The Landlord At Lions Head, V2
by William Dean Howells
Lions Head, V1
Jackson kept his promise to write to Westover, but he was better
than his word to his mother, and wrote to her every week that winter.
"I seem just to live from letter to letter. It's ridic'lous," she
said to Cynthia once when the girl brought the mail in from the barn,
where the men folks kept it till they had put away their horses after
driving over from Lovewell with it. The trains on the branch road
were taken off in the winter, and the post-office at the hotel was
discontinued. The men had to go to the town by cutter, over a highway
that the winds sifted half full of snow after it had been broken out
by the ox-teams in the morning. But Mrs. Durgin had studied the
steamer days and calculated the time it would take letters to come
from New York to Lovewell; and, unless a blizzard was raging, some one
had to go for the mail when the day came. It was usually Jombateeste,
who reverted in winter to the type of habitant from which he had
sprung. He wore a blue woollen cap, like a large sock, pulled over
his ears and close to his eyes, and below it his clean-shaven brown
face showed. He had blue woollen mittens, and boots of russet
leather, without heels, came to his knees; he got a pair every time he
went home on St. John's day. His lean little body was swathed in
several short jackets, and he brought the letters buttoned into one of
the innermost pockets. He produced the letter from Jackson promptly
enough when Cynthia came out to the barn for it, and then he made a
show of getting his horse out of the cutter shafts, and shouting
international reproaches at it, till she was forced to ask, "Haven't
you got something for me, Jombateeste?"
"You expec' some letter?" he said, unbuckling a strap and shouting
"You know whether I do. Give it to me."
"I don' know. I think I drop something on the road. I saw
something white; maybe snow; good deal of snow."
"Don't plague! Give it here!"
"Wait I finish unhitch. I can't find any letter till I get some
time to look."
"Oh, now, Jombateeste! Give me my letter!"
"W'at you want letter for? Always same thing. Well! 'Old the
'oss; I goin' to feel."
Jombateeste felt in one pocket after another, while Cynthia clung
to the colt's bridle, and he was uncertain till the last whether he
had any letter for her. When it appeared she made a flying snatch at
it and ran; and the comedy was over, to be repeated in some form the
The girl somehow always possessed herself of what was in her
letters before she reached the room where Mrs. Durgin was waiting for
hers. She had to read that aloud to Jackson's mother, and in the
evening she had to read it again to Mrs. Durgin and Whitwell and
Jombateeste and Frank, after they had done their chores, and they had
gathered in the old farm- house parlor, around the air-tight
sheet-iron stove, in a heat of eighty degrees. Whitwell listened,
with planchette ready on the table before him, and he consulted it for
telepathic impressions of Jackson's actual mental state when the
reading was over.
He got very little out of the perverse instrument. "I can't seem
to work her. If Jackson was here--"
"We shouldn't need to ask planchette about him," Cynthia once
suggested, with the spare sense of humor that sometimes revealed
itself in her.
"Well, I guess that's something so," her father candidly admitted.
But the next time he consulted the helpless planchette as hopefully
as before. "You can't tell, you can't tell," he urged.
"The trouble seems to be that planchette can't tell," said Mrs.
Durgin, and they all laughed. They were not people who laughed a
great deal, and they were each intent upon some point in the future
that kept them from pleasure in the present. The little Canuck was
the only one who suffered himself a contemporaneous consolation. His
early faith had so far lapsed from him that he could hospitably
entertain the wild psychical conjectures of Whitwell without an
accusing sense of heresy, and he found the winter of northern New
England so mild after that of Lower Canada that he experienced a high
degree of animal comfort in it, and looked forward to nothing better.
To be well fed, well housed, and well heated; to smoke successive
pipes while the others talked, and to catch through his smoke-wreaths
vague glimpses of their meanings, was enough. He felt that in being
promoted to the care of the stables in Jackson's absence he occupied a
dignified and responsible position, with a confidential relation to
the exile which justified him in sending special messages to him, and
attaching peculiar value to Jackson's remembrances.
The exile's letters said very little about his health, which in the
sense of no news his mother held to be good news, but they were full
concerning the monuments and the ethnological interest of life in
They were largely rescripts of each day's observations and
experiences, close and full, as his mother liked them in regard to
fact, and generously philosophized on the side of politics and
religion for Whitwell. The Eastern question became in the snow-choked
hills of New England the engrossing concern of this speculative mind,
and he was apt to spring it upon Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia at mealtimes
and other defenceless moments. He tried to debate it with
Jombateeste, who conceived of it as a form of spiritualistic inquiry,
and answered from the hay-loft, where he was throwing down fodder for
the cattle to Whitwell, volubly receiving it on the barn floor below,
that he believed, him, everybody got a hastral body, English same as
"Guess you mean Moslems," said Whitwell, and Jombateeste asked the
The letters which came to Cynthia could not be made as much a
general interest, and, in fact, no one else cared so much for them as
for Jackson's letters, not even Jeff's mother. After Cynthia got one
of them, she would ask, perfunctorily, what Jeff said, but when she
was told there was no news she did not press her question.
"If Jackson don't get back in time next summer," Mrs. Durgin said,
in one of the talks she had with the girl, "I guess I shall have to
let Jeff and you run the house alone."
"I guess we shall want a little help from you," said Cynthia,
demurely. She did not refuse the implication of Mrs. Durgin's words,
but she would not assume that there was more in them than they
When Jeff came home for the three days' vacation at Thanksgiving,
he wished again to relinquish his last year at Harvard, and Cynthia
had to summon all her forces to keep him to his promise of staying.
He brought home the books with which he was working off his
conditions, with a half- hearted intention of study, and she took hold
with him, and together they fought forward over the ground he had to
gain. His mother was almost willing at last that he should give up
his last year in college.
"What is the use?" she asked. "He's give up the law, and he might
as well commence here first as last, if he's goin' to."
The girl had no reason to urge against this; she could only urge
her feeling that he ought to go back and take his degree with the rest
of his class.
"If you're going to keep Lion's Head the way you pretend you are,"
she said to him, as she could not say to his mother, "you want to keep
all your Harvard friends, don't you, and have them remember you? Go
back, Jeff, and don't you come here again till after you've got your
degree. Never mind the Christmas vacation, nor the Easter. Stay in
Cambridge and work off your conditions. You can do it, if you try.
Oh, don't you suppose I should like to have you here?" she reproached
He went back, with a kind of grudge in his heart, which he
confessed in his first letter home to her, when he told her that she
was right and he was wrong. He was sure now, with the impulse which
their work on them in common had given him, that he should get his
conditions off, and he wanted her and his mother to begin preparing
their minds to come to his Class Day. He planned how they could both
be away from the hotel for that day. The house was to be opened on
the 20th of June, but it was not likely that there would be so many
people at once that they could not give the 21st to Class Day; Frank
and his father could run Lion's Head somehow, or, if they could not,
then the opening could be postponed till the 24th. At all events,
they must not fail to come. Cynthia showed the whole letter to his
mother, who refused to think of such a thing, and then asked, as if
the fact had not been fully set before her: "When is it to be?"
"The 21st of June."
"Well, he's early enough with his invitation," she grumbled.
"Yes, he is," said Cynthia; and she laughed for shame and pleasure
as she confessed, "I was thinking he was rather late."
She hung her head and turned her face away. But Mrs. Durgin
understood. "You be'n expectin' it all along, then."
"I guess so."
"I presume," said the elder woman, "that he's talked to you about
it. He never tells me much. I don't see why you should want to go.
What's it like?"
"Oh, I don't know. But it's the day the graduating class have to
themselves, and all their friends come."
"Well, I don't know why anybody should want to go," said Mrs.
Durgin. "I sha'n't. Tell him he won't want to own me when he sees me.
What am I goin' to wear, I should like to know? What you goin' to
Jeff's place at Harvard had been too long fixed among the jays to
allow the hope of wholly retrieving his condition now. It was too
late for him to be chosen in any of the nicer clubs or societies, but
he was not beyond the mounting sentiment of comradery, which begins to
tell in the last year among college men, and which had its due effect
with his class. One of the men, who had always had a foible for
humanity, took advantage of the prevailing mood in another man, and
wrought upon him to ask, among the fellows he was asking to a tea at
his rooms, several fellows who were distinctly and almost typically
jay. The tea was for the aunt of the man who gave it, a very pretty
woman from New York, and it was so richly qualified by young people of
fashion from Boston that the infusion of the jay flavor could not
spoil it, if it would not rather add an agreeable piquancy. This
college mood coincided that year with a benevolent emotion in the
larger world, from which fashion was not exempt. Society had just
been stirred by the reading of a certain book, which had then a very
great vogue, and several people had been down among the wretched at
the North End doing good in a conscience-stricken effort to avert the
millennium which the book in question seemed to threaten. The lady
who matronized the tea was said to have done more good than you could
imagine at the North End, and she caught at the chance to meet the
college jays in a spirit of Christian charity. When the man who was
going to give the tea rather sheepishly confessed what the altruistic
man had got him in for, she praised him so much that he went away
feeling like the hero of a holy cause. She promised the assistance
and sympathy of several brave girls, who would not be afraid of all
the jays in college.
After all, only one of the jays came. Not many, in fact, had been
asked, and when Jeff Durgin actually appeared, it was not known that
he was both the first and the last of his kind. The lady who was
matronizing the tea recognized him, with a throe of her quickened
conscience, as the young fellow whom she had met two winters before at
the studio tea which Mr. Westover had given to those queer Florentine
friends of his, and whom she had never thought of since, though she
had then promised herself to do something for him. She had then even
given him some vague hints of a prospective hospitality, and she
confessed her sin of omission in a swift but graphic retrospect to one
of her brave girls, while Jeff stood blocking out a space for his
stalwart bulk amid the alien elegance just within the doorway, and the
host was making his way toward him, with an outstretched hand of hardy
At an earlier period of his neglect and exclusion, Jeff would not
have responded to the belated overture which had now been made him,
for no reason that he could divine. But he had nothing to lose by
accepting the invitation, and he had promised the altruistic man, whom
he rather liked; he did not dislike the giver of the tea so much as
some other men, and so he came.
The brave girl whom the matron was preparing to devote to him stood
shrinking with a trepidation which she could not conceal at sight of
his strange massiveness, with his rust-gold hair coming down toward
his thick yellow brows and mocking blue eyes in a dense bang, and his
jaw squaring itself under the rather insolent smile of his full mouth.
The matron felt that her victim teas perhaps going to fail her, when
a voice at her ear said, as if the question were extorted, "Who in the
world is that?"
She instantly turned, and flashed out in a few inspired syllables
the fact she had just imparted to her treacherous heroine. "Do let me
introduce him, Miss Lynde. I must do something for him, when he gets
up to me, if he ever does."
"By all means," said the girl, who had an impulse to laugh at the
rude force of Jeff's face and figure, so disproportioned to the
occasion, and she vented it at the matron's tribulation. The matron
was shaking hands with people right and left, and exchanging inaudible
banalities with them. She did not know what the girl said in answer,
but she was aware that she remained near her. She had professed her
joy at seeing Jeff again, when he reached her, and she turned with him
and said, "Let me present you to Miss Lynde, Mr. Durgin," and so
abandoned them to each other.
As Jeff had none of the anxiety for social success which he would
have felt at an earlier period, he now left it to Miss Lynde to begin
the talk, or not, as she chose. He bore himself with so much
indifference that she was piqued to an effort to hold his eyes, that
wandered from her to this face and that in the crowd.
"Do you find many people you know, Mr. Durgin?"
"I don't find any."
"I supposed you didn't from the way you looked at them."
"How did I look at them?"
"As if you wanted to eat them, and one never wants to eat one's
"Oh, I don't know. They wouldn't agree with one."
Jeff ,laughed, and he now took fuller note of the slender girl who
stood before him, and swayed a little backward, in a graceful curve.
He saw that she had a dull, thick complexion, with liquid eyes, set
wide apart and slanted upward slightly, and a nose that was deflected
inward from the straight line; but her mouth was beautiful and vividly
red like a crimson blossom.
"Couldn't you find me some place to sit down, Mr. Durgin?" she
He had it on his tongue to say, "Well, not unless you want to sit
down on some enemy," but he did not venture this: when it comes to
daring of that sort, the boldest man is commonly a little behind a
Several of the fellows had clubbed their rooms, and lent them to
the man who was giving the tea; he used one of the apartments for a
cloak-room, and he meant the other for the social overflow from his
own. But people always prefer to remain dammed-up together in the
room where they are received, and Miss Lynde looked between the
neighboring heads, and over the neighboring shoulders, and saw the
borrowed apartment quite empty. At the moment of this discovery the
host came fighting his way up to make sure that Jeff had been provided
for in the way of introductions. He promptly introduced him to Miss
Lynde. She said: "Oh, that's been done! Can't you think of something
new?" Jeff liked the style of this. "I don't mind it, but I'm afraid
Mr. Durgin must find it monotonous."
"Oh, well, do something original yourself, then, Miss Lynde!" said
the host. "Start a movement for that room across the passage; that's
mine, too, for the occasion; and save some of these people's lives.
It's suffocating in here."
"I don't mind saving Mr. Durgin's," said the girl, "if he wants it
"Oh, I know he's just dying to have you save it," said the host,
and he left them, to inspire other people to follow their example.
But such as glanced across the passage into the overflow room seemed
to think it now the possession solely of the pioneers of the movement.
At any rate, they made no show of joining them; and after Miss Lynde
and Jeff had looked at the pictures on the walls and the photographs
on the mantel of the room where they found themselves, they sat down
on chairs fronting the open door and the door of the room they had
left. The window-seat would have been more to Jeff's mind, and he had
proposed it, but the girl seemed not to have heard him; she took the
deep easy-chair in full view of the company opposite, and left him to
pull up a chair beside her.
"I always like to see the pictures in a man's room," she said, with
a little sigh of relief from their inspection and a partial yielding
of her figure to the luxury of the chair. "Then I know what the man
is. This man--I don't know whose room it is--seems to have spent a
good deal of his time at the theatre."
"Isn't that where most of them spend their time?" asked Jeff.
"I'm sure I don't know. Is that where you spend yours?"
"It used to be. I'm not spending my time anywhere just now." She
looked questioningly, and he added, " I haven't got any to spend."
"Oh, indeed! Is that a reason? Why don't you spend somebody
"Nobody has any, that I know."
"You're all working off conditions, you mean?"
"That's what I'm doing, or trying to."
"Then it's never certain whether you can do it, after all?"
"Not so certain as to be free from excitement," said Jeff, smiling.
"And are you consumed with the melancholy that seems to be balling
up all the men at the prospect of having to leave Harvard and go out
into the hard, cold world?"
"I don't look it, do I? Jeff asked:
"No, you don't. And you don't feel it? You're not trying
concealment, and so forth?"
"No; if I'd had my own way, I'd have left Harvard before this." He
could see that his bold assumption of difference, or indifference,
told upon her. "I couldn't get out into the hard, cold world too
"How fearless! Most of them don't know what they're going to do in
"And what are you going to do? Or perhaps you think that's
"Oh no. I'm going to keep a hotel."
He had hoped to startle her, but she asked, rather quietly, "What
do you mean?" and she added, as if to punish him for trying to mystify
her: "I've heard that it requires gifts for that. Isn't there some
"Yes. But I'm going to try to do it on experience." He laughed,
and he did not mind her trying to hit him, for he saw that be had made
"Do you mean that you have kept a hotel?"
"For three generations," he returned, with a gravity that mocked
her from his bold eyes.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," she said, indifferently.
"Where is your hotel? In Boston--New York--Chicago?"
"It's in the country--it's a summer hotel," he said, as before.
She looked away from him toward the other room. "There's my
brother. I didn't know he was coming."
"Shall I go and tell him where you are?" Jeff asked, following the
direction of her eyes.
"No, no; he can find me," said the girl, sinking back in her chair
again. He left her to resume the talk where she chose, and she said:
"If it's something ancestral, of course--"
"I don't know as it's that, exactly. My grandfather used to keep a
country tavern, and so it's in the blood, but the hotel I mean is
something that we've worked up into from a farm boarding-house."
"You don't talk like a country person," the girl broke in,
"Not in Cambridge. I do in the country."
"And so," she prompted, "you're going to turn it into a hotel when
you've got out of Harvard."
"It's a hotel already, and a pretty big one; but I'm going to make
the right kind of hotel of it when I take hold of it."
"And what is the right kind of a hotel?"
"That's a long story. It would make you tired."
"It might, but we've got to spend the time somehow. You could
begin, and then if I couldn't stand it you could stop."
"It's easier to stop first and begin some other time. I guess I'll
let you imagine my hotel, Miss Lynde."
"Oh, I understand now," said the girl. "The table will be the
great thing. You will stuff people."
"Do you mean that I'm trying to stuff you?"
"How do I know? You never can tell what men really mean."
Jeff laughed with mounting pleasure in her audacity, that imparted
a sense of tolerance for him such as he had experienced very seldom
from the Boston girls he had met; after all, he had met but few. It
flattered him to have her doubt what he had told her in his reckless
indifference; it implied that he was fit for better things than
"You never can tell how much a woman believes," he retorted.
"And you keep trying to find out?"
"No, but I think that they might believe the truth."
"You'd better try them with it!"
"Well, I will. Do you really want to know what I'm going to do
when I get through?"
"Let me see!" Miss Lynde leaned forward, with her elbow on her knee
and her chin in her hand, and softly kicked the edge of her skirt with
the toe of her shoe, as if in deep thought. Jeff waited for her to
play her comedy through. "Yes," she said, "I think I did wish to
know--at one time."
"But you don't now?"
"Now? How can I tell? It was a great while ago!"
"I see you don't."
Miss Lynde did not make any reply. She asked, "Do you know my
"I didn't know you had one."
"Yes, everybody has an aunt--even when they haven't a mother, if
you can believe the Gilbert operas. I ask because I happen to live
with my aunt, and if you knew her she might--ask you to call." Miss
Lynde scanned Jeff's face for the effect of this.
He said, gravely: "If you'll introduce me to her, I'll ask her to
"Would you, really?" said the girl. "I've half a mind to try. I
wonder if you'd really have the courage."
"I don't think I'm easily rattled."
"You mean that I'm trying to rattle you."
"I'm not. My aunt is just what I've said."
"You haven't said what she was. Is she here?"
"No; that's the worst of it. If she were, I should introduce you,
just to see if you'd dare. Well, some other time I will."
"You think there'll be some other time?" Jeff asked.
"I don't know. There are all kinds of times. By-the-way, what
time is it?"
Jeff looked at his watch. "Quarter after six."
"Then I must go." She jumped to her feet, and faced about for a
glimpse of herself in the little glass on the mantel, and put her hand
on the large pink roses massed at her waist. One heavy bud dropped
from its stem to the floor, where, while she stood, the edge of her
skirt pulled and pushed it. She moved a little aside to peer over at
a photograph. Jeff stooped and picked up the flower, which he offered
"You dropped it," he said, bowing over it.
"Did I?" She looked at it with an effect of surprise and doubt.
"I thought so, but if you don't, I shall keep it."
The girl removed her careless eyes from it. "When they break off
so short, they won't go back."
"If I were a rose, I should want to go back," said Jeff.
She stopped in one of her many aversions and reversions, and looked
at him steadily across her shoulder. "You won't have to keep a poet,
"Thank you. I always expected to write the circulars myself. I'll
send you one."
"With this rose pressed between the leaves, so you'll know."
"That would, be very pretty. But you must take me to Mrs. Bevidge,
now, if you can."
"I guess I can," said Jeff; and in a minute or two they stood
before the matronizing hostess, after a passage through the babbling
and laughing groups that looked as impossible after they had made it
as it looked before.
Mrs. Bevidge gave the girl's hand a pressure distinct from the
official touch of parting, and contrived to say, for her hearing
alone: "Thank you so much, Bessie. You've done missionary work."
"I shouldn't call it that."
"It will do for you to say so! He wasn't really so bad, then?
Thank you again, dear!"
Jeff had waited his turn. But now, after the girl had turned away,
as if she had forgotten him, his eyes followed her, and he did not
know that Mrs. Bevidge was speaking to him. Miss Lynde had slimly
lost herself in the mass, till she was only a graceful tilt of hat,
before she turned with a distraught air. When her eyes met Jeff's
they lighted up with a look that comes into the face when one
remembers what one has been trying to think of. She gave him a
brilliant smile that seemed to illumine him from head to foot, and
before it was quenched he felt as if she had kissed her hand to him
from her rich mouth.
Then he heard Mrs. Bevidge asking something about a hall, and he
was aware of her bending upon him a look of the daring humanity that
had carried her triumphantly through her good works at the North End.
"Oh, I'm not in the Yard," said Jeff, with belated intelligence.
"Then will just Cambridge reach you?"
He gave his number and street, and she thanked him with the
benevolence that availed so much with the lower classes. He went away
thrilling and tingling, with that girl's tones in his ear, her motions
in his nerves, and the colors of her face filling his sight, which he
printed on the air whenever he turned, as one does with a vivid light
after looking at it.
When Jeff reached his room he felt the need of writing to Cynthia,
with whatever obscure intention of atonement. He told her of the
college tea he had just come from, and made fun of it, and the kind of
people he had met, especially the affected girl who had tried to
rattle him; he said he guessed she did not think she had rattled him a
While he wrote he kept thinking how this Miss Lynde was nearer his
early ideal of fashion, of high life, which Westover had pretty well
snubbed out of him, than any woman he had seen yet; she seemed a girl
who would do what she pleased, and would not be afraid if it did not
please other people. He liked her having tried to rattle him, and he
smiled to himself in recalling her failure. It was as if she had laid
hold of him with her little hands to shake him, and had shaken
herself. He laughed out in the dark when this image came into his
mind; its intimacy flattered him; and he believed that it was upon
some hint from her that Mrs. Bevidge had asked his address. She must
be going to ask him to her house, and very soon, for it was part of
Jeff's meagre social experience that this was the way swells did; they
might never ask you twice, but they would ask you promptly.
The thing that Mrs. Bevidge asked Jeff to, when her note reached
him the second day after the tea, was a meeting to interest young
people in the work at the North End, and Jeff swore under his breath
at the disappointment and indignity put upon him. He had reckoned
upon an afternoon tea, at least, or even, in the flights of fancy
which he now disowned to himself, a dance after the Mid-Years, or
possibly an earlier reception of some sort. He burned with shame to
think of a theatre- party, which he had fondly specialized, with a
seat next Miss Lynde.
He tore Mrs. Bevidge's note to pieces, and decided not to answer it
at all, as the best way of showing how he had taken her invitation.
But Mrs. Bevidge's benevolence was not wanting in courage; she
believed that Jeff should pay his footing in society, such as it was,
and should allow himself to be made use of, the first thing; when she
had no reply from him, she wrote him again, asking him to an adjourned
meeting of the first convocation, which had been so successful in
everything but numbers. This time she baited her hook, in hoping that
the young men would feel something of the interest the young ladies
had already shown in the matter. She expressed the fear that Mr.
Durgin had not got her earlier letter, and she sent this second to the
care of the man who had given the tea.
Jeff's resentment was now so far past that he would have civilly
declined to go to the woman's house; but all his hopes of seeing that
girl, as he always called Miss Lynde in his thought, were revived by
the mention of the young ladies interested in the cause. He accepted,
though all the way into Boston he laid wagers with himself that she
would not be there; and up to the moment of taking her hand he refused
himself any hope of winning.
There was not much business before the meeting; that had really
been all transacted before; it was mainly to make sure of the young
men, who were present in the proportion of one to five young ladies at
least. Mrs. Bevidge explained that she had seen the wastefulness of
amateur effort among the poor, and announced that hereafter she was
going to work with the established charities. These were very much in
want of visitors, especially young men, to go about among the
applicants for relief, and inquire into their real necessities, and
get work for them. She was hers self going to act as secretary for
the meetings during the coming month, and apparently she wished to
signalize her accession to the regular forces of charity by bringing
into camp as large a body of recruits as she could.
But Jeff had not come to be made use of, or as a jay who was
willing to work for his footing in society. He had come in the hope
of meeting Miss Lynde, and now that he had met her he had no gratitude
to Mrs. Bevidge as a means, and no regret for the defeat of her good
purposes so far as she intended their fulfilment in him. He was so
cool and self-possessed in excusing himself, for reasons that he took
no pains to make seem unselfish, that the altruistic man who had got
him asked to the college tea as a friendless jay felt it laid upon him
to apologize for Mrs. Bevidge's want of tact.
"She means well, and she's very much in earnest, in this work; but
I must say she can make herself very offensive--when she doesn't try!
She has a right to ask our help, but not to parade us as the captives
of her bow and spear."
"Oh, that's all right," said Jeff. He perceived that the amiable
fellow was claiming for all an effect that Jeff knew really implicated
himself alone. "I couldn't load up with anything of that sort, if I'm
to work off my conditions, you know."
"Are you in that boat?" said the altruist, as if he were, too; and
he put his hand compassionately on Jeff's iron shoulder, and left him
to Miss Lynde, whose side he had not stirred from since he had found
"It seems to me," she said, "that where there are so many of you in
the same boat, you might manage to get ashore somehow."
"Yes, or all go down together." Jeff laughed, and ate Mrs.
Bevidge's bread-and-butter, and drank her tea, with a relish
unaffected by his refusal to do what she asked him. He was right,
perhaps, and perhaps she deserved nothing better at his hands, but the
altruist, when he glanced at him from the other side of the room,
thought that he had possibly wasted his excuses upon Jeff's
He went away in a halo of young ladies; several of the other girls
grouped themselves in their departure; and it happened that Miss Lynde
and Jeff took leave together. Mrs. Bevidge said to her, with the
caressing tenderness of one in the same set, "Good-bye, dear!" To
Jeff she said, with the cold conscience of those whom their nobility
obliges, "I am always at home on Thursdays, Mr. Durgin."
"Oh, thank you," said Jeff. He understood what the words and the
manner meant together, but both were instantly indifferent to him when
he got outside and found that Miss Lynde was not driving. Something,
which was neither look, nor smile, nor word, of course, but nothing
more at most than a certain pull and tilt of the shoulder, as she
turned to walk away from Mrs. Bevidge's door, told him from her that
he might walk home with her if he would not seem to do so.
It was one of the pink evenings, dry and clear, that come in the
Boston December, and they walked down the sidehill street, under the
delicate tracery of the elm boughs in the face of the metallic sunset.
In the section of the Charles that the perspective of the street
blocked out, the wrinkled current showed as if glazed with the hard
color. Jeff's strong frame rejoiced in the cold with a hale pleasure
when he looked round into the face of the girl beside him, with the
gray film of her veil pressed softly against her red mouth by her
swift advance. Their faces were nearly on a level, as they looked
into each other's eyes, and he kept seeing the play of the veil's edge
against her lips as they talked.
"Why sha'n't you go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays?" she asked.
"They're very nice."
How do you know I'm not going?" he retorted.
"By the way you thanked her."
"Do you advise me to go?"
"I haven't got anything to do with it. What do mean by that?"
"I don't know. Curiosity, I suppose."
"Well, I do advise you to go," said the girl. Shall you be there
"I? I never go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays!"
"Touche," said Jeff, and they both laughed. "Can you always get in
at an enemy that way?"
"Well, friend. It's the same thing."
"I see," said the girl. "You belong to the pessimistic school of
"Why don't you try to make an optimist of me?"
"Would it be worth while?"
"That isn't for me to say."
"Don't be diffident! That's staler yet."
"I'll be anything you like."
"I'm not sure you could." For an instant Jeff did not feel the
point, and he had not the magnanimity, when he did, to own himself
touched again. Apparently, if this girl could not rattle him, she
could beat him at fence, and the will to dominate her began to stir in
him. If he could have thought of any sarcasm, no matter how crushing,
he would have come back at her with it. He could not think of
anything, and he walked at her side, inwardly chafing for the chance
which would not come.
"When they reached her door there was a young man at the lock with
a latch-key, which he was not making work, for, after a bated
blasphemy of his failure, he turned and twitched the bell impatiently.
Miss Lynde laughed provokingly, and he looked over his shoulder at
her and at Jeff, who felt his injury increased by the disadvantage
this young man put him at. Jeff was as correctly dressed; he wore a
silk hat of the last shape, and a long frock-coat; he was properly
gloved and shod; his clothes fitted him, and were from the best
tailor; but at sight of this young man in clothes of the same design
he felt ill-dressed. He was in like sort aware of being rudely
blocked out physically, and coarsely colored as to his blond tints of
hair and eye and cheek. Even the sinister something in the young
man's look had distinction, and there was style in the signs of
dissipation in his handsome face which Jeff saw with a hunger to outdo
Miss Lynde said to Jeff, "My brother, Mr. Durgin," and then she
added to the other, "You ought to ring first, Arthur, and try your key
"The key's all right," said the young man, without paying any
attention to Jeff beyond a glance of recognition; he turned his back,
and waited for the door to be opened.
His sister suggested, with an amiability which Jeff felt was meant
in reparation to him, " Perhaps a night latch never works before
dark--or very well before midnight." The door was opened, and she
said to Jeff, with winning entreaty, "Won't you come in, Mr. Durgin?"
Jeff excused himself, for he perceived that her politeness was not
so much an invitation to him as a defiance to her brother; he gave her
credit for no more than it was worth, and he did not wish any the less
to get even with her because of it.
At dinner, in the absence of the butler, Alan Lynde attacked his
sister across the table for letting herself be seen with a jay, who
was not only a jay, but a cad, and personally so offensive to most of
the college men that he had never got into a decent club or society;
he had been suspended the first year, and if he had not had the
densest kind of cheek he would never have come back. Lynde said he
would like to know where she had picked the fellow up.
She answered that she had picked him up, if that was the phrase he
liked, at Mrs. Bevidge's; and then Alan swore a little, so as not to
be heard by their aunt, who sat at the head of the table, and looked
down its length between them, serenely ignorant, in her slight
deafness, of what was going on between them. To her perception Alan
was no more vehement than usual, and Bessie no more smilingly
self-contained. He said he supposed that it was some more of
Lancaster's damned missionary work, then, and he wondered that a
gentleman like Morland had ever let Lancaster work such a jay in on
him; he had seen her 'afficher' herself with the fellow at Morland's
tea; he commanded her to stop it; and he professed to speak for her
Bessie returned that she knew how strongly he felt from the way he
had misbehaved when she introduced him to Mr. Durgin, but that she
supposed he had been at the club and his nerves were unstrung. Was
that the reason, perhaps, why he could not make his latchkey work?
Mr. Durgin might be a cad, and she would not say he was not a jay,
but so far he had not sworn at her; and, if he had been suspended and
come back, there were some people who had not been suspended or come
back, either, though that might have been for want of cheek.
She ended by declaring she was used to going into society without
her brother's protection, or even his company, and she would do her
best to get on without his advice. Or was it his conduct he wished
her to profit by?
It had come to the fish going out by this time, and Alan, who had
eaten with no appetite, and drunken feverishly of apollinaris, flung
down his napkin and went out, too.
"What is the matter?" asked his aunt, looking after him.
Bessie shrugged, but she said, presently, with her lips more than
her voice: "I don't think he feels very well."
"Do you think he--"
The girl frowned assent, and the meal went on to its end. Then she
and her aunt went into the large, dull library, where they passed the
evenings which Bessie did not spend in some social function. These
evenings were growing rather more frequent, with her advancing years,
for she was now nearly twenty-five, and there were few Seniors so old.
She was not the kind of girl to renew her youth with the Sophomores
and Freshmen in the classes succeeding the class with which she had
danced through college; so far as she had kept up the old relation
with students, she continued it with the men who had gone into the
law-school. But she saw less and less of these without seeing more of
other men, and perhaps in the last analysis she was not a favorite.
She was allowed to be fascinating, but she was not felt to be
flattering, and people would rather be flattered than fascinated. In
fact, the men were mostly afraid of her; and it has been observed of
girls of this kind that the men who are not afraid of them are such as
they would do well to be afraid of. Whether that was quite the case
with Bessie Lynde or not, it was certain that she who was always the
cleverest girl in the room, and if not the prettiest, then the most
effective, had not the best men about her. Her men were apt to be
those whom the other girls called stupid or horrid, and whom it would
not be easy, though it might be more just, to classify otherwise. The
other girls wondered what she could see in them; but perhaps it was
not necessary that she should see anything in them, if they could see
all she wished them to see, and no more, in her.
The room where tea was now brought and put before her was volumed
round by the collections of her grandfather, except for the spaces
filled by his portrait and that of earlier ancestors, going back to
the time when Copley made masterpieces of his fellow-Bostonians. Her
aunt herself looked a family portrait of the middle period, a little
anterior to her father's, but subsequent to her great-grandfather's.
She had a comely face, with large, smooth cheeks and prominent eyes;
the edges of her decorous brown wig were combed rather near their
corners, and a fitting cap palliated but did not deny the wig. She
had the quiet but rather dull look of people slightly deaf, and she
had perhaps been stupefied by a life of unalloyed prosperity and
propriety. She had grown an old maid naturally, but not
involuntarily, and she was without the sadness or the harshness of
disappointment. She had never known much of the world, though she had
always lived in it. She knew that it was made up of two kinds of
people--people who were like her and people who were not like her; and
she had lived solely in the society of people who were like her, and
in the shelter of their opinions and ideals. She did not contemn or
exclude the people who were unlike her, but she had never had any more
contact with them than she now had with the weather of the streets, as
she sat, filling her large arm-chair full of her ladylike correctness,
in the library of the handsome house her father had left her. The
irruption of her brother's son and daughter into its cloistered quiet
had scarcely broken its invulnerable order. It was right and fit they
should be there after his death, and it was not strange that in the
course of time they should both show certain unregulated tendencies
which, since they were not known to be Lynde tendencies, must have
been derived from the Southwestern woman her brother had married
during his social and financial periclitations in a region wholly
inconceivable to her. Their mother was dead, too, and their aunt's
life closed about them with full acceptance, if not complacence, as
part of her world. They had grown to manhood and womanhood without
materially discomposing her faith in the old-fashioned Unitarian
deity, whose service she had always attended.
When Alan left college in his Freshman year, and did not go back,
but went rather to Europe and Egypt and Japan, it appeared to her
myopic optimism that his escapades had been pretty well hushed up by
time and distance. After he came home and devoted himself to his
club, she could have wished that he had taken up some profession or
business; but since there was money enough, she waited in no great
disquiet until he showed as decided a taste for something else as he
seemed for the present to have only for horses. In the mean while,
from time to time, it came to her doctor's advising his going to a
certain retreat. But he came out the first time so much better and
remained well so long that his aunt felt a kind of security in his
going again and again, whenever he became at all worse. He always
came back better. As she took the cup of tea that Bessie poured out
for her, she recurred to the question that she had partly asked
"Do you think Alan is getting worse again?"
"Not so very much," said the girl, candidly. "He's been at the
club, I suppose, but he left the table partly because I vexed him."
"Because you what?"
"Because I vexed him. He was scolding me, and I wouldn't stand
Her aunt tasted her tea, and found it so quite what she liked that
she said, from a natural satisfaction with Bessie, "I don't see what
he had to scold you about."
