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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

See the rhododendron over there in the park


The big man's hands, idly clasped behind his back, began to twitch and finally settled into a hard grip. His shoulders heaved and when he spoke there was a queer note in his voice.

"See the rhododendron over there in the park? Soon now it will be in flower--not only _that_ rhododendron but----" He ended it abruptly, and then broke out, low-voiced but tense. "This atmosphere is stifling me--God! It's horrible--

"Send your path be straight before you, When the old spring fret comes o'er you, And the Red Gods call to you.'"

Into Brent's tone came something almost savage.

"I know what you're thinking. Quit it. It won't do!"

Slowly Halloway turned. For a moment his fine face was drawn with actual suffering. Then he added:

"You're quite right, Will, it won't do. But it's hard to forget--when one has seen a comet. Touch that button if you don't mind. It's time for the cocktails."

CHAPTER XIV

Have you seen Spring come to the mountains? Have you felt the subtle power on the human heart, of trance-drugged impulses awakening in plant, in animal, in humanity; in the deep hard arteries of the ancient hills themselves? Winter there is grim and bleak beyond the telling. In far separated cabins, held in the quarantine of mired roads, men and women have lived, from hand to mouth, sinking into a dour and melancholy apathy.

But when Spring comes, the gray and chocolate humps of raggedness are softly veiled again with tender verdure and a song runs with the caress of the breeze. It is a song relayed on the throats of birds. The color of new flower and leaf and of skies washed clean of brooding finds an echo in man and womankind. When the dogwood blossom, everywhere, breaks into white foam upon the soft billows of woodland green, and the sap stirs--then the old and crabbed bitterness of life stands aside for the coming of Love.

If one be young and free, one feels, admittedly or subconsciously, the deep tides that sing to sentiment and the undertows that pull to passion.

About the lonely house of Alexander McGivins the woods were burgeoning and tuneful. Stark contours of landscape had become lovely and Alexander, preparing for the activities of "drappin' and kiverin'" in the steep corn-fields, felt the surge of vague influences in her bosom.

Joe McGivins had carried a stricken face since Old Aaron's death. He looked to his sister, as he had looked to his father, for direction and guidance and though he worked it was as a hired man might have worked, patiently rather than keenly and without initiative.

But keeping busy failed to comfort the empty ache in Alexander's heart because in the grave over yonder lay all that had filled her world, and though she would have fought the man who suggested it, there were times when her lovely lips fell into lines of irony, and when she half-consciously felt that her playing at being a man had been a bitter and empty jest. She had only forfeited her woman's rights in life, and had failed to gain the compensation of man's.

Once or twice when on the high road, she passed youthful couples, love-engrossed, she went on with a wistfulness in her eyes. For such as these, life held something, but for her, she was sure in her obduracy of inexperience, there was no objective.


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