CHASED BY THE SHERIFF
Part 4 of 9
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), January 30, 1913, Edition 1, Images 3, 7 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)
Continued from last week.
"As I have just said," went on Zebulum, continuing the story of his adventure, "while I was walking leisurely down the road, attired in good Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress and hat, admiring the autumn leaves as they waved in beautiful tints of brown and purple and yellow and red, and singing my little love song, the sheriff followed by the town marshal, the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones, bunched and in disorder, came in a wild rush down the road toward me, all waving their hands and yelling and cavorting and pawing the earth like Kickapoo Indians on the warpath!
"When they had got within a little distance of me, however, they stopped their wild antics, as became the officials of the great county of Crittenden in the presence of a lady, and came up silently, save the tramp, tramp of their heavy feet and the puff, puff of their over-worked respiratory organs.
"'Good afternoon, lady,' said the sheriff, politely, as they came up behind me.
"'Good afternoon' I replied, turning around and bowing in his direction. As soon as I turned around I knew Jobo--bless his neighborly soul--had faithfully carried out my instructions. The sheriff had on Nibbs' light gray suit of clothes! Except they were about four inches too short in the legs, they fitted him very nicely.
"'There are mighty dad-gummed few men and women in this county, by grit, that I can't call by name when I meet up with'em,' said the sheriff, staring at me, and scratching his head in perplexity, 'but somehow I'll be ding-blasted if I can place you, my good girl.'
"'My name is Annie Lightfoot,' I replied, 'and there's no wonder (tee-hee!) that you don't recall my name. Everybody says (tee-hee!) that I've grown awfully in the last year.'
"'That must be the reason, Miss Annie,' returned the sheriff, 'and hereafter I will take care that I know you, by making ample allowance for expansion, in length and otherwise.'
"'You ought to, (tee-hee!)' I said, 'I knew you as soon as I saw you, you are the sheriff, aren't you?'
"'You have diagnosed my case thoroughly, Miss Annie,' he answered, 'I am the sheriff of Crittenden county, and my friends here are the town marshal, the deputy and Messrs. Wiggleford and Jones.'
"'I am quite glad to meet you all,' I said, as I smiled and bowed in their direction. I did not offer them my hand, for I kept those tell-tale members as much in the background as possible, they being securely hid in the folds of Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress.
"The four men bowed their acknowledgements of the introduction and four dust-covered hats were tipped, after the most approved style, Highfield Jones eyeing me as if I had been the fat woman in the circus. Does the scoundrel, I reflected, recognize me through my disguise?
"'You all look mighty tired and dusty,' I said. 'Have you started on a fishing excursion, a fox hunt or just a pleasure trip?'
"'Neither, Miss Annie,' answered the sheriff, 'we are after a scoundrel who committed a great crime and is trying to escape justice. Have you seen anything of a young man wearing a brown suit of clothes?'
"'Why, yes,' I replied, 'I saw Zebulum Zimm. He took off down that road toward Cave-in-rock, like a blue streak. He said he was going to the barn-raising on the next farm. Zebby asked me to go with him, but I wouldn't do it, (tee-hee!) because he and I have been kinder at outs since he got to going with another girl--a little blue-eyed, brown-haired, dimpled cheek flip of a thing--not that I cared (tee-hee!) for--if you'll excuse me for speaking metaphorically--there's plenty good fishes in the sea, and (tee-hee!) I can throw out my hook and catch 'em.'
"'There's no doubt that you can, Miss Annie,' admitted the sheriff, 'and I don't blame'em for biting, and biting hard, by grit, but--'
"'Oh, Zebby's all right,' I interrupted, 'and he had on a brown suit of clothes alright, but I know he's not the man you're after, Zebby wouldn't do nothin' wrong. Zebby (tee-hee!) wouldn't throw his shoe at a kittie that was me-owin' and raisin cain beneath his window at night. He (tee-hee!) wouldn't--'
"'Appearances, my dear Miss Annie,' interrupted the sheriff, 'are often deceitful--especially the appearance of a young man dangling at the end of a pretty girl's trot-line; besides, the fellow evidently has a bad temper. He came into our peaceful town this afternoon, got into a fight with Bobby Broadway, and with malice--either aforethought or posterior--struck Bobby somewhere in the solar plexus regions and, according to Highfield Jones, put his light out.'