"Well," returned Bessie, and she got her pretty voice to the level
of her aunt's hearing, with some straining, and kept it there, "when
he is in that state, he has to scold some one; and I had been rather
annoying, I suppose."
"What had you been doing?" asked her aunt, making out her words
more from the sight than from the sound, after all.
"I had been walking home with a jay, and we found Alan trying to
get in at the front door with his key, and I introduced him to the
Miss Louisa Lynde had heard the word so often from her niece and
nephew, that she imagined herself in full possession of its meaning.
She asked: "Where had you met him?"
"I met him first," said the girl, "at Willie Morland's tea, last
week, and to-day I found him at Mrs. Bevidge's altruistic toot."
"I didn't know," said her aunt, after a momentary attention to her
tea, "that jays were interested in that sort of thing."
The girl laughed. "I believe they're not. It hasn't quite reached
them, yet; and I don't think it will ever reach my jay. Mrs. Bevidge
tried to work him into the cause, but he refused so promptly, and so-
intelligently, don't you know--and so almost brutally, that poor
Freddy Lancaster had to come and apologize to him for her want of
tact." Bessie enjoyed the fact, which she had colored a little, in
another laugh, but she had apparently not possessed her aunt of the
humor of it. She remained seriously-attentive, and the girl went on:
"He was not the least abashed at having refused; he stayed till the
last, and as we came out together and he was going my way, I let him
walk home with me. He's a jay, but he isn't a common jay." Bessie
leaned forward and tried to implant some notion of Jeff's character
and personality in her aunt's mind.
Miss Lynde listened attentively enough, but she merely asked, when
all was said: "And why was Alan vexed with you about him?"
"Well," said the girl, falling back into her chair, "generally
because this man's a jay, and particularly because he's been rather a
baddish jay, I believe. He was suspended in his first year for
something or other, and you know poor Alan's very particular! But
Molly Enderby says Freddy Lancaster gives him the best of characters
now." Bessie pulled down her mouth, with an effect befitting the
notion of repentance and atonement. Then she flashed out: "Perhaps he
had been drinking when he got into trouble. Alan could never forgive
him for that."
"I think," said her aunt, "it is to your brother's credit that he
is anxious about your associations."
"Oh, very much!" shouted Bessie, with a burst of laughter. " And
as he isn't practically so, I ought to have been more patient with his
theory. But when he began to scold me I lost my temper, and I gave him
a few wholesome truths in the guise of taunts. That was what made him
go away, I suppose."
"But I don't really see," her aunt pursued,--"what occasion he had
to be angry with you in this instance."
"Oh, I do!" said Bessie. "Mr. Durgin isn't one to inspire the
casual beholder with the notion of his spiritual distinction. His
face is so rude and strong, and he has such a primitive effect in his
clothes, that you feel as if you were coming down the street with a
prehistoric man that the barbers and tailors had put a 'fin de siecle'
surface on." At the mystification which appeared in her aunt's face
the girl laughed again. "I should have been quite as anxious, if I
had been in Alan's place, and I shall tell him so, sometime. If I had
not been so interested in the situation I don't believe I could have
kept my courage. Whenever I looked round, and found that prehistoric
man at my elbow, it gave me the creeps, a little, as if he were really
carrying me off to his cave. I shall try to express that to Alan."
The ladies finished their tea, and the butler came and took the
cups away. Miss Lynde remained silent in her chair at her end of the
library- table, and by-and-by Bessie got a book and began to read.
When her aunt woke up it was half past nine. "Was that Alan coming
in?" she asked.
"I don't think he's been out," said the girl. "It isn't late
enough for him to come in--or early enough."
"I believe I'll go to bed," Miss Lynde returned. "I feel rather
Bessie did not smile at a comedy which was apt to be repeated every
evening that she and her aunt spent at home together; they parted for
the night with the decencies of family affection, and Bessie delivered
the elder lady over to her maid. Then the girl sank down again, and
lay musing in her deep chair before the fire with her book shut on her
thumb. She looked rather old and worn in her reverie; her face lost
the air of gay banter which, after the beauty of her queer eyes and
her vivid mouth, was its charm. The eyes were rather dull now, and
the mouth was a little withered.
She was waiting for her brother to come down, as he was apt to do
if he was in the house, after their aunt went to bed, to smoke a cigar
in the library. He was in his house shoes when he shuffled into the
room, but her ear had detected his presence before a hiccough
announced it. She did not look up, but let him make several failures
to light his cigar, and damn the matches under his breath, before she
pushed the drop-light to him in silent suggestion. As he leaned over
her chair-back to reach its chimney with his cigar in his mouth, she
said, "You're all right, Alan."
He waited till he got round to his aunt's easy-chair and dropped
into it before he answered, "So are you, Bess."
"I'm not so sure of that," said the girl, " as I should be if you
were still scolding me. I knew that he was a jay, well enough, and
I'd just seen him behaving very like a cad to Mrs. Bevidge."
"Then I don't understand how you came to be with him."
"Oh yes, you do, Alan. You mustn't be logical! You might as well
say you can't understand how you came to be more serious than sober."
The brother laughed helplessly. "It was the excitement."
"But you can't give way to that sort of thing, Bess," said her
brother, with the gravity of a man feeling the consequences of his own
"I know I can't, but I do," she returned. "I know it's bad for me,
if it isn't for other people. Come! I'll swear off if you will!"
"I'm always ready, to swear off," said the young man, gloomily. He
added, "But you've got brains, Bess, and I hate to see you playing the
"Do you really, Alan?" asked the girl, pleased perhaps as much by
his reproach as by his praise. "Do you think I've got brains?"
"You're the only girl that has."
"Oh, I didn't mean to ask so much as that! But what's the reason I
can't do anything with them? Other girls draw, and play, and write.
I don't do anything but go in for the excitement that's bad for me.
I wish you'd explain it."
Alan Lynde did not try. The question seemed to turn his thoughts
back upon himself to dispiriting effect. "I've got brains, too, I
believe," he began.
"Lots of them!" cried his sister, generously. "There isn't any of
the men to compare with you. If I had you to talk with all the time,
I shouldn't want jays. I don't mean to flatter. You're a constant
feast of reason; I don't care for flows of soul. You always take
right views of things when you're yourself, and even when you're
somebody else you're not stupid. You could be anything you chose."
"The devil of it is I can't choose," he replied.
"Yes, I suppose that's the devil of it," said the girl.
"You oughtn't to use such language as that, Bess," said her
"Oh, I don't with everybody," she returned. "Never with ladies!"
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye with a smile at once
rueful and comic.
"You got me, I guess, that time," he owned.
"'Touche',' Mr. Durgin says. He fences, it seems, and he speaks
French. It was like an animal speaking French; you always expect them
to speak English. But I don't mind your swearing before me; I know
that it helps to carry off the electricity." She laughed, and made
him laugh with her.
"Is there anything to him?" he growled, when they stopped laughing.
"Yes, a good deal," said Bessie, with an air of thoughtfulness; and
then she went on to tell all that Jeff had told her of himself, and
she described his aplomb in dealing with the benevolent Bevidge, as
she called her, and sketched his character, as it seemed to her. The
sketch was full of shrewd guesses, and she made it amusing to her
brother, who from the vantage of his own baddishness no doubt judged
the original more intelligently.
"Well, you'd better let him alone, after this," he said, at the
"Yes," she pensively assented. "I suppose it's as if you took to
some very common kind of whiskey, isn't it? I see what you mean. If
one must, it ought to be champagne."
She turned upon him a look of that keen but limited knowledge which
renders women's conjectures of evil always so amusing, or so pathetic,
"Better let the champagne alone, too," said her brother, darkly.
"Yes, I know that," she admitted, and she lay back in her chair,
looking dreamily into the fire. After a while she asked, abruptly:
"Will you give it up if I will?"
"I am afraid I couldn't."
"You could try."
"Oh, I'm used to that."
"Then it's a bargain," she said. She jumped from her chair and
went over to him, and smoothed his hair over his forehead and kissed
the place she had smoothed, though it was unpleasantly damp to her
lips. "Poor boy, poor boy! Now, remember! No more jays for me, and
no more jags for you. Goodnight."
Her brother broke into a wild laugh at her slanging, which had such
a bizarre effect in relation to her physical delicacy.
Jeff did not know whether Miss Bessie Lynde meant to go to Mrs.
Bevidge's Thursdays or not. He thought she might have been bantering
him by what she said, and he decided that he would risk going to the
first of them on the chance of meeting her. She was not there, and
there was no one there whom he knew. Mrs. Bevidge made no effort to
enlarge his acquaintance, and after he had drunk a cup of her tea he
went away with rage against society in his heart, which he promised
himself to vent at the first chance of refusing its favors. But the
chance seemed not to come. The world which had opened its gates to
him was fast shut again, and he had to make what he could of
renouncing it. He worked pretty hard, and he renewed himself in his
fealty to Cynthia, while his mind strayed curiously to that other
girl. But he had almost abandoned the hope of meeting her again, when
a large party was given on the eve of the Harvard Mid-Year
Examinations, which end the younger gayeties of Boston, for a
fortnight at least, in January. The party was so large that the
invitations overflowed the strict bounds of society at some points.
In the case of Jeff Durgin the excess was intentional beyond the
vague benevolence which prompted the giver of the party to ask certain
other outsiders. She was a lady of a soul several sizes larger than
the souls of some other society leaders; she was not afraid to do as
she liked; for instance, she had not only met the Vostrands at
Westover's tea, several years before, but she had afterward offered
some hospitalities to those ladies which had discharged her whole duty
toward them without involving her in any disadvantages. Jeff had been
presented to her at Westover's, but she disliked him so promptly and
decidedly that she had left him out of even the things that she asked
some other jays to, like lectures and parlor readings for good
objects. It was not until one of her daughters met him, first at
Willie Morland's tea and then at Mrs. Bevidge's meeting, that her
social conscience concerned itself with him. At the first her
daughter had not spoken to him, as might very well have happened,
since Bessie Lynde had kept him away with her nearly all the time; but
at the last she had bowed pleasantly to him across the room, and Jeff
had responded with a stiff obeisance, whose coldness she felt the more
for having been somewhat softened herself in Mrs. Bevidge's altruistic
"I think he was hurt, mamma," the girl explained to her mother,
"that you've never had him to anything. I suppose they must feel it."
"Oh, well, send him a card, then," said her mother; and when Jeff
got the card, rather near the eleventh hour, he made haste to accept,
not because he cared to go to Mrs. Enderby's house, but because he
hoped he should meet Miss Lynde there.
Bessie was the first person he met after he turned from paying his
duty to the hostess. She was with her aunt, and she presented him,
and promised him a dance, which she let him write on her card. She
sat out another dance with him, and he took her to supper.
To Westover, who had gone with the increasing forlornness a man
feels in such pleasures after thirty-five, it seemed as if the two
were in each other's company the whole evening. The impression was so
strong with him that when Jeff restored Bessie to her aunt for the
dance that was to be for some one else, and came back to the
supper-room, the painter tried to satisfy a certain uneasiness by
making talk with him. But Jeff would not talk; he got away with a
bottle of champagne, which he had captured, and a plate heaped with
croquettes and pease, and galantine and salad. There were no ladies
left in the room by that time, and few young men; but the oldsters
crowded the place, with their bald heads devoutly bowed over their
victual, or their frosty mustaches bathed in their drink, singly or in
groups; the noise of their talk and laughter mixed with the sound of
their eating and drinking, and the clash of the knives and dishes.
Over their stooped shoulders and past their rounded stomachs Westover
saw Alan Lynde vaguely making his way with a glass in his hand, and
looking vaguely about for wine; he saw Jeff catch his wandering eye,
and make offer of his bottle, and then saw Lynde, after a moment of
haughty pause, unbend and accept it. His thin face was flushed, and
his hair tossed over his forehead, but Jeff seemed not to take note of
that. He laughed boisterously at something Lynde said, and kept
filling his glass for him. His own color remained clear and cool. It
was as if his powerful physique absorbed the wine before it could
reach his brain.
Westover wanted to interfere, and so far as Jeff was concerned he
would not have hesitated; but Lynde was concerned, too, and you cannot
save such a man from himself without offence. He made his way to the
young man, hoping he might somehow have the courage he wanted.
Jeff held up the bottle, and called to him, "Get yourself a glass,
Mr. Westover." He put on the air of a host, and would hardly be
denied. "Know Mr. Westover, Mr. Lynde? Just talking about you," he
explained to Westover.
Alan had to look twice at the painter. "Oh yes. Mr. Durgin,
here-- telling me about his place in the mountains. Says you've been
there. Going--going myself in the summer. See his--horses." He made
pauses between his words as some people do when they, try to keep from
Westover believed Lynde understood Jeff to be a country gentleman
of sporting tastes, and he would not let that pass. "Yes, it's the
pleasantest little hotel in the mountains."
"Strictly-temperance, I suppose?" said Alan, trying to smile with
lips that obeyed him stiffly. He appeared not to care who or what
Jeff was; the champagne had washed away all difference between them.
He went on to say that he had heard of Jeff's intention of running
the hotel himself when he got out of Harvard. He held it to be damned
Jeff laughed. "Your sister wouldn't believe me when I told her."
"I think I didn't mention Miss Lynde," said Alan, haughtily.
Jeff filled his glass; Alan looked at it, faltered, and then drank
it off. The talk began again between the young men, but it left
Westover out, and he had to go away. Whether Jeff was getting Lynde
beyond himself from the love of mischief, such as had prompted him to
tease little children in his boyhood, or was trying to ingratiate
himself with the young fellow through his weakness, or doing him harm
out of mere thoughtlessness, Westover came away very unhappy at what
he had seen. His unhappiness connected itself so distinctly with
Lynde's family that he went and sat down beside Miss Lynde from an
obscure impulse of compassion, and tried to talk with her. It would
not have been so hard if she were merely deaf, for she had the skill
of deaf people in arranging the conversation so that a nodded yes or
no would be all that was needed to carry it forward. But to Westover
she was terribly dull, and he was gasping, as in an exhausted
receiver, when Bessie came up with a smile of radiant recognition for
his extremity. She got rid of her partner, and devoted herself at
once to Westover. "How good of you!" she said, without giving him the
pain of an awkward disclaimer.
He could counter in equal sincerity and ambiguity, "How beautiful
"Yes," she said, " I am looking rather well, tonight; but don't you
think effective would have been a better word?" She smiled across her
aunt at him out of a cloud of pink, from which her thin shoulders and
slender neck emerged, and her arms, gloved to the top, fell into her
lap; one of them seemed to terminate naturally in the fan which
sensitively shared the inquiescence of her person.
"I will say effective, too, if you insist," said Westover. "But at
the same time you're the most beautiful person here."
"How lovely of you, even if you don't mean it," she sighed. "If
girls could have more of those things said to them, they would be
better, don't you think? Or at least feel better."
Westover laughed. "We might organize a society--they have them for
nearly everything now--for saying pleasant things to young ladies with
a view to the moral effect."
"Oh, do I"
"But it ought to be done conscientiously, and you couldn't go round
telling every one that she was the most beautiful girl in the room."
"Why not? She'd believe it!"
"Yes; but the effect on the members of the society?"
"Oh yes; that! But you could vary it so as to save your
conscience. You could say, 'How divinely you're looking!' or 'How
angelic!' or 'You're the very poetry of motion,' or 'You are grace
itself,' or 'Your gown is a perfect dream, or any little commonplace,
and every one would take it for praise of her personal appearance, and
feel herself a great beauty, just as I do now, though I know very well
that I'm all out of drawing, and just chicqued together."
"I couldn't allow any one but you to say that, Miss Bessie; and I
only let it pass because you say it so well."
"Yes; you're always so good! You wouldn't contradict me even when
you turned me out of your class."
"Did I turn you out of my class?"
"Not just in so many words, but when I said I couldn't do anything
in art, you didn't insist that it was because I wouldn't, and of
course then I had to go. I've never forgiven you, Mr. Westover,
never! Do keep on talking very excitedly; there's a man coming up to
us that I don't want to think I see him, or he'll stop. There! He's
veered off! Where were you, Mr. Westover?"
"Ah, Miss Bessie," said the painter; delighted at her drama, "there
isn't anything you couldn't do if you would."
"You mean parlor entertainments; impersonations; impressions; that
sort of thing? I have thought of it. But it would be too easy. I
want to try something difficult."
"Well, being very, very good. I want something that would really
tax my powers. I should like to be an example. I tried it the other
night just before I went to sleep, and it was fine. I became an
example to others. But when I woke up--I went on in the old way. I
want something hard, don't you know; but I want it to be easy!"
She laughed, and Westover said: "I am glad you're not serious. No
one ought to be an example to others. To be exemplary is as dangerous
as to be complimentary.
"It certainly isn't so agreeable to the object," said the girl.
"But it's fine for the subject as long as it lasts. How metaphysical
we're getting! The objective and the subjective. It's quite what I
should expect of talk at a Boston dance if I were a New-Yorker. Have
you seen anything of my brother, within the last hour or so, Mr.
"Yes; I just left him in the supper-room. Shall I go get him for
you?" When he had said this, with the notion of rescuing him from
Jeff, Westover was sorry, for he doubted if Alan Lynde were any longer
in the state to be brought away from the supper-room, and he was glad
to have Bessie say:
"No, no. He'll look us up in the course of the evening--or the
morning." A young fellow came to claim her for a dance, and Westover
had not the face to leave Miss Lynde, all the less because she told
him he must not think of staying. He stayed till the dance was over,
and Bessie came back to him.
"What time is it, Mr. Westover? I see my aunt beginning to nod on
Westover looked at his watch. " It's ten minutes past two."
"How early!" sighed the girl. "I'm tired of it, aren't you?"
"Very," said Westover. "I was tired an hour ago."
Bessie sank back in her chair with an air of nervous collapse, and
did not say anything. Westover saw her watching the young couples who
passed in and out of the room where the dancing was, or found corners
on sofas, or window-seats, or sheltered spaces beside the doors and
the chimney- piece, the girls panting and the men leaning forward to
fan them. She looked very tired of it; and when a young fellow came
up and asked her to dance, she told him that she was provisionally
engaged. "Come back and get me, if you can't do better," she said,
and he answered there was no use trying to do better, and said he
would wait till the other man turned up, or didn't, if she would let
him. He sat down beside her, and some young talk began between them.
In the midst of it Jeff appeared. He looked at Westover first, and
then approached with an embarrassed face.
Bessie got vividly to her feet. "No apologies, Mr. Durgin, please!
But in just another moment you'd have last your dance."
Westover saw what he believed a change pass in Jeff's look from
embarrassment to surprise and then to flattered intelligence. He
beamed all over; and he went away with Bessie toward the ballroom, and
left Westover to a wholly unsupported belief that she had not been
engaged to dance with Jeff. He wondered what her reckless meaning
could be, but he had always thought her a young lady singularly fitted
by nature and art to take care of herself, and when he reasoned upon
what was in his mind he had to own that there was no harm in Jeff's
dancing with her.
He took leave of Miss Lynde, and was going to get his coat and hat
for his walk home when he was mysteriously stopped in a corner of the
stairs by one of the caterer's men whom he knew. It is so unnatural
to be addressed by a servant at all unless he asks you if you will
have something to eat or drink, that Westover was in a manner prepared
to have him say something startling. "It's about young Mr. Lynde,
sor. We've got um in one of the rooms up-stairs, but he ain't fit to
go home alone, and I've been lookin' for somebody that knows the
family to help get um into a car'ge. He won't go for anny of us,
"Where is he?" asked Westover, in anguish at being unable to refuse
the appeal, but loathing the office put upon him.
"I'll show you, sor," said the caterer's man, and he sprang up the
stairs before Westover, with glad alacrity.
In a little room at the side of that where the men's hats and coats
were checked, Alan Lynde sat drooping forward in an arm-chair, with
his head fallen on his breast. He roused himself at the flash of the
burner which the man turned up. "What's all this?" he demanded,
haughtily. "Where's the carriage? What's the matter?"
"Your carriage is waiting, Lynde," said Westover. "I'll see you
down to it," and he murmured, hopelessly, to the caterer's man: "Is
there any back way?"
"There's the wan we got um up by."
"It will do," said Westover, as simply.
But Lynde called out, defiantly: "Back way; I sha'n't go down back
way. Inshult to guest. I wish--say--good-night to--Mrs. Enderby. Who
you, anyway? Damn caterer's man?"
"I'm Westover, Lynde," the painter began, but the young fellow
broke in upon him, shaking his hand and then taking his arm.
"Oh, Westover! All right! I'll go down back way with you.
Thought-- thought it was damn caterer's man. No--offence."
"No. It's all right. "Westover got his arm under Lynde's elbow,
and, with the man going before for them to fall upon jointly in case
they should stumble, he got him down the dark and twisting stairs and
through the basement hall, which was vaguely haunted by the
dispossessed women servants of the family, and so out upon the
pavement of the moonlighted streets.
"Call Miss Lynde's car'ge," shouted the caterer's man to the
barker, and escaped back into the basement, leaving Westover to stay
his helpless charge on the sidewalk.
It seemed a publication of the wretch's shame when the barker began
to fill the night with hoarse cries of, "Miss Lynde's carriage;
carriage for Miss Lynde!" The cries were taken up by a coachman here
and there in the rank of vehicles whose varnished roofs shone in the
moon up and down the street. After a time that Westover of course
felt to be longer than it was, Miss Lynde's old coachman was roused
from his sleep on the box and started out of the rank. He took in the
situation with the eye of custom, when he saw Alan supported on the
sidewalk by a stranger at the end of the canopy covering the pavement.
He said, "Oh, ahl right, sor!" and when the two white-gloved
policemen from either side of it helped Westover into the carriage
with Lynde, he set off at a quick trot. The policemen clapped their
hands together, and smiled across the strip of carpet that separated
them, and winks and nods of intelligence passed among the barkers to
the footmen about the curb and steps. There were none of them sorry
to see a gentleman in that state; some of them had perhaps seen Alan
in that state before.
Half-way home he roused himself and put his hand on the
carriage-door latch. "Tell the coachman drive us to--the--club. Make
night of it."
"No, no," said Westover, trying to restrain him. "We'd better go
right on to your house."
"Who--who--who are you?" demanded Alan.
"Oh yes--Westover. Thought we left Westover at Mrs. Enderby's.
Thought it was that jay--What's his name? Durgin. He's awful jay,
but civil to me, and I want be civil to him. You're not--jay? No?
That's right. Fellow made me sick; but I took his champagne; and I
must show him some --attention." He released the door-handle, and
fell back against the cushioned carriage wall. "He's a blackguard!"
he said, sourly. "Not-- simple jay-blackguard, too. No--no--business
bring in my sister's name, hey? You--you say it's--Westover? Oh yes,
Westover. Old friend of family. Tell you good joke, Westover--my
sister's. No more jays for me, no more jags for you. That's what she
say--just between her and me, you know; she's a lady, Bess is; knows
when to use--slang. Mark--mark of a lady know when to use slang.
Pretty good--jays and jags. Guess we didn't count this time--either
When the carriage pulled up before Miss Lynde's house, Westover
opened the door. "You're at home, now, Lynde. Come, let's get out."
Lynde did not stir. He asked Westover again who he was, and when
he had made sure of him, he said, with dignity, Very well; now they
must get the other fellow. Westover entreated; he even reasoned;
Lynde lay back in the corner of the carriage, and seemed asleep.
Westover thought of pulling him up and getting him indoors by main
force. He appealed to the coachman to know if they could not do it
"Why, you see, I couldn't leave me harsses, sor," said the
coachman. "What's he wants, sor?" He bent urbanely down from his box
and listened to the explanation that Westover made him, standing in
the cold on the curbstone, with one hand on the carriage door. "Then
it's no use, sor," the man decided. "Whig" he's that way, ahl hell
couldn't stir um. Best go back, sor, and try to find the gentleman."
This was in the end what Westover had to do, feeling all the time
that a thing so frantically absurd could not be a waking act, but
helpless to escape from its performance. He thought of abandoning his
charge and leaving him, to his fate when he opened the carriage door
before Mrs. Enderby's house; but with the next thought he perceived
that this was on all accounts impossible. He went in, and began his
quest for Jeff, sending various serving" men about with vague
descriptions of him, and asking for him of departing guests, mostly
young men he did not know, but who, he thought, might know Jeff.
He had to take off his overcoat at last, and reappear at the ball.
The crowd was still great, but visibly less dense than it had been.
By a sudden inspiration he made his way to the supper-room, and he
found Jeff there, filling a plate, as if he were about to carry it off
somewhere. He commanded Jeff's instant presence in the carriage
outside; he told him of Alan's desire for him.
Jeff leaned back against the wall with the plate in his hand and
laughed till it half slipped from his hold. When he could get his
breath, he said: "I'll be back in a few minutes; I've got to take this
to Miss Bessie Lynde. But I'll be right back."
Westover hardly believed him. But when he got on his own things
again, Jeff joined him in his hat and overcoat, and they went out
It was another carriage that stopped the way now, and once more the
barker made the night ring with what Westover felt his heartless and
shameless cries for Miss Lynde's carriage. After a maddening delay,
it lagged up to the curb and Jeff pulled the door open.
"Hello!" he said. "There's nobody here!"
"Nobody there?" cried Westover, and they fell upon the coachman
with wild question and reproach,; the policeman had to tell him at
last that the carriage must move on, to make way for others.
The coachman had no explanation to offer: he did not know how or
when Mr. Alan had got away.
"But you can give a guess where he's gone?" Jeff suggested, with a
presence of mind which Westover mutely admired.
"Well, sor, I know where he do be gahn, sometimes," the man
"Well, that will do; take me there," said Jeff. "You go in and
account for me to Miss Lynde," he instructed Westover, across his
shoulder. "I'll get him home before morning, somehow; and I'll send
the carriage right back for the ladies, now."
Westover had the forethought to decide that Miss Bessie should ask
for Jeff if she wanted him, and this simplified matters very much.
She asked nothing about him. At sight of Westover coming up to her
where she sat with her aunt, she merely said: "Why, Mr. Westover! I
thought you took leave of this scene of gayety long ago."
"Did you?" Westover returned, provisionally, and she saved him from
the sin of framing some deceit in final answer by her next question.
"Have you seen anything of Alan lately?" she asked, in a voice
Westover replied in the same octave: "Yes; I saw him going a good
"Oh!" said the girl. "Then I think my aunt and I had better go,
Still she did not go, and there was an interval in which she had
the air of vaguely waiting. To Westover's vision, the young people
still passing to and from the ballroom were like the painted figures
of a picture quickened with sudden animation. There were scarcely any
elders to be seen now, except the chaperons, who sat in their places
with iron fortitude; Westover realized that he was the only man of his
age left. He felt that the lights ought to have grown dim, but the
place was as brilliant as ever. A window had been opened somewhere,
and the cold breath of the night was drawing through the heated rooms.
He was content to have Bessie stay on, though he was almost
dropping with sleep, for he was afraid that if she went at once, the
carriage might not have got back, and the whole affair must somehow be
given away; at last, if she were waiting, she decided to wait no
longer, and then Westover did not know how to keep her. He saw her
rise and stoop over her aunt, putting her mouth to the elder lady's
ear, and he heard her saying, "I am going home, Aunt Louisa." She
turned sweetly to him. "Won't you let us set you down, Mr.
"Why, thank you, I believe I prefer walking. But do let me have
your carriage called," and again he hurried himself into his overcoat
and hat, and ran down-stairs, and the barker a third time sent forth
his lamentable cries in summons of Miss Lynde's carriage.
While he stood on the curb-stone eagerly peering up and down the
street, he heard, without being able either to enjoy or resent it, one
of the policemen say across him to the other, "Miss lynde seems to be
doin' a livery-stable business to-night."
Almost at the moment a carriage drove up, and he recognized Miss
Lynde's coachman, who recognized him.
"Just got back, sor," he whispered, and a minute later Bessie came
daintily out over the carpeted way with her aunt.
"How good of you!" she said, and " Good-night, Mr. Westover," said
Miss Lynde, with an implication in her voice that virtue was
peculiarly its own reward for those who performed any good office for
her or hers.
Westover shut them in, the carriage rolled off, and he started on
his homeward walk with a long sigh of relief.
Bessie asked the sleepy man who opened her aunt's door whether her
brother had come in yet, and found that he had not. She helped her
aunt off up-stairs with her maid, and when she came down again she
sent the man to bed; she told him she was going to sit up and she
would let her brother in. The caprices of Alan's latch-key were known
to all the servants, and the man understood what she, meant. He said
he had left a light in the reception-room and there was a fire there;
and Bessie tripped on down from the library floor, where she had met
him. She had put off her ball dress and had slipped into the simplest
and easiest of breakfast frocks, which was by no means plain. Bessie
had no plain frocks for any hour of the day; her frocks all expressed
in stuff and style and color, and the bravery of their flying laces
and ribbons, the audacity of spirit with which she was herself
chicqued together, as she said. This one she had on now was something
that brightened her dull complexion, and brought out the best effect
of her eyes and mouth, and seemed the effluence of her personal dash
and grace. It made the most of her, and she liked it beyond all her
other negligees for its complaisance.
She got a book, and sat down in a long, low chair before the fire
and crossed her pretty slippers on the warm hearth. It was a quarter
after three by the clock on the mantel; but she had never felt more
eagerly awake. The party had not been altogether to her mind, up to
midnight, but after that it had been a series of rapid and vivid
emotions, which continued themselves still in the tumult of her
nerves, and seemed to demand an indefinite sequence of experience.
She did not know what state her brother might be in when he came
home; she had not seen anything of him after she first went out to
supper; till then, though, he had kept himself straight, as he needs
must; but she could not tell what happened to him afterward. She
hoped that he would come home able to talk, for she wished to talk.
She wished to talk about herself; and as she had already had flattery
enough, she wanted some truth about herself; she wanted Alan to say
what he thought of her behavior the whole evening with that jay. He
must have seen something of it in the beginning, and she should tell
him all the rest. She should tell him just how often she had danced
with the man, and how many dances she had sat out with him; how she
had pretended once that she was engaged when another man asked her,
and then danced with the jay, to whom she pretended that he had
engaged her for the dance. She had wished to see how he would take
it; for the same reason she had given to some one else a dance that
was really his. She would tell Alan how the jay had asked her for that
last dance, and then never come near her again. That would give him
the whole situation, and she would know just what he thought of it.
What she thought of herself she hardly knew, or made believe she
hardly knew. She prided herself upon not being a flirt; she might not
be very good, as goodness went, but she was not despicable, and a
flirt was despicable. She did not call the audacity of her behavior
with the jay flirting; he seemed to understand it as well as she, and
to meet her in her own spirit; she wondered now whether this jay was
really more interesting than the other men one met, or only different;
whether he was original, like Alan himself, or merely novel, and would
soon wear down to the tiresomeness that seemed to underlie them all,
and made one wish to do something dreadful. In the jay's presence she
had no wish to do anything dreadful. Was it because he was dreadful
enough for both, all the time, without doing anything? She would like
to ask Alan that, and see how he would take it. Nothing seemed to put
the jay out, so far as she had tried, and she had tried some bold
impertinences with him. He was very jolly through them all, and at
the worst of them he laughed and asked her for that dance, which he
never came to claim, though in the mean time he brought her some
belated supper, and was devoted to her and her aunt, inventing
services to do for them. Then suddenly he went off and did not
return, and Mr. Westover mysteriously reappeared, and got their
She heard a scratching at the key-hole of the outside door; she
knew it was Alan's latch. She had left the inner door ajar that there
might be no uncertainty of hearing him, and she ran out into the space
between that and the outer door where the fumbling and scraping kept
"Is that you, Alan?" she called, softly, and if she had any doubt
before, she had none when she heard her brother outside, cursing his
luck with his key as usual.
She flung the door open, and confronted him with another man, who
had his arms around him as if he had caught him from falling with the
inward pull of the door. Alan got to his feet and grappled with the
man, and insisted that he should come in and make a night of it.
Bessie saw that it was Jeff, and they stood a moment, looking at
each other. Jeff tried to free himself with an appeal to Bessie: "I
beg your pardon, Miss Lynde. I walked home with your brother, and I
was just helping him to get in--I didn't think that you--"
Alan said, with his measured distinctness: "Nobody cares what you
think. Come in, and get something to carry you over the bridge.
Cambridge cars stopped running long ago. I say you shall!" He began
to raise his voice. A light flashed in a window across the way, and a
sash was lifted; some one must be looking out.
"Oh, come in with him!" Bessie implored, and at a little yielding
in Jeff her brother added:
"Come in, you damn jay!" He pulled at Jeff.
Jeff made haste to shut the door behind them. He was laughing; and
if it was from mere brute insensibility to what would have shocked
another in the situation, his frank recognition of its grotesqueness
was of better effect than any hopeless effort to ignore it would have
been. People adjust themselves to their trials; it is the pretence of
the witness that there is no trial which hurts, and Bessie was not
wounded by Jeff's laugh.
"There's a fire here in the reception-room," she said. "Can you
get him in?"
"I guess so."
Jeff lifted Alan into the room and stayed him on foot there, while
he took off his hat and overcoat, and then he let him sink into the
low easy-chair Bessie had just risen from. All the time, Alan was
bidding her ring and have some champagne and cold meat set out on the
side-board, and she was lightly promising and coaxing. But he drowsed
quickly in the warmth, and the last demand for supper died half
uttered on his lips.
Jeff asked across him: "Can't I get him up-stairs for you? I can
She shook her head and whispered back, "I can leave him here," and
she looked at Jeff with a moment's hesitation. "Did you--do you think
that-- any one noticed him at Mrs. Enderby's?"
"No; they had got him in a room by himself--the caterer's men had."
"And you found him there?"
"Mr. Westover found him there," Jeff answered.
"I don't understand."
"Didn't he come to you after I left?"
"I told him to excuse me--"
"Well, I guess he was pretty badly rattled." Jeff stopped himself
in the vague laugh of one who remembers something ludicrous, and
turned his face away.
"Tell me what it was!" she demanded, nervously.
"Mr. Westover had been home with him once, and he wouldn't stay.
He made Mr. Westover come back for me."
"What did he want with you?"
"And then what?"
"We went out to the carriage, as soon as I could get away from you;
but he wasn't in it. I sent Mr. Westover back to you and set out to
look for him."
"That was very good of you. And I--thank you for your kindness to
my brother. I shall not forget it. And I wish to beg your pardon."
"What for?" asked Jeff, bluntly.
"For blaming you when you didn't come back for the dance."
If Bessie had meant nothing but what was fitting to the moment some
inherent lightness of nature played her false. But even the
histrionic touch which she could not keep out of her voice, her
manner, another sort of man might have found merely pathetic.
Jeff laughed with subtle intelligence. "Were you very hard on me?"
"Very," she answered in kind, forgetting her brother and the whole
"Tell me what you thought of me," he said, and he came a little
nearer to her, looking very handsome and very strong. "I should like
"I said I should never speak to you again."
