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A Cumberland Vendetta
by John Fox Jr.
TO MINERVA AND ELIZABETH
A Cumberland Vendetta
THE cave had been their hiding-place as children; it was a secret
refuge now against hunger or darkness when they were hunting in
the woods. The primitive meal was finished; ashes were raked
over the red coals; the slice of bacon and the little bag of meal
were hung high against the rock wall; and the two stepped from
the cavern into a thicket of rhododendrons.
Parting the bushes toward the dim light, they stood on a massive
shoulder of the mountain, the river girding it far below, and the
afternoon shadows at their feet. Both carried guns-the tall
mountaineer, a Winchester; the boy, a squirrel rifle longer than
himself. Climbing about the rocky spur, they kept the same level
over log and bowlder and through bushy ravine to the north. In half
an hour, they ran into a path that led up home from the river, and
they stopped to rest on a cliff that sank in a solid black wall
straight under them. The sharp edge of a steep corn-field ran near,
and, stripped of blade and tassel, the stalks and hooded ears looked
in the coming dusk a little like monks at prayer. In the sunlight
across the river the corn stood thin and frail. Over there a drought
was on it; and when drifting thistle-plumes marked the noontide of
the year, each yellow stalk had withered blades and an empty
sheath. Every-where a look of vague trouble lay upon the face of
the mountains, and when the wind blew, the silver of the leaves
showed ashen. Autumn was at hand.
There was no physical sign of kinship between the two,
half-brothers though they were. The tall one was dark; the boy, a
foundling, had flaxen hair, and was stunted and ~lender. He was a
dreamy~looking little fellow, and one may easily find his like
throughout the Cumberland -paler than his fellows, from staying
much indoors, with half-haunted face, and eyes that are deeply
pathetic when not cunning; ignorantly credited with idiocy and
uncanny powers; treated with much forbearance, some awe, and a
little contempt; and suffered to do his pleasure-nothing, or much
that is strange-without comment.
"I tell ye, Rome," he said, taking up the thread of talk that was
broken at the cave, "when Uncle Gabe says he's afeard thar's
trouble comm', hit's a-comm'; 'n' I want you to git me a Winchester.
I'm a-gittin' big enough now. I kin shoot might' nigh as good as
you, 'n' whut am I fit fer with this hyeh old pawpaw pop-gun?"
"I don't want you fightin', boy, I've told ye. Y'u air too little 'n'
puny, 'n' I want ye to stay home 'n' take keer o' mam 'n' the cattle-ef
fightin' does come, I reckon thar won't be triuch."
Don't ye? " cried the boy, with sharp contempt-" with ole Jas
Lewallen a-devilin' Uncle Rufe, 'n' that blackheaded young Jas
a-climbin' on stumps over thar 'cross the river, n' crowin' n' sayin'Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>