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The Hunted Man

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It was a wild, rocky, hilly country through which the path led, winding about among bowlders and scrubby trees, now skirting the edge of a ravine, now crossing a brawling stream, and again going straight over a rugged hill. Along this path a man was walking at a pretty rapid pace, looking neither to the right nor left, but with his flerce gray eyes fixed steadily before him. He waa of medium height, well built, with broad, strong looking shoulders, in which there was a little stoop. His hair and beard were of a light, ashy brown, his complexion sallow, and his features commonplace enough, with the exception of his eyes, in which there was a cold, cruel light. He seemed to be well acquainted with the country, pursuing his way without hesitation, though occasionally he carne to a place whcre another path intersected the one he was tra veling. Walking thus, neither slacking nor accelerating his gait, he carne to a hill much higher and steeper thau any he had yet crossed. Climbing this he necessarily went slower and with more difflculty, but the view that greeted his eyes when he got to the top would have well repaid him for the toil of the ascent had he been one to appreciate the beauties of nature. Far away was a range of mountains, blue and misty in the distance, the lines of elevation gradually sinking to the foot hills, whieh seemed to roll away tn great billows, breaking at his very feet in a chaotic mass of rocks, trees and glancing waters. But this traveler had no eye for the beautiful- the distant mountains, which he stood still for a moment to gaze upon, were to him only a place of refuge, and that distance which softeued their rugged features and lent enchantment to them, he would gladly have dispensed with. With a heavy sigh, the flrst symptom of weariness he had shown, he was about to resume his journey when he suddenly carne to a stand again, turning his eyes, in which there was a startled look, in the dlrection whence he had come. He had heard a sound that he too well knew. It was the bay oí a hound, just audible, far away to the southeast. He listened lntently. The dog did not give voice contlnuously, but only at intervals, and nis keen ear detected a difference in the bays as they came nearer; there were two dogs running, and running over the very route by which he had come. He knew well what that meant. He was not deceived. He did not allow any hopeful fancy to persuade him that those dogs were in pursuit of any four footed beaat. It was a man they were after - he knew it. When the hound hunts the deer or the wild cat his yelp is quick and joyous, but when he hunts man his voice is deep and sonorous and breaks on the still air like the toil of the death 'oell. The hunted man turned and looked at the mountain again, and there was a great longing in his flerce eyes. Alasl those blue peaks - how far they were away. Then, with the activity of the p&nther, which he Bomewhat resembled In his nature, he bounded down the slope of the hill, at the foot of which he plucged Into a swiftly running stream. The water was not deep, coming up to his knees, and wading through that he ran a hundred yards or more, and then turning, retsaced his steps. There was a mountain ash growing about tvventy feet from the stream, lts wide spreading branches reaching out some thirty feet from the trunk. Climbing the tree, he clambered out on one of the branches overhanging the water and dropped from the end of it, wadina; a considerable distance before landing, when he hastened to the top of another hill and stopped to listen just an instant. He could hear the dogs plainly now; they were rapidly approaching. There was a place of refuge that he knew of, where no man, he thought, could flnd him. No man. But there were the dogs, whose sense of smell was more unerring than the intellienee of man. They would track him to his hlding place in epite of all that he might do. If he succeeded in reaching this placs - it was not far away - they could not get at him there, but they would know that he was somewhere near at hand. They would know - ah, yes, the dogs would know, but the men might think them at fault and draw them off. There was a chance of that, and it was the only chance on which he could build a hope. But come what would, he would die game; they should not take him alive. He had no weapon save a long bladed knife, which he drew from lts scabbard in his bosom, glancing at its keen edge and thrustiug it back again. He was running while these thoughts were passing through his brain, and in a little while he carne to a ravine, the bottom of which he reached by successive leaps from bowlder to bowlder. Then he ran down the ravine until he carne to a place where the sides where high and precipitous. A tree growing on the top of the cliff on one side hung over the verge, and from its gnarled and twisted branches depended a stout grapevine that reached about two-thirds of the distance from the top to the bottom. The man stopped here and with much difficulty clambered up until he could reach this vine, up which he went, hand over hand, as a sailor goes up a rope. About twenty feet from where he started he ceased climbing, and giving the vine a swinging motion, after two or three vibrations, suddenly disappeared, apparently iuto the very face of the rock. The hounds came on. They lost the trail at the stream, up which the fugitivo had waded. It delayed them a little while - it was all he had expected - and then they picked it up again, following it eagerly and plunging into the ravine, their deep voices echoing among the rocks and making aa great a clamor as though there had been a f uil pack engaged in the chase. Suddenly they stopped and began to sniff about the foot of the cliff where the man had climbed up, holding their heads up and baying at regular intervals. Three men now made their appearance, leading their horses, which they had been obliged to dismount, in order that they might piek their way down an almost practicable path. The dogs were trying to crawl up the face of the rock. 