"And you kept your word," said Jeff. "Well, that's all right.
Good- night-or good-morning, whichever it is." He took her hand,
which she could not withdraw, or feigned to herself that she could not
withdraw, and looked at her with a silent laugh, and a hardy,
sceptical glance that she felt take in every detail of her prettiness,
her plainness. Then he turned and went out, and she ran quickly and
locked the door upon him.
Bessie crept up to her room, where she spent the rest of the night
in her chair, amid a tumult of emotion which she would have called
thinking. She asked herself the most searching questions, but she got
no very candid answers to them, and she decided that she must see the
whole fact with some other's eyes before she could know what she had
meant or what she had done.
When she let the daylight into her room, it showed her a face in
her mirror that bore no trace of conflicting anxieties. Her
complexion favored this effect of inward calm; it was always thick;
and her eyes seemed to her all the brighter for their vigils.
A smile, even, hovered on her mouth as she sat down at the
breakfast- table, in the pretty negligee she had worn all night, and
poured out Miss Lynde's coffee for her.
"That's always very becoming to you, Bessie," said her aunt. "It's
the nicest breakfast gown you have."
"Do you think so?" Bessie looked down at it, first on one side and
then on the other, as a woman always does when her dress is spoken of.
"Mr. Alan said he would have his breakfast in his room, miss,"
murmured the butler, in husky respectfulness, as he returned to Bessie
from carrying Miss Lynde's cup to her. "He don't want anything but a
little toast and coffee."
She perceived that the words were meant to make it easy for her to
ask: "Isn't he very well, Andrew?"
"About as usual, miss," said Andrew, a thought more sepulchral than
before. "He's going on--about as usual."
She knew this to mean that he was going on from bad to worse, and
that his last night's excess was the beginning of a debauch which
could end only in one way. She must send for the doctor; he would
decide what was best, when he saw how Alan came through the day.
Late in the afternoon she heard Mary Enderby's voice in the
reception- room, bidding the man say that if Miss Bessie were lying
down she would come up to her, or would go away, just as she wished.
She flew downstairs with a glad cry of "Molly! What an inspiration!
I was just thinking of you, and wishing for you. But I didn't
suppose you were up yet!"
"It's pretty early," said Miss Enderby. "But I should have been
here before if I could, for I knew I shouldn't wake you, Bessie, with
your habit of turning night into day, and getting up any time in the
"How dissipated you sound!"
"Yes, don't I? But I've been thinking about you ever since I woke,
and I had to come and find out if you were alive, anyhow."
"Come up-stairs and see!" said Bessie, holding her friend's hand on
the sofa where they had dropped down together, and going all over the
scene of last night in that place for the thousandth time.
"No, no; I really mustn't. I hope you had a good time?"
"At your house!"
"How dear of you! But, Bessie, I got to thinking you'd been rather
sacrificed. It came into my mind the instant I woke, and gave me this
severe case of conscience. I suppose it's a kind of conscience."
"Yes, yes. Go on! I like having been a martyr, if I don't know
"Why, you know, Bessie, or if you don't you will presently, that it
was I who got mamma to send him a card; I felt rather sorry for him,
that day at Mrs. Bevidge's, because she'd so obviously got him there
to use him, and I got mamma to ask him. Everything takes care of
itself, at a large affair, and I thought I might trust in Providence
to deal with him after he came; and then I saw you made a means the
whole evening! I didn't reflect that there always has to be a means!"
"It's a question of Mr. Durgin?" said Bessie, coldly thrilling at
the sound of a name that she pronounced so gayly in a tone of
Miss Enderby bobbed her head. "It shows that we ought never to do
a good action, doesn't it? But, poor thing! How you must have been
"I don't know. Was it so very bad? I'm trying to think," said
Bessie, thinking that after this beginning it would be impossible to
confide in Mary Enderby.
"Oh, now, Bessie! Don't you be patient, or I shall begin to lose
my faith in human nature. Just say at once that it was an outrage and
I'll forgive you! You see," Miss Enderby went on, "it isn't merely
that he's a jay; but he isn't a very nice jay. None of the men like
him--except Freddy Lancaster, of course; he likes everybody, on
principle; he doesn't count. I thought that perhaps, although he's so
crude and blunt, he might be sensitive and high-minded; you're always
reading about such things; but they say he isn't, in the least; oh,
not the least! They say he goes with a set of fast jays, and that
he's dreadful; though he has a very good mind, and could do very well
if he chose. That's what cousin Jim said to-day; he's just been at
our house; and it was so extremely telepathic that I thought I must
run round and prevent your having the man on your conscience if you
felt you had had too much of him. You won't lay him up against us,
will you?" She jumped to her feet.
"You dear!" said Bessie, keeping Mary Enderby's hand, and pressing
it between both of hers against her breast as they now stood face to
face, "do come up and have some tea!"
"No, no! Really, I can't."
They were both involuntarily silent. The door had been opened to
some one, and there was a brief parley, which ended in a voice they
knew to be the doctor's, saying, "Then I'll go right up to his room."
Both the girls broke into laughing adieux, to hide their
consciousness that the doctor was going up to see Alan Lynde, who was
never sick except in the one way.
Miss Enderby even said: "I was so glad to see Alan looking so well,
"Yes, he had such a good time," said Bessie, and she followed her
friend to the door, where she kissed her reassuringly, and thanked her
for taking all the trouble she had, bidding her not be the least
anxious on her account.
It seemed to her that she should sink upon the stairs in mounting
them to the library. Mary Enderby had told her only what she had
known before; it was what her brother had told her; but then it had
not been possible for the man to say that he had brought Alan home
tipsy, and been alone in the house with her at three o'clock in the
morning. He would not only boast of it to all that vulgar comradehood
of his, but it might get into those terrible papers which published
the society scandals. There would be no way but to appeal to his
pity, his generosity. She fancied herself writing to him, but he
could show her note, and she must send for him to come and see her,
and try to put him on his honor. Or, that would not do, either. She
must make it happen that they should be thrown together, and then
speak to him. Even that might make him think she was afraid of him;
or he might take it wrong, and believe that she cared for him. He had
really been very good to Alan, and she tried to feel safe in the
thought of that. She did feel safe for a moment; but if she had meant
nothing but to make him believe her grateful, what must he infer from
her talking to him in the light way she did about forgiving him for
not coming back to dance with her. Her manner, her looks, her tone,
had given him the right to say that she had been willing to flirt with
him there, at that hour, and in those dreadful circumstances.
She found herself lying in a deep arm-chair in the library, when
she was aware of Dr. Lacy pausing at the door and looking tentatively
in upon her.
"Come in, doctor," she said, and she knew that her face was wet
with tears, and that she spoke with the voice of weeping.
He came forward and looked narrowly at her, without sitting down.
"There's nothing to be alarmed about, Miss Bessie," he said. "But I
think your brother had better leave home again, for a while."
"Yes," she said, blankly. Her mind was not on his words.
"I will make the arrangements."
"Thank you," said Bessie, listlessly.
The doctor had made a step backward, as if he were going away, and
now he stopped. "Aren't you feeling quite well, Miss Bessie?"
"Oh yes," she said, and she began to cry.
The doctor came forward and said, cheerily: "Let me see." He
pulled a chair up to hers, and took her wrist between his fingers.
"If you were at Mrs. Enderby's last night, you'll need another night
to put you just right. But you're pretty well as it is." He let her
wrist softly go, and said: "You mustn't distress yourself about your
brother's case. Of course, it's hard to have it happen now after he's
held up so long; longer than it has been before, I think, isn't it?
But it's something that it has been so long. The next time, let us
hope, it will be longer still."
The doctor made as if to rise. Bessie put her hand out to stay
him. "What is it makes him do it?"
"Ah, that's a great mystery," said the doctor. "I suppose you
might say the excitement."
"But it seems to me very often, in such cases, as if it were to
escape the excitement. I think you're both keyed up pretty sharply by
nature, Miss Bessie," said the doctor, with the personal kindness he
felt for the girl, and the pity softening his scientific spirit.
"I know!" she answered. "We're alike. Why don't I take to
The doctor laughed at such a question from a young lady, but with
an inner seriousness in his laugh, as if, coming from a patient, it
was to be weighed. "Well, I suppose it isn't the habit of your sex,
"Sometimes it is. Sometimes women get drunk, and then I think they
do less harm than if they did other things to get away from the
excitement." She longed to confide in him; the words were on her
tongue; she believed he could help her, tell her what to do; out of
his stores of knowledge and experience he must have some suggestion,
some remedy; he could advise her; he could stand her friend, so far.
People told their doctors all kinds of things, silly things. Why
should she not tell her doctor this?
It would have been easier if it had been an older man, who might
have had a daughter of her age. But he was in that period of the
early forties when a doctor sometimes has a matter-of-fact,
disagreeable wife whose idea stands between him and the spiritual
intimacy of his patients, so that it seems as if they were delivering
their confidences rather to her than to him. He was able, he was
good, he was extremely acute, he was even with the latest facts and
theories; but as he sat straight up in his chair his stomach defined
itself as a half-moon before him, and he said to the quivering heap of
emotions beside him, "You mean like breaking hearts, and such little
It was fatally stupid, and it beat her back into herself.
"Yes," she said, with a contempt that she easily hid from him,
"that's worse than getting drunk, isn't it?"
"Well, it isn't so regarded," said the doctor, who supposed himself
to have made a sprightly answer, and laughed at it. "I wish, Miss
Bessie, you'd take a little remedy I'm going to send you. You've
merely been up too late, but it's a very good thing for people who've
been up too late."
"Thank you. And about my brother?"
"Oh! I'll send a man to look after him to-night, and tomorrow I
really think he'd better go."
Miss Lynde had gone earlier than usual to bed, when Bessie heard
Alan's door open, and then heard him feeling his way fumbingly
down-stairs. She surmised that he had drunk up all that he had in his
room, and was making for the side-board in the dining-room.
She ran and got the two decanters-one of whiskey and one of brandy,
which he was in the habit of carrying back to his room from such an
"Alan!" she called to him, in a low voice.
"Where are you?" he answered back.
"In the library," she said. "Come in here, please."
He came, and stood looking gloomily in from the doorway. He caught
sight of the decanters and the glasses on the library table. "Oh!" he
said, and gave a laugh cut in two by a hiccough.
"Come in, and shut the door, Alan," she said. "Let's make a night
of it. I've got the materials here." She waved her hand toward the
Alan shrugged. "I don't know what you mean." But he came forward,
and slouched into one of the deep chairs.
"Well, I'll tell you what," said Bessie, with a laugh. "We're both
excited, and we want to get away from ourselves. Isn't that what's
the matter with you when it begins? Doctor Lacy thinks it is."
"Does he?" Alan asked. "I didn't suppose he had so much sense.
What of it?"
"Nothing. Merely that I'm going to drink a glass of whiskey and a
glass of brandy for every glass that you drink to-night."
"You mustn't play the fool, Bess," said her brother, with dignified
"But I'm really serious, Alan. Shall I give you something? Which
shall we begin on? And we'd better begin soon, for there's a man
coming from the doctor to look after you, and then you won't get
"Don't be ridiculous! Give me those decanters!" Alan struggled out
of his chair, and trembled over to where she had them on the table
She caught them up, one in either hand, and held them as high as
she could lift them. "If you don't sit down and promise to keep
still, I'll smash them both on the hearth. You know I will."
Her strange eyes gleamed, and he hesitated; then he went back to
"I don't see what's got into you to-night. I don't want anything,"
he said. He tried to brave it out, but presently he cast a piteous
glance at the decanters where she had put them down beside her again.
"Does the doctor think I'd better go again?" he asked.
He looked at the decanters. "And when is that fellow coming?"
"He may be here any moment."
"It's pretty rough," he sighed. "Two glasses of that stuff would
drive you so wild you wouldn't know where you were, Bess," he
"Well, I wish I didn't know where I was. I wish I wasn't
anywhere." He looked at her, and then dropped his eyes, with the
effect of giving up a hopeless conundrum.
But he asked: "What's the matter?"
She scanned him keenly before she answered: "Something that I
should like to tell you--that you ought to know. Alan, do you think
you are fit to judge of a very serious matter?"
He laughed pathetically. "I don't believe I'm in a very judicial
frame of mind to-night, Bess. To-morrow--"
"Oh, to-morrow! Where will you be to-morrow?"
"That's true! Well, what is it? I'll try to listen. But if you
knew how my nerves were going." His eyes wandered from hers back to
the decanters. "If I had just one glass--"
"I'll have one, too," she said, with a motion toward the decanter
He threw up his arms. " Oh well, go on. I'll listen as well as I
can." He sank down in his chair and stretched his little feet out
toward the fire. "Go on!"
She hesitated before she began. "Do you know who brought you home
last night, Alan?"
"Yes," he answered, quickly, "Westover."
"Yes, Mr. Westover brought yon, and you wouldn't stay. You don't
remember anything else?"
"No. What else?"
"Nothing for you, if you don't remember." She sat in silent
hopelessness for a while, and her brother's eyes dwelt on the
decanters, which she seemed to have forgotten. "Alan!" she broke out,
abruptly, "I'm worried, and if I can't tell you about it there's no
one I can."
The appeal in tier voice must have reached him, though he seemed
scarcely to have heeded her words. "What is it?" he asked, kindly.
"You went back to the Enderbys' after Mr. Westover brought you
home, and then some one else had to bring you again."
"How do you know?"
"I was up, and let you in--"
"Did you, Bessie? That was like you," he said, tenderly.
"And I had to let him in, too. You pulled him into the house, and
you made such a disturbance at the door that he had to come in for
fear you would bring the police."
"What a beast!" said Alan, of himself, as if it were some one else.
"He came in with you. And you wanted him to have some supper. And
you fell asleep before the fire in the reception-room."
"That--that was the dream!" said Alan, severely. "What are you
talking that stuff for, Bessie?"
"Oh no!" she retorted, with a laugh, as if the pleasure of its
coming in so fitly were compensation for the shame of the fact. "The
dream was what happened afterward. The dream was that you fell asleep
there, and left me there with him--"
"Well, poor old Westover; he's a gentleman! You needn't be worried
"You're not fit!" cried the girl. "I give it up." She got upon
her feet and stood a moment listless.
"No, I'm not, Bessie. I can't pull my mind together tonight. But
look here!" He seemed to lose what he wanted to say. He asked: "Is
it something I've got you in for? Do I understand that?"
"Partly," she said.
"Well, then, I'll help you out. You can trust me, Bessie; you can,
indeed. You don't believe it?"
"Oh, I believe you think I can trust you."
"But this time you can. If you need my help I will stand by you,
right or wrong. If you want to tell me now I'll listen, and I'll
advise you the best I can--"
"It's just something I've got nervous about," she said, while her
eyes shone with sudden tears. "But I won't trouble you with it
to-night. There's no such great hurry. We can talk about it in the
morning if you're better then. Oh, I forgot! You're going away!"
"No," said the young man, with pathetic dignity, "I'm not going if
you need my help. But you're right about me tonight, Bessie. I'm not
fit. I'm afraid I can't grasp anything to-night. Tell me in the
morning. Oh, don't be afraid!" he cried out at the glance she gave the
decanters. "That's over, now; you could put them in my hands and be
safe enough. I'm going back to bed, and in the morning--"
He rose and went toward the door. "If that doctor's man comes
to-night you can send him away again. He needn't bother."
"All right, Alan," she said, fondly. "Good-night. Don't worry
about me. Try to get some sleep."
"And you must sleep, too. You can trust me, Bessie."
He came back after he got out of the room and looked in. "Bess, if
you're anxious about it, if you don't feel perfectly sure of me, you
can take those things to your room with you." He indicated the
decanters with a glance.
"Oh no! I shall leave them here. It wouldn't be any use your just
keeping well overnight. You'll have to keep well a long time, Alan,
if you're going to help me. And that's the reason I'd rather talk to
you when you can give your whole mind to what I say."
"Is it something so serious?"
"I don't know. That's for you to judge. Not very--not at all,
"Then I won't fail you, Bessie. I shall 'keep well,' as you call
it, as long as you want me. Good-night."
"Good-night. I shall leave these bottles here, remember."
"You needn't be afraid. You might put them beside my bed."
Bessie slept soundly, from exhaustion, and in that provisional
fashion in which people who have postponed a care to a given moment
are able to sleep. But she woke early, and crept down-stairs before
any one else was astir, and went to the library. The decanters stood
there on the table, empty. Her brother lay a shapeless heap in one of
the deep arm-chairs.
Westover got home from the Enderby dance at last with the forecast
of a violent cold in his system, which verified itself the next
morning. He had been housed a week, when Jeff Durgin came to see him.
"Why didn't you let me know you were sick?" he demanded, "I'd have
come and looked after you."
"Thank you," said Westover, with as much stiffness as he could
command in his physical limpness. "I shouldn't have allowed you to
look after me; and I want you to understand, now, that there can't be
any sort of friendliness between us till you've accounted for your
behavior with Lynde the other night."
"You mean at the party?" Jeff asked, tranquilly.
"Yes!" cried Westover. "If I had not been shut up ever since, I
should have gone to see you and had it out with you. I've only let
you in, now, to give you the chance to explain; and I refuse to hear a
word from you till you do." Westover did not think that this was very
forcible, and he was not much surprised that it made Jeff smile.
"Why, I don't know what there is to explain. I suppose you think I
got him drunk; I know what you thought that night. But he was pretty
well loaded when he struck my champagne. It wasn't a question of what
he was going to do any longer, but how he was going to do it. I kept
an eye on him, and at the right time I helped the caterer's man to get
him up into that room where he wouldn't make any trouble. I expected
to go back and look after him, but I forgot him."
"I don't suppose, really, that you're aware what a devil's argument
that is," said Westover. "You got Lynde drunk, and then you went back
to his sister, and allowed her to treat you as if you were a
gentleman, and didn't deserve to be thrown out of the house." This at
last was something like what Westover had imagined he would say to
Jeff, and he looked to see it have the imagined effect upon him.
"Do you suppose," asked Jeff, with cheerful cynicism, "that it was
the first time she was civil to a man her brother got drunk with?"
"No! But all the more you ought to have considered her
helplessness. It ought to have made her the more sacred"--Jeff gave an
exasperating shrug--"to you, and you ought to have kept away from her
for decency's sake."
"I was engaged to dance with her."
"I can't allow you to be trivial with me, Durgin," said Westover.
"You've acted like a blackguard, and worse, if there is anything
Jeff stood at a corner of the fire, leaning one elbow on the
mantel, and he now looked thoughtfully down on Westover, who had sunk
weakly into a chair before the hearth. "I don't deny it from your
point of view, Mr. Westover," he said, without the least resentment in
his tone. "You believe that everything is done from a purpose, or
that a thing is intended because it's done. But I see that most
things in this world are not thought about, and not intended. They
happen, just as much as the other things that we call accidents."
"Yes," said Westover, "but the wrong things don't happen from
people who are in the habit of meaning the right ones."
"I believe they do, fully half the time," Jeff returned; "and, as
far as the grand result is concerned, you might as well think them and
intend them as not. I don't mean that you ought to do it; that's
another thing, and if I had tried to get Lynde drunk, and then gone to
dance with his sister, I should have been what you say I am. But I
saw him getting worse without meaning to make him so; and I went back
to her because--I wanted to."
"And you think, I suppose," said Westover, "that she wouldn't have
cared any more than you cared if she had known what you did."
"I can't say anything about that."
The painter continued, bitterly: "You used to come in here, the
first year, with notions of society women that would have disgraced a
Goth, or a gorilla. Did you form your estimate of Miss Lynde from
"I'm not a boy now," Jeff answered, "and I haven't stayed all the
kinds of a fool I was."
"Then you don't think Miss Lynde would speak to you, or look at
you, after she knew what you had done?"
"I should like to tell her and see," said Jeff, with a hardy laugh.
"But I guess I sha'n't have the chance. I've never been a favorite in
society, and I don't expect to meet her again."
"Perhaps you'd like to have me tell her?"
"Why, yes, I believe I should, if you could tell me what she
thought--not what she said about it."
"You are a brute," answered Westover, with a puzzled air. What
puzzled him most and pleased him least was the fellow's patience under
his severity, which he seemed either not to feel or not to mind. It
was of a piece with the behavior of the rascally boy whom he had
cuffed for frightening Cynthia and her little brother long ago, and he
wondered what final malevolence it portended.
Jeff said, as if their controversy were at an end and they might
now turn to more personal things: "You look pretty slim, Mr. Westover.
A'n't there something I can do for you-get you? I've come in with a
message from mother. She says if you ever want to get that winter
view of Lion's Head, now's your time. She wants you to come up there;
she and Cynthia both do. They can make you as comfortable as you
please, and they'd like to have a visit from you. Can't you go?"
Westover shook his head ruefully. "It's good of them, and I want
you to thank them for me. But I don't know when I'm going to get out
"Oh, you'll soon get out," said Jeff. "I'm going to look after you
a little," and this time Westover was too weak to protest. He did not
forbid Jeff's taking off his overcoat; he suffered him to light his
spirit-lamp and make a punch of the whiskey which he owned the doctor
was giving him; and when Jeff handed him the steaming glass, and asked
him, "How's that?" he answered, with a pleasure in it which he knew to
be deplorable, "It's fine."
Jeff stayed the whole evening with him, and made him more
comfortable than he had been since his cold began. Westover now
talked seriously and frankly with him, but no longer so harshly, and
in his relenting he felt a return of his old illogical liking for him.
He fancied in Durgin's kindness to himself an indirect regret, and a
desire to atone for what he had done, and he said: "The effect is in
you--the worst effect. I don't think either of the young Lyndes very
exemplary people. But you'd be doing yourself a greater wrong than
you've done then if you didn't recognize that you had been guilty
Jeff seemed struck by this notion. "What do you want me to do?
What can I do? Chase myself out of society? Something like that?
I'm willing. It's too easy, though. As I said, I've never been
wanted much, there, and I shouldn't be missed."
"Well, then, how would you like to leave it to the people at Lion's
Head to say what you should do?" Westover suggested.
I shouldn't like it," said Jeff, promptly. "They'd judge it as you
do --as if they'd done it themselves. That's the reason women are not
fit to judge." His gay face darkened. "But tell 'em if you want to."
"Bah!" cried the painter. "Why should I want to I'm not a woman in
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Westover. I didn't mean that. I only
meant that you're an idealist. I look at this thing as if some one
else had done it; I believe that's the practical way; and I shouldn't
go in for punishing any one else for such a thing very severely." He
made another punch--for himself this time, he said; but Westover
joined him in a glass of it.
"It won't do to take that view of your faults, Jeff," he said,
"What's the reason?" Jeff demanded; and now either the punch had
begun to work in Westover's brain, or some other influence of like
force and quality. He perceived that in this earth-bound temperament
was the potentiality of all the success it aimed at. The acceptance
of the moral fact as it was, without the unconscious effort to better
it, or to hold himself strictly to account for it, was the secret of
the power in the man which would bring about the material results he
desired; and this simplicity of the motive involved had its charm.
Westover was aware of liking Durgin at that moment much more than
he ought, and of liking him helplessly. In the light of his
good-natured selfishness, the injury to the Lyndes showed much less a
sacrilege than it had seemed; Westover began to see it with Jeff's
eyes, and to see it with reference to what might be low and mean in
them, instead of what might be fine and high.
He was sensible of the growth Jeff had made intellectually. He had
not been at Harvard nearly four years for nothing. He had phrases and
could handle them. In whatever obscure or perverse fashion, he had
profited by his opportunities. The fellow who could accuse him of
being an idealist, and could in some sort prove it, was no longer a
naughty boy to be tutored and punished. The revolt latent in him
would be violent in proportion to the pressure put upon him, and
Westover began to be without the wish to press his fault home to him
so strongly. In the optimism generated by the punch, he felt that he
might leave the case to Jeff himself; or else in the comfort we all
experience in sinking to a lower level, he was unwilling to make the
effort to keep his own moral elevation. But he did make an effort to
save himself by saying: " You can't get what you've done before
yourself as you can the action of some one else. It's part of you,
and you have to judge the motive as well as the effect."
"Well, that's what I'm doing," said Jeff; "but it seems to me that
you're trying to have me judge of the effect from a motive I didn't
have. As far as I can make out, I hadn't any motive at all."
He laughed, and all that Westover could say was, "Then you're still
responsible for the result." But this no longer appeared so true to
It was not a condition of Westover's welcome at Lion's Head that he
should seem peculiarly the friend of Jeff Durgin, but he could not
help making it so, and he began to overact the part as soon as he met
Jeff's mother. He had to speak of him in thanking her for remembering
his wish to paint Lion's Head in the winter, and he had to tell her of
Jeff's thoughtfulness during the past fortnight; he had to say that he
did not believe he should ever have got away if it had not been for
him. This was true; Durgin had even come in from Cambridge to see him
off on the train; he behaved as if the incident with Lynde and all
their talk about it had cemented the friendship between Westover and
himself, and he could not be too devoted. It now came out that he had
written home all about Westover, and made his mother put up a stove in
the painter's old room, so that he should have the instant use of it
when he arrived.
It was an air-tight wood-stove, and it filled the chamber with a
heat in which Westover drowsed as soon as he entered it. He threw
himself on the bed, and slept away the fatigue of his railroad journey
and the cold of his drive with Jombateeste from the station. His nap
was long, and he woke from it in a pleasant languor, with the
dream-clouds still hanging in his brain. He opened the damper of his
stove, and set it roaring again; then he pulled down the upper sash of
his window and looked out on a world whose elements of wood and snow
and stone he tried to co- ordinate. There was nothing else in that
world but these things, so repellent of one another. He suffered from
the incongruity of the wooden bulk of the hotel, with the white drifts
deep about it, and with the granite cliffs of Lion's Head before it,
where the gray crags darkened under the pink afternoon light which was
beginning to play upon its crest from the early sunset. The wind that
had seemed to bore through his thick cap and his skull itself, and
that had tossed the dry snow like dust against his eyes on his way
from the railroad, had now fallen, and an incomparable quiet wrapped
the solitude of the hills. A teasing sense of the impossibility of
the scene, as far as his art was concerned, filled him full of a fond
despair of rendering its feeling. He could give its light and color
and form in a sufficiently vivid suggestion of the fact, but he could
not make that pink flush seem to exhale, like a long breath, upon
those rugged shapes; he could not impart that sentiment of delicately,
almost of elegance, which he found in the wilderness, while every
detail of civilization physically distressed him. In one place the
snow had been dug down to the pine planking of the pathway round the
house; and the contact of this woodenness with the frozen ground
pierced his nerves and set his teeth on edge like a harsh noise. When
once he saw it he had to make an effort to take his eyes from it, and
in a sort unknown to him in summer he perceived the offence of the
hotel itself amid the pure and lonely beauty of the winter landscape.
It was a note of intolerable banality, of philistine pretence and
vulgar convention, such as Whitwell's low, unpainted cottage at the
foot of the hill did not give, nor the little red school-house, on the
other hand, showing through the naked trees. There should have been
really no human habitation visible except a wigwam in the shelter of
the pines, here and there; and when he saw Whitwell making his way up
the hill-side road, Westover felt that if there must be any human
presence it should be some savage clad in skins, instead of the
philosopher in his rubber boots and his clothing-store ulster. He
preferred the small, wiry shape of Jombateeste, in his blue woollen
cap and his Canadian footgear, as he ran round the corner of the house
toward the barn, and left the breath of his pipe in the fine air
The light began to deepen from the pale pink to a crimson which
stained the tops and steeps of snow, and deepened the dark of the
woods massed on the mountain slopes between the irregular fields of
white. The burnished brown of the hard-wood trees, the dull carbon
shadows of the evergreens, seemed to wither to one black as the red
strengthened in the sky. Westover realized that he had lost the best
of any possible picture in letting that first delicate color escape
him. This crimson was harsh and vulgar in comparison; it would have
almost a chromo quality; he censured his pleasure in it as something
gross and material, like that of eating; and on a sudden he felt
hungry. He wondered what time they would give him supper, and he took
slight account of the fact that a caprice of the wind had torn its
hood of snow from the mountain summit, and that the profile of the
Lion's Head showed almost as distinctly as in summer. He stood before
the picture which for that day at least was lost to him, and
questioned whether there would be a hearty meal, something like a
dinner, or whether there would be something like a farmhouse supper,
mainly of doughnuts and tea.
He pulled up his window and was going to lie down again, when some
one knocked, and Frank Whitwell stood at the door. "Do you want we
should bring your supper to you here, Mr. Westover, or will you--"
"Oh, let me join you all!" cried the painter, eagerly. "Is it
ready-- shall I come now?"
"Well, in about five minutes or so." Frank went away, after
setting down in the room the lamp he had brought. It was a lamp which
Westover thought he remembered from the farm-house period, and on his
way down he realized as he had somehow not done in his summer
sojourns, the entirety of the old house in the hotel which had
encompassed it. The primitive cold of its stairways and passages
struck upon him as soon as he left his own room, and he found the
parlor door closed against the chill. There was a hot stove-fire
within, and a kerosene-lamp turned low, but there was no one there,
and he had the photograph of his first picture of Lion's Head to
himself in the dim light. The voices of Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia came
to him from the dining-room, and from the kitchen beyond, with the
occasional clash of crockery, and the clang of iron upon iron about
the stove, and the quick tread of women's feet upon the bare floor.
With these pleasant noises came the smell of cooking, and later there
was an opening and shutting of doors, with a thrill of the freezing
air from without, and the dull thumping of Whitwell's rubber boots,
and the quicker flapping of Jombateeste's soft leathern soles. Then
there was the sweep of skirted feet at the parlor door, and Cynthia
Whitwell came in without perceiving him. She went to the table by the
darkening window, and quickly turned up the light of the lamp. In her
ignorance of his presence, he saw her as if she had been alone, almost
as if she were out of the body; he received from her unconsciousness
the impression of something rarely pure and fine, and he had a sudden
compassion for her, as for something precious that is fated to be
wasted or misprized. At a little movement which he made to relieve
himself from a sense of eavesdropping, she gave a start, and shut her
lips upon the little cry that would have escaped from another sort of
"I didn't know you were here," she said; and she flushed with the
shyness of him which she always showed at first. She had met him
already with the rest, but they had scarcely spoken together; and he
knew of the struggle she must now be making with herself when she went
on: "I didn't know you had been called. I thought you were still
"Yes. I seemed to sleep for centuries," said West over, "and I
woke up feeling coeval with Lion's Head. But I hope to grow younger
She faltered, and then she asked: "Did you see the light on it when
the sun went down?"
"I wish I hadn't. I could never get that light--even if it ever
"It's there every afternoon, when it's clear."
"I'm sorry for that; I shall have to try for it, then."
"Wasn't that what you came for?" she asked, by one of the efforts
she was making with everything she said. He could have believed he
saw the pulse throbbing in her neck. But she held herself
stone-still, and he divined her resolution to conquer herself, if she
should die for it.
"Yes, I came for that," said Westover. "That's what makes it so
dismaying. If I had only happened on it, I shouldn't have been
responsible for the failure I shall make of it."
She smiled, as if she liked his lightness, but doubted if she
ought. "We don't often get Lion's Head clear of snow."
"Yes; that's another hardship," said the painter. "Everything is
against me! If we don't have a snow overnight, and a cloudy day
to-morrow, I shall be in despair."
She played with the little wheel of the wick; she looked down, and
then, with a glance flashed at him, she gasped: "I shall have to take
your lamp for the table tea is ready."
"Oh, well, if you will only take me with it. I'm frightfully
Apparently she could not say anything to that. He tried to get the
lamp to carry it out for her, but she would not let him. "It isn't
heavy," she said, and hurried out before him.
It was all nothing, but it was all very charming, and Westover was
richly content with it; and yet not content, for he felt that the
pleasure of it was not truly his, but was a moment of merely borrowed
The table was laid in the old farm-house sitting-room where he had
been served alone when he first came to Lion's Head. But now he sat
down with the whole family, even to Jombateeste, who brought in a
faint odor of the barn with him.
They had each been in contact with the finer world which revisits
nature in the summer-time, and they must all have known something of
its usages, but they had reverted in form and substance to the rustic
living of their neighbors. They had steak for Westover, and baked
potatoes; but for themselves they had such farm fare as Mrs. Durgin
had given him the first time he supped there. They made their meal
chiefly of doughnuts and tea, and hot biscuit, with some sweet dishes
of a festive sort added in recognition of his presence; and there was
mince-pie for all. Mrs. Durgin and Whitwell ate with their knives,
and Jombateeste filled himself so soon with every implement at hand
that he was able to ask excuse of the others if he left them for the
horses before they had half finished. Frank Whitwell fed with a kind
of official or functional conformity to the ways of summer folks; but
Cynthia, at whom Westover glanced with anxiety, only drank some tea
and ate a little bread and butter. He was ashamed of his anxiety, for
he had owned that it ought not to have mattered if she had used her
knife like her father; and it seemed to him as if he had prompted Mrs.
Durgin by his curious glance to say: "We don't know half the time how
the child lives. Cynthy! Take something to eat!"
Cynthia pleaded that she was not hungry; Mrs. Durgin declared that
she would die if she kept on as she was going; and then the girl
escaped to the kitchen on one of the errands which she made from time
to time between the stove and the table.
"I presume it's your coming, Mr. Westover," Mrs. Durgin went on,
with the comfortable superiority of elderly people to all the trials
of the young. "I don't know why she should make a stranger of you,
every time. You've known her pretty much all her life."
"Ever since you give Jeff what he deserved for scaring her and
Frank with his dog," said Whitwell.
"Poor Fox!" Mrs. Durgin sighed. "He did have the least sense for a
dog I ever saw. And Jeff used to be so fond of him! Well, I guess he
got tired of him, too, toward the last."
"He's gone to the happy hunting-grounds now. Colorady didn't agree
with him-or old age," said Whitwell. "I don't see why the Injuns
wa'n't right," he pursued, thoughtfully. "If they've got souls, why
ha'n't their dogs? I suppose Mr. Westover here would say there wa'n't
any certainty about the Injuns themselves!"
"You know my weak point, Mr. Whitwell," the painter confessed.
"But I can't prove they haven't."
"Nor dogs, neither, I guess," said Whitwell, tolerantly. "It's
curious, though, if animals have got souls, that we ha'n't ever had
any communications from 'em. You might say that ag'in' the idea."
"No, I'll let you say it," returned Westover. "But a good many of
the communications seem to come from the lower intelligences, if not
the lower animals."
Whitwell laughed out his delight in the thrust. "Well, I guess
that's something so. And them old Egyptian devils, over there, that
you say discovered the doctrine of immortality, seemed to think a cat
was about as good as a man. What's that," he appealed to Mrs. Durgin,
"Jackson said in his last letter about their cat mummies?"
"Well, I guess I'll finish my supper first," said Mrs. Durgin,
whose nerves Westover would not otherwise have suspected of faintness.
