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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Brent himself lounged about idly


An

ominous growl went up at that but Jase continued staunchly.

"Howsomever we needn't hev no fallin' out over that. I've got a plan wharby she kin be robbed without hurtin' her an' wharby atter ye've done got ther money, I kin 'pear ter rescue her an' tek her offen yore hands."

As he outlined his guileful proposition the scowls of his listeners gave way to grins of full approval and admiration.

"Who's goin' ter diskiver what route she rides?" demanded one of those annoyingly exact persons who mar all great dreams by the injection of practicalities.

Again Jase laughed. "Thar hain't but one way she kin go--hit'll be days afore any other route's fordable. She's got ter fare past Crabapple post office an' through Wolf-pen gap."

That afternoon Brent went to the telegraph office. He wanted to wire his concern that the timber was safe and the deal closed, but while still a short distance from the railroad station, which was also the telegrapher's office, he saw Lute Brown go into the place and fell to wondering what business carried him hither. So he timed his entrance and sauntered in just as the fellow was turning away from the operator's chair.

Brent himself lounged about idly, because the man at the table had opened his key and begun sending. Neither Brown nor the operator

gave any indication of interest in the arrival of a third person.

To neither of them did it occur that Brent was versed in the Morse code, and Brent volunteered no information on the subject.

None the less he was listening and as the dots and dashes fell into letters and the letters into words, he read, as if from a book, this message:

"Woman starts out in morning with bundle by way of Crabapple post office. Lute."

Brent filed his own message and passed the time of day with the operator, but when he was outside he cursed the need of slow walking as he made his way to the rafts. Alexander was not there. No one had seen her for two hours and, from her shack, both pack and rifle had been removed.

Halloway's face when Brent found him and told him his story, first blackened into the thunder cloud darkness, then as suddenly paled into dread.

"By God, Brent," he whispered hoarsely, catching the other's arm in a grip that almost broke it, "what if she suspects us too--and has already set out to give us the slip? She hasn't a chance to get through before these outlaws intercept her. She'd have to stop--somewhere this side the gap--and go on in the morning."

"Come on," snorted Brent, "we've got to go to the livery stable and see if she's hired a mule."


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