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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

When ye settled up accounts with thet outfit


hain't no tormentin' haste, Alexander," he assured her evenly. "Any time'll do--any time at all, but I'm leavin' town ternight."

"Suit yerself," she answered with calculated curtness and would have gone on but he fell into step with her and dropped his voice into so earnest a _timbre_ that despite her dislike for him she listened.

"Alexander--hit hain't none of my business--an' I knows ye're mad at me but yore paw an' me dwells neighbors--an' I'm goin' ter forewarn ye about somethin'."

"Alright," the voice was frigid. "Go ahead. Everybody's forewarnin' me right now."

"I've done heered thet this Brent party air a mighty slick customer. Don't give him no undue lee-way ter fleece ye. Ther man Halloway, thet's hangin' around him's a pretty desperate sort too, by ther repute folks gives him. When ye settled up accounts with thet outfit, ye kain't skeercely be too heedful. I'd either make 'em give me cash money--or else hev a lawyer 'round ter see thet everythin's alright."

"My paw," declared the girl indignantly, "he's got full trust in Mr. Brent an' so hev I." She dismissed him with a glance under which his own bravado wilted and he made no further effort to walk at her side. But in the gathering dusk, the wet desolation about her seemed to creep into Alexander's heart. With so many charges of foul play

floating about, of whom could she feel certain? Then the answer came. There was, perhaps, only one. So long as he remained sober, Bud Sellers would remain dependable. From the bank overlooking the boom she called his name and when he had leaped to respond, she led him out of hearing.

"Bud," she said tensely. "Ye knows how heavy-hearted with dread I be about my paw. Ye knows thet when I left him I wasn't no ways sure I'd ever lay eyes on his livin' face ergin. I ain't sure now." Her voice threatened to break and to control it she pitched it into a harder tone. "Ye knows, too, who's fault thet air."

He answered very low and very miserably. "Yes, I knows full well--an' I've done been in torment--ever since."

"Ef he's still alive an' gits well----" she went on, "thar won't be no grudge atween us. Ye says ye seeks ter make amends. Ye knows what hit means ter him whether I gits thet money back safe or not."

"Yes, I knows thet too."

Alexander laughed a little bitterly. "I've jest been forewarned thet I kain't trust nuther Brent ner Halloway. I hain't sayin' I believes hit; I reckon hit's sheer slander--but----" All unconsciously a note of pathos crept into her voice, the pathos of one who must fight alone against unseen forces. "But, how am I goin' ter tell, fer dead sure, who I kin trust?"

Sellers remembered that all he knew of the robbery plot was hearsay--that his informants had excluded him from a part of their consultations. An ugly possibility took vague shape in his mind, but his answer was brief.

"Ye kin trust me 'twell hell freezes."

Alexander nodded. "Ye're ther one man I ought ter hev a blood-hatred erginst--an' yit, so long es ye stays sober, I knows what ye says air true."

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