xt7wwp9t2729 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7wwp9t2729/data/mets.xml Buck, Charles Neville, b. 1879. 1921  books b92-177-30418481 English Doubleday, Page, : Garden City, N.Y. ; Toronto : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Roof tree  / by Charles Neville Buck ; illustrated by Lee F. Conrey. text Roof tree  / by Charles Neville Buck ; illustrated by Lee F. Conrey. 1921 2002 true xt7wwp9t2729 section xt7wwp9t2729 

        BOOKS BY


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"She stood there a little shyly at first; as slender and as
             gracefully upright as a birch"




     B Y














             COPYRIGHT, 1920, 1921, BY


With the wish that it were a richer
and worthier tribute, this book is
lovingly and gratefully dedicated
        TO MY WIFE

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"She stood there a little shyly at first; as slender
   and as gracefully upright as a birch" Frontispiece
                                            FACING PAGE
"'Hit almost seems like,' she whispered, 'that
   ther old tree's got a spell in hit-ter bewitch
   folks with '". . . . . . . . . . . .           66

"Even Bas Rowlett, whose nerves were keyed
   for an ordeal, started and almost let the
   leaning bridegroom fall ".114

"Dorothy flashed past him   . . . and a few
   seconds later he heard the clean-lipped snap
   of the rifle in a double report"  . . . . . 186

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                   CHAPTER I
     ETWEEN     the smoke-darkened walls of the
     mountain cabin still murmured the last echoes
     of the pistol's bellowing, and it seemed a voice
of everlasting duration to the shock-sickened nerves
of those within.
  First it had thundered with the deafening exaggera-
tion of confined space, then its echo had beaten against
the clay-chink wall timbers and rolled upward to the
rafters. Now, dwindled to a ghostly whisper, it
lingered and persisted.
  But the house stood isolated, and outside the laurelled
forests and porous cliffs soaked up the dissonance as a
blotter soaks ink.
  The picture seen through the open door, had there
been any to see, was almost as motionless as a tableau,
and it was a starkly grim one, with murky shadows
against a fitful light. A ray of the setting sun forced
its inquisitive way inward upon the semi-darkness of
the interior. A red wavering from the open hearth,
where supper preparations had been going forward,
threw unsteady patches of fire reflection outward. In the
pervading smell of dead smoke from a blackened chimney
hung the more pungent sharpness of freshly burned
gun-powder, and the man standing near the door gazed
downward, with a dazed stare, at the floor by his feet,
where lay the pistol which gave forth that acrid stench.



  Across from him in the dead silence-dead save for
the lingering of the echo's ghost-stood the woman, her
hands clutched to her thin bosom, her eyes stunned and
dilated, her body wavering on legs about to buckle in
  On the puncheon floor between them stretched the
woman's husband. The echo had outlasted his life and,
because the muzzle had almost touched his breast, he
sprawled in a dark welter that was still spreading.
  His posture was so uncouth and grotesque as to filch
from death its rightful dignity, and his face was turned
  The interminability of the tableau existed only in
the unfocussed minds of the two living beings to whom
the consequence of this moment was not measurable in
time. Then from the woman's parted lips came a long,
strangling moan that mounted to something like a
muffled shriek. She remained a moment rocking on her
feet, then wheeled and stumbled toward the quilt-
covered four-poster bed in one dark corner of the
cabin. Into its feather billows she flung herself and lay
with her fingernails digging into her temples and her
body racked with the incoherencies of hysteria.
  The man stooped to pick up the pistol and walked
slowly over to the rough table where he laid it down
noiselessly, as though with that quietness he were doing
something to offset the fatal blatancy with which it had
just spoken. He looked down at the lifeless figure with
burning eyes entirely devoid of pity, then went with a
soundless tread, in spite of his heavy-soled boots, to the
bed and spoke softly to the woman-who was his sister.
  "Ye've got ter quit weepin' fer a spell, honey," he
announced with a tense authority which sought to re-
call her to herself. "I'm obleeged ter take flight right
speedily now, an' afore I goes thar's things ter be studied
out an' sottled betwixt us."




