"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 to live. I know I hain't good fer nothin' much "-he spoke almost huskily; he could scarcely get the words to his lips-" but I want ye to go with me. Won't ye?"
The girl did not answer, but her sobbing ceased slowly, while Rome stroked her hair; and at last she lifted her face, and for a moment looked to the other shore. Then she rose. There is a strange pride in the Kentucky mountaineer.
"As you say, Rome, thar's nobody left but you, 'n' nobody but me; but they burned you out, we hain't even-yit." Her eyes were on Thunderstruck Knob, where the last sunlight used to touch the Stetson cabin.
"Hyeh, Rome!" He knew what she meant, and he kneeled at the pile of kindling-wood near the kitchen door. Then they stood back and waited. The sun dipped below a gap in the mountains, the sky darkened, and the flames rose to the shingled porch, and leaped into the gathering dusk. On the outer edge of the quivering light, where it touched the blossomed laurel, the two stood till the blaze caught the eaves of the cabin; and then they turned their faces where, burning to ashes in the west, was another fire, whose light blended in the eyes of each with a light older and more lasting than its own-the light eternal.
It was the gosh-dangdest stampede I ever seen. A thousand dog- teams hittin' the ice. You couldn't see 'm fer smoke. Two white men an' a Swede froze to death that night, an' there was a dozen busted their lungs. But didn't I see with my own eyes the bottom of the water-hole? It was yellow with gold like a mustard-plaster. That's why I staked the Yukon for a minin' claim. That's what made the stampede. An' then there was nothin' to it. That's what I said - NOTHIN' to it. An' I ain't got over guessin' yet. - NARRATIVE OF SHORTY.