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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Halloway had never thus far broken out of character


The

bank at Coal City is a small box of brick, with two rooms. At the front the cashier's grating stands. At the rear is a bare chamber furnished with a small stove, a deal table and a few hickory-withed chairs. It is here that directors meet and hinterland financiers negotiate. Into this sanctum Brent led Alexander Macedonia McGivins, and for no particular reason, save that no one had forbidden it, Halloway accompanied them.

The timber buyer scribbled his calculations on the back of an envelope and submitted the results to the girl, who gravely nodded her satisfaction.

"Then," said Brent with an air of relief, "there remain only two things more. I shall now draw you a check for four thousand and ninety-one dollars and fifty cents, and you will sign a receipt."

Halloway was sitting in the background where he could indulge in all the staring he liked, and since Alexander had swum into his ken, that had become a large order. As Brent finished, the girl who had been sitting at the table with a pen in her hand, suddenly pushed back her chair and into her eyes came an amazed disappointment--a keen anxiety. For a moment she looked blankly at the man who was opening his check book. She suddenly felt that she had been confronted with a financial problem that lay beyond her experience and one which she deeply distrusted. It was as though affairs hitherto simple, except for physical

dangers, had run into a channel of subtler and therefore more alarming complication.

None of this escaped Halloway's lynx-like gaze but to Brent who was smoothing out the folded check, it went unobserved.

Suddenly Alexander bent forward, her cheeks coloring with embarrassment and caught at the signer's wrist as spasmodically as though it were a death warrant to which he meant to set his signature.

"Don't write me no check!" she exclaimed somewhat desperately, then, covered with confusion she added, "I don't aim ter insult ye none--but I don't know much erbout fotched-on ways. I wants ter tote thet thar payment back home--in real money."

Except with Brent, Halloway had never thus far broken out of character. Having assumed to be a mountain lumberman, he had consistently talked as one--acted as one.

Now he came out of his chair as though a mighty spring had uncurled under him, and slapped an outspread hand to his forehead.

"Great jumping Jehosaphat!" he exclaimed, and turning in her chair, the young woman studied him in perplexity. But Halloway's slip was brief and his recovery instant. Since Brent sat there staring in speechless bewilderment at Alexander, the giant launched himself into the breach.

"Tote four thousand dollars in silver an' paper an' gold across them trails in saddle bags!" His voice suddenly mounted into domineering vehemence. "Tote hit over wild an' la'relly mountings with this hyar country full of drunken scalawags thet would do murder for a ten dollar bill! Hev ye done gone plum bereft of reason?"

Alexander's first confusion of manner had come from the fear that her refusal of a check might seem tainted with the discourtesy of suspicion. Now in the face of actual opposition it stiffened instantly into hostility. The perplexity died from her face and her eyes blazed. For a moment she met the excited gaze of the man who towered over her and then in a coldly scornful voice she spoke, not to him, but to Brent. "I reckon ye war right, Mr. Brent, when ye asked me whether I wanted this man sent way. Thar hain't no need of his tarryin' hyar."


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