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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 162

Men of their class do not keep money long, and when the proceeds of the robbery had been wasted at cards and in drink they separated. As in fulfilment of the axiom that a murderer is sure to revisit the scene of his crime, one of the men found himself at the Ocmulgee, a long time afterward, in sight of the new town—Macon. In response to his halloo a skiff shot forth from the opposite shore, and as it approached the bank he felt a stir in his hair and a touch of ice at his heart, for the ferryman was his victim of years ago. Neither spoke a word, but the criminal felt himself forced to enter the boat when the dead man waved his hand, and he was rowed across, his horse swimming beside the skiff. As the jar of the keel was felt on the gravel he leaped out, urged his horse to the road, sprang to the saddle, and rushed away in an agony of fear, that was heightened when a hollow voice called, "Stay!"

After a little he slackened pace, and a farmer, who was standing at the roadside, asked, in astonishment, "How did you get across? There is a freshet, and the ferryman was drowned last night." With a new thrill he spurred his horse forward, and made no other halt until he reached the tavern, where he fell in a faint on the steps, for the strain was no longer to be endured. A crowd gathered, but he did not see it when he awoke—he saw only one pair of eyes, that seemed to be looking into his inmost soul—the eyes of the man he had slain. With a yell of terror and of insane fury he rushed upon the ghost and thrust a knife into its breast. The frenzy passed. It was no ghost that lay on the earth before him, staring up with sightless eyes. It was his fellow-murderer—his own brother. That night the assassin's body hung from a tree at the cross-roads.





A GHOSTLY AVENGER

In Cuthbert, Georgia, is a gravestone thus inscribed: "Sacred to the memory of Jim Brown." No date, no epitaph—for Jim Brown was hanged. And this is the story: At the close of the Civil War a company of Federal soldiers was stationed in Cuthbert, to enforce order pending the return of its people to peaceful occupations. Charles Murphy was a lieutenant in this company. His brother, an officer quartered in a neighboring town, was sent to Cuthbert one day to receive funds for the payment of some men, and left camp toward evening to return to his troop. That night Charles Murphy was awakened by a violent flapping of his tent. It sounded as though a gale was coming, but when he arose to make sure that the pegs and poles of his canvas house were secure, the noise ceased, and he was surprised to find that the air was clear and still. On returning to bed the flapping began again, and this time he dressed himself and went out to make a more careful examination. In the shadow of a tree a man stood beckoning. It was his brother, who, in a low, grave voice, told him that he was in trouble, and asked him to follow where he should lead him. The lieutenant walked swiftly through fields and woods for some miles with his relative—he had at once applied for and received a leave of absence for a few hours—and they descended together a slope to the edge of a swamp, where he stumbled against something. Looking down at the object on which he had tripped, he saw that it was his brother's corpse—not newly dead, but cold and rigid—the pockets rifled, the clothing soaked with mire and blood.


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