had no feuds in their own country, were trying to stop them in the
mountain. Over in Breathitt, as everybody knew, soldiers had
come from the " settlemints," had arrested the leaders, and had
taken them to the Blue Grass for the feared and hated ordeal of
trial by a jury of "bigoted furriners." On the heels of the soldiers
came a young preacher up from the Jellico hills, half " citizen,"
half furriner," with long black hair and a scar across his forehead,
who was stirring up the people, it was said, " as though Satan was
atter them." Over there the spirit of the feud was broken, and a
good effect was already perceptible around Hazlan. In past days
every pair of lips was sealed with fear, and the non-combatants left
crops and homes, and moved down the river, when trouble began.
Now only the timid considered this way of escape. Steve and old
Jasper found a few men who refused to enter the fight. Several,
indeed, talked openly against the renewal of the feud, and
somebody, it was said, had dared to hint that he would send to the
Governor for aid if it should break out again. But these were
rumors touching few people.
For once again, as time and time again before, one bank of the
Cumberland was arrayed with mortal enmity against the other, and
old Gabe sat, with shaken faith, in the door of his mill. For years
he had worked and prayed for peace, and for a little while the
Almighty seemed lending aid. Now the friendly grasp was
loosening, and yet the miller did all he could. He begged Steve
Marcum to urge Rufe to seek aid from the law when the latter
came back; and Steve laughed, and asked what justice was
possible for a Stetson, with a Lewallen for a judge and Braytons
for a jury. The miller pleaded with old Jasper, and old Jasper
pointed to the successes of his own life.
"I hev triumphed ag'in' my enemies time 'n' ag'in," he said. "The
Lord air on my side, 'n' I gits a better Christian ever' year." The old
man spoke with the sincerity of a barbarism that has survived the
dark ages, and, holding the same faith, the miller had no answer.
It was old Gabe indeed who had threatened to send to the
Governor for soldiers, and this he would have done, perhaps, had
there not been one hope left, and only one. A week had gone, and
there was no word from Rufe Stetson. Up on Thunderstruck Knob
the old Stetson mother was growing pitiably eager and restless.
Every day she slipped like a ghost through the leafless woods and
in and out the cabin, kindling hatred. At every dawn or dusk she
was on her porch peering through the dim light for Rufe Stetson.
Steve Marcum was ill at ease. Rome Stetson alone seemed
unconcerned, and his name was on every gossiping tongue.
He took little interest and no hand in getting ready for the war. He
forbade the firing of a gun till Rufe came back, else Steve should
fight his fight alone. He grew sullen and morose. His old mother'sDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>