  But the half-stifled moan that came from the feather
bed was a voice of collapse and chaos, to which speech
was impossible.
  So the brother lifted her in arms that remained
unshaken and sat on the edge of the bed looking into her
eyes with an almost hypnotic forcefulness.
  "Ef ye don't hearken ter me now, I'm bound ter
tarry till ye does," he reminded her, "an' I'm in right
tormentin' haste. Hit means life and death ter me."
  As if groping her tortured way back from pits of
madness, the woman strove to focus her senses, but her
wild eyes encountered the dark and crumpled mass on
the floor and again a low shriek broke from her. She
turned her horrified face away and surrendered to a
fresh paroxysm, but at length she stammered between
gasps that wrenched her tightened throat:
  "Kiver him up first, Ken. Kiver him up  . . . I
kain't endure ter look at him thetaway!"
  Although the moments were pricelessly valuable, the
man straightened the contorted limbs of the dead body
and covered it decently with a quilt. Then he stood
again by the bed.
  "Ef I'd got hyar a minute sooner, Sally," he said,
slowly, and there was a trace of self-accusation in his
voice, "hit moutn't hev happened. I war jest a mite
too tardy-but I knows ye hed ter kill him. I knows ye
acted in self-defence."
  From the bed came again the half-insane response of
hysterical moaning, and the young mountaineer straight-
ened his shoulders.
  "His folks," he said in a level voice, " won't skeercely
listen ter no reason . . . They'll be hell-bent on
makin' somebody pay. . . . They'll plum hey ter
hang SoME person, an' hit kain't be you."
  The woman only shuddered and twisted spasmodically
as she lay there while her brother went doggedly on:




  "Hit kain't be you  . . . with yore baby ter be
borned, Sally. Hit's been punishment enough fer
ye ter endure him this long  . . . ter hev been
wedded with a brute  . . . but ther child's got hits
life ter live  . . . an' hit kain't be borned in no jail
house! "
  "I reckon-" the response came weakly from the
heaped-up covers-" I reckon hit's got ter be thetaway,
  "By God, no! Yore baby's got ter-w'ar a bad man's
name but hit'll hev a good woman's blood in hits
veins. They'll low I kilt him, Sally. Let 'em b'lieve
hit. I hain't got no woman nor no child of my own ter
think erbout . . . I kin git away an' start fresh
in some other place. I loves ye, Sally, but even more'n
thet, I'm thinkin' of thet child thet hain't borned yit-
a child thet hain't accountable fer none of this."
  That had been yesterday.
  Now, Kenneth Thornton, though that was not to be
his name any longer, stood alone near the peak of a
divide, and the mists of early morning lay thick below
him. They obliterated, under their dispiriting gray, the
valleys and lower forest-reaches, and his face, which was
young and resolutely featured, held a kindred mood of
shadowing depression. Beneath that miasma cloak of
morning fog twisted a river from which the sun would
strike darts of laughing light-when the sun had routed
the opaqueness suspended between night and day.
  In the clear gray eyes of the man were pools of laugh-
ter, too, but now they were stilled and shaded under
bitter reflections.
  Something else stretched along the hiaden river-bed,
but even the mid-day light would give it no ocular
marking. That something which the eye denied and




