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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

An' I mout be kinderly handy eround ther house


"I

hain't ter be won by no battle, Jerry."

"No, o'course not." He had brought himself back with an effort to a quieter mood and he even sought valiantly to muster the twinkle into his eyes and the whimsical note into his tone as he said:

"But atter all, I'm a right easy sort of feller ter git along with, an' I mout be kinderly handy eround ther house. These masterful husbands sometimes don't w'ar so well. Hit's like havin' ter live with a king, I reckon."

Now, it was the woman who insisted on gravity. "Look at me, Jerry," she commanded and their glances held level as she went on in deep earnestness.

"I'd hate fer ther two of ye ter think thet I'm playin' fast an' loose with ye. I'd hate ter think hit myself. Hit hain't thet--I was raised up a boy--I thought I'd always stay thet-a-way. Then I found I couldn't."

"Yes, I knows thet, Alexander. Thar hain't no censure fer ye es ter thet."

"Mebby thar ought ter be though. But ye sees hit's kinderly like I was livin' in a new world--an' I don't know hit well yit. I've got ter go slow. I hain't made up my mind an' then changed hit--I hain't blowed hot an' cold. Hit's jest thet I hain't been able ter come ter no conclusion one way ner t'other."

She had spoken with a defensive tone, one

hardly certain, but as she finished a prideful note crept into her voice. "But when I does decide, I decides fer all time an' ther man I weds with kin trust me."

CHAPTER XVIII

Jerry bade Alexander farewell after depositing her parcel by the threadbare seat of the battered day coach which was to carry her to Perry Center, but as he said good-by, he was, for once, acting without candor. He meant to go to Perry Center too, but being called by no business, except to follow her, he thought it wiser to make no announcement of his intention. When the engine wheezed and groaned to its start. Jerry swung himself into the baggage compartment, and after the elapse of a safe interval presented himself, grinning, in the day coach.

The girl pretended indignation, but her wrath was neither convincing nor terrifying. After a space she inquired, "Jerry, does ye know whar Jack Halloway come from afore he struck this section?"

O'Keefe shook his head. "I don't jedgmatically know what creek he was borned on, ef thet's what ye means, but I reckon hit warn't so fur away."

Her eyes narrowed a trifle. "Does ye even know--fer sure--thet he's a mountain man?"

Jerry laughed. "I hain't nuver heered tell of no man thet war raised up in the settlemints claimin' ter be a benighted boomer," he answered. "Hit's right apt ter be ther other way 'round." He paused, then judicially added: "When a man's co'tin a gal, he gin'rally seeks ter put hisself in ther best light he kin--not ther wust."

"Yes, thet sounds right reasonable," she admitted.


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