A pagan of the hills

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TheProjectGutenbergeBook,APaganoftheHills,byCharlesNevilleBuck, IllustratedbyGeorgeW Gage ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith almostnorestrictionswhatsoever Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.org Title:APaganoftheHills Author:CharlesNevilleBuck ReleaseDate:August20,2006[eBook#19089] Language:English Charactersetencoding:ISO-8859-1 ***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKAPAGANOFTHE HILLS*** E-textpreparedbyAlHaines Sometimes,inthesedays,shewenttoacrestfromwhichtheviewreachedfar offforleaguesoverthevalley.] [Frontispiece:Sometimes,inthesedays,shewenttoacrestfrom which theviewreachedfaroffforleaguesoverthevalley.] APAGANOFTHEHILLS BY CHARLESNEVILLEBUCK AUTHOROF "THECALLOFTHECUMBERLANDS," "THEBATTLECRY," "WHENBEARCATWENTDRY,"ETC.,ETC Frontispieceby GEORGEW GAGE NEWYORK W J WATT&COMPANY PUBLISHERS COPYRIGHT,1919,BY W J WATT&COMPANY CONTENTS CHAPTERI CHAPTERV CHAPTERIX CHAPTERXIII CHAPTERXVII CHAPTERII CHAPTERVI CHAPTERX CHAPTERXIV CHAPTERXVIII CHAPTERIII CHAPTERVII CHAPTERXI CHAPTERXV CHAPTERXIX CHAPTERIV CHAPTERVIII CHAPTERXII CHAPTERXVI APAGANOFTHEHILLS CHAPTERI "It'splumamazin'terheeryenoratethetye'vedonebeentradin'andhagglin' witholdmanMcGivinslongenoughterbuyhislogsoffenhimandyityehain't nevermetupwithAlexander Ikain'thardlyfathomhitnoways." The shambling mountaineer stretched himself to his lean length of six feet two, and wagged an incredulous head Out of pale eyes he studied the man beforehimuntilthenewcomerfrom"down-below"feltthat,intheattitude,lay almost the force of rebuke It was as though he stood self-convicted of having visitedNapleswithoutseeingVesuvius "But I haven't been haggling with Mr McGivins," he hastened to remonstrate "Onthecontrarywehavedonebusinessmostamicably." Thenativeofthetangledhillscasuallywavedasidethedistinctionofterms asatrivialityandwenton:"Ihain'tnuverheeredtellofnoman'stradin'inthese hyar Kentucky mountains without he haggled considerable Why thet's what tradin'denotes Howsomeverwhatflabbergastsmeairthetyehain'tmetupwith Alexander Stranger,yedon'tknownothin'aboutthisnecko'thewoodsa-tall!" ParsonAcup,socalledforthefunerealgravityofhisbearingandexpression, and Brent the timber-buyer, stood looking down from beetling cliffs rigidly bestowed with collossal and dripping icicles To their ears came a babel of shouts,thegratingoftrees,longsleet-boundbutstirringnowtothethaw—the roarofblastingpowderandtherendingofsolidrock Brentlaughed "Now,thatyou'vefathomedthedensityofmyignorance,"he suggested, "proceed to enlighten me Upon what does this Alexander rest his fame?Whatcharacterofmanishe?" "Wa'al, stranger, I've done always held ther notion thet we folks up hyar in thesebenightedhillsofoldKaintuck,warerbouttheign'rantesthumanmortals Godeversufferedterlive—butevenusknowserboutAlexander Fustplacehe hain't no man at all He's a gal—leastwise, Alexander was borned female but she'sdonelivedaplumhe-life,eversince." "Awoman—butthename——" "Oh,pshaw!Tharhain'tnuthin'jedgmaticinaname OldmanMcGivinshe jestdisgustsgalsandsoheupandnamedhisfustbornAlexanderan'he'sdone rearedheraccordin'." Brentarchedhisbrowsashisinformantcontinued,gatheringheadwayinthe interest of his narrative "Old man McGivins he's done read a lavish heap of booksan'hetalksapasselofprintedwisdom He'lowedthetAlexanderwa'ntno commonman'snamebutthethitsignifiedahell-bustin'survigrousfeller Byhis tellin',therfustAlexanderwhaledblazesoutenallcreationan'thensotdownan' criedlikeababybecausetherjobhe'ddonewentan'peteredoutonhim