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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

She thought that it was Halloway


Sometimes,

in these days, she went to a crest from which the view reached off for leagues over the valley and beyond that over ridge upon ridge of hilltops. There she thought of many things and was very lonely. She could not have worded it but, deep in her heart, she felt the outcry of the Spring voice: "Make me anything but neuter when the sap begins to stir."

But how could this be any love-impulse in Alexander? Love, she had always heard, must fix itself upon some one endearing object and lay its glamor over definite features.

The most magnificent figure of a man she had ever seen often reared itself in her thought-pictures with its six feet six of straight limbed strength, its eagle-like keenness of eye, and its self-confident bearing.

"Ef I could really be a man," she told herself, "I'd love ter be a man like ther Halloway feller--ef only he wasn't so plum dirty and raggedy."

One day on her way back from the fields she saw a tall figure loafing near the front door of her house and, at that distance, she thought that it was Halloway. It stood so tall and straight that it must be, but that was because the setting sun was in her eyes and the man showed only in silhouette. So seen Jerry O'Keefe--for it proved to be Jerry--suffered little by comparison with any man she knew--except Halloway.

But Alexander did not

greet him with any great warmth. She was angry with herself because her heart had started suddenly to pounding at the instant when she had imagined this man to be the other. She was angry, too, with Jerry for disappointing her.

So she nodded coolly and demanded, "What's yore business hyarabout?"

In Jerry the rising joyousness of rebirth was full confessed. He was here because since he had seen her last he had carried no other picture in his thoughts, and now that the world was in bloom he wanted to see her against a befitting background. To that end he had sold his small farm and rented a plot and cabin near-by and if there was to be no welcome for him here he had merely sold himself out of a home.

But the gray-blue eyes were whimsical, and the mobile lips smiling. He was unrebuffed as he made a counter-query.

"Kain't a feller kinderly come broguein' in hyar, without some special business brings him?"

Alexander felt that she had been unneighborly, but in her memory the things that Brent had said to her had become a sort of troublesome refrain. "Men will come and they won't be turned back." She remembered, too, her own hot retort, "Like hell they won't!" It was in the spirit of that retort that she answered.

"Ef ye hain't got no business hyar, ye hain't got no business hyar, an' thet's all thar air ter hit."

"Mebby ye're ther business yoreself, Alexander," he suggested and there was a persuasive quality in his voice.

"I'm my own business, nobody else's."

In this mood that had troubled her of late, Alexander was very combative. She was not willing to surrender her code--not willing yet to be treated as a woman.

"I heers tell thet ye've moved over hyar, bag an' baggage--an' ef I kin help ye out any way, I'll seek ter convenience ye outen a sperit of neighborness." She spoke in that extra-deliberate fashion that went before a storm, and as she stood there with her head high, and her eyes undeviatingly meeting his, she had the beauty of a war-goddess. "But when ye hain't got no matter of need, don't come."


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