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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

I hain't skeercely got ther strength ter argyfy with ye


The

kneeling figure reluctantly nodded her assent. These admissions as to one's nearest and dearest must at times be made between men who face facts.

"Ef I passes out, I wants ye ter kinderly look atter him like he ought ter look atter you."

A stray lock of heavy hair had fallen across the girl's violet eyes, and with an impatient gesture at the reminder of her sex, Alexander tossed it back. "I gives ye my pledge," she said simply.

Then she rose from her knees and stood looking off through the window with a fixity that argued a deep dedication of purpose. "An' I pledges ye somethin' else too," she broke out in a voice suddenly savage. "Ef ye dies Bud Sellers belongs ter me ter kill--an' I won't nowise fail."

But at that the wounded man raised a deter rent hand shaken with palsied anxiety.

"No--no!" he gasped. "Thet's ther sperit I've done sought ter combat all my life--ther shot from ther la'rel--ther lay-wayin' of enemies. I couldn't rest easy ef ye denied me that pledge."

Alexander's hands clenched themselves, and her lips were compressed.

"I don't aim ter lay-way him," she declared with an ominous quiet. "I aims ter reckon with him es man ter man."

"Alexander." He spoke with slow difficulty but

she knew that the words came earnestly from his heart. "I hain't skeercely got ther strength ter argyfy with ye, but without ye seeks ter hinder me from layin' peaceful in my last sleep ye'll bide by my command. Ther boy wasn't hisself when he harmed me. He war plum crazed. No man loves me better than what he does when he's in his right mind. No man wucked harder down thar. I fergives him full free. I wants ye ter act ther same an' ter make Joe do likewise."

The girl covered her face with her hands and turned from the bed. She went for a moment to the door and flung it open. There was no longer any sunshine--only a dome of leaden heaviness and the wail of dismal wind through the timber. To the father's eyes, despite her masculine attire she was all feminine as she stood there and his face grew tender as he watched the curls stirring at her temples.

Finally she wheeled and with a military stiffness marched back. Slowly she nodded her head. "I gives ye thet pledge too;" she said, "since ye wants hit--but I gives hit with a right heavy sperit."

He reached up and took her hand, drawing her down to the bed by his side.

"Alexander," he said softly, "mebby I hain't played quite fa'r with ye my own self. I've done tried ter raise ye up like a man because I could always kinderly lean on ye--but ye've done been both a son an' a daughter ter me. Maybe though when I'm gone ther woman in ye'll come uppermost an' ye'll think hardly of me fer what I did."

"Think hard of ye fer tryin' ter make a man of me!" Her voice was as full of scornful protest as though a soldier had said, "Think hard of you because you taught me valor!"

He smiled before he spoke again. "I've done warned young men off from co'tin' ye on pain of harm an' death--an' when I'm dead they'll come in lavish numbers seekin' ter make up fer lost time."


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