Terme, thetnorrationsaversrightstrongofadamnlie." Brent nodded as he smilingly replied, "I've read of that first Alexander, but he'sbeendeadagoodmanycenturies." "Long enough ter leave him lay an' ferget about him, I reckon," drily observed the parson "Anyhow atter a spell Old Man McGivins had another bornin'athisdwellin-housean'thettimehitprovedouttobeaboy Hiswoman sought ter rechristen ther gal Lizzie or Lake Erie or somethin' else befittin petticoats She 'lowed thet no godly man wouldn't hardly seek a woman in wedlock,nercraveferhertobethermotherofhischildrenwithanamehungon herlikeAlexanderMacedoniaMcGivins." Brent'seyetwinkledashewatchedtheunbendinggravityoftheother'sface andsincecommentseemedexpectedheconceded,"Thereseemstobeagermof reasoninthat." "Then ther boy commenced growin' up, lazy-like an' shiftless," enlightened theparson "Theroldman'lowedthethitwouldn'thardlybenofallacytername himLizzieorLakeErie,buthesworeonahullstackofBiblesthetheaimedter makeamanofthergal." Suddenly the speaker broke off and his brow clouded Following the apprehensivedirectionofthefrowningeyesasonemightfollowadottedlinethe manfromthecitysawayoungmountaineersurreptitiouslytiltingaflasktohis lipsintheleeofahugeboulder Palpablythedrinkerbelievedhimselfscreened from view, and when he had wiped the neck of the flask with the palm of his handandstoweditawayagaininhisbreastpockethelookedfurtivelyabouthim —andthatfurtivenesswasunusualenough toelicitsurprisein thislandwhere mendrankopenlyandmademoonshinewhiskeyandevengaveittotheirsmall children "Sincethertimeofcorndrappin'an'kiverin',"saidtheParson,slowly,"Bud Sellershain'ttechedadramaforenow Hitdon'tpleasuremenoneterseehim startin'inafresh." "He's been working hard," suggested the timber buyer tolerantly "I've watchedhimandheneverseemstotire Maybehefelttheneedofastimulant." ButAcupgrowled "WhenBudleaveslickeralonetharhain'tnobetterboy nowhars Whenhefollersdrinkinghegitsp'izenmeanrightdowntothermarrer inhisinsidestbone Folkscallshimthermad-dogthen Efthesemenfindsout he's drinkin', they'll quit work an' scatter like pa'tridges does when they sees a hawkflutterin'overhead." The loose-jointed giant turned on his heel and left Brent standing alone Snowaftersnowhadfallenthiswinterandfrozentight,heapedhighbyblizzard after blizzard until all the legendary "old fashioned winters" had been outdone andputtoshame Thenwithoutwarninghadcomesomewarmbreathacrossthe peaks bringing January rains on the heels of zero frigidity and thaws of unprecedentedswiftness Whilethe"spring-tide"wastohavebeenanagencyof safedeliveryforthefelledtimberthisprematurefloodthreatenedtobealawless oneofdevastation Brenthadrushedupherefromthecitydrivenbyanxietyas tothelogshehadcontractedtobuy—logswhichtheoncomingfloodthreatened toravishintoscatteredandracingdrift HehadfoundoldmanMcGivinstoiling without sleep or rest; racing against the gathering cohorts of a Nature turned vandal,andintothefightandstresshehadthrownhimselfandallhisenergies That there was even the slimmest of chances to save the poplar, was a fact due to a peculiar conformation of the levels there, and to exceptional circumstances "Gin'rallywejustrollstherlogsdownhillwhenwecuts'eman'lets'emlay thar whar they falls in ther creek beds," McGivins had explained "Afore ther springtidecomesonwiththerthawsan'rains,webuildsasplashdambackof 'em an' when we're ready we blows her out an' lets 'em float on down ter ther nighestboomferraftin' Efafloodlikethiscomesontheygitsscattered,an'we jest kisses 'em good-bye Thet's happenin' right now all along these numerous