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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

To requite it with the ambushed rifle


"Kin

ye do hit now?" he demanded hoarsely, and the town marshal said: "Yes, I reckon I kin--now."

Men have varied fashions for expressing their love of women. That night Jack Halloway sat on the moonlit porch of Alexander's house and Bud sat in the vermin-infested cell of the village lockup. But as the hours went on he found a certain recompense in the thought that he was keeping a pledge.

As for Jerry O'Keefe that night, he was doing nothing at all except thinking certain things about the great fellow who was with the girl, but those thoughts were putting out roots of future conflict.

CHAPTER XVI

Nothing had been heard of any Ku-Klux operations since Alexander's adventure, and even of that episode no unclean circulated story had gone abroad. Those who had worn the black masks were not apt to talk overmuch, and those who had made up Bud's force were for quite different reasons equally discreet. Since Alexander had won through safe and unrobbed, those who had been, in a fashion, her clansman, had few outstanding grudges to repay. Jack Halloway, for example, had come with a satisfied heart out of the baggage-room, by way of the wrecked telegraph office. For him the matter was concluded, save that he had made three enemies who would nurse a malignant grievance and seek, some day, to requite it with the ambushed

rifle. The telegraph operator had altogether disappeared from the country, and his two immediate confederates, who were "branch-water men" dwelling in some remote pocket of the hills, had withdrawn to their thicketed abodes.

Bud Sellers had pieced two and two together, and though he kept a Masonic silence on the point, he had reached a conclusion. The house where Jase Mallows had been nursed back to health after his mysterious wounding, was not far from the place where he and Brent had been ambushed. The wound might have been the result of the volley he had himself fired at the rifle-flash, and if that were true the balance of that encounter lay in his favor. If it were not true, he had no means of knowing to whom he owed an unpaid score for his "lay-wayin'."

Only, he must keep an eye on Jase--because if his inference were correct, Jase would never forget.

Besides the telegraph man, the only other principal, actually or definitely known to any of Alexander's friends had been Lute Brown, and upon him they need spend no further thought. A long while after the tragedy had been played out there by yellow lantern-light, a woodsman passed the rotting cabin where Lute and his faithful partisan had died. It was indeed so long after, that there was some difficulty in identifying the bodies, and an inconclusive coroner's verdict left the matter stranded in mystery--and so it promised to remain. Privately, those conspirators, whose lips were sealed as to legal testimony, had hunted the assassin for several weeks, but without success. Occasionally, in widely separated places, a haggard and emaciated man was glimpsed who always escaped unidentified and with ghost-like speed. Children were frightened with tales of his burning eyes, and in neighborhood gossip he was spoken of as the "wild man of the woods."


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