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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 269 pages of information about The Heart of the Hills.

XL

Gray Pendleton was coming home.  Like Jason, he, too, waited at the little junction for dawn, and swept along the red edge of it, over the yellow Kentucky River and through the blue-grass fields.  Drawn up at the station was his father’s carriage and in it sat Marjorie, with a radiant smile of welcome which gave way to sudden tears when they clasped hands—­tears that she did not try to conceal.  Uncle Robert was in bed, she said, and Gray did not perceive any significance in the tone with which she added, that her mother hardly ever left him.  She did not know what the matter was, but he was very pale, and he seemed to be growing weaker.  The doctor was cheery and hopeful, but her mother, she emphasized, was most alarmed, and again Gray did not notice the girl’s peculiar tone.  Nor did the colonel seem to be worried by the threats of the night riders.  It was Jason Hawn who was worried and had persuaded the colonel to send for Gray.  The girl halted when she spoke Jason’s name, and the boy looked up to find her face scarlet and her eyes swerve suddenly from his to the passing fields.  But as quickly they swerved back to find Gray’s face aflame with the thought of Mavis.  For a moment both looked straight ahead in silence, and in that silence Marjorie became aware that Gray had not asked about Jason, and Gray that Marjorie had not mentioned Mavis’s name.  But now both made the omission good-and Gray spoke first.

Mavis was well.  She was still teaching school.  She had lived a life of pathetic loneliness, but she had developed in an amazing way through that very fact, and she had grown very beautiful.  She had startled him by her insight into—­he halted—­into everything—­ and how was Jason getting along?  The girl had been listening, covertly watching, and had grown quite calm.  Jason, too, was well, but he looked worried and overworked.  His examinations were going on now.  He had written his graduating speech but had not shown it to her, though he had said he would.  Her mother and Uncle Robert had grown very fond of him and admired him greatly, but lately she had not seen him, he was so busy.  Again there was a long silence between them, but when they reached, the hill whence both their homes were visible Marjorie began as though she must get out something’ that was on her mind before they reached Colonel Pendleton’s gate.

“Gray,” she said hesitantly and so seriously that the boy turned to her, “did it ever cross your mind that there was ever any secret between Uncle Robert and mother?”

The boy’s startled look was answer enough and she went on telling him of the question she had asked her mother.

“Sometimes,” she finished, “I think that your father and my mother must have loved each other first and that something kept them from marrying.  I know that they must have talked it over lately, for there seems to be a curious understanding between them now, and the sweetest peace has come to both of them.”

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