pounding the earth with their ten feet, leaving great clouds of dust behind them.
"Though I was accounted a reasonably swift runner in those days, I was not, of course, a match for those officers of the law who were well trained in such matters, same as now. I soon discovered that they were thoroughly onto their job and that I was losing ground, the space between us growing smaller.
"We were by this time about halfway between Marion and Crooked creek. Smaller and smaller grew the space between us. Though I geared my legs up to their utmost running capacity I couldn't hold my ground with these trained sleuth-hounds of the law.
"But I didn't give up. Feeling in my pocket to see if the license was still there, I plunged on and on. I could hear them pawing the earth with their feet and puffing like miniature steam engines. I could almost feel the grip of the sheriff's hand on the back of my neck.
"When they were within only a few feet of me and, with victory almost theirs, were coming on with renewed energy, I looked back. Just then I saw Highfield Jones, with a sly and apparently unintentional movement hook his walking-stick around the sheriff's right foot, entangling his legs and hurling that official headlong to the ground, Jones himself falling like a heavy log beside him. The town marshall, the deputy and Solomon Wiggleford, coming in full headway right behind them and not expecting anything of the kind, couldn't adjust the proper brakes in time to prevent a general wreck, the three, turning various summersaults in the air and making all kinds of geometric figures with their arms and legs, went down sprawling on top of the sheriff and Highfield Jones.
"I would have laughed at their maneuvers if I had had time. But I didn't, as I had to take advantage of their misfortunes. I started down the road as fast as I could go and when I had got about a hundred yards I looked back. They had all scrambled to their feet. I could not hear what they said but judging from certain motions they were making, I felt confident that the atmosphere thereabout was sulphurous and that those officers of the law and promoters of peace were about to declare war among themselves. Wise counsel, perhaps, prevailed, however, and they did not resort to blows. Perhaps it was because they had more urgent business on hand.
"By the time they got themselves properly adjusted and the dust wiped out of their eyes so they could see the road, I was about two hundred yards in advance of them and going in full tilt. Having got started again, however, they came down the road in a mighty rush, like a young cyclone, great clouds of dust rising from their path. They were evidently making up for lost time.
"On I ran, up hill and down, and on they came after me. I was now nearing Crooked creek and I saw that I was again losing ground. But I didn't give up. I felt in my pocket to make sure the license was still there and sped on. Somehow, whenever I felt of that precious document in my pocket it gave me fresh courage. At last I reached the creek and was about fifty yards ahead of my pursuers.
"At that time there was no bridge across Crooked creek where the road crosses the stream. At most seasons of the year horseback travelers could ford the creek without much difficulty but those who journeyed afoot had to cross on a foot-log, which spanned the stream just below the ford.
"When I came to the creek I mounted the foot-log and ran across to the other side of the stream. The creek at that place runs from the east to the west and the foot-log had been cut down from the north side, the butt of the log resting on the stump, which stood on the edge of the high bank. The log was held onto the stump by a thin strip of wood which the woodman's ax had spared when he felled the tree.
"As I stepped from the log to the bank I saw an axe lying on the ground near. It had evidently been left there by some movers who had camped there a few days before. I picked it up.
"By this time my pursuers had reached the creek and had begun to cross over on the foot-log, the sheriff in the lead, then the town marshal, the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones, in the order named. When they had gotten about midway across the stream, with three rapid blows of the ax, I severed the thin strip of wood which held the log on the stump. The log turned, like the earth turning on its axis, and fell from the stump. The chief official and his assistants lost their equilibrium went winding from the log down, down into the depths below, striking the water in all kinds of shapes.
"I am by nature tender hearted, and I dislike to treat my county officials in such a manner, but, I reflected, everything is fair in love, especially if one is about to be married.
"I knew the sheriff and his party would have to go back to the south side of the creek, as the banks on the north side is too steep, and would then have to go a considerable distance down the stream to another foot-log.
