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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

Then I hain't got hit fer ye nuther


Jerry had no intention of being lightly repulsed. His purpose of courtship had become his governing law but he had learned much of this Amazonian woman and had set himself, not to an easy conquest, but to a hard campaign. The man who, merely to be near one woman, sells a river bottom farm that he had nursed into something like prosperity and who takes on rocky acres in its stead, has shown, by his works, the determination of his spirit.

Now, the humorous eyes riffled with a quiet amusement.

"I didn't say thet I come without business, Alexander. Mebby I hain't stated hit yit."

"Then ye'd better state hit. Ye don't seem ter be in no tormentin' haste."

O'Keefe thought that "tormentin' haste" in his position would be fatal and yet the streak of whimsey that ran through him brought a paradoxical answer.

"My hearth's cold over thar. I come ter borry fire."

He was watching her as he spoke, and now that he no longer stood under the disadvantage of comparison with Jack Halloway he was no mean figure of a man. One could not miss the fine, if slender, power of his long and shapely lines from broad shoulder to tapering waist. His hair curled crisply and incorrigibly and he bore himself with a lazy sort of grace, agile for all its indolence. Alexander could not be quite sure whether the eyes were insolent or humble. When he had stated his mission of "borrowing fire" he had used a quaint phrase, eloquent of a quainter custom. It had to do with that isolated life in a land where until recently matches were rare and when the hearth fire died one had to go to the neighbor's house and hasten back with a flaming fagot for its relighting.

"Ye don't seem ter hev ther drive of a man borryin' fire. Why didn't ye ask Joe. I heers him in thar."

"Hit's _goin' home_ not _comin'_ thet a man's got ter hasten with his fire," he reminded her. "I didn't ask Joe because--he hain't got ther kind of fire my heart needs, Alexander."

So her suspicion was true! He had been speaking, not literally, but in the allegory of a suitor and her gathering wrath burst.

"Then I hain't got hit fer ye nuther. Let yore h'arth stay cold, an' be damned ter ye--an' now begone right speedily!"

With pure effrontery the young man laughed. Into his voice he put a pretense of appeal, as he calmly stuffed his pipe with tobacco crumbs. "Alexander ye wouldn't deny a man such a plum needcessity es fire, would ye?" he questioned, though even as he said it he drew from his pocket a box of matches and struck one.

So he had made deliberate and calculated sport of her! Her anger saw in his presence itself only the insult of the first attack from those men who "would not be turned back," and once more the rage in her came to its boiling-point.

She wheeled and went into the house and when she came out her face was pale to the lips and her brows drawn in a resolute pucker, while in her hands she carried a cocked rifle.

"Down yonder lays my fence-line," she autocratically told the man who had continued standing where she had left him, and whose seeming was still unflurried. "I've got a license ter say who crosses hit. Ye've done sought ter make sport of me, an' now I commands ye ter cross ther fence an' begone from hyar." She paused a moment because her breath was coming fast with passion. "I warns ye nuver ter put foot on this farm ergin--I aims ter see thet ye don't--an' when ye starts away don't tarry ter look back, nuther."


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