"But Jackson's letters," she continued, loyally, "are about the best
"Know they'd got some of 'em in the papers?" Whitwell asked; and at
the surprise that Westover showed he told him how a fellow who was
trying to make a paper go over at the Huddle, had heard of Jackson's
letters and teased for some of them, and had printed them as
neighborhood news in that side of his paper which he did not buy ready
printed in Boston.
Mrs. Durgin studied with modest deprecation the effect of the fact
upon Westover, and seemed satisfied with it. "Well, of course, it's
interestin' to Jackson's old friends in the country, here. They know
he'd look at things, over there, pretty much as they would. Well, I
had to lend the letters round so much, anyway, it was a kind of a
relief to have 'em in the paper, where everybody could see 'em, and be
done with it. Mr. Whit'ell here, he fixes 'em up so's to leave out
the family part, and I guess they're pretty well thought of."
Westover said he had no doubt they were, and he should want to see
all the letters they could show him, in print and out of print.
"If Jackson only had Jeff's health and opportunities--" the mother
began, with a suppressed passion in her regret.
Frank Whitwell pushed back his chair. "I guess I'll ask to be
excused," he said to the head of table.
"There! I a'n't goin' to say any more about that, if that's what
you're afraid of, Frank," said Mrs. Durgin. "Well, I presume I do
talk a good deal about Jackson when I get goin', and I presume it's
natural Cynthy shouldn't want I should talk about Jeff before folks.
Frank, a'n't you goin' to wait for that plate of hot biscuit?--if she
ever gits it here!"
"I guess I don't care for anything more," said Frank, and he got
himself out of the room more inarticulately than he need, Westover
His, father followed his retreat with an eye of humorous
intelligence. "I guess Frank don't want to keep the young ladies
waitin' a great while. There's a church sociable over 't the Huddle,"
he explained to Westover.
"Oh, that's it, is it?" Mrs. Durgin put in. "Why didn't he say
"Well, the young folks don't any of 'em seem to want to talk about
such things nowadays, and I don't know as they ever did." Whitwell
took Westover into his confidence with a wink.
The biscuit that Cynthia brought in were burned a little on top,
and Mrs. Durgin recognized the fact with the question, "Did you get to
studyin', out there? Take one, do, Mr. Westover! You ha'n't made
half a meal! If I didn't keep round after her, I don't know what would
become of us all. The young ladies down at Boston, any of 'em, try to
keep up with the fellows in college?"
"I suppose they do in the Harvard Annex," said Westover, simply, in
spite of the glance with which Mrs. Durgin tried to convey a covert
meaning. He understood it afterward, but for the present his
single-mindedness spared the girl.
She remained to clear away the table, when the rest left it, and
Westover followed Mrs. Durgin into the parlor, where she indemnified
herself for refraining from any explicit allusion to Jeff before
Cynthia. "The boy," she explained, when she had made him ransack his
memory for every scrap of fact concerning her son, "don't hardly ever
write to me, and I guess he don't give Cynthy very much news. I
presume he's workin' harder than ever this year. And I'm glad he's
goin' about a little, from what you say. I guess he's got to feelin'
a little better. It did worry me for him to feel so what you may call
meechin' about folks. You see anything that made you think he wa'n't
After Westover got back into his own room, some one knocked at his
door, and he found Whitwell outside. He scarcely asked him to come
in, but Whitwell scarcely needed the invitation. "Got everything you
want? I told Cynthy I'd come up and see after you; Frank won't be back
in time." He sat down and put his feet on top of the stove, and
struck the heels of his boots on its edge, from the habit of knocking
the caked snow off them in that way on stove-tops. He did not wait to
find out that there was no responsive sizzling before he asked, with a
long nasal sigh, "Well, how is Jeff gettin' along?"
He looked across at Westover, who had provisionally seated himself
on his bed.
"Why, in the old way." Whitwell kept his eye on him, and he added:
"I suppose we don't any of us change; we develop."
Whitwell smiled with pleasure in the loosely philosophic
suggestion. "You mean that he's the same kind of a man that he was a
boy? Well, I guess that's so. The question is, what kind of a boy
was he? I've been mullin' over that consid'able since Cynthy and him
fixed it up together. Of course, I know it's their business, and all
that; but I presume I've got a right to spee'late about it?"
He referred the point to Westover, who knew an inner earnestness in
it, in spite of Whitwell's habit of outside jocosity. "Every right in
the world, I should say, Mr. Whitwell," he answered, seriously.
"Well, I'm glad you feel that way," said Whitwell, with a little
apparent surprise. "I don't want to meddle, any; but I know what
Cynthy is--I no need to brag her up--and I don't feel so over and
above certain 't I know what he is. He's a good deal of a mixture, if
you want to know how he strikes me. I don't mean I don't like him; I
do; the fellow's got a way with him that makes me kind of like him
when I see him. He's good- natured and clever; and he's willin' to
take any amount of trouble for you; but you can't tell where to have
him." Westover denied the appeal for explicit assent in Whitwell's
eye, and he went on: "If I'd done that fellow a good turn, in spite of
him, or if I'd held him up to something that he allowed was right, and
consented to, I should want to keep a sharp lookout that he didn't
play me some ugly trick for it. He's a comical devil," Whitwell
ended, rather inadequately. "How d's it look to you? Seen anything
lately that seemed to tally with my idee?"
"No, no; I can't say that I have," said Westover, reluctantly. He
wished to be franker than he now meant to be, but he consulted a
scruple that he did not wholly respect; a mere convention it seemed to
him, presently. He said: "I've always felt that charm in him, too, and
I've seen the other traits, though not so clearly as you seem to have
done. He has a powerful will, yes--"
He stopped, and Whitwell asked: "Been up to any deviltry lately?"
"I can't say he has. Nothing that I can call intentional."
"No," said Whitwell. "What's he done, though?"
"Really, Mr. Whitwell, I don't know that you have any right to
expect me to talk him over, when I'm here as his mother's guest--his
"No. I ha'n't," said Whitwell. "What about the father of the girl
he's goin' to marry?"
Westover could not deny the force of this. "You'd be anxious if I
didn't tell you what I had in mind, I dare say, more than if I did."
He told him of Jeff's behavior with Alan Lynde, and of his talk with
him about it. "And I think he was honest. It was something that
happened, that wasn't meant."
Whitwell did not assent directly, somewhat to Westover's surprise.
He asked: "Fellow ever done anything to Jeff?"
"Not that I know of. I don't know that they ever met before."
Whitwell kicked his heels on the edge of the stove again. "Then it
might been an accident," he said, dryly.
Westover had to break the silence that followed, and he found
himself defending Jeff, though somehow not for Jeff's sake. He urged
that if he had the strong will they both recognized in him, he would
never commit the errors of a weak man, which were usually the basest.
"How do you know that a strong-willed man a'n't a weak one?"
Whitwell astonished him by asking. "A'n't what we call a strong will
just a kind of a bull-dog clinch that the dog himself can't unloose?
I take it a man that has a good will is a strong man. If Jeff done a
right thing against his will, he wouldn't rest easy till he'd showed
that he wa'n't obliged to, by some mischief worse 'n what he was kept
out of. I tell you, Mr. Westover, if I'd made that fellow toe the
mark any way, I'd be afraid of him." Whitwell looked at Westover with
eyes of significance, if not of confidence. Then he rose with a
prolonged "M--wel-l-l! We're all born, but we a'n't all buried. This
world is a queer place. But I guess Jeff 'll come out right in the
Westover said, "I'm sure he will!" and he shook hands warmly with
the father of the girl Jeff was going to marry.
Whitwell came back, after he had got some paces away, and said: "Of
course, this is between you and me, Mr. Westover."
"I don't mean Mis' Durgin. I shouldn't care what she thought of my
talkin' him over with you. I don't know," he continued, putting up
his hand against the door-frame, to give himself the comfort of its
support while he talked, "as you understood what she mean by the young
ladies at Boston keepin' up with the fellows in college. Well, that's
what Cynthy's doin' with Jeff, right along; and if he ever works off
them conditions of his, and gits his degree, it' ll be because she
helped him to. I tell you, there's more than one kind of telepathy in
this world, Mr. Westover. That's all."
Westover understood from Whitwell's afterthought that it was
Cynthia he was anxious to keep ignorant of his misgivings, if they
were so much as misgivings. But the importance of this fact could not
stay him against the tide of sleep which was bearing him down. When
his head touched the pillow it swept over him, and he rose from it in
the morning with a gayety of heart which he knew to be returning
health. He jumped out of bed, and stuffed some shavings into his
stove from the wood-box beside it, and laid some logs on them; he slid
the damper open, and then lay down again, listening to the fire that
showed its red teeth through the slats and roared and laughed to the
day which sparkled on the white world without. When he got out of bed
a second time, he found the room so hot that he had to pull down his
window-sash, and he dressed in a temperature of twenty degrees below
zero without knowing that the dry air was more than fresh. Mrs.
Durgin called to him through the open door of her parlor, as he
entered the dining-room: " Cynthy will give you your breakfast, Mr.
Westover. We're all done long ago, and I'm busy in here," and the
girl appeared with the coffee-pot and the dishes she had been keeping
hot for him at the kitchen stove. She seemed to be going to leave him
when she had put them down before him, but she faltered, and then she
asked: "Do you want I should pour your coffee for you?"
"Oh yes! Do!" he begged, and she sat down across the table from
him. "I'm ashamed to make this trouble for you," he added. "I didn't
know it was so late."
"Oh, we have the whole day for our work," she answered, tolerantly.
He laughed, and said: "How strange that seems! I suppose I shall
get used to it. But in town we seem never to have a whole day for a
day's work; we always have to do part of it at night, or the next
morning. Do you ever have a day here that's too large a size for its
"You can nearly always find something to do about a house," she
returned, evasively. "But the time doesn't go the way it does in the
"Oh, I know how the country is in the winter," he said. "I was
brought up in the country."
"I didn't know that," she said, and she gave him a stare of
surprise before her eyes fell.
"Yes. Out in Wisconsin. My people were emigrants, and I lived in
the woods, there, till I began to paint my way out. I began pretty
early, but I was in the woods till I was sixteen."
"I didn't know that," she repeated. "I always thought that you
"Summer folks, like the rest? No, I'm all-the-year-round folks
originally. But I haven't been in the country in the winter since I
was a boy; and it's all been coming back to me, here, like some one
She did not say anything, but the interest in her eyes, which she
could not keep from his face now, prompted him to go on.
"You can make a beginning in the West easier than you can in the
East, and some people who came to our lumber camp discovered me, and
gave me a chance to begin. I went to Milwaukee first, and they made
me think I was somebody. Then I came on to New York, and they made me
think I was nobody. I had to go to Europe to find out which I was;
but after I had been there long enough I didn't care to know. What I
was trying to do was the important thing to me; not the fellow who was
trying to do it."
"Yes," she said, with intelligence.
"I met some Boston people in Italy, and I thought I should like to
live where that kind of people lived. That's the way I came to be in
Boston. It all seems very simple now, but I used to think it might
look romantic from the outside. I've had a happy life; and I'm glad
it began in the country. I shouldn't care if it ended there. I don't
know why I've bothered you with my autobiography, though. Perhaps
because I thought you knew it already."
She looked as if she would have said something fitting if she could
have ruled herself to it; but she said nothing at all. Her failure
seemed to abash her, and she could only ask him if he would not have
some more coffee, and then excuse herself, and leave him to finish his
That day he tried for his picture from several points out-of-doors
before he found that his own window gave him the best. With the
window open, and the stove warm at his back, he worked there in great
comfort nearly every afternoon. The snows kept off, and the clear
sunsets burned behind the summit day after day. He painted frankly
and faithfully, and made a picture which, he said to himself, no one
would believe in, with that warm color tender upon the frozen hills.
The soft suffusion of the winter scene was improbable to him when he
had it in, nature before his eyes; when he looked at it as he got it
on his canvas it was simply impossible.
In the forenoons he had nothing to do, for he worked at his picture
only when the conditions renewed themselves with the sinking sun. He
tried to be in the open air, and get the good of it; but his strength
for walking had failed him, and he kept mostly to the paths broken
around the house. He went a good deal to the barn with Whitwell and
Jombateeste to look after the cattle and the horses, whose subdued
stamping and champing gave him a sort of animal pleasure. The blended
odors of the hay-mows and of the creatures' breaths came to him with
the faint warmth which their bodies diffused through the cold
When the wide doors were rolled back, and the full day was let in,
he liked the appeal of their startled eyes, and the calls they made to
one another from their stalls, while the men spoke back to them in
terms which they seemed to have in common with them, and with the
poultry that flew down from the barn lofts to the barn floor and out
into the brilliant day, with loud clamor and affected alarm.
In these simple experiences he could not imagine the summer life of
the place. It was nowhere more extinct than in the hollow verandas,
where the rocking-chairs swung in July and August, and where
Westover's steps in his long tramps up and down woke no echo of the
absent feet. In-doors he kept to the few stove-heated rooms where he
dwelt with the family, and sent only now and then a vague conjecture
into the hotel built round the old farm-house. He meant, before he
left, to ask Mrs. Durgin to let him go through the hotel, but he put
it off from day to day, with a physical shrinking from its cold and
The days went by in the swiftness of monotony. His excursions to
the barn, his walks on the verandas, his work on his picture, filled
up the few hours of the light, and when the dark came he contentedly
joined the little group in Mrs. Durgin's parlor. He had brought two
or three books with him, and sometimes he read from one of them; or he
talked with Whitwell on some of the questions of life and death that
engaged his speculative mind. Jombateeste preferred the kitchen for
the naps he took after supper before his early bedtime. Frank
Whitwell sat with his books there, where Westover sometimes saw his
sister helping him at his studies. He was loyally faithful and
obedient to her in all things. He helped her with the dishes, and was
not ashamed to be seen at this work; she had charge of his goings and
comings in society; he submitted to her taste in his dress, and
accepted her counsel on many points which he referred to her, and
discussed with her in low-spoken conferences. He seemed a formal,
serious boy, shy like his sister; his father let fall some hints of a
religious cast of mind in him. He had an ambition beyond the hotel;
he wished to study for the ministry; and it was not alone the chance
of going home with the girls that made him constant at the evening
meetings. "I don't know where he gits it," said his father, with a
shake of the head that suggested doubt of the wisdom of the son's
preference of theology to planchette.
Cynthia had the same care of her father as of her brother; she kept
him neat, and held him up from lapsing into the slovenliness to which
he would have tended if she had not, as Westover suspected, made
constant appeals to him for the respect due their guest. Mrs. Durgin,
for her part, left everything to Cynthia, with a contented acceptance
of her future rule and an abiding trust in her sense and strength,
which included the details of the light work that employed her rather
luxurious leisure. Jombateeste himself came to Cynthia with his
mending, and her needle kept him tight and firm against the winter
which it amused Westover to realize was the Canuck's native element,
insomuch that there was now something incongruous in the notion of
Jombateeste and any other season.
The girl's motherly care of all the household did not leave
Westover out. Buttons appeared on garments long used to shifty
contrivances for getting on without them; buttonholes were restored to
their proper limits; his overcoat pockets were searched for gloves,
and the gloves put back with their finger-tips drawn close as the
petals of a flower which had decided to shut and be a bud again.
He wondered how he could thank her for his share of the blessing
that her passion for motherly care was to all the house. It was
pathetic, and he used sometimes to forecast her self-devotion with a
tender indignation, which included a due sense of his own present
demerit. He was not reconciled to the sacrifice because it seemed the
happiness, or at least the will, of the nature which made it. All the
same it seemed a waste, in its relation to the man she was to marry.
Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia sat by the lamp and sewed at night, or
listened to the talk of the men. If Westover read aloud, they
whispered together from time to time about some matters remote from
it, as women always do where there is reading. It was quiet, but it
was not dull for Westover, who found himself in no hurry to get back
Sometimes he thought of the town with repulsion; its unrest, its
vacuous, troubled life haunted him like a memory of sickness; but he
supposed that when he should be quite well again all that would
change, and be as it was before. He interested himself, with the sort
of shrewd ignorance of it that Cynthia showed in the questions she
asked about it now and then when they chanced to be left alone
together. He fancied that she was trying to form some intelligible
image of Jeff's environment there, and was piecing together from his
talk of it the impressions she had got from summer folks. He did his
best to help her, and to construct for her a veritable likeness of the
world as far as he knew it.
A time came when he spoke frankly of Jeff in something they were
saying, and she showed no such shrinking as he had expected she would;
he reflected that she might have made stricter conditions with Mrs.
Durgin than she expected to keep herself in mentioning him. This
might well have been necessary with the mother's pride in her son,
which knew no stop when it once began to indulge itself. What struck
Westover more than the girl's self-possession when they talked of Jeff
was a certain austerity in her with regard to him. She seemed to hold
herself tense against any praise of him, as if she should fail him
somehow if she relaxed at all in his favor.
This, at least, was the rather mystifying impression which Westover
got from her evident wish to criticise and understand exactly all that
he reported, rather than to flatter herself from it. Whatever her
motive was, he was aware that through it all she permitted herself a
closer and fuller trust of himself. At times it was almost too
implicit; he would have liked to deserve it better by laying open all
that had been in his heart against Jeff. But he forbore, of course,
and he took refuge, as well as he could, in the respect by which she
held herself at a reverent distance from him when he could not wholly
One morning Westover got leave from Mrs. Durgin to help Cynthia
open the dim rooms and cold corridors at the hotel to the sun and air.
She promised him he should take his death, but he said he would wrap
up warm, and when he came to join the girl in his overcoat and fur
cap, he found Cynthia equipped with a woollen cloud tied around her
head, and a little shawl pinned across her breast.
"Is that all?" he reproached her. "I ought to have put on a single
wreath of artificial flowers and some sort of a blazer for this
expedition. Don't you think so, Mrs. Durgin?"
"I believe women can stand about twice as much cold as you can, the
best of you," she answered, grimly.
"Then I must try to keep myself as warm as I can with work," he
said. "You must let me do all the rough work of airing out, won't you,
"There isn't any rough work about it," she answered, in a sort of
motherly toleration of his mood, without losing anything of her filial
She took care of him, he perceived, as she took care of her brother
and her father, but with a delicate respect for his superiority, which
was no longer shyness.
They began with the office and the parlor, where they flung up the
windows, and opened the doors, and then they opened the dining-room,
where the tables stood in long rows, with the chairs piled on them
legs upward. Cynthia went about with many sighs for the dust on
everything, though to Westover's eyes it all seemed frigidly clean.
"If it goes on as it has for the past two years," she said, "we shall
have to add on a new dining-room. I don't know as I like to have it
get so large!"
"I never wanted it to go beyond the original farmhouse," said
Westover. "I've been jealous of every boarder but the first. I should
have liked to keep it for myself, and let the world know Lion's Head
from my pictures."
"I guess Mrs. Durgin thinks it was your picture that began to send
"And do you blame me, too? What if the thing I'm doing now should
make it a winter resort? Nothing could save you, then, but a fire. I
believe that's Jeff's ambition. Only he would want to put another
hotel in place of this; something that would be more popular. Then
the ruin I began would be complete, and I shouldn't come any more; I
couldn't bear the sight."
"I guess Mrs. Durgin wouldn't think it was lion's Head if you
stopped coming," said Cynthia.
"But you would know better than that," said Westover; and then he
was sorry he had said it, for it seemed to ask something of different
quality from her honest wish to make him know their regard for him.
She did not answer, but went down a long corridor to which they had
mounted, to raise the window at the end, while he raised another at
the opposite extremity. When they met at the stairway again to climb
to the story above, he said: "I am always ashamed when I try to make a
person of sense say anything silly," and she flushed, still without
answering, as if she understood him, and his meaning pleased her.
"But fortunately a person of sense is usually equal to the
temptation. One ought to be serious when he tries it with a person of
the other sort; but I don't know that one is!"
"Do you feel any draught between these windows?" asked Cynthia,
abruptly. "I don't want you should take cold."
"Oh, I'm all right," said Westover.
She went into the rooms on one side of the corridor, and put up
their windows, and flung the blinds back. He did the same on the
other side. He got a peculiar effect of desolation from the mattresses
pulled down over the foot of the bedsteads, and the dismantled
interiors reflected in the mirrors of the dressing-cases; and he was
going to speak of it when he rejoined Cynthia at the stairway leading
to the third story, when she said, "Those were Mrs. Vostrand's rooms I
came out of the last." She nodded her head over her shoulder toward
the floor they were leaving.
"Were they indeed! And do you remember people's rooms so long?"
"Yes; I always think of rooms by the name of people that have them,
if they're any way peculiar."
He thought this bit of uncandor charming, and accepted it as if it
were the whole truth. "And Mrs. Vostrand was certainly peculiar.
Tell me, Cynthia, what did you think of her?"
"She was only here a little while."
"But you wouldn't have come to think of her rooms by her name if
she hadn't made a strong impression on you!" She did not answer, and
he said, "I see you didn't like her!"
The girl would not speak, and Mr. Westover went on: "She used to be
very good to me, and I think she used to be better to herself than she
is now." He knew that Jeff must have told Cynthia of his affair with
Genevieve Vostrand, and he kept himself from speaking of her by a
resolution he thought creditable, as he mounted the stairs to the
upper story in the silence to which Cynthia left his last remark. At
the top she made a little pause in the obscurer light of the
close-shuttered corridor, while she said: "I liked her daughter the
"Yes?" he returned. "I--never felt very well acquainted with her,
I believe. One couldn't get far with her. Though, for the matter of
that, one didn't get far with Mrs. Vostrand herself. Did you think
Genevieve was much influenced by her mother?"
"She didn't seem a strong character."
"No, that was it. She was what her mother wished her to be. I've
often wondered how much she was interested in the marriage she made."
Cynthia let a rustic silence ensue, and Westover shrank again from
the inquisition he longed to make.
It was not Genevieve Vostrand's marriage which really concerned
him, but Cynthia's engagement, and it was her mind that he would have
liked to look into. It might well be supposed that she regarded it in
a perfect matter-of-fact way, and with no ambition beyond it. She was
a country girl, acquainted from childhood with facts of life which
town-bred girls would not have known without a blunting of the
sensibilities, and why should she be different from other country
girls? She might be as good and as fine as he saw her, and yet be
insensible to the spiritual toughness of Jeff, because of her love for
him. Her very goodness might make his badness unimaginable to her,
and if her refinement were from the conscience merely, and not from
the tastes and experiences, too, there was not so much to dread for
her in her marriage with such a man. Still, he would have liked, if
he could, to tell her what he had told her father of Durgin's behavior
with Lynde, and let her bring the test of her self- devotion to the
case with a clear understanding. He had sometimes been afraid that
Whitwell might not be able to keep it to himself; but now he wished
that the philosopher had not been so discreet. He had all this so
absorbingly in mind that he started presently with the fear that she
had said something and he had not answered, but when he asked her he
found that she had not spoken. They were standing at an open window
looking out upon Lion's Head, when he said: "I don't know how I shall
show my gratitude to Mrs. Durgin and you for thinking of having me up
here. I've done a picture of Lion's Head that might be ever so much
worse; but I shouldn't have dreamed of getting at it if it hadn't been
for you, though I've so often dreamed of doing it. Now I shall go
home richer in every sort of way-thanks to you."
She answered, simply: "You needn't thank anybody; but it was Jeff
who thought of it; we were ready enough to ask you."
"That was very good of him," said Westover, whom her words
confirmed in a suspicion he had had all along. But what did it matter
that Jeff had suggested their asking him, and then attributed the
notion to them? It was not so malign for him to use that means of
ingratiating himself with Westover, and of making him forget his
behavior with Lynde, and it was not unnatural. It was very
characteristic; at the worst it merely proved that Jeff was more
ashamed of what he had done than he would allow, and that was to his
He heard Cynthia asking: "Mr. Westover, have you ever been at Class
Day? He wants us to come."
"Class Day? Oh, Class Day!" He took a little time to gather
himself together. "Yes, I've been at a good many. If you care to see
something pretty, it's the prettiest thing in the world. The
students' sisters and mothers come from everywhere; and there's
fashion and feasting and flirting, from ten in the morning till ten at
night. I'm not sure there's so much happiness; but I can't tell. The
young people know about that. I fancy there's a good deal of defeat
and disappointment in it all. But if you like beautiful dresses, and
music and dancing, and a great flutter of gayety, you can get more of
it at Class Day than you can in any other way. The good time depends
a great deal upon the acquaintance a student has, and whether he is
popular in college." Westover found this road a little impassable, and
Cynthia did not apparently notice his hesitation. "Do you think
Mrs. Durgin would like it?"
"Mrs. Durgin?" Westover found that he had been leaving her out of
the account, and had been thinking only of Cynthia's pleasure or pain.
"Well, I don't suppose--it would be rather fatiguing--Did Jeff want
her to come too?"
"He said so."
"That's very nice of him. If he could devote himself to her;
but--And would she like to go?"
"To please him, she would." Westover was silent, and the girl
surprised him by the appeal she suddenly made to him. "Mr. Westover,
do you believe it would be very well for either of us to go? I think
it would be better for us to leave all that part of his life alone.
It's no use in pretending that we're like the kind of people he
knows, or that we know their ways, and I don't believe--"
Westover felt his heart rise in indignant sympathy. "There isn't
any one he knows to compare with you!" he said, and in this he was
thinking mainly of Bessie Lynde. "You're worth a thousand-- If I
were--if he's half a man he would be proud--I beg your pardon! I
don't mean--but you understand--"
Cynthia put her head far out of the window and looked along the
steep roof before them. "There is a blind off one of the windows. I
heard it clapping in the wind the other night. I must go and see the
number of the room." She drew her head in quickly and ran away
without letting him see her face.
He followed her. "Let me help you put it on again!"
"No, no!" she called back. "Frank will do that, or Jombateeste,
when they come to shut up the house."
Westover, did not meet Durgin for several days after his return
from Lion's Head. He brought messages for him from his mother and
from Whitwell, and he waited for him to come and get them so long that
he had to blame himself for not sending them to him. When Jeff
appeared, at the end of a week, Westover had a certain embarrassment
in meeting him, and the effort to overcome this carried him beyond his
sincerity. He was aware of feigning the cordiality he showed, and of
having less real liking for him than ever before. He suggested that
he must be busier every day, now, with his college work, and he
resented the air of social prosperity which Jeff put on in saying,
Yes, there was that, and then he had some engagements which kept him
from coming in sooner.
He did not say what the engagements were, and they did not recur to
the things they had last spoken of. Westover could not do so without
Jeff's leading, and he was rather glad that he gave none. He stayed
only a little time, which was spent mostly in a show of interest on
both sides, and the hollow hilarities which people use to mask their
indifference to one another's being and doing. Jeff declared that he
had never seen Westover looking so well, and said he must go up to
Lion's Head again; it had done him good. As for his picture, it was a
corker; it made him feel as if he were there! He asked about all the
folks, and received Westover's replies with vague laughter, and an
absence in his bold eye, which made the painter wonder what his mind
was on, without the wish to find out. He was glad to have him go,
though he pressed him to drop in soon again, and said they would take
in a play together.
Jeff said he would like to do that, and he asked at the door
whether Westover was going to the tea at Mrs. Bellingham's. He said
he had to look in there, before he went out to Cambridge; and left
Westover in mute amaze at the length he had apparently gone in a road
that had once seemed no thoroughfare for him. Jeff's social
acceptance, even after the Enderby ball, which was now some six or
seven weeks past, had been slow; but of late, for no reason that he or
any one else could have given, it had gained a sudden precipitance;
and people who wondered why they met him at other houses began to ask
him to their own.
He did not care to go to their houses, and he went at first in the
hope of seeing Bessie Lynde again. But this did not happen for some
time, and it was a mid-Lenten tea that brought them together. As soon
as he caught sight of her he went up to her and began to talk as if
they had been in the habit of meeting constantly. She could not
control a little start at his approach, and he frankly recognized it.
"What's the matter?"
"It isn't open," he said, trying it. "Do you want to try it
"I think I can trust you," she answered, but she sank a little into
the shelter of the curtains, not to be seen talking with him, perhaps,
or not to be interrupted--she did not analyze her motive closely.
He remained talking to her until she went away, and then he
contrived to go with her. She did not try to escape him after that;
each time they met she had the pleasure of realizing that there had
never been any danger of what never happened. But beyond this she
could perhaps have given no better reason for her willingness to meet
him again and again than the bewildered witnesses of the fact. In her
set people not only never married outside of it, but they never
flirted outside of it. For one of themselves, even for a girl like
Bessie, whom they had not quite known from childhood, to be apparently
amusing herself with a man like that, so wholly alien in origin, in
tradition, was something unheard of; and it began to look as if Bessie
Lynde was more than amused. It seemed to Mary Enderby that wherever
she went she saw that man talking to Bessie. She could have believed
that it was by some evil art that he always contrived to reach
Bessie's side, if anything could have been less like any kind of art
than the bold push he made for her as soon as he saw her in a room.
But sometimes Miss Enderby feared that it was Bessie who used such
finesse as there was, and always put herself where he could see her.
She waited with trembling for her to give the affair sanction by
making her aunt ask him to something at her house. On the other hand,
she could not help feeling that Bessie's flirtation was all the more
deplorable for the want of some such legitimation.
She did not even know certainly whether Jeff ever called upon
Bessie at her aunt's house, till one day the man let him out at the
same time he let her in.
"Oh, come up, Molly!" Bessie sang out from the floor above, and met
her half-way down the stairs, where she kissed her and led her
embraced into the library.
"You don't like my jay, do you, dear?" she asked, promptly.
Mary Enderby turned her face, the mirror of conscience, upon her,
and asked: "Is he your jay?"
"Well, no; not just in that sense, Molly. But suppose he was?"
"Then I should have nothing to say."
"And suppose he wasn't?"
Still Mary Enderby found herself with nothing of all she had a
thousand times thought she should say to Bessie if she had ever the
slightest chance. It always seemed so easy, till now, to take Bessie
in her arms, and appeal to her good sense, her self-respect, her
regard for her family and friends; and now it seemed so impossible.
She heard herself answering, very stiffly: "Perhaps I'd better
apologize for what I've said already. You must think I was very
unjust the last time we mentioned him."
"Not at all!" cried Bessie, with a laugh that sounded very mocking
and very unworthy to her friend. "He's all that you said, and worse.
But he's more than you said, and better."
"I don't understand," said Mary, coldly.
"He's very interesting; he's original; he's different!"
"Oh, every one says that."
And he doesn't flatter me, or pretend to think much of me. If he
did, I couldn't bear him. You know how I am, Molly. He keeps me
interested, don't you understand, and prowling about in the great
unknown where be has his weird being."
Bessie put her hand to her mouth, and laughed at Mary Enderby with
her slanted eyes; a sort of Parisian version of a Chinese motive in
"I suppose," her friend said, sadly, "you won't tell me more than
"I won't tell you more than I know--though I'd like to," said
Bessie. She gave Mary a sudden hug. "You dear! There isn't anything
of it, if that's what you mean."
"But isn't there danger that there will be, Bessie?" her friend
"Danger? I shouldn't call it danger, exactly!"
"But if you don't respect him, Bessie--"
"Why, how can I? He doesn't respect me!"
"I know you're teasing, now," said Mary Enderby, getting up, "and
you're quite right. I have no business to--"
Bessie pulled her down upon the seat again. "Yes, you have! Don't
I tell you, over and over? He doesn't respect me, because I don't
know how to make him, and he wouldn't like it if I did. But now I'll
try to make you understand. I don't believe I care for him the least;
but mind, I'm not certain, for I've never cared for any one, and I
don't know what it's like. You know I'm not sentimental; I think
sentiment's funny; and I'm not dignified--"
"You're divine," murmured Mary Enderby, with reproachful adoration.
"Yes, but you see how my divinity could be improved," said Bessie,
with a wild laugh. "I'm not sentimental, but I'm emotional, and he
gives me emotions. He's a riddle, and I'm all the time guessing at
him. You get the answer to the kind of men we know easily; and it's
very nice, but it doesn't amuse you so much as trying. Now, Mr.
Durgin--what a name! I can see it makes you creep--is no more like one
of us than a--bear is --and his attitude toward us is that of a bear
who's gone so much with human beings that he thinks he's a human
being. He's delightful, that way. And, do you know, he's
intellectual! He actually brings me books, and wants to read passages
to me out of them! He has brought me the plans of the new hotel he's
going to build. It's to be very aesthetic, and it's going to be
called The Lion's Head Inn. There's to be a little theatre, for
amateur dramatics, which I could conduct, and for all sorts of
professional amusements. If you should ever come, Molly, I'm sure we
shall do our best to make you comfortable."
Mary Enderby would not let Bessie laugh upon her shoulder after she
said this. "Bessie Lynde," she said, severely, "if you have no regard
for yourself, you ought to have some regard for him. You may say you
are not encouraging him, and you may believe it--"
"Oh, I shouldn't say it if I didn't believe it," Bessie broke in,
with a mock air of seriousness.
"I must be going," said Mary, stiffly, and this time she succeeded
in getting to her feet.
Bessie laid hold of her again. "You think you've been trifled
with, don't you, dear?"
"Yes, you do! Don't you try to be slippery, Molly. The plain
pikestaff is your style, morally speaking--if any one knows what a
pikestaff is. Well, now, listen! You're anxious about me."
"You know how I feel, Bessie," said Mary Enderby, looking her in
"Yes, I do," said Bessie. "The trouble is, I don't know how I
feel. But if I ever do, Molly, I'll tell you! Is that fair?"
"I'll give you ample warning. At the least little consciousness in
the region of the pericardium, off will go a note by a district
messenger, and when you come I'll do whatever you say. There!"
"Oh, Bessie!" cried her friend, and she threw her arms round her,
"you always were the most fascinating creature in the world!"
"Yes," said Bessie, "that's what I try to have him think."
Toward the end of April most people who had places at the Shore
were mostly in them, but they came up to town on frequent errands, and
had one effect of evanescence with people who still remained in their
Boston houses provisionally, and seemed more than half absent. The
Enderbys had been at the Shore for a fortnight, and the Lyndes were
going to be a fortnight longer in Boston, yet, as Bessie made her
friend observe, when Mary, ran in for lunch, or stopped for a moment
on her way to the train, every few days, they were both of the same
"It might as well be I as you," Bessie said one day, "if we only
think so. It's all very weird, dear, and I'm not sure but it is you
who sit day after day at my lonely casement and watch the sparrows
examining the fuzzy buds of the Jap ivy to see just how soon they can
hope to build in the vines. Do you object to the ivy buds looking so
very much like snipped woollen rags? If you do, I'm sure it's you,
here in my place, for when I come up to town in your personality it
sets my teeth on edge. In fact, that's the worst thing about Boston
now--the fuzzy ivy buds; there's so much ivy! When you can forget the
buds, there are a great many things to make you happy. I feel quite
as if we were spending the summer in town and I feel very adventurous
and very virtuous, like some sort of self-righteous bohemian. You
don't know how I look down on people who have gone out of town. I
consider them very selfish and heartless; I don't know why, exactly.
But when we have a good marrow-freezing northeasterly storm, and the
newspapers come out with their ironical congratulations to the
tax-dodgers at the Shore, I feel that Providence is on my side, and
I'm getting my reward, even in this world." Bessie suddenly laughed.