the law acknowledged meant more to this man, who had
slipped the pack from his wearied shoulders, than did
the river or the park-like woods that hedged the river.
  There ran the border line between the State of Vir-
ginia and the State of Kentucky and he would cross it
when he crossed the river.
  So the stream became a Rubicon to him, and on the
other side he would leave behind him the name of
Kenneth Thornton and take up the less damning one
of Cal Maggard.
  He had the heels of his pursuers and, once across the
state line, he would be beyond their grasp until the
Sheriff's huntsmen had whistled in their pack and gone
grumbling back to conform with the law's intricate
requirements. At that point the man-hunt fell into
another jurisdiction and extradition papers would in-
volve correspondence between a governor at Richmond
and a governor at Frankfort.
  During7 such an interlude the fugitive hoped with con-
fidence to have lost himself in a taciturn and apathetic
wilderness of peak-broken land where his discovery
would be as haphazard an undertaking as the accurate
aiming of a lightning bolt.
  But mere escape from courts and prisons does not
assure full measure of content. He had heard all his
life that this border line separated the sheep of his own
nativity from the goats of a meaner race, and to this
narrow tenet he had given unquestioning belief.
  "I disgusts Kaintuck'!" exclaimed the refugee half
aloud as his strong hands clenched themselves, one
hanging free and the other still grasping the rifle which
as yet he had no intent of laying aside. "I plum dis-
gusts Kaintuck'! "
  The sun was climbing now and its pallid disk was
slowly flushing to the wakefulness of fiery rose. The sky
overhead was livening to turquoise light and here and



there along the upper slopes were gossamer flashes of opal
and amethyst, but this beauty of unveiling turrets and
gold-touched crests was lost on eyes in which dwelt a
nightmare from which there was no hope of awakening.
  To-day the sparsely settled countryside that he had
put behind him would buzz with a wrath like that of
swarming bees along its creek-bed roads, and the posse
would be out. To-day also he would be far over in
  "I mout hev' tarried thar an' fronted hit out," he bit-
terly reflected, "fer God in Heaven knows he needed
killin'! " But there he broke off into a bitter laugh.
  "God in Heaven knows hit . . . I knows hit an'
she knows hit, but nairy another soul don't know an' ef
they did hit wouldn't skeereely make no differ."
  He threw back his head and sought to review the
situation through the eyes of others and to analyze it all
as an outsider would analyze it. To his simplicity of
nature came no thought that the assumption of a guilt
not his own was a generous or heroic thing.
  His sister's pride had silenced her lips as to the
brutality of this husband whose friends in that neigh-
bourhood were among the little czars of influence. Her
suffering under an endless reign of terror was a well-
kept secret which only her brother shared. The big,
crudely handsome brute had been " jobial " and suave of
manner among his fellows and was held in favourable
esteem. Only a day or two ago, when the brother had
remonstrated in a low voice against some recent
cruelty, the husband's wrath had blazed out. Wit-
nesses to that wordy encounter had seen Thornton go
white with a rage that was ominous and then bite off
his unspoken retort and turn away. Those witnesses
had not heard what was first said and had learned only
what was revealed in the indignant husband's raised
voice at the end.



  "Don't aim ter threaten me, Ken. I don't suffer no
man ter do thet-an' don't never darken my door hence-
  Now it must seem that Thornton had not only
threatened but executed, and no one would suspect the
  He saw in his mind's eye the "High Court" that
would try the alleged slayer of John Turk; a court
dominated by the dead man's friends; a court where
witnesses and jurors would be terror-blinded against
the defendant and where a farce would be staged: a
sacrifice offered up.
  There had been in that log house three persons. One
of them was dead and his death would speak for him
with an eloquence louder than any living tongue.
There were, also, the woman and Thornton himself.
Between them must lie the responsibility. Consci-
entiously the fugitive summarized the circumstances as
the prosecution would marshal and present them.
  A man had been shot. On the table lay a pistol with
one empty "hull" in its chamber. The woman was
the dead man's wife, not long since a bride and shortly
to become the mother of his child. If she had been the
murdered man's deadly enemy why had she not left
him; why had she not complained But the brother
had been heard to threaten the husband only a day or
two since. He was in the dead man's house, after being
forbidden to shadow its threshold.
  "Hell!" cried Thornton aloud. "Ef I stayed she'd
hev ter come inter C'ote an' sw'ar either fer me or
ergin me an' like es not, she'd break down an' confess.
Anyhow, ef they put her in ther jail-house I reckon ther
child would hev hits bornin' thar. Hell-no!"
  He turned once more to gaze on the vague cone of a
mountain that stood uplifted above its fellows far be-
hind him. He had started his journey at its base.


