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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Don't heed these hyar fool women


Then

the eyes of the many began following the eyes of the few, until a brief lull settled down on the dissonance, and everyone was staring at the girl who stood inside the door, dressed as a man, but holding their gaze with the lodestone of her womanly beauty.

A hoarse shout went up from the rear. "A gal in pants! Hit's ther he-woman!"

"I wants ter see ther tavern-keeper. Whar's he at?" demanded Alexander in a clear voice that went through the place like the note of a xylophone. She stood out, a picture of serene beauty drawn against an infernally evil and confused background.

Two of the wretched women came forward and bent upon her the full battery of their brazen and leering curiosity.

"Pants!" exclaimed one of them satirically.

"Ther wench hain't got no shame!" The second used an even uglier word.

But Alexander ignored that criticism.

"Whar's ther landlord at?" she repeated and a chorus of laughter ensued.

Then a bewhiskered fellow, red-eyed and dirty, to whom Jase Mallows had previously spoken, came to the front with a burlesqued attempt at a low bow.

"Don't heed these hyar fool women, sweetheart," he said. "They hain't nothin' but low-down trash nohow-- They're

jealous, but thar's some right upstandin' men-folks hyar fer ye ter keep company with. I reckon fust off ye needs a leetle dram--hits's right chilly outside."

As he proffered a flask, Brent caught the glitter of his eye, and knew that this time it would not be easy to decline. The crowd was drifting forward, and through the closing lane of humanity, Bud Sellers glided rapidly to a place near its front. His hand was inside his coat now--where the holster lay.

"A leetle dram won't do ye no harm," insisted the man of the blood-shot eyes and then as he caught the quiet contempt on the girl's face, his manner changed to truculent bullying. "Folks says ye wants ter be treated ther same as a man--an' any man thet holds I hain't good enough ter drink with--thet man's my enemy."

Brent hesitated to draw his weapon lest in such a situation it should provoke a holocaust. Yet he felt that in a moment he might need it. Then as he stood, still uncertain, he saw the giant who had until now looked on with detached emotionlessness come elbowing his way through the press, much as an elephant goes through small timber, uprooting obstacles and tossing them aside as he moves.

But Alexander had gone dead white with the pallor of outraged wrath. Her lips had tightened and her eyes taken on a quality like the blue flame which is the hottest fire that burns.

Then suddenly she moved with a swiftness that was electric and stood, before her purpose could be guessed, with a heavy-calibered revolver outthrust into the face of the man whose pistol hand had held the whiskey bottle. The flask crashed into splinters from an abruptly relaxed grip.


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