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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

And though Parson Acup was indefatigable


With a very deliberate motion McGivins lifted one arm and pointed it towards the west--that way lay the nearest boundary of his tract.

"I've done asked ye plum civil ter go, because ef you don't go other fellers will--fellers thet's wuth somethin'. Now I orders ye ter get offen my land. Begone!"

What happened next was such a tumult of abruptness that Brent found himself standing inactive, not fully grasping the meaning of the situation. From Bud came a roar of anger as he lunged and grappled with the bearded elder, carrying him back in the onslaught. With a belated realization, Brent threw himself forward but just as his hand fell on the shoulder of Bud Sellers he heard a report, muffled because it was fired between two savagely embraced bodies. The lumber buyer had seen no weapon drawn. That had been the instinctive legerdemain of mountain quickness, which even drink had not blunted. As he wrenched Bud back, the wounded figure stood for a moment swaying on legs that slowly and grotesquely buckled into collapse at the knees until Aaron McGivins crumpled down in a shapeless heap.

Bud Sellers wrenched himself free with a muscular power that almost hurled Brent to the ground, and the pistol fell from his hand. For a moment the young assailant stood there with an expression of dismayed shock, as though, in his sleep, he had committed a crime and had awakened into an appalled realization. Then, ignoring Brent, he wheeled and lunged madly into the laurel.

Figures came running in response to the alarm of pistol report and shouting, but old man McGivins, whom they carried to the nearest bonfire, feebly nodded his head. Parson Acup was bending over him and when he rose it was with a dubious face.

"I fears me thet wound's mighty liable ter be a deadener," he said.

Then the wounded man lifted a trembling hand. "Git me over home," he directed shortly, "An' fer God's sake, boys, go forward with this work till hit's finished."

CHAPTER II

Through the tree tops came a confusion of voices, but none of them human. A wind was racing to almost gale-like violence and with it came the inrush of warm air to peaks and valleys that had been tight-frozen. Between precipices echoed the crash of ice sliding loose and splintering as it fell in ponderous masses. Men sweating in the glare of collossal bonfires toiled at the work of re-inforcing the dam.

They had been faithful; they were still faithful, but the stress of exhaustion was beginning to sap their morale; to drive them into irritability so that, under the strain of almost superhuman exertion, they threatened to break. Brent was not of their blood and knew little of how to handle them, and though Parson Acup was indefatigable, his face became more and more apprehensive.

"Ef we kin hold 'em at hit till ther crack of day, we've got a right gay chanst ter save them big sticks," he announced bluntly to Brent near midnight. "But hit hain't in reason ter expect men ter plum kill themselves off fer ther profit of somebody else--an' him likely ter be dead by termorrer."

"Could McGivins have kept them in line himself?" demanded Brent and the Parson scratched his head. "Wa'al he mout. Thar's somethin' masterful in thet breed thet kinderly drives men on. I don't know es I could name what it air though."


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