'Well, Til be dttrned if thet chap ain't clum' up to thet thar grapevine an' pone up thet like a squrrul," said one of the men. "Is there no way to get to the top of this cliff?" asked one, who seemed to be the chief of the party. "This here cleft," said he who had spoken first. "Oh, yes! thar's a way roun'; but he'll heve got a good start on us, an' I reckin thet's 'bout w'at he was up to. They does try all manner er tricks when the dogs is behin' 'em, terber sho'. But come on, we'll see ef we can't catch up with him. Here, Pete - here, Jack," to the dogs, which were with some difflculty prevailed upon to leave the spot where the trail ended. When the little party at last reached the top of the cliffs and the dogs were set to work they failed to find, though they went over the ground thoroughly, pacing hither and thither, with their noses down and their tails swinging back and forth like pendulums. "Now thet's w'at I calis cu'r'us," said the master of the hounds. "Thet feller ain't never been up here." "Where did he go, then?" asked the officer of the law, for such was the chief of the party. "Now, thet's Jes' w'at I'd like to know, merse'f," replied the other. "He c'uldn't a flowed away." "The dogs must have been at fault," said the sheriff's deputy. "No, stranger," said the man, "them thar houn's never was at fault yit, es long es I hes had 'em; 111 sw'ar by 'em 'fo' jedge an' jury." The speaker then went to the verge of the cliff, and, lying down on his belly, looked over. "Can't see nothin' from thar," he said, getting up. Then he clambered out on the trunk of the tree that overhung the abyss. "By golly!" he shouted, "he's thar." "Where?" "In a hole down thar. Yer c'uldn't see it to save yer life frum anywhar's eist but right here. It looks, fur all the worl', like a great big chimbly swaller's nes', an' I'll bet my hoss an' my dogs to boot thet he's in thar." "He may be in there, as you say, my friend," said the sheriff, "but the question is: How is he to be got out?" "I'U git him out," said the man. "Didn't I barg'in to ketch yer man fur yer?" "Yes, you did, but I have no desire to see you throw your life away, bargain or no bargain, and I know that this is a desperate man you propose to tackle at a great disadvantage. " "A barg'in 's a barg'in," said the other, unsheathing a big hunting knife that was buckled round his waist and slidlng down the grapevine with it gripped between his teeth. When he got opposite the opening in the wall of rock he held fast with his left hand, and taking the knife out of his mouth with the right, called out. Those above could hear all that was said, though they could not see the speakers. " Helio w, strangerl" he said, "kin yer 'commodate another feller in thar, ur is the house crowded?" Waiting a few minutes and getting no answer to his demand, he called again. "Look out the do', lan'lord," he shouted; "when folks is & wantin' to stop at y er tavern is this here the way to treat 'em? I knows yer're at home, an' less'n yer be drunk, yer're jis' grumpy, an' thet do look bad in a man w'at keeps a tavern. Come, now, lemme hear from yer, feller citizen." As it was evident that this man did not intend to be denied, the occupant of the cave at last made his appearance. "Look here, my frien'," he said, fixing his fierce eyes on his unwelcome visitor, "did yer never hear thet ole sayin', 'Better let sleepin' dogs lie?' Ef yer didn't yer hears it now." "Oh, yes," was the reply, "I heve heered it afore, but I heve cotch many a sleepin' dog by the throat an' hel' him till the breath was out'n him, an' I ain't skeered uv dogs nur men, sleepin' nur wakin'. Thar's some folks up here on the top a this here house uv your'n as wants to see yer, an' you've got to come, fair or foul." "Go away from here, man!" said the fugitive. "I don't know yer, an' I ain't got nothin' agin yer, but if yer life be wirth anything to yer go an' leave me in peace." But the other, heeding not the warning, gave his body a motion which started the vine swinging. It hung twelve or fifteen feet away from the cliff, which was concave, and it took a few minutes to impart to it the momentum necessary to bring it near enough for him to risk the leap he intended to take; and while he was still swinging, the man in the cave, armed with his knife, climbed upou the narrow ledge that surronnded the entrance to his hiding place. He stood a moment as if awaiting the assault of hls adversary, and then, seeming to change his mind, crouched like a wild beast and sprung at him where he hung, at the same time making a savage lunge with his knife. The man clinging to tb vine was perfectly cool, and prepared for just sueh an attack as this. He had wrapped his left leg around the vine, allowlng the right to hang loose, and as the other launched himself from the rock, he threw the right out with a quick, vigorous jerk, planting his heavy cowhide boot in the middle of the fugitive's breast and dashing him back against the cliff, at the foot of which he feil in a heap, with no more Ufe in him than there was in the bowlders among whieh he lay. - Robert Boggs in New Orleans Times-Democrat.


Old News
Ann Arbor Register