Next day Jason carried over to Mavis and his mother the news of the death of Colonel Pendleton, and while Mavis was shocked she asked no question about Gray. The next day a letter arrived from Gray saying he would not come back to the hills—and again Mavis was silent. A week later Jason was made assistant superintendent in Gray’s place by the president of Morton Sanders’ coal company, and this Jason knew was Gray’s doing. He had refused to accept the stock Gray had offered him, and Gray was thus doing his best for him in another way. Moreover, Jason was to be quartered in Gray’s place at the superintendent’s little cottage, far up the ravine in which the boy had unearthed the great seam of coal, a cottage that had been built under Gray’s personal supervision and with a free rein, for it must have a visitor’s room for any officer or stockholder who might come that way, a sitting-room with a wood fireplace, and Colonel Pendleton had meant, moreover, that his son should have all the comfort possible. Jason dropped on the little veranda under a canopy of moon-flowers, exultant but quite overcome. How glad and proud his mother would be—and Mavis. While he sat there Arch Hawn rode by, his face lighted up with a humorous knowing smile.
“How about it?” he shouted.
“D’you have anything to do with this?”
“Oh, just a leetle.”
“Well, you won’t be sorry.”
“Course not. What’d I tell ye, son? You go in now an’ dig it out. And say, Jason—” He pulled his horse in and spoke seriously: “Keep away from town till little Aaron gets over his spree. You don’t know it, but that boy is a fine feller when he’s sober. Don’t you shoot first now. So long.”
The next day Jason ran upon Babe Honeycutt shambling up the creek. Babe was fearless and cordial, and Jason had easily guessed why.
“Babe, my mammy told you something.”
The giant hesitated, started to lie, but nodded assent.
“You haven’t told anybody else?”
“Nary a livin’ soul.”
Babe shuffled on, stopped, called Jason, and came back close enough to whisper:
“I had all I could do yestiddy to keep little Aaron from comin’ up hyeh to the mines to look for ye.”
Then he shuffled away. Jason began to get angry now. He had no intention of shooting first or shooting at all except to save his own life, but he went straightway over the spur to get his pistol, Mavis saw him buckling it on, he explained why, and the girl sadly nodded assent.