Part 5 of 9
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), February 6, 1913, Edition 1, Image 3 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)
Continued from last week.
Those of our readers who have kept up with Zebulum's story, as told by himself and given in this department from week to week, will remember that we left the prospective bridegroom, together with the prospective bride and the prospective officiating minister, skedaddling down the road, going at full tilt, three a breast, making long and rapid strides in the direction of the little town of Fords Ferry, on the Ohio. It will be remembered, too, that a short distance behind them rushed the sheriff, the town marshal, the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford and Highfield Jones, with strides no less long or rapid, loud yells of anticipated victory emanating from their five dust-covered mouths--all dashing madly on, determined to overtake the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway and put his light out, the majesty of the law and the dignity of the Commonwealth being thus trampled upon under the said scoundrel's feet. But we will again let Zebulum continue his own story, after his own fashion.
"Brother Marlow," continued Zebulum, "was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister and was, in those days, one of the best known preachers in this part of the country. He was a great revivalist and was loved, not only by the members of his own church, but by others as well. Although I was, as I have said, a member of the old school branch of the church--having perhaps, a firmer faith in the doctrine of the foreordination of whatever events come to pass, and a little clearer insight as to the destiny of certain non-elect individuals when they are ushered, like the unfortunate Bobby Broadway, out of this rough-and-tumble world--Squire Brownlow and his family, including Nell, were Cumberlands. It was this fact, mainly, that caused Brother Marlow to have the good fortune to be chosen to perform the marriage ceremony between Nell and me--provided, of course, he could get a favorable opportunity for doing so.
"As the three of us plunged on down the road toward Fords Ferry, with the sheriff and his followers a short distance behind us, also plunging and going in the identical direction, yelling like raging hyenas, the prospects looked dark from the view-point of either the minister, the would-be bridegroom or the would-be bride.
"However, as I glanced back and saw that we were almost holding our own with our fleet-footed and determined pursuers. I took fresh courage. Taking a little firmer grip on Nell's hand and suggesting to Brother Marlow that he do the same, we plunged on with increased speed. The road was now down-grade and we went down the hill lickaty split, leaving great clouds of dust behind us, Brother Marlow's long coat-tails spread out like sails behind him, his only unoccupied hand clutching the thin air, but still holding on to his stove-pipe hat; . . . beautiful white skirts of her wedding dress rebelliously floundering and flapping in all directions, her cheeks flushed with excitement, her little mouth open, her pompadour in disorder, her wedding hat dislodged from its rightful position and its long ribbons flapping in the breeze behind her--on we went, lickaty split.
"As we were thus going down the steepest part of the hill, I saw up the road an old man riding a mule coming to meet us. The animal was trotting gently along, his large, benevolent looking ears keeping time to the music of his feet as they peppered against the hard roadway. No sooner, however, had the animal seen us than he lit out through the woods like a blue streak, his heels in the air, and now and then glancing back to take a new look at us, every look seeming to increase his terror and add to his determination to widen the distance between us--off he dashed, jumping across gullies, over fallen logs and through the bushes, the old man holding desperately on to his back, shouting whoa, Bellzie! and scattering the autumn leaves as they went.
"Of course we had no time to look after the old man's welfare. We had more pressing troubles of our own to look after; for, as I looked back I saw the sheriff and his party, still yelling like bloody indians and rushing like wildfire toward us.
"We were now in what I might call the suburbs of the little city of Fords Ferry. The town is, as many of you know, situated a little back from the river on an elevation considerably above high-water mark, I could look down the road and see the peaceful cottages dotting the landscape, the silent, almost deserted streets, and a little beyond the limpid waters of the Ohio.
"By this time I could see that Nell--bless her brave little heart--was getting very tired from her long run and, fearful lest the exertion might be too much for her, I resolved to carry her the rest of the way. It was in embarrassing thing for me to undertake, for I was young and boyish and bashful and I didn't know just how to take hold; but take hold I must, I reflected, and take hold I did.
"Bidding Brother Marlow to take the lead and to make for the river as Nell, with her little feet bounding from one elevation to another, the . . . if his grandfather was drowning, I picked Nell up in my arms and made off after Brother Marlow, keeping as close on to his swift-moving heels as I could.
