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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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While the scene just described was
transpiring at Butterman's, another, belonging
to the same drama, no less
exciting, was taking place at Wilden's,
distant some five or six miles. In a rude
barn, only a few rods away from the
house, two large, powerful men were
keeping guard over a dozen horses,
which were stabled there for the night.
The surnames of both of these personages
were Wilden, and both were sons of the
proprietor of the place, and consequently
were brothers. The elder was about
four and twenty years of age, and a perfect
Hercules in size and strength, being
not less than six feet six inches in stature,
and proportioned accordingly. The other
was some two years his junior, and about
two inches less in hight, though probably
his equal in weight and strength. Neither
was a person one would like to meet in
mortal combat, unless sure of having a
decided advantage at the start; and even
then, the provocation would have to be
great, to tempt the readiest fighter to the
unequal encounter.

The brothers were seated on a bench,
within the rude barn, with a lantern
standing between them, the light of which
faintly gleamed upon their faces, partially
revealing their coarse, heavy, weather-beaten
features, and dull, drowsy-looking
eyes. It was about three o'clock in the
morning; and as neither had slept during
the night, both began to feel that dull,
dreamy heaviness, which is the precursor
of utter forgetfulness. They sat with
their heads bent forward; and ever and
anon they nodded; but when they felt
that sleep was creeping upon them too
fast, they raised their heads suddenly,
stared around them, and not unfrequently
yawned, and stretched themselves to the
full extent of their huge proportions. It
was immediately after a longer yawn and
harder stretch than usual, that the elder
of the two, staring to his feet, and
shaking his huge frame like a dog on
coming out of the water, said, in a gruff

“Confound it! won't it never be

“I live in hopes,” answered the other,
yawning; and rising also to his feet, he
caught hold of a beam above his head,
and drew himself half way up to it, as if
to get all the kinks out of his body and

“I don't think thar's much use of our
staying here any longer,” said the first
speaker. “Ef the scoundrelly horse-thieves
war going to do anything in the
way of business here, they'd hev been at
it afore this—eh! Bob?”

“That's my opine,” returned the
younger; “but we'll hev to stay here
till morning, all the same, Jake; for ef we
should go away, and thar should anything
happen to the beasts, the old man
would kick up a thundering row, and no

“I wish to thunder some o'the scoundrels
would come, and show a fair fight,
and then we should hev something to do
to keep us awake—eh! Bob?”

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[figure description] Page 053.[end figure description]

“Yes, that's a fact; but thar's no likelihood
of thar coming while we're here;
for they're a set of cowards, as well as
knaves; and they'll take mighty good
keer not to run agin two sich ugly mugs
as we is. But I say, Jake, hev ye
got any 'backy? for the whisky jug's
empty, and I want some stimulating to
keep me away from the land of nod.”

“Yes, here's a chaw, and that's all;”
and as he passed the “pernicious weed”
over to his companion, there came a
knock upon the door nearest to where the
brothers stood.

“Who's thar, at this time of night?”
demanded the elder.

“A friend,” replied a voice from without.

“Well, who is a friend? and what does
a friend want?” was the second gruff interrogative.

“My name is Pottenger, you know me
well, and I want to get the use of your
lantern for a few minutes, to find something
I have lost in the road.”

“Ira Pottenger, eh!” returned Jake.
“Well, yes, I reckon we do know ye
some, and you shall be accommodated
with all you ask for;” and as he spoke,
he advanced to the door, threw it open,
and invited the other to walk in.

“I suppose you are somewhat surprised
to see me at this time of night,” said Pottenger,
as he advanced into the barn;
“but the fact is, I was down to see a
friend, some ten miles below here, and
the storm coming on, I thought I would
stay till it was over, and then return; for
it is absolutely necessary I should be
home by daylight.”

“Whar do you live?” asked Jake

“Where? why, is it possible you do
not know?” returned Pottenger, in well-feigned
surprise. “Really, I thought
everybody knew where I make my
home—at least, everybody in this vicinity.
Do you know where Runyan's
Purchase is?”

“Yes, I know the place well.”

“Well, I make my home with Peter
Mason, who lives just one mile north of
the northern boundary of Runyan's Purchase.”

“Why, that's all of fifteen miles from
here!” cried the other, in surprise;
“and you don't think of traveling that
afore daylight?—but then I'spect you've
got a horse along?”