smallcreeks." ButMcGivinshadcuthistimbernearariverthatcouldfloatnotonlyloose logsbutrafts,andinasmalllake-likebasinhemmedinbycliffsandseparated byagorgefromtheriverhehadgatheredthemandboundthemintothreelarge rafts Onlysuchastageascamewiththe"tide"wouldconvertthegorgeintoa water-way out, and only then wen the great dam built across it had been dynamited Now came this flood, infinitely more powerful than the ordinary rise of spring Thedamwasthreatenedandmustbestrengthenedandraisedhigher Ifit gaveway,hetoomust"kisshislogsgood-bye." As the city man speculated on the odds against him Old Man McGivins himself materialized at his elbow His lips were tight-set and his brow was furrowed Forhimthesituationsavoredofimpendingtragedy Thesetreeshad been reluctantlyfelledfromavirgintractofforestheretoforeunscarredbythe axe,andtheyhadbeenhislong-hoardedtreasure Hehadheldontothemmuch as a miser holds to his savings because he loved them Even when Brent had offeredagoodprice,runningwellintothousands,hehadwrestledwithhimself When the axes had rung and the saws whined through the scarlet and golden autumn,ithadalmostseemedtohimthathewasexecutinglivingandbeloved friends NowaninimicalforceofNaturethreatenedtorobhimofthemandof hisremunerationaswell Yetashestoodthere,withthesweatandgrimeofhis labor drying on his forehead, his brooding eyes held a patriarchal dignity of uncomplainingcourage "Allthesehyarmenairmyneighbors,Mr Brent,"hesaidwithamannerof instinctive courtesy "They hain't a-workin' fer wages but jest ter kinderly convenienceme—Ireckonwe'rebothofusrightsmartbeholdento'em." The city man acquiescently nodded his head but he was thinking chiefly of the calm patience and the tireless strenuousity with which McGivins, himself, wasbattlingagainstcalamity "Theyarefriendsofyours,"heanswered "Theyrealizethatyourlosswillbe heavyif——"Hebrokeoffthereandtheotherwenton "Hit'llmightynighcripplemeefwedon'tsave'em I'vedoneheldonterthet timber fer a long spell of years an' I sorrers ter part with hit now But thar's a rightweightymortgageonmylandan'hit'sheldbyamanthetdon'tsquanderno loveonmeatbest." Brentgrittedhisteeth Hehadheretoforeknownonlyintheindirectnessof theory the sudden capriciousness of mountain weather; storms that burst and cannonadewithoutwarning;tricklingwatersthatleapovernightintomaddened freshets Nowhewasseeinginitsblood-rawferocitytheprimalcombatbetween manandtheelements With a troubled brow Parson Acup returned and addressed McGivins "Aaron,"hesaidbluntly,"rightnumerousfellersairthreatenin'terquitusandwe kain'tspareasinglehand." Theoldmanflinchedasifunderablowfromatrustedhand "Whatferdoes theyaimterquit?"hedemanded "Bud Sellers has started in drinkin' licker, an' a'ready he's gittin' malignant TherMartinboysan'therCopelandsan'othersbeside'em,'lowsthettheyain't seekin'noheedlesstroubleandhit'smoreheedful-likefer'emtergoonhomean' avoidanaffray Eftheystaysonhit'srightapttoendinblood-lettin'." McGivinsdrewhimselftoamorerigiderectness "Gobackan'tellthemboys thetIneeds'em,"heordered "Tell'emeftheydon'tstandbymenow,I'mruint I'llsendBudawayefthet'sallthet'sfrettin''em." "Iwouldn'tcounselyetercrossBudjestnow,"advisedAcup,buttheother laughedunderhislongbeard,alowangrylaugh,asheturnedonhisheeland, withthemanfromthecityfollowinghim,startedinsearchofthetroublemaker Bud was found at last behind the great hump of towering rock The place, walled in by beetling precipice, was beginning to darken into cloister-dim shadows Bud'sbackwasturnedandhedidnothearthefootfallofthetwomen who had come upon him there He knew that when once he succumbed to the