Isom's story of the fight with ghastly joy in her death-marked face.
ALL night the court-house was guarded and on guard. At one
corner of the square Rufe Stetson, with a few men, sat on watch in
old Sam Day's cabin-the fortress of the town, built for such a
purpose, and used for it many times before. The prisoners, too,
were alert, and no Stetson ventured into the open square, for the
moon was high; an exposure anywhere was noted instantly by the
whistle of a rifle-ball, and the mountaineer takes few risks except
under stress of drink or passion. Rome Stetson had placed pickets
about the town wherever surprise was possible. All night he
patrolled the streets to keep his men in such readiness as he could
for the attack that the Lewallens would surely make to rescue their
living friends and to avenge the dead ones.
But the triumph was too great and unexpected. Two Braytons
were dead; several more were prisoners with young Jasper in the
courthouse; and drinking began.
As the night deepened without attack the Stetsons drank more, and
grew reckless. A dance was started. Music and "moonshine" were
given to every man who bore a Winchester. The night was broken
with drunken yells, the random discharge of fire-arms, and the
mono-tone of heavy feet. The two leaders were helpless, and the
inaction of the Lewallens puzzled them. Chafed with anxiety, they
kept their eyes on the court-house or on the thicket of gloom where
their enemies lay. But the woods were as quiet as the pall of
shadows over them. Once Rome, making his rounds, saw a figure
crawling through a field of corn. It looked like Crump's, but
before he could fire the man rolled like a ball down the bushy bank
to the river. An instant later some object went swiftly past a side
street-somebody on horseback-and a picket fired an alarm. The
horse kept on, and Rome threw his rifle on a patch of moonlight,
but when the object flashed through, his finger was numbed at the
trigger. In the moonlight the horse looked gray, and the rider was
seated sidewise. A bullet from the court-house clipped his hat-brim
as he ran recklessly across the street to where Steve Marcum stood
in the dark behind old Sam's cabin.
"Jim Hale 'll git him as he goes up the road," said Steve,
calmly-and then with hot impatience, "Why the hell don't he
Rome started forward in the moonlight, and Steve caught his arm.
Two bullets hissed from the court-house, and he fell back.
A shot sounded from the bushes far away from the road. The horse
kept on, and splashed into Troubled Fork, and Steve swore bitterly.
"Hit hain't Jim. Hit's that mis'able Bud Vickers; he's been a-stan
din' guard out'n the bushes 'stid o' the road. That was a spy, I tell
ye, 'n' the coward let him in and let him out. They'll know now
we're all drunk! Whut's the matter?
Rome's mouth was half open. He looked white and sick, and SteveDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>