He only began to notice one morning, after the foot-ball incident, that Marjorie was beginning to notice him; that, worshipped now only on the horizon, his star seemed to be drawing a little nearer. A passing lecturer had told Jason much of himself and his people that morning. The mountain people, said the speaker, still lived like the pioneer forefathers of the rest of the State. Indeed they were “our contemporary ancestors”; so that, sociologically speaking, Jason, young as he was, was the ancestor of all around him. The thought made him grin and, looking up, he caught the mischievous eyes of Marjorie, who later seemed to be waiting for him on the steps:
“Good-morning, grandfather,” she said demurely, and went rapidly on her way.
Meanwhile that political storm was raging and Jason got at the heart of it through his morning paper and John Burnham. He knew that at home Republicans ran against Republicans for all offices, and now he learned that his own mountains were the Gibraltar of that party, and that the line of its fortifications ran from the Big Sandy, three hundred miles by public roads, to the line of Tennessee. When free silver had shattered the Democratic ranks three years before, the mountaineers had leaped forth and unfurled the Republican flag over the State for the first time since the Civil War. Ballots were falsified—that was the Democratic cry, and that was the Democratic excuse for that election law which had been forced through the Senate, whipped through the lower house with the party lash, and passed over the veto of the Republican governor by the new Democratic leader—the bold, cool, crafty, silent autocrat. From bombastic orators Jason learned that a fair ballot was the bulwark of freedom, that some God-given bill of rights had been smashed, and the very altar of liberty desecrated. And when John Burnham explained how the autocrat’s triumvirate could at will appoint and remove officers of election, canvass returns, and certify and determine results, he could understand how the “atrocious measure,” as the great editor of the State called it, “was a ready chariot to the governor’s chair.” And in the summer convention the spirit behind the measure had started for that goal in just that way, like a scythe-bearing chariot of ancient days, but cutting down friend as well as foe. Straightway, Democrats long in line for honors, and gray in the councils of the party, bolted; the rural press bolted; and Jason heard one bolter thus cry his fealty and his faithlessness: “As charged, I do stand ready to vote for a yellow dog, if he be the regular nominee, but lower than that you shall not drag me.”
The autocrat’s retort was courteous.
“You have a brother in the penitentiary.”
“No,” was the answer, “but your brothers have a brother who ought to be.”