"Brother Marlow was a tall, slender man, with long, slim lower limbs and wore, on this occasion, a pair of black broadcloth trousers, made tight-legged, after the prevailing fashion. His feet were large, filling a pair of about number nine shoes.
"He lost no time in taking the lead, as I suggested, plunging on down the hill, his arms swinging like two big pendulums, his long legs flying through the air, his number nine shoes pounding the ground and sending up great clouds of dust and leaving no loose stones on the highway. On he plunged in front of me, pulling desperately for the river, and on I plunged after him, pulling no less desperately and for the same body of water. Every time the minister's hindermost foot left mother earth to take its position again in front, my foremost food pounced down in the newly-vacated track. On and on he plunged, jumping over culverts, gullies and washouts--what if, by some mishap, I reflected, he should stumble and fall, the three of us making a promiscuous wreck on the roadway and bringing the chase to an untimely end? The bare thought of such a calamity made the hair rise on my head.
"On, however, plunged the sure-footed Brother Marlow, with bound after bound, and on I plunged after him and on plunged our pursuers right behind us. It was a rough ride for Nell, poor thing, but she held manfully on, her little heart flip-flapping against my breast, her soft, white arms entwined unconsciously about my neck and her two hands gripping the back of Benny's best suit.
"On we swept through the town like a whirl-wind, pell-mell, lickaty-split, the people rushing to their doors and windows to get an amazed glimpse at us as we passed, the merchants rushing to the sidewalks with sugar scoops in their hands and customers carrying bars of soap, all staring at us as if we had been the forerunners of a circus parade.
"We were now within a short distance of the river, with its broad waters glistening with the golden rays of the setting sun. I felt then that I would rather sink forever beneath its calm, silent waters that to be captured by those relentless sleuthhounds of the law and dragged back to the county seat.
"'On, Brother Marlow, on!' I shouted, determined to make a last desperate effort to escape, as I could hear the rapid foot-falls of our pursuers and knew they were gaining on us at every bound.
"Encouraged by my words, once more the faithful minister, with renewed determination and lengthened strides, plunged down the steep declivity leading to the river, his feet scattering the cobblestones right and left, his head thrown back, his mouth open, and his hair tousled and covered with dust for want of a covering, his stove-pipe hat, though the latest ministerial pattern, being of no earthly use on such occasions as this.
"Gripping my precious burden more tightly in my arms and clenching my teeth with grim determination, I plunged on after the swift going minister, the shores of the big stream seeming to widen as I approached.
"When at last I reached the bank and placed Nell's little feet once more on terra firma, Brother Marlow had unfastened the moorings of the only skiff on the landing and was sitting cross-legged in the stern of the boat, his stove-pipe had on his head, puffing one great puff after another and mopping the perspiration from his benevolent face.
"Placing Nell in the bow of the skiff, I gave the boat a shove, sending it adrift, and leaping in; then taking an oar I gave the bank a punch which sent the boat out into the deep, smooth waters of the river. As I made the leap from the bank to the receding boat, my pursuers were right at my heels and the sheriff, with a yell which resounded from shore to shore and reverberated against the huge cliff of Cave-in-Rock, made a desperate leap for the back of my neck, his fingers brushing the collar of Benny's best suit! By grab, it was a narrow escape! could the sheriff have lessened the distance between us by half an inch he would have had me in his savage grip. He could not do it, however, but, coming to the edge of the bank, he tried to stop, wavered an instant, floundered, lost his balance, then on and over and down he went, heels over head, wearing Nibb's light-gray suit, ker-chug into the river!
"He struck the water headforemost and disappeared--swallowed up by the on-flowing waters of the big Ohio! In a moment, however the smooth surface of the water seemed to be disturbed, and I saw the sheriff of Crittenden county bob up, like an immense cork his head toward the shore, his mouth spouting forth a stream of river water and his arms and legs revolving like immense sternwheel toward the landing. He soon reached the shore, gave himself a shake that sent the water flying from Nibb's light-gray suit, scampered up the bank and joined the rest of the party, who were lined up on the bank.
EDITOR'S NOTE--This interesting adventure, as told by Zebulum himself will be continued in this department of the Record-Press next week.