quivered on the water running under him. The stern of a Lewallen
canoe swung into the basin, and he sprang to his feet.
"Rome!" The cry cut sharply through the drowsy air. " Thar he is!
The old miller rose to his feet. The boy threw himself behind the
sacks of grain. Rome wheeled for his rifle, and stood rigid before
the door. There was a light step without, the click of a gun-lock
within; a shadow fell across the doorway, and a girl stood at the
threshold with an empty bag in her hand.
WITH a little cry she shrank back a step. Her face paled and her
lips trembled, and for a moment she could not speak. But her eyes
swept the group, and were fixed in two points of fire on Rome.
"Why don't ye shoot! "she asked, scornfully.
"I hev heerd that the Stetsons have got to makin war on
women-folks, but I never believed it afore." Then she turned to
Kin I git some more meal hyeh? " she asked. " Or have ye stopped
sellin' to folks on t'other side? " she added, in a tone that sought no
"You kin have all ye want," said old Gabe, quietly.
"The mill on Dead Crick is broke ag'in," she continued, " 'n' co'n is
skeerce on our side. We'll have to begin buyin' purty soon, so I
thought I'd save totin' the co'n down hyeh." She handed old Gabe
the empty bag.
Well,'' said he, '' as it air gittin' late, 'n' ye have to climb the
mountain ag'in, I'll let ye have that comm' out o' the hopper now.
Take a cheer."
The girl sat down in the low chair, and, loos ening the strings of
her bonnet, pushed it back from her head. An old-fashioned horn
comb dropped to the floor, and when she stooped to pick it up she
let her hair fall in a head about her shoulders. Thrusting one hand
under it, she calmly tossed the whole mass of chestnut and gold
over the back of the chair, where it fell rippling like water through
a bar of sunlight. With head thrown back and throat bared, she
shook it from side to side, and, slowly coiling it, pierced it with the
coarse comb. Then passing her hands across her forehead and
temples, as women do, she folded them in her lap, and sat
motionless. The boy, crouched near, held upon her the mesmeric
look of a serpent. Old Gabe was peering covertly from under the
brim of his hat, with a chuckle at his lips. Rome had fallen back to
a corner of the mill, sobered, speechless, his rifle in a nerveless
hand. The passion that fired him at the boy's warning had as
swiftly gone down at sight of the girl, and her cutting rebuke made
him hot again with shame. He was angry, too-more than
angry-because he felt so helpless, a sensation that was new and
stifling. The scorn of her face, as he remembered it that morning,
hurt him again while he looked at her. A spirit of contempt was
still in her eyes, and quivering about her thin lips and nostrils. She
had put him beneath further notice, and yet every toss of her head,Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>