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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

I hev got ample cause ter fight



"Were a'goin' over thar tergether--an' ye're goin' ter crave his pardon."

"I wouldn't crave his pardon," burst out the boy violently, "ter save his soul from torment. I'd be a laughing stock ef I did."

"Ye're agoin' ter do one of two things, Joe," she announced with finality. "Ye're either agoin' ter ask his pardon, whilst I stands by an' hears ye do hit or else ye're a'goin' ter tell him thet ye licked him over ther wrong words--an' thet seein' ye blundered, ye're willin' ter lick him afresh over ther right ones--him or anybody he names ter fight in his place."

Joe hung his head for a moment, then the pricking of the old self-scorn came with a turning tide.

"All right," he said. "Let's go."

It was an unmannerly, but a very astonished crew upon which they came but at the sight of Alexander herself they all became sheepish and discomfited of aspect.

"Sol," began the girl tersely, "Joe tells me thet him an' you hed a fight jest now over somethin' ye said erbout he. I kin do my own fightin', but Joe hes something ter tell ye on his own account."

So introduced, Joe spoke and this time it was the swimmer striking boldly into deep water.

"Alexander 'lows I didn't

hev need ter fight over loose talk erbout her. But when airy feller says thar hain't no man in my household, so long's I'm thar, I hev got ample cause ter fight. Ye've got ter tek thet back right now. Ef so be ye hain't rested up yit, an' ye've got any friend hyar thet ye'd like ter hev take yore place, I'm ready fer him."

But Sol had had enough, for the present. Alexander's presence made him, somehow, feel foolish, as if his thrashing were less of an embarrassment than its cause.

"I war jest a-funnin,'" he protested. "I'm willin' ter take back anything thet's done give offense."

One day shortly after that, when Joe came unexpectedly into the house he surprised Alexander attired as he had never before seen her--in the skirts of her own sex.

"Fer ther Lord's sake," exclaimed the boy. "Thet's ther fust time I ever seed ye in petticoats. Looks like ye must hev on a half score of 'em."

"Like es not hit's ther last time ye'll ever see hit, too," retorted Alexander hotly while her cheeks flamed. "Some day I mout hev ter go down below ter some big town on business. A woman's got ter w'ar these fool things thar, an' I was practising so's I could larn ter walk with 'em flappin' round my legs."

Yet she walked, for all the alleged difficulty, with an untrameled and regal ease. With a sweep of hauteur she left the grinning boy and when she returned a few minutes later she was breeched and booted as usual.

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