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People's voice. (Wellington, Kan.) 1890-1917, September 07, 1899, Image 6

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85032801/1899-09-07/ed-1/seq-6/

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H Queetton
of Couracfc
Copyrignr, 1895, by J.
Xb owed silence fell upon the group
!m the kitchen after Jeff made this an
Tjcrr?ri:ient. Iul put his gun together
wnd loaded it earefuly, sitting quietly
afterward with the weapon across his
J.reev-; and Jed came out of his dark
tontf r to feel mechanically on the high
mantel shelf for his pipe. The night
had dosed in with storm signals flying
In the western sky, and the rising wind
began to sigh dismally through the
trees, sending occasional puffs eddying
flown the chimney to scatter little
clotris of light ashes from the expiring
ambers on the hearth. The measured
sob of the great engine at the furnace
rose and fell on the breeze, mingling its
tones with the hoarser mutterings of
the approaching storm. At the head
of the cove there is a deep cleft in the
perpendicular wall of rock, known to
th dwellers in Harmony . Valley as
'The Chimney." With the breath of
tLt tempest, the fissure becomes the di
apasou of nature's great organ, and al
ready Ms deep reedy voice could be
heard, filling the cove with a sound like
ihe rushing of the waves on a sandy
wEch, or like the distance-softened
rocr of a mighty cataract. From his
rateh tower in the blasted oak behind
the Ix.rn, a great owl added his mourn-
fa! call to the weird noises of the night,
nhUc all the shriller and cheerfuller
voices of nature were hushed and silent
in the presence of the storm-king. Jeff
Rrnuni continued his monotonous walk
up end down tTie narrow limits of the
litrfieu, stopping- at each turn to peer
out of the windows into the thickening
Bud was the first to speak. "What-all
5oes ye 'low to do 'bout hit, Jeff?" he
The elder brother dropped into a
chair and thrust hishandsdeep intohis
pockets. "I 'low I don't jest rightly
know, Buddy I don't, for a fact; thar
jn't be no mistake; I ain't nowi&e
likely to forget that thar face; hit's
.been a hat nt to me more'n one night
en: I seed hit ; hit has, for shore."
Jed got up and threw another stick
of wood on the fire. "Ye reckon ye're
jJnni shore, Jeff?" he asked. "Tears
like Ihis yere feller's been mindin' his
own biiHinco tol'able clost sence he
eooic to the settlement."
"Xo, Jed, he hain't; that's what's
a-rattln' mr. He was a-prviu' round
this v .e very cove only day before yis
iVJdy: i seed him; un'.Iule she took hiji
the mounting and p'inted him the
war hack from the McXabb."
"Yes, Jule. I 'low the didn't know
who r what he was. She done left him
.Mandiu' afore the mouth of the tunnel.'
An' that ain't the mos' curiousest par,
o' hit; he scrambled into the hole over
thn broken rocks, an' jest about a min
ute afterwards he come a-piliu' out o'
thar like he seed a harnt, an' the last I
fieri! o him he was a-n.akin' !.ie longest
Tchid o' tracks to'rdst the valley."
"What d' ye reckon he seed in thar?"
Til nev' tell ye; but that hain't the
question: hit looks mighty like he's a
sncakiu round yere to fin' out some
thin' 'bout we-all, an' I reckon thar's
get to be somethin'done."
'Bud glanced around into the gather
ing shadows in the room, and asked:
-Whar's Jule?"
"I dunno," replied Jeff; "gone to
laid, I reckon."
Usui stood his rifle in the chimney
rorner and went out, coming back in
a moment to say: "I reckon she has;
Jeaslways, thar's no light."
Another interval of oppressive si
lence followed Bud's assurance. The
three men sat around the hearth, each
fknowing the others' thought, and each
ihoping that one of the others would
jput the pitiless suggestion into words,
i While they waited the first great drops
of rain pattered on the roof, and tie
soughing of the wind through the tree
top and the louder growling of the
tlnnder, drowned the roar of "The
Chimney." The dusky interior of the
kitchen grew more shadowy aa the
' handful of fire on the hearth died down,
vaad the darkness was intensified by an
occasional flash of lightning contrast
ing its glare with the twilight of the
room. The red glow from the coals fell
npon the faces of the three brothers
gionped about the fireplace and Bitting
la silent judgment upon a man whose
only offense was his resemblance to
some other ma j. Each of the three felt
that there was a terrible margin of
.doubt, and yet each knew that it was
only doubt and not certainty. If their
.prisoner and the single witness of Jeff's
crime were identical, there could be no
afety for at least one of them while
the man lbed; if not if Jeff were mis
taken, after all the alternative was
Sufficiently dreadful to make them hes
itate to give it shape in speech.