10             THE ROOF TREE
Then he looked westward where ridge after ridge,
emerging now into full summer greenery, went off in
endless billows to the sky, and he went down the slope
toward the river on whose other side he was to become
another man.
  Kenneth Thornton was pushing his way West, the
quarry of a man-hunt, but long before him another
Kenneth Thornton had come from Virginia to Kentucky,
an ancestor so far lost in the mists of antiquity that his
descendant had never heard of him; and that man, too,
had been making a sacrifice.


SPRUNG from a race which had gone to seed like
     plants in a long-abandoned garden, once splen-
     did and vigorous, old Caleb Harper was a pa-
triarchal figure nearing the sunset of his life.
  His forebears had been mountaineers of the Kertucky
Cumberlands since the vanguard of white life had
ventured westward from the seaboard. From pioneers
who had led the march of progress that stock had re-
lapsed into the decay of mountain-hedged isolation and
feudal lawlessness, but here and there among the wast-
age, like survivors over the weed-choked garden of neg-
lect, emerged such exceptions as Old Caleb; paradoxes
of rudeness and dignity, of bigotry and nobility.
  Caleb's house stood on the rising ground above the
river, a substantial structure grown by occasional
additions from the nucleus that his ancestor Caleb
Parish had founded in revolutionary times, and it
marked a contrast with its less provident neighbours.
Many cabins scattered along these slopes were dismal
and makeshift abodes which appeared to proclaim the
despair and squalor of their builders and occupants.
  Just now a young girl stood in the large unfurnished
room that served the house as an attic-and she held a
folded paper in her hand.
  She had drawn out of its dusty corner a small and
quaintly shaped horsehide trunk upon which, in spots,
the hair still adhered. The storage-room that could
furnish forth its mate must be one whose proprietors
held inviolate relies of long-gone days, for its like has



not been made since the life of America was slenderly
strung along the Atlantic seaboard and the bison
ranged about his salt licks east of the Mississippi.
  Into the lock the girl fitted a cumbersome brass key
and then for a long minute she stood there breathing the
forenoon air that eddied in currents of fresh warmth.
The June sunlight came, too, in a golden flood and the
soft radiance of it played upon her hair and cheeks.
  Outside, almost brushing the eaves with the plumes of
its farthest flung branches, stood a gigantic walnut tree
whose fresh leafage filtered a mottling of sunlight upon
the age-tempered walls.
  The girl herself, in her red dress, was slim and colour-
ful enough and dewy-fresh enough to endure the search-
ing illumination of the June morning.
  Dark hair crowned the head that she threw back to
gaze upward into the venerable branches of the tree, and
her eyes were as dark as her hair and as deep as a soft
night sky.
  Over beetling summits and sunlit valley the girl's
glance went lightly and contentedly, but when it came
back to nearer distances it dwelt with an absorbed
tenderness on the gnarled old veteran of storm-tested
generations that stood there before the house: the wal-
nut which the people of her family had always called
the "roof tree" because some fanciful grandmother had
so named it in the long ago.
  "I reckon ye're safe now, old roof tree," she mur-
mured, for to her the tree was human enough to deserve
actual address, and as she spoke she sighed as one sighs
who is relieved of an old anxiety.
  Then, recalled to the mission that had brought her
here, she thought of the folded paper that she held in
her hand.
  So she drew the ancient trunk nearer to the window
and lifted its cover.




