“I think I know this coal,” he said in a low voice, “and if I’m right you’ve got the best and thickest vein of coking coal in these mountains. It’s the Culloden seam. Nobody ever has found it on this side of the mountain, and it is supposed to have petered out on the way through. That boy has found the Culloden seam. The altitude is right, the coal looks and weighs like it, and we can find it somewhere else under that bench along the mountain. So you better let the boy alone.”
Little Jason stood motionless looking after them. Little Mavis crept from her hiding-place. Her face showed no pride in Jason’s triumph and few traces of excitement, for she was already schooled to the quiet acquiescence of mountain women in the rough deeds of the men. She had seen Jason going up that ravine, she could simply not help going herself to learn why, she was mystified by what he had done up there, but she had kept his secret faithfully. Now she was beginning to understand that the matter was serious, and for that reason the boy’s charge of spying lay heavier on her mind. So she came slowly and shyly and stood behind him, her eyes dark with penitence.
The boy heard her, but he did not turn around.
“You better go home, Mavie,” he said, and at his very tone her face flashed with joy. “They mought come back agin. I’m goin’ to stay up here till dark. They can’t see nothin’ then.”
There was not a word of rebuke for her; it was his secret and hers now, and pride and gratitude filled her heart and her eyes.
“All right, Jasie,” she said obediently, and down the bowlder she stepped lightly, and slipping down the bed of the creek, disappeared. And not once did she look around.
The shadows lengthened, the ravines filled with misty blue, the steep westward spur threw its bulky shadow on the sunlit flank of the opposite hill, and the lonely spirit of night came with the gloom that gathered fast about him in the defile where he lay. A slow wind was blowing up from the river toward him, and on it came faintly the long mellow blast of a horn. It was no hunter’s call, and he sprang to his feet. Again the winding came and his tense muscles relaxed—nor was it a warning that “revenues” were coming--and he sank back to his lonely useless vigil again. The sun dipped, the sky darkened, the black wings of the night rushed upward and downward and from all around the horizon, but only when they were locked above him did he slip like a creature of the gloom down the bed of the stream.