"'Oh, my!' I exclaimed, 'I don't believe Zebby did anything like that. He's just come from Tennessee, and I think he's all right. He says he went to school with Bobby Taylor and attended fiddlin' parties with him. He thinks a mighty heap of Bobby Taylor and I shouldn't think he would strike anybody in his solar plexus or other region, if his name begins with a Bobby, even if it does end with a Broadway.'
"'That's all-right, Miss Annie,' argued the sheriff, 'but, as I have said, the fellow has a bad temper. We have the unimpeachable Mr. Highfield Jones as an eye witness that this fellow came to town, got into a fight because of some political differences, struck Bobby Broadway and put the poor fellow's light out.'
"'Oh, goodness! goodness! goodness!' I exclaimed. 'I wouldn't have thought it of'im. Poor Zebby! (boo-hoo!) Poor Bobby Broadway! (boo-hoo!) And just to think, (boo-hoo!) Zebby used to go with me sometimes (boo-hoo!) and he was so nice (boo-hoo!) and kind (boo-hoo!) and gentle (boo-hoo!) and lovin' (boo-hoo!) and I didn't know (boo-hoo!) that I was keepin' company (boo-hoo!) with a despe(boo-hoo-hoo!)rado.'
"'Of course, Miss Annie,' said the sheriff, sympathetically, while a tear stole down his honest, dust-covered cheek, 'when it comes to sweethearts, appearances being so ding-blasted deceitful, a young girl has to take all kinds of chances and run all sorts of risks; and very often when, to use a metaphor, she is fishing for bass she catches a lobster.'
"'And sometimes,' spoke up Highfield Jones, 'when she throws out her trot-line for shad, she hauls in a devilfish.'
"'Like your wife did, for instance,' commented the sheriff.
"'Well, I've always thought Zebby was a very nice fellow,' I said; "but of course, if he lost his temper and murdered or manslaughtered poor Bobby Broadway, its your duty to capture him, if you can.'
"'Thank you, Miss Annie, said the sheriff. 'Of course we'll capture him, and if I were a young man looking for a sweetheart, by grit, I'd capture you too.'
"'No you wouldn't (tee-hee!) either,' I replied, 'I wouldn't (tee-hee!) marry no sheriff. I (tee-hee!)--'
"'How'd a deputy suit you, Miss Lightfoot?' spoke up that official. 'I ain't got no wife, and I'm as lonesome as----'
"'Oh, go off down the road,' I interrupted, 'I wouldn't marry no (tee-hee!) deputy either, not if he was as lonesome (tee-hee!) as lonesome Lem, of the Lonesome Pines. I wouldn't (tee-hee!)--'
"'That's right, Miss Annie, (haw-haw-haw!) laughed the sheriff. 'That scamp of a (haw-haw-haw!) deputy aint fit to (haw-haw-haw!) marry a maiden of the Fiji Islands. (haw-haw-haw!) The town marshal, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones joined with the sheriff in general laugh at the deputy's expense.
"'I haven't got nothin' against the deputy,' I said, when quietude had been restored, "I guess he's all right, and he'd be very good-lookin' (tee-hee!) if he had the dust washed off his (tee-hee!) face; but I wouldn't (tee-hee!) marry nobody, unless, it might be, (tee-hee!) Benny Brownlow.'
"'Benny's all right,' Miss Annie,' said the sheriff, 'and if you can rope him, you'd better do it. Squire Brownlow----'
"'Oh, I ain't going to rope him,' I explained, 'he's going to do the roping. I'm the ball thrown in his direction and he's to grab at me. He's the catcher and I'm the (tee-hee!) catchee. I'm his Annie and he's my (tee-hee!) Jo-benny. I'm his (tee-hee!)--'
"'I like to hear interesting ladies talk,' interposed Highfield Jones, 'but though I don't wish to dictate to the sheriff, I think we'd better be off, chasing the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway. That fellow Zebulum is, I might say, a slick citizen; and I am confident it is his intention to reach the river, cross over to Cave-in-Rock, Ill., and, while the body of poor Bobby Broadway lies mouldering in the tomb, skip through the states and across the border into Canada, where the plucky Queen Victoria will point a warlike finger at our glorious Uncle Sam and say, 'Let him alone, Samuel, you pipe legged----'
"'Oh, cut it out, Highfield, interrupted the sheriff. 'You make me tired. You are too handy with your mouth. Do you suppose I'm going to let the scoundrel escape?'