thirstitmeantapartingwithreasonandafrenzyofviolence Butwhenthefirst savorofthefierymoonshinestuffhadteasedhispalateandthefirstwarmthhad glowedinhisstomachitmeantsurrendertodebauch—andalreadyhehadgone toofartofighttheappetitewhichwashisruin Nowhestoodwiththeflasktohislipsandhisheadbentback,butwhenhe haddrunkdeepheturnedandsawthetwofiguresthatweresilentlyobserving him His eyes were already blood-shot and his cheeks reddened The motions of hislithebodywereunsteady Withashamefacedgesturetheyoungmansought toconcealtheflaskunderhiscoat,thenaficklechangecametohismood His head bent down low like a bull's and his shoulders hulked in a stiffening defiance "Spyin'onme,airye?"Thequestionraspedsavagelyfromhisthickenedlips "Well,damntherpairofye,spiesdesarveswhattheygits!I'mafreemanan'I don'tsuffernobull-dozin'fromnobody." HelurchedforwardwithsothreateninganairthatBrentsteppedalittletothe sideandinstinctivelyhishandwenttothecoatpocketwherehecarriedapistol ButBudignoredhim,focussinghisattentionuponthemountainmantowhom hehadcomeinfriendshipandserviceforthestemmingofadisaster Hecame with a chin out-thrust close to the older and bearded face Truculence and recklessbravadoproclaimedthemselvesinthepose,ashebulkedthere "Wa'al," hesnarled,"yeheeredme,didn'tye?" ButMcGivinshadnotalteredhisattitude Hehadnotgivenbackastridenor movedhisarms Nowhespokequietly "I'm sore grieved to see you comin' ter this pass, Bud," he said "We all knows what hit means every time I'm obleeged ter ye fer what ye've already done—an'I'llaskye,now,tergoonhomeaforeyedrinksanymorewhiskey— orstartsanyructionamongstmyneighbors." "Sothet'shit,airhit?"Budrockedalittleonhisfeetashestoodconfronting thesteadychallengeofAaronMcGivins "Soyeletsamanworkslavishferye allday,andthenstartsinfaultin'himefhetakesadrinkatsun-down Welldamn ye,Idon'taimtergonowharstellI'mreadyan'ambitioustergo—doesyehear thetordoesIhevtertellyeagain?" With a very deliberate motion McGivins lifted one arm and pointed it "Iheeredhittoo,"saidAlexanderunderstandingly,forinthehillsonepauses toquestionunexplainedsoundsinthenighttime "Ireckonhitwarsomevarmint stirring." The route they had taken led along the margin of the bluff, and when they were close to the elevator, walking single file, with Alexander in the lead, the serenitybrokewiththemalignantsharpnessofabarkingrifle Jerry heard the whining flight of the bullet that had missed his head by inches,andasthoughinobediencetoasinglenerveimpulse,boththegirland themanfellflattothebetterconcealmentoftheground,andedgedbackintothe sootilyshadowedlaurel "We'vegotneedterseparate,"whisperedJerry,withhislipsbrushingherear "Iaimstergitinsidetherelevator—andhold'emoff Youhastendownoverther cliff an' work back ter ther house I reckon hit's me they wants, but I'll endure 'twellyebringshelp." Without wasting a needless word or breath in argument, Alexander began noiselesslytwistingherwaytowardsthebrowoftheprecipice Jerry'sheartwas poundingwithterrorlestshebediscovered—andtodivertfromheranattention thatmightprovefatal,herecklesslyroseandleapedacrossaspotofmoonlight, makingafleetingtarget,whichbroughtfromtwoseparatesourcesresponsesof riflery The man knew now that whoever his assailants might be they were out in forceandinearnest Cautiouslyheworkedhiswayalongtheshadows,hisluck stillholdinguntilfinallyhehadreachedhispointofvantagewithinafewyards oftheopengatethatledtotheelevatoritself Togainthathavenhemustdash foritacrossabandofunmaskedmoonlight Onceinside,hehadonlytowaitfor thereliefofreinforcements To the right and left of him, and from several spots at once, O'Keefe heard stirrings