"I see by your expression of fixed inattention, Molly, that you're
thinking of Mr. Durgin!"
Mary gave a start of protest, but she was too honest to deny the
fact outright, and Bessie ran on:
"No, we don't sit on a bench in the Common, or even in the Garden,
or on the walk in Commonwealth Avenue. If we come to it later, as the
season advances, I shall make him stay quite at the other end of the
bench, and not put his hand along the top. You needn't be afraid,
Molly; all the proprieties shall be religiously observed. Perhaps I
shall ask Aunt Louisa to let us sit out on her front steps, when the
evenings get warmer; but I assure you it's much more comfortable
in-doors yet, even in town, though you'll hardly, believe it at the
Shore. Shall you come up to Class Day?"
"Oh, I don't know," Mary began, with a sigh of the baffled hope and
the inextinguishable expectation which the mention of Class Day stirs
in the heart of every Boston girl past twenty.
"Yes!" said Bessie, with a sigh burlesqued from Mary's. "That is
what we all say, and it is certainly the most maddening of human
festivals. I suppose, if we were quite left to ourselves, we shouldn't
go; but we seem never to be, quite. After every Class Day I say to
myself that nothing on earth could induce me to go to another; but
when it comes round again, I find myself grasping at any straw of a
pretext. I'm pretending now that I've a tender obligation to go
because it's his Class Day."
"Bessie!" cried Mary Enderby. "You don't mean it!"
"Not if I say it, Mary dear. What did I promise you about the
pericardiac symptoms? But I feel--I feel that if he asks me I must
go. Shouldn't you like to go and see a jay Class Day--be part of it?
Think of going once to the Pi Ute spread--or whatever it is! And
dancing in their tent! And being left out of the Gym, and Beck! Yes,
I ought to go, so that it can be brought home to me, and I can have a
realizing sense of what I am doing, and be stayed in my mad career."
"Perhaps," Mary Enderby suggested, colorlessly, "he will be devoted
to his own people." She had a cold fascination in the picture
Bessie's words had conjured up, and she was saying this less to Bessie
than to herself.
"And I should meet them--his mothers and sisters!" Bessie
dramatized an excess of anguish. "Oh, Mary, that is the very thorn I
have been trying not to press my heart against; and does your hand
commend it to my embrace? His folks! Yes, they would be folks; and
what folks! I think I am getting a realizing sense. Wait! Don't
speak don't move, Molly!" Bessie dropped her chin into her hand, and
stared straight forward, gripping Mary Enderby's hand.
Mary withdrew it. "I shall have to go, Bessie," she said. "How is
"Must you? Then I shall always say that it was your fault that I
couldn't get a realizing sense--that you prevented me, just when I was
about to see myself as others see me--as you see me. She's very
well!" Bessie sighed in earnest, and her friend gave her hand a little
pressure of true sympathy. "But of course it's rather dull here,
"I hate to have you staying on. Couldn't you come down to us for a
"No. We both think it's best to be here when Alan gets back. We
want him to go down with us." Bessie had seldom spoken openly with
Mary Enderby about her brother; but that was rather from Mary's
shrinking than her own; she knew that everybody understood his case.
She went so far now as to say: "He's ever so much better than he has
been. We have such hopes of him, if he can keep well, when he gets
back this time."
"Oh, I know he will," said Mary, fervently. "I'm sure of it.
Couldn't we do something for you, Bessie?"
"No, there isn't anything. But--thank you. I know you always
think of me, and that's worlds. When are you coming up again?"
"I don't know. Next week, some time."
"Come in and see me--and Alan, if he should be at home. He likes
you, and he will be so glad."
Mary kissed Bessie for consent. "You know how much I admire Alan.
He could be anything."
"Yes, he could. If he could!"
Bessie seldom put so much earnest in anything, and Mary loved (as
she would have said) the sad sincerity, the honest hopelessness of her
tone. "We must help him. I know we can."
"We must try. But people who could--if they could--" Bessie
Her friend divined that she was no longer speaking wholly of her
brother, but she said: "There isn't any if about it; and there are no
ifs about anything if we only think so. It's a sin not to think so."
The mixture of severity and of optimism in the nature of her friend
had often amused Bessie, and it did not escape her tacit notice in
even so serious a moment as this. Her theory was that she was shocked
to recognize it now, because of its relation to her brother, but her
theories did not always agree with the facts.
That evening, however, she was truly surprised when, after a rather
belated ring at the door, the card of Mr. Thomas Jefferson Durgin came
up to her from the reception-room. Her aunt had gone to bed, and she
had a luxurious moment in which she reaped all the reward of
self-denial by supposing herself to have foregone the pleasure of
seeing him, and sending down word that she was not at home. She did
not wish, indeed, to see him, but she wished to know how he felt
warranted in calling in the evening, and it was this unworthy,
curiosity which she stifled for that luxurious moment. The next, with
undiminished dignity, she said, "Ask him to come up, Andrew," and she
waited in the library for him to offer a justification of the liberty
he had taken.
He offered none whatever, but behaved at once as if he had always
had the habit of calling in the evening, or as if it was a general
custom which he need not account for in his own case. He brought her
a book which they had talked of at their last meeting, but he made no
excuse or pretext of it.
He said it was a beautiful night, and that he had found it rather
warm walking in from Cambridge. The exercise had moistened his whole
rich, red color, and fine drops of perspiration stood on his
clean-shaven upper lip and in the hollow between his under lip and his
bold chin; he pushed back the coarse, dark-yellow hair from his
forehead with his handkerchief, and let his eyes mock her from under
his thick, straw- colored eyebrows. She knew that he was enjoying his
own impudence, and he was so handsome that she could not refuse to
enjoy it with him. She asked him if he would not have a fan, and he
allowed her to get it for him from the mantel. "Will you have some
"No; but a glass of water, if you please," he said, and Bessie rang
and sent for some apollinaris, which Jeff drank a great goblet of when
it came. Then he lay back in the deep chair he had taken, with the
air of being ready for any little amusing thing she had to say.
"Are you still a pessimist, Mr. Durgin?" she asked, tentatively,
with the effect of innocence that he knew meant mischief.
"No," he said. "I'm a reformed optimist."
"What is that?"
"It's a man who can't believe all the good he would like, but likes
to believe all the good he can."
Bessie said it over, with burlesque thoughtfulness. "There was a
girl here to-day," she said, solemnly, "who must have been a reformed
pessimist, then, for she said the same thing."
"Oh! Miss Enderby," said Jeff.
Bessie started. "You're preternatural! But what a pity you should
be mistaken. How came you to think of her?"
"She doesn't like me, and you always put me on trial after she's
"Am I putting you on trial now? It's your guilty conscience! Why
shouldn't Mary Enderby like you?"
"Because I'm not good enough."
"Oh! And what has that to do with people's liking you? If that
was a reason, how many friends do you think you would have?"
"I'm not sure that I should have any."
"And doesn't that make you feel badly?"
"Very." Jeff's confession was a smiling one.
"You don't show it!"
"I don't want to grieve you."
"Oh, I'm not sure that would grieve me."
"Well, I thought I wouldn't risk it."
"How considerate of you!"
They had come to a little barrier, up that way, and could go no
further. Jeff said: "I've just been interviewing another reformed
"You're preternatural, too. And you're not mistaken, either. Do
you ever go to his studio?"
"No; I haven't been there since he told me it would be of no use to
come as a student. He can be terribly frank."
"Nobody knows that better than I do," said Jeff, with a smile for
the notion of Westover's frankness as he had repeatedly experienced
it. "But he means well."
"Oh, that's what they always say. But all the frankness can't be
well meant. Why should uncandor be the only form of malevolence?"
"That's a good idea. I believe I'll put that up on Westover the
next time he's frank."
"And will you tell me what he says?"
"Oh, I don't know about that." Jeff lay back in his chair at large
ease and chuckled. "I should like to tell you what he's just been
saying to me, but I don't believe I can."
"You know he was up at Lion's Head in February, and got a winter
impression of the mountain. Did you see it?"
"No. Was that what you were talking about?"
"We talked about something a great deal more interesting--the
impression he got of me."
"Cold enough. He had come to the conclusion that I was very
selfish and unworthy; that I used other people for my own advantage,
or let them use themselves; that I was treacherous and vindictive, and
if I didn't betray a man I couldn't be happy till I had beaten him.
He said that if I ever behaved well, it came after I had been
successful one way or the other."
"How perfectly fascinating!" Bessie rested her elbow on the corner
of the table, and her chin in the palm of the hand whose thin fingers
tapped her red lips; the light sleeve fell down and showed her pretty,
lean little forearm. "Did it strike you as true, at all?"
"I could see how it might strike him as true."
"Now you are candid. But go on! What did he expect you to do
"Nothing. He said he didn't suppose I could help it."
"This is immense," said Bessie. "I hope I'm taking it all in. How
came he to give you this flattering little impression? So hopeful,
too! Or, perhaps your frankness doesn't go any farther?"
"Oh, I don't mind saying. He seemed to think it was a sort of
abstract duty he owed to my people."
"Your-folks?" asked Bessie.
"Yes," said Jeff, with a certain dryness. But as her face looked
blankly innocent, he must have decided that she meant nothing
offensive. He relaxed into a broad smile. "It's a queer household up
there, in the winter. I wonder what you would think of it."
"You might describe it to me, and perhaps we shall see."
"You couldn't realize it," said Jeff, with a finality that piqued
her. He reached out for the bottle of apollinaris, with somehow the
effect of being in another student's room, and poured himself a glass.
This would have amused her, nine times out of ten, but the tenth time
had come when she chose to resent it.
"I suppose," she said, "you are all very much excited about Class
Day at Cambridge."
"That sounds like a remark made to open the way to conversation."
Jeff went on to burlesque a reply in the same spirit. "Oh, very much
so indeed, Miss Lynde! We are all looking forward to it so eagerly.
Are you coming?"
She rejected his lead with a slight sigh so skilfully drawn that it
deceived him when she said, gravely:
"I don't know. It's apt to be a very baffling time at the best.
All the men that you like are taken up with their own people, and
even the men that you don't like overvalue themselves, and think
they're doing you a favor if they give you a turn at the Gym or bring
you a plate of something."
"Well, they are, aren't they?"
"I suppose, yes, that's what makes me hate it. One doesn't like to
have such men do one a favor. And then, Juniors get younger every
year! Even a nice Junior is only a Junior," she concluded, with a sad
fall of her mocking voice."
"I don't believe there's a Senior in Harvard that wouldn't forsake
his family and come to the rescue if your feelings could be known,"
said Jeff. He lifted the bottle at his elbow and found it empty, and
this seemed to remind him to rise.
"Don't make them known, please," said Bessie. "I shouldn't want an
ovation." She sat, after he had risen, as if she wished to detain
him, but when he came up to take leave she had to put her hand in his.
She looked at it there, and so did he; it seemed very little and
slim, about one-third the size of his palm, and it seemed to go to
nothing in his grasp. "I should think," she added, "that the jays
would have the best time on Class Day. I should like to dance at one
of their spreads, and do everything they did. It would be twice the
fun, and there would be some nature in it. I should like to see a jay
"If you'll come out, I'll show you one," said Jeff, without
"Oh, will you?" she said, taking away her hand. "That would be
delightful. But what would become of your folks?" She caught a corner
of her mouth with her teeth, as if the word had slipped out.
"Do you call them folks?" asked Jeff, quietly:
"Not in Boston. I do at Lion's Head."
"I don't know as they're coming."
"How delightful! I don't mean that; but if they're not, and if you
really knew some jays, and could get me a little glimpse of their
"I think I could manage it for you." He spoke as before, but he
looked at her with a mockery in his lips and eyes as intelligent as
her own, and the latent change in his mood gave her the sense of being
in the presence of a vivid emotion. She rose in her excitement; she
could see that he admired her, and was enjoying her insolence too, in
a way, though in a way that she did not think she quite understood;
and she had the wish to make him admire her a little more.
She let a light of laughter come into her eyes, of harmless
mischief played to an end. "I don't deserve your kindness, and I
won't come. I've been very wicked, don't you think?"
"Not very--for you," said Jeff.
"Oh, how good!" she broke out. "But be frank now! I've offended
"How? I know I'm a jay, and in the country I've got folks."
"Ah, I see you're hurt at my joking, and I'm awfully sorry. I wish
there was some way of making you forgive me. But it couldn't be that
alone," she went on rather aimlessly as to her words, trusting to his
answer for some leading, and willing meanwhile to prolong the
situation for the effect in her nerves. It had been a very dull and
tedious day, and she was finding much more than she could have
expected in the mingled fear and slight which he inspired her with in
such singular measure. These feminine subtleties of motive are beyond
any but the finest natures in the other sex, and perhaps all that Jeff
perceived was the note of insincerity in her words.
"Couldn't be what alone?" he asked.
"What I've said," she ventured, letting her eyes fall; but they
were not eyes that fell effectively, and she instantly lifted them
again to his.
"You haven't said anything, and if you've thought anything, what
have I got to do with that? I think all sorts of things about
people--or folks, as you call them--"
"Oh, thank you! Now you are forgiving me!"
"I think them about you"
"Oh, do sit down and tell me the kind of things you think about
me!" Bessie implored, sinking back into her chair.
"You mightn't like them."
"But if they would do me good?"
"What should I want to do you good for?"
"That's true," sighed Bessie, thoughtfully.
"Thank you so much!"
"Don't try to do each other good, unless they're cranks like
Lancaster, or bores like Mrs. Bevidge--"
"You belong to the analytical school of Seniors! Go on!"
"That's all," said Jeff.
"And you don't think I've tried to do you good?"
He laughed. Her comedy was delicious to him. He had never found,
anybody so amusing; he almost respected her for it.
"If that is your opinion of me, Mr. Durgin," she said, very
gravely, "I am sorry. May I remark that I don't see why you come,
"I can tell you," said Jeff, and he advanced upon her where she sat
so abruptly that she started and shrank back in her chair. "I come
because you've got brains, and you're the only girl that has--here."
They were Alan's words, almost his words, and for an instant she
thought of her brother, end wondered what he would think of this jay's
praising her in his terms. "Because," Jeff went on, "you've got more
sense and nonsense --than all the women here put together. Because
it's better than a play to hear you talk--and act; and because you're
graceful--and fascinating, and chic, and--Good-night, Miss Lynde."
He put out his hand, but she did not take it as she rose haughtily.
"We've said good-night once. I prefer to say good-bye this time. I'm
sure you will understand why after this I cannot see you again." She
seemed to examine him for the effect of these words upon him before
she went on.
"No, I don't understand," he answered, coolly; "but it isn't
necessary I should; and I'm quite willing to say good-bye, if you
prefer. You haven't been so frank with me as I have with you; but
that doesn't make any difference; perhaps you never meant to be, or
couldn't be, if you meant. Good-bye." He bowed and turned toward the
She fluttered between him and it. "I wish to know what you accuse
"You imply that I have been unjust toward you."
"And I can't let you go till you prove it."
"Prove to a woman that--Will you let me pass?"
"No!" She spread her slender arms across the doorway.
"Oh, very well!" Jeff took her hands and put them both in the hold
of one of his large, strong bands. Then, with the contact, it came to
him, from a varied experience of girls in his rustic past, that this
young lady, who was nothing but a girl after all, was playing her
comedy with a certain purpose, however little she might know it or own
it. He put his other large, strong hand upon her waist, and pulled
her to him and kissed her. Another sort of man, no matter what he had
believed of her, would have felt his act a sacrilege then and there.
Jeff only knew that she had not made the faintest straggle against
him; she had even trembled toward him, and he brutally exulted in the
belief that he had done what she wished, whether it was what she meant
She, for her part, realized that she had been kissed as once she
had happened to see one of the maids kissed by the grocer's boy at the
basement door. In an instant this man had abolished all her defences
of family, of society, of personality, and put himself on a level with
her in the most sacred things of life. Her mind grasped the fact and
she realized it intellectually, while as yet all her emotions seemed
paralyzed. She did not know whether she resented it as an abominable
outrage or not; whether she hated the man for it or not. But perhaps
he was in love with her, and his love overpowered him; in that case
she could forgive him, if she were in love with him. She asked
herself whether she was, and whether she had betrayed herself to him
so that he was somehow warranted in what he did. She wondered if
another sort of man would have done it, a gentleman, who believed she
was in love with him. She wondered if she were as much shocked as she
was astonished. She knew that there was everything in the situation to
make the fact shocking, but she got no distinct reply from her jarred
It ought to be known, and known at once; she ought to tell her
brother, as soon as she saw him; she thought of telling her aunt, and
she fancied having to shout the affair into her ear, and having to
repeat, "He kissed me! Don't you understand? Kissed me!" Then she
reflected with a start that she could never tell any one, that in the
midst of her world she was alone in relation to this; she was as
helpless and friendless as the poorest and lowliest girl could be.
She was more so, for if she were like the maid whom the grocer's boy
kissed she would be of an order of things in which she could advise
with some one else who had been kissed; and she would know what to
She asked herself whether she was at all moved at heart; till now
it seemed to her that it had not been different with her toward him
from what it had been toward all the other men whose meaning she would
have liked to find out. She had not in the least respected them, and
she did not respect him; but if it happened because he was overcome by
his love for her, and could not help it, then perhaps she must forgive
him whether she cared for him or not.
These ideas presented themselves with the simultaneity of things in
a dream in that instant when she lingered helplessly in his hold, and
she even wondered if by any chance Andrew had seen them; but she heard
his step on the floor below; and at the same time it appeared to her
that she must be in love with this man if she did not resent what he
Westover was sitting at an open window of his studio smoking out
into the evening air, and looking down into the thinly foliaged tops
of the public garden, where the electrics fainted and flushed and
hissed. Cars trooped by in the troubled street, scraping the wires
overhead that screamed as if with pain at the touch of their trolleys,
and kindling now and again a soft planet, as the trolleys struck the
batlike plates that connected the crossing lines. The painter was
getting almost as much pleasure out of the planets as pain out of the
screams, and he was in an after-dinner languor in which he was very
reluctant to recognize a step, which he thought he knew, on his stairs
and his stairs-landing. A knock at his door followed the sound of the
approaching steps. He lifted himself, and called out, inhospitably,
"Come in!" and, as he expected, Jeff Durgin came in. Westover's
meetings with him had been an increasing discomfort since his return
from Lion's Head. The uneasiness which he commonly felt at the first
moment of encounter with him yielded less and less to the influence of
Jeff's cynical bonhomie, and it returned in force as soon as they
It was rather dim in the place, except for the light thrown up into
it from the turmoil of lights outside, but he could see that there was
nothing of the smiling mockery on Jeff's face which habitually
expressed his inner hardihood. It was a frowning mockery.
"Hello!" said Westover,
"Hello!" answered Jeff. "Any commands for Lion's Head?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going up there to-morrow. I've got to see Cynthia, and tell
her what I've been doing."
Westover waited a moment before he asked: "Do you want me to ask
what you've been doing?"
"I shouldn't mind it."
The painter paused again. "I don't know that I care to ask. Is it
"No!" shouted Jeff. "It's the worst thing yet, I guess you'll
think. I couldn't have believed it myself, if I hadn't been through
it. I shouldn't have supposed I was such a fool. I don't care for the
girl; I never did."
"Cynthia? No! Miss Lynde. Oh, try to take it in!" Jeff cried,
with a laugh at the daze in Westover's face. "You must have known
about the flirtation; if you haven't, you're the only one." His
vanity in the fact betrayed itself in his voice. "It came to a crisis
last week, and we tried to make each other believe that we were in
earnest. But there won't be any real love lost."
Westover did not speak. He could not make out whether he was
surprised or whether he was shocked, and it seemed to him that he was
neither surprised nor shocked. He wondered whether he had really
expected something of the kind, sooner or later, or whether he was not
always so apprehensive of some deviltry in Durgin that nothing he did
could quite take him unawares. At last he said: "I suppose it's
true--even though you say it. It's probably the only truth in you."
"That's something like," said Jeff, as if the contempt gave him a
sort of pleasure; and his heavy face lighted up and then darkened
"Well," said Westover, "what are we going to do? You've come to
"I'm going to break with her. I don't care for her--that!" He
snapped his fingers. "I told her I cared because she provoked me to.
It happened because she wanted it to and led up to it."
"Ah!" said Westover. "You put it on her!" But he waited for
Durgin's justification with a dread that he should find something in
"Pshaw! What's the use? It's been a game from the beginning, and
a question which should ruin. I won. She meant to throw me over, if
the time came for her, but it came for me first, and it's only a
question now which shall break first; we've both been near it once or
twice already. I don't mean she shall get the start of me."
Westover had a glimpse of the innate enmity of the sexes in this
game; of its presence in passion that was lived and of its prevalence
in passion that was played. But the fate of neither gambler concerned
him; he was impatient of his interest in what Jeff now went on to tell
him, without scruple concerning her, or palliation of himself. He
scarcely realized that he was listening, but afterward he remembered
it all, with a little pity for Bessie and none for Jeff, but with more
shame for her, too. Love seems more sacredly confided to women than
to men; it is and must be a higher and finer as well as a holier thing
with them; their blame for its betrayal must always be the heavier.
He had sometimes suspected Bessie's willingness to amuse herself with
Jeff, as with any other man who would let her play with him; and he
would not have relied upon anything in him to defeat her purpose, if
it had been anything so serious as a purpose.
At the end of Durgin's story he merely asked: "And what are you
going to do about Cynthia?"
"I am going to tell her," said Jeff. "That's what I am going up
Westover rose, but Jeff remained sitting where he had put himself
astride of a chair, with his face over the back. The painter walked
slowly up and down before him in the capricious play of the street
light. He turned a little sick, and he stopped a moment at the window
for a breath of air.
"Well?" asked Jeff.
"Oh! You want my advice?" Westover still felt physically
incapable of the indignation which he strongly imagined. "I don't
know what to say to you, Durgin. You transcend my powers. Are you
able to see this whole thing yourself?"
"I guess so," Jeff answered. "I don't idealize it, though. I look
at facts; they're bad enough. You don't suppose that Miss Lynde is
going to break her heart over--"
"I don't believe I care for Miss Lynde any more than I care for
you. But I believe I wish you were not going to break with her."
"Because you and she are fit for each other. If you want my
advice, I advise you to be true to her--if you can."
"Break with her."
"Oh!" Jeff gave a snort of derision.
"You're not fit for her. You couldn't do a crueler thing for her
than to keep faith with her."
"Do you mean it?"
"Yes, I mean it. Stick to Miss Lynde--if she'll let you."
Jeff seemed puzzled by Westover's attitude, which was either too
sincere or too ironical for him. He pushed his hat, which he had kept
on, back from his forehead. "Damned if I don't believe she would," he
mused aloud. The notion seemed to flatter him and repay him for what
he must have been suffering. He smiled, but he said: "She wouldn't
do, even if she were any good. Cynthia is worth a million of her. If
she wants to give me up after she knows all about me, well and good.
I shu'n't blame her. But I shall give her a fair chance, and I
shu'n't whitewash myself; you needn't be afraid of that, Mr.
"Why should I care what you do?" asked the painter, scornfully.
"Well, you can't, on my account," Durgin allowed. "But you do care
on her account."
"Yes, I do," said Westover, sitting down again, and he did not say
Durgin waited a long while for him to speak before he asked: " Then
that's really your advice, is it?"
"Yes, break with her."
"And stick to Miss Lynde."
"If she'll let you."
Jeff was silent in his turn. He started from his silence with a
laugh. "She'd make a daisy landlady for Lion's Head. I believe she
would like to try it awhile just for the fun. But after the ball was
over--well, it would be a good joke, if it was a joke. Cynthia is a
woman--she a'n't any corpse-light. She understands me, and she don't
overrate me, either. She knew just how much I was worth, and she took
me at her own valuation. I've got my way in life marked out, and she
believes in it as much as I do. If anybody can keep me level and make
the best of me, she can, and she's going to have the chance, if she
wants to. I'm going to act square with her about the whole thing. I
guess she's the best judge in a case like this, and I shall lay the
whole case before her, don't you be afraid of that. And she's got to
have a free field. Why, even if there wa'n't any question of her," he
went on, falling more and more into his vernacular, "I don't believe I
should care in the long run for this other one. We couldn't make it
go for any time at all. She wants excitement, and after the summer
folks began to leave, and we'd been to Florida for a winter, and then
came back to Lion's Head-well! This planet hasn't got excitement
enough in it for that girl, and I doubt if the solar system has. At
any rate, I'm not going to act as advance-agent for her."
"I see," said Westover, "that you've been reasoning it all out, and
I'm not surprised that you've kept your own advantage steadily in
mind. I don't suppose you know what a savage you are, and I don't
suppose I could teach you. I sha'n't try, at any rate. I'll take you
on your own ground, and I tell you again you had better break with
Cynthia. I won't say that it's what you owe her, for that won't have
any effect with you, but it's what you owe yourself. You can't do a
wrong thing and prosper on it--"
"Oh yes, you can," Jeff interrupted, with a sneering laugh. "How
do you suppose all the big fortunes were made? By keeping the
"No. But you're an unlucky man if life hasn't taught you that you
must pay in suffering of some kind, sooner or later, for every wrong
thing you do--"
"Now that's one of your old-fashioned superstitions, Mr. Westover,"
said Jeff, with a growing kindliness in his tone, as if the pathetic
delusion of such a man really touched him. "You pay, or you don't
pay, just as it happens. If you get hit soon after you've done wrong,
you think it's retribution, and if it holds off till you've forgotten
all about it, you think it's a strange Providence, and you puzzle over
it, but you don't reform. You keep right along in the old way.
Prosperity and adversity, they've got nothing to do with conduct. If
you're a strong man, you get there, and if you're a weak man, all the
righteousness in the universe won't help you. But I propose to do
what's right about Cynthia, and not what's wrong; and according to
your own theory, of life--which won't hold water a minute--I ought to
be blessed to the third and fourth generation. I don't look for that,
though. I shall be blessed if I look out for myself ; and if I don't,
I shall suffer for my want of foresight. But I sha'n't suffer for
anything else. Well, I'm going to cut some of my recitations, and I'm
going up to Lion's Head, to-morrow, to settle my business with
Cynthia. I've got a little business to look after here with some one
else first, and I guess I shall have to be about it. I don't know
which I shall like the best." He rose, and went over to where
Westover was sitting, and held out his hand to him.
"What is it?" asked Westover.
"Any commands for Lion's Head?" Jeff said, as at first.
"No," said Westover, turning his face away.
"Oh, all right." Durgin put his hand into his pocket unshaken.
"What is it, Jeff?" asked Cynthia, the next night, as they started
out together after supper, and began to stroll down the hill toward
her father's house. It lay looking very little and low in the nook at
the foot of the lane, on the verge of the woods that darkened away to
the northward from it, under the glassy night sky, lit with the spare
young moon. The peeping of the frogs in the marshy places filled the
air; the hoarse voice of the brook made itself heard at intervals
"It's not so warm here, quite, as it is in Boston," he returned.
"Are you wrapped up enough? This air has an edge to it."
"I'm all right," said the girl. "What is it?"
"You think there's something? You don't believe I've come up for
rest over Sunday ? I guess mother herself didn't, and I could see
your father following up my little lies as if he wa'n't going to let
one escape him. Well, you're right. There is something. Think of the
worst thing you can, Cynthy!"
She pulled her hand out of his arm, which she had taken, and halted
him by her abrupt pause. "You're not going to get through!"
"I'm all right on my conditions," said Jeff, with forlorn derision.
"You'll have to guess again." He stood looking back over his shoulder
at her face, which showed white in the moonlight, swathed airily round
in the old-fashioned soft woollen cloud she wore.
"Is it some trouble you've got into? I shall stand by you!"
"Oh, you splendid girl! The trouble's over, but it's something you
can't stand by me in, I guess. You know that girl I wrote to you
about--the one I met at the college tea, and--"
"Yes! Miss Lynde!"
"Come on! We can't stay here talking. Let's go down and sit on
your porch." She mechanically obeyed him, and they started on
together down the hill again; but she did not offer to take his arm,
and he kept the width of the roadway from her.
"What about her?" she quietly asked.
"Last night I ended up the flirtation I've been carrying on with
her ever since."
"I want to know just what you mean, Jeff."
"I mean that last week I got engaged to her, and last night I broke
with her." Cynthia seemed to stumble on something; he sprang over and
caught. her, and now she put her hand in his arm, and stayed herself
by him as they walked.
"Go on," she said.
"That's all there is of it."
"No!" She stopped, and then she asked, with a kind of gentle
bewilderment: "What did you want to tell me for?"
"To let you break with me--if you wanted to."
"Don't you care for me any more?"
"Yes, more than ever I did. But I'm not fit for you, Cynthia. Mr.
Westover said I wasn't. I told him about it--"
"What did he say?"
"That I ought to break with you."
"But if you broke with her?"
"He told me to stick to her. He was right about you, Cynthy. I'm
not fit for you, and that's a fact."
"What was it about that girl? Tell me everything." She spoke in a
tone of plaintive entreaty, very unlike the command she once used with
Jeff when she was urging him to be frank with her and true to himself.
They had come to her father's house and she freed her hand from his
arm again, and sat down on the step before the side door with a little
sigh as of fatigue.
"You'll take cold," said Jeff, who remained on foot in front of
"No," she said, briefly. "Go on."
"Why," Jeff began, harshly, and with a note of scorn for himself
and his theme in his voice, "there isn't any more of it, but there's
no end to her. I promised Mr. Westover I shouldn't whitewash myself,
and I sha'n't. I've been behaving badly, and it's no excuse for me
because she wanted me to. I began to go for her as soon as I saw that
she wanted me to, and that she liked the excitement. The excitement
is all that she cared for; she didn't care for me except for the
excitement of it. She thought she could have fun with me, and then
throw me over; but I guess she found her match. You couldn't
understand such a girl, and I don't brag of it. All she cared for was
to flirt with me, and she liked it all the more because I was a jay
and she could get something new out of it. I can't explain it; but I
could see it right along. She fooled herself more than she fooled
"Was she--very good-looking?" Cynthia asked, listlessly.
"No!" shouted Jeff." She wasn't good-looking at all. She was dark
and thin, and she had little slanting eyes; but she was graceful, and
she knew how to make herself go further than any girl I ever saw. If
she came into a room, she made you look at her, or you had to somehow.
She was bright, too; and she had more sense than all the other girls
there put together. But she was a fool, all the same." Jeff paused.
"Is that enough?"
"It isn't all."
"No, it isn't all. We didn't meet much at first, but I got to
walking home with her from some teas; and then we met at a big ball.
I danced with her the whole while nearly, and--and I took her brother
home--Pshaw! He was drunk; and I--well, he had got drunk drinking with
me at the ball. The wine didn't touch me, but it turned his head; and
I took him home; he's a drunkard, anyway. She let us in when we got
to their house, and that kind of made a tie between us. She pretended
to think she was under obligations to me, and so I got to going to her
"Did she know how her brother got drunk?"
"She does now. I told her last night." How came you to tell her?"
"I wanted to break with her. I wanted to stop it, once for all,
and I thought that would do it, if anything would."
"Did that make her willing to give you up?"
Jeff checked himself in a sort of retrospective laugh. "I'm not so
sure. I guess she liked the excitement of that, too. You couldn't
understand the kind of girl she-- She wanted to flirt with me that
night I brought him home tipsy."
"I don't care to hear any more about her. Why did you give her
"Because I didn't care for her, and I did care for you, Cynthy."
"I don't believe it." Cynthia rose from the step, where she had
been sitting, as if with renewed strength. "Go up and tell father to
come down here. I want to see him." She turned and put her hand on
the latch of the door.
"You're not going in there, Cynthia," said Jeff. "It must be like
death in there."
"It's more like death out here. But if it's the cold you mean, you
needn't be troubled. We've had a fire to-day, airing out the house.
Will you go?"
"But what do you--what are you going to say to me?"
"I don't know, yet. If I said anything now, I should tell you what
Mr. Westover did: go back to that girl, if she'll let you. You're fit
for each other, as he said. Did you tell her that you were engaged to
some one else?"
"I did, last night."
"But before that she didn't know how false you were. Well, you're
not fit for her, then; you're not good enough."
She opened the door and went in, closing it after her. Jeff turned
and walked slowly away; then he came quickly back, as if he were going
to follow her within. But through the window he saw her as she stood
by the table with a lamp in her hand. She had turned up the light,
which shone full in her face and revealed its severe beauty broken and
writhen with the effort to repress her weeping. He might not have
minded the severity or the beauty, but the pathos was more than he
could stand. "Oh, Lord!" he said, with a shrug, and he turned again
and walked slowly up the hill.
When Whitwell faced his daughter in the little sitting-room, whose
low ceiling his hat almost touched as he stood before her, the storm
had passed with her, and her tear-drenched visage wore its wonted look
of still patience.
"Did Jeff tell you why I sent for you, father?"
"No. But I knew it was trouble," said Whitwell, with a dignity
which- his sympathy for her gave a countenance better adapted to the
expression of the lighter emotions.
"I guess you were right about him," she resumed: She went on to
tell in brief the story that Jeff had told her. Her father did not
interrupt her, but at the end he said, inadequately: "He's a comical
devil. I knew about his gittin' that feller drunk. Mr. Westover told
me when he was up here."
"Mr. Westover did!" said Cynthia, in a note of indignation.
"He didn't offer to," Whitwell explained. "I got it out of him in
spite of him, I guess." He had sat down with his hat on, as his
absent-minded habit was, and he now braced his knees against the edge
of the table. Cynthia sat across it from him with her head drooped
over it, drawing vague figures on the board with her finger. "What
are you goin' to do?"
"I don't know," she answered.
"I guess you don't quite realize it yet," her father suggested,
tenderly. "Well, I don't want to hurry you any. Take your time."
"I guess I realize it," said the girl.
"Well, it's a pootty plain case, that's a fact," Whitwell conceded.
She was silent, and he asked: "How did he come to tell you?"
"It's what he came up for. He began to tell me at once. I was
certain there was some trouble."
"Was it his notion to come, I wonder, or Mr. Westover's?"
"It was his. But Mr. Westover told him to break off with me, and
keep on with her, if she would let him."
"I guess that was pootty good advice," said Whitwell, letting his
face betray his humorous relish of it. "I guess there's a pair of
"She was not playing any one else false," said Cynthia, bitterly.
"Well, I guess that's so, too," her father assented. "'Ta'n't so
much of a muchness as you might think, in that light." He took refuge
from the subject in an undirected whistle.
After a moment the girl asked, forlornly: " What should you do,
father, if you were in my place?"
"Well, there I guess you got me, Cynthy," said her father. "I
don't believe 't any man, I don't care how old he is, or how much
experience he's had, knows exactly how a girl feels about a thing like
this, or has got any call to advise her. Of course, the way I feel is
like takin' the top of his head off. But I d' know," he added, "as
that would do a great deal of good, either. I presume a woman's got
rather of a chore to get along with a man, anyway. We a'n't any of us
much to brag on. It's out o' sight, out o' mind, with the best of us,
"It wouldn't be with Jackson--it wouldn't be with Mr. Westover."
