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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Finally Halloway found his voice to stammer


to desert a comrade in that fashion was abhorrent even to the slack conscience of this desperado. So he grudgingly hefted the burden of the senseless figure and plodded under its weight to the nearest cabin.

There he told a story of how he had stumbled on his grewsome find in the open high-road--which was a lie--and his mystification of manner was so great as to constitute for himself a practical alibi.

Early the next morning, Brent, Halloway and O'Keefe went to consult with Alexander as to the next step. None of them meant to give up after going this far and the men fretted for immediate action, but Alexander to their mystification shook her head. "Not yit," she ruled. "I'm waitin' hyar now fer tidin's thet may holp us."

While they stood in the yard of the log house, a figure appeared plodding slowly along the roadway, and the girl's eyes were bent on it with a fixed anxiety. It came with such a weary lagging, with such a painful shuffling of feet and such an exhausted hanging of head that Brent at first failed to recognize Bud Sellers. The left arm hung with that limpness which denotes a broken bone.

"Good God," exclaimed the timber buyer under his breath, "I should hardly think he'd have the nerve to show himself here!"

But Bud looked only at the girl. He was on foot now but over his shoulders hung

his saddle-bags. He halted and threw them at Alexander's feet.

"My mule got shot out from under me," he informed her quite simply, "an' I busted an arm--hit war a right slavish trip. Open them bags."

Alexander obeyed--and drew out a parcel bound in brown paper, bearing the bright red spots of the bank's sealing wax.

"I reckon, men," she said quietly, "we won't hev ter sot out afresh."

Brent, Halloway and O'Keefe gazed stupidly each on each. Incredulous amazement and perplexity tied their tongues. Finally Halloway found his voice to stammer, "What's done happened? How did Sellers git hit."

Then only Alexander threw back her head and let her laughter peal out.

"He's done hed hit all ther time," she announced. "You fellers hes done been staunch friends ter me--and I've got ter crave yore forgiveness ef I hain't trusted ye full free from then start." She paused and added solicitously, "But ye sees, ye forewarned me erginst them real robbers--an' Jase Mallows forewarned me erginst _you_. I 'lowed he war lyin'--but I couldn't take no chances. Thar war jest one feller I knowed I could trust without question, an' thet feller was Bud. So he tuck ther money an' thet bundle I rid away from bank with was jest make believe. I aimed ter lead 'em over a false trail."

"Outwitted ther pack of us," bellowed Halloway gleefully. "Afore God, I takes my hat off ter ye--but why didn't ye suffer some man ter tote ther dummy bundle?"

"Ef airy man had undertook hit," she responded gravely, "they'd most likely hev kilt him first--an' s'arched him 'atterwards."

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