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In a Hollow of the Hills Bret Harte

Chapter VII.

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The horse recoiled, nearly unseating her. Collinson caught the reins. She lifted her whip mechanically, yet remained holding it in the air, trembling, until she slipped, half struggling, half helplessly, from the saddle to the ground. Here she would have again fallen, but Collinson caught her sharply by the waist. At his touch she started and uttered a frightened "No!" At her voice Collinson started.

"Sadie!" he gasped.

"Seth!" she half whispered.

They stood looking at each other. But Collinson was already himself again. The man of simple directness and no imagination saw only his wife before him--a little breathless, a little flurried, a little disheveled from rapid riding, as he had sometimes seen her before, but otherwise unchanged. Nor had HE changed; he took her up where he had left her years ago. His grave face only broadened into a smile, as he held both her hands in his.

"Yes, it's me--Lordy! Why, I was comin' only to-morrow to find ye, Sade!"

She glanced hurriedly around her, "To--to find me," she said incredulously.

"Sartain! That ez, I was goin' to ask about ye,--goin' to ask about ye at the convent."

"At the convent?" she echoed with a frightened amazement.

"Yes, why, Lordy Sade--don't you see? You thought I was dead, and I thought you was dead,--that's what's the matter. But I never reckoned that you'd think me dead until Chivers allowed that it must be so."

Her face whitened in the moonlight "Chivers?" she said blankly.

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"In course; but nat'rally you don't know him, honey. He only saw you onc't. But it was along o' that, Sade, that he told me he reckoned you wasn't dead, and told me how to find you. He was mighty kind and consarned about it, and he even allowed I'd better slip off to you this very night."

"Chivers," she repeated, gazing at her husband with bloodless lips.

"Yes, an awful purty-spoken man. Ye'll have to get to know him Sade. He's here with some of his folks az hez got inter trouble-- I'm forgettin' to tell ye. You see"--

"Yes, yes, yes!" she interrupted hysterically; "and this is the Mill?"

"Yes, lovey, the Mill--my mill--YOUR mill--the house I built for you, dear. I'd show it to you now, but you see, Sade, I'm out here standin' guard."

"Are YOU one of them?" she said, clutching his hand desperately.

"No, dear," he said soothingly,--"no; only, you see, I giv' my word to 'em as I giv' my house to-night, and I'm bound to protect them and see 'em through. Why, Lordy! Sade, you'd have done the same-- for Chivers."

"Yes, yes," she said, beating her hands together strangely, "of course. He was so kind to bring me back to you. And you might have never found me but for him."

She burst into an hysterical laugh, which the simple-minded man might have overlooked but for the tears that coursed down her bloodless face.

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In a Hollow of the Hills
Bret Harte

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