“Come on, Mavie,” he said quietly.
Again she looked up, wonderingly this time, and seeing some steady purpose in his eyes rose without a question.
With no word he turned and she followed him back down the creek. And the old couple, sitting in the porch, saw them coming, the boy striding resolutely ahead, the little girl behind, and the faces of both deadly serious—the one with purpose and the other with blind trust. They did not call to the boy, for they saw him swerve across the road toward the gate. He did not lift his head until he reached the gate, and he did not wait for Mavis. He had no need, for she had hurried to his side when he halted at the steps of the porch.
“Uncle Lige,” he said, “me an’ Mavis hyeh want to git married.”
Not the faintest surprise showed in Mavis’s face, little as she knew what his purpose was, for what the master did was right; but the old woman and the old man were stunned into silence and neither could smile.
“Have you got yo’ license?” the old man asked gravely.
“Whut’s a license?”
“You got to git a license from the county clerk afore you can git married, an’ hit costs two dollars.”
The boy flinched, but only for a moment.
“I kin borrer the money,” he said stoutly.
“But you can’t git a license—you ain’t a man.”
“I ain’t!” cried the boy hotly; “I got to be!”
“Come in hyeh, Jason,” said the old man, for it was time to leave off evasion, and he led the lad into the house while Mavis, with the old woman’s arm around her, waited in the porch. Jason came out baffled and pale.
“Hit ain’t no use, Mavis,” he said; “the law’s agin us an’ we got to wait. They’ve run away an’ they’ve both sold out an’ yo’ daddy left word that he was goin’ to send fer ye whenever he got whatever he was goin’.”
Jason waited and he did not have to wait long.
“I hain’t goin’ to leave ye,” she flashed.
St. Hilda sat on the vine-covered porch of her little log cabin, high on the hill-side, with a look of peace in her big dreaming eyes. From the frame house a few rods below her, mountain children—boys and girls—were darting in and out, busy as bees, and, unlike the dumb, pathetic little people out in the hills, alert, keen-eyed, cheerful, and happy. Under the log foot-bridge the shining creek ran down past the mountain village below, where the cupola of the court-house rose above the hot dirt streets, the ramshackle hotel, and the dingy stores and frame dwellings of the town. Across the bridge her eyes rested on another neat, well-built log cabin with a grass plot around it, and, running alongside and covered with honeysuckle—a pergola! That was her hospital down there—empty, thank God. With a little turn of her strong white chin, her eyes rested on the charred foundation of