"There a'n't many men like Mr. Westover--well, not a great many; or
Jackson, either. Time! I wish Jackson was home! He'd know how to
straighten this thing out, and he wouldn't weaken over Jeff
much--well, not much. But he a'n't here, and you've got to act for
yourself. The way I look at it is this: you took Jeff when you knowed
what a comical devil he was, and I presume you ha'n't got quite the
same right to be disappointed in what he done as if you hadn't knowed.
Now mind, I a'n't excusin' him. But if you knowed he was the feller
to play the devil if he got a chance, the question is
"I know what you mean, father," said the girl, "and I don't want to
shirk my responsibility. It was everything to have him come right up
and tell me."
"Well," said Whitwell, impartially, "as far forth as that goes, I
don't think he's strained himself. He'd know you would hear of it
sooner or later anyway, and he ha'n't just found out that he was goin'
wrong. Been keepin' it up for the last three months, and writin' you
all the while them letters you was so crazy to get."
"Yes," sighed the girl. "But we've got to be just to his
disposition as well as his actions. I can see it in one light that
can excuse it some. He can't bear to be put down, and I know he's been
left out a good deal among the students, and it's made him bitter. He
told me about it; that's one reason why he wanted to leave Harvard
this last year. He saw other young men made much of, when he didn't
get any notice; and when he had the chance to pay them back with a
girl of their own set that was trying to make a fool of him--"
"That was the time for him to remember you," said Whitwell.
Cynthia broke under the defence she was trying to make. "Yes," she
said, with an indrawn sigh, and she began to sob piteously.
The sight of her grief seemed to kindle her father's wrath to a
flame. "Any way you look at him, he's been a dumn blackguard; that's
what he's been. You're a million times too good for him; and I--"
She sobbed herself quiet, and then she said: "Father, I don't like
to go up there to-night. I want to stay here."
"All right, Cynthia. I'll come down and stay with you. You got
everything we want here?"
"Yes. And I'll go up and get the breakfast for them in the
morning. There won't be much to do."
"Dumn 'em! Let 'em get their own breakfast!" said Whitwell,
"And, father," the girl went on as if he had not spoken, "don't you
talk to Mrs. Durgin about it, will you?"
"No, no. I sha'n't speak to her. I'll just tell Frank you and me
are goin' to stay down here to-night. She'll suspicion something, but
she can figure it out for herself. Or she can make Jeff tell her. It
can't be kept from her."
"Well, let him be the one to tell her. Whatever happens, I shall
never speak of it to a soul besides you."
All right, Cynthy. You'll have the night to think it over--I guess
you won't sleep much-and I'll trust you to do what's the best thing
Cynthia found Mrs. Durgin in the old farm-house kitchen at work
getting breakfast when she came up to the hotel in the morning. She
was early, but the elder woman had been earlier still, and her heavy
face showed more of their common night-long trouble than the girl's.
She demanded, at sight of her, " What's the matter with you and
Cynthia was unrolling the cloud from her hair. She said, as she
tied on her apron: "You must get him to tell you, Mrs. Durgin."
"Then there is something?"
"Has Jeff been using you wrong?"
Cynthia stooped to open the oven door, and to turn the pan of
biscuit she found inside. She shut the door sharply to, and said, as
she rose: "I don't want to tell anything about it, and I sha'n't, Mrs.
Durgin. He can do it, if he wants to. Shall I make the coffee?"
"Yes; you seem to make it better than I do. Do you think I
shouldn't believe you was fair to him?"
"I wasn't thinking of that. But it's his secret. If he wants to
keep it, he can keep it, for all me."
"You ha'n't give each other up?"
"I don't know." Cynthia turned away with a trembling chin, and
began to beat the coffee up with an egg she had dropped into the pot.
She put the breakfast on the table when it was ready, but she would
not sit down with the rest. She said she did not want any breakfast,
and she drank a cup of coffee in the kitchen.
It fell to Jeff mainly to keep the talk going. He had been out at
the barn with Jombateeste since daybreak, looking after the cattle,
and the joy of the weather had got into his nerves and spirits. At
first he had lain awake after he went to bed, but he had fallen asleep
about midnight, and got a good night's rest. He looked fresh and
strong and very handsome. He talked resolutely to every one at the
table, but Jombateeste was always preoccupied with eating at his
meals, and Frank Whitwell had on a Sunday silence, which was perhaps
deepened by a feeling that there was something wrong between his
sister and Jeff, and it would be rash to commit himself to an open
friendliness until he understood the case. His father met Jeff's
advances with philosophical blandness and evasion, and Mrs. Durgin was
provisionally dry and severe both with the Whitwells and her son.
After breakfast she went to the parlor, and Jeff set about a tour of
the hotel, inside and out. He looked carefully to the details of its
winter keeping. Then he came back and boldly joined his mother where
she sat before her stove, whose subdued heat she found pleasant in the
lingering cold of the early spring.
He tossed his hat on the table beside her, and sat down on the
other side of the stove. "Well, I must say the place has been well
looked after. I don't believe Jackson himself could have kept it in
better shape. When was the last you heard from him?"
"I hope," said his mother, gravely, "you've been lookin' after your
end at Boston, too."
"Well, not as well as you have here, mother," said Jeff, candidly.
"Has Cynthy told you?"
"I guess she expected you to tell me, if there was anything."
"There's a lot; but I guess I needn't go over it all. I've been
playing the devil."
"Yes, I have. I've been going with another girl down there, one
the kind you wanted me to make up to, and I went so far I--well, I
made love to her; and then I thought it over, and found out I didn't
really care for her, and I had to tell her so, and then I came up to
tell Cynthy. That's about the size of it. What do you think of it?"
"D' you tell Cynthy?"
"Yes, I told her."
"What 'd she say?"
"She said I'd better go back to the other girl." Jeff laughed
hardily, but his mother remained impassive.
"I guess she's right; I guess you had."
"That seems to be the general opinion. That's what Mr. Westover
advised. I seem to be the only one against it. I suppose you mean
that I'm not fit for Cynthy. I don't deny it. All I say is I want
her, and I don't want the other one. What are you going to do in a
case like that?"
"The way I should look at it," said his mother, "is this: whatever
you are, Cynthy made you. You was a lazy, disobedient, worthless boy,
and it was her carin' for you from the first that put any spirit and
any principle into you. It was her that helped you at school when you
was little things together; and she helped you at the academy, and
she's helped you at college. I'll bet she could take a degree, or
whatever it is, at Harvard better than you could now; and if you ever
do take a degree, you've got her to thank for it."
"That's so," said Jeff. "And what's the reason you didn't want me
to marry her when I came in here last summer and told you I'd asked
"You know well enough what the reason was. It was part of the same
thing as my wantin' you to be a lawyer; but I might knowed that if you
didn't have Cynthy to go into court with you, and put the words into
your mouth, you wouldn't make a speech that would"--Mrs. Durgin paused
for a fitting figure--"save a flea from the gallows."
Jeff burst into a laugh. "Well, I guess that's so, mother. And
now you want me to throw away the only chance I've got of learning how
to run Lion's Head in the right way by breaking with Cynthy."
"Nobody wants you to run Lion's Head for a while yet," his mother
returned, scornfully. "Jackson is going to run Lion's Head. He'll be
home the end of June, and I'll run Lion's Head till he gets here. You
talk," she went on, "as if it was in your hands to break with Cynthy,
or throw away the chance with her. The way I look at it, she's broke
with you, and you ha'n't got any chance with her. Oh, Jeff," she
suddenly appealed to him, "tell me all about it! What have you been
up to? If I understood it once, I know I can make her see it in the
"The better you understand it, mother, the less you'll like it; and
I guess Cynthy sees it in the right light already. What did she say?"
"Nothing. She said she'd leave it to you."
"Well, that's like Cynthy. I'll tell you, then," said Jeff; and he
told his mother his whole affair with Bessie Lynde. He had to be very
elemental, and he was aware, as he had never been before, of the
difference between Bessie's world and his mother's world, in trying to
make Bessie's world conceivable to her.
He was patient in going over every obscure point, and illustrating
from the characters and condition of different summer folks the facts
of Bessie's entourage. It is doubtful, however, if he succeeded in
conveying to his mother a clear and just notion of the purely chic
nature of the girl. In the end she seemed to conceive of her simply
as a hussy, and so pronounced her, without limit or qualification, in
spite of Jeff's laughing attempt to palliate her behavior, and to
inculpate himself. She said she did not see what he had done that was
so much out of the way. That thing had led him on from the beginning;
she had merely got her come-uppings, when all was said. Mrs. Durgin
believed Cynthia would look at it as she did, if she could have it put
before her rightly. Jeff shook his head with persistent misgiving.
His notion was that Cynthia saw the affair only too clearly, and that
there was no new light to be thrown on it from her point of view.
Mrs. Durgin would not allow this; she was sure that she could bring
Cynthia round; and she asked Jeff whether it was his getting that
fellow drunk that she seemed to blame him for the most. He answered
that he thought that was pretty bad, but he did not believe that was
the worst thing in Cynthia's eyes. He did not forbid his mother's
trying to do what she could with her, and he went away for a walk, and
left the house to the two women. Jombateeste was in the barn, which
he preferred to the house, and Frank Whitwell had gone to church over
at the Huddle. As Jeff passed Whitwell's cottage in setting out on
his stroll he saw the philosopher through the window, seated with his
legs on the table, his hat pushed back, and his spectacles fallen to
the point of his nose, reading, and moving his lips as he read.
The forenoon sun was soft, but the air was cool.
There was still plenty of snow on the upper slopes of the hills,
and there was a drift here and there in a corner of pasture wall in
the valley; but the springtime green was beginning to hover over the
wet places in the fields; the catkins silvered the golden tracery of
the willow branches by the brook; there was a buzz of bees about them,
and about the maples, blackened by the earlier flow of sap through the
holes in the bark made by the woodpeckers' bills. Now and then the
tremolo of a bluebird shook in the tender light and the keen air. At
one point in the road where the sun fell upon some young pines in a
sheltered spot a balsamic odor exhaled from them.
These gentle sights and sounds and odors blended in the influence
which Jeff's spirit felt more and more. He realized that he was a
blot on the loveliness of the morning. He had a longing to make
atonement and to win forgiveness. His heart was humbled toward
Cynthia, and he went wondering how his mother would make it out with
her, and how, if she won him any advantage, he should avail himself of
it and regain the girl's trust; he had no doubt of her love. He
perceived that there was nothing for him hereafter but the most
perfect constancy of thought and deed, and he desired nothing better.
At a turn of his road where it branched toward the Huddle a group
of young girls stood joking and laughing; before Jeff came up with
them they separated, and all but one continued on the way beyond the
turning. She came toward Jeff, who gayly recognized her as she drew
She blushed and bridled at his bow and at his beauty and splendor,
and in her embarrassment pertly said that she did not suppose he would
have remembered her. She was very young, but at fifteen a country
girl is not so young as her town sister at eighteen in the ways of the
Jeff answered that he should have known her anywhere, in spite of
her looking so much older than she did in the summer when she had come
with berries to the hotel. He said she must be feeling herself quite
a young lady now, in her long dresses, and he praised the dress which
she had on. He said it became her style; and he found such relief from
his heavy thoughts in these harmless pleasantries that he kept on with
them. He had involuntarily turned with her to walk back to her house
on the way he had come, and he asked her if he might not carry her
catkins for her. She had a sheaf of them in the hollow of her slender
arm, which seemed to him very pretty, and after a little struggle she
yielded them to him. The struggle gave him still greater relief from
his self-reproach, and at her gate he begged her to let him keep one
switch of the pussywillows, and he stood a moment wondering whether he
might not ask her for something else. She chose one from the bundle,
and drew it lightly across his face before she put it in his hand.
"You may have this for Cynthy," she said, and she ran laughingly up
the pathway to her door.
Cynthia did not appear at dinner, and Jeff asked his mother when he
saw her alone if she had spoken to the girl. "Yes, but she said she
did not want to talk yet."
"All right," he returned. "I'm going to take a nap; I believe I
feel as if I hadn't slept for a month."
He slept the greater part of the afternoon, and came down rather
dull to the early tea. Cynthia was absent again, and his mother was
silent and wore a troubled look. Whitwell was full of a novel
conception of the agency of hypnotism in interpreting the life of the
soul as it is intimated in dreams. He had been reading a book that
affirmed the consubstantiality of the sleep-dream and the hypnotic
illusion. He wanted to know if Jeff, down at Boston, had seen
anything of the hypnotic doings that would throw light on this theory.
It was still full light when they rose from the table, and it was
scarcely twilight when Jeff heard Cynthia letting herself out at the
back door. He fancied her going down to her father's house, and he
went out to the corner of the hotel to meet her. She faltered a
moment at sight of him, and then kept on with averted face.
He joined her, and walked beside her. "Well, Cynthy, what are you
going to say to me? I'm off for Cambridge again to-morrow morning,
and I suppose we've got to understand each other. I came up here to
put myself in your hands, to keep or to throw away, just as you
please. Well? Have you thought about it?"
"Every minute," said the girl, quietly.
"If you had cared for me, it couldn't have happened."
"Oh yes, it could. Now that's just where you're mistaken. That's
where a woman never can understand a man. I might carry on with half
a dozen girls, and yet never forget you, or think less of you,
although I could see all the time how pretty and bright every one of
'em was. That's the way a man's mind is built. It's curious, but
"I don't believe I care for any share in your mind, then," said the
"Oh, come, now! You don't mean that. You know I was just joking;
you know I don't justify what I've done, and I don't excuse it. But I
think I've acted pretty square with you about it--about telling you, I
mean. I don't want to lay any claim, but you remember when you made me
promise that if there was anything shady I wanted to hide from
you--Well, I acted on that. You do remember?"
"Yes," said Cynthia, and she pulled the cloud over the side of her
face next to him, and walked a little faster.
He hastened his steps to keep up with her. "Cynthy, if you put
your arms round me, as you did then--"
"I can't Jeff!"
"You don't want to."
"Yes, I do! But you don't want me to, as you did then. Do you?"
She stopped abruptly and faced him full. "Tell me, honestly!"
Jeff dropped his bold eyes, and the smile left his handsome mouth.
"You don't," said the girl, "for you know that if you did, I would
do it." She began to walk on again. "It wouldn't be hard for me to
forgive you anything you've done against me--or against yourself; I
should care for you the same--if you were the same person; but you're
not the same, and you know it. I told you then--that time that I
didn't want to make you do what you knew was right, and I never shall
try to do it again. I'm sorry I did it then. I was wrong. And I
should be afraid of you if I did now. Some time you would make me
suffer for it, just as you've made me suffer for making you do then
what was right."
It struck Jeff as a very curious fact that Cynthia must always have
known him better than he knew himself in some ways, for he now
perceived the truth and accuracy of her words. He gave her mind
credit for the penetration due her heart; he did not understand that
it is through their love women divine the souls of men. What other
witnesses of his character had slowly and carefully reasoned out from
their experience of him she had known from the beginning, because he
was dear to her.
He was silent, and then, with rare gravity, he said, "Cynthia, I
believe you're right," and he never knew how her heart leaped toward
him at his words. "I'm a pretty bad chap, I guess. But I want you to
give me another chance and I'll try not to make you pay for it,
either," he added, with a flicker of his saucy humor.
"I'll give you a chance, then," she said, and she shrank from the
hand he put out toward her. "Go back and tell that girl you're free
now, and if she wants you she can have you."
"Is that what you call a chance?" demanded Jeff, between anger and
injury. For an instant he imagined her deriding him and revenging
"It's the only one I can give you. She's never tried to make you
do what was right, and you'll never be tempted to hurt her."
"You're pretty rough on me, Cynthy," Jeff protested, almost
plaintively. He asked, more in character: " Ain't you afraid of making
me do right, now?"
"I'm not making you. I don't promise you anything, even if she
won't have you."
"Did you suppose I didn't mean that you were free? That I would
put a lie in your mouth for you to be true with?"
"I guess you're too deep for me," said Jeff, after a sulky silence.
"Then it's all off between us? What do you say?"
"What do you say?"
"I say it's just as it was before, if you care for me."
"I care for you, but it can never be the same as it was before.
What you've done, you've done. I wish I could help it, but I can't.
I can't make myself over into what I was twenty-four hours ago. I
seem another person, in another world; it's as if I died, and came to
life somewhere else. I'm sorry enough, if that could help, but it
can't. Go and tell that girl the truth: that you came up here to me,
and I sent you back to her."
A gleam of amusement visited Jeff in the gloom where he seemed to
be darkling. He fancied doing that very thing with Bessie Lynde, and
the wild joy she would snatch from an experience so unique, so
impossible. Then the gleam faded. "And what if I didn't want her?" he
"Tell her that too," said Cynthia.
"I suppose," said Jeff, sulkily, "you'll let me go away and do as I
please, if I'm free."
"Oh yes. I don't want you to do anything because I told you. I
won't make that mistake again. Go and do what you are able to do of
your own free will. You know what you ought to do as well as I do;
and you know a great deal better what you can do."
They had reached Cynthia's house, and they were talking at the side
door, as they had the night before, when there had been hope for her
in the newness of her calamity, before she had yet fully imagined it.
Jeff made no answer to her last words. He asked, "Am I going to
see you again?"
"I guess not. I don't believe I shall be up before you start."
"All right. Good-bye, then." He held out his hand, and she put
hers in it for the moment he chose to hold it. Then he turned and
slowly climbed the hill.
Cynthia was still lying with her face in her pillow when her father
came into the dark little house, and peered into her room with the
newly lighted lamp in his hand. She turned her face quickly over and
looked at him with dry and shining eyes.
"Well, it's all over with Jeff and me, father."
"Well, I'm satisfied," said Whitwell. "If you could ha' made it
up, so you could ha' felt right about it, I shouldn't ha' had anything
to say against it, but I'm glad it's turned out the way it has. He's
a comical devil, and he always was, and I'm glad you a'n't takin' on
about him any more. You used to have so much spirit when you was
"Oh,--spirit! You don't know how much spirit I've had, now."
"Well, I presume not," Whitwell assented.
"I've been thinking," said the girl, after a little pause, " that
we shall have to go away from here."
"Well, I guess not," her father began. "Not for no Jeff Dur--"
"Yes, yes. We must! Don't make one talk about it. We'll stay
here till Jackson gets back in June, and then--we must go somewhere
else. We'll go down to Boston, and I'll try to get a place to teach,
or something, and Frank can get a place."
"I presume," Whitwell mused, "that Mr. Westover could--"
"Father!" cried the girl, with an energy that startled him, as she
lifted herself on her elbow. "Don't ever think of troubling Mr.
Westover! Oh," she lamented, "I was thinking of troubling him myself!
But we mustn't, we mustn't! I should be so ashamed!"
"Well," said Whitwell, "time enough to think about all that. We
got two good months yet to plan it out before Jackson gets back, and I
guess we can think of something before that. I presume," he added,
thoughtfully, "that when Mrs. Durgin hears that you've give Jeff the
sack, she'll make consid'able of a kick. She done it when you got
After he went back to Cambridge, Jeff continued mechanically in the
direction given him by motives which had ceased for him. In the midst
of his divergence with Bessie Lynde he had still kept an inner fealty
to Cynthia, and tried to fulfil the purposes and ambition she had for
him. The operation of this habitual allegiance now kept him up to his
work, but the time must come when it could no longer operate, when his
whole consciousness should accept the fact known to his intelligence,
and he should recognize the close of that incident of his life as the
bereaved finally accept and recognize the fact of death.
The event brought him relief, and it brought him freedom. He was
sensible in his relaxation of having strained up to another's ideal,
of having been hampered by another's will. His pleasure in the relief
was tempered by a regret, not wholly unpleasant, for the girl whose
aims, since they were no longer his, must be disappointed. He was
sorry for Cynthia, and in his remorse he was fonder of her than he had
ever been. He felt her magnanimity and clemency; he began to question,
in that wordless deep of being where volition begins, whether it would
not be paying a kind of duty to her if he took her at her word and
tried to go back to Bessie Lynde. But for the present he did nothing
but renounce all notion of working at his conditions, or attempting to
take a degree. That was part of a thing that was past, and was no part
of anything to come, so far as Jeff now forecast his future.
He did not choose to report himself to Westover, and risk a
scolding, or a snubbing. He easily forgave Westover for the tone he
had taken at their last meeting, but he did not care to see him. He
would have met him half-way, however, in a friendly advance, and he
was aware of much good-will toward him, which he could not have been
reluctant to show if chance had brought them together.
Jeff missed Cynthia's letters which used to come so regularly every
Tuesday, and he had a half-hour every Sunday which was at first rather
painfully vacant since he no longer wrote to her. But in this vacancy
he had at least no longer the pang of self-reproach which her letters
always brought him, and he was not obliged to put himself to the shame
of concealment in writing to her. He had never minded that tacit
lying on his own account, but he hated it in relation to her; it
always hurt him as something incongruous and unfit. He wrote to his
mother now on Sunday, and in his first letter, while the impression of
Cynthia's dignity and generosity was still vivid, he urged her to make
it clear to the girl that he wished her and her family to remain at
Lion's Head as if nothing had happened. He put a great deal of real
feeling into this request, and he offered to go and spend a year in
Europe, if his mother thought that Cynthia would be more reconciled to
his coming back at the end of that time.
His mother answered with a dryness to which his ear supplied the
tones of her voice, that she would try to get along in the management
of Lion's Head till his brother got back, but that she had no
objection to his going to Europe for a year if he had the money to
spare. Jeff could not refuse her joke, as he felt it, a certain
applause, but he thought it pretty rough that his mother should take
part so decidedly against him as she seemed to be doing. He had
expected her to be angry with him, but before they parted she had
seemed to find some excuse for him, and yet here she was siding
against her own son in what he might very well consider an unnatural
way. If Jackson had been at home he would have laid it to his charge;
but he knew that Cynthia would have scorned even to speak of him with
his mother, and he knew too well his mother's slight for Whitwell to
suppose that he could have influenced her. His mind turned in
momentary suspicion to Westover. Had Westover, he wondered, with a
purpose to pay him up for it forming itself simultaneously with his
question, been setting his mother against him? She might have written
to Westover to get at the true inwardness of his behavior, and
Westover might have written her something that had made her harden her
heart against him. But upon reflection this seemed out of character
for both of them; and Jeff was thrown back upon his mother's sober
second thought of his misconduct for an explanation of her coldness.
He could not deny that he had grievously disappointed her in several
ways. But he did not see why he should not take a certain hint from
her letter, or construct a hint from it, at one with a vague intent
prompted by his own restless and curious vanity. Since he had parted
with Bessie Lynde, on terms of humiliation for her which must have
been anguish for him if he had ever loved her, or loved anything but
his power over her, he had remained in absolute ignorance of her. He
had not heard where she was or how she was; but now, as the few weeks
before Class Day and Commencement crumbled away, he began to wonder
why she made no sign. He believed that since she had been willing to
go so far to get him, she would not be willing to give him up so
easily. The thought of Cynthia had always intruded more or less
effectively between them, but now that this thought began to fade into
the past, the thought of Bessie began to grow out of it with no
However, Jeff was in no hurry. It was not passion that moved him,
and the mood in which he could play with the notion of getting back to
his flirtation with Bessie Lynde was pleasanter after the violence of
recent events than any renewal of strong sensations could be. He
preferred to loiter in this mood, and he was meantime much more
comfortable than he had been for a great while. He was rid of the
disagreeable sense of disloyalty to Cynthia, and he was rid of the
stress of living up to her conscience in various ways. He was rid of
Bessie Lynde, too, and of the trouble of forecasting and discounting
her caprices. His thought turned at times with a soft regret to
hopes, disappointments, experiences connected with neither, and now
tinged with a tender melancholy, unalloyed by shame or remorse. As he
drew nearer to Class Day he had a somewhat keener compunction for
Cynthia and the hopes he had encouraged her to build and had then
dashed. But he was coming more and more to regard it all as fatality;
and if the chance that he counted upon to bring him and Bessie
together again had occurred he could have more easily forgiven
One of the jays, who was spreading on rather a large scale, wanted
Jeff to spread with him, but he refused, because, as he said, he meant
to keep out of it altogether; and for the same reason he declined to
take part in the spread of a rather jay society he belonged to. In
his secret heart he trusted that some friendly fortuity might throw an
invitation to Beck Hall in his way, or at least a card for the Gym,
which, if no longer the place it had been, was still by no means jay.
He got neither; but as he felt all the joy of the June day in his
young blood he consoled himself very well with the dancing at one of
the halls, where the company happened that year to be openly, almost
recklessly jay. Jeff had some distinction among the fellows who
enviously knew of his social success during the winter, and especially
of his affair with Bessie Lynde; and there were some girls very pretty
and very well dressed among the crowd of girls who were neither. They
were from remote parts of the country, and in the charge of chaperons
ignorant of the differences so poignant to local society. Jeff went
about among them, and danced with the sisters and cousins of several
men who seemed superior to the lost condition of their kinswomen;
these were nice fellows enough, but doomed by their grinding, or
digging, or their want of worldly wisdom, to a place among the jays,
when they really had some qualifications for a nobler standing. He had
a very good time, and he was enjoying himself in his devotion to a
lively young brunette whom he was making laugh with his jokes about
some of the others, when his eye was caught by a group of ladies who
advanced among the jays with something of that collective intrepidity
and individual apprehension characteristic of people in slumming.
They had the air of not knowing what might happen to them, but the
adventurous young Boston matron in charge of the girls kept on a bold
front behind her lorgnette, and swept the strange company she found
herself in with an unshrinking eye as she led her band among the
promenaders, and past the couples seated along the walls. She
hesitated a moment as her glance fell upon Jeff, and then she yielded,
at whatever risk, to the comfort of finding a known face among so many
aliens. "Why, Mr. Durgin!" she called out. "Bessie, here's Mr.
Durgin," and she turned to the girl, who was in her train, as Jeff had
perceived by something finer than the senses from the first.
He rose from the side of his brunette, whose brother was standing
near, and shook hands with the adventurous young matron, who seemed
suddenly much better acquainted with him than he had ever thought her,
and with Bessie Lynde; the others were New York girls, and the matron
presented him. "Are you going on?" she asked, and the vague challenge
with the smile that accompanied it was sufficient invitation for him.
"Why, I believe so," he said, and he turned to take leave of his
pretty brunette; but she had promptly vanished with her brother, and
he was spared the trouble of getting rid of her. He would have been
equal to much more for the sake of finding himself with Bessie Lynde
again, whose excitement he could see burning in her eyes, though her
thick complexion grew neither brighter nor paler. He did not know
what quality of excitement it might be, but he said, audaciously:
"It's a good while since we met!" and he was sensible that his
"Is it?" she asked. He put himself at her side, and he did not
leave her again till he went to dress for the struggle around the
Tree. He found himself easily included in the adventurous young
matron's party. He had not the elegance of some of the taller and
slenderer men in the scholar's gown, but the cap became his handsome
face. His affair with Bessie Lynde had given him a certain note, and
an adventurous young matron, who was naturally a little
indiscriminate, might very well have been willing to let him go about
with her party. She could not know how impudent his mere presence was
with reference to Bessie, and the girl herself made no sign that could
have enlightened her. She accepted something more that her share of
his general usefulness to the party; she danced with him whenever he
asked her, and she seemed not to scruple to publish her affair with
him in the openest manner. If he could have stilled a certain shame
for her which he felt, he would have thought he was having the best
kind of time. They made no account of by-gones in their talk, but she
had never been so brilliant, or prompted him to so many of the
effronteries which were the spirit of his humor. He thought her
awfully nice, with lots of sense; he liked her letting him come back
without any fooling or fuss, and he began to admire instead of
despising her for it. Decidedly it was, as she would have said, the
chicquest sort of thing. What was the use, anyway? He made up his
When he said he must go and dress for the Tree, he took leave of
her first, and he was aware of a vivid emotion, which was like regret
in her at parting with him. She said, Must he? She seemed to want to
say something more to him; while he was dismissing himself from the
others, he noticed that once or twice she opened her lips as if she
were going to speak. In the end she did nothing more important than
to ask if he had seen her brother; but after he had left the party he
turned and saw her following him with eyes that he fancied anxious and
even frightened in their gaze.
The riot round the Tree roared itself through its wonted events.
Class after class of the undergraduates filed in and sank upon the
grass below the terraces and parterres of brilliantly dressed ladies
within the quadrangle of seats; the alumni pushed themselves together
against the wall of Holder Chapel; the men of the Senior class came
last in their grotesque variety of sweaters and second and third best
clothes for the scramble at the Tree. The regulation cheers tore from
throats that grew hoarser and hoarser, till every class and every
favorite in the faculty had been cheered. Then the signal-hat was
flung into the air, and the rush at the Tree was made, and the combat'
for the flowers that garlanded its burly waist began.
Jeff's size and shape forbade him to try for the flowers from the
shoulders of others. He was one of a group of jays who set their
backs to the Tree, and fought away all comers except their own; they
pulled down every man not of their sort, and put up a jay, who
stripped the Tree of its flowers and flung them to his fellows below.
As he was let drop to the ground, Jeff snatched a handful of his
spoil from him, and made off with it toward the place where he had
seen Bessie Lynde and her party. But when he reached the place,
shouldering and elbowing his way through the press, she was no longer
there. He saw her hat at a distance through the crowd, where he did
not choose to follow, and he stuffed the flowers into his breast to
give to her later. He expected to meet her somewhere in the evening;
if not, he would try to find her at her aunt's house in town; failing
that, he could send her the flowers, and trust her for some sort of
He went and had a bath and dressed himself freshly, and then he
went for a walk in the still evening air. He was very hot from the
battle which had been fought over him, and which he had shared with
all his strength, and it seemed to him as if he could not get cool.
He strolled far out along Concord Avenue, beyond the expanses and
ice-horses of Fresh Pond, into the country toward Belmont, with his
hat off and his head down. He was very well satisfied, and he was
smiling to himself at the ease of his return to Bessie, and securely
speculating upon the outcome of their renewed understanding.
He heard a vehicle behind him, rapidly driven, and he turned out
for it without looking around. Then suddenly he felt a fiery sting on
his forehead, and then a shower of stings swiftly following each other
over his head and face. He remembered stumbling, when he was a boy,
into a nest of yellow-jackets, that swarmed up around him and pierced
him like sparks of fire at every uncovered point. But he knew at the
same time that it was some one in the vehicle beside him who was
lashing him over the head with a whip. He bowed his head with his
eyes shut and lunged blindly out toward his assailant, hoping to seize
But the horse sprang aside, and tore past him down the road. Jeff
opened his eyes, and through the blood that dripped from the cuts
above them he saw the wicked face of Alan Lynde looking back at him
from the dogcart where he sat with his man beside him. He brandished
his broken whip in the air, and flung it into the bushes. Jeff walked
on, and picked it up, before he turned aside to the pools of the marsh
stretching on either hand, and tried to stanch his hurts, and get
himself into shape for returning to town and stealing back to his
lodging. He had to wait till after dark, and watch his chance to get
into the house unnoticed.
The chum to whom Jeff confided the story of his encounter with a
man he left nameless inwardly thanked fortune that he was not that
man; for he knew him destined sooner or later to make such reparation
for the injuries he had inflicted as Jeff chose to exact. He tended
him carefully, and respected the reticence Jeff guarded concerning the
whole matter, even with the young doctor whom his friend called, and
who kept to himself his impressions of the nature of Jeff's injuries.
Jeff lay in his darkened room, and burned with them, and with the
thoughts, guesses, purposes which flamed through his mind. Had she,
that girl, known what her brother meant to do? Had she wished him to
think of her in the moment of his punishment, and had she spoken of
her brother so that he might recall her, or had she had some
ineffective impulse to warn him against her brother when she spoke of
He lay and raged in vain with his conjectures, and he did a
thousand imagined murders upon Lynde in revenge of his shame.
Toward the end of the week, while his hurts were still too evident
to allow him to go out-of-doors before dark, he had a note from
Westover asking him to come in at once to see him.
"Your brother Jackson," Westover wrote, " reached Boston by the New
York train this morning, and is with me here. I must tell you I think
he is not at all well, but he does not know how sick he is, and so I
forewarn you. He wants to get on home, but I do not feel easy about
letting him make the rest of the journey alone. Some one ought to go
with him. I write not knowing whether you are still in Cambridge or
not; or whether, if you are, you can get away at this time. But I
think yon ought, and I wish, at any rate, that you would come in at
once and see Jackson. Then we can settle what had best be done."
Jeff wrote back that he had been suffering with a severe attack of
erysipelas--he decided upon erysipelas for the time being, but he
meant to let Westover know later that he had been in a row--and the
doctor would not let him go out yet. He promised to come in as soon
as he possibly could. If Westover thought Jackson ought to be got
home at once, and was not fit to travel alone, he asked him to send a
hospital nurse with him.
Westover replied by Jeff's messenger that it would worry and alarm
Jackson to be put in charge of a nurse; but that he would go home with
him, and they would start the next day. He urged Jeff to come and see
his brother if it was at all safe for him to do so. But if he could
not, Westover would give his mother a reassuring reason for his
Mrs. Durgin did not waste any anxiety for the sickness which
prevented Jeff from coming home with his brother. She said ironically
that it must be very bad, and she gave all her thought and care to
Jackson. The sick man rallied, as he prophesied he should, in his
native air, and celebrated the sense and science of the last doctor he
had seen in Europe, who told him that he had made a great gain, but he
had better hurry home as fast as he could, for he had got all the
advantage he could expect to have from his stay abroad, and now home
air was the best thing for him.
It could not be known how much of this he believed; he had, at any
rate, the pathetic hopefulness of his malady; but his mother believed
it all, and she nursed him with a faith in his recovery which Whitwell
confided to Westover was about as much as he wanted to see, for one
while. She seemed to grow younger in the care of him, and to get back
to herself, more and more, from the facts of Jeff's behavior, which
had aged and broken her. She had to tell Jackson about it all, but he
took it with that indifference to the things of this world which the
approach of death sometimes brings, and in the light of his passivity
it no longer seemed to her so very bad. It was a relief to have
Jackson say, Well, perhaps it was for the best; and it was a comfort
to see how he and Cynthia took to each other; it was almost as if that
dreadful trouble had not been. She told Jackson what hard work she had
had to make Cynthia stay with her, and how the girl had consented to
stay only until Jeff came home; but she guessed, now that Jackson had
got back, he could make Cynthia see it all in another light, and
perhaps it would all come right again. She consulted him about Jeff's
plan of going abroad, and Jackson said it might be about as well; he
should soon be around, and he thought if Jeff went it would give
Cynthia more of a chance to get reconciled. After all, his mother
suggested, a good many fellows behaved worse than Jeff had done and
still had made it up with the girls they were engaged to; and Jackson
He did not talk with Cynthia about Jeff, out of that delicacy, or
that coldness, common to them both. Perhaps it was not necessary for
them to speak of him; perhaps they understood him aright in their
understanding of each other.