“No, I am afoot, and I really think of
getting home by daylight; but you forget—
or rather, perhaps, you do not
know—how quick I am of foot. Why,
sir, I can walk five miles an hour, for five
consecutive hours; and I am willing to-wager
I can pass over forty miles of
ground in the same time—or that I can
perform a longer journey in a week than
the best horse you can produce. By-the-by,
now I think of it, how is it that I find
you up here at this time of night?”

“Why, ye see, we is watching these
here hosses, as dad is agoing to sell for
his neighbors.”

“Horses! why, I do not see any

“Come here, and I'll show ye some as
can't be beat,” returned the other; and
taking up the lantern, he advanced to the
farther side of the barn, and pointed over
a log into the stable, where not less than
a dozen horses were tied—holding up the
light, at the same time, so that the other
could see distinctly.

“O, yes, now I understand,” said;
Pottenger; “these are the same horses
that I was commissioned to sell—but
which I declined—having more on my
hands than I could well get along with
If I remember rightly, the settlers are
selling them to prevent their being

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[figure description] Page 054.[end figure description]

“That's jest exactly it,” replied Jake
Wilden; “but afore I'd sell a animal
for any sich purpose, I'd bite my own
tongue off.”

“Why, it would be better to have them
sold than stolen, would it not?”

“Per'aps so; but I'd run the risk o'
thar being stole; and ef they was, I'd be
sartain to hunt down the cussed thieves,
and shoot 'em like dogs.”

“If you could find them, that is.”

“But I would find 'em—eh! Bob?”

“Wall we would, hoss.”

“I wish the party could be broken
up,” rejoined Pottenger. “They have
become very troublesome of late, and I
have lost one of the best horses by them
that ever blacksmith put a shoe on. Why
is there not something done to arrest their
depredations, and exterminate the whole
gang? I would cheerfully give a hundred
dollars to be assured of their annihilation.”

“Wall, wait a bit, and I reckon you
can dispose of the hundred to suit ye,”
returned the other. “Thar's something
adoing already toward gitting up a company
o' fellers as won't fear to face the
very devil; and ef you live a few weeks
longer, Mr. Pottenger, its my opine you'll
see sights—or may be hear 'em—case
you don't belong to the party.”

“But can I not join your fraternity?
for I assure you I am as anxious as
any one to exterminate these thieving

“Wall, yes, I 'spose you mought jine,
ef you was so minded—eh! Bob?”

“Reckon he could.”

“Where do you meet next?”

“Can't tell ye now; but come down
here to-morrow night, by sundown, and
I'll find a way to git ye thar.”

“But why can you not tell me

“Case you don't belong to us; and
it's agin the rules to blab to anybody as
aint a member—eh! Bob?”

“Fact, Jake.”

“Well, then, I will try to be here at
sunset to-morrow,” rejoined Pottenger.
“But while we have been talking; I have
forgotten my errand. To resume my
story. I was saying I had been down
below to see a friend, and the storm
keeping me till late, besides a desire that
the roads should dry a little before I set
out, I did not leave till one o'clock.
Well, I had got as far as here, when the
idea struck me that I would see the time
of night—never once taking into consideration,
as I pulled out my watch, that I
could see nothing without a light. Another
thing I had forgotten; and that is,
that in my watch fob I had a diamond
worth a hundred dollars. Well, in pulling
out my watch, it stuck rather tight,
and I gave it a sudden jerk, by which
means the pocket partly turned inside
out, and the mouth of it bent over toward
the ground. In fact, the long and short
of it is, that when I went to put it back,
I first felt for my diamond, and missed
it; and I naturally came to the conclusion
that I had dropped it on the ground. I
felt round for it, as best I could, but did
not succeed in finding it; and observing
a light shining through the crevices of
the barn here, I hastened forward to procure
it. Now you know my story; and
if you will be kind enough to come down
and help me search for it, I will reward
you liberally.”

“Do you want both on us?”

“No, only one,” replied Pottenger,
decisively. And then, seeming to reflect
a moment, he added: “That is, I do not
wish to dictate. If you are both willing
to come, perhaps, on second thought, it
would be as well, on the principle that if
two pair of eyes are better than one, so
three must as a natural consequence be

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[figure description] Page 055.[end figure description]

better than two. At all events, I do not
want to lose my diamond, and I will
freely give five dollars to the finder.”

“Then I swow I'll go!” said the
younger of the Wilden's.

“Come along then, Bob!” returned
the elder; and taking up the lantern, he
led the way out of the barn, followed by
the others.

