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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

But McGivins had not altered his attitude


The old man flinched as if under a blow from a trusted hand. "What fer does they aim ter quit?" he demanded.

"Bud Sellers has started in drinkin' licker, an' a'ready he's gittin' malignant. Ther Martin boys an' ther Copelands an' others beside 'em, 'lows thet they ain't seekin' no heedless trouble and hit's more heedful-like fer 'em ter go on home an' avoid an affray. Ef they stays on hit's right apt to end in blood-lettin'."

McGivins drew himself to a more rigid erectness. "Go back an' tell them boys thet I needs 'em," he ordered. "Tell 'em ef they don't stand by me now, I'm ruint. I'll send Bud away ef thet's all thet's frettin' 'em."

"I wouldn't counsel ye ter cross Bud jest now," advised Acup, but the other laughed under his long beard, a low angry laugh, as he turned on his heel and, with the man from the city following him, started in search of the troublemaker.

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's back was turned and he did not hear the footfall of the two men who had come upon him there. He knew that when once he succumbed to the thirst it meant a parting with reason and a frenzy of violence. But when the first savor of the fiery moonshine stuff had teased his palate and the first warmth had glowed in his stomach it meant surrender to debauch--and already he had gone too far to fight the appetite which was his ruin.

Now he stood with the flask to his lips and his head bent back, but when he had drunk deep he turned and saw the two figures that were silently observing him.

His eyes were already blood-shot and his cheeks reddened. The motions of his lithe body were unsteady. With a shamefaced gesture the young man sought to conceal the flask under his coat, then a fickle change came to his mood. His head bent down low like a bull's and his shoulders hulked in a stiffening defiance.

"Spyin' on me, air ye?" The question rasped savagely from his thickened lips. "Well, damn ther pair of ye, spies desarves what they gits! I'm a free man an' I don't suffer no bull-dozin' from nobody."

He lurched forward with so threatening an air that Brent stepped a little to the side and instinctively his hand went to the coat pocket where he carried a pistol. But Bud ignored him, focussing his attention upon the mountain man to whom he had come in friendship and service for the stemming of a disaster. He came with a chin out-thrust close to the older and bearded face. Truculence and reckless bravado proclaimed themselves in the pose, as he bulked there. "Wa'al," he snarled, "ye heered me, didn't ye?"

But McGivins had not altered his attitude. He had not given back a stride nor moved his arms. Now he spoke quietly.

"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'll ask ye, now, ter go on home afore ye drinks any more whiskey--or starts any ruction amongst my neighbors."

"So thet's hit, air hit?" Bud rocked a little on his feet as he stood confronting the steady challenge of Aaron McGivins. "So ye lets a man work slavish fer ye all day, and then starts in faultin' him ef he takes a drink at sun-down. Well damn ye, I don't aim ter go nowhars tell I'm ready an' ambitious ter go--does ye hear thet or does I hev ter tell ye again?"


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