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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

How long does ye 'low ter be gone


Jase saddled his mule that evening, despite the misery which was the relic of his wounding and started back to Coal City to convene a committee of ways and means.


The mail came irregularly to Shoulder-blade creek, but even irregular deliveries may bring bad news. Halloway received a letter, one day, containing a summons which he could not disregard. He had spoken contemptuously to Brent of money-grubbing, but his inflated wealth carried certain responsibilities which even he acknowledged.

He was perfectly willing that his world should see in him an incorrigible scoffer at moral conventions. He rather enjoyed being the object of maternal warnings to young daughters, but in financial affairs no stern moralist could have been more observant of rigid integrity, and in that, as in other things, he reversed the usual order. The business involved in the letter does not concern this narrative save in so far as it called him in peremptory terms away from Alexander and, at that, he fumed sulphurously.

He had, for the present, one more evening with her and he meant to make the most of it. If there was in him any power of hypnotism, and he still believed there was, he meant to exert it to the full.

Even in midsummer, there are chill nights in the mountains, and as

he approached Alexander's house he thought gratefully of the fire that would be burning on her hearth.

She was sitting alone when he entered, by a small table, sewing, and she did not rise to welcome him. Lamp and firelight mingled in an orange and carmine glow that fell softly upon her. For a moment, as Halloway, pausing just inside the door, gazed at her, that adventurous hunger that fed upon her beauty became a positive avidity. Perhaps because he was leaving her, her beauty seemed what no earthly beauty is--absolute.

"Alexander," said Halloway slowly, "I've got ter go away fer a spell, an' I hates hit--I hates hit like all torment!"

She looked quickly up, and his narrow scrutiny told him that she had given ever so slight a start and that into her eyes had come a quickly repressed disappointment.

"I'll miss ye, Jack," she said simply. "What business calls ye away?"

That was an expected question and its answer was ready.

"I've done heired me a small piece of property from an uncle, way acrost ther Verginny line, an' I've got ter fare over thar an' sign some papers or do somethin' ter thet amount."

"How long does ye 'low ter be gone?"

He shook his head moodily. "Hit's a long journey through ther roughs an' I don't know how much time I'll hev ter spend over ther business, but I reckon ye knows thet I won't tarry no longer then need be."

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