in the thicket There must be a sizable pack out on the hunt and he surmised that they were making those unnecessary noises with the purpose of drawinghisfireandbringinghimintorevealmentbythespurtofhispistol The door of the elevator itself stood partly in the moonlight Jerry O'Keefe couldseethedullglitterthatheknewtobethekey—andcouldevenmakeout— orsohethought—thatthedoorstoodaninchortwoajar Ofthathewasnotquitecertain—anditwasavitallyimportantpoint Ifthelockwasnotcaught,hemightgetinbeforehecouldbekilled Ifhehad tofumblewithakey,hisendwascertain Jerry drew himself together and made the dive Four rifles spoke in unison andfourbulletsimbeddedthemselvesintheheavytimbersofthegreatbuilding ashehurledhimselfagainstthedoor,andfeltitgivelaxlyunderhisweight He had not fired a shot and between himself and his enemies stood the staunchnessofwallsagainstwhichtheirriflebulletswouldpeltasharmlesslyas hailstones Except for his anxiety about Alexander he might have lighted his pipeandwaitedwithacontentedspirit Indeed,aslowsmiledidshapeitselfonhisface,butastartledthoughtwiped itawayasswiftlyandcompletelyasawetspongeobliterateswritingonaslate Thatthoughtlefthisexpressionasblackasaslatetoo Jerrydrewhispistol,andforamomentitwasinhismindtoopenthedoor andgooutagain Whenhehadsentthegirlawayforreinforcementsithadnotoccurredtohim thatthisambuscademightbeintendedtoincludeheraswellashimself Hehad thoughtthat,onceapartfromhim,unlessmistakenforhiminthedark,shecould walksafely Indeedhehadbeenatatotallosstoexplain,inanyway,themotive oftheattack Now it had flashed upon him that it was somehow an outgrowth of the old robberyattempt—andifthatweretrueashighapricelayonthegirl'sheadas uponhisown Shewasouttherealoneandinalllikelihoodunarmed Jerry O'Keefe broke into a cold sweat of panic—and he sat with his ears strainedforapistolshot—ashout—anyindicationthatmightcallhimacrossthe moonlightzonebeyondthedoortoherdefense But the stillness of the midsummer night had settled again, except for the voicesofthewhippoorwillandthekatydid Bythistime,hetriedtoreassurehimself,Alexanderhadmadeherwaydown intothegorgeandwasbeyondthetouchofdanger Butthatwasnottrue Thegirlhadneedtomovewithsuchsilenceasshould breaknotwigandrustlenoshrub Shemusttwistalongacoursethatavoidedthe patchesofmoonlight,weavingherslowwayinandout Deliberationnowwas hard,butitwouldmeangreaterandmoreeffectivehastelateron Shehadeven paused,crouching,withinheldbreath,ataspotfromwhichshecouldwatchthe door of the elevator, until Jerry had made his dash With a heart swollen and strainedbydreadalmosttobursting,shehadseenhimshootacrosstheexposed areaandburstthroughthedoor—andshehadheardthefusiladethatresentedhis escape Orwasitescape?Hehadplungedthroughthedarkopeningmuchasafalling manmightgo Butnowsafe,woundedordead,hewasinsideandtheycouldnot reachhim,soitbehoovedhertousewarycaretotheendthatshemightbring himhelp ButasAlexandercametothetwolargebouldersbetweenwhichshemeantto startdownintothegorgeshewasarrestedbyaflickeroflightthere Therock shieldedfromviewthemanwhoseemedtobekindlingapinetorch,buttheflare had warned her in time to make her crouch low and consider her course That pathwhichshehadchosenwascutoff Then,lowandguardedvoicesstoleacrosstoherwiththelight "War'sthergal?Shedidn'tgitinsidetoo,didshe?" "No,'pearslikeshe'sdonehidaway—butIreckonthey'lldiskiverherafore shegitsfar." "Don'tlet'swastenotime,then Ye'vedonesplashedcoal-oilonthercorner oftherwarehouse,hain'tye?" "Yes." "Wa'al,comeon Ye'vegotyoretorchready Let'stechheroff Hethinkshe's safeenoughinsidethar,butrightshortlyhe'llsinganothertune." Alexanderfell,foramoment,intoatremorandchillofwildpanic