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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

He war all I hed she rebelliously declared


Brent

turned away and left her there and it was a full two hours later before he met her and led her, passive enough now, to a place from which they overlooked that river that, not long ago, they had ridden together. Under his gently diplomatic prompting she found relief in unbosoming herself.

"He war all I hed----" she rebelliously declared. "An' whilst he lived thet war enough--but now I hain't got nothin' left."

After a little she broke out again. "I hain't a woman--an' hain't a man. I hain't nuthin'."

"Alexander," said Brent gently, "when I looked at your father's face in there, I was thinking of what Parson Acup once told me. He said that if your father had been a wishful man,"--he used the hill phrase for ambition quite unconsciously, "he could have gone to the Legislature. Perhaps to Congress."

"I reckon he mout ef hed any honors he craved," she replied. "Folks was always pesterin' him ter run fer office."

The man looked off across the valley which was so desolate now and which would soon be so tenderly green; so tuneful with leaf and blossom.

His eyes were seeing a vision and some of it he tried to voice.

"Suppose, Alexander, he _had_ gone. Suppose he had taken his seat in Congress, instead of staying here. He would have become

a figure trusted there, too--but how different your life would have been. There would have been schools and--well, many things that you have never known."

"I hain't hankerin' fer none of them things," she said. Then with a sudden paroxysm of sobs that shook her afresh, she added, "All I wants is ter hev him back ergin!"

But Brent was thinking of things that could mean little to her because she lacked the background of contrast and comparison. He was seeing that beauty and that personality in the social life of official Washington; seeing the triumph that would have been hers--and wondering what it would have meant to her in the balance of contentment or unhappiness.

Of course had Aaron McGivins begun his political career young enough, every trace of mountain illiteracy would long ago have been shed away by the growing girl. As for her blood, there is in all America no other so purely Anglo-Saxon.

"I rather think it's a pity he didn't go," Brent mused aloud. Then he added, "Now that he's--not with you any more--Alexander, there is something you must let me say. You've never thought about it much, but you have such a beauty as would make you famous in any city of the world. Men will come--and they won't be turned back."

For the first time since Aaron's death the old militant fire leaped into her eyes and her chin came up as she flared into vehemence.

"Like hell they won't be turned back!"

But Brent smiled. "You think that now, but Alexander, nature is nature and there must be something in your life. You've played at being a man and done it better than many men--but men can marry women, and you can't. Along that road lies a heart-breaking loneliness. Sometime you'll see that, since you can't be a man, you'll want to be a man's mate."

She shook her head with unconvinced obduracy.

"I knows ye aims ter give me kindly counsel, Mr. Brent, but ye're plum wastin' yore breath."


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