The suggestion came finally from the
cm who was most deeply concerned.
Jeff rose slowly and took down his rifle
from its pegs over the mantel. "I reck
oa hit's got to be done; boys," he said,
huskily. v "I hate hit mighty bad, but I
ayn't affo'd to take no chainces."
Cod joined him at once, but Jed hes
itated. "You don't have to come, Jed,"
.said the elder brother; "two of us ia
enough, an' I know ye ain't af eard."
' "Tin gora.' long with you-all, only
I hope yere pow'ful shore, Jeff; seem
ItkeJiit's mighty tough to go an' shoot
$ih like he's a rat in a hole, less ye're
jaTul-blank certain ye get to do bit"
v JhfJ weit out noiselessly m not
B. Lippincott Co.
to awaken Julc, and Jeff led the way to
the trail up which the woman had pi
loted Ringbrand two days before. The
wind had risen to a gale, and it was
wringing and twisting the trees above
their heads; but the rain delayed and
the storm seemed to be blowing over.
When they reached the base of the
cliff, they left the path and turned
shortly to the right, following the
Jeff rose slowly and took down hli rlfla.
line of the rocky wall until they reached
a narrow ledge affording a precarious
passage up to the table-land. Emerg
ing, after a breathless scramble, upon
the unsheltered mountain-top, where
the wind had full sweep, they pushed on
gasping until they stood in the small
ravine under the lee of the bowlders
marking the entrance to Iiingbrand's
prison. Jeff uncoiled the rope he had
brought, and was preparing to descend,
when Jed stopped him:
"Don't ye 'low that'll be sort o' resky ?
If that thar feller's what ye done took
him for, he's gwine fight, for shore. He
ain't gwine stan'still an' 'low ye to shoot
him in col' blood."
The cautionbrought back with ap
palling distinctness the ghastly horror
of the deed they were about to do, and
thev pa used in fearful hesitation. Then
Bud proposed that they go down into
the other cavern, using the narrow
crevice for a loop-hole, and a few min
Ltes later he and Jeff were standing in
the pitchy darkness of the subterranean
chamber, while Jed watched at the
aperture above. Jeff felt his way along
ane of the walls until he came to a niche
where they kept a miner's lamp, and,
lighting this they cautiously recon
toitered the adjoining chamber as well
as they could by its inefficient help. The
light from the lamp penetrated but a
Ehort distance beyond the narrow
opening, but it answered the purpose,
end they could see the shadowy outlines
of the figure of a man stretched out
rpon the sandy floor of the cavern. Jeff
handed the lamp to his brother and took
careful aim at the motionless form;
his hand trembled so that he could not
hold the gun steady, and he got down
upon his knees and rested it against tbj
side of the crevice. Even then he was
so long about it that Bud's nerve col
lapsed and the lamp fell from his shak
ing fingers; it did not go out, and as he
held it up again he whispered: "Shoot
quick! I can't"
A blinding flash illuminated the
cavern, and the dead air of the place
jarred with a concussion that put
out the light and reverbrated like
pent-up thunder in the arches of the
vault. The two men fell over each
other in their frantic haste to reach
the open air, fighting like caged
wild beasts for precedence up the
difficult stairway; and when they
emerged from the mouth of the smoky
pit, the contagion of terror communi
cated itself to their passive accomplice,
and the three men scattered in a mad
flight toward the cove.
When Ringbrand opened his eyes he
found himself lying on his back in
what appeared to be the bottom of a
well; at least, that was his second im
pression. With the first gleams of re
turning consciousness there was no
recollection of the events immediately
preceding his fall, and for a moment
he had a vague idea that he had
stumbled and hurt himself in the road,
and that the clouds had covered all but
the small patch of sky directly over
head where the stars were still visible.
Then memory came back, and he re
called the details of he capture up to
the sudden blank following the plunge
into the hole between the bowlders. A
sharp twinge of pain bridged the in
terval and reminded him that there
were two present and pressing sources
of discomfort in the gnarled log across
which he was lying and in the vice-like
pressure of the rope which still bound
his arms to his sides. To wriggle out
of the uncomfortable position was easy,
but loosening the rope was another mat
ter. The knot had been drawn tight
by the jerk of his fall, and it was an
hour or more before he succeeded in
working it around where it could be
reached; even when this was dooaji
was only a beginning, and the first faint
itreaks of dawn were filtering through
the aperture overhead when he finally
rose stiffly and swung his arms to start
the suspended circulation.
