must leave or fight. Already Rufe Stetson had been warned not to

appear outside his door after dusk. Once or twice his wife had seen

skulking shadows under the trees across the road, and a tremor of

anticipation ran along both banks of the Cumberland.


A FORTNIGHT later, court came. Rome was going to Hazlan, and

the feeble old Stetson mother limped across the porch from the

kitchen, trailing a Winchester behind her. Usually he went

unarmed, but he took the gun now, as she gave it, in silence.

The boy Isom was not well, and Rome had told him to ride the

horse. But the lad had gone on afoot to his duties at old Gabe

Bunch's mill, and Rome himself rode down Thunderstruck Knob

through the mist and dew of the early morning. The sun was

coming up over Virginia, and through a dip in Black Mountain the

foot-hills beyond washed in blue waves against its white disk. A

little way down the mountain, the rays shot through the gap upon

him, and, lancing the mist into tatters, and lighting the dew-drops,

set the birds singing. Rome rode, heedless of it all, under primeval

oak and poplar, and along rain-clear brooks and happy waterfalls,

shut in by laurel and rhododendron, and singing past mossy stones

and lacelike ferns that brushed his stirrup. On the brow of every

cliff he would stop to look over the trees and the river to the other

shore, where the gray line of a path ran aslant Wolf's Head, and

was lost in woods above and below.

At the river he rode up-stream, looking still across it. Old Gabe

Bunch halloed to him from the doorway of the mill, as he splashed

through the creek, and Isom's thin face peered through a breach in

the logs. At the ford beyond, he checked his horse with a short

oath of pleased surprise. Across the water, a scarlet dress was

moving slowly past a brown field of corn. The figure was

bonneted, but he knew the girl's walk and the poise of her head

that far away. Just who she was, however, he did not know, and he

sat irresolute. He had seen her first a month since, paddling along

the other shore, erect, and with bonnet off and hair down; she had

taken the Lewallen path up the mountain. Afterward, he saw her

going at a gallop on young Jasper's gray horse, bareheaded again,

and with her hair loose to the wind, and he knew she was one of

his enemies. He thought her the girl people said young Jasper was

going to marry, and he had watched her the more closely. From

the canoe she seemed never to notice him; but he guessed, from

the quickened sweep of her paddle, that she knew he was looking

at her, and once, when he halted on his way home up the

mountain, she half turned in her saddle and looked across at him.

This happened again, and then she waved her bonnet at him. It was

bad enough, any Stetson seeking any Lewallen for a wife, and for

him to court young Jasper's sweetheart-it was a thought to laugh at.

But the mischief was done. The gesture thrilled him, whether it

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