Closing the door behind them, the
party proceeded to the road, or horse-path,
which ran between the house and
barn; then turning to the right, they
continued on some twenty rods, to a spot
where some bushes, growing thick, completely
hid the barn from their view.

The moment they were fairly out of
sight, four dark figures, skulked along
close to the barn, and opening the door
whence the Wilden's had issued, each
entered noiselessly, one at a time, and
carefully closed the door behind them.
As soon as this was done, the foremost
sprung a dark lantern, and all hurriedly
examined the appearance of the place.
Looking carefully about on every side,
their eyes soon encountered a couple of
rifles leaning up against a hay-mow; and
while two sprang forward, seized these,
knocked out the flints, and shook out the
priming, the other two hurriedly examined
the stable, and the position of the horses.

“Well, comrades,” said the one carrying
the light, but speaking in a low,
guarded tone, “how had we better
manage?—for these fellows, as you just
now saw for yourselves, are perfect

“Why, Jarvis,” replied one of the
party, “I think we had better crouch
down here, near the door, and as they
come in, bound upon them, two upon
one, and overpower them the best way
we can. No doubt some of us will get
knocked down in the scuffle; but we
must all be cautious that our passions do
not get so excited as to cause us to take
life. We must gag and bind them, of
course, and then we can work to suit

“Well, I suppose that will be the best
plan,” replied Jarvis. “I, like you, am
opposed to taking life; but I tell you
what it is, comrades, if I find these fellows
too troublesome, I shall not stop to
knock them down with this;” and as he
spoke, he exhibited a heavy slung-shot.

“Agreed!” replied the other; “if
they prove troublesome, there is no other
course for us to pursue, be the consequences
what they may.”

Having thus settled matters to their
satisfaction, the four intruders arranged
themselves, two on either side of the
door, to await the return of the Wildens.
Minute after minute went by, and a
quarter of an hour elapsed, and yet the
young men had not returned.

“How long Pottenger keeps them!”
said one, in a whisper.

“I suppose they have not found the
diamond yet,” rejoined another.

“A cute trick,” said a third, in a
whisper also. “It takes Pottenger to do
the decoy business. How well he managed
the whole affair. I declare, I was
puzzled to conjecture what excuse he
could make to get them both out without
exciting suspicion; but he did admirably.”

“And did you notice,” put in the
fourth, “how, when the question was
asked, if he wanted both, he replied in
the negative; and then, after a little apparent
reflection, managed to make it out
for the best that both should go.”

“I thought, at one time, he was going
to peach,” said Jarvis, “when he talked
so freely of us as scoundrels; but I soon
understood the drift of his discourse.”

“It never occurred to me that Pottenger
would prove treacherous to us,”
rejoined Henry Morford, who was one of

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[figure description] Page 056.[end figure description]

the present party. “No, no—any one
that knows him as well as I, must be
satisfied that Ira Pottenger is as true as
steel. I wish I could say as much for
Roberts,—for he, I do believe, is a villain
by nature!”

“But you must admit,” said one,
“that you are prejudiced against him,
since the quarrel of to-night.”

“It may be I am somewhat, Sezmond,”
answered the other, “but the
truth is, I never did look upon him as
any too honest. I watched him closely,
after the captain came in, and we were
laying out our plans for the night, and
methought I could detect an expression
on his countenance that foreboded evil to
us; but I may have been mistaken; and
I certainly have no desire to suspect any
one wrongfully—much less to bring a
false accusation against him. By-the-by,
has any one seen him since the meeting
broke up?”

“Yes, he joined us about half an hour
ago,” replied Jarvis; “and if I am
not mistaken, he is now with the captain.”

“Since these fellows are so powerful, I
regret we did not fetch Ben Thrasher
with us,” said Sezmond.

“Why, Thrasher is not in the party,”
answered Jarvis, “unless he joined it
since we came in here. He went to
poison Butterman's spring, and it is a
chance if he joins us.”

“Well, then, there was Tom Giles, as
strong as Thrasher.”

“Yes, but you know Giles is rough
and headstrong, and always for extreme
measures. If he were here, he would be
for killing these fellows at once; and the
Captain has particularly cautioned us
against shedding blood, if it can possibly
be avoided.”

“Well, we must do the best we can,
then, it seems,” put in Morford. “You
say, Jarvis, you saw Roberts join the
party?—you are sure?”

“Yes, I am sure, for I was talking-with
the Captain when he came in.”

“Did he seem flurried or excited in
any way?”

