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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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It was toward evening of the day following
the night of events we have
already described, that a young man, of
noble mien, was taking his way across
a small clearing, in the direction of a
cluster of log dwellings; some half a
dozen in number, which then comprised
the little village, since known as Venice,
and which stood about a mile distant
from Butterman's dwelling. It was a
warm, beautiful day; and the sun, about
an hour above the horizon, was shining
out pleasantly, and throwing the shadow
of the young pedestrian far behind him.
A few minutes sufficed for him to reach
the little hamlet, where he found some
half-a-dozen persons lounging about near
a building, which seemed designed, or at
least used, for other purpose than a
dwelling, as the windows were closed
with heavy oaken shutters, and the door
was shut, and fastened with a padlock on
the outside. As the young man came up
to the group of idlers, some of whom
were about his own age, and one or two
from ten to twenty years his senior, he
bowed respectfully, and said:

“Good evening, gentlemen.”

“Good evening stranger,” replied the
senior of the party—a tall, hard-featured,

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muscular man—while the others merely
nodded, and stared at him, with that look
of vulgar curiosity with which a stranger
is almost always greeted in a settlement
where other than the regular inhabitants
are rarely seen.

Even the senior of the party stared at
the young man, as well as his companions,
and each appeared to take particular
note of his dress and personal appearance—
if not with an eye of suspicion,
at least with a look which expressed a
strongly-awakened curiosity to learn the
object of his visit to a place so remote
from the highways of civilization. And
there might be an excuse for their seeming
rudeness; for whereas all of the
village party were plainly habited in the
coarse garments then worn on the frontiers,
the new-comer was elegantly attired
in a rather expensive suit, which betokened
no little skill in the tailor that
had fitted it so admirably to his handsome,
symmetrical figure. But if his
appearance and manner awakened suspicion
or curiosity in the first instance, his
second question, which he put in a hesitating
and embarassed way, was little
calculated to lessen it.

“Do you know,” he began, addressing
the senior member of the party; and then
pausing, and seeming to think for a moment,
he continued: “I have heard, sir,
that this part of the country is more or
less infested with horse-thieves.”

“Wall, stranger, reckon your hear-says
aint fur out o' the way,” was the rejoinder,
accompanied with a keener scrutiny of his
person than ever.

“Do you, if I may ask the question,
know anything of this band of outlaws?”
pursued the young man, now in his turn
fixing his eye keenly upon the individual
he questioned, at the same time not failing
to note how his query was received
by the others.

“Why, the worst I know is, that thar's
sich a set o' scoundrels about; and from
the way they've been to work amongst us
of late, thar'll hev to be a stop put to
thar cussed doings afore long.”

This answer appeared to please the
young stranger; for his eyes brightened,
and even flashed, as he rejoined:

“I have heard, too, that there is a society
forming—or is already formed—
for their extinction.”

“You've heerd so, hev ye?” answered
the other, eyeing the stranger more suspiciously
than ever. “You've heerd, so
you say?”

“I have.”

“Wall, what of it?” was the blunt

“Why, I am anxious to know if the
report be true or false.”

“And 'sposen I can't answer ye?”

“Then I must address myself to some
one else.”

“And 'sposen I say it is true?”

“Then the knowledge will greatly
rejoice me.”

“Why so?”

“Perhaps it will not be prudent for me
to answer wherefore, until I know your
motive for asking.”

“Wall, as to that,” replied the other,
rather surlily, “I don't know's I've any
pertikeler object in axing, beyond a curiosity
to know what you mought be at,
You're a stranger to us, you know; and
for all we know, you may be axing for a
bad purpose.”

“If you are honest men,” returned the
stranger, coloring, and emphasising the
doubtful word, “then I may say my motive
in asking is to advance your interests
and mine at the same time.”

“Hev you got any doubts o' our honesty?”
inquired the other, with flashing

“Why, you are strangers to me, you

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know; and I suppose I have as good a
right to doubt your honesty, as you have
to doubt mine.”