  It was full of things so old that she paused reverently
before handling them.
  Once the grandmother who had died when she was
still a small child had allowed her to glimpse some of
these ancient treasures but memory was vague as to
their character.
  Both father and mother were shadowy and half-
mythical beings of hearsay to her, because just before
her birth her father had been murdered from ambush.
The mother had survived him only long enough to bring
her baby into the world and then die broken-hearted
because the child was not a boy whom she might suckle
from the hatred in her own breast and rear as a zealot
dedicated to avenging his father.
  The chest had always held for this girl intriguing
possibilities of exploration which had never been satis-
fied. The gentle grandfather had withheld the key until
she should be old enough to treat with respect those
sentimental odds and ends which his women-folk had
held sacred, and when the girl herself had "grown up"-
she was eighteen now-some whimsey of clinging to
the illusions and delights of anticipation had stayed
her and held the curb upon her curiosity. Once opened
the old trunk would no longer beckon with its mystery,
and in this isolated life mysteries must not be lightly
  But this morning old Caleb Harper had prosaically
settled the question for her. He had put that paper
into her hand before he went over the ridge to the corn-
field with his mule and plow.
  "Thet thar paper's right p'intedly valuable, leetle
gal," he had told her. "I wants ye ter put hit away
safe somewhars." He had paused there and then added
reflectively, "I reckon ther handiest place would be in
ther old horsehide chist thet our fore-parents fotched
over ther mountings from Virginny."



  She had asked no questions about the paper itself
because, to her, the opening of the trunk was more im-
portant, but she heard the old man explaining, unasked:
  "I've done paid off what I owes Bas Rowlett an' thet
paper's a full receipt. I knows right well he's my trusty
friend, an' hit's my notion thet he's got his hopes of
bein' even more'n thet ter you-but still a debt sets
mighty heavy on me, be hit ter friend or foe, an' hit
pleasures me thet hit's sottled."
  The girl passed diplomatically over the allusion to
herself and the elder's expression of favour for a par-
ticular suitor, but without words she had made the
mental reservation: "Bas Rowlett's brash and uppety
enough withouten us bein' beholden ter him fer no
money debt. Like as not he'll be more humble-like
a'tter this when he comes a-sparkin'."
  Now she sat on a heavy cross-beam and looked down
upon the packed contents while into her nostrils crept
subtly the odour of old herbs and spicy defences against
moth and mould which had been renewed from time to
time through the lagging decudes until her own day.
  First, there came out a soft package wrapped in a
threadbare shawl and carefully bound with home-
twisted twine and this she deposited on her knees
and began to unfasten with trembling fingers of ex-
pectancy. When she had opened up the thing she
rose eagerly and shook out a gown that was as brittle
and sere as a leaf in autumn and that rustled frigidly as
the stiffened folds straightened.
  "I'll wager now, hit war a weddin' dress," she ex-
claimed as she held it excitedly up to the light and
appraised the fineness of the ancient silk with eyes
more accustomed to homespun.
  Then came something flat that fell rustling to the
floor and spread into a sheaf of paper bound between
home-made covers of cloth, but when the girl opened the




improvised book, with the presentiment that here was
the message out of the past that would explain the rest,
she knitted her brows and sat studying it in perplexed
  The ink had rusted, in the six score years and more
since its inscribing, to a reddish faintness which shrank
dimly and without contrast into the darkened back-
ground, yet difficulties only whetted her discoverer's
appetite, so that when, after an hour, she had studied
out the beginning of the document, she was deep in
a world of romance-freighted history. Here was a
journal written by a woman in the brave and tragic days
of the nation's birth.
  That part which she was now reading seemed to be a
sort of preamble to the rest, and before the girl had
progressed far she found a sentence which, for her, in-
fused life and the warmth of intimacy into the docu-
  "It may be that God in His goodenesse will call me
to His house which is in Heaven before I have fully
written ye matters which I would sett downe in this
journall," began the record. "Since I can not tell
whether or not I shall survive ye cominge of that new
life upon which all my thoughtes are sett and shoulde
such judgement be His Wille, I want that ye deare
childe shall have this recorde of ye days its father and I
spent here in these forest hills so remote from ye sea
and ye rivers of our deare Virginia, and ye gentle re-
finements we put behind us to become pioneers."
  There was something else there that she could not
make out because of its blurring, and she wondered if the
blotted pages had been moistened by tears as well as ink,
but soon she deciphered this unusual statement.
  "Much will be founde in this journall, touching ye
tree which I planted in ye first dayes and which we have
named ye roofe tree after a fancy of my owne. I have



