start out West, 'n' when I come back to the mount'in, hit was to do
jes-whut I'm - going - to - do - now." He wheeled suddenly upon
Rome, with one huge hand lifted. Under it the old woman's voice
rose in a sudden wail:
Yes; 'n' I want to see it done befoh I die. I hain't hyeh fer long, but I
hain't goin' to leave as long as ole Jas is hyeh, 'n' I want ye all to
know it. Ole Jas hev got to go fust. You hear me, Rome? I'm
a-talkin' to you; I'm a-talkin' to you. Hit's yo' time now!
The frenzied chant raised Rome from his chair. Rufe himself took
up the spirit of it, and his voice was above all caution.
"Yes, Rome! They killed him, boy. They sneaked on him, 'n' shot
him to pieces from the bushes. Yes; hit's yo' time now! Look
hyeh, boys! " He reached above the fireplace and took down an
old rifle-his brother's-which the old mother had suffered no one to
touch. He held it before the fire, pointing to two crosses made near
the flash-pan. " Thar's one fer ole Jim Lewallen! Thar's one fer
ole Jas! He got Jim, but ole Jas has got him, 'n' thar's his cross thar
yit! Whar's yo' gun, Rome? Shame on ye, boy!"
The wild-eyed old woman was before him. She had divined Rufe's
purpose, and was already at his side, with Rome's Winchester in
one hand and a clasp-knife in the other. Every man was on his
feet; the door was open, and the boy Isom was at the threshold, his
eyes blazing from his whitc face. Rome had strode forward.
Yes, boy; now's the time, right hyeh before us all!
The mother had the knife outstretched. Rome took it, and the
scratch of the point on the hard steel went twice through the
stillness-one more fer the young un"; the voice was the old
mother's-then twice again.
The moon was sinking when Rome stood in the door alone. The
tramp of horses was growing fainter down the mountain. The trees
were swaying in the wind below him, and he could just see the
gray cliffs on the other shore. The morning seemed far away; it
made him dizzy looking back to it through the tumult of the day.
Somewhere in the haze was the vision of a girl's white face-white
with distress for him. Her father and her brother he had sworn to
kill. He had made a cross for each, and each cross was an oath.
He closed the door; and then he gave way, and sat down with his
head in both hands. The noises in the kitchen ceased. The fire
died away, and the chill air gathered about him. When he rose, the
restless eyes of the boy were upon him from the shadows.
IT was court-day in Hazlan, but so early in the morning nothing
was astir in the town that hinted of its life on such a day. But for
the ring of a blacksmith's anvil on the quiet air, and the fact that
nowhere was a church-spire visible, a stranger would have thought
that the peace of Sabbath overlay a village of God-fearing people.
A burly figure lounged in the porch of a rickety house, and yawnedDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>