IT was only after a desperate struggle that Julian Broderick, a state policeman, had mastered the fugitive. Broderick could not remember having ever had so stern and prolonged a chase and so sudden and fierce an encounter. The affair happened, too, on a peculiarly lonely stretch of beach between the solitary pinelands and the waste sea marshes. Broderick knew that had the struggle ended differently many a day would have passed before his friends learned of his fate—if they ever learned of it. After the posse had abandoned the pursuit, Broderick had dogged his man through swamps and across rivers until at last he had come upon him just as the fellow was about to cross a deep tidal estuary. In the clash that followed the law had triumphed, and as soon as Broderick had handcuffed his man the two began the toilsome march to Sellers, the nearest settlement.
The prisoner was Jason Jones, a powerful negro, whose reputation in his community at Rosemary up to the time when he robbed Ashton, the storekeeper, had been good. Jones had fled on the night of the crime. The deed had been done on a Friday. It was not until the following Tuesday that the robber was caught; in all that time, Broderick felt sure, the silent man who now marched before him had had hardly a mouthful to eat. Compared with Broderick, Jason Jones was a giant; and the state policeman felt that he should have had small chance against so formidable an antagonist if the man had not been exhausted by the pitiless and protracted pursuit. Broderick was sorry for the fellow, and he intended when they reached Sellers to see to it immediately that the man was decently cared for.
The two men arrived in the seacoast village at sunset, but a strange sort of darkness had already set in. A sharp misty rain, driven by an insistent east wind, had been falling for an hour. The huddled houses of the small settlement showed lights in them. It was an evening to be indoors. Broderick, weary physically and mentally, at last brought his captive to the post office. Sellers was the kind of village that has only one officer of the law, who serves as constable, storekeeper and postmaster, and Broderick was an old friend of this man, whose name was Jim Laws.
“Jim,” he said, “I’ve got a man here with me. Guess I’ll have to ask you to let me keep him here to-night.”