ye strong faithe that whilst that tree stands and growes
stronge and weathers ye thunder and wind and is re-
vered, ye stem and branches of our family also will waxe
stronge and robust, but that when it falls, likewise will
disaster fall upon our house."
  One thing became at once outstandingly certain to
the unsophisticated reader.
  This place in the days of its founding had been an
abode of love unshaken by perils, for of the man who had
been its head she found such a portrait as love alone
could have painted. He was described as to the
modelling of his features, the light and expression of
his eyes; the way his dark hair fell over his "broade
browe"-even the cleft of his chin was mentioned.
  That fondly inspired pen paused in its narrative of
incredible adventures and more than Spartan hardships
to assure the future reader that, "ye peale of his laugh
was as clear and tuneful as ye fox horn with which our
Virginia gentry were wont to go afield with horse and
hound." There had possibly been a touch of wistful-
ness in that mention of a renounced life of greater
affluence and pleasure for hard upon it followed the
  "Here, where our faces are graven with anxieties
that besette our waking and sleeping, it seemeth that
most men have forgotten ye very fashion of laughter.
Joy seemes killed out of them, as by a bitter frost, yet
he hath ever kept ye clear peale of merriment in his
voice and its flash in his eye and ye smile that showes his
white teeth."
  Somehow the girl seemed to see that face as though
it had a more direct presentment before her eyes than
this faded portraiture of words penned by a hand long
ago dead.
  He must have been, she romantically reflected, a
handsome figure of a man. Then naively the writer had



passed on to a second description: "If I have any
favour of comeliness it can matter naught to me save as
it giveth pleasure to my deare husbande, yet I shall
endeavour to sette downe truly my own appearance
  The girl read and re-read the description of this
ancestress, then gasped.
  "Why, hit mout be me she was a-writin' erbout,'
she murmured, "save only I hain't purty."
  In that demure assertion she failed of justice to her-
self, but her eyes were sparkling. She knew that here-
about in this rude world of hers her people were
accounted both godly and worthy of respect, but after
all it was a drab and poverty-ridden world with slow and
torpid pulses of being. Here, she found, in indisputable
proof, the record of her " fore-parents ". Once they, too,
had been ladies and gentlemen familiar with elegant
ways and circumstances as vague to her as fable.
Henceforth when she boasted that hers were "ther best
folk in ther world" she would speak not in empty de-
fiance but in full confidence!
  But as she rose at length from her revery she wondered
if after all she had not been actually dreaming, because
a sound had come to her ears that was unfamiliar and
that seemed of a piece with her reading. It was the
laugh of a man, and its peal was as clear and as merry as
the note of a fox horn.
  The girl was speedily at the window looking out, and
there by the roadside stood her grandfather in con-
versation with a stranger.
  He was a tall young man and though plainly a
mountaineer there was a declaration of something dis-
tinct in the character of his clothing and the easy grace
of his bearing. Instead of the jeans overalls and the
coatless shoulders to which she was accustomed, she
saw a white shirt and a dark coat, dust-stained and




