beyond caution, and ready to welcome any vent to his passion, and
he merely shook his head.
Ef it's Satan hisself, I hain't goin' to run." The hoof-beats came
nearer. The rider must soon see them from the coil below.
Rome, hit's Jas! He's got his rifle, and he'll kill ye, 'n' me too! "
The girl was white with distress. She had called him by his name,
and the tone was of appeal, not anger. The black look passed from
his face, and he caught her by the shoulders with rough tenderness;
but she pushed him away, and without a word he sprang from the
road and let himself noiselessly down the cliff. The hoof-beats
thundered above his head, and Young Jasper's voice hailed Martha.
This hyeh's the bigges' meal I ever straddled. Why d'n't ye git the
For a moment the girl did not answer, and Rome waited,
breathless. " Wasn't the mill runnin'? Whyn't ye go on 'cross the
That's whut I did," said the girl, quietly. Uncle Gabe wasn't thar, 'n'
Rome Stetson was. I wouldn't 'low him to grin' the co 'n, 'n' so I
toted hit back."
Rome Stetson! " The voice was lost in a volley of oaths.
The two passed out of hearing, and Rome went plunging down the
mountain, swinging recklessly from one little tree to another, and
wrenching limbs from their sockets out of pure physical ecstasy.
When he reached his horse he sat down, breathing heavily, on a
bed of moss, with a strange new yearning in his heart. If peace
should come! Why not peace, if Rufe should not come back? He
would be the leader then, and without him there could be no war.
Old Jasper had killed his father. He was too young at the time to
feel poignant sorrow now, and somehow he could look even at that
death in a fairer way. His father had killed old Jasper's brother.
So it went back: a Lewallen killed a Stetson; that Stetson had
killed a Lewallen, until one end of the chain of deaths was lost,
and the first fault could not be placed, though each clan put it on
the other. In every generation there had been compromises-
periods of peace; why not now? Old Gabe would gladly help him.
He might make friends with young Jasper; he might even end the
feud. And then-he and Martha-why not? He closed his eyes, and
for one radiant moment t all seemed possible. And then a gaunt
image rose in the dream, and only the image was left. It was the
figure of his mother, stern and silent through the years, opening
her grim lips rarely without some curse against the Lewallen race.
He remembered she had smiled for the first time when she heard
of the new trouble-the flight of his uncle and the hope of conflict.
She had turned to him with her eyes on fire and her old hands
clinched. She had said nothing, but he understood her look. And
now-Good God! what would she think and say if she could know
what he had done? His whole frame twitched at the thought, and,
with a nervous spring to escape it, he was on his feet, and startingDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>