down the mountain.
Close to the river he heard voices below him, and he turned his
horse quickly aside into the bushes. Two women who had been
washing clothes passed, carrying white bundles home. They were
talking of the coming feud.
"That ar young Stetson ain't much like his dad," said one. "Young
Jas has been a-darin' 'n' a-banterin' him, 'n' he won't take it up. They
say he air turnin' out a plumb coward."
When he reached the Stetson cabin three horses with drooping
heads were hitched to the fence. All had travelled a long way.
One wore a man's saddle; on the others were thick blankets tied
together with leathern thongs.
In the dark porch sat several men. Through the kitchen door he
could see his mother getting supper. Inside a dozen rifles leaned
against the wall in the firelight, and about their butts was a pile of
ammunition. In the doorway stood Rufe Stetson.
ALL were smoking and silent. Several spoke from the shadows as
Rome stepped on the porch, and Rufe Stetson faced him a moment
in the doorway, and laughed.
Seem kinder s'prised? " he said, with a searching look. " Wasn't
lookin' for me? I reckon I'll s'prise sev'ral ef I hev good-luck."
The subtlety of this sent a chuckle of appreciation through the
porch, but Rome passed in without answer.
Isom lay on his bed within the circle of light, and his face in the
brilliant glow was white, and his eyes shone feverishly. " Rome,"
he said, excitedly, " Uncle Rufe's hyeh, 'n' they laywayed him,
'n'____" He paused abruptly. His mother came in, and at her call
the mountaineers trooped through the covered porch, and sat down
to supper in the kitchen. They ate hastily and in silence, the
mother attending their wants, and Rome helping her. The meal
finished, they drew their chairs about the fire. Pipes were lighted,
and Rufe Stetson rose and closed the door.
Thar's no use harryin' the boy," he said; "I reckon he'll be too puny
to take a hand."
The mother stopped clearing the table, and sat on the rock hearth
close to the fire, her withered lips shut tight about a lighted pipe,
and her sunken eyes glowing like the coal of fire in its black bowl.
Now and then she would stretch her knotted hands nervously into
the flames, or knit them about her knees, looking closely at the
heavy faces about her, which had lightened a little with
expectancy. Rufe Stetson stood before the blaze, his hands
clasped behind him, and his huge figure bent in reflection. At
intervals he would look with half-shut eyes at Rome, who Sat with
troubled face outside the firelight. Across the knees of Steve
Marcum, the best marksman in the mountains, lay the barrel of a
new Winchester. Old Sam Day, Rufe's father-in-law and
counsellor to the Stetsons for a score of years, sat as if asleep on
the opposite side of the fireplace from the old mother, with his big
square head pressed down between his misshapen shoulders.Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>