Then Jason hurried over the hill and took to his mother a peace she had not known even in her childhood, and a joy that she never dreamed would be hers while she lived—that her boy was safe from blood-oaths, a life of watchful terror, and constant fear of violent death. In Mavis’s eyes was deep content when the moon rose on the three that night. Jason stayed a while after his mother was gone within, and, as they sat silently together, he suddenly took one of her hands in both his own and kissed it, and then he was gone. She watched him, and when his form was lost in the shadows of the trees she lifted that hand to her own lips.
Winter came and passed swiftly. Throughout it Jason was on the night shift, and day for him was turned into night. Throughout it Mavis taught her school, and she reached home just about the time Jason was going to work, for school hours are long in the hills. Meanwhile, the railroad crept through the county-seat up the river, and the branch line up the Hawn creek to the mines was ready for it. And just before the junction was made, there was an event up that creek in which Mavis shared proudly, for the work in great part was Jason’s own. Throughout the winter, coke-ovens had sprung up like great beehives along each side of the creek, and the battery of them was ready for firing. Into each, shavings and kindlings were first thrust and then big sticks of wood. Jason tied packing to the end of a pole, saturated it with kerosene, lighted it, and handed it to Mavis. Along the batteries men with similar poles waited for her. The end of the pole was a woolly ball of oily flames, writhing like little snakes when she thrust it into the first oven, and they leaped greedily at the waiting feast and started a tiny gluttonous roar within. With a yell a grinning darky flourished another mass of little flames at the next oven, and down the line the balls of fire flashed in the dusk and disappeared, and Mavis and Jason and his mother stood back and. waited. Along came eager men throwing wood and coal into the hungry maws above them. Little black clouds began to belch from them and from the earth packed around, and over them arose white clouds of steam. The swirling smoke swooped down the sides of the batteries and drove the watching three farther back. Flames burst angrily from the oven doors and leaped like yellow lightning up through the belching smoke. Behind them was the odor of the woods, fresh and damp and cool, and the sound of the little creek in its noisy way over rocks and stray fallen timbers. Down from the mines came mules with their drivers, their harness rattling as they trotted past, and from the houses poured women and children to see the first flaming signs of a great industry. And good cheer was in the air like wine, for times were good, and work and promise of work a-plenty. Exultant Jason felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find the big superintendent smiling at him.