At the gate of the college a crowd of students, led by Gray Pendleton, awaited Jason. The boy was borne aloft on their shoulders through the yard amid the cheers of boys and girls—was borne on into the gymnasium, and before the lad could quite realize what was going on he heard himself cheered as captain of the foot-ball team for the next year, and was once more borne out, around and aloft again—while John Burnham with a full heart, and Mavis and Marjorie with wet eyes, looked smilingly on. A week later Arch Hawn persuaded the boy to allow him to lend him money to complete his course and a week later still it was Christmas again. Christmas night there was a glad gathering at Colonel Pendleton’s. Even St. Hilda was there, and she and John Burnham, and Colonel Pendleton and Mrs. Pendleton, Gray and Mavis, and Marjorie and Jason, danced the Virginia reel together, and all the stars were stars of Bethlehem to Mavis and Jason Hawn as they crunched across the frozen fields at dawn for home.
The pale, dark young secretary of state had fled from the capital in a soldier’s uniform and had been captured with a pardon in his pocket from the Pennyroyal governor, which the authorities refused to honor. The mountain ex-secretary of state had fled across the Ohio, to live there an exile. The governor from the Pennyroyal had carried his case to the supreme court of the land, had lost, and he, too, amid the condemnation of friends and foes, had crossed the same yellow river to the protection of the same Northern State. With his flight the troubles at the capital had passed the acute crisis and settled down into a long, wearisome struggle to convict the assassins of the autocrat. During the year the young secretary of state had been once condemned to death, once to life imprisonment, and was now risking the noose again on a third trial. Jason Hawn’s testimony at his own trial, it was thought, would help Steve Hawn. Indeed, another mountaineer, Hiram Honeycutt, an uncle to little Aaron, was, it seemed, in greater danger than Steve, but the suspect in most peril was an auditor’s clerk from the Blue-grass; so it looked as though old Jason’s prophecy—that the real murderer, if a mountaineer, would never be convicted—might yet come true. The autocrat was living on in the hearts of his followers as a martyr to the cause of the people, and a granite shaft was to rise in the little cemetery on the river bluff to commemorate his deeds and his name. His death had gratified the blood-lust of his foes, his young Democratic successor would amend that “infamous election law” and was plainly striving for a just administration, and so bitterness began swiftly to abate, tolerance grew rapidly, and the State went earnestly on trying to cure its political ills. And yet even while John Burnham and his like were congratulating themselves that cool heads and strong hands had averted civil war, checked further violence, and left all questions to the law and the courts, the economic poison that tobacco had been spreading through the land began to shake the commonwealth with a new fever: for not liberty but daily bread was the farmer’s question now.