away at dusk. That night his house was searched by men masked

and armed. The Lewallens were in town, and were ready to fight.

The crisis had come.

IV

BACK at the mill old Gabe was troubled. Usually he sat in a

cane-bottomed chair near the hopper, whittling, while the lad

tended the mill, and took pay in an oaken toll-dish smooth with the

use of half a century. But the incident across the river that morning

had made the old man uneasy, and he moved restlessly from his

chair to the door, and back again, while the boy watched him,

wondering what the matter was, but asking no questions. At noon

an old mountaineer rode by, and the miller hailed him.

"Any news in town?" he asked.

"Hain't been to town. Reckon fightin' 's goin' on thar from whut I

heerd." The careless, high-pitched answer brought the boy with

wide eyes to the door.

Whut d'ye hear? " asked Gabe. Jes heerd fightin' 's goin' on!

Then every man who came for his meal brought a wild rumor from

town, and the old miller moved his chair to the door, and sat there

whittling fast, and looking anxiously toward Hazlan. The boy was

in a fever of unrest, and old Gabe could hardly keep him in the

mill. In the middle of the afternoon the report of a rifle came

down the river, breaking into echoes against the cliffs below, and

Isom ran out the door, and stood listening for another, with an odd

contradiction of fear and delight on his eager face. In a few

moments Rome Stetson galloped into sight, and, with a shrill cry

of relief, the boy ran down the road to meet him, and ran back,

holding by a stirrup. Young Stetson's face was black with passion,

and his eyes were heavy with drink. At the door of the mill he

swung from his horse, and for a moment was hardly able to speak

from rage. There had been no fight. The Stetsons were few and

unprepared. They had neither the guns nor, without Rufe, the

means to open the war, and they believed Rufe had gone for arms.

So they had chafed in the store all day, and all day Lewallens on

horseback and on foot were in sight; and each was a taunt to every

Stetson, and, few as they were, the young and hot-headed wanted

to go out and fight. In the afternoon a tale-bearer had brought some

of Jasper's boasts to Rome, and, made reckless by moonshine and

much brooding, he sprang up to lead them. Steve Marcum, too,

caught up his gun, but old Sam's counsel checked him, and the two

by force held Rome back. A little later the Lewallens left town.

The Stetsons, too, disbanded, and on the way home a last drop of

gall ran Rome's cup of bitterness over. Opposite Steve Brayton's

cabin a jet of smoke puffed from the bushes across the river, and a

bullet furrowed the road in front of him. That was the shot they

had heard at the mill. Somebody was drawing a dead-line," and

Rome wheeled his horse at the brink of it. A mocking yell came

over the river, and a gray horse flashed past an open space in the

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