Westover stayed on, day after day, thinking somehow that he ought
to wait till Jeff came. There were only a few other people in the
hotel, and these were of a quiet sort; they were not saddened by the
presence of a doomed man under the same roof, as gayer summer folks
might have been, and they were themselves no disturbance to him.
He sat about with them on the veranda, and he made friends among
them, and they did what they could to encourage and console him in his
impatience to take up his old cares in the management of the hotel.
The Whitwells easily looked after the welfare of the guests, and
Jackson was so much better to every one's perception that Westover
could honestly write Jeff a good report of him.
The report may have been so good that Jeff took the affair too
easily. It was a fortnight after Jackson's return to Lion's Head when
he began to fail so suddenly and alarmingly that Westover decided upon
his own responsibility to telegraph Jeff of his condition. But he had
the satisfaction of Whitwell's approval when he told him what he had
"Of course, Jackson a'n't long for this world. Anybody but him and
his mother could see that; and now he's just melting away, as you
might say. I ha'n't liked his not carin' to work plantchette since he
got back; looked to me from the start that he kind of knowed that it
wa'n't worth while for him to trouble about a world that he'll know
all about so soon, anyways; and d' you notice he don't seem to care
about Mars, either? I've tried to wake him up on it two-three times,
but you can't git him to take an interest. I guess Jeff can't git
here any too soon on Jackson's account; but as far forth as I go, he
couldn't git here too late. I should like to take the top of his head
Westover had been in Whitwell's confidence since their first chance
of speech together. He now said:
"I know it will be rather painful to you to have him here for some
"You mean Cynthy ? Well! I guess when Cynthy can't get along with
the sight of Jeff Durgin, she'll be a different girl from what she's
ever been before. If she's got to see that skunk ag'in, I guess this
is about the best time to do it."
It was Westover who drove to meet Jeff at the station, when he got
his despatch, naming the train he would take, and he found him looking
very well, and perhaps stouter than he had been.
They left the station in silence, after their greeting and Jeff's
inquiries about Jackson. Jeff had taken the reins, and now he put
them with the whip in one hand, and pushed up his hat with the other,
and turned his face full upon Westover. "Notice anything in
particular?" he demanded.
" No; yes--some slight marks."
"I guess that fellow fixed me up pretty well: paints black eyes,
and that kind of thing. I got to scrapping with a man, Class Day; we
wanted to settle a little business we began at the Tree, and he left
his marks on me. I meant to tell you the truth as soon as I could get
at you; but I had to say erysipelas in my letter. I guess, if you
don't mind, we'll let erysipelas stand, with the rest."
"I shouldn't have cared," Westover said, "if you'd let it stand
"Oh, thank you," Jeff returned.
There could have been no show of affection at his meeting with
Jackson even if there had been any fact of it; that was not the law of
their life. But Jeff had always been a turbulent, rebellious, younger
brother, resentful of Jackson's control, too much his junior to have
the associations of an equal companionship in the past, and yet too
near him in age to have anything like a filial regard for him. They
shook hands, and each asked the other how he was, and then they seemed
to have done with each other. Jeff's mother kissed him in addition to
the handshaking, but made him feel her preoccupation with Jackson; she
asked him if he had hurried home on Jackson's account, and he promptly
lied her out of this anxiety.
He shook hands with Cynthia, too, but it was across the barrier
which had not been lowered between them since they parted. He spoke
to Jackson about her, the day after he came home, when Jackson said he
was feeling unusually strong and well, and the two brothers had
strolled out through the orchard together. Now and then he gave the
sick man his arm, and when he wanted to sit down in a sunny place he
spread the shawl he carried for him.
"I suppose mother's told you about Cynthy and me, Jackson?" he
Jackson answered, with lack-lustre eyes, "Yes." Presently he
asked: "What's become of the other girl?"
"Damn her! I don't know what's become of her, and I don't care!"
Jeff exploded, furiously.
"Then you don't care for her any more?" Jackson pursued, with the
same languid calm.
"I never cared for her."
Jackson was silent, and the matter seemed to have faded out of his
mind. But it was keenly alive in Jeff's mind, and he was in the
strange necessity which men in the flush of life and health often feel
of seeking counsel of those who stand in the presence of death, as if
their words should have something of the mystical authority of the
unknown wisdom they are about to penetrate.
"What I want to know is, what I am going to do about Cynthy?"
"I don't know," Jackson answered, vaguely, and he expressed by his
indirection the sense he must sometimes have had of his impending
fate-- "I don't know what she's going to do, her or mother, either."
"Yes," Jeff assented, "that's what I think of. And I'd do anything
that I could--that you thought was right."
Jackson apparently concentrated his mind upon the question by an
effort. "Do you care as much for Cynthy as you used to?"
"Yes," said Jeff, after a moment, "as much as I ever did; and more.
But I've been thinking, since the thing happened, that, if I'd cared
for her the way she did for me, it wouldn't have happened. Look here,
Jackson! You know I've never pretended to be like some men--like Mr.
Westover, for example--always looking out for the right and the wrong,
and all that. I didn't make myself, and I guess if the Almighty don't
make me go right it's because He don't want me to. But I have got a
conscience about Cynthy, and I'd be willing to help out a little if I
knew how, about her. The devil of it is, I've got to being afraid. I
don't mean that I'm not fit for her; any man's fit for any woman if he
wants her bad enough; but I'm afraid I sha'n't ever care for her in
the right way. That's the point. I've cared for just one woman in
this world, and it a'n't Cynthy, as far as I can make out. But she's
gone, and I guess I could coax Cynthy round again, and I could be what
she wants me to be, after this."
Jackson lay upon his shawl, looking up at the sky full of islands
of warm clouds in its sea of blue; he was silent so long that Jeff
began to think he had not been listening; he could not hear him
breathe, and he came forward to him quickly from the shadow of the
tree where he sat.
"Well?" Jackson whispered, turning his eyes upon him.
"Well?" Jeff returned.
"I guess you'd better let it alone," said Jackson.
"All right. That's what I think, too."
Jackson died a week later, and they buried him in the old family
lot in the farthest corner of the orchard. His mother and Cynthia put
on mourning for him, and they stood together by his open grave, Mrs.
Durgin leaning upon her son's arm and the girl upon her father's. The
women wept quietly, but Jeff's eyes were dry, though his face was
discharged of all its prepotent impudence. Westover, standing across
the grave from him, noticed the marks on his forehead that he said
were from his scrapping, and wondered what really made them. He
recognized the spot where they were standing as that where the boy had
obeyed the law of his nature and revenged the stress put upon him for
righteousness. Over the stone of the nearest grave Jeff had shown a
face of triumphant derision when he pelted Westover with apples. The
painter's mind fell into a chaos of conjecture and misgiving, so that
he scarcely took in the words of the composite service which the
minister from the Union Chapel at the Huddle read over the dead.
Some of the guests from the hotel came to the funeral, but others
who were not in good health remained away, and there was a general
sense among them, which imparted itself to Westover, that Jackson's
dying so, at the beginning of the season, was not a fortunate
incident. As he sat talking with Jeff at a corner of the piazza late
in the afternoon, Frank Whitwell came up to them and said there were
some people in the office who had driven over from another hotel to
see about board, but they had heard there was sickness in the house,
and wished to talk with him.
"I won't come," said Jeff.
"They're not satisfied with what I've said," the boy urged. "What
shall I tell them?"
"Tell them to-go to the devil," said Jeff, and when Frank Whitwell
made off with this message for delivery in such decent terms as he
could imagine for it, Jeff said, rather to himself than to Westover,
"I don't see how we're going to run this hotel with that old family
lot down there in the orchard much longer."
He assumed the air of full authority at Lion's Head; and Westover
felt the stress of a painful conjecture in regard to the Whitwells
intensified upon him from the moment he turned away from Jackson's
Cynthia and her father had gone back to their own house as soon as
Jeff returned, and though the girl came home with Mrs. Durgin after
the funeral, and helped her in their common duties through the
afternoon and evening, Westover saw her taking her way down the hill
with her brother when the long day's work was over. Jeff saw her too;
he was sitting with Westover at the office door smoking, and he was
talking of the Whitwells.
"I suppose they won't stay," he said, "and I can't expect it; but I
don't know what mother will do, exactly."
At the same moment Whitwell came round the corner of the hotel from
the barn, and approached them: "Jeff, I guess I better tell you
straight off that we're goin', the children and me."
"All right, Mr. Whitwell, "said Jeff, with respectful gravity; "I
was afraid of it."
Westover made a motion to rise, but Whitwell laid a detaining hand
upon his knee. "There ain't anything so private about it, so far as I
"Don't go, Mr. Westover," said Jeff, and Westover remained.
"We a'n't a-goin' to leave you in the lurch, and we want you should
take your time, especially Mis' Durgin. But the sooner the better.
"Yes, I understand that, Mr. Whitwell; I guess mother will miss
you, but if you must go, you must." The two men remained silent a
moment, and then Jeff broke out passionately, rising and flinging his
cigar away: "I wish I could go, instead! That would be the right way,
and I guess mother would like it full as well. Do you see any way to
manage it? "He put his foot up in his chair, and dropped his elbow on
his knee, with his chin propped in his hand. Westover could see that
he meant what he was saying. "If there was any way, I'd do it. I
know what you think of me, and I should be just like you, in your
place. I don't feel right to turn you out here, I don't, Mr.
Whitwell, and yet if I stay, I've got to do it. What's the reason I
"You can't," said Whitwell, "and that's all about it. We shouldn't
let you, if you could. But I a'n't surprised you feel the way you
do," he added, unsparingly. "As you say, I should feel just so myself
if I was in your place. Well, goodnight, Mr. Westover."
Whitwell turned and slouched down the hill, leaving the painter to
the most painful moment he had known with Jeff Durgin, and nearer
sympathy. "That's all right, Mr. Westover," Jeff said, "I don't blame
He remained in a constraint from which he presently broke with
mocking hilarity when Jombateeste came round the corner of the house,
as if he had been waiting for Whitwell to be gone, and told Jeff he
must get somebody else to look after the horses.
"Why don't you wait and take the horses with you, Jombateeste?" he
inquired. "They'll be handing in their resignation, the next thing.
Why not go altogether?"
The little Canuck paused, as if uncertain whether he was made the
object of unfriendly derision or not, and looked at Westover for help.
Apparently he decided to chance it in as bitter an answer as he could
invent. "The 'oss can't 'elp 'imself, Mr. Durgin. 'E stay. But you
don' hown EVERYBODY."
"That's so, Jombateeste," said Jeff. "That's a good hit. It makes
me feel awfully. Have a cigar?" The Canuck declined with a dignified
bow, and Jeff said: "You don't smoke any more? Oh, I see! It's my
tobacco you're down on. What's the matter, Jombateeste ? What are
you going away for?" Jeff lighted for himself the cigar the Canuck
had refused, and smoked down upon the little man.
"Mr. W'itwell goin'," Jombateeste said, a little confused and
"What's Mr. Whitwell going for?"
"You hask Mr. W'itwell."
"All right. And if I can get him to stay will you stay too,
Jombateeste? I don't like to see a rat leaving a ship; the ship's sure
to sink, if he does. How do you suppose I'm going to run Lion's Head
without you to throw down hay to the horses? It will be ruin to me,
sure, Jombateeste. All the guests know how you play on the pitchfork
out there, and they'll leave in a body if they hear you've quit. Do
say you'll stay, and I'll reduce your wages one-half on the spot."
Jombateeste waited to hear no more injuries. He said: "You'll don'
got money enough, Mr. Durgin, by gosh! to reduce my wages," and he
started down the hill toward Whitwell's house with as great loftiness
as could comport with a down-hill gait and his stature.
"Well, I seem to be getting it all round, Mr. Westover," said Jeff.
"This must make you feel good. I don't know but I begin to believe
there's a God in Israel, myself."
He walked away without saying good-night, and Westover went to bed
without the chance of setting himself right. In the morning, when he
came down to breakfast, and stopped at the desk to engage a conveyance
for the station from Frank Whitwell the boy forestalled him with a
grave face. "You don't know about Mrs. Durgin?"
"No; what about her?"
"Well, we can't tell exactly. Father thinks it's a shock;
Jombateeste gone over to Lovewell for the doctor. Cynthia's with her.
It seemed to come on in the night."
He spoke softly, that no one else might hear; but by noon the fact
that Mrs. Durgin had been stricken with paralysis was all over the
place. The gloom cast upon the opening season by Jackson's death was
deepened among the guests. Some who had talked of staying through
July went away that day. But under Cynthia's management the
housekeeping was really unaffected by Mrs. Durgin's calamity, and the
people who stayed found themselves as comfortable as ever. Jeff came
fully into the hotel management, and in their business relation
Cynthia and he were continually together; there was no longer a
question of the Whitwells leaving him; even Jombateeste persuaded
himself to stay, and Westover felt obliged to remain at least till the
present danger in Mrs. Durgin's case was past.
With the first return of physical strength, Mrs. Durgin was
impatient to be seen about the house, and to retrieve the season that
her affliction had made so largely a loss. The people who had become
accustomed to it stayed on, and the house filled up as she grew
better, but even the sight of her in a wheeled chair did not bring
back the prosperity of other years. She lamented over it with a keen
and full perception of the fact, but in a cloudy association of it
with the joint future of Jeff and Cynthia.
One day, after Mrs. Durgin had declared that she did not know what
they were to do, if things kept on as they were going, Whitwell asked
"Do you suppose she thinks you and Jeff have made it up again?"
"I don't know," said the girl, with a troubled voice, "and I don't
know what to do about it. It don't seem as if I could tell her, and
yet it's wrong to let her go on."
"Why didn't he tell her?" demanded her father. "'Ta'n't fair his
leavin' it to you. But it's like him."
The sick woman's hold upon the fact weakened most when she was
tired. When she was better, she knew how it was with them. Commonly
it was when Cynthia had got her to bed for the night that she sent for
Jeff, and wished to ask him what he was going to do. "You can't
expect Cynthy to stay here another winter helpin' you, with Jackson
away. You've got to either take her with you, or else come here
yourself. Give up your last year in college, why don't you? I don't
want you should stay, and I don't know who does. If I was in
Cynthia's place, I'd let you work off your own conditions, now you've
give up the law. She'll kill herself, tryin' to keep you along."
Sometimes her speech became so indistinct that no one but Cynthia
could make it out; and Jeff, listening with a face as nearly
discharged as might be of its laughing irony, had to turn to Cynthia
for the word which no one else could catch, and which the stricken
woman remained distressfully waiting for her to repeat to him, with
her anxious eyes upon the girl's face. He was dutifully patient with
all his mother's whims. He came whenever she sent for him, and sat
quiet under the severities with which she visited all his past
unworthiness. "Who you been hectorin' now, I should like to know,"
she began on him one evening when he came at her summons. "Between
you and Fox, I got no peace of my life. Where is the dog?"
"Fox is all right, mother," Jeff responded. "You're feeling a
little better to-night, a'n't you?"
"I don't know; I can't tell," she returned, with a gleam of
intelligence in her eye. Then she said: " I don't see why I'm left to
strangers all the time."
"You don't call Cynthia a stranger, do you, mother?" he asked,
"Oh--Cynthy!" said Mrs. Durgin, with a glance as of surprise at
seeing her. "No, Cynthy's all right. But where's Jackson and your
father? If I've told them not to be out in the dew once, I've told
'em a hundred times. Cynthy'd better look after her housekeepin' if
she don't want the whole place to run behind, and not a soul left in
the house. What time o' year is it now?" she suddenly asked, after a
little weary pause.
"It's the last of August, mother."
"Oh," she sighed, "I thought it was the beginnin' of May. Didn't
you come up here in May?"
"Well, then-- Or, mebbe that's one o' them tormentin' dreams; they
do pester so! What did you come for?"
Jeff was sitting on one side of her bed and Cynthia on the other:
She was looking at the sufferer's face, and she did not meet the
glance of amusement which Jeff turned upon her at being so fairly
cornered. "Well, I don't know," he said. "I thought you might like
to see me."
"What 'd he come for?"--the sick woman turned to Cynthia.
"You'd better tell her," said the girl, coldly, to Jeff. "She
won't be satisfied till you do. She'll keep coming back to it."
"Well, mother," said Jeff, still with something of his hardy
amusement, "I hadn't been acting just right, and I thought I'd better
"You better let the child alone. If I ever catch you teasin' them
children again, I'll make Jackson shoot Fox."
"All right, mother," said Jeff.
She moved herself restively in bed. "What's this," she demanded of
her son, "that Whitwell's tellin' about you and Cynthy breakin' it
"Well, there was talk of that," said Jeff, passing his hand over
his lips to keep back the smile that was stealing to them.
"Who done it?"
Cynthia kept her eyes on Jeff, who dropped his to his mother's
face. "Cynthy did it; but I guess I gave her good enough reason."
"About that hussy in Boston? She was full more to blame than what
you was. I don't see what Cynthy wanted to do it for on her account."
"I guess Cynthy was right."
Mrs. Durgin's speech had been thickening more and more. She now
said something that Jeff could not understand. He looked
involuntarily at Cynthia.
"She says she thinks I was hasty with you," the girl interpreted.
Jeff kept his eyes on hers, but he answered to his mother: "Not any
more than I deserved. I hadn't any right to expect that she would
Again the sick woman tried to say something. Jeff made out a few
syllables, and, after his mother had repeated her words, he had to
look to Cynthia for help.
"She wants to know if it's all right now."
"What shall I say?" asked Jeff, huskily.
"Tell her the truth."
"What is the truth?"
"That we haven't made it up."
Jeff hesitated, and then said: "Well, not yet, mother," and he bent
an entreating look upon Cynthia which she could not feel was wholly
for himself. "I--I guess we can fix it, somehow. I behaved very
badly to Cynthia."
"No, not to me!" the girl protested in an indignant burst.
"Not to that little scalawag, then!" cried Jeff. "If the wrong
wasn't to you, there wasn't any wrong."
"It was to you!" Cynthia retorted.
"Oh, I guess I can stand it," said Jeff, and his smile now came to
his lips and eyes.
His mother had followed their quick parley with eager looks, as if
she were trying to keep her intelligence to its work concerning them.
The effort seemed to exhaust her, and when she spoke again her words
were so indistinct that even Cynthia could not understand them till
she had repeated them several times.
Then the girl was silent, while the invalid kept an eager look upon
her. She seemed to understand that Cynthia did not mean to speak; and
the tears came into her eyes.
"Do you want me to know what she said?" asked Jeff, respectfully,
Cynthia said, gently: "She says that then you must show you didn't
mean any harm to me, and that you cared for me, all through, and you
didn't care for anybody else."
"Thank you," said Jeff, and he turned to his mother. "I'll do
everything I can to make Cynthy believe that, mother."
The girl broke into tears and went out of the room. She sent in
the night-watcher, and then Jeff took leave of his mother with an
Into the shadow of a starlit night he saw the figure he had been
waiting for glide out of the glitter of the hotel lights. He followed
it down the road.
"Cynthia!" he called; and when he came up with her he asked:
"What's the reason we can't make it true? Why can't you believe what
mother wants me to make you?"
Cynthia stopped, as her wont was when she wished to speak
seriously. "Do you ask that for my sake or hers?"
"For both your sakes."
"I thought so. You ought to have asked it for your own sake, Jeff,
and then I might have been fool enough to believe you. But now--"
She started swiftly down the hill again, and this time he did not
try to follow her.
Mrs. Durgin's speech never regained the measure of clearness it had
before; no one but Cynthia could understand her, and often she could
not. The doctor from Lovewell surmised that she had sustained another
stroke, lighter, more obscure than the first, and it was that which
had rendered her almost inarticulate. The paralysis might have also
affected her brain, and silenced her thoughts as well as her words.
Either she believed that the reconciliation between Jeff and Cynthia
had taken place, or else she could no longer care. She did not
question them again, but peacefully weakened more and more. Near the
end of September she had a third stroke, and from this she died.
The day after the funeral Jeff had a talk with Whitwell, and opened
his mind to him.
"I'm going over to the other side, and I shan't be back before
spring, or about time to start the season here. What I want to know
is whether, if I'm out of the house, and not likely to come back,
you'll stay here and look after the place through the winter. It
hasn't been a good season, but I guess I can afford to make it worth
your while if you look at it as a matter of business."
Whitwell leaned forward and took a straw into his mouth from the
golden wall of oat sheaves in the barn where they were talking. A
soft rustling in the mow overhead marked the remote presence of
Jombateeste, who was getting forward the hay for the horses, pushing
it toward the holes where it should fall into their racks.
"I should want to think about it," said Whitwell. "I do' know as
Cynthy'd care much about stayin'--or Frank."
"How long do you want to think about it?" Jeff demanded, ignoring
the possible wishes of Cynthia and Frank.
"I guess I could let you know by night."
"All right," said Jeff.
He was turning away, when Whitwell remarked:
"I don't know as I should want to stay without I could have
somebody I could depend on, with me, to look after the hosses. Frank
wouldn't want to."
"Who'd you like?"
Whitwell called to the Canuck, and he came forward to the edge of
the mow, and stood, fork in hand, looking down.
"Want to stay here this winter and look after the horses,
Jombateeste?" Whitwell asked.
"Nosseh!" said the Canuck, with a misliking eye on Jeff.
"I mean, along with me," Whitwell explained. "If I conclude to
stay, will you? Jeff's goin' abroad."
"I guess I stay," said Jombateeste.
"Don't strain yourself, Jombateeste," said Jeff, with malevolent
"Not for you, Jeff Dorrgin," returned the Canuck. "I strain myself
till I bust, if I want."
Jeff sneered to Whitwell: "Well, then, the most important point is
settled. Let me know about the minor details as soon as you can."
Whitwell talked the matter over with his children at supper that
evening. Jeff had made him a good offer, and he had the winter before
him to provide for.
"I don't know what deviltry he's up to," he said in conclusion.
Frank looked to his sister for their common decision. "I am going
to try for a school," she said, quietly. "It's pretty late, but I
guess I can get something. You and Frank had better stay."
"And you don't feel as if it was kind of meechin', our takin' up
with his offer, after what's--" Whitwell delicately forbore to fill
out his sentence.
"You are doing the favor, father," said the girl. "He knows that,
and I guess he wouldn't know where to look if you refused. And, after
all, what's happened now is as much my doing as his."
"I guess that's something so," said Whitwell, with a long sigh of
relief. "Well, I'm glad you can look at it in that light, Cynthy.
It's the way the feller's built, I presume, as much as anything."
His daughter waived the point. "I shouldn't feel just right if
none of us stayed in the old place. I should feel as if we had turned
our backs on Mrs. Durgin."
Her eyes shone, and her father said: "Well, I guess that's so, come
to think of it. She's been like a mother to you, this past year,
ha'n't she? And it must have come pootty hard for her, sidin' ag'in'
Jeff. But she done it."
The girl turned her head away. They were sitting in the little,
low keeping-room of Whitwell's house, and her father had his hat on
provisionally. Through the window they could see the light of the
lantern at the office door of the hotel, whose mass was lost in the
dark above and behind the lamp. It was all very still outside.
"I declare," Whitwell went on, musingly, "I wisht Mr. Westover was
Cynthia started, but it was to ask: "Do you want I should help you
with your Latin, Frank?"
Whitwell came back an hour later and found them still at their
books. He told them it was all arranged; Durgin was to give up the
place to him in a week, and he was to surrender it again when Jeff
came back in the spring. In the mean time things were to remain as
they were; after he was gone, they could all go and live at Lion's
Head if they chose.
"We'll see," said Cynthia. "I've been thinking that might be the
best way, after all. I might not get a school, it's so late."
"That's so," her father assented. "I declare," he added, after a
moment's muse, "I felt sorry for the feller settin' up there alone,
with nobody to do for him but that old thing he's got in. She can't
cook any more than--" He desisted for want of a comparison, and said:
"Such a lookin' table, too."
"Do you think I better go and look after things a little?" Cynthia
"Well, you no need to," said her father. He got down the
planchette, and labored with it, while his children returned to
"Dumn 'f I can make the thing work," he said to himself at last.
"I can't git any of 'em up. If Jackson was here, now!"
Thrice a day Cynthia went up to the hotel and oversaw the
preparation of Jeff's meals and kept taut the slack housekeeping of
the old Irish woman who had remained as a favor, after the hotel
closed, and professed to have lost the chance of a place for the
winter by her complaisance. She submitted to Cynthia's authority, and
tried to make interest for an indefinite stay by sudden zeal and
industry, and the last days of Jeff in the hotel were more comfortable
than he openly recognized. He left the care of the building wholly to
Whitwell, and shut himself up in the old farm parlor with the plans
for a new hotel which he said he meant to put up some day, if he could
ever get rid of the old one. He went once to Lovewell, where he
renewed the insurance, and somewhat increased it; and he put a small
mortgage on the property. He forestalled the slow progress of the
knowledge of others' affairs, which, in the country, is as sure as it
is slow, and told Whitwell what he had done. He said he wanted the
mortgage money for his journey, and the insurance money, if he could
have the luck to cash up by a good fire, to rebuild with.
Cynthia seldom met him in her comings and goings, but if they met
they spoke on the terms of their boy and girl associations, and with
no approach through resentment or tenderness to the relation that was
ended between them. She saw him oftener than at any other time
setting off on the long tramps he took through the woods in the
afternoons. He was always alone, and, so far as any one knew, his
wanderings had no object but to kill the time which hung heavy on his
hands during the fortnight after his mother's death, before he sailed.
It might have seemed strange that he should prefer to pass the days
at Lion's Head after he had arranged for the care of the place with
Whitwell, and Whitwell always believed that he stayed in the hope of
somehow making up with Cynthia.
One day, toward the very last, Durgin found himself pretty well
fagged in the old pulp-mill clearing on the side of Lion's Head, which
still belonged to Whitwell, and he sat down on a mouldering log there
to rest. It had always been a favorite picnic ground, but the season
just past had known few picnics, and it was those of former years that
had left their traces in rusty sardine-cans and broken glass and
crockery on the border of the clearing, which was now almost covered
with white moss. Jeff thought of the day when he lurked in the hollow
below with Fox, while Westover remained talking with Whitwell. He
thought of the picnic that Mrs. Marven had embittered for him, and he
thought of the last time that he had been there with Westover, when
they talked of the Vostrands.
Life had, so far, not been what he meant it, and just now it
occurred to him that he might not have wholly made it what it had
been. It seemed to him that a good many other people had come in and
taken a hand in making his own life what it had been; and if he had
meddled with theirs more than he was wanted, it was about an even
thing. As far as he could make out, he was a sort of ingredient in
the general mixture. He had probably done his share of the flavoring,
but he had had very little to do with the mixing. There were
different ways of looking at the thing. Westover had his way, but it
struck Jeff that it put too much responsibility on the ingredient, and
too little on the power that chose it. He believed that he could
prove a clear case in his own favor, as far as the question of final
justice was concerned, but he had no complaints to make. Things had
fallen out very much to his mind. He was the Landlord at Lion's Head,
at last, with the full right to do what he pleased with the place, and
with half a year's leisure before him to think it over. He did not
mean to waste the time while he was abroad; if there was anything to
be learned anywhere about keeping a summer hotel, he was going to
learn it; and he thought the summer hotel could be advantageously
studied in its winter phases in the mild climates of Southern Europe.
He meant to strike for the class of Americans who resorted to those
climates; to divine their characters and to please their tastes.
He unconsciously included Cynthia in his scheme of inquiry; he had
been used so long to trust to her instincts and opinions, and to rely
upon her help, and he realized that she was no longer in his life with
something like the shock a man experiences when the loss of a limb,
which continues a part of his inveterate consciousness, is brought to
his sense by some mechanical attempt to use it. But even in this pang
he did not regret that all was over between them. He knew now that he
had never cared for her as he had once thought, and on her account, if
not his own, he was glad their engagement was broken. A soft
melancholy for his own disappointment imparted itself to his thoughts
of Cynthia. He felt truly sorry for her, and he truly admired and
respected her. He was in a very lenient mood toward every one, and he
went so far in thought toward forgiving his enemies that he was
willing at least to pardon all those whom he had injured. A little
rustling in the underbrush across the clearing caught his quick ear,
and he looked up to see Jombateeste parting the boughs of the young
pines on its edge and advancing into the open with a gun on his
shoulder. He called to him, cheerily: "Hello, John! Any luck?"
Jombateeste shook his head. "Nawthing." He hesitated.
"What are you after?"
"Partridge," Jombateeste ventured back.
Jeff could not resist the desire to scoff which always came upon
him at sight of the Canuck. "Oh, pshaw! Why don't you go for
woodchucks? They fly low, and you can hit them on the wing, if you
can't sneak on 'em sitting."
Jombateeste received his raillery in dignified silence, and turned
back into the woods again. He left Durgin in heightened good-humor
with himself and with the world, which had finally so well adapted
itself to his desires and designs.
Jeff watched his resentful going with a grin, and then threw
himself back on the thick bed of dry moss where he had been sitting,
and watched the clouds drifting across the space of blue which the
clearing opened overhead. His own action reminded him of Jackson,
lying in the orchard and looking up at the sky. He felt strangely at
one with him, and he experienced a tenderness for his memory which he
had not known before. Jackson had been a good man; he realized that
with a curious sense of novelty in the reflection; he wondered what
the incentives and the objects of such men as Jackson and Westover
were, anyway. Something like grief for his brother came upon him; not
such grief as he had felt, passionately enough, though tacitly, for
his mother, but a regret for not having shown Jackson during his life
that he could appreciate his unselfishness, though he could not see
the reason or the meaning of it. He said to himself, in their safe
remoteness from each other, that he wished he could do something for
Jackson. He wondered if in the course of time he should get to be
something like him. He imagined trying.
He heard sounds again in the edge of the clearing, but he decided
that it was that fool Jombateeste coming back; and when steps
approached softly and hesitantly across the moss, he did not trouble
himself to take his eyes from the clouds. He was only vexed to have
his revery broken in upon.
A voice that was not Jombateeste's spoke: "I say! Can you tell me
the way to the Brooker Institute, or to the road down the mountain?"
Jeff sat suddenly bolt-upright; in another moment he jumped to his
feet. The Brooker Institute was a branch of the Keeley Cure recently
established near the Huddle, and this must be a patient who had
wandered from it, on one of the excursions the inmates made with their
guardians, and lost his way. This was the fact that Jeff realized at
the first glance he gave the man. The next he recognized that the man
was Alan Lynde.
"Oh, it's you," he said, quite simply. He felt so cruelly the
hardship of his one unforgiven enemy's coming upon him just when he
had resolved to be good that the tears came into his eyes. Then his
rage seemed to swell up in him like the rise of a volcanic flood.
"I'm going to kill you!" he, roared, and he launched himself upon
Lynde, who stood dazed.
But the murder which Jeff meant was not to be so easily done.
Lynde had not grown up in dissolute idleness without acquiring some
of the arts of self-defence which are called manly. He met Jeff's
onset with remembered skill and with the strength which he had gained
in three months of the wholesome regimen of the Brooker Institute. He
had been sent there, not by Dr. Lacy's judgment, but by his despair,
and so far the Cure had cured. He felt strong and fresh, and the hate
which filled Jeff at sight of him steeled his shaken nerves and
reinforced his feebler muscles, too.
He made a desperate fight where he could not hope for mercy, and
kept himself free of his powerful foe, whom he fought round and
foiled, if he could not hurt him. Jeff never knew of the blows Lynde
got in upon him; he had his own science, too, but he would not employ
it. He wanted to crash through Lynde's defence and lay hold of him
and crush the life out of him.
The contest could not have lasted long at the best; but before
Lynde was worn out he caught his heel in an old laurel root, and while
he whirled to recover his footing Jeff closed in upon him, caught him
by the middle, flung him down upon the moss, and was kneeling on his
breast with both hands at his throat.
He glared down into his enemy's face, and suddenly it looked
pitifully little and weak, like a girl's face, a child's.
Sometimes, afterward, it seemed to him that he forbore because at
that instant he saw Jombateeste appear at the edge of the clearing and
come running upon them. At other times he had the fancy that his
action was purely voluntary, and that, against the logic of his hate
and habit of his life, he had mercy upon his enemy. He did not pride
himself upon it; he rather humbled himself before the fact, which was
accomplished through his will, and not by it, and remained a mystery
he did not try to solve.
He took his hands from Lynde's throat and his knees off his breast.
"Get up," he said; and when Lynde stood trembling on his feet he said
to Jombateeste : "Show this man the way to the Brooker Institute.
I'll take your gun home for you," and it was easy for him to detach
the piece from the bewildered Canuck's grasp. "Go! And if you stop,
or even let him look back, I'll shoot him. Quick!"
The day after Thanksgiving, when Westover was trying to feel well
after the turkey and cranberry and cider which a lady had given him at
a consciously old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner, but not making it out
sufficiently to be able to work, he was astonished to receive a visit
"Well, sir," said the philosopher, without giving himself pause for
the exchange of reflections upon his presence in Boston, which might
have been agreeable to him on a less momentous occasion. "It's all up
with Lion's Head."
"What do you mean?" demanded Westover, with his mind upon the
mountain, which he electrically figured in an incredible destruction.
"She's burnt. Burnt down the day before yist'd'y aft'noon. A'n't
hardly a stick of her left. Ketehed Lord knows how, from the kitchen
chimney, and a high northwest wind blowin', that ca'd the sparks to
the barn, and set fire to that, too. Hasses gone; couldn't get round
to 'em; only three of us there, and mixed up so about the house till
it was so late the critters wouldn't come out. Folks from over Huddle
way see the blaze, and helped ail they could; but it wa'n't no use. I
guess all we saved, about, was the flag-pole."
"But you're all right yourselves? Cynthia"
"Well, there was our misfortune," said Whitwell, while Westover's
heart stopped in a mere wantonness of apprehension. "If she'd be'n
there, it might ha' be'n diff'ent. We might ha' had more sense; or
she would, anyway. But she was over to Lovewell stockin' up for
Thanksgivin', and I had to make out the best I could, with Frank and
Jombateeste. Why, that Canuck didn't seem to have no more head on him
than a hen. I was disgusted; but Cynthy wouldn't let me say anything
to him, and I d' know as 't 'ould done any good, myself. We've talked
it all over in every light, ever since; guess we've set up most the
time talkin', and nothin' would do her but I should come down and see
you before I took a single step about it."
"How--step about what?" asked Westover, with a remote sense of
hardship at being brought in, tempered by the fact that it was Cynthia
who had brought him in.
"Why, that devil," said Whitwell, and Westover knew that he meant
Jeff, "went and piled on all the insurance he could pile on, before he
left; and I don't know what to do about it."
"I should think the best thing was to collect the insurance,"
Westover suggested, distractedly.
