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The Roof Tree   By: (1879-1930)

Book cover

First Page:

THE ROOF TREE

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

THE ROOF TREE

BY CHARLES NEVILLE BUCK

ILLUSTRATED BY LEE F. CONREY

GARDEN CITY, N. Y., AND TORONTO DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 1921

BOOKS BY CHARLES NEVILLE BUCK

BATTLE CRY, THE CALL OF THE CUMBERLANDS, THE CODE OF THE MOUNTAINS, THE DESTINY KEY TO YESTERDAY, THE LIGHTED MATCH, THE PAGAN OF THE HILLS, A PORTAL OF DREAMS, THE ROOF TREE, THE TEMPERING, THE TYRANNY OF WEAKNESS, THE WHEN BEAR CAT WENT DRY

COPYRIGHT, 1920, 1921, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

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

TO MY WIFE

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"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

THE ROOF TREE

CHAPTER I

Between 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 exaggeration 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 collapse.

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 downward.

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... Continue reading book >>




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