believe whut ye tol' me. Though, even ef ye had 'a' done it, I don't
know as I'd blame ye, seem' that it was a fa'r fight. I don't doubt he
was doin' his best to kill you."
Rome turned quickly, his face puzzled and darkening.
Uncle Gabe, whut air you drivin' at? " The old man spat into the
fire, and shifted his position uneasily, as Rome's hand caught his
Well, ef I have to tell ye, I s'pose I must. Thar's been nothin'
pertickler ag'in ye so fer, 'cept fer breakin' that confederatin' statute
'bout bandin' fightin' men together; 'n' nobody was very anxious to
git hol' o' ye jes fer that, but now "-the old man stopped a moment,
for Rome's eyes were kindling-" they say that ye killed Jas Lew
allen, 'n' that ye air a murderer; 'n' hit air powerful strange how all
of a suddint folks seem to be gittin' down on a man as kills his
fellow-creetur; 'n' now they means to hunt ye til they ketch ye."
It was all out now, and the old man was relieved. Rome rose to his
feet, and in sheer agony of spirit paced the floor.
"I tol' ye, Uncle Gabe, that I didn't kill him."
So ye did, 'n' I believe ye. But a feller seed you 'n' Steve comm'
from the place whar Jas was found dead, 'n' whar the dirt 'n' rock
was throwed about as by two bucks in spring-time. Steve says he
didn't do it, 'n' he wouldn't say you didn't. Looks to me like Steve
did the kuhn', 'n' was lyin' a leetle. He hain't goin' to confess hit to
save your neck; 'n' he can't no way, fer he hev lit out o' these
If Steve was out of danger, suspicion could not harm him, and
Rome said nothing.
"Isom's got the lingerin' fever ag'in, 'n' he's out"i his head. He's
ravin' 'bout that fight. Looks like ye tol' him 'bout it. He says,' Don't
tell Uncle Gabe'; 'n' he keeps sayin' it. Hit'll 'most kill him ef you
go 'way; but he wants ye to git out o' the mount'ins; 'n', Rome,
you've got to go."
"Who was it, Uncle Gabe, that seed me 'n' Steve comm' 'way from
He air the same feller who hev been spyin' ye all the time this war's
been goin' on; hit's that dried-faced, snaky Eli Crump, who ye
knocked down 'n' choked up in Hazlan one day fer sayin'
something ag'in Isom."
"I knowed it-I knowed it-oh, ef I could git my fingers roun' his
throat once more-jes once more-I'd be 'mos' ready to die."
He stretched out his hands as he strode back and forth, with his
fingers crooked like talons; his shadow leaped from wall to wall,
and his voice, filling the cave, was, for the moment, scarcely
human. The old man waited till the paroxysm was over and Rome
had again sunk before the fire.
"Hit 'u'd do no good, Rome," he said, rising to go. "You've got
enough on ye now, without the sin o' takin' his life. You better
make up yer mind to leave the mount ins now right 'way. You're
a-gittin' no more'n half-human, livin' up hyeh like a catamount. I
don't see how ye kin stand it. Thar's no hope o' things blowin' over,Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>