“No, as far as I could judge, he was
very calm—more so than usual.”

“Ah! I fear that calmness, then, portends
a storm,” rejoined Morford. “To
save my life, I cannot help thinking that
man meditates treachery.”

“If I were sure of it,” replied Jarvis,
“I would plant a knife in his heart before
daylight; but I think he is too sensible
to attempt such villainy, no matter what
he may think of it. Now such a fellow
as Melven was just the one to betray us;
for he is a coward at heart, and no coward
should be trusted; besides, he joined us
on compulsion, to save his own life, and
I have been afraid of him ever since.
But he is caught at last, in the very act,
and death will silence him forever.”

“What do you know against him?”
asked Sezmond.

“Enough to condemn him,” replied
Jarvis; “but wait till the night of trial,
and then you shall hear and see for
yourself. But hark! do you not hear

“Yes, it is the brothers returning,”
whispered Morford. “And there! now
they laugh. Pottenger has managed,
somehow, to put them in good humor: I
shouldn't wonder if the diamond had
been found in reality.”

“Silence, now!” said Jarvis; “not
even let a whisper be heard, for the time
draws near for action. Be ready, comrades,
to spring upon them, like a tiger
leaping upon his prey. Have the ropes
ready to bind them! I have one gag—
who has the other?”

“I have,” answered Morferd.

“Then you and Charles act together,

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[figure description] Page 057.[end figure description]

and Sezmond and I will do the same.
All ready now, silence!” and at the
close of the last word, a breathless stillness
succeeded among the horse-thieves.

Meantime, the brothers Wilden were
returning to the barn, wholly unsuspicious
of danger, and evidently in very
good humor with themselves and everybody
else, for they talked fast and laughed

“Yes,” said the elder, as they drew
near the barn, in reply to some previous
remark of the other, “a deuced good
thing for us, as it turned out, for we
made five dollars by it. He's a chap as
pays well, is that Pottenger, and I'd like
to watch hosses every night, ef he was
sure to come along and lose a diamond—
ha, ha, ha—eh! Bob?”

“Exactly; and I'd be in too. But I
say, Jake, let's save up this here, till next
frolie; and then won't we astonish the
boys with the ready?—and, for that matter,
the gals, too?—ha, ha, ha!”

“Wall we will, hoss; and that's a allfired
good idee; for I was just thinking
how we was agoing to manage to show it
off, without we went on a spree; and it
makes a feller feel so logey arter he's
been drunk all by himself.”

“I thought, one time, we warn't agoing
to find it,” said the other; “but my
eyes is purty considerable keen; and at
last, jest as we was about giving it up, I
popped right on to it, beautiful. I seed
something shine, and I knowed right off
as how it was it — case I onc't heerd a
feller tell as how diamonds was just like
stars in the night—they'd shine so handsome.
I wish diamonds was jest as
plenty as rocks—don't you, Jake?”

“Why do you wish that, Bob?”

“Case then a feller could be so rich.”

“Why, how'd they make you rich?”

“How! why you must be green, aint
yer? Don't you know diamonds is very
valuable? Only think! he said as how
that thar little bit was worth a hundred
dollars; and so you can see, by that,
what a cart-load on 'm 'ud bring.”

“Yes, but ef they was plenty as
you've said, who'd buy 'em?”

“Who'd buy 'em, Jake?—why everybody
as wanted 'em, and could afford it,
in course.”

“Thar's whar you're green,” cried the
other, with a triumphant laugh. “Why,
numskull, who in thunder d'ye 'spose 'ud
want to buy, ef he could jest get 'em for
the picking up?—eh! Bob?—ha, ha, ha!”

“Pshaw! you're a fool, aint yer?”
returned the other, angrily, as he secretly
acknowledged the force of his brother's
argument. “You needn't grin, now, and
snicker, in that kind of a way,” he pursued,
“case I could jest argufy you all
out on't, ef I was a mind to; but I shan't
stop to waste my breath on sich a saphead,
no how.”

“No, Bob, I wouldn't—ha, ha, ha!”
roared the other, in great glee.

By this time the brothers had reached
the barn; and opening the door, the
elder half stumbled in, laughing uproariously
at the discomfiture of the other,
who followed close upon his heels, bearing
the lantern. But scarcely had the
latter crossed the threshold, when the
lantern was dashed from his hand, and
the laugh of the brother was changed to
an exclamation of rage and dismay, as
both found themselves assailed by an unlooked-for
foe, of whose number or design
they knew nothing.

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