now. All eyes were upon him, and all tongues, even old Sam's,
waited now for his to speak.
"Whut we've got to do, we've got to do mighty quick," he began, at
last. " Things air changin'. I seed it over thar in Breathitt. The
soldiers 'n' that scar-faced Jellico preacher hev broke up the fightin'
over thar, 'n' ef we don't watch out, they'll be a-doin' it hyeh, when
we start our leetle frolic. We hain't got no time to fool. Old Jas
knows this as well as me, 'n' thar's goin' to be mighty leetle chance
fer 'em to layway 'n' pick us off from the bresh. Thar's goin' to be
fa'r fightin' fer once, thank the Lord. They bushwhacked us dunn'
the war, 'n' they've laywayed us 'n' shot us to pieces ever sence; but
now, ef God A'mighty's willin', the thing's a-goin' to be settled one
way or t'other at last, I reckon."
He stopped a moment to think. The men's breathing could be
heard, so quiet was the room, and Rufe went on telling in detail,
slowly, as if to himself, the wrongs the Lewallens had done his
people. When he came to old Jasper his voice was low, and his
manner was quieter than ever.
"Now old Jas have got to the p'int whar he says as how nobody in
this county kin undersell him 'n' stay hyeh. Old Jas druv Bond
Vickers out'n the mount 'ins fer tryin' hit. He druv Jess Hale away;
'n' them two air our kin."
The big mountaineer turned then, and knocked the ashes from his
pipe. His eyes grew a little brighter, and his nostrils spread, but
with a sweep of his arm he added, still quietly:
"Y' all know whut he's done."
The gesture lighted memories of personal wrongs in every breast;
he had tossed a fire-brand among fagots, and an angry light began
to burn from the eyes that watched him.
"Ye know, too, that he thinks he has played the same game with
me; but ye don't know, I reckon, that he had ole Jim Stover 'n' that
mis'-able Eli Crump a-hidin' in the bushes to shoot me "-again he
grasped the torn lapel; "that a body warned me to git away from
Hazlan; n' the night I left home they come thar to kill me, 'n'
s'arched the house, 'n' skeered Mollie n' the leetle gal 'most to
The mountaineer's self-control was lost suddenly in a furious oath.
The men did know, but in fresh anger they leaned forward in their
chairs, and twisted about with smothered curses. The old woman
had stopped smoking, and was rocking her body to and fro. Her
lips were drawn in upon her toothless gums, and her pipe was
clinched against her sunken breast. The head of the old
mountaineer was lifted, and his eyes were open and shining
"I hear as how he says I'm gone fer good. Well, I have been kinder
easy-goin', hatin' to fight, but sence the day I seed Rome's dad thar
dead in his blood, I hev had jes one thing I wanted to do. Thar
wasn't no use stayin' hyeh; I seed that. Rome thar was too leetle,
and they was too many fer me. I knowed it was easier to git a newDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>