She paused, and Gray, paralyzed with wonder, still made no answer. They had passed through the gate now and in a moment more would be at Gray’s home. Around each barn Gray saw an armed guard; there was another at the yard gate, and there were two more on the steps of the big portico.
“Maybe,” the girl went on naively, almost as though she were talking to herself, “that’s why they’ve both always been so anxious to have us—” Again she stopped—scarlet.
Jason Hawn’s last examination was over, and he stepped into the first June sunlight and drew it into his lungs with deep relief. Looking upward from the pavement below, the old president saw his confident face.
“It seems you are not at all uneasy,” he said, and his keen old eyes smiled humorously.
Jason reddened a little.
“No, sir—I’m not.”
“Nor am I,” said the old gentleman, “nor will you forget that this little end is only the big beginning.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You are going back home? You will be needed there.”
It was the longest talk Jason had ever had with the man he all but worshipped, and while it was going on the old scholar was painfully climbing the steps—so that the last word was flung back with the sharp, soldier-like quality of a command given by an officer who turned his back with perfect trust that it would be obeyed, and in answer to that trust the boy’s body straightened and his very much about changing his ways, that he no longer had any resentment against Colonel Pendleton, and wanted now to live a better life. His talk might have fooled Jason but for the fact that he shrewdly noted the little effect it all had on his mother. Entering the mouth of the lane, Jason saw Steve going from the yard gate to the house, and his brows wrinkled angrily—Steve was staggering. He came to the door and glared at Jason.
“Whut you doin’ out hyeh?”
“I’m goin’ to see Gray through his troubles,” said Jason quietly.
“I kind o’ thought you had troubles enough o’ yo’ own,” sneered the man.
Jason did not answer. His mother was seated within with her back to the door, and when she turned Jason saw that she had been weeping, and, catching sight of a red welt on her temple, he walked over to her.
“How’d that happen, mammy?”
She hesitated and Jason whirled with such fury that his mother caught him with both arms, and Steve lost no time reaching for his gun.
“I jammed it agin the kitchen door, Jasie.”
He looked at her, knew that she was lying, and when he turned to go, halted at the door.
“If you ever touch my mother again,” he said with terrifying quiet, “I’ll kill you as sure as there is a God in heaven to forgive me.”