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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Halloway pushed both Sellers and Brent ahead of him


Beating

out the flame that licked his shirt, he abandoned the rest and fled, howling like a madman. The thing which D. W. Kelly had feared had come to pass and the frame building was doomed to its gutting.

So frequently of late had ungodly bellowings and outcries broken the fitful rest of this house, that for a brief space, Lute's howls of alarm failed to carry their true significance. Some guests, startled out of their sleep, had the impulse rather to keep their doors tight shut than to open them, and through the tinder-like dryness of the place the flames roared up the boxed-in stairway as through a flue.

Bud Sellers heard the yells of the fugitive Lute, and before he had time to investigate, saw the stairhead vomiting smoke and fire. As he dashed for Alexander's room, another door opened through which Halloway and Brent ran out, carrying their shoes and coats.

"Let me in," shouted Bud, hammering on the panels. "Ther house is burnin' down an' ther steps is cut off."

At first there was no response, but at last the door swung in. It framed Alexander, clothed in shirt and trousers--but barefooted, and holding a pistol in her hand.

At the sight of Bud Sellers her face grew pallid.

"You!" she exclaimed with white-hot anger. "My paw lays over thar with yore bullet in his breast--an'

ye comes runnin' hyar ter me fer a way ter git outen danger!"

The three men were crowding to the door but she stood barring it and she did not give back an inch. In deliberation she went on. "He laid a pledge on me not ter avenge him. Ef hit warn't fer thet, I'd kill ye whar ye stands."

"Fer God's sake, Alexander!" The mountaineer's voice was shrill with excitement. "Kill me if ye likes--but don't tarry. I come ter warn ye. Ther winder's ther only way out--an' thar hain't no time ter lose."

As if in corroboration, the first puff of brown smoke eddied through the open door. At first it came idly, driftingly, as if it had nothing to do with haste. Halloway pushed both Sellers and Brent ahead of him, and followed them in, slamming the door behind him.

"Talk outside," he commanded sharply. "Don't waste life-and-death minutes in this hell-trap!"

Alexander gazed absently as though unable to readjust her trend of thought so swiftly, then she said, quietly enough: "Thar's ther winder. Go through hit ef ye likes."

As for herself she turned to the task of tying up her pack of belongings with what seemed to the frenzied men insufferable deliberation.

"This is the third floor," snapped Halloway whose head was already thrust out of the window gauging possibilities of escape. "We'll have to tear up sheets and make a rope of them."


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