Suddenly asarevelation,yetbeyondallshadowofdoubt,sheknewthatthemanwhowas doomedtoacertainandmosthorribledeathwas,toher,thepersonofsupreme consequenceinalltheworld ThedynamicqualitiesofHallowaywerenothing and less than nothing, now She wanted for always that gentle strength and whimsicalsmilethatweresoontobelickedupinflameandtorture Ifthisman were not saved she could, herself, no longer endure to live—and there was no wayofsavinghim! WhileAlexandercrouchedtherewithherbloodcongealedshesawthetorch applied,sawitsflameleapravenouslytothewelcomeofthekeroseneandsecure a hold upon the building itself as sure and tenacious as the grip of a bulldog's clampedjaws Theplotterswhofiredtheelevatorshowedheronlytheirbacks How long would it be before the man inside recognized the acrid odor and realized his fate? What would he then? Presumably he would dash for the door,andtherebothflameandriflefirewouldbeawaitinghim The incendiaries had now passed around the corner of the house and the moonlight fell upon the long chute which ran almost vertically down to the railway tracks below Into Alexander's mind shot a desperate resolution It offeredaslenderchanceatbest—yettheonlyone Stillforamoment,shequestionedit Thereweresomanywaysthatitmight turnout—andofthemall,oneonlycouldpossiblyendinsuccess Then she slipped over to the great handle that controlled the flow of grain, locked into place with its chain and padlock If she were seen she would, of course,bekilled,butthemurdercrewseemedtohavemassedatthefrontofthe placenow,watchingthedoor,untilthefireshouldtakethattaskofftheirhands The flames were crackling loud enough now to cover the noise which must attendhernextmove—andtoaffordheralightforherwork Aheavyironbarlayonthegroundandwithitthegirlforcedthechainand bentallherstrengthtothegreatleverthatshouldlaunchthestoredwheatintoits quicksand flow She flung her good muscles and her substantial weight so fiercelyintothateffortthattheshaftsnappedatitsfulcrum—butnotuntilithad doneitswork Alexander rushed for the brow of the cliff, and this time she was not obstructed The relaxed vigilance of a job well done had stolen upon the watchers The journey down the precipice was one that had its difficulties, and Alexander'sbrainwasreelingwithascoreofterrors—yetsomehowshereached thetracks O'Keefewouldnotbeinthewheatbinitself,shereflected Itwouldbedark intheretoo—untilthelightbecameaglareofdeath Unlesshechancedtohear, throughotherandfiercersoundsthesoftflowofthemyriadkernels,hewould have no means of knowing that one desperate way was being opened to him Eventhenhissinglehopewouldlieinquicknessofperceptionandasurenessof judgmentthatactedflawlesslyandsmoothlyunderasupremestrain Ifhedidseethatthewheatwasrunningoutanddidnotwaitforitalltospill itself,hewouldbesuckedintoitstideonlytoemergedead Foritflowedslowly, pressingineverydirection,anditwouldinevitablystranglethebreathoutofhis lungs Even if he were judging all these odds with a meticulous nicety, Alexander questionedherselfbreathlessly,wouldtherebetimetowaitforthefullstoreto flowthroughthatnarrowchannel?Itwasaracebetweenaslowtidewhichcould notbehurriedandanotherwhichrushedonwiththedevouringfuryofmania The girl threw herself down beside an empty freight car and dug her cold finger nails into her hot temples She could hear the steady stream of wheat flowing into the bin there, and the deadly slowness of its progress through the hopperwas drivingher mad The elevator she could not see,butby lifting her head,shecouldseeoutalltooclearlythecrimsonskyoverhead CHAPTERXIX