“Mavie,” he said huskily, “I reckon I’m the biggest fool this side o’ hell, whar I reckon I ought to be.”
Mavis asked no question, made no answer. She merely looked steadily at him for a moment, and then, brushing quickly at her eyes, she rose and turned into the house. The sun gave way to darkness, but it kept on shining in Jason’s heart, and when at bedtime he stood again on the porch, his gratitude went up to the very stars. He heard Mavis behind him, but he did not turn, for all he had to say he had said, and the break in his reserve was over.
“I’m glad you come back, Jasie,” was all she said, shyly, for she understood, and then she added the little phrase that is not often used in the mountain world:
From St. Hilda, Jason, too, had learned that phrase, and he spoke it with a gruffness that made the girl smile:
Jason drew the top bed in a bare-walled, bare-floored room with two other boys, as green and countrified as was he, and he took turns with them making up those beds, carrying water for the one tin basin, and sweeping up the floor with the broom that stood in the corner behind it. But even then the stark simplicity of his life was a luxury. His meals cost him three dollars a week, and that most serious item began to worry him, but not for long. Within two weeks he was meeting a part of that outlay by delivering the morning daily paper of the town. This meant getting up at half past three in the morning, after a sleep of five hours and a half, but if this should begin to wear on him, he would simply go earlier to bed; there was no sign of wear and tear, however, for the boy was as tough as a bolt-proof black gum-tree back in the hills, his capacity for work was prodigious, and the early rising hour but lengthened the range of each day’s activities. Indeed Jason missed nothing and nothing missed him. His novitiate passed quickly, and while his fund for “breakage” was almost gone, he had, without knowing it, drawn no little attention to himself. He had wandered innocently into “Heaven”— the seniors’ hall—a satanic offence for a freshman, and he had been stretched over a chair, “strapped,” and thrown out. But at dawn next morning he was waiting at the entrance and when four seniors appeared he tackled them all valiantly. Three held him while the fourth went for a pair of scissors, for thus far Jason had escaped the tonsorial betterment that had been inflicted on most of his classmates. The boy stood still, but in a relaxed moment of vigilance he tore loose just as the scissors appeared, and fled for the building opposite. There he turned with his back to the wall. “When I want my hair cut, I’ll git my mammy to do it or pay fer it myself,” he said quietly, but his face was white. When they rushed on, he thrust his hand into his shirt and pulled it out with a mighty