. 12 S little while- it ::tS?rt
to enable him to see his surroundings,
and he found that he was imprisoned in
a crevice-cave much like the one he had
explored two days before. It occurred
to him at once that it might be a con
tinuation of the same cavern, or that
possibly he might be in the very
chamber into which he had tried to
penetrate; but this seemed unlikely, for
two reasons. One was that he could
not make the locality of the McXabb
tunnel agree with the general direction
of his wanderings of the night previous;
and the other was even more convinc
ing, for, while his cell terminated at one
extremity in a narrow fissure like the
one in which he had lost the pick and
the lamp, he could not find the missing
articles, though he lost no time in mak
ing a careful search for them. In do
ing this, however, he stumbled upon
another discovery which was of much
more immediate importance: reaching
down into the crannies of the fissure,
his hand found a pool of water, and ho
drank gratefully, dipping up the cool
liquid by spoonfuls in his hollowed
After this, he gave an hour to minute
examination of the boundaries of his
prison, scrutinizing the walls and care
fully weighing every possible chance of
escape. At the end of this preliminary
survey he sat down upon the log, which
proved to be the trunk of a small tree
hurled by some accident of wind or
lightning through the opening above,
and began to go over the events of the
past few days, in the hope of finding
something to account for the mysteri
ous attack and imprisonment. In this
effort he racked his brain to little pur
pose, and, after repeatedly scouting the
Idea as absurd, he finally accepted the
conclusion that the Bynums had in
some manner connected him with the
fortunes of their enemies, and had
taken prompt measures to deprive the
Latimers of a possible ally.
"If that's the case," he mused, speak
ing aloud for the sake of the companion
ship of his own voice, "what do they
mean to do with me? If they had
wanted to kill me, they certainly had it
all their own way last night; a very
small domestic cat M ould have made a
better resistance than I did. Xo, that
isn't it; they don't mean murder; they're
only trying to get me out of the way
for awhile. And the next thing is, for
how long? Keeping in view the com
forting conclusion that they don't
intend making away with me, the ques
tion will answer itself in a few hours
at the most, for they haven't given me
anything to eat. Which reminds me
that I'm pretty hungry,now;"he looked
ruefully at his watch. "Tom Ludlow
had his breakfast two hours ago, and
at the present moment, I suppose, he's
sitting in his office with the comfort
able under-thought that it'll be dinner
time before long. Lucky fellow, not
to know what it is to sit in a crack in
the face of the earih. speculating on the
doubtful possibilities of future meal
times. Well, I presume the next thing
is to decide whether or not I'm to sit
here and wait for some one to come and
pull nie out; and if I'm not. what's the
alternative? Let's have smother look
at the resources."
After overhauling the rope and coil
ing it beside the los he searched his
pockets, but found nothing useful
therein, except a small penknife.
"There they are say 40 feet of rope, a
piece of wood six or seven feet long, and
a toy pocket knife; pud this hole is
about 30 feet deep, I should judge.
There isn't very much to work with,
but I've pulled many a hero out of vorsc
scrapes than this with much less."
The humor of the comparison pro
voked a laugh, and then he wondered
what had become of his depression of
the previous day. The explanation
came suddenly when he ran his sol:lo
quy back to the point where he had con
cluded that his connection with the
Latimers was the reason for the assault
upon him. It seemed in a way to bring
him nearer to Hester, and for a time
there was a cheerful enthusiasm in the
thought that other and compelling
hands had pushed him over the dividing
line between his pusillanimous resolu
tion to run away and an active partici
pation in the quarrel which involved
her family. There was little comfort
in the contemplation of the part he
might be required to take In the feud;
the battle was still to be fought with
his weakness, and he had the fresh and
humiliating example of a few hours be
fore to remind him that he had not yet
made a beginning. The recollection
of this discouraged him again, and all
the arguments that had presented
themselves in defense of his plan of re
treat came back with redoubled empha
sis. He was not sure that Hester loved
him; if she did, she would despise him
when she found him out; it would be
inexcusably wrong for him to win her
love under false pretenses; she had told
him only last night what she would ex
pect in the man of her choice, ne pushed
the tormenting thoughts aside, and
brought himself down with a jerk to
the present and its demands. "I'm not
going to dispute with the weak-kneed
devil any more," he muttered; "the first
thing to do is to get out of here, and;
then I'll leave it with her; if she honors
me enough to make me her defender,
I'll make a shift to fight her battles if
I have to hire some one to hold me
while I do it."
