Jason started for the house, but the old man stayed at the stable to give directions to a neighbor who had come to feed his stock. It sickened the boy to think that he must perhaps be drawn into the feud again, but he would not be foolish enough not to take all precaution against young Aaron. At the yard fence he stopped, seeing Mavis under an apple-tree with one hand clutching a low bough and her tense face lifted to the west. He could see that the hand was clenched tightly, for even the naked forearm was taut as a bowstring. The sun was going down in the little gap, above it already one pale star was swung, and upon it her eyes seemed to be fixed. She heard his step and he knew it, for he saw her face flush, but without looking around she turned into the house. That night she seemed to avoid the chance that he might speak to her alone, and the boy found himself watching her covertly and closely, for he recalled what Gray had said about her. Indeed, some change had taken place that was subtle and extraordinary. He saw his mother deferring to her—leaning on her unconsciously. And old Jason, to the boy’s amazement, was less imperious when she was around, moderated his sweeping judgments, looked to her from under his heavy brows, apparently for approval or to see that at least he gave no offence—deferred to her more than to any man or woman within the boy’s memory. And Jason himself felt the emanation from her of some new power that was beginning to chain his thoughts to her. All that night Mavis was on his mind, and when he woke next morning it was Mavis, Mavis still. She was clear-eyed, calm, reserved when she told him good-by, and once only she smiled. Old Jason had brought out one of his huge pistols, but Mavis took it from his unresisting hands and Jason rode away unarmed. It was just as well, for as his train started, a horse and a wild youth came plunging down the riverbank, splashed across, and with a yell charged up to the station. Through the car window Jason saw that it was little Aaron, flushed of face and with a pistol in his hand, looking for him. A sudden storm of old instincts burst suddenly within him, and had he been armed he would have swung from the train and settled accounts then and there. As it was, he sat still and was borne away shaken with rage from head to foot.
Commencement day was over, Jason Hawn had made his last speech in college, and his theme was “Kentucky.” In all seriousness and innocence he had lashed the commonwealth for lawlessness from mountain-top to river-brim, and his own hills he had flayed mercilessly. In all seriousness and innocence, when he was packing his bag three hours later in “Heaven,” he placed his big pistol on top of his clothes so that when the lid was raised, the butt of it would be within an inch of his right hand. On his way home he might meet little Aaron on the train, and he did not propose to be at Aaron’s mercy again.