Part 3 of 9
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), January 23, 1913, Edition 1, Image 3 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)
Continued from last week.
"That sheriff, gentlemen," said Zebulum, in continuation of his story to the assembled listeners in the barber shop, "was a remarkable man, as were likewise the deputy, the town marshal, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones.
"These men had been chosen by the voters of Crittenden county to their official positions principally on account of their long and supple lower limbs--same as now--and because of their willingness to use them on all occasions where the majesty of the law and the dignity of the commonwealth had been trampled upon, same as now.
"It might be asked, gentlemen, why did not these officials mount their horses and pick me up at once. There are two reasons, I think, why the sheriff did not choose to do so. In the first place, I was right there, almost in their grasp, and their horses were away in their stables, unbridled and unsaddled. If they had left me to go for their horses, I could have bounced over fences, darted through thickets and into the woods, where they could not have followed on horseback. In those days one could go from Marion to Fords Ferry entirely through the woods, which were very dense, without once getting into the open.
"In the second place, the sheriff was a brave man and he chose to pick me up in a way that would reflect the bravery that he possessed. I was there in sight, afoot and unarmed. Would it have been a famous victory, as little Peterkin would express it, for them to have picked me up with horses and guns and bloodhounds? Did the hare gain any honors for winning the race over the tortoise? Aesop intimates that it did not. Does the engineer get a raise in salary when he bumps up against the unfortunate cow whose unsound judgement leads her to believe she can outrun the locomotive? Does a driver of an automobile show forth any moral, intellectual, or even financial superiority when he overhauls the driver of a farm wagon who chooses to lead the procession up the public highway?
"You can see, gentlemen, how it was with the sheriff. He chose to make the arrest in a way that would be a credit to him and his able assistants. Some day in the far future, when sitting round his evening fireside with his grandchildren on his knees, he could relate to the inquisitive little Peterkins the story of how he ran down and brought to justice the fleet-footed scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway and put his lights out.
"With this little digression, gentlemen, which I hope you will pardon, I will proceed with my story. The sheriff and his followers had, as I have said, gone in full headway down the road toward Panther Hollow, on hot trail of the black suit of clothes, said clothes being accompanied by my young friend Nibbs, who was running as if his grandfather had fallen overboard. At the same time I, in the light-gray suit, was making long strides down the Fords Ferry road toward the home of Squire Brownlow, where not only Nell was waiting in wedding habiliaments and confiding expectancy, but the minister and guests were also assembled.
"When, as I have said, I heard the yells of my unbaffled pursuers off to the west, I knew they had overtaken Nibbs, learned their mistake and had taken the back trail. In my tired, almost exhausted condition, it would be only a matter of a short time until they were, like so many demons, on to me again. Fortunately, the road was now down grade, and I trudged on and on, going in a trot and ever losing thought of escape.
"I had gone about two miles when I came to a field where a crowd of men were rolling logs, preparing the ground for fall plowing. When I got opposite the field I climbed the fence and walked leisurely over to where the men were at work. I knew most of them by name. I spoke to them and went in amongst them, as if I had come to help in the log-rolling. I saw one young man with whom I was very well acquainted and I called him out to one side.
"'Jobo,' I said to him, something after the manner I had said to Nibbs, 'that is a dandy suit of clothes you've got on. How'll you trade with me?' He was in his shirt-sleeves, but he had on a brown vest and trousers and a coat to match same was on a stump nearby. He examined my light gray suit, something after the manner of a horse jockey examining the hide of the horse belonging to his intended victim, then proposed an even trade. I excepted the proposition without equivocation, and we got behind a big pile of logs and made the exchange. I took the license once more from the light gray suit and transferred it to the brown suit.
"'Jobo,' I said to him, just as I had said to Nibbs, 'a crowd of men will come down the road presently and if they should leave the road and climb over the fence into the field, you light out across the field as fast as your limber legs will carry you, and when they overtake you tell them you were running because you are in a hurry to get home to your mother, who is not well; that you swapped suits simply as a matter of business. Tell them you have adopted clothes-trading as a profession, then propose trading clothes with the leader of the gang, asking him considerable boot, gradually coming down to even trade, or even offer him a better boot--anything to hold his attention and to prolong the conversation.'
