Part 8 of 9
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.), February 27, 1913, Edition 1, Image 3 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
(Reported by R. C. Haynes.)
Continued from last week.
"The enthusiastic outburst of patriotism as displayed by Hi'field Jones," continued Zebulum, "soon subsided and the men began to cast about preparatory to starting on their return trip to the county seat.
"'I don't know how the rest of you gentlemen feel,' said Bobby Broadway, 'but I'm as dry as the Sahara desert. Its that blame road dust. I move, therefore, that we adjourn this wedding celebration and start at once for Marion, going, of course, by way of the Fords Ferry tavern. It's my treat, boys.'
"'I'll take a glass of water with you, Broadway,' said the sheriff, giving Bobby a wink out of his eye the farthest away from Brother Marlow, 'and so will Hick here (pointing to the deputy) though I got a good supply while I was Saratogaing down there in the river.'
"Shaking hands with Nell and me and the minister, the sheriff and his party left us, going in single file, the sheriff in the lead and Bobby Broadway bringing up the rear.
"As I have intimated before, I am of a sympathetic nature, and I could but feel sorry for these men as they trudged up the hill on their long walk back to the county seat, they being, as I knew they must be, tired already after their long chase. Although so determined and relentless in the discharge of their official duty, they were, after all, kind-hearted, lovable men and my mind in regard to them had undergone a revolution. A short time before I had looked upon them as being little better than demons, while now, as I watched them wending their way up the hill and finally disappear in the somber moonlight, I could but look upon them as being, as the bible puts it, 'Just a little lower than the angels.'
"Now that I was free from the excitement of the chase, I felt tired, almost exhausted; but when I reflected upon the happy turn affairs had taken, that I was not an outcast from home, fleeing I knew not whither; upon the brave little Nell, with her innocent impulsiveness and confiding love; upon the noble and faithful Brother Marlow, the embodiment of all the Christian graces, faith, hope and love; and, above all, upon the goodness of an overruling Providence, a tear of thankfulness rolled unbidden down my cheek.
"'Zebulum,' said Nell, who was standing near me, 'you are so tired, poor thing,' and, taking a dainty handkerchief from her pocket, she gently brushed away the tear from my face; then, seeing that Brother Marlow's back was turned toward us, her pretty cheeks rosy with blushes and tiptoeing so she could reach high enough, she pressed her soft, warm lips to the place where the tear had been.
"Gentlemen, years and years have passed since that evening we stood there on the banks of the river, with its silvery waters shimmering in the moonlight, with the autumn leaves falling around us and the stars twinkling over our heads--years have passed, I say, since then, and we have had our share of the ups and downs of life--sometimes battling hard to keep the hungry wolf from our door--and now she is old, and I am old, and our grand-children are growing up, yet I can feel that kiss on my cheek today. It burns there with an intensity that time cannot efface.
"Nell was a country girl, only seventeen, well educated for a girl of her age in those days--the public schools being then only in their infancy--possessed the admirable virtue of modesty and was inclined to be timid, even bashful; when, therefore, in her sympathetic impulsiveness, she gave me that smack on the left side of my face, she naturally thought that she was unobserved by the only possible spectator on the landing. When she turned around, however, she saw, to her utter confusion, that Brother Marlow had been a wide-eyed spectator to the whole performance!
"'Brother Marlow,' she said--no doubt because in her embarrassment, poor thing, she didn't know what else to say--'do you believe in final perseverance?'
"The minister was rather taken aback by being thus called upon to give to an audience of two, his views on so profound a theological subject.
"'Yes, Nelly, I certainly do,' he answered, indulgently, 'we men folks have to believe in all kinds of perseverance, else we never would get married, would we Zebulum?'
"'Now, Brother Marlow,' said Nell, regaining her composure, 'I see you are afraid to discuss Bible questions with me. Do you know, I'm inclined to believe in falling from grace. Brother Yates says----'
"'And I'm inclined to think, Nell,' I interrupted, 'that Brother Yates doesn't know Scripture when he sees it; however, we can discuss that question on our way home. I'm as tired as an off ox, as hungry as a lost sheep and as sleepy as the seven sisters in the Arabian Nights. I move, therefore, and the I's have it, that we adjourn.'
"'Yes, Zeb, we must fly! fly!' agreed Nell. 'Didn't I tell you that I was dying to see Pop and Benny?'
"We started at once for Squire Brownlow's, but did not go flying, in any sense of the word, going afoot up the rock roadway, journeying along in a single file, I in the lead, Nell at my heels and Brother Marlow in the rear, leading old Slick Selim.
"We had suggested to Nell that she ride the horse, while the minister and I take it afoot; but she refused to do so, intimating that she didn't like that style of saddle. Nell, you must remember, gentlemen, had not learned the art of the more hygienic horseback riding as practiced by our up-to-date, twentieth-century granddaughters.
"So we trudged on up the steep hill towards Fords Ferry, my knees working like rusty hinges and knowing, from certain half-expressed sighs that now and then came up from behind me, that Nell's and Brother Marlow's were not working much better.
"'Brother Marlow,' I said, 'I've thought out a scheme that will beat this two to one. You mount old Slick Selim.'
"The minister did as suggested. I then placed Nell on the horse behind him, as far to the rear as space would permit. Then leading Slick Selim up to a stump, I bounced on his back, between Nell and Brother Marlow. By Grab, this is some riding, I reflected, as the horse started off in a brisk walk up the road, the three of us on his back.
"'Shucks and fodder!' said Brother Marlow, as he tried in vain to get his feet properly located. 'These stirrups are absolutely of no utility to me.'