travel-soiled, yet proclaiming a certain predilection
toward personal neatness.
  The traveller had taken off his black felt hat as he
talked and his black hair fell in a long lock over his
broad, low forehead. He was smiling, too, and she
caught the flash of white teeth and even-since the
distance was short-the deep cleft of his firm chin.
  Framed there at the window the girl caught her hands
to her breast and exclaimed in a stifled whisper, "Land
o' Canaan! He's jest walked spang outen them written
pages-he's ther spittin' image of that man my dead
and gone great-great-great-gran'-mammy married."
  It was at that instant that the young man looked up
and for a moment their eyes met. The stranger's words
halted midway in their utterance and his lips remained
for a moment parted, then he recovered his conver-
sational balance and carried forward his talk with the
  The girl drew back into the shadow, but she stood
watching until he had gone and the bend in the road
hid him. Then she placed the receipt that had brought
her to the attic in the old manuscript, marking the place
where her reading had been interrupted, and after lock-
ing the trunk ran lightly down the stairs.
  "Gran'pap," she breathlessly demanded, "I seed ye
a-talkin' with a stranger out thar. Did ye find out who
is he"
  " He give ther name of Cal Maggard," answered the old
man, casually, as he crumbled leaf tobacco into his pipe.
" He lows he's going ter dwell in ther old Burrell Thornton
house over on ther nigh spur of Defeated Creek."

  That night while the patriarch dozed in his hickory
withed chair with his pipe drooping from his wrinkled
lips his granddaughter slipped quietly out of the house
and went over to the tree.




  Out there magic was making under an early summer
moon that clothed the peaks in silvery softness and
painted shadows of cobalt in the hollows. The river
flashed its response and crooned its lullaby, and like
children answering the maternal voice, the frogs gave
chorus and the whippoorwills called plaintively from the
  The branches of the great walnut were etched against
a sky that would have been bright with stars were it not
that the moon paled them, and she gazed up with a hand
resting lightly on the broad-girthed bole of the stalwart
veteran. Often she had wondered why she loved this
particular tree so much. It had always seemed to her
a companion, a guardian, a personality, when its in-
numerable fellows in the forest were-nothing but
  Now she knew. She had only failed to understand
the language with which it had spoken to her from child-
hood, and all the while, when the wind had made every
leaf a whispering tongue, it had been trying to tell her
many ancient stories.
  "I knows, now, old roof tree," she murmured. "I've
done found out erbout ye," and her hand patted the
close-knit bark.
  Then, in the subtle influence of the moonlight and
the night that awoke all the young fires of dreaming, she
half closed her eyes and seemed to see a woman who
looked like herself yet who-in the phantasy of that
moment-was arrayed in a gown of silk and small satin
slippers, looking up into the eyes of a man whose hair
was dark and whose chin was cleft and whose smile
flashed upon white teeth. Only as the dream took
hold upon her its spirit changed and the other woman
seemed to be herself and the man seemed to be the one
whom she had glimpsed to-day.
  Then her reveries were broken. In the shallow water


20             THE ROOF TREE
of the ford down at the river splashed a horse's hoofs
and she heard a voice singing in the weird falsetto of
mountain minstrelsy an old ballade which, like much
else of the life there, was a heritage from other times.
  So the girl brushed an impatient hand over rudely
awakened eyes and turned back to the door, knowing
that Bas Rowlett had come sparking.


IT WAS a distraite maiden who greeted the visiting
   swain that night and one so inattentive to his woo-
   ing that his silences became long, under discourage-
ment, and his temper sullen. Earlier than was his
custom he bade her good-night and took himself moodily
  Then Dorothy Harper kindled a lamp and hastened to
the attic where she sat with her head bowed over the
old diary while the house, save for herself, slept and the
moon rode down toward the west.
  Often her eyes wandered away from the bone-yellow
pages of the ancient document and grew pensive in
dreamy meditation. This record was opening, for her,
the door of intimately wrought history upon the past of
her family and her nation when both had been in their
bravest youth.
  She did not read it all nor even a substantial part of it
because between scraps of difficult perusal came long
and alluring intervals of easy revery. Had she followed
its sequence more steadily many things would have
been made manifest to her which she only came to know
later, paying for the knowledge with a usury of ex-
perience and suffering.
  Yet since that old diary not only set out essential
matters in the lives of her ancestors but also things
integral and germane to her own life and that of the
stranger who had to-day laughed in the road, it may be
as well to take note of its contents.
  The quaint phrasing of the writer may be discarded