The two little strangers sat in cane-bottomed chairs before the open door, still looking about them with curious eyes at the strings of things hanging from the smoke-browned rafters—beans, red pepper-pods, and twists of homegrown tobacco, the girl’s eyes taking in the old spinning-wheel in the corner, the piles of brilliantly figured quilts between the foot-boards of the two beds ranged along one side of the room, and the boy’s, catching eagerly the butt of a big revolver projecting from the mantel-piece, a Winchester standing in one corner, a long, old-fashioned squirrel rifle athwart a pair of buck antlers over the front door, and a bunch of cane fishing-poles aslant the wall of the back porch. Presently a slim, drenched figure slipped quietly in, then another, and Mavis stood on one side of the fire-place and little Jason on the other. The two girls exchanged a swift glance and Mavis’s eyes fell; abashed, she knotted her hands shyly behind her and with the hollow of one bare foot rubbed the slender arch of the other. The stranger boy looked up at Jason with a pleasant glance of recognition, got for his courtesy a sullen glare that travelled from his broad white collar down to his stockinged legs, and his face flushed; he would have trouble with that mountain boy. Before the fire old Jason Hawn stood, and through a smoke cloud from his corn-cob pipe looked kindly at his two little guests.
“So that’s yo’ boy an’ gal?”
“That’s my son Gray,” said Colonel Pendleton.
“And that’s my cousin Marjorie,” said the lad, and Mavis looked quickly to little Jason for recognition of this similar relationship and got no answering glance, for little did he care at that moment of hostility how those two were akin.
“She’s my cousin, too,” laughed the colonel, “but she always calls me uncle.”
Old Jason turned to him.
“Well, we’re a purty rough people down here, but you’re welcome to all we got.”
“I’ve found that out,” laughed Colonel Pendleton pleasantly, “everywhere.”
“I wish you both could stay a long time with us,” said the old man to the little strangers. “Jason here would take Gray fishin’ an’ huntin’, an’ Mavis would git on my old mare an’ you two could jus’ go flyin’ up an’ down the road. You could have a mighty good time if hit wasn’t too rough fer ye.”
“Oh, no,” said the boy politely, and the girl said:
“I’d just love to.”
The Blue-grass man’s attention was caught by the names.
“Jason,” he repeated; “why, Jason was a mighty hunter, and Mavis— that means ‘the songthrush.’ How in the world did they get those names?”
“Well, my granddaddy was a powerful b’arhunter in his day,” said the old man, “an’ I heerd as how a school-teacher nicknamed him Jason, an’ that name come down to me an’ him. I’ve heerd o’ Mavis as long as I can rickellect. Hit was my grandmammy’s name.”