"Do you mean to say she have been over hyeh afore?"
"Why, yes, come to think about it, three or four times while Isom
was sick, and whut she come fer I can't make out. The mill over
thar wasn't broke long, 'n' why she didn't go thar or bring more co'n
at a time, to save her the trouble o' so many trips, I can't see to save
Young Stetson was listening eagerly. Again the miller cast his
Mebbe she's spyin'."
Rome faced him, alert with suspicion; but old Gabe was laughing
"Don't you be a fool, Rome. The gal comes and goes in that boat,
'n' she couldn't see a soul without my knowin' it. She seed ye ridin'
by one day, 'n' she looked mighty cur'us when I tole her who ye
Old Gabe stopped his teasing, Rome's face was so troubled, and
himself grew serious.
"Rome," he said, earnestly, "I wish to the good Lord ye wasn't in
sech doin's. Ef that had been young Jas 'stid o' Marthy, I reckon ye
would 'a' killed him right thar."
"I wasn't going to let him kill me," was the sullen answer.
The two had stopped at a rickety gate swinging open on the road.
The young mountaineer was pushing a stone about with the toe of
his boot. He had never before listened to remonstrance with such
patience, and old Gabe grew bold.
"You've been drinkin' ag'in, Rome," he said, sharply, " 'n' I know it.
Hit's been moonshine that's whooped you Stetsons, not the
Lewallens, long as I kin rickollect, 'n' it ull be moonshine ag'in ef
ye don't let it alone."
Rome made no denial, no defence. "Uncle Gabe," he said slowly,
still busied with the stone, " hev that gal been over hyeh sence y'u
tol' her who I was?"
The old man was waiting for the pledge that seemed on his lips,
but he did not lose his temper.
Not till to-day," he said, quietly.
Rome turned abruptly, and the two separated with no word of
parting. For a moment the miller watched the young fellow
striding away under his rifle.
"I have been atter peace a good while," he said to himself, " but I
reckon thar's a bigger hand a-workin' now than mine." Then he
lifted his voice. "Ef Isom's too sick to come down to the mill
to-morrer, I wish you'd come 'n' holp me."
Rome nodded back over his shoulder, and went on, with head bent,
along the river road. Passing a clump of pines at the next curve, he
pulled a bottle from his pocket.
"Uncle Gabe's about right, I reckon," he said, half aloud; and he
raised it above his head to hurl it away, but checked it in mid-air.
For a moment he looked at the colorless liquid, then, with quick
nervousness, pulled the cork of sassafras leaves, gulped down the
pale moonshine, and dashed the bottle against the trunk of a beech.
The fiery stuff does its work in a hurry. He was thirsty when he
reached the mouth of a brook that tumbled down the mountain
along the pathway that would lead him home, and he stooped toDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>