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In a Hollow of the Hills Bret Harte

Chapter VII.

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"So you and your wife are turned out of your home to please Chivers," she said, still smiling.

"That's whar you slip up, Sadie," said Collinson, with a troubled face; "for he's that kind of a man thet if I jest as much as hinted you was here, he'd turn 'em all out o' the house for a lady. Thet's why I don't propose to let on anything about you till tomorrow." "To-morrow will do," she said, still smiling, but with a singular abstraction in her face. "Pray don't disturb them now. You say there is another sentinel beyond. He is enough to warn them of any approach from the trail. I'm tired and ill--very ill! Sit by me here, Seth, and wait! We can wait here together--we have waited so long, Seth,--and the end has come now."

She suddenly lapsed against the tree, and slipped in a sitting posture to the ground. Collinson cast himself at her side, and put his arm round her.

"Wot's gone o' ye, Sade? You're cold and sick. Listen. Your hoss is just over thar feedin'. I'll put you back on him, run in and tell 'em I'm off, and be with ye in a jiffy, and take ye back to Skinner's."

"Wait," she said softly. "Wait."

"Or to the Silver Hollow--it's not so far."

She had caught his hands again, her rigid face close to his, "What hollow?--speak!" she said breathlessly.

"The hollow whar a friend o' mine struck silver. He'll take yur in."

Her head sank against his shoulder. "Let me stay here," she answered, "and wait."

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He supported her tenderly, feeling the gentle brushing of her hair against his cheek as in the old days. He was content to wait, holding her thus. They were very silent; her eyes half closed, as if in exhaustion, yet with the strange suggestion of listening in the vacant pupils.

"Ye ain't hearin' anythin', deary?" he said, with a troubled face.

"No; but everything is so deathly still," she said in a frightened whisper.

It certainly was very still. A singular hush seemed to have slid over the landscape; there was no longer any sound from the mill; there was an ominous rest in the woodland, so perfect that the tiny rustle of an uneasy wing in the tree above them had made them start; even the moonlight seemed to hang suspended in the air.

"It's like the lull before the storm," she said with her strange laugh.

But the non-imaginative Collinson was more practical. "It's mighty like that earthquake weather before the big shake thet dried up the river and stopped the mill. That was just the time I got the news o' your bein' dead with yellow fever. Lord! honey, I allus allowed to myself thet suthin' was happenin' to ye then."

She did not reply; but he, holding her figure closer to him, felt it trembling with a nervous expectation. Suddenly she threw him off, and rose to her feet with a cry. "There!" she screamed frantically, "they've come! they've come!"

A rabbit had run out into the moonlight before them, a gray fox had dashed from the thicket into the wood, but nothing else.

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In a Hollow of the Hills
Bret Harte

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