Whenthefirstacridwarningofscorchedtimberscametohisnostrils,Jerry O'Keefehadrecognizedthedesperationofhisplightandhelaidouthissimple plans in accordance He meant to stay where he was till the last endurable moment, hoping against hope for the coming of the rescuers When it was no longerpossibletoremain,hewouldgooutofthedoorandsellhislifeataprice —butheknewhewouldhavetosellit,andperhapscheaply,fortheywoulddo theirkillingfromcover Hestruckamatchforasurveyoftheplacewherehemustmakehislaststand andhiseyefellonthecoilofrope Then,forthefirsttime,herememberedits use,andvainlywishedthatthechutecouldbeopenedfromwithin Bythelight ofothermatches,helookedoverintothegreatbinandwhathesawastonished him Therewasamovingsuctionatthecenterofthepile—aslowmotionand declivity—thoughthisafternoonthestuffhadbeenheapedintoawell-rounded mound Furtherscrutinyverifiedtheamazingresultsofhisfirstimpression The hopperwasopen! Jerry O'Keefe smiled grimly His enemies had an ironic sense of humor, he thought Theymeanttogivehimachoiceofdeaths,deathatthedoorbyflame andleadordeathinthesluicebysuffocation Thenanincredulousexclamation burstfromhislips Wastherenotawildandwhollyimprobablechancethatthis opening of an avenue might be Alexander's work? It seemed unlikely, almost inconceivable, but in resourcefulness and adroitness of thought nothing was quiteinconceivableofAlexander Sheknewoftheropeanditsformeruse—andthatmeantthattheflowingtide wouldnothavetospelldeathforhimifhewaitedlongenoughandactedwisely enough Presumablytheseenemieswerenotneighbors,foriftheyhadbeenthey wouldnotbeburningtheirowngrain Ifthatweregranteditmightfollowthat theywouldnotknowoftherope Jerrybreatheddeeply,andadesperatesmilecameforaninstanttohistight lips He was watching the unhurried flow of out-running wheat and gauging, as wasthegirlbelow,theracingprogressoftheflames Wouldtherebetime?The doorwascutoffnowbysheetsoffireandhehadnolongeranyalternative If thehotenemyreachedhimbeforethewheatwasout,hemustdiebyitorend matterswithhisownpistol He uncoiled the rope and threw its loose end into the bin, watching with a fascinatedgazethefashioninwhichitwasdraggedinwardanddownward Intheincreasingheatoftheinfernohehadthrownoffhiscoat,andnowhis shirtwenttoo Thesweatpouredoutofhisnakedchestandshoulders Fromraftersbelowhimshotwickedtonguesofwideningflame—Hisbreath waslaboredandhislifeseemedtowither Therewasonlyalittlegrainleftnow atthebottomofthereceptaclebuttherewasalsolittlestrengthorenduranceleft inhim Hiseyesburnedhorriblyandheknewthathecouldnolongersupporthis weightonaropebythestrengthofhisarms Hehadclimbedtotheedgeofthe bin,andclungthere Thenhefainted,andfellinward But the moment had arrived when at last the way was clear The chute, polishedsmoothbytheflowingkernels,didnotevenleaveasplinterinhisbare flesh, and when he shot down and out he fell on the soft mound of wheat that hadgonebeforehim Alexander's straining eyes saw his body flash into sight, and saw that it seemedlifeless Withacrythatshetriedtostifleandcouldnot,shecalledupon herlaststrength,andclimbedintothegreatpenwherehelayinsensible Themurderershadgoneaway Theirtaskseemedcomplete,andtheyhadno wishtotarrytoolongafterthecountrysidehadbeenarousedbythatbeaconof fire ButitwasmuchlaterthatneighborhoodsearchersfoundAlexandersittingon amoundofsalvagedwheatwiththeheadofanunconsciousmaninherlap It wasamanstrippedtothewaist,sweat-coveredandsmokeblackened Thegirl wasmumblingincoherentthingsintohisunresponsiveear "Ye saved ther wheat fer us anyhow—an' ther doctor says he hain't none hurtedbeyondbeingscorchedupsome,"declaredWarwickMcGivinsthatsame night at