Part 6 of 9
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), February 13, 1913, Edition 1, Images 3, 7 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)
Continued from last week.
"I never had before," went on Zebulum, continuing the narrative of his remarkable adventure, "nor have I since, seen such a set of woe-begone, disconsolate looking men as were lined up on the banks of the Ohio river as we rowed slowly toward midstream. Gentlemen, did you ever see a pack of hounds which, after chasing a fox for hours, and often having the coveted renard almost in their rapacious mouths, were confronted by a hollow log into which the elusive fox had sought and secured perfect safety--how the panting, outwitted dogs, with their long tongues lolling out, would form a line about the log, whine pitifully, squat down with their tails under them and look forlornly, wishfully, knowing they were at their wits' end, yet loath to give up? Well, those officials reminded me of such a picture. As they stood there on the bank, hemmed off by the on-flowing waters of the great river, helplessly watching the receding boat and the widening expanse between us and them, I could see, from the expression of their faces, that they realized the truth of Lord Byron's poetically expressed words that man's control stops with the shore. It was, indeed, an apt representation of utter forlornness, a picture of dire disconsolation, and it recalled to my mind one of Brother Marlow's favorite hymns, 'Hark! from the tomb a doleful sound.'
"If I had not been their intended victim, perhaps I should have felt sorry for them, as it was, however, I rather rejoiced in their discomfiture and, as the Bible aptly puts it, 'mocked at their calamities;' and, when I reflected upon the events of the last few hours, of the net into which, with no fault of mine, I had been so helplessly drawn and of the many narrow escapes from capture, I thanked the great Ruler of our destinies for His wonderful though somewhat mysterious providences.
"Though I was rowing across the big Ohio river, with Nell and the minister aboard of our little boat, with the marriage license in my pocket, safe from the clutches of the sheriff of Crittenden county and almost beyond his jurisdiction, I realized my true situation--I was an outlaw, a fugitive flying from the home he loved, to be remembered back there only as the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway. Confound Bobby Broadway, I reflected. Confound the blame majesty of the law and the dadgummed dignity of the commonwealth! You see, gentlemen, I was not only a fugitive and an outlaw, but an anarchist as well.
"Nell and I had had no time to formulate any plans for the future, except that our immediate destination should be the little town of Cave-in-Rock, Ill., and, not wishing to appear in the midst of the good people of that aspiring little village as an eloping couple, we thought best to have the marriage ceremony performed before we reached the Illinois side.
"So asking Brother Marlow to exchange seats with Nell, I took the oars from their locks, laid them in the bottom of the skiff and took a seat in the stern of the boat by her side; then turning my back to Nell, I unbuttoned the coat and vest of Benny's best suit, went down into my shirt pocket and once more fished out from its remotest depths the marriage license--the precious document that had clung to me through so many trying vicissitudes--and handed the paper to Brother Marlow. Yes, I reflected, we will have a wedding, by grab, right here and now.
"We were now in midstream, the little boat drifting broadsided and uncontrolled down the smooth, gentle-flowing waters, Brother Marlow in the bow and Nell and I in the stern of the skiff. The sun had just gone down in the west, leaving great streaks of purple and amber and gold across the sky from horizon to zenith. The bolder harbingers of approaching night--Saturn and Neptune and Jupiter and Venus--peeped out from their constellations and twinkled knowingly down on us as we drifted along; the moon, farther to the east, gleamed smilingly down, flooding the smooth, silent waters with a soft, silvery light, while her only inhabitant, alive to the situation, seemed to wink knowingly down at Nell and me and the minister, and look wisely across at Jupiter, as if to say, 'I told you so.' As I once more looked toward the Kentucky shore I could the forms of my late pursuers, still lined up on the bank and watching us, still with doleful countenances; across on the Illinois shore great forest trees stood thick and tall, their many-tinted autumn leaves glistening with silvery moonbeams; while a little back from the river, hid within the thick foliage of a large oak, a hoot-owl was inquiring solemnly of his mate, 'Who-who-who is it?' No answer seemed to be forthcoming, and as I looked farther down the river, the huge cliffs of Cave-in-Rock rose grim and high, frowning across at the Kentucky shore; while over the entrance of the cave, and above high-water mark, were immense letters, visible even at this distance--letters which seemed to have been carved into the huge, rough stones by some freak of nature, and stretched out across the entire length of the cliff. I spelled over, in my mind, the huge letters from west to east, divided them into syllables and words, and finally formulated the smooth-going sentence, 'USE ST. JACOB'S OIL.' Even nature itself, I reflected, seems to be in sympathy with me; and, as I once more spelled over, in my mind, the mysterious letters, repeated, also in my mind, the easily-articulated sentence, pondered on the unexpected advice and realized its significance, I could but wish that I had a bottle of St. Jacob's, that I might try it, as a lubricating agent, on my knees, which were becoming stiff and achy from over-much exercise. Just then Nell touched me lightly on the arm.
"'Zebulum,' she said, playfully, 'hadn't you better wait till another time to study astronomy, or geology, or hieroglyphics, or pharmaceutics, or therapeutics, or such other fascinating science? Have you forgotten that we were about to get married? Brother Marlow is waiting.'
"I had thought that I had been unobserved but, from Nell's jaw-breaking remarks, I knew the sly little rogue had been watching me while I was trying to decipher those perplexing and mysterious-looking symbols on the cave and had out-stripped me in mentally figuring out and reaching a solution as to their meaning.