"I looked down and could see that the minister's legs were dangling down a foot or more below the length of the stirrup leathers, they having been shortened to accommodate the more stubby legs of Bobby Broadway. As it was only a short distance, however, to our destination, we decided not change the length of the stirrup leathers.
"As we came to the little town I could see the lights shining through the windows of the residences, indicating that the Fords Ferrians had not yet gone to bed; and, as we passed the tavern the sheriff, the town marshal, the deputy, Solomon Wiggleford, Highfield Jones and Bobby Broadway came rushing out of the door. On reaching the sidewalk they threw their hats into the air and yelled out:
'Three cheers for Zebulum and his bonny bride! Hurrah for Brother Marlow, Slick Selim and Horace Greeley!'
"We acknowledged their salutation but made no halt, old Slick Selim striking off in a high trot. Slick Selim was not noted for his easy trotting, but still, I reflected, it beats walking. So on we trotted. Brother Marlow sitting up Napoleon-like in the saddle, holding the reins with one hand and occasionally pointing out to us certain interesting objects along the road with the other, his stove-pipe hat pointing skyward from his head and his long legs dangling down stirrupless toward the center of gravity.
"'Isn't this just splendid, Zeb,' spoke up Nell, 'to be out riding in the cool of the evening, inhaling the health-giving ozone, and isn't old Slick Selim's buck soft and nice, and doesn't the moon shine lovely through those beautiful autumn----'
"Nell, in her observations respecting the moonbeams and the autumn leaves, never reached a period, or even a semicolon; for just then a traction engine came lumbering up behind us, raising Cain and whistling for us to vacate the middle of the road!
"Hearing the racket behind him, old Slick Selim took a backward glance and one look was enough. He lit out up the road like a wild gazelle, the three of us clinging on to his back and leaving a blue streak behind us!
"'Hold him, Brother Marlow, by grab, hold him!' I shouted, as the horse plunged on up the road as if determined to outdistance the rumbling monster behind him, jostling us up at a great rate and sending Nell bumping up against the back of Benny's best suit.
"'Whoa, Slickzie boy!, Whoa'p!' cried Brother Marlow, at the same time giving the bridle a desperate pull, snapping the reins in two as if they had been twine strings and turning old Slick Selim loose upon the public highway!
"When the horse felt the breaking of the reins he glanced back, as if to see what was the matter, and getting another glimpse of the traction engine, he lit out with increased fury, sending up great volumes of heel dust in front of the on-coming engine, the three of us holding franticly on to his back.
"On we dashed, the horse plumbling the middle of the road, and on lumbered the traction engine, raising all kinds of Cain behind us!
"Still on we plunged, lickaty-split, Brother Marlow holding to the saddle horn with one hand and to his stove-pipe hat with the other, his legs clasped around the horse and being hammered into pulp by the flying stirrups; I holding on to his Prince Albert; Nell, bouncing up and down like a rubber ball, but holding desperately on. I've got the dead wood on the sheriff now, by grab, I reflected, as she clung to me, tightly if not affectionately, her arms around my neck, some of her fingers in my mouth and others tightly gripping my nose, completely cutting off my wind in that direction and causing all kinds of noises to come forth out of my mouth----on we went, lickaty-split!
"'Hey there, Squire!' cried Brother Marlow, as we emerged into the lane some quarter of a mile distant from the house. 'Hello!' hello! Here we come, Squire, head us off!'
"Brother Marlow had a strong voice and, in cases of emergency, could use it to good effect on the road, as well as in the pulpit.
"The echoes of the minister's voice had scarcely died away amid the surrounding hills, when I saw Squire Brownlow come out of the house and make a break toward the road, followed by Benny.
"Up the lane we went, head-on, lickaty-split, old Slick Selim's heels pounding the roadway and the three of us still holding desperately on to his back, and on lumbered the traction engine, whistling and puffing and raising Cain behind us.
"'Here we come, Squire and Benny!----Head us off!' again shouted Brother Marlow.
"This of course it would have been impossible for them to do, as they would have been run over by the traction engine had they attempted it. Instead Squire Brownlow remained standing by the roadside and as we dashed by he made a motion to his daughter. Nell, understanding the signal, loosed her hold upon me, gave a leap from the back of the plunging horse into the air, landing safely into her father's outstretched arms!
"Brother Marlow and I, however, did not fare so well; for just as Nell made her desperate leap, the horse gave a sudden spring to the right, dislodging the minister and me from his back and sending us out into open space!
"Obedient to the law of gravitation we, after various gyrations in midair, landing on mother earth ker-thunk and in all kinds of shapes, just as the engine went rumbling by.
"As the machine passed by, the engineer, with his hand on the throttle, looked down at Brother Marlow and me with a dogdificare, getoutomiway expression on his countenance and soon disappeared up the road.
"'That scoundrel of an engineer,' said Squire Brownlow, 'has evidently been visiting the Fords Ferry bar and I have a notion, by gum, to put the sheriff and his party on his track for reckless traction engine driving on the public highway.'
"'I wish you would pa,' I said, as I scrambled to my feet, picked up my hat and pulled myself together as well as I could.
"'Amen to that, Squire,' said Brother Marlow, also getting on to his feet, straightening out his caved-in stove-pipe, also getting behind me and slyly examining various black and blue places just below his knees.
"Squire Brownlow, pointing with one hand toward the house, moved off in that direction, still carrying Nell in his arms, Brother Marlow following at his heels, Benny next in order and taking long strides, trying to step into the tracks of the minister, and I, hobbling along stiff-legged in the rear.
EDITOR'S NOTE--This interesting adventure, as told by Zebulum himself will be concluded in this department of the Record-Press next week.