foot, did not return the fire, but halted up the street, as if parleying.
Young Jasper joined his party, and they, too, stood still a moment,
puzzled by the irresolution of the other side.
"Watch out! they're gittin' round ye! Run for the court-house, ye
fools !-ye, run! " The voice came in a loud yell from somewhere
down the street, and its warning was just in time.
A wreath of smoke came about a corner of the house far down the
street, and young Jasper yelled, and dashed up a side alley with his
followers. A moment later judge, jury, witnesses, and sheriff were
flying down the court-house steps at the point of Lewallen guns;
the Lewallen horses, led by the gray, were snorting through the
streets; their riders, barricaded in the forsaken court-house, were
puffing a stream of fire and smoke from every window of
court-room below and jury-room above.
The streets were a bedlam. The Stetsons were yelling with
triumph. The Lewallens were divided, and Rufe placed three
Stetsons with Winchesters on each side of the courthouse, and kept
them firing. Rome, pale and stern, hid his force between the
square and the Lewallen store. He was none too quick. The rest
were coming on, led by old Jasper. It was reckless, riding that
way right into death; but the old man believed young Jasper's life
at stake, and the men behind asked no questions when old Jasper
led them. The horses' hoofs beat the dirt street like the crescendo
of thunder. The fierce old man's hat was gone, and his mane-like
hair was shaking in the wind. Louder-and still the Stetsons were
quiet-quiet too long. The wily old man saw the trap, and, with a
yell, whirled the column up an alley, each man flattening over his
saddle. From every window, from behind every corner and tree,
smoke belched from the mouth of a Winchester. Two horses went
down; one screamed; the other struggled to his feet, and limped
away with an empty saddle. One pf the fallen men sprang into
safety behind a house, and one lay still, with his arms stretched out
and his face in the dust.
From behind barn, house, and fence the Lewallens gave back a
scattering fire; but the Stetsons crept closer, and were plainly in
greater numbers. Old Jasper was being surrounded, and he
mounted again, and all, followed by a chorus of bullets and
triumphant yells, fled for a wooded slope in the rear of the
court-house. A dozen Lewallens were prisoners, and must give up
or starve. There was savage joy in the Stetson crowd, and
many-footed rumor went all ways that night.
Despite sickness and Rome's strict order, Isom had ridden down to
the mill. Standing in the doorway, he and old Gabe saw up the
river, where the water broke into foam over the ford, a riderless
gray horse plunging across. Later it neighed at a gate under Wolf's
Head, and Martha Lewallen ran out to meet it. Across under
Thunderstruck Knob that night the old Stetson mother listened toDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>