Clayton was attending a German university because his father had recognized his scientific aspirations and encouraged his curiosity of the arts. But as Clayton groomed his talents his family encountered an unexpected financial disturbance that compelled him to return to New York. Even in this calamity there was still a resource available after the family's economic collapse – ownership of mineral land in the South. After Clayton spent some unendurable days of insolvent conditions and tolerating the suspected antipathy of former friends, he directed himself eagerly to hard work in the Kentucky mountains. As he traveled to the Cumberland Range his newly found independent zeal left no time for despondency. He settled in at the mining camp and became inspired by the changing magnificence of the mountains. His acquaintance with a young woman, Easter Hicks, changed the way he responded to his new circumstances. He saw that she summoned his sense of responsibility, per example, to improve her reading and writing skills. But he also discovered what she already knew – how to plow the fields to plant corn, how to chop wood for the stove, how to ride a bull as other mountaineers rode horses and donkeys. She lived with her mother on Wolf Mountain, but her father (Bill Hicks) had left after he was suspected of killing a moonshine raider and was thought to still be in the mountains. Sherd Raines, a mountaineer studying for the ministry, was also attracted to Easter. He told Clayton her father had seen Easter and Clayton walking together in the hills. Clayton said that if his presence was causing a growing animosity, he would leave and told Sherd to take care of Easter. But she followed him as he walked away and told him of her love, and their fate was sealed.