He stretched out his hands as he strode back and forth, with his fingers crooked like talons; his shadow leaped from wall to wall, and his voice, filling the cave, was, for the moment, scarcely human. The old man waited till the paroxysm was over and Rome had again sunk before the fire.
"Hit 'u'd do no good, Rome," he said, rising to go. "You've got enough on ye now, without the sin o' takin' his life. You better make up yer mind to leave the mount ins now right 'way. You're a-gittin' no more'n half-human, livin' up hyeh like a catamount. I don't see how ye kin stand it. Thar's no hope o' things blowin' over, boy, 'n' givin' ye a chance o' comm' out ag'in, as yer dad and yer grandad usen to do afore ye. The citizens air gittin' tired o' these wars. They keeps out the furriners who makes roads 'n' buys lands; they air ag'in' the law, ag'in' religion, ag'in' yo' pocket, 'n' ag'in' mine. Lots o' folks hev been ag'in' all this fightin' fer a long time, but they was too skeery to say so. They air talkin' mighty big now, seem' they kin git soldiers hyeh to pertect 'em. So ye mought as well give up the idea o' staying hyeh, 'less'n ye want to give yourself up to the law."
The two stepped from the cave, and passed through the rhododendrons till they stood on the cliff overlooking the valley. The rich light lay like a golden mist between the mountains, and through it, far down, the river moaned like the wind of a coming storm.
Did ye tell the gal whut I tol' ye?"
"Yes, Rome; hit wasn't no use. She says Steve's word's as good as yourn; 'n' she knowed about the crosses. Folks say she swore awful ag'in' ye at young Jas's burial, 'lowin' that she'd hunt ye down herse'f, ef the soldiers didn't ketch ye. I hain't seed her sence she got sick; 'pears like ever'body's sick. Mebbe she's a leetle settled down now-no tellin'. No use foolin' with her, Rome. You git away from hyeh. Don't you worry 'bout Isom-I'll take keer o' him, 'n' when he gits well, he'll want to come atter ye, 'n' I'll let him go. He couldn't live hyeh without you. But y'u must git away, Rome, 'n' git away mighty quick."
With hands clasped behind him, Rome stood and watched the bent figure slowly pick its way around the stony cliff.
"I reckon I've got to go. She's ag'in' me; they're all ag'in' me. I reckon I've jes got to go. Somehow, I've been kinder hopin'-" He closed his lips to check the groan that rose to them, and turned again into the gloom behind him.
JUNE came. The wild rose swayed above its image along every little shadowed stream, and the scent of wild grapes was sweet in the air and as vagrant as a bluebird's note in autumn. The rhododendrons burst into beauty, making gray ridge and gray cliff blossom with purple, hedging streams with snowy clusters and shining leaves, and lighting up dark coverts in the woods as with white stars. The leaves were full, woodthrushes sang, and bees droned like unseen running water in the woods.