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A Pagan of the Hills by Charles Neville Buck

I jest fell ter studyin' erbout hit


"What

made ye ask, Alexander?"

After a dubious pause, she spoke hesitantly, "I jest fell ter studyin' erbout hit. Ef I tells ye, ye mustn't never name ther matter--ter nobody."

"I gives ye my hand on thet."

"Wa'al, Mr. Brent told me afore he left, thet ef I ever needed counsel I should write ter him. When Jack went away, I writ--an' yestiddy I got an answer back. My letter ter Mr. Brent asked ther same question thet I jest put up ter _you_."

"What did Brent say?"

She was looking out of the car window with eyes that were serious and preoccupied.

"He said he knowed all erbout him--but thet a question like thet ought rightfully ter be put ter a man fust-handed. He bade me ask Jack myself when he come back--but he pledged hisself ter answer all my questions ef Jack should happen ter refuse, atter he'd hed one chanst."

The gray-blue eyes narrowed for a moment, then O'Keefe inquired, "Does hit makes any great differ whar a man was borned at?"

"Mebby not. I just fell ter wonderin'."

"Does ye want my fam'ly Bible ter look me up in?" demanded Jerry and the girl laughed.

But she did not tell Jerry what lay back of this whole discussion. She did

not confide to him the mystery of a coat with a patched lining.

It had been a very old coat, though at one time, long ago, a good one, and already it had been patched and repatched. When Alexander had picked it up that night before Halloway's departure, as she struggled to keep her feet against the elemental surge of his whirlpool passion, its inner breast pocket had spread a bit at the top, and her eyes had glimpsed a discolored tailor's label--bearing the words, "New York."

That had been the thing she needed: the floating spar to one who is drowning and it steadied her into instant resistance. She had gone to her own room and read there the full legend--almost obliterated by wear--almost, but not quite. Some letters and numbers were gone, but enough were left legible.

"Mr. J. C. Halloway," was written in ink with a number on Fifth Avenue, New York. Then there was the tailor's name and address--also on that main thoroughfare of Fashion.

Cumberland mountain loggers do not have their clothes hand tailored in Manhattan; and though the exact locality meant nothing to her, the town meant much.

The label was partly ripped away from the pocket, and the girl had snipped it loose altogether. Halloway had played a careful game. He had avoided carrying forwarded envelopes--he had held to the vernacular at times when sudden crisis threatened to drive him into forgetfulness. He had overlooked only one possible precaution--that of ripping out the tailor's trademark from his coat.


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