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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

But when Jase presented himself at Alexander's house


"I

kain't come afore ternight. Hit's sun-down now," was the instant response.

Things had not gone well with Jase Mallows. The wound that Bud had inflicted had healed slowly and he had lain long bedridden. He had been the last of the gang to hear the sorry story of how the robbery had failed and the sequel recording the deaths of Lute and his lieutenant. Now Jase heard that Alexander's door was no longer barred to men who came courting and he returned home. But he came nursing a grudge against Bud who had wounded him and who had set awry all his plans. For only one thing was he thankful. Alexander had no suspicion of his complicity in the effort to rob her.

But when Jase presented himself at Alexander's house, wearing a fancy waistcoat and a bright colored tie, he learned to his discomfiture that the bars which had been lowered to others were still up and fixed against himself.

Bud, too, was far from happy, as from a distance he watched Alexander's apotheosis. Bud knew that he was like a gray and inconspicuous moth enamored of a splendidly winged butterfly. She could never be thrilled by the colorless fidelity of a man who was simple almost to stupidity, even though he lived with no thought above his loyalty. One day almost unconquerable thirst came upon Bud. It attacked him suddenly as he passed the house and saw Halloway sitting on the porch talking with Alexander,

and heard the peal of her responsive laughter.

That appetite rode him like a witch, making capital of his nervous dejection and he tramped the woods vainly struggling to submerge it in physical fatigue. Unfortunately it took a great deal of exertion to wear Bud down, and the mania of craving was as strong as his untiring muscles. By the purest of evil chance too, he stumbled upon an illicit still, where an acquaintance was brewing whiskey. He had not known that it was being operated there and had he sought to find it he could not have done so, for it was well hidden behind browse and thicket and a man watched furtively with a ready rifle. But the "blockader" recognized Bud and had no fears of his playing informer, so with an amused smile on his bearded face he stepped into sight with a tin cup invitingly out-held.

To Bud Sellers its sickening odor was the bouquet of ambrosia. It stole into his nostrils and set up in his brain insidious sensations of imagined delight. He pushed it back at first then seized it and gulped it greedily down.

Hurriedly he went away. He told himself that if he stopped there all would still be well, but it was as feasible to tell the tiger that has tasted blood to lie down and be good. He must have more. For a time Bud struggled, then he saddled a mule and went as fast as he could ride toward town. It was a race of endurance against a collapsing resolve. When he reached the village he sought out the town marshal and excitedly begged, "Fer God's sake lock me up in ther jail-house. Ther cravin's done come on me afresh. I'm goin' mad ergin."

The town marshal knew the history of Bud's alcoholic periodicity, yet he had no authority to jail a man on request in advance of any offense. "Ye don't look drunk yit, Bud, albeit I'm afeared ye soon will be," he said. "I reckon I hain't hardly got ther power ter jail ye, without ye commits some misdeed."

But Bud was at the end of his struggle. In a minute more instead of pleading to be confined, he would be hunting for liquor. It was now or never. He seized up a brick that lay at his feet and hurled it through the glass window of a store, before which they stood talking.


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