“Wall, sir, we is knowed round here;
and so may be you'd better go'n inquire.”

“So am I known where I came from,
and I freely accord to you the same
privilege,” returned the young man,

“And whar do you come from,


“Old Kaintuck, hey! Wall, I am curious
to know your business up this way.”

“Well,” replied the young, man firmly,
“I don't know as you will ever be gratified—
certainly you will not, until you
have answered my question, concerning
the organization of an anti-horse-thief

“Wall, then, to make a long story
short, I'll just say there is sich a society.”

“And in reply, I will say,” pursued
the stranger, “that my business up here
is to see this society together.”

“You want to see 'em together, hey?
Wall, I'm just as curious now to know
how you expect to gain your object, unless
you can find somebody as knows

“I think the matter is very simple. If
you can, and will, inform me where and
when it meets, I will go to the society
and ask to be admitted.”

“Wall, you don't seem to know as
how it's agin the rules of the society to
tell a stranger whar and when they meet,
and that even then you couldn't be
admitted, without you could show good
cause for it.”

“Perhaps I could show sufficient
cause, were I permitted to make the

“How you ever had a hoss stole from


“Then I don't think as how you could
show cause as 'ud be satisfactory.”

“I may judge, from what you seem to
know of the society, that you are yourself
a member.

“Wall, may be I am, and may be I
aint,” returned the other, giving a sly
wink at his companions—yet not so sly
but that the young man perceived it,
though he appeared to take no notice

“If I were sure of your being a member,”
he replied, “perhaps I could explain
to you my reasons for wishing to
see the society, so that even you, who
seem to be so suspicious of me, would no
longer have doubts of my honest intentions.”

“Wall, ef that's the case, then I may
as well tell you that I am a member.”

“Then I will speak with you aside.”

“Why, ef it's nothing only what concerns
the society, you can speak it right
out here, for we're all members.”

“Ah! thank you—I am glad to hear
it. Well, then, in the first place, you
must know, that last evening, a little later
than this, I saw a young lady, whom I
highly esteem, forcibly abducted from
Covington, Kentucky, by a party of villains,
who belong to the League of the
Miami, as they term themselves; and
which is no more nor less than a name
for a band of marauders, which you
know as horse-thieves; and having heard
before of their depredations, and that a
society had been formed for their extinction,
I came hither to find that society,
for the purpose of joining it, and attempting
to recover the girl, and take vengeance
on the outlaws generally, and, if
possible, the accursed kidnappers in particular.”

“Wall, then, I must say, I think as
how this does begin to alter the case;
and the aff'ar, on your part, begins to

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show up in a rayther satisfactory light.
But I'd like to know, stranger—I don't
know your name, ye see—”

“Langley—Edward Langley.”

“I'd like to know, Mr. Langley, how
it happens that you knows these kidnapping
thieves, you tells about, is a part of
the same band o' scamps as troubles us
round here?”

“Well, sir, I will explain;” and Edward
proceeded to give full particulars
of all he had witnessed the night previous—
but which details, being already
known to the reader, we will not here

“Yes, yes, I understand it all now,”
said the other, as Langley concluded his
narration; “and to me your story all
looks purty straight:—hey! boys—what
do you think?”

“I'd bet on it's being true,” replied
one of the party.

“And so would I, so would I,” repeated
each of the others.

“Wall, then,” said the spokesman,
“so far as I'm concerned, individually,
I'm for admitting you into the society to-night.”

“Ha! then it meets to-night, eh?”
said Langley.

“Yes, it meets to-night, and in this
here building, and the folks'll be coming
in in about a hour or so. I say, I'm for
letting you come in to-night; but I can't
do it of myself; I'll hev to speak to some
o' the head ones fust.”

“O, I pray you gain me admittance!
for I am nearly distracted to stir up the
society to go in pursuit of, and to hunt
down these atrocious villains!” replied
Edward, energetically, while his eyes
flashed, and his bosom heaved, with
strong emotions of vengeance and love,
as he thought of the kidnappers and their

“I'll do the best I can,” rejoined the
other; “but I can't promise nothing sartain.
But afore they come, 'sposen you
jest step over younder to my house, and
take some supper with me, and we'll talk
it over by ourselves.”

