you. I was hopin' ye mought come over ag'in-hit was sorter cur'us
that y'u was the same gal-the same gal-"
His self-control left him; he was halting in speech, and blundering
he did not know where. Fumbling an empty bag at the hopper, he
had not dared to look at the girl till he heard her move. She had
risen, and was picking up her bag. The hard antagonism of her
face calmed him instantly.
Hain't ye goin' to have yer grist ground?
Not hyeh," she answered, quickly.
"Why, gal " He got no further. Martha was gone, and he followed
her to the bank, bewildered.
The girl's suspicion, lulled by his plausible explanation, had grown
sharp again. The mountaineer knew that she had been coming
there. He was at the mill for another reason than to take the boy's
place; and with swift in-tuition she saw the truth.
He got angry as she rode away-angry with himself that he had let
her go; and the same half-tender, half-brutal impulse seized him as
when he saw her first. This time he yielded. His horse was at
hand, and the river not far below was narrow. The bridle-path that
led to the Lewallen cabin swerved at one place to a cliff
overlooking the river, and by hard riding and a climb of a few
hundred feet on foot he could overtake her half-way up the
The plan was no more than shaped before he was in the saddle and
galloping down the river. The set of his face changed hardly a line
while he swam the stream, and, drenched to the waist, scaled the
cliff. When he reached the spot, he found the prints of a woman's
shoe in the dust of the path, going down. There were none
returning, and he had not long to wait. A scarlet bit of color soon
flashed through the gray bushes below him. The girl was without
her bag of corn. She was climbing slowly, and was looking at the
ground as though in deep thought. Reckless as she was, she had
come to realize at last just what she had done. She had been
pleased at first, as would have been any woman, when she saw the
big mountaineer watching her, for her life was lonely. She had
waved her bonnet at him from mere mischief. She hardly knew it
herself, but she had gone across the river to find out who he was.
She had shrunk from him as from a snake thereafter, and had gone
no more until old Jasper had sent her because the Lewallen mill
was broken, and because she was a woman, and would be safe
from harm. She had met him then when she could not help
herself. But now she had gone of her own accord. She had given
this Stetson, a bitter enemy, a chance to see her, to talk with her.
She had listened to him; she had been on the point of letting him
grind her corn. And he knew how often she had gone to the mill,
and he could not know that she had ever been sent. Perhaps he
thought that she had come to make overtures of peace, friendship,
even more. The suspicion reddened her face with shame, and herDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>