Rome rose dizzily to one knee. Jasper turned, gasping, and lay
with his face to the rock. For a while both were quiet, Rome,
panting with open mouth and white with exhaustion, looking down
now and then at the Lewallen, whose face was turned away with
The sun was blazing above Wolf's Head now, and the stillness
about them lay unbroken on the woods below.
"I've whooped ye, Jas," Rome said, at last; "I've whooped ye in a
fa'r fight, 'n' I've got nothin' now to say 'bout yer tall talk, 'n' I
reckon you hevn't nuther. Now, hit's understood, hain't it, that y'u'll
leave these mount'ins?
Y'u kin go West," he continued, as the Lewallen did not answer. "
Uncle Rufe used to say thar's a good deal to do out thar, 'n' nobody
axes questions. Thar's nobody left hyeh but you 'n' me, but these
mount'ins was never big 'nough fer one Lewallen 'n' one Stetson, 'n'
you've got to go. I reckon ye won't believe me, but I'm glad I didn't
hev to kill ye. But you've promised to go, now, 'n' I'll take yer word
fer it." He turned his face, and the Lewallen, knowing it from the
sound of his voice, sprang to his feet.
A wild curse burst from Rome's lips, and both leaped for the guns.
The Lewallen had the start of a few feet, and Rome, lamed in the
fight, stumbled and fell. Before he could rise Jasper had whirled,
with one of the Winchesters above his head and his face aflame
with fury. Asking no mercy, Rome hid his face with one arm and
waited, stricken faint all at once, and numb. One report struck his
ears, muffled, whip-like. A dull wonder came to him that the
Lewallen could have missed at such close range, and he waited for
another. Some one shouted-a shrill hallo. A loud laugh followed; a
light seemed breaking before Rome's eyes, and he lifted his head.
Jasper was on his face again, motionless; and Steve Marcum's tall
figure was climbing over a bowlder toward him.
"That was the best fight I've seed in my time, by God," he said,
coolly, " 'n', Rome, y'u air the biggest fool this side o' the
settlements, I reckon. I had dead aim on him, 'n' I was jest
a-thinkin' hit was a purty good thing fer you that old long-nosed
Jim Stover chased me up hyeh, when, damn me, ef that boy up thar
didn't let his ole gun loose. I'd a-got Jas myself ef he hadn't been
so all-fired quick o' trigger."
Up at the root of the pine-tree Isom stood motionless, with his long
rifle in one hand and a little cloud of smoke breaking above his
white face. When Rome looked up he started down without a
word. Steve swung himself over the ledge.
"I heerd the shootin'," said the boy, " up thar at the cave, 'n' I
couldn't stay thar. I knowed ye could whoop him, Rome, 'n' I seed
Steve, too, but I was afeard-" Then he saw the body. His tongue
stopped, his face shrivelled, and Steve, hanging with one hand to
the ledge, watched him curiously.
" Rome," said the boy, in a quick whisper, "is he daid?Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>