“But to get back to Josiah Wilson. He lived in Indiana, close to the boundary line between that State and Illinois, and he courted Melinda Smith, a young woman who lived a little way up the mountain side with her father and three brothers. The girl was anxious to be married, but her family was dead against it. You see Josiah was a Republican and a Methodist, while the Smiths were Democrats and Baptists, and, naturally, they hated each other like poison, and one night as old man Smith and Josiah met on their way to rival prayer meetings, they exchanged revolver shots, without, however, doing any harm. Then once Josiah had most of the calf of his leg taken off by the Smiths’ bull-dog, and twice the Smith boys came into the sitting-room where Josiah was calling on Melinda, and suggested to him with their shot-guns that he had better go home. Gradually Josiah and Melinda came to the conclusion that her family was resolved to discourage the match, so they determined to elope and be married without the knowledge or consent of anybody.
“One dark night Josiah carried a ladder and planted it under Melinda’s window. He had advised her to walk out of the front door, which was always left unlocked at night, but she refused, saying that if she was going to elope she should do it in the proper way, and that if Josiah had no respect for her, she had some little respect for herself. She climbed down the ladder with a good deal of difficulty, because she insisted that Josiah should help her, and also that he should stand forty yards away, for reasons connected with her ankles, and he found it rather trying to follow out these contradictory orders. However, Melinda reached the ground at last, and the pair started in a carriage that had been waiting just around a bend in the road, in company with the Methodist minister. Their plan was to drive to the next town and there to be married, but it happened that one of the Smith boys, being restless, got up in the night, and, looking out of the window, saw the ladder standing at Melinda’s window. In about twenty minutes after the young people had started, the whole Smith family and their shot-guns were following the runaways in a waggon, and gaining on them fast.
“The Methodist minister, whose hearing was unusually good, heard the sound of hoofs before Josiah noticed it, and told the young people that there was not the least doubt that they were pursued, and would be overtaken in a very few minutes. ‘And then, you know,’ he added, ’the chances are that, being Baptists, they will shoot first, and ask for explanations afterwards. The only thing for us to do is to get the marriage ceremony over before they come up. Then they will see that opposition is of no use, and will listen to reason.’
[Illustration: “THEY WERE MARRIED.”]