"Not having time to see what they would do when they got out of the water, I again started on the journey. The road was now up-grade and necessarily I had to slacken my speed, starting off in a walk. I had some hope that the sheriff and his assistants would become discouraged, give up the chase and return home. However, all hope in that direction was soon dispelled. After I had gone some distance up the road I looked back and saw the sheriff, the town marshall, the deputy, Highfield Jones and Solomon Wiggleford scamper off down the creek, all as wet as a lot of drowned rats, toward the lower ford.
"Though tired and somewhat discouraged. I had no thought of giving up. I couldn't do it. I thought of the marriage license in my pocket and of Nell, waiting at home for me to come. I thought, on the other hand, of being taken back to Marion, brought before a Judge and sent to jail, charged with having struck Bobby Broadway. Confound Bobby Broadway, I reflected, and the whole outfit I'll not be arrested and I'll not go back to Marion. I prefer to get married according to contract, and get married I will!
"Such were my reflections as I made tracks up the road towards Fords Ferry. The road was now rough and steep, but I would soon be on top of Pickern's Hill, when the road would be down grade again. I had met no one since I started and no one had overtaken me. However, a little further on I saw a young fellow that I had known for some time coming up the road toward me. When he came up to me I stopped and he did the same, being of a friendly turn.
"'Nibbs', I said, 'how will you swap clothes with me?' I had on a nice black suit that I had bought expressly to get married in. He had on a light gray summer suit, made out of very good cloth.
"'Well, Zebulum', answered Nibbs, after scrutinizing my suit, 'by hookey, I'll give you my suit for yours.' I told him by grab it was a trade. So we stepped out of the road behind a thick cluster of bushes and made the exchange, taking the license from the black suit and transferring it to the light gray suit. We then stepped back into the road.
"'Now Nibbs', we will stand here a while and talk about our girls and other matters, and when you see a crowd of men coming down the road light out down this road to the west as fast as your legs will take you, and I will go on down the Fords Ferry road. When they overtake you tell them you were running because you wanted to get to the log-rolling in time, and that you swapped clothes with me because I gave you a bargain. Nibbs readily agreed to do so.
We hadn't been talking long before we heard a clatter up the road and I knew dad-gummed well what it was. The sheriff and his followers came over the hill with a rush, and down the road lickaty split, in a long trot. They were running in single file, the sheriff, the town marshall, the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones.
"On seeing us they increased their speed and five loud yells of anticipated victory sounded forth from five husky throats. As soon as they got near enough to see us good, Nibbs, in my black suit of clothes, lit out town the road in the direction of Panther Hollow, running as if his life depended on the speed he made and kicking up all the loose stones in his pathway; at the same time, I, in Nibbs' light gray suit started down the Ford's Ferry road, walking leisurely and carelessly, and whistling, How firm a Foundation.
"Nibbs hadn't, of course, the remotest idea that he was aiding a fugitive to escape justice, and had not intention of violating the law. He did it merely in compliance with a neighborly request, with no questions asked.
"As soon as the sheriff and his followers were out of sight, I laid aside my assumed air of carelessness, quit my whistling and got down to business again. The road, as I have said, was rough and hilly, and I was tired.
When I had gone about half a mile I heard loud yells coming from the West sounding something like the yelps of a pack of hounds that have temporarily lost trail of the fox--and I knew that they had overhauled Nibbs and found out their mistake.
"I had little idea as to the time of day, yet, I reflected, it must be four o'clock. Again my mind reverted to the home of Squire Brownlow, filled with wedding guests and laughter and gayety; of Nell, in her innocent pride and confiding love, waiting to become my bride; of the confounded net, in which I had become so unexpectedly entangled; of those tireless, relentless sleuth-hounds of the law, coming down the road after me, like so many demons of vengeance, ready to drag me back to the county seat.
"With these thoughts in my mind, I once more forced by tired legs into a run and with clenched fists, compressed lips and an unspoken prayer to the One who hears the young ravens when they cry, I pressed on with renewed energy, determined yet to escape--if I could."
EDITOR'S NOTE--This interesting adventure, as told by Zebulum himself will be continued in this department of the Record-Press next week.