"Jobo agreed to do so and we walked back to where the others were at work, grabbed up a couple of handspikes; and became two of the busiest log-rollers in the whole outfit. We had not been at work long, however, until I saw a cloud of dust rising up the road and knew they were coming. Soon they emerged into sight and came down the road lick-a-ty split, the sheriff in the lead and Highfield Jones, as usual, bring up the rear. For some reason, ever since the wreck near Crooked Creek, Highfield seems to have been relegated to the rear.
"When they got opposite the field, the sheriff stopped, evidently looking for my tracks, then left the road and bounced over the fence, followed by the others. No sooner had the sheriff's feet hit the ground on the inside of the fence than Jobo threw down his handspike and lit out across the field at a great rate, going northeast in the direction of Weston.
"Coming to a fence, Jobo turned a handspring over into another field. Here weeds grew thick and tall, with a profusion of white and yellow flowers in about equal proportions. I could tell the direction Jobo had taken only by the motion of the flowers as he plunged on, parting the weeds as he went.
"When the sheriff and his followers saw the light gray suit of clothes flying across the field they started in that direction in hot pursuit, paying no attention to the log-rollers.
"On they went across the field in full speed and with seeming new energy, thinking, no doubt, that now, since they had at last got the fugitive to leave the road, they would soon pick him up--coming to the fence where Jobo had gone over, the sheriff, placing one foot on the middle rail of the panel and his hands on the top rail, bounded over on the other side. The town marshal, coming up to the fence right behind the sheriff and seeking to imitate his leaders example, placing his foot and hand in the identical position on the fence and made a desperate leap for the other side. Unfortunately, the marshal was a heavier man than the sheriff, and when he was about midway across the fence the rail broke, throwing the marshal over, head foremost and downward, with his feet in the air. I could see his long legs shoot up and over and down, at all kinds of angles, enroute to terra firma. By grab, I never saw such a fall as the marshal got; and, before his feet reached the ground, his heels came in contact with the sheriff's back, exciting that officer so that he stumbled over a projecting root and went sprawling to the ground.
"I couldn't hear, of course, what was said, but they evidently wasted no time in explanation as to how the accident occurred; for, by the time the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones had got over the fence, the two officers had got to their feet, adjusted themselves and had started off in full tilt in the direction taken by the occupant of the light gray suit of clothes.
"Off they went, pell-mell, through the weeds, and soon became invisible to me, save now and then I could see the town marshal's head bob up through the yellow and white blossoms as the pursuers of the light gray suit plunged wildly on, as if more determined than ever to overtake and capture the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway.
"'What in the Sam Hill are those officers chasin' Jobo Johnson for?' spoke up one of the log rollers; 'Jobo ain't been violatin' no law--hasn't even been tradin' horses with nobody. Recon they're crazy, Zebulum?'
"'Dogdifino,' I replied, as I threw down my handspike and started off toward the road as fast as my legs would carry me, wearing Jobo's brown suit of clothes. As I climbed over the fence into the road, I glanced back. The men had stopped and stood, with handspikes in their hands, gazing at my retreating figure as if I had been an escaped lunatic.
"I lost no time in getting off down the road toward Ford's Ferry, going at a long trot. I must make good my temporary advantage, I reflected. So I ran on and on, expecting every minute to hear the approaching yells of the sheriff and his followers. I was now about three miles from the river and less than that from the home of Squire Brownlow. Would I ever reach the home of my lovely Nell, who unsuspicious of the terrible net into which I had been so unextricably drawn, was waiting for me? Would I ever see her again and clasp her in my arms as my bride? Or would I be overtaken by my relentless pursuers, dragged back to the now despised town of Marion, thrown into jail, tried, convicted and sent to the penitentiary or the gallows, on the charge of having struck the lamented Bobby Broadway and of putting an everlasting quietus on his confounded career.
