Marjorie looked serious after she told her mother that night that she feared her uncle was not well, for Mrs. Pendleton became very grave:
“Your Uncle Robert is very far from well. I’m afraid sometimes he is sicker than any of us know.”
“And he is in great trouble, Marjorie.”
The girl hesitated:
“Money trouble, mother?” she asked at last, “Why, you—we—why don’t—”
The mother interrupted with a shake of her head:
“He would go bankrupt first.”
The older woman looked up with apprehension, so suddenly charged with an incredible something was the girl’s tone:
“Why don’t you marry Uncle Robert?”
The mother clutched at her heart with both hands, for an actual spasm caught her there. Every trace of color shot from her face, and with a rush came back—fire. She rose, gave her daughter one look that was almost terror, and quickly left the room.
Marjorie sat aghast. She had caught with careless hand the veil of some mystery—what long-hidden shrine was there behind it, what sacred deeps long still had she stirred?
Jason Hawn rode rapidly to one of Morton Sanders’ great stables, put his horse away himself, and, avoiding the chance of meeting John Burnham, slipped down the slope to the creek, crossed on a water gap, and struck across the sunset fields for home. He had felt no anger at Marjorie’s mysterious outbreak—only bewilderment; and only bewilderment he felt now.
But as he strode along with his eyes on the ground, things began to clear a little. The fact was that, as he had become more enthralled by the girl’s witcheries, the more helpless and stupid he had become. Marjorie’s nimble wit had played about his that afternoon like a humming-bird around a sullen sunflower. He hardly knew that every word, every glance, every gesture was a challenge, and when she began stinging into him sharp little arrows of taunt and sarcasm he was helpless as the bull’s-hide target at which the two sometimes practised archery. Even now when the poisoned points began to fester, he could stir himself to no anger—he only felt dazed and hurt and sore. Nobody was in sight when he reached his mother’s home and he sat down on the porch in the twilight wretched and miserable. Around the corner of the house presently he heard his mother and Steve coming, and around there they stopped for some reason for a moment.
“I seed Babe Honeycutt yestiddy,” Steve was saying. “He says thar’s a lot o’ talk goin’ on about Mavis an’ Gray Pendleton. The Honeycutts air doin’ most o’ the talkin’ an’ looks like the ole trouble’s comin’ up again. Old Jason is tearin’ mad an’ swears Gray’ll have to git out o’ them mountains—”
Jason heard them start moving and he rose and went quickly within that they might know he had overheard. After supper he was again on the porch brooding about Mavis and Gray when his mother came out. He knew that she wanted to say something, and he waited.