Under the inspiration of this conclu
sion he went to work patiently and res
olutely, trying the first plan that sug
gested itself. Using Lis knife for a
thisel, he attempted to cut niches for
hand and foot holds in the wall, perse
vering until both blades of the small
tool were worn down to useless
stumps. When the failure of the knife
put an end to the expedient, he exam
ined the narrower part of the crevice to
Fee if he could not climb to the roof by
bracing himself from wall to walL As
, it was reasonably evident that the cav
ern had originally been nothing more
than an irregular crack in the sand
stone, open at the top through its en
tire length, and afterward gradually
covered in by slow accumulations of
p-th nrl rl-l- - Mith t" '-
and grass roots, he argued that it would
be comparatively easy to dig through
this thin covering if he could obtain a
foothold near enough to the roof to en
able him to attack it. To make the
most of his strength, he dragged the log
to the place selected for tl experi
ment, wifh the intention of using it for
a ladder from which to bsgin the as
cent; and, having braced it against one
of the walls, he took off his coat and
shoes and made an attempt to work his
way up the desired vantage-ground.
The first trial was a failure. He lost
his hold before he had ascended to
twice his height.and slid back to the
sandy floor of the crevice; Ijut there
was enough of a promise of success in
the undertaking to make him wear
away the remainder of the day in re
peated endeavors, and to encourage him
to try again and again, even after the
long abstinence from food had begun
to have its effect on his tired muscles
and overstrained nerves. The final at
tempt, made just at dusk, carried him
to w ithin a few feet of the roof; but the
darkness baffled him; he again lost his
hold, and it was only by the utmost ex
ertion of his failing strength that he
saved himself from falling heavily to
the bottom of the cavern. As it was, he
knocked the log down in his descent,
and, realizing that nothing could be
done. without the help of daylight, he
lay down in the sand and tried to go tc
Lying there in tlfe darkness and lis
tening to the microscopic no'ses sift
ing through the entrance to the cave,
he fancied he heard a sound as of some
light object falling upon the sand. He
first thought of wild beasts, but, re
flecting that no animal large enough tc
attack him would be likely to enter the
trap-like crevice, the incident was soon
forgotten in a train of suggestions hav
ing the indistinct noises of the day for
a starting-point. Xow that he recalled
them, he remembered hearing sounds
like the echoes of dull blows at irregu
lar intervals all through the day, and
he speculated over their probable origin
until weariness overcame him and he
fell into a doze from which the growl
ing of the rising storm awakened him.
Since there seemed to be a sort of com
panionship in the roll of the thunder
nnd the sweep of the wind, he sat up to
1 isten, and in one of the lulls he thought
he lf ard a voice at the mouth of the cav
ern. Wondering if his captors were
coming to liberate him, he got upon
his feet and felt his way to the farther
cud of the cell, standing under the aper
ture and staring up into the gloom.
While he stood there listening and
looking, a small star of yellow light
made its appearance at the extreme end
of the rocky corridor, and he raw the
shadows of two faces framed between
the walls of the narrow slit in which the
chamber terminated. II is first impulse
Mas to make his presence known; but
before he had taken a step he recoiled
in horror at the sight of a gun barrt l
thrust through the crevice above the
wavering star of light.
Under some conditions mental proc
esses are instantaneous. Ringbrand
saw and understood the purpose of his
enemies as clearly as if his sentence had
been pronounced with formal verbiage.
With the understanding came a fren
zied fit of terror, and he shrunk with
chattering teeth and trembling limb.
into the deepest recesses of the cave:
the wavering light danced in fantastic
gyrations befo- his fascinated gaze;
a noise like the beating of a hundred
drums filled his ears; and he could feel
the col'l cersnirat'on rrickine froir
every pore. The suspense was horri
ble, and for a few moments he'tot;;;l',t
he should die from the very al jtttr.Lv
of his fear; then suddenly he felt a
fchnrp pang as if something had given
way in his brain, and the ovi powering
nausea of terror vanished asif bymr.gie.
In its place came a strarge feeling ol
exaltation that sent the blood tijiglirg
to his finger tips; the rcaiirg in hia
cars ceased, and his sight becam; one,:
more keen and steady. Splinting k
his feet, he drew the coluul'a tcv;.hc!
from his pocket aiid look cit. f:;l r.r. l
deliberate aim at the face U 'nind the
yellow star of light; h'.s linger pressed
the trigger, and the crash of a double
detonation filled the cavern. With the
flash and the report the light disap
peared, and he felt a sting of pain in
his arm; he knew he was wounded, but
the hurt seemed only to augment the
violence of the fit of ferocity that had
taken complete possession of him.
Rushing toward the point where the
light had disappeared, he wedged him
self into the crevice, grinding his teeth
in impotent rage when he found that
he could not reach far enough to get
the range for a second shot.
(To be Continued.)
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Effectually yet gently, when costive or
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Personally conducted excursions to
all points east, via Great Rock Island
Route. Leave Wellington every Sat
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$2 00 to Chicago. $3.50 to Buffalo and
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ticulars of agent or write to E. W.
Thompson, A.G.P. & T.A., Topeka,
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The great success of Chamberlain's
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