"'He makes me fatigued, too,' said I, 'Mr. Jones likes to talk, doesn't he? Just talks and talks, and doesn't say anything interesting. Some people like to talk. I don't. I'd rather listen. I'd (tee-hee!)--'
"'As I was just saying, Highfield,' interrupted the sheriff, 'do you think I'd let the scoundrel escape? I'll have him, by grit, if we have to tear up this county from Weston to the mouth of Hurricane; from Dycusburg to Bells Mines, and from Piney Fork to the jumping off place!'
"'So get yourselves in readiness,' continued the sheriff. 'Line up. Inflate your bellows, lubricate your running-gear and get your vocal aparati in trim. We're off. Goodbye, Miss Annie,' and the sheriff moved off down the road toward Cave-in-Rock, followed by the others, Highfield in the rear. As Highfield Jones joined the others he turned and gave me a sly wink, and I knew the keeneyed scoundrel had penetrated my disguise! I winked back at him.
"'Oh, come on, Highfield, confound you,' called the sheriff. 'What's the use trying to flirt with that young lady? You've got one wife, by grit.'
"'That's right, Mr. Sheriff,' answered Highfield, 'and a good one, too; but the affairs of this world are uncertain, at best, and who knows but that she may be ruthlessly called away and I thrown out into the cold, lonesome world, to make another selection amongst the fair daughters of Eve!'
"The sheriff made no reply, and they hustled off down the Cave-in-Rock road in a high trot, on trail of the imaginary occupant of the brown suit of clothes. As soon as they had started, I walked down the Fords Ferry road singing, in a voice that made the woods ring and the little songsters overhead stare at me in wonder, if not with envy:
'When the spring time comes, gentle Annie,
And the wild flowers are scattered o'er the plain.'
"As soon as they were out of sight, I ceased my singing, increased my speed and made off down the Fords Ferry road as fast as my legs would carry me, holding up the skirts of Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress with both hands. It was only a short distance to the farm where the barn was being erected, and I knew my pursuers would find out there that they had again been deceived and would come howling back on my trail.
"So on I plunged, determined to make good the advantage I had gained over my pursuers and buoyed with fresh courage and renewed hope of escape. I was now about a mile from Squire Brownlow and a little further from the Ohio river. Could I out-distance my indefatigable pursuers? I reflected, as I ran on and on, as fast as I could go in my somewhat hampered condition. Fortunately, there was plenty of room in the skirt of Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress for all kinds of locomotion. There was no hobble in that skirt. It hung in great, loose folds about my limbs or, fanned by the breeze, flapped in the wind behind me as I rushed on.
"As I neared Squire Brownlow's another disturbing problem presented itself to my tired mind and body--what was I to do when I arrived there? Could I go in the house--I, prospective bridegroom, go stalking in where the prospective bride, the sweet, innocent Nell, in her immaculate wedding attire, the minister with his stovepipe hat, and the fun-loving guests were all waiting for me to carry out an important part on their program--I, covered with dust and rigged out in Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress? Even if I should force myself to do so, I reflected before I could make the proper explanations the sheriff and his party would scoop down on me, like so many vultures, to drag me back, like a dog, to the county seat and to jail.
"As I paused at the end of the lane near the house, great beads of cold perspiration burst out on my weary body. I looked up and down the road, in hope of seeing a friendly male pedestrian, that I might make another exchange of clothes. There was no one in sight.
"I knew that the hour of four had passed and that they would be watching the road from the house for my appearance. Fearful of being seen from the house if I walked up the lane, I climbed the fence into a field and took my way through the tall weeds toward the back of the house. What would the guests think, I reflected, if they should see a strange looking woman, unbidden and without proper wedding garments, dodging around the premises?
"A large barn stood a short distance from the house, and I could see that the back door of the building was partly open. I determined to enter the barn as a last hope of a way out of my dilemma. Creeping stealthily up to within a few feet of the barn, I made a wild dash for the door. As I went darting in through the narrow aperture in full force. Benny Brownlow came darting out! Biff! Up against each other we went, like two steam engines making me see all kinds of stars and knocking Benny backward to the floor, sprawling on his back.
"Benny, thinking it was one of the lady wedding guests he had run so unexpectedly afoul of, bounced to his feet, blushing and begging all kinds of pardons for the accident.
"Benny's maneuvers and the ridiculousness of the situation was too much for even me, with perils before and behind me, to withstand and I burst out into a loud laugh.
"'Zebulum Zimm!' exclaimed Benny, recognizing me, 'what-in-the-devilantom.'