"'No, Nell,' I replied, 'I haven't forgotten about it. I thought about that exhilarating subject all the way from Marion to Fords Ferry,' and as she sat there by my side I could hardly keep from stealing a kiss, right there before Brother Marlow.
"Brother Marlow took the license, unfolded the paper and read it aloud, beginning where it said 'this certifies that Zebulum and Nell, aged so and so, are authorized to be joined in holy wedlock,' and read on through to the signature, 'Berry S. Young, county clerk.' The minister then got down on his knees on the bottom of the skiff, motioned for Nell and me to do the same; then offered a prayer to the Ruler of all our destinies, for His blessings on us, for His guidance, for a happy and successful life, for a peaceful exit from this faith-trying, devil-possessed world and for a safe landing upon the shining shores of the dark river we all must, sooner or later, cross. There, upon our knees, while the little boat drifted at will down the calm smooth waters, shimmering in silvery moonbeams, and the stars twinkling over our heads, Brother Marlow sad the few words that made Nell and me husband and wife.
"We were married. Nell, bless her heart, was my wife. We were out upon life's river, as well as the big Ohio, drifting we knew not where, but we knew we were widening the distance between us and the home we both loved, leaving behind us an unenviable name for one of us--the name well known as the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway.
"'It seems real funny to get married, doesn't it, Zeb?' spoke up Nell, interrupting my meditations.
"'Yes, it does, Nell, when we get down to looking at it from the right view-point,' I replied; 'and just to think--'
"'And aren't you glad, Zeb,' interrupted Nell, that we got Brother Marlow to marry us, instead of Brother Rankin, as you suggested?'
"Brother Marlow was still seated in the bow of the boat, looking out over the waters, as if he, too, had formed the habit and was trying to decipher those enigmatical hieroglyphics on the cave.
"'Indeed I am, Nell,' I admitted. 'Though, of course, Brother Rankin is my pastor, a mighty good man and perfectly sound in theology. Brother Marlow possesses certain qualifications that come in handy on such occasions as this, and of which not many ministers can boast.'
"'We must get him to preach tonight at the Cave, Zeb,' said Nell. 'We'll want some place to go, you know.'
"'A good suggestion, Nell,' I replied. 'It will be a little late, but we can arrange that. Of course we will have to go somewhere, and there's no opera house there.'
"'Oh, it will be perfectly delightful,' said Nell; 'and I want Brother Marlow to take for his text; "And Joab said unto Cushi, 'Run!' and Cushi ran. Then Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, seeing that the king was wroth, ran also and ran over Cushi!'
"'A very good text, Nell,' I commented; 'however, we might get him to use this text: 'And Balaam opened his mouth and spake, saying, 'wilt thou go with this man to be his wife?' And the damsel answered him, saying, 'Go, saddle your----'
"'Both of these texts, ' interrupted Brother Marlow, 'are very suggestive, and I shall doubtless use them on other occasions as opportunity presents, but I have been thing of using this text in my sermon at the Cave tonight: "And the young made haste to depart. But Ruth said, 'whither thou goest will I go, and whither thou lodgest----'
"Our conversation was interrupted here by a most extraordinary commotion back on the Kentucky shore! Looking in that direction, I saw a horseman galloping through the town for Fords Ferry, coming toward the river. On he came in full speed down the hill, the horse's feet pounding against the hard roadway, his hoofs sending sparks of fire right and left, the rider holding the reins with one hand and waving the other franticly, commandingly toward the amazed county officials, as if in imitation of Stonewall Jackson at the battle of Bull Run!
"Even that distance I knew the horse at once, and a little closer inspection revealed to me also the identity of the rider. They were no other than Slick Selim and Bobby Broadway! He rode on to within a short distance of the bank, then dismounted and joined the astonished group of officials. Though of course I could not hear their words, I could see from their gestures that there was much excitement within their ranks. They gathered more closely around Bobby, who was gesticulating wildly, the I saw the sheriff take a handkerchief from his pocket, fastened it to the end of Highfield Jones' walking stick, raised it over his head and wave it in the air!
"As soon as I saw its white folds flapping through the breeze, I knew it was a flag of truce!----that I was no longer the scoundrel who struck Bobby Broadway!----that I was once more a free man and not an outlaw, a fugitive fleeing from justice, an outcast from the home I loved!
"We sat there in silence, Brother Marlow with the oars in hands, but letting them lie idly in their locks, Nell, with tears of happiness running down her pretty cheeks, the little boat drifting at will down the stream. The sheriff was still waving the little white flag and the others were grouped closely around him, all gesticulating wildly.
"Presently I saw Highfield Jones emerge from the group, walked a few yards up the river, then mount upon a high rock which then overhung the banks of the river. He stood there a moment, poised upon the great, rough stone, like a statue of liberty, facing the little boat and looking out over the broad expanse of water, as if mentally calculating the distance between us and him, then folding his two big hands and using them for a megaphone, he bawled out;
"'Come back! come back!' he cried in grief,
'Across! the! stormy!! water!!!
And you, Sir Zebulum, may wed
Squire Brownlow's lovely! daughter!!
"Highfield had evidently been reading Sir Walter Scott."
EDITOR'S NOTE--This interesting adventure, as told by Zebulum himself will be continued in this department of the Record-Press next week.