fer thinkin' I was fightin' you, 'n' when I seed ye comm' through the

bushes jes now, so white 'n' sickly-like, I couldn't hardly git breath,

a-thinkin' I was the cause of all yer misery. That's all!" He

stretched out his arms. Shoot, gal, ef ye don't believe me. I'd jes as

lieve die, ef ye thinks I'm lyin' to ye, 'n' ef ye hates me fer whut I

hain't done."

The gun had fallen to the earth. The girl, trembling at the knees,

sank to her seat on the porch, and, folding her arms against the

pillar, pressed her forehead against them, her face unseen. Rome

stooped to pick up the weapon.

"I'm goin' 'way now," he went on, slowly, after a little pause, "but I

couldn't leave hyeh without seem' you. I wanted ye to know the

truth, 'n' I 'lowed y'u'd believe me ef I tol' ye myself. I've been

a-waitin' thar in the lorrel fer ye sence mornin'. Uncle Gabe tol' me

ye come hyeh ever' day. He says I've got to go. I've been hopin' I

mought come out o' the bushes some day. But Uncle Gabe says

ever'body's ag'in' me more' n ever, 'n' that the soldiers mean to

ketch me. The gov'ner out thar in the settlements says as how he'll

give five hundred dollars fer me, livin' or dead. He'll nuver git me

livin'-I've swore that-'n' as I hev done nothin' sech as folks on both

sides hev done who air walkin' roun' free, I hain't goin' to give up.

Hit's purty hard to leave these mount'ins. Reckon I'll nuver see 'em

ag'in. Been livin' like a catamount over thar on the knob. I could

jes see you over hyeh, 'n' I reckon I hain't done much 'cept lay over

thar on a rock 'n' watch ye movin' round. Hit's mighty good to feel

that ye believe me, 'n' I want ye to know that I been stayin' over

thar fer nothin' on earth but jes to see you ag'in; 'n' I want ye to

know that I was a-sorrowin' fer ye when y'u was sick, 'n' a-pinin' to

see ye, 'n' a-hopin' some day y'u mought kinder git over yer hate fer

me." He had been talking with low tenderness, half to himself, and

with his face to the river, and he did not see the girl's tears falling

to the porch. Her sorrow gave way in a great sob now, and he

turned with sharp remorse, and stood quite near her.

"Don't cry, Marthy," he said. "God knows hit's hard to think I've

brought all this on ye when I'd give all these mount 'ins to save ye

from it. Whut d' ye say? Don't cry."

The girl was trying to speak at last, and Rome bent over to catch

the words.

"I hain't cryin' fer myself," she said, faintly, and then she said no

more; but the first smile that had passed over Rome's face for

many a day passed then, and he put out one big hand, and let it rest

on the heap of lustrous hair.

"Marthy, I hate to go 'way, leavin' ye hyeh with nobody to take

keer o' ye. You're all alone hyeh in the mount'ins; I'm all alone; 'n' I

reckon I'll be all alone wharever I go, ef you stay hyeh. I got a boat

down thar on the river, 'n' I'm goin' out West whar Uncle Rufe use

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