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Sitting on the porch next morning, Mavis and Martha Hawn saw Jason come striding down the spur.
"I'm taking a holiday to-day," he said, and there was a light in his eyes and a quizzical smile on his face that puzzled Mavis, but the mother was quick to understand. It was Saturday, a holiday, too, for Mavis, and a long one, for her school had just closed that her children might work in the fields. Without a word, but still smiling to himself, Jason went out on the back porch, got a hoe, and disappeared behind the garden fence. He came back presently with a tin can in his hands and held it out to Mavis.
"Let's go fishing," he said.
While Mavis hesitated the mother, with an inward chuckle, went within and emerged with the bow and arrow and an old fishing-pole.
"Mebbe you'll need 'em," she said dryly.
Mavis turned scarlet and Jason, pretending bewilderment, laughed happily.
"That's just what we do need," he said, with no further surprise, no question as to how those old relics of their childhood happened to be there. His mother's diplomacy was crude, but he was grateful for it, and he smiled at her understandingly.
So, like two children again, they set off, as long ago, over the spur, down the branch, across the road below the mines, and down into the deep bowl, filled to the brim with bush and tree, and to where the same deep pool lay in deep shadows asleep--Jason striding ahead and Mavis his obedient shadow once more--only this time Jason would look back every now and then and smile. Nor did he drop her pole on the ground and turn ungallantly to his bow and arrow, but unwound the line, baited her hook, cast it, and handed her the pole. As of yore, he strung his bow, which was a ridiculous plaything in his hands now, and he peered as of yore into every sunlit depth, but he turned every little while to look at the quiet figure on the bank, not squatted with childish abandon, but seated as a maiden should be, with her skirts drawn decorously around her pretty ankles. And all the while she felt him looking, and her face turned into lovely rose, though her shining eyes never left the pool that mirrored her below. Only her squeal was the same when, as of yore, she flopped a glistening chub on the bank, and another and another. Nor did he tell her she was "skeerin' the big uns" and set her to work like a little slave, but unhooked each fish and put on another worm. And only was Jason little Jason once more when at last he saw the waving outlines of an unwary bass in the depths below. Again Mavis saw him crouch, saw again the arrow drawn to his actually paling cheek, heard again the rushing hiss through the air and the burning hiss into the water, and saw a bass leap from the convulsed surface. Only this time there was no headless arrow left afloat, for, with a boyish yell, Jason dragged his squirming captive in. This time Jason gathered the twigs and built the fire and helped to clean the fish. And when all was ready, who should step forth with a loud laugh of triumph from the bushes but the same giant--Babe Honeycutt!
"I seed you two comin' down hyeh," he shouted. "Hit reminded me o' ole times. I been settin' thar in the bushes an' the smell o' them fish might' nigh drove me crazy. An' this time, by the jumpin' Jehosiphat, I'm a-goin' to have my share."
Babe did take his share, and over his pipe grew reminiscent.
"I'm mighty glad you didn't git me that day, Jason," he said, with another laugh, "an' I reckon you air too now that--"
He stopped in confusion, for Jason had darted him a warning glance. So confused was he, indeed, that he began to feel suddenly very much in the way, and he rose quickly, and with a knowing look from one to the other melted with a loud laugh into the bushes again.
"Now, wasn't that curious?" said Jason, and Mavis nodded silently.
All the time they had been drifting along the backward current of memories, and perhaps it was that current that bore them unconsciously along when they rose, for unconsciously Jason went on toward the river, until once more they stood on the little knoll whence they had first seen Gray and Marjorie ride through the arched opening of the trees. Hitherto, speech had been as sparse between them as it had been that long-ago day, but here they looked suddenly into each other's eyes, and each knew the other's thought.
"Are you sorry, Mavis?"
She flushed a little.
"Not now"; and then shyly, "are you?"
"Not now," repeated Jason.
Back they went again, lapsing once more into silence, until they came again to the point where they had started to part that day, and Mavis's fear had led him to take her down the dark ravine to her home. The spirals of smoke were even rising on either side of the spur from Jason's cottage and his mother's home, and both high above were melting into each other and into the drowsy haze that, veiled the face of the mountain. Jason turned quickly, and the subdued fire in his eyes made the girl's face burn and her eyes droop.
"Mavis," he said huskily, "do you remember what I said that day right here?"
And then suddenly the woman became the brave.
"Yes, Jasie," she said, meeting his eyes unflinchingly now and with a throb of desire to end his doubt and suffering quickly:
"And I remember what we both did--once."
She looked down toward the old circuit rider's house at the forks of the road, and Jason's hand and lip trembled and his face was transfigured with unbelievable happiness.
"Why, Mavis--I thought you--Gray--Mavis, will you, will you?"
"Poor Jasie," she said, and almost as a mother to a child who had long suffered she gently put both arms around his neck, and, as his arms crushed her to him, lifted her mouth to meet his.
Two hours it took Jason to go to town and back, galloping all the way. And then at sunset they walked together through the old circuit rider's gate and to the porch, and stood before the old man hand in hand.
"Me an' Mavis hyeh want to git married," said Jason, with a jesting smile, and the old man's memory was as quick as his humor.
"Have ye got a license?" he asked, with a serious pursing of his lips. "You got to have a license, an' hit costs two dollars an' you got to be a man."
Jason smilingly pulled a paper from his pockets, and Mavis interrupted:
"He's my man."
"Well, he will be in a minute--come in hyeh."
The old circuit rider's wife met them at the door and hugged them both, and when they came out on the porch again, there was Jason's mother hurrying down the spur and calling to them with a half- tearful laugh of triumph.
"I knowed it--oh, I knowed it."
The news spread swiftly. Within half an hour the big superintendent was tumbling his things from the cottage into the road, for his own family was coming, he explained to Jason's mother, and he needed a larger house anyway. And so Babe Honeycutt swung twice down the spur on the other side and up again with Mavis's worldly goods on his great shoulders, while inside the cottage Martha Hawn and the old circuit rider's wife were as joyously busy as bees. On his last trip Mavis and Jason followed, and on top of the spur Babe stopped, cocked his ear, and listened. Coming on a slow breeze up the ravine from the river far below was the long mellow blast of a horn.
"'I God," laughed Babe triumphantly, "ole Jason's already heerd it."
And, indeed, within half an hour word came that the old man must have the infair at his house that night, and already to all who could hear he had blown welcome on the wind.
So, at dusk, when Jason, on the circuit rider's old nag, rode through camp with Mavis on a pillion behind in laughing acceptance of the old pioneer custom, women and children waved at them from doorways and the miners swung their hats and cheered them as they passed. There was an old-fashioned gathering at the old Hawn home that night. Old Aaron and young Aaron and many Honeycutts were there; the house was thronged, fiddles played old tunes for nimble feet, and Hawns and Honeycutts ate and drank and made merry until the morning sun fanned its flames above the sombre hills.
But before midnight Jason and Mavis fared forth pillion-fashion again. Only, Jason too rode sidewise every now and then that he might clasp her with one arm and kiss her again and again under the smiling old moon. Through the lights and noise of the mighty industry that he would direct, they passed and climbed on.
Soon only lights showed that their grimy little working world was below. Soon they stood on the porch of their own little home. To them there the mighty on-sweeping hills sent back their own peace, God-guarded and never to be menaced by the hand of man. And there, clasped in each other's arms, their spirits rushed together, and with the spiral of smoke from their own hearthstones, went upward.
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