There was little about Jason and his school career that John Burnham had not heard from his friend St. Hilda, for she kept sending at intervals reports of him, so that Burnham knew how doggedly the lad had worked in school and out; what a leader he was among his fellows, and how, that he might keep out of the feud, he had never gone to his grandfather’s even during vacations, except for a day or two, but had hired himself out to some mountain farmer and had toiled like a slave, always within St. Hilda’s reach. She had won Jason’s heart from the start, so that he had told her frankly about his father’s death, the coming of the geologist, the sale of his home, the flight of his mother and Steve Hawn, his shooting at Babe Honeycutt, and his own flight after them, but at the brink of one confession he always balked. Never could St. Hilda learn just why he had given up the manly prerogatives of pistol, whiskey-jug, and a deadly purpose of revenge, to accept in their place, if need be, the despised duties of women-folks. But his grim and ready willingness for the exchange appealed to St. Hilda so strongly that she had always saved him as much of these duties as she could.
The truth was that the school-master had slyly made a diplomatic use of their mutual interest in Jason that was masterly. There had been little communication between them since the long-ago days when she had given him her final decision and gone on her mission to the mountains, until Jason had come to be an important link between them. Gradually, after that, St. Hilda had slowly come to count on the school-master’s sympathy and understanding, and more than once she had written not only for his advice but for his help as well. And wisely, through it all, Burnham had never sounded the personal note, and smilingly he had noted the passing of all suspicion on her part, the birth of her belief that he was cured of his love for her and would bother her no more, and now, in her last letter announcing Jason’s coming to the Blue-grass, there was a distinct personal atmosphere that almost made him chuckle. St. Hilda even wondered whether he might not care, during some vacation, to come down and see with his own eyes the really remarkable work he knew she was doing down there. And when he wrote during the summer that he had been called to the suddenly vacated chair of geology in the college Jason had been prepared for, her delight thrilled him, though he had to wonder how much of it might be due to the fact that her protege would thus be near him for help and counsel.