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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

I reckon hit won't hardly master me ergin fer a spell


"He's

got an idee of ther fire in his own, I reckon," replied Alexander.

It is the accepted rule of these mountains that when two men arrive to "set up" with a girl at the same time, she must choose between them and send the less favored away. Both Halloway and Jerry avoided the issue that might spring from such a situation. They met on the high-road with a full seeming of their old accord, but perhaps the semblance was an empty shell--or fast becoming one. There was a tacit understanding between them that certain evenings at Alexander's house belonged to each.

In Jerry's good-natured, whimsical eyes there had settled of late an unaccustomed gravity and since he was level-headed enough to recognize in Halloway a man who loomed brightly above others, his fear of him as a rival was genuine. It was O'Keefe's way to walk boldly and evenly through life, but a strong and tireless man will flinch in his gait from the hurt of a stone-bruised foot, and with Jerry the stone bruise was about the heart--which is worse. But it was more in the casual meeting than by the formal call, that O'Keefe conducted his courtship. He had a genius for materializing on the scene at the exact moment when he could perform some simple service, and of meeting Alexander by studious coincidence when she least expected him.

There was none-the-less the constant danger of a flareup because Halloway always bore

himself with entire politeness yet with a courtesy which did not escape a sort of indulgent patronage; as though the serious thought of rivalry was absurd.

One day Bud Sellers came by the house. It was after he had been in jail and Alexander, who was standing on her porch, invited him in. Slowly and somewhat dubiously he accepted the invitation.

"I hain't seed ye fer quite a spell, Bud," began the girl smilingly, and with a brick red flush he answered. "Hit took holt on me ergin, Alexander. Hit war jest actually a-burnin' me up."

She did not ask what he meant by "it." She knew full well and she did not reproach him. She only inquired, "What happened, Bud?"

"I kep' my pledge ter yer, though." He spoke gruffly, because the sight of her was burning him up too, with another kind of thirst. "I went an' hed myself jailed. I reckon hit won't hardly master me ergin fer a spell."

Alexander felt a lump rising in her throat. Since her awakening she had not missed the meaning of that look in his eyes. Slowly and candidly, she asked: "Bud, war hit on account of me? War ye frettin' over me--not a-keering?"

Sellers looked up in astonishment.

"How did ye know?" he demanded. "I hain't nuver breathed no word ter ye erbout keerin'. I knowed full well hit warn't no manner of use."


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