The words were masterful, but said in a way that vaguely soothed the girl's pride, and the oar was let slowly into the water.
"I reckon y'u air a friend o' his," he added, still quietly. "I've seed ye goin' up thar, but I've got nothin' ag'in' ye, whoever ye be."
She turned on him a sharp look of suspicion. "I reckon I do be a friend o' hisn," she said, deliberately; and then she saw that he was in earnest. A queer little smile went like a ray of light from her eyes to her lips, and she gave a quick stroke with her paddle. The boat shot into the current, and was carried swiftly toward the Cumberland. The girl stood erect, swaying through light and shadow like a great scarlet flower blowing in the wind; and Rome watched her till she touched the other bank. Swinging the sack out, she stepped lightly after it, and, without looking behind her, disappeared in the bushes.
The boy Isom was riding away when Rome, turned, and old Gabe was watching from the door of the mill.
Who is that gal? " he asked, slowly. It seemed somehow that he had known her a long while ago. A puzzled frown overlay his face, and the old miller laughed.
"You a-axin' who she be, 'n' she a-axin who you be, 'n' both o' ye a-knowin' one 'nother sence ye was knee-high. Why, boy, hit's old Jasper's gal-Marthy!
IN a flash of memory Rome saw the girl as vividly as when he last saw her years ago. They had met at the mill, he with his father, she with hers. There was a quarrel, and the two men were held apart. But the old sore as usual was opened, and a week later Rome's father was killed from the brush. He remembered his mother's rage and grief, her calls for vcngeance, the uprising, the fights, plots, and ambushes. He remembered the look the girl had given him that long ago, and her look that day was little changed.
When fighting began, she had been sent for safety to the sister of her dead mother in another county. When peace came, old Jasper married again and the girl refused to come home. Lately the step-mother, too, had passed away, and then she came back to live. All this the old miller told in answer to Rome's questions as the two walked away in the twilight. This was why he had not recognized her, and why her face yet seemed familiar even when he crossed the river that morning.