The Call of the Cumberlands (Chapter 2, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 2

Although from the man in the gulch came a low groan mingled with his
breathing, it was not such a sound as comes from fully conscious lips,
but rather that of a brain dulled into coma. His lids drooped over his
eyes, hiding the pupils; and his cheeks were pallid, with outstanding
veins above the temples.

Freed from her fettering excess of shyness by his condition, the girl
stepped surely from foothold to foothold until she reached his side.
She stood for a moment with one hand on the dripping walls of rock,
looking down while her hair fell about her face. Then, dropping to her
knees, she shifted the doubled body into a leaning posture,
straightened the limbs, and began exploring with efficient fingers for
broken bones.

She was a slight girl, and not tall; but the curves of her young
figure were slimly rounded, and her firm muscles were capably strong.
This man was, in comparison with those rugged types she knew,
effeminately delicate. His slim, long-fingered hands reminded her of a
bird's claws. The up-rolled sleeves of a blue flannel shirt disclosed
forearms well-enough sinewed, but instead of being browned to the hue
of a saddle-skirt, they were white underneath and pinkly red above.
Moreover, they were scaling in the fashion of a skin not inured to
weather beating.

Though the man had thought on setting out from
civilization that he was suiting his appearance to the environment, the
impression he made on this native girl was distinctly foreign. The
flannel shirt might have passed, though hardly without question, as
native wear, but the khaki riding-breeches and tan puttees were utterly
out of the picture, and at the neck of his shirt was a soft-blue tie!
--had he not been hurt, the girl must have laughed at that.

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