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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Brent slipped noiselessly out into the corridor


"I'm

going to bed," declared Will Brent. "But--leave Alexander alone. I don't think she'd see eye to eye with you on the subject of the _grande amoureuse_."

"That only foreshadows a duel of wills--conflict--drama."

Halloway paused and laughed, and after that he went on with eyes that glowed admiringly.

"I dare say she never heard of an Amazon--and she's a splendid one. She dares to live a man's life in a country where other women tamely accept thraldom! Perhaps it is a great adventure. I have seen a meteor and I shall stay."

"Of course you know," Brent reminded him evenly, "the first hint that you are a millionaire masquerading as a native will engulf you in local suspicion."

"I don't mean that they shall learn that." Suddenly Halloway's head bent forward a little and his brows contracted. "They _can't_ learn it except through you."

"Precisely," said the smaller man, with dry brevity. If the short answer brought a cloud to Halloway's face it was one that cleared immediately into laughter.

"We haven't reached that bridge yet," he announced, "and we needn't open up a Brent-Halloway feud until we get there."

There was a moment's pause, after which the big fellow continued.

"Since

seeing the helpless maid, whom you seek to protect, holding back that bunch of desperadoes, it occurs to me that she can give a fairly good account of herself. Gad, it was epic!"

"Then why did you intervene?"

Halloway slowly turned his head and lifted his brows in frank amazement.

"Do you seriously ask? Did you suppose it was because I feared for her? Why, man, the blue flame in her eyes would have licked that crew without the aid of the gun. I intervened because when opportunity knocks, I open. I had enough dramatic sense to recognise my cue for a telling entrance; and I entered."

"Jack," inquired Brent, "how did you ever happen to know this remote life well enough to pass as a native?"

"Born here," was the laconic reply. But the other pressed him for fuller detail and he proceeded cheerfully. "The Halloway millions didn't come to us on a tray borne by angels. My father made his pile, and much of it he made in coal and iron--here and there in the Appalachians. He trained me up in that business. Why, I even worked during school vacations as a telegraph operator in the office of the local railroad station." He smiled again as he added, "Add that item to my versatile summary. I'm as good a key tickler as you would be apt to find in a day's journey."

"At all events you are a surprising reprobate," admitted the lumberman with a yawn. "Someday, though, I'll challenge you to a sending and receiving tourney. I began in a broker's office, and I'm fairly good myself."

But after Halloway had thrown himself down on his bed and his regular breathing attested his sound sleep, Brent slipped noiselessly out into the corridor. Halloway might feel certain of the girl's ability to fend for herself but with this crowd here to-night, running its wild gamut of dissipation, the less primitive man thought it as well to keep an eye on her safety.

Down the hall, dimly lighted by a single smoking lamp, he saw a figure which had been standing before Alexander's door, draw furtively back around the angle of a wall. From below stairs still came the din of wassailing.


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