"'Hold on, Benny,' I interrupted, 'I haven't time to explain now--will do that later. Run to the house, Benny, and bring me your best suit of clothes--quick.'
"'Don't you see, Zebulum, by gum,' answered Benny, 'that I've got my best suit on!'
"'Well, then, your next best suit--anything in the shape of trousers--run. If you want ever to be my brother-in-law, git!'
"'I don't know that I'm aching to be your brother-in-law,' replied Benny, 'but as Nell seems to be hankering in that direction, I'll bring you a suit, by gum.'
"Benny was Nell's brother and was a couple of years older than she. The two were unusually fond of each other and had been almost inseparable since the death of their mother several years before.
"As Benny went toward the house for the clothes, I walked back into a dark corner of one of the stalls to await his return. He soon returned to the barn, carrying a bundle. As he stepped into the barn I saw that the goodhearted boy had exchanged clothes, bringing me his best suit.
"I lost no time in getting out of Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress and putting on Benny's suit. I then went to the house and, with as much composure as I could command, stepped into the hall shook hands with the minister and a few of the guests and went on into the room where I knew Nell to be. She sat there, a vision of white-robed loveliness waiting to become my bride. She bowed coquettishly as I entered, but her blue eyes sparkled with the light of love and confidence, and a little blush tinged her pretty cheeks. How could I break the news to her? I reflected, yet it must be done.
"I took a seat by her side and in the presence of Squire Brownlow and some of the others, told them of my situation, of the fight, the striking of Bobby Broadway, the accusation, the flight out of town, the chase of the officers and of my good fortune in escaping so far. 'They are still after me.' I continued, 'and my only hope of escape is to get across the Ohio river before they can overtake me.'
"'Poor Zebulum' said Nell, when I had finished, with tears in her eyes, 'you cannot go-alone. Have Brother Marlow to perform the marriage ceremony and I will go too, as your bride.'
"'There is no time, little Nell, for that,' I replied, gently stroking her soft brown hair, 'even now I hear in the distance the yells of my pursuers.'
"'Oh, I hear their horrid cries!' she exclaimed. 'They are coming, Zebulum fly! fly! and yet,' she cried, springing to her feet. 'you shall not go without me. There is One who sees the young sparrows when they fall, and he will protect the innocent. I'll go too,' and throwing her arms around her brother's neck and pressing her lips to the rugged cheek of Squire Brownlow, she bade them good-bye and joined me in the hall.
"I could not, for the life of me, refuse such congenial company--even if she had asked permission to go with me, which she didn't. Just then Squire Brownlow came out into the hall. "Zebulum,' he said, 'I don't know of anyone in whose hands I would rather intrust my daughter than you; I know you are innocent of any wrong doing and, though I am an officer of the law, I say go and escape--if you can. Flee to the river, cross over and don't stop till you have gained an harbor of safety--even if you have to go across into the territory of the good Queen Victoria, where; as it is said, you will stand "redeemed, regenerated and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation!" Go, and may God bless you both.'
"Buoyed by the confidence placed in me by Squire Brownlow, I took his hand, bade him good-bye, motioned to Brother Marlow and made a wild dash from the house toward the road, followed by Nell and the minister. As we reached the road we saw the sheriff and his party coming down the road, lickaty split. Down the lane they rushed toward us, whooping and yelling like young Comanches and splitting the road wide open.
"Off down the road toward the river we plunged as fast as our six legs would carry us. I in the lead and Brother Marlow bring up the rear.
"We had not gone far until I discovered that Nell--bless her brave little heart--though she tried with might and main to keep up, was not, when it came to running, a match for myself or the fleet-footed Brother Marlow.
"On rushed our pursuers, like an infuriated mob, behind us. I saw they were gaining on us, and I clenched my teeth with indignation and renewed determination. Taking one of Nell's soft little hands, while Brother Marlow took the other, on we went with increased speed and renewed hope. Down the road toward Ford's Ferry we sped like a blue streak, lickaty split, three abreast, Brother Marlow, with his stove-pipe hat in one hand and clinging to Nell's with the other, his long legs flying like winding-blades and his feet kicking up all the loose stones in the road, Nell with her beautiful brown tresses all in disorder and flapping in the breeze behind her, her blue eyes sparkling with excitement and the newness of things and her little feet pitter-pattering against the rough road, but hitting the ground only occasionally, in high places."
EDITOR'S NOTE--This interesting adventure, as told by Zebulum himself will be continued in this department of the Record-Press next week.