“I knowed it—oh, I knowed it.”
The news spread swiftly. Within half an hour the big superintendent was tumbling his things from the cottage into the road, for his own family was coming, he explained to Jason’s mother, and he needed a larger house anyway. And so Babe Honeycutt swung twice down the spur on the other side and up again with Mavis’s worldly goods on his great shoulders, while inside the cottage Martha Hawn and the old circuit rider’s wife were as joyously busy as bees. On his last trip Mavis and Jason followed, and on top of the spur Babe stopped, cocked his ear, and listened. Coming on a slow breeze up the ravine from the river far below was the long mellow blast of a horn.
“’I God,” laughed Babe triumphantly, “ole Jason’s already heerd it.”
And, indeed, within half an hour word came that the old man must have the infair at his house that night, and already to all who could hear he had blown welcome on the wind.
So, at dusk, when Jason, on the circuit rider’s old nag, rode through camp with Mavis on a pillion behind in laughing acceptance of the old pioneer custom, women and children waved at them from doorways and the miners swung their hats and cheered them as they passed. There was an old-fashioned gathering at the old Hawn home that night. Old Aaron and young Aaron and many Honeycutts were there; the house was thronged, fiddles played old tunes for nimble feet, and Hawns and Honeycutts ate and drank and made merry until the morning sun fanned its flames above the sombre hills.
But before midnight Jason and Mavis fared forth pillion-fashion again. Only, Jason too rode sidewise every now and then that he might clasp her with one arm and kiss her again and again under the smiling old moon. Through the lights and noise of the mighty industry that he would direct, they passed and climbed on.
Soon only lights showed that their grimy little working world was below. Soon they stood on the porch of their own little home. To them there the mighty on-sweeping hills sent back their own peace, God-guarded and never to be menaced by the hand of man. And there, clasped in each other’s arms, their spirits rushed together, and with the spiral of smoke from their own hearthstones, went upward.
Gently that following midsummer the old president’s crutch thumped the sidewalk leading to the college. Between the pillars of the gateway he paused, lifted his undimmed keen blue eyes, and more gently still the crutch thumped on the gravelled road as he passed slowly on under the trees. When he faced the first deserted building, he stopped quite still. The campus was deserted and the buildings were as silent as tombs. That loneliness he had known many, many years; but there was a poignant sorrow in it now that was never there before, for only that morning he had turned over the reins of power into a pair