“Thank you!” returned Langley,
warmly. “I will accept your kind offer
with gratitude, for I really feel unusually
fatigued;” and the two set off together,
leaving the others to discuss the events
they had just heard narrated.

A little after sunset persons began to
come in from different parts of the country—
the door of the building already
mentioned as being secured with a padlock,
was thrown open—and by the time
that night had fairly darkened the earth
with her mantle, not less than thirty,
resolute, determined-looking men, were
assembled for a desperate purpose, which
purpose will be made known in the progress
of our story.

This log building contained but one
room, with benches scattered through it
for the persons assembled to sit on. A
platform at one end, on which stood a
bench and a table, with a light on the
latter, served as the place of distinction
for the president and secretary—Mr. Butterman
filling the former office, and Mr.
Munger the latter. Already were the
president and secretary in their places;
but as the members of the society from a
distance kept dropping in, the former as
yet had made no move to declare the
meeting opened for the transaction of
business. At last, when about fifty were
assembled, and a lapse of five minutes
had brought no new-comer, Mr. Butterman
arose, and requested the door to be
closed, and bolted on the inside. As
soon as this was done, he declared the
meeting opened; and then proceeded, in
a brief and emphatic manner, to state
the events of the night previous; how he
had been aroused in the middle of the

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night by a stranger—his interview with
the latter—his strange communication—
his promise to meet him again on the present
evening; how he had acted on his
communication, and had seen a man attempting
to poison his spring; how he
had fired at and missed him; how he had
followed him through the country, and
had managed to keep him in sight, which
subsequent events had led him to think
was a ruse on the part of the stranger, to
draw him in among his own party, and
then make away with him; how the villain
had so far succeeded, that he had in
turn been obliged to fly for his life; how,
being near Wilden's house, and knowing
him to be a staunch friend, he had sought
to get there by crossing a clearing; and,
in short, stated concisely all that had occurred,
in which he was concerned, up to
the death of Jake Wilden and the escape
of Thrasher—all of which is known to
the reader.

“And now,” he said, in conclusion, “I
shall let Mr. Wilden, who I perceive is
present, relate his own painful story—
pravious to which, however, I will state,
that the stranger who gave me the timely
information regarding the attempt that
would be made to poison my spring,
again made his appearance this evening,
as agreed upon, and has accompanied me
hither, to gain admittance to our society;
but I have left him at a short distance, in
charge of a couple of trusty fellows, so
that I could ascertain the mind of the
society concerning his request first. He
states his name to be Roberts; that he is
a member of a gang of horse-thieves,
who style themselves the League of the
Miami; that until last night he was their
treasurer; but on account of some quarrel,
was turned out of office by the captain,
for which he swears to have revenge
by betraying the whole party into our
hands. A man that would do this, gen
tlemen, I am free to say, I consider a
dark villain, and not to be trusted; but
at the same time, I think it wise in us to
make use of him as a tool with which to
break up this cursed League. It has
come to such a pass, now, that no one is
safe, neither in property nor person. We
are all liable to be robbed and murdered
at any moment; and I, for one, am
determined to use every means in my
power, foul or fair, to hunt down and
annihilate this detestable band of robbers,
cutthroats, and counterfeiters. Our country,
here, is new, and we have no laws
strong enough to protect us, save such as
we make ourselves; and I am for following
these scoundrels into their very den,
and there shooting them down, as we
would so many panthers, wolves, or

