The Threat of the Vaudeville Man
At any rate it got noised about town that the
Vaudeville man was thoroughly
organized for Ben and intended to kill him the first time he ever stepped inside
his house. Of course Ben was told what was being said about him by the
hurdy-gurdy manager, but only laughed and said that he guessed if he didn't die
until he got killed by the showman, he would live a long time. But reports of
the threats that were being made against his life by the vaudeville proprietor
kept reaching him with such regularity, that he finally began to think that
perhaps there might be something in them. At any rate be made up his mind to see
for himself how much there really was in those threats that he had been hearing
about for so long. So one night while the show was in full blast he told a very
warm personal friend of his by the name of Zeno Hemphill that he had made up his
mind to go over to the show and look over the arrangements he understood had
been made for his removal from this vale of tears.
"Zeno," said Ben' 'just fall in a few feet behind me and' holler' if you see
anything that doesn't look exactly right to you when I get inside that 'Honkitonk.'
"Remember, Zeno, I only want you along for a witness incase anything happens,"
remarked Ben, as he started to cross the street to the variety theater that was
soon to witness a terrible tragedy within its walls. Ben entered a door that led
to the bar-room from the street. This bar-room was a part of the theater,
although the stage upon which the performance appeared was in another part of
In order to reach that part
of the building in which a performance was being given it was necessary for
Ben to pass along the entire length of the bar, then through a pair of
swinging doors located about ten feet further on, through which it was
necessary to pass before a view of the stage could be obtained. When Ben
first entered the bar-room he took a hasty survey of the surroundings but
saw nothing to cause alarm. In fact he did not expect the attack to come
from that part of the house, if indeed an attack was made at all, but was
looking for it to occur after he had reached the theatre proper, which would
not be until after he had passed the swinging doors.
Ben did not stop in the
bar-room but kept on walking leisurely towards the swinging doors and just
as he was about to push them apart he heard Zeno, who had just then stepped
into the room, cry out, "Look out, Ben." But before Ben could scarcely move,
the bartender, whose name was Mark Wilson, had raised a double-barreled shot
gun that he had lying along the mixing board back of the bar, and emptied
both barrels, which were heavily loaded with buckshot, at Ben, who could not
have been more than ten feet away.
Incredible as it may seem Thompson escaped without a scratch. Mark Wilson, the
bartender, was known to be a courageous young fellow who had on several
occasions shown considerable fighting grit, and for that reason he had been
selected to kill Thompson the first time he entered the place. Wilson, however,
realizing that he was taking upon himself something of a job in agreeing to
dispose of Ben Thompson, concluded that it would be best to get a little help,
so he went to his friend Sam Mathews, and told him what he had made up his mind
to do and asked him if he would help him out in the matter.
"With great pleasure," replied Mathews, and straightway went for his trusty
Winchester rifle and immediately repaired to the variety theatre to help out his
friend Wilson in putting Ben Thompson out of the way.
When Ben entered the bar-room that evening he saw Mathews standing around the
corner of the bar, but did not notice that he had a Winchester rifle leaning by
his side; in fact did not regard Mathews, whom he know quite well, as an enemy
and perhaps for that reason did not look him over very carefully. But to get to
the point. The smoke from the shot gun had scarcely blown aside before Ben had
whipped out his pistol and like a flash of lightning had shot Wilson dead in his
tracks. Ben then 'noticed that Mathews had a Winchester rifle in his hand and
instantly concluded that he too, was there for the purpose of aiding Wilson in
killing him. Mathews seemed to anticipate what was passing through Thompson's
mind, for he ducked down behind the bar instead of attempting to use the rifle,
Thompson, instead of going around the end of the bar where he could see Mathews,
took a rough guess at his location and fired through the end of the bar. The
bullet struck Mathews squarely in the mouth and toppled him over on the floor.