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The miracle had happened, and just how nobody could ever say. The boy had appeared in the door-way and had paused there full in the light. No revolver was visible--it could hardly have been concealed in the much-too-small clothes that he wore--and his eyes flashed no challenge. But he stood there an instant, with face set and stern, and then he walked slowly to the old rattletrap vehicle, and, unchallenged, drove away, as, unchallenged, he walked quietly back to his room again. That defiance alone would have marked him with no little dignity. It gave John Burnham a great deal of carefully concealed joy, it dumfounded Gray, and, while Mavis took it as a matter of course, it thrilled Marjorie, saddened her, and made her a little ashamed. Nor did it end there. Some change was quickly apparent to Jason in Mavis. She turned brooding and sullen, and one day when she and Jason met Gray in the college yard, she averted her eyes when the latter lifted his cap, and pretended not to see him. Jason saw an uneasy look in Gray's eyes, and when he turned questioningly to Mavis, her face was pale with anger. That night he went home with her to see his mother, and when the two sat on the porch in the dim starlight after supper, he bluntly asked her what the matter was, and bluntly she told him. Only once before had he ever spoken of Gray to Mavis, and that was about the meeting in the lane, and then she scorned to tell him whether or not the meeting was accidental, and Jason knew thereby that it was. Unfortunately he had not stopped there.
"I saw him try to kiss ye," he said indignantly.
"Have you never tried to kiss a girl?" Mavis had asked quietly, and Jason reddened.
"Yes," he admitted reluctantly.
"And did she always let ye?"
"Very well, then," Mavis snapped, and she flaunted away.
It was different now, the matter was more serious, and now they were cousins and Hawns. Blood spoke to blood and answered to blood, and when at the end Mavis broke into a fit of shame and tears, a burst of light opened in Jason's brain and his heart raged not only for Mavis, but for himself. Gray had been ashamed to go to that dance with Mavis, and Marjorie had been ashamed to go with him--there was a chasm, and with every word that Mavis spoke the wider that chasm yawned.
"Oh, I know it," she sobbed. "I couldn't believe it at first, but I know it now"--she began to drop back into her old speech--"they come down in the mountains, and grandpap was nice to 'em, and when we come up here they was nice to us. But down thar and up here we was just queer and funny to 'em--an' we're that way yit. They're good-hearted an' they'd do anything in the world fer us, but we ain't their kind an' they ain't ourn. They knowed it and we didn't--but I know it now."
So that was the reason Marjorie had hesitated when Jason asked her to go to the dance with him.
"Then why did she go?" he burst out. He had mentioned no name even, but Mavis had been following his thoughts.
"Any gal 'ud do that fer fun," she answered, "an' to git even with Gray."
"Why do you reckon--"
"That don't make no difference--she wants to git even with me, too."
Jason wheeled sharply, but before his lips could open Mavis had sprung to her feet.
"No, I hain't!" she cried hotly, and rushed into the house.
Jason sat on under the stars, brooding. There was no need for another word between them. Alike they saw the incident and what it meant; they felt alike, and alike both would act. A few minutes later his mother came out on the porch.
"Whut's the matter with Mavis?"
"You'll have to ask her, mammy."
With a keen look at the boy, Martha Hawn went back into the house, and Jason heard Steve's heavy tread behind him.
"I know whut the matter is," he drawled. "Thar hain't nothin' the matter 'ceptin' that Mavis ain't the only fool in this hyeh fambly."
Jason was furiously silent, and Steve walked chuckling to the railing of the porch and spat over it through his teeth and fingers. Then he looked up at the stars and yawned, and with his mouth still open, went casually on:
"I seed Arch Hawn in town this mornin'. He says folks is a-hand- grippin' down thar in the mountains right an' left. Thar's a truce on betwixt the Hawns an' Honeycutts an' they're gittin' ready fer the election together."
The lad did not turn his head nor did his lips open.
"These fellers up here tried to bust our county up into little pieces once--an' do you know why? Bekase we was so lawless." Steve laughed sayagely. "They're gittin' wuss'n we air. They say we stole the State fer that bag o' wind, Bryan, when we'd been votin' the same way fer forty years. Now they're goin' to gag us an' tie us up like a yearlin' calf. But folks in the mountains ain't a- goin' to do much bawlin'--they're gittin' ready."
Still Jason refused to answer, but Steve saw that the lad's hands and mouth were clenched.
"They're gittin' ready," he repeated, "an' I'll be thar."
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