"These thoughts passed through my mind as, with wear limbs, I ran on and on. Though tired of body and mind, I did not give up. Feeling in my pocket to see if the license was still there, I took courage and trudged on.
"When I had gone about a mile I looked toward the east through an open space in the woods and saw the sheriff and his party, about a half a mile away, coming toward me. They had adopted new tactics, coming silently but swiftly, evidently intending to head me off.
"The sight of them stealing thus upon me somehow aroused my combativeness, and I forced myself forward with increased speed. I was now in a neighborhood where I was well acquainted, and presently I came to a farm house by the side of the road. I must do something, I reflected, or they will sure get me. They have these brown clothes spotted and will follow them to the jumping off place--I must get rid of them.
"With these reflections, I passed through the gate, walked up the path to the house and knocked on the door. A woman came to the door.
"'Why, good afternoon, Zebulum,' she said. 'My, you look as tired and wornout and done up as Jacob's off ox. Come in and have a seat.' I went in but did not sit down.
"'Mrs. Nolan,' I said, 'is Jacob at home?' She replied that he was somewhere on the farm, she didn't know just where. She then went out on the back porch and yelled: 'Jake--ob!' 'Don't call him from his work, Mrs. Nolan,' I said, 'but I would like to borrow a suit of clothes for a day or so.'
"'Why, certainly you can, Zebulum.' 'His best suit is in the next room in the wardrobe--get right in there and help yourself. My old man never wears them except Sundays when he goes to church. You are more than welcome to them.'
"I walked out into the designated room, closing the door behind me, and lost no time in getting into the wardrobe. There hung Jacob Nolan's best suit of clothes and right alongside hung his wife's Sunday dress. A fellow in my situation will naturally think of things that people otherwise situated would never dream of. I thought what a good disguise it would be if I should put on Mrs. Nolan's Sunday dress. The thought no sooner struck me than it was put into execution. In two minutes I had taken off Jobo's brown suit and was rigged out in woman's apparel, hat and all. The hat was a flat concern with a broad brim, which hung down scoop-like on either side, completely hiding my ears. I was only twenty and young looking with no beard on my face and after I had completed my toilet I glanced into a glass on the dresser, and I confessed to myself that I made a right good-looking woman. Her shoes were too small for me to wear, but the skirt was long and hid my feet to perfection. I took the license out of the brown suit and fumbled around among the folds and ruffles of the skirt, but could not find anything resembling a pocket. For once I was bluffed. What should I do with the precious license? Finally I found a pocket in my shirt and put the paper into that.
"'I am much obliged to you, Mrs. Nolan,' I called out without opening the door.
"'Oh, you are welcome.' she replied, 'How do they fit?' My hair stood straight upon my head with fear, lest she should come and investigate for herself.
"'Oh, perfectly, Mrs. Nolan. Goodbye.' I said and I made a hasty exit, going out of the back door, through the kitchen into the yard, and behind the smokehouse into the road.
"I had no sooner reached the road, by grab, than I saw the sheriff and his party coming down the hill toward me, lickaty split. They had laid aside their silent tactics and again adopted noise and bluff. Down the road they came, the sheriff in the lead and the others bunched up in disorder but following closely on his heels, all yelling and pawing and cavorting and waving their hands, like Kickapoos on the warpath.
"I knew now that it would be useless for me to run--I could only trust to my disguise. The only chance to escape capture was to avoid detection. So I paid no apparent attention to my pursuers, but, giving my skirt a peculiar little swing, I walked leisurely down the road, admiring the beautiful tints of the autumn leaves, as they hung in purple and yellow and red, on the trees above my head. I could hear the tramp, tramp of their feet, but paid no attention to it, and when they got right up behind me I was singing, in a carefree way and in a happy, girl-like voice,
"If you love me, Mollie, darling,
Put your little hand in mine."
EDITOR'S NOTE--This interesting adventure, as told by Zebulum himself will be continued in this department of the Record-Press next week.