the garden, stepping with an effort over the low fence, and leaned
as if weak and tired against the apple-tree, the boughs of which
shaded the two graves at her feet. For a few moments she stood
there, listless, and Rome watched her with hungry eyes, at a loss
what to do. She moved presently, and walked quite around the
graves without looking at them; then came back past him, and,
seating herself in the porch, turned her face to the river. The sun
lighted her hair, and in the sunken, upturned eyes Rome saw the
shimmer of tears.
"Marthy! " He couldn't help it-the thick, low cry broke like a groan
from his lips, and the girl was on her feet, facing him. She did not
know the voice, nor the shaggy, half-wild figure in the shade of the
laurel; and she started back as if to run; but seeing that the man did
not mean to harm her, she stopped, looking for a moment with
wonder and even with quick pity at the hunted face with its white
appeal. Then a sudden spasm caught her throat, and left her body
rigid, her hands shut, and her eyes dry and hard-she knew him. A
slow pallor drove the flush of surprise from her face, and her lips
moved once, but there was not even a whisper from them. Rome
raised one hand before his face, as though to ward off something. "
Don't look at mc that way, Marthy-my God, don't! I didn't kill him.
I sw'ar it! I give him a chance fer his life. I know, I know-Steve
says he didn't. Thar was only us two. Hit looks ag'in' me; but I
hain't killed one nur t'other. I let 'em both go. Y'u don't believe me?
" He went swiftly toward her, his gun outstretched. Hyeh, gal! I
heerd ye swore ag' in' me out thar in the gyarden-'lowin' that you
was goin' to hunt me down yerself if the soldiers didn't. Hyeh's yer
The girl shrank away from him, too startled to take the weapon;
and he leaned it against her, and stood away, with his hands behind
Kill me ef ye think I'm a-lyin' to ye," he said. "Y'u kin git even with
me now. But I want to tell ye fust "-the girl had caught the muzzle
of the gun convulsively, and was bending over it, her eyes burning,
her face inscrutable-hit was a fa'r fight betwixt us, 'n' I whooped
him. He got his gun then, 'n' would 'a' killed me ag'in' his oath ef he
hadn't been shot fust Hit's so, too, 'bout the crosses. I made 'em;
they're right thar on that gun; but whut could I do with mam
a-standin' right thar with the gun 'n' Uncle Rufe a-tellin' 'bout my
own dad layin' in his blood, 'n' Isom 'n' the boys lookin' on! But I
went ag'in' my oath; I gave him his life when I had the right to take
it. I could 'a' killed yer dad once, 'n' I had the right to kill him, too,
fer killin' mine; but I let him go, 'n' I reckon I done that fer ye, too.
'Pears like I hain't done nothin' sence I seed ye over thar in the mill
that day that wasn't done fer ye. Somehow ye put me dead ag'in'
my own kin, 'n' tuk away all my hate ag'in' yourn. I couldn't fightDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>