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The eagle under Rome leaped one stroke in the air, and dropped like a clod into the sea of leaves. The report of the gun and a faint cry of triumph rose from below. It was good marksmanship, but on the cliff Rome did not heed it. Something had fluttered in the air above the girl's head, and he laughed aloud. She was waving her bonnet at him.

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JUST where young Stetson stood, the mountains racing along each bank of the Cumberland had sent out against each other, by mutual impulse, two great spurs. At the river's brink they stopped sheer, with crests uplifted, as though some hand at the last moment had hurled them apart, and had led the water through the breach to keep them at peace. To-day the crags looked seamed by thwarted passion; and, sullen with firs, they made fit symbols of the human hate about the base of each.

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When the feud began, no one knew. Even the original cause was forgotten. Both families had come as friends from Virginia long ago, and had lived as enemies nearly half a century. There was hostility before the war, but, until then, little bloodshed. Through the hatred of change, characteristic of the mountaineer the world over, the Lewallens were for the Union. The Stetsons owned a few slaves, and they fought for them. Peace found both still neighbors and worse foes. The war armed them, and brought back an ancestral contempt for human life; it left them a heritage of lawlessness that for mutual protection made necessary the very means used by their feudal forefathers; personal hatred supplanted its dead issues, and with them the war went on. The Stetsons had a good strain of Anglo-Saxon blood, and owned valley-lands; the Lewallens kept store and made "moonshine"; so kindred and debtors and kindred and tenants were arrayed with one or the other leader, and gradually the retainers of both settled on one or the other side of the river. In time of hostility the Cumberland came to be the boundary between life and death for the dwellers on each shore. It was feudalism born again.

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Above one of the spurs each family had its home; the Stetsons, under the seared face of Thunderstruck Knob; the Lewallens, just beneath the wooded rim of Wolf's Head. The eaves and chimney of each cabin were faintly visible from the porch of the other. The first light touched the house of the Stetsons; the last, the Lewallen cabin. So there were times when the one could not turn to the sunrise nor the other to the sunset but with a curse in his heart, for his eye must fall on the home of his enemy.

For years there had been peace. The death of Rome Stetson's father from ambush, and the fight in the court-house square, had forced it. After that fight only four were left-old Jasper Lewallen and young Jasper, the boy Rome and his uncle, Rufe Stetson. Then Rufe fled to the West, and the Stetsons were helpless. For three years no word was heard of him, but the hatred burned in the heart of Rome's mother, and was traced deep in her grim old face while she patiently waited the day of retribution. It smouldered, too, in the hearts of the women of both clans who had lost husbands or sons or lovers; and the friends and kin of each had little to do with one another, and met and passed with watchful eyes. Indeed, it would take so little to turn peace to war that the wonder was that peace had lived so long. Now trouble was at hand. Rufe Stetson had come back at last, a few months since, and had quietly opened store at the county-seat, Hazlan-a little town five miles up the river, where Troubled Fork runs seething into the Cumberland-a point of neutrality for the factions, and consequently a battIe-ground. Old Jasper's store was at the other end of the town, and the old man had never been known to brook competition. He had driven three men from Hazlan during the last term of peace for this offence, and everybody knew that the fourth 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 meant defiance or good-will, and the mere deviltry of such a courtship made him long for it at every sight of her with the river between them. At once he began to plan how he should get near her, but, through some freak, she had paid no further heed to him. He saw her less often-for a week, in-deed, he had not seen her at all till this day-and the forces that hindrance generates in an imperious nature had been at work within him. The chance now was one of gold, and with his life in his hand he turned into the stream. Across, he could see something white on her shoulder-an empty bag. It was grinding~day, and she was going to the mill-the Lewallen mill. She stopped as he galloped up, and turned, pushing back her bonnet with one hand; and he drew rein. But the friendly, expectant light in her face kindled to such a blaze of anger in her eyes that he struck his horse violently, as though the beast had stopped of its own accord, and, cursing himself, kept on. A little farther, he halted again. Three horsemen, armed with Winchesters, were jogging along toward town ahead of him, and he wheeled about sharply. The girl, climbing rapidly toward Steve Bray-ton's cabin, was out of the way, but he was too late to reach the ford again. Down the road two more Lewallens with guns were in sight, and he lashed his horse into the stream where the water was deep. Old Gabe, looking from the door of his mill, quit laughing to himself; and under cover of the woods, the girl watched man and horse fighting the tide. Twice young Stetson turned his head. But his enemies apparently had not seen him, and horse and rider scrambled up the steep bank and under shelter of the trees. The girl had evidently learned who he was. Her sudden anger was significant, as was the sight of the Lewallens going armed to court, and Rome rode on, uneasy.

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