his own house, and Alexander, limp to collapse with her long vigil of terror, but with eyes that glowed with triumph—and with something else— replied,"I'vesavedsomethin'betterthenamightyheapofwheat." Jerryspokefromthebed,wherehelayconsciousnow,butstillveryweak "Thingslookedmightyunsartain—feraspell." And the girl answered in a silvery voice that held the thrill of invincible courage "Nothin'hain'tnevergoin'terbeunsartainferusfromnowon Hitteks fire,Ireckon,terweldiron—but——" Theenfeebledmantriedtoraisehimselfonhiselbow,butshegentlypressed himback "Doesyemeanhit,Alexander?"hewhisperedtensely "Hithain'tjestbecause I'vebeenhurtedaleetle—an'ye'recompassionateferme?" "Jerry," shesaid andhervoicebecameallatoncesoftlytremulous,"jest es soonasye'reableIwantsyetertekmeinyorearms—an'Idon'tneverwantye terletmegoergin!" "I'll git thet strong right soon," he declared with a fervor that brought the strengthbacktohisvoice—andthesparklebackintohisblood-shoteyes Jack Halloway came into his rooms one day in early September and ran throughsomemailthatlaypiledonhistable Hewasnotinahappyhumor The businessherehaddraggedouttotheannoyinglengthofsixweeksandhismind was busy with anxiety centering on the hills But as his thoughts ran irritably along,thehandthathadliftedanenvelopeoutofthecollectionbecamerigid It wasaveryplainenvelopeandquiteunaccountablyitwaspostmarkedfromthe stationnearthemouthofShoulder-bladecreek Who,downthere,couldknowhisNewYorkaddress?ItcouldnotbeBrent, forthiswasnotBrent'shand He ripped the thing open and from the unfolded sheet fell a tiny scrap of some sort It seemed to be a small strip of soiled cloth and he let it lie on the tablewhilehereadthenoteitself Thefirstparagraphbroughtfromhislipsanexclamationofdismayandalarm —andhepausedamomenttocollecthimselfbeforefinishing "DearJack,"saidtheletter "YouwillwonderhowIknewwheretosendthis letter,butyouseeIdidknow "JerryandIweremarriedaweekagoandalltheneighborscametoourinfare towishuswell Isawtoitthateverymantheretookoffhishat Iamsending youthetagthatwasonyourcoatpocketthedayImendedit Itwasn'theedful foryoutoleaveitthere,andthat'showIknewwhereyouwereapttobenow— insteadofVirginia." The man paused again and his great hand shook with disappointment and chagrin Finallyheturnedthesheetandreadtheconclusion "Seeingthattaggavemewarningjustintimethenightyoubraggedthatyou couldmakemecomeintoyourarms Nexttime,Jack,Icounselyoutobehonest with the girls you make love to They like it Come and see us when you get backtothemountains AlexanderMcGivins P.S Ipromisedmypawtokeepmy ownnamewhenIwaswed,andJerrydoesn'tmind." The letter escaped from nerveless fingers and floated down to the floor At last Halloway picked up the small tailor's label and turned it in his fingers absentmindedly,asthoughhewerenotyetquitesurewhathewasdoing ***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A PAGAN OF THE HILLS*** *******Thisfileshouldbenamed19089-h.txtor19089-h.zip******* Thisandallassociatedfilesofvariousformatswillbefoundin: http://www.gutenberg.org/1/9/0/8/19089 Updated editions will replace the previous one the old editions will be renamed Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no one ownsaUnitedStatescopyrightintheseworks,sotheFoundation(andyou!)can copyanddistributeitintheUnitedStateswithoutpermissionandwithoutpaying copyrightroyalties Specialrules,setforthintheGeneralTermsofUsepartof this license, apply to copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark ProjectGutenbergisaregisteredtrademark,andmaynotbeusedifyoucharge for 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