“It is more than human nature can
bear,” pursued Butterman, warmed into
vehemence with a thought of his own
wrongs and those of his neighbors: “yes,
I repeat, more than human nature can
bear, to be treated in the manner we
have been by these human fiends. Where
is the man among us that has not been
molested? that has not been robbed of
his best property—his noble steed—that
he had procured, and fed, and nourished
that the gallant animal might, when called
upon, bear him wherever his desire should
lead him? Having stolen our horses, if
they chance to hear that we are angry,
and complain therefor, at once they assemble,
like so many hell-hounds, and
devise, as our reward, a plan to poison
our cattle, ourselves, and our families.
Who thinks that the barns of some of you,
that were burned last year, was not the
work of their hands? Who thinks that
Thomas Becket hung himself? or that
James Mason accidentally fell into the
Miami, and was drowned? No! no!
depend upon it, gentlemen, they were

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murdered—murdered, I repeat, and by the
order of this accursed League of the
Miami. Who will be the next victim?
Poor Jake Wilden was the last—who will
be the next? Perhaps we are all doomed.
I know that my life is threatened,
and I know no reason why yours should
not be. But I will pause, and let Wilden
tell his story, which some of you
perhaps have not heard, but which truly
concerns all of us more or less. I will
only ask, previous to taking my seat,
whether you will have Roberts admitted
or not?”

This being decided in the affirmative,
Butterman sat down, and Wilden arose
to make his statement of the events of the
night previous, so far as they had come
to his knowledge. He was a heavy-built,
bony, muscular man, much inferior to
either of his sons in size, with features
strongly marked by dark passions, that
had evidently had full sway all his life.

He began by stating, in a tone of such
natural pathos that all were touched, how
he had just been called upon to consign
his first-born to the dust; and then as he
reverted to the manner in which that son
had been brought to his death, his brow
darkened, his eyes emitted a terribly malignant
gleam, his lips compressed, and
the words fairly hissed between his closed
teeth; and he went on to invoke the Almighty
to curse his enemies, and swore,
by all he held sacred, he would yet be
revenged in their heart's blood.

“And I'd hev took revenge on Jake's
damnable murderer that night,” he said,
“ef the president and secretary of this
here society, and one other as was along,
had only lent me a helping hand; but
they wouldn't, and so the thief got away.”

“One word in explanation, gentlemen,”
said the chairman, rising. “I can pardon
the insinuation just thrown out by Mr.
Wilden, from the fact that he has been
called upon to mourn the loss of a son, in
a way calculated to stir up the worst passions,
and make him feel bitter toward
every one. With regard to assisting him
in his design of executing the guilty man,
I objected, on the ground that the man
should have a brief trial first, and so give
it the appearance of legal proceedings.
He refused this, and I then rufused to aid
him, thinking he would be able to accomplish
his purpose without my assistance.
I have regretted since, that I did not aid
him in taking summary justice on the vile
thief and murderer; but I acted according
to my feelings at the time. I have
since discarded all mercy from my heart;
and you may depend upon it, gentlemen,
that the next cutthroat that is captured,
I shall be among the first to cry for his
blood, unless he is willing to save himself
by denouncing and betraying his party.
Will some one see that this man Roberts
is brought within here! as, by what we
can glean from him, we must determine
our next movements.”

“Before this Roberts is fetched here,
I'd like to make a request, Mr. President,”
said the individual in whose charge we
left Edward Langley.

“Proceed, Mr. Green!” replied the

“Thar's a young man stopping at my
house, who com'd into the place, here,
afore night, expressly to jine our society.
He says he knows a gal as has been kidnapped,
and he's for gitting revenge.
He told his story all over to me, and it
sounded so nateral, that I promised him
I'd try and git him admission. Now I
wants to know if he can be admitted?”

“Does he think the girl was kidnapped
by any one belonging to this League of
the Miami?” inquired the president.

“He says he knows she was; and I'm
inclined to b'lieve he tells the truth
about it.”

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“Well, we need all the force we can
raise,” rejoined the president; “and so,
gentlemen, I will take your minds on the
matter of admitting this stranger along
with Roberts.”

The result was a decision in the affirmative;
and while a messenger was despatched
for Roberts, Green went to notify
his guest that he could have a hearing.
In a few minutes all parties reappeared,
and the door was again bolted.

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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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