"It a'n't so easy as what that comes to," said Whitwell. "I
couldn't collect the insurance; and here's the point, anyway. When a
hotel's made a bad season, and she's fully insured, she's pootty
certain to burn up some time in the winter. Everybody knows that
comical devil wanted lion's Head to burn up so 't he could build new,
and I presume there a'n't a man, woman, or child anywhere round but
what believes I set her on fire. Hired to do it. Now, see? Jeff off
in Europe; daytime; no lives lost; prop'ty total loss. 's a clear
case. Heigh? I tell you, I'm afraid I've got trouble ahead."
Westover tried to protest, to say something in derision or
defiance; but he was shaken himself, and he ended by getting his hat
and coat; Whitwell had kept his own on, in the excitement. "We'll go
out and see a lawyer. A friend of mine; it won't cost you anything."
He added this assurance at a certain look of reluctance that came
into Whitwell's face, and that left it as soon as he had spoken.
Whitwell glanced round the studio even cheerily. "Who'd ha'
thought," he said, fastening upon the study which Westover had made of
Lion's head the winter before, "that the old place would 'a' gone so
soon?" He did not mean the mountain which he was looking at, but the
hotel that was present to his mind's eye; and Westover perceived as he
had not before that to Whitwell the hotel and not the mountain was
He remembered to ask now where Whitwell had left his family, and
Whitwell said that Frank and Cynthia were at home in his own house
with Jombateeste; but he presumed he could not get back to them now
before the next day. He refused to be interested in any of the
aspects of Boston which Westover casually pointed out, but when they
had seen the lawyer he came forth a new man, vividly interested in
everything. The lawyer had been able to tell them that though the
insurance companies would look sharply into the cause of the fire,
there was no probability, hardly a possibility, that they would
inculpate him, and he need give himself no anxiety about the affair.
"There's one thing, though," Whitwell said to Westover when they
got out upon the street. "Hadn't I ought to let Jeff know?"
"Yes, at once. You'd better cable him. Have you got his address?"
Whitwell had it, and he tasted all the dramatic quality of sending
word to Jeff, which he would receive in Florence an hour after it left
Boston. "I did hope I could ha' cabled once to Jackson while he was
gone," he said, regretfully, "but, unless we can fix up a wire with
the other world, I guess I shan't ever do it now. I suppose Jackson's
still hangin' round Mars, some'res."
He had a sectarian pride in the beauty of the Spiritual Temple
which Westover walked him by on his way to see Trinity Church and the
Fine Arts Museum, and he sorrowed that he could not attend a service'
there. But he was consoled by the lunch which he had with Westover at
a restaurant where it was served in courses. "I presume this is what
Jeff's goin' to give 'em at Lion's Head when he gits it goin' again."
"How is it he's in Florence?" it occurred to Westover to ask. "I
thought he was going to Nice for the winter."
"I don't know. That's the address he give in his last letter,"
said Whitwell. "I'll be glad when I've done with him for good and
all. He's all kinds of a devil."
It was in Westover's mind to say that he wished the Whitwells had
never had anything to do with Durgin after his mother's death. He had
felt it a want of delicacy in them that they had been willing to stay
on in his employ, and his ideal of Cynthia had suffered a kind of
wound from what must have been her decision in the matter. He would
have expected something altogether different from her pride, her
self-respect. But he now merely said: "Yes, I shall be glad, too.
I'm afraid he's a bad fellow."
His words seemed to appeal to Whitwell's impartiality. "Well, I d'
know as I should say bad, exactly. He's a mixture."
"He's a bad mixture," said Westover.
"Well, I guess you're partly right there," Whitwell admitted, with
a laugh. After a dreamy moment he asked: "Ever hear anything more
about that girl here in Boston?"
Westover knew that he meant Bessie Lynde. "She's abroad somewhere,
with her aunt."
Whitwell had not taken any wine; apparently he was afraid of
forming instantly the habit of drink if he touched it; but he
tolerated Westover's pint of Zinfandel, and he seemed to warm
sympathetically to a greater confidence as the painter made away with
it. "There's one thing I never told Cynthy yet; well, Jombateeste
didn't tell me himself till after Jeff was gone; and then, thinks I,
what's the use? But I guess you had better know."
He leaned forward across the table, and gave Jombateeste's story of
the encounter between Jeff and Alan Lynde in the clearing. "Now what
do you suppose was the reason Jeff let up on the feller? Of course,
he meant to choke the life out of him, and his just ketchin' sight of
Jombateeste--do you believe that was enough to stop him, when he'd
started in for a thing like that? Or what was it done it?"
Westover listened with less thought of the fact itself than of
another fact that it threw light upon. It was clear to him now that
the Class- Day scrapping which had left its marks upon Jeff's face was
with Lynde, and that when Jeff got him in his power he was in such a
fury for revenge that no mere motive of prudence could have arrested
him. In both events, it must have been Bessie Lynde that was the
moving cause; but what was it that stayed Jeff in his vengeance?
"Let him up, and let him walk away, you say?" he demanded of
Whitwell nodded. "That's what Jombateeste said. Said Jeff said if
he let the feller look back he'd shoot him. But he didn't haf to."
"I can't make it out," Westover sighed.
"It's been too much for me," Whitwell said. "I told Jombateeste
he'd better keep it to himself, and I guess he done so. S'pose Jeff
still had a sneakin' fondness for the girl?"
"I don't know; perhaps," Westover asserted.
Whitwell threw his head back in a sudden laugh that showed all the
work of his dentist. "Well, wouldn't it be a joke if he was there in
Florence after her? Be just like Jeff."
"It would be like Jeff; I don't know whether it would be a joke or
not. I hope he won't find it a joke, if it's so," said Westover,
gloomily. A fantastic apprehension seized him, which made him wish for
the moment that it might be so, and which then passed, leaving him
simply sorry for any chance that might bring Bessie Lynde into the
fellow's way again.
For the evening Whitwell's preference would have been a lecture of
some sort, but there was none advertised, and he consented to go with
Westover to the theatre. He came back to the painter at dinner-time,
after a wary exploration of the city, which had resulted not only in a
personal acquaintance with its monuments, but an immunity from its
dangers and temptations which he prided himself hardly less upon. He
had seen Faneuil Hall, the old State House, Bunker Hill, the Public
Library, and the Old South Church, and he had not been sandbagged or
buncoed or led astray from the paths of propriety. In the comfortable
sense of escape, he was disposed, to moralize upon the civilization of
great cities, which he now witnessed at first hand for the first time;
and throughout the evening, between the acts of the "Old Homestead,"
which he found a play of some merit, but of not so much novelty in its
characters as he had somehow led himself to expect, he recurred to the
difficulties and dangers that must beset a young man in coming to a
place like Boston. Westover found him less amusing than he had on his
own ground at Lion's Head, and tasted a quality of commonplace in his
deliverances which made him question whether he had not, perhaps,
always owed more to this environment than he had suspected. But they
parted upon terms of mutual respect and in the common hope of meeting
again. Whitwell promised to let Westover know what he heard of Jeff,
but, when the painter had walked the philosopher home to his hotel, he
found a message awaiting him at his studio from Jeff direct:
Whitwell's despatch received. Wait letter.
Westover raged at the intelligent thrift of this telegram, and at
the implication that he not only knew all about the business of
Whitwell's despatch, but that he was in communication with him, and
would be sufficiently interested to convey Jeff's message to him. Of
course, Durgin had at once divined that Whitwell must have come to him
for advice, and that he would hear from him, whether he was still in
Boston or not. By cabling to Westover, Jeff saved the cost of an
elaborate address to Whitwell at Lion's Head, and had brought the
painter in for further consultation and assistance in his affairs.
What vexed him still more was his own consciousness that he could not
defeat this impudent expectation. He had, indeed, some difficulty
with himself to keep from going to Whitwell's hotel with the despatch
at once, and he slept badly, in his fear that he might not get it to
him in the morning before he left town.
The sum of Jeff's letter when it came, and it came to Westover and
not to Whitwell, was to request the painter to see a lawyer in his
behalf, and put his insurance policies in his hands, with full
authority to guard his interests in the matter. He told Westover
where his policies would be found, and enclosed the key of his box in
the Safety Vaults, with a due demand for Westover's admission to it.
He registered his letter, and he jocosely promised Westover to do as
much for him some day, in pleading that there was really no one else
he could turn to. He put the whole business upon him, and Westover
discharged himself of it as briefly as he could by delivering the
papers to the lawyer he had already consulted for Whitwell.
"Is this another charity patient?" asked his friend, with a grin.
"No," replied Westover. "You can charge this fellow along the
Before he parted with the lawyer he had his misgivings, and he
said: "I shouldn't want the blackguard to think I had got a friend a
fat job out of him."
The lawyer laughed intelligently. "I shall only make the usual
charge. Then he is a blackguard."
"There ought to be a more blistering word."
"One that would imply that he was capable of setting fire to his
"I don't say that. But I'm glad he was away when it took fire,"
"You give him the benefit of the doubt."
"Yes, of every kind of doubt."
Westover once more promised himself to have nothing to do with Jeff
Durgin or his affairs. But he did not promise this so confidently as
upon former occasions, and he instinctively waited for a new
complication. He could not understand why Jeff should not have come
home to look after his insurance, unless it was because he had become
interested in some woman even beyond his concern for his own
advantage. He believed him capable of throwing away advantages for
disadvantages in a thing of that kind, but he thought it more probable
that he had fallen in love with one whom he would lose nothing by
winning. It did not seem at all impossible that he should have again
met Bessie Lynde, and that they should have made up their quarrel, or
whatever it was. Jeff would consider that he had done his whole duty
by Cynthia, and that he was free to renew his suit with Bessie; and
there was nothing in Bessie's character, as Westover understood it, to
prevent her taking him back upon a very small show of repentance if
the needed emotions were in prospect. He had decided pretty finally
that it would be Bessie rather than another when he received a letter
from Mrs. Vostrand. It was dated at Florence, and after some pretty
palaver about their old friendship, which she only hoped he remembered
half as fondly as she did, the letter ran:
"I am turning to you now in a very strange difficulty, but I do not
know that I should turn to you even now, and knowing all I do of
your goodness, if I were not asked to do so by another.
"I believe we have not heard from each other since the first days of
my poor Genevieve's marriage, when everything looked so bright and
fair, and we little realized the clouds that were to overcast her
happiness. It is a long story, and I will not go into it fully.
The truth is that poor Gigi did not treat her very kindly, and that
she has not lived with him since the birth of their little girl, now
nearly two years old, and the sweetest little creature in the world;
I wish you could see her; I am sure it would inspire your pencil
with the idea of an angel-child. At first I hoped that the
separation would be only temporary, and that when Genevieve had
regained her strength she would be willing to go back to her
husband; but nothing would induce her to do so. In fact, poor Gigi
had spent all her money, and they would have had nothing to live
upon but his pay, and you know that the pay of the Italian officers
is very small.
"Gigi made several attempts to see her, and he threatened to take
the child from her, but he was always willing to compromise for
money. I am afraid that he never really loved her and that we were
both deceived by his fervent protestations. We managed to get away
from Florence without his knowing it, and we have spent the last two
years in Lausanne, very happily, though very quietly. Our dear
Checco is in the university there, his father having given up the
plan of sending him to Harvard, and we had him with us, while we
were taking measures to secure the divorce. Even in the simple way
we lived Genevieve attracted a great deal of attention, as she
always has done, and she would have had several eligible offers if
she had been divorced, or if her affections had not already been
engaged, as I did not know at the time.
"We were in this state of uncertainty up to the middle of last
summer, when the news of poor Gigi's sudden death came. I am sorry
to say that his habits in some respects were not good, and that
probably hastened it some; it had obliged him to leave the army.
Genevieve did not feel that she could consistently put on black for
him, and I did not urge her, under the peculiar circumstances;
there is so much mere formality in those kind of things at the best;
but we immediately returned to Florence to try and see if we could
not get back some of her effects which his family had seized. I am
opposed to lawsuits if they can possibly be avoided, and we arranged
with poor Gigi's family by agreeing to let them have Genevieve's
furniture if they would promise never to molest her with the child,
and I must say they have behaved very well. We are on the best of
terms with them, and they have let us have some of the things back
which were endeared to her by old associations, at a very reasonable
"This brings me to the romantic part of my letter, and I will say at
once that we found your friend Mr. Durgin in Florence, in the very
hotel we went to. We all met in the dining-room, at the table
d'hote one evening, and Genevieve and he took to each other at once.
He spent the evening with us in our private drawing-room, and she
said to me, after he went, that for the first time in years she felt
rested. It seems that she had always secretly fancied him, and that
she gave up to me in the matter of marrying poor Gigi, because she
knew I had my heart set upon it, and she was not very certain of her
own feelings when Mr. D. offered himself in Boston; but the
conviction that she had made a mistake grew upon, her more and more
after she had married Gigi.
"Well, now, Mr. Westover, I suppose you have guessed by this time
that Mr. Durgin has renewed his offer, and Genevieve has
conditionally accepted him; we do not feel that she is like an
ordinary widow, and that she has to fill up a certain season of
mourning; she and Gigi have been dead to each other for years; and
Mr. Durgin is as fond of our dear little Bice as her own father
could be, and they are together all the time. Her name is Beatrice
de' Popolani Grassi. Isn't it lovely? She has poor Gigi's black
eyes, with the most beautiful golden hair, which she gets from our
aide. You remember Genevieve's hair back in the dear old days,
before any trouble had come, and we were all so happy together? And
this brings me to what I wanted to say. You are the oldest friend
we have, and by a singular coincidence you are the oldest friend of
Mr. Durgin, too. I cannot bear to risk my child's happiness a
second time, and though Mr. Vostrand fully approves of the match,
and has cabled his consent from Seattle, Washington, still, you
know, a mother's heart cannot be at rest without some positive
assurance. I told Mr. Durgin quite frankly how I felt, and he
agreed with me that after our experience with poor Gigi we could not
be too careful, and he authorized me to write to you and find out
all you knew about him. He said you had known him ever since he was
a boy, and that if there was anything bad in his record you could
tell it, and he did not want you to spire the truth. He knows you
will be just, and he wants you to write out the facts as they struck
you at the time.
"I shall be on pins and needles, as the saying is, till we hear from
you, and you know hew Genevieve and Mr. D. must be feeling. She is
fully resolved not to have him without your endorsement, and he is
quite willing to abide by what you say.
I could almost wish you to cable me just Good or Bad, but I know
that this will not be wise, and I am going to wait for your letter,
and get your opinion in full.
"We all join in the kindest regards. Mr. D. is talking with
Genevieve while I write, and has our darling Bice on his knees.
You cannot imagine what a picture it makes, her childish delicacy
contrasted with his stalwart strength. She says to send you a
baciettino, and I wish you were here to receive it from her angel
lips. Yours faithfully,
"P. S.--Mr. D. says that he fell in love with Genevieve across the
barrier between the first and second cabin when he came over with us
on the Aquitaine four years ago, and that he has never ceased to
love her, though at one time he persuaded himself that he cared for
another because he felt that she was lost to him forever, and it was
no use: He really did care for the lady he was engaged to, and had a
true affection for her, which he mistook for a warmer feeling. He
says that she was worthy of any man's love and of the highest
respect. I tell Genevieve that, she ought to honor him for it, and
that she must never be jealous of a memory. We are very happy in
Mr. Vostrand's cordial approval of the match. He is so glad to
think that Mr. D. is a business man. His cable from Seattle was
" M. D."
Westover did not know whether to laugh or cry when he read this
letter, which covered several sheets of paper in lines that traversed
each other in different directions. His old, youthful ideal of Mrs.
Vostrand finally perished in its presence, though still he could not
blame her for wishing to see her daughter well married after having
seen her married so ill. He asked himself, without getting any very
definite response, whether Mrs. Vostrand had always been this kind of
a woman, or had grown into it by the use of arts which her peculiar
plan of life had rendered necessary to her. He remembered the
intelligent toleration of Cynthia in speaking of her, and his
indignation in behalf of the girl was also thrill of joy for her
escape from the fate which Mrs. Vostrand was so eagerly invoking for
her daughter. But he thought of Genevieve with something of the same
tenderness, and with a compassion that was for her alone. She seemed
to him a victim who was to be sacrificed a second time, and he had
clearly a duty to her which he must not evade. The only question
could be how best to discharge it, and Westover took some hours from
his work to turn the question over in his mind. In the end, when he
was about to give the whole affair up for the present, and lose a
night's sleep over it later, he had an inspiration, and he acted upon
it at once. He perceived that he owed no formal response to the
sentimental insincerities of Mrs. Vostrand's letter, and he decided to
write to Durgin himself, and to put the case altogether in his hands.
If Durgin chose to show the Vostrands what he should write, very
well; if he chose not to show it, then Westover's apparent silence
would be a sufficient reply to Mrs. Vostrand's appeal.
"I prefer to address you," he began, "because I do not choose to let
you think that I have any feeling to indulge against you, and
because I do not think I have the right to take you out of your own
keeping in any way. You would be in my keeping if I did, and I do
not wish that, not only because it would be a bother to me, but
because it would be a wrong to you.
"Mrs. Vostrand, whose letter to me I will leave you to answer by
showing her this, or in any other manner you choose, tells me you do
not want me to spare the truth concerning you. I have never been
quite certain what the truth was concerning you; you know that
better than I do; and I do not propose to write your biography here.
But I will remind you of a few things.
"The first day I saw you, I caught you amusing yourself with the
terror of two little children, and I had the pleasure of cuffing you
for it. But you were only a boy then, and afterward you behaved so
well that I decided you were not so much cruel as thoughtlessly
mischievous. When you had done all you could to lead me to this
favorable conclusion, you suddenly turned and avenged yourself on
me, so far as you could, for the help I had given the little ones
against you. I never greatly blamed you for that, for I decided
that you had a vindictive temperament, and that you were not
responsible for your temperament, but only for your character.
"In your first year at Harvard your associations were bad, and your
conduct generally was so bad that you were suspended. You were
arrested with other rowdy students, and passed the night in a police
station. I believe you were justly acquitted of any specific
offence, and I always believed that if you had experienced greater
kindness socially during your first year in college you would have
been a better man.
"You seem to have told Mrs. Vostrand of your engagement, and I will
not speak of that. It was creditable to you that so wise and good a
girl as your betrothed should have trusted you, and I do not know
that it was against you that another girl who was neither wise nor
good should have trusted you at the same time. You broke with the
last, because you had to choose between the two; and, so far as I
know, you accepted with a due sense of your faithlessness your
dismissal by the first. In this connection I must remind you that
while you were doing your best to make the party to your second
engagement believe that you were in love with her, you got her
brother, an habitual inebriate, drunk, and were, so far,
instrumental in breaking down the weak will with which he was
struggling against his propensity. It is only fair to you that I
should add that you persuaded me you got him only a little drunker
than he already got himself, and that you meant to have looked after
him, but forgot him in your preoccupation with his sister.
"I do not know what took place between you and these people after
you broke your engagement with the sister, until your encounter with
the brother in Whitwell's Clearing, and I know of this only at
second hand. I can well believe that you had some real or fancied
injury to pay off; and I give you all the credit you may wish to
claim for sparing him at last. For one of your vindictive
temperament it must have been difficult.
"I have told you the worst things I know of you, and I do not
pretend to know them more than superficially. I am not asked to
judge you, and I will not. You must be your own judge. You are to
decide whether these and other acts of yours are the acts of a man
good enough to be intrusted with the happiness of a woman who has
already been very unhappy.
"You have sometimes, however--oftener than I wished--come to me for
advice, and I now offer you some advice voluntarily. Do not suppose
that because you love this woman, as you believe, you are fit to be
the keeper of her future. Ask yourself how you have dealt hitherto
with those who have loved you, and whom in a sort you loved, and do
not go further unless the answer is such as you can fully and
faithfully report to the woman you wish to marry. What you have
made yourself you will be to the end. You once called me an
idealist, and perhaps you will call this idealism. I will only add,
and I will give the last word in your defence, you alone know what
As soon as Westover had posted his letter he began to blame himself
for it. He saw that the right and manly thing would have been to
write to Mrs. Vostrand, and tell her frankly what he thought of
Durgin. Her folly, her insincerity, her vulgarity, had nothing to do
with the affair, so far as he was concerned. If she had once been so
kind to him as to bind him to her in grateful friendship, she
certainly had a claim upon his best offices. His duty was to her, and
not at all to Durgin. He need not have said anything against him
because it was against him, but because it was true; and if he had
written he must not have said anything less than the truth.
He could have chosen not to write at all. He could have said that
her mawkish hypocrisy was a little too much; that she was really
wanting him to whitewash Durgin for her, and she had no right to put
upon him the responsibility for the step she clearly wished to take.
He could have made either of these decisions, and defended them to
himself; but in what he had done he had altogether shirked. While he
was writing to Durgin, and pretending that he could justly leave this
affair to him, he was simply indulging a bit of sentimental pose, far
worse than anything in Mrs. Vostrand's sham appeal for his help.
He felt, as the time went by, that she had not written of her own
impulse, but at her daughter's urgence, and that it was this poor
creature whose trust he had paltered with. He believed that Durgin
would not fail to make her unhappy, yet he had not done what he might
to deliver her out of his hand. He had satisfied a wretched pseudo-
magnanimity toward a faithless scoundrel, as he thought Durgin, at the
cost of a woman whose anxious hope of his aid had probably forced her
At first he thought his action irrevocable, and he bitterly
upbraided himself for not taking council with Cynthia upon Mrs.
Vostrand's letter. He had thought of doing that, and then he had
dismissed the thought as involving pain that he had no right to
inflict; but now he perceived that the pain was such as she must
suffer in the event, and that he had stupidly refused himself the only
means of finding out the right thing to do. Her true heart and her
clear mind would have been infallible in the affair, and he had
trusted to his own muddled impulse.
He began to write other letters: to Durgin, to Mrs. Vostrand, to
Genevieve; but none of them satisfied him, and he let the days go by
without doing anything to retrieve his error or fulfil his duty. At
last he did what he ought to have done at first: he enclosed Mrs.
Vostrand's letter to Cynthia, and asked her what she thought he ought
to have done. While he was waiting Cynthia's answer to his letter, a
cable message reached him from Florence:
"Kind letter received. Married to-day. Written.
The next mail brought Cynthia's reply, which was very brief:
"I am sorry you had to write at all; nothing could have prevented
it. Perhaps if he cares for her he will be good to her."
Since the matter was now irremediable, Westover crept less
miserably through the days than he could have believed he should,
until the letter which Mrs. Vostrand's cable promised came to hand.
"Dear friend," she wrote, "your generous and satisfactory answer
came yesterday. It was so delicate and high,-minded, and so like
you, to write to Mr. Durgin, and leave the whole affair to him; and
he did not lose a moment in showing us your beautiful letter. He
said you were a man after his own heart, and I wish you could have
heard how he praised you. It made Genevieve quite jealous, or would
have, if it had been any one else. But she is so happy in your
approval of her marriage, which is to take place before the
'sindaco' to-morrow, We shall only have the civil rite; she feels
that it is more American, and we are all coming home to Lion's Head
in the spring to live and die true Americans. I wish you could
spend the summer with us there, but, until Lion's Head is rebuilt,
we can't ask you. I don't know exactly how we shall do ourselves,
but Mr. Durgin is full of plans, and we leave everything to him.
He is here, making Genevieve laugh so that I can hardly write.
He joins us in love and thanks, and our darling Bice sends you a
"P. S. Mr. D. has told us all about the affairs you alluded to.
With Miss L. we cannot feel that he was to blame; but he blames
himself in regard to Miss W. He says his only excuse is that he was
always in love with Genevieve; and I think that is quite excuse
enough. M. V."
From time to time during the winter Westover wrote to Cynthia, and
had letters from her in which he pleased himself fancying almost a
personal effect of that shyness which he thought a charming thing in
her. But no doubt this was something he read into them; on their face
they were plain, straightforward accounts of the life she led in the
little old house at Lion's Head, under the shadow of the black ruin on
the hill. Westover had taken to sending her books and magazines, and
in thanking him for these she would sometimes speak of things she had
read in them. Her criticism related to the spirit rather than the
manner of the things she spoke of, and it pleased him that she seemed,
with all her insight, to have very little artistic sense of any kind;
in the world where he lived there were so many women with an artistic
sense in every kind that he was rather weary of it.
There never was anything about Durgin in the letters, and Westover
was both troubled and consoled by this silence. It might be from
consciousness, and it probably was; it might be from indifference. In
the worst event, it hid any pain she might have felt with a dignity
from which no intimation of his moved her. The nearest she came to
speaking of Jeff was when she said that Jombateeste was going to work
at the brick-yards in Cambridge as soon as the spring opened, and was
not going to stay any longer at Lion's Head.
Her brother Frank, she reported, had got a place with part work in
the drug-and-book store at Lovewell, where he could keep on more
easily with his studies; he had now fully decided to study for the
ministry; he had always wanted to be an Episcopalian.
One day toward the end of April, when several weeks had passed
without bringing Westover any word from Cynthia, her father presented
himself, and enjoyed in the painter's surprise the sensation of having
dropped upon him from the clouds. He gave due accounts of the health
of each of his household; ending with Jombateeste. "You know he's out
at the brick, as he calls it, in Cambridge."
"Cynthia said he was coming. I didn't know he had come yet," said
Westover. "I must go out and look him up, if you think I could find
him among all those Canucks."
" Well, I don't know but you'd better look us up at the same time,"
said Whitwell, with additional pleasure in the painter's additional
surprise. "I guess we're out in Cambridge, too," he added, at
Westover's start of question. "We're out there, visitin' one of our
summer folks, as you might say. Remember Mis' Fredericks?"
"Why, what the deuce kept you from telling me so at once?"
Westover demanded, indignantly.
"Guess I hadn't got round to it," said Whitwell, with dry relish.
"Do you mean that Cynthia's there?"
"Well, I guess they wouldn't cared much for a visit from me."
Whitwell took advantage of Westover's moment of mystification to
explain that Jeff had written over to him from Italy, offering him a
pretty good rent for his house, which he wanted to occupy while he was
rebuilding Lion's Head. He was going to push the work right through
in the summer, and be ready for the season the year after. That was
what Whitwell understood, and he understood that Jeff's family was
going to stay in Lovewell, but Jeff himself wanted to be on the ground
day and night.
"So that's kind of turned us out of doors, as you may say, and
Cynthia's always had this idee of comin' down Boston way: and she
didn't know anybody that could advise with her as well as Mis'
Fredericks, and she wrote to her, and Mis' Fredericks answered her to
come right down and talk it over." Westover felt a pang of resentment
that Cynthia, had not turned to him for counsel, but he said nothing,
and Whitwell went on: "She said she was, ashamed to bother you, you'd
had the whole neighborhood on your hands so much, and so she wrote to
Westover had a vague discomfort in it all, which ultimately defined
itself as a discontent with the willingness of the Whitwells to let
Durgin occupy their house upon any terms, for any purpose, and a
lingering grudge that Cynthia should have asked help of any one but
himself, even from a motive of delicacy.
In the evening he went out to see the girl at the house of Mrs.
Fredericks, whom he found living in the Port. They had a first moment
of intolerable shyness on her part. He had been afraid to see her,
with the jealousy for her dignity he always felt, lest she should look
as if she had been unhappy about Durgin. But he found her looking,
not only very well, but very happy and full of peace, as soon as that
moment of shyness passed. It seemed to Westover as if she had begun
to live on new terms, and that a harassing element, which had always
been in it, had gone out of her life, and in its absence she was
beginning to rejoice in a lasting repose. He found himself rejoicing
with her, and he found himself on simpler and franker terms with her
than ever before. Neither of them spoke of Jeff, or made any approach
to mention him, and Westover believed that this was not from a morbid
feeling in her, but from a final and enduring indifference.
He saw her alone, for Mrs. Fredericks and her daughter had gone
into town to a concert, which he made her confess she would have gone
to herself if it had not been that her father said he was coming out
to see her. She would not let him joke about the sacrifice he
pretended she had made; he had a certain pain in fancying that his
visit was the highest and finest favor that life could do her. She
told him of the ambition she had that she might get a school somewhere
in the neighborhood of Boston, and then find something for her brother
to do, while he began his studies in the Theological School at
Harvard. Frank was still at Lovewell, it seemed.
At the end of the long call he made, he said, abruptly, when he had
risen to go, "I should like to paint you."
"Who? Me?" she cried, as if it were the most incredible thing,
while a glad color rushed over her face.
"Yes. While you're waiting to get your school, couldn't you come
in with your father, now and then, and sit for me?"
"What's he want me to come fer?" Whitwell demanded, when the plan
was laid before him. He was giving his unlimited leisure to the
exploration of Boston, and his tone expressed something of the injury,
which he also put into words, as a sole objection to the proposed
interruption. "Can't you go alone, Cynthy ?" Cynthia said she did not
know, but when the point was referred to Mrs. Fredericks, she was sure
Cynthia could not go alone, and she acquainted them both, as far as
she could, with that mystery of chaperonage which had never touched
their lives before. Whitwell seemed to think that his daughter would
give the matter up; and perhaps she might have done so, though she
seemed reluctant, if Mrs. Fredericks had not further instructed them
that it was the highest possible honor Mr. Westover was offering them,
and that if he had proposed to paint her daughter she would simply
have gone and lived with him while he was doing it.
Whitwell found some compensation for the time lost to his study of
Boston in the conversation of the painter, which he said was worth a
hundred cents on the dollar every time, though it dealt less with the
metaphysical aspect of the latest facts of science than the
philosopher could have wished. He did not, to be sure, take very much
stock in the picture as it advanced, somewhat fitfully, with a good
many reversions to its original state of sketch. It appeared to him
always a slight and feeble representation of Cynthia, though, of
course, a native politeness forbade him to express his disappointment.
He avowed a faith in Westover's ability to get it right in the end,
and always bade him go on, and take as much time to it as he wanted.
He felt less uneasy than at first, because he had now found a
little furnished house in the woodenest outskirts of North Cambridge,
which he hired cheap from the recently widowed owner, and they were
keeping house there. Jombateeste lived with them, and worked in the
brick-yards. Out of hours he helped Cynthia, and kept the ugly little
place looking trim and neat, and left Whitwell free for the tramps
home to nature, which he began to take over the Belmont uplands as
soon as the spring opened. He was not homesick, as Cynthia was afraid
he might be; his mind was fully occupied by the vast and varied
interests opened to it by the intellectual and material activities of
the neighboring city; and he found ample scope for his physical
energies in doing Cynthia's errands, as well as studying the strange
flora of the region. He apparently thought that he had made a
distinct rise and advance in the world. Sometimes, in the first days
of his satisfaction with his establishment, he expressed the wish that
Jackson could only have seen how he was fixed, once. In his
preoccupation with other things, he no longer attempted to explore the
eternal mysteries with the help of planchette; the ungrateful
instrument gathered as much dust as Cynthia would suffer on the
what-not in the corner of the solemn parlor; and after two or three
visits to the First Spiritual Temple in Boston, he lapsed altogether
from an interest in the other world, which had, perhaps, mainly
flourished in the absence of pressing subjects of inquiry, in this.
When at last Westover confessed that he had carried his picture of
Cynthia as far as he could, Whitwell did his best to hide his
disappointment. "Well, sir," he said, tolerantly and even cheeringly,
"I presume we're every one of us a different person to whoever looks
at us. They say that no two men see the same star."
"You mean that she doesn't look so to you," suggested the painter,
who seemed not at all abashed.
"Well, you might say-- Why, here! It's like her; photograph
couldn't get it any better; but it makes me think-well, of a bird that
you've come on sudden, and it stoops as if it was goin' to fly--"
"Ah," said Westover, "does it make you think of that?"
The painter could not make out at first whether the girl herself
was pleased with the picture or not, and in his uncertainty he could
not give it her at once, as he had hoped and meant to do. It was by a
kind of accident he found afterward that she had always been
passionately proud of his having painted her. This was when he
returned from the last sojourn he had made in Paris, whither he went
soon after the Whitwells settled in North Cambridge. He left the
picture behind him to be framed and then sent to her with a letter he
had written, begging her to give it houseroom while he was gone. He
got a short, stiff note in reply after he reached Paris, and he had
not tried to continue the correspondence. But as soon as he returned
he went out to see the Whitwells in North Cambridge. They were still
in their little house there; the young widower had married again; but
neither he nor his new wife had cared to take up their joint life in
his first home, and he had found Whitwell such a good tenant that he
had not tried to put up the rent on him. Frank was at home, now, with
an employment that gave him part of his time for his theological
studies; Cynthia had been teaching school ever since the fall after
Westover went away, and they were all, as Whitwell said, in clover.
He was the only member of the family at home when Westover called on
the afternoon of a warm summer day, and he entertained him with a full
account of a visit he had paid Lion's Head earlier in the season.
"Yes, sir," he said, as if he had already stated the fact, "I've
sold my old place there to that devil." He said devil without the
least rancor; with even a smile of good-will, and he enjoyed the
astonishment Westover expressed in his demand:
"Sold Durgin your house?"
"Yes; I see we never wanted to go back there to live, any of us,
and I went up to pass the papers and close the thing out. Well, I did
have an offer for it from a feller that wanted to open a
boa'din'-house there and get the advantage of Jeff's improvements, and
I couldn't seem to make up my mind till I'd looked the ground over.
Fust off, you know, I thought I'd sell to the other feller, because I
could see in a minute what a thorn it 'd be in Jeff's flesh. But,
dumn it all! When I met the comical devil I couldn't seem to want to
pester him. Why, here, thinks I, if we've made an escape from
him--and I guess we have, about the biggest escape--what have I got
ag'in' him, anyway? I'd ought to feel good to him; and I guess that's
the way I did feel, come to boil it down. He's got a way with him, you
know, when you're with him, that makes you like him. He may have a
knife in your ribs the whole while, but so long's he don't turn it,
you don't seem to know it, and you can't help likin' him. Why, I
hadn't been with Jeff five minutes before I made up my mind to sell to
him. I told him about the other offer--felt bound to do it--and he
was all on fire. 'I want that place, Mr. Whitwell,' s'd he. 'Name
your price.' Well, I wa'n't goin' to take an advantage of the feller,
and I guess he see it. 'You've offered me three thousand,' s'd I, 'n'
I don't want to be no ways mean about it. Five thousand buys the
place.' 'It's mine,' s'd he; just like that. I guess he see he had a
gentleman to deal with, and we didn't say a word more. Don't you
think I done right to sell to him? I couldn't 'a' got more'n
thirty-five hundred out the other feller, to save me, and before Jeff
begun his improvements I couldn't 'a' realized a thousand dollars on
"I think you did right to sell to him," said Westover, saddened
somewhat by the proof Whitwell alleged of his magnanimity.
"Well, Sir, I'm glad you do. I don't believe in crowdin' a man
because you got him in a corner, an' I don't believe in bearin'
malice. Never did. All I wanted was what the place was wo'th--to
him. 'Twa'n't wo'th nothin' to me! He's got the house and the ten
acres around it, and he's got the house on Lion's Head, includin' the
Clearin', that the poottiest picnic-ground in the mountains. Think of
goin' up there this summer?"
"No," said Westover, briefly.
"Well, I some wish yon did. I sh'd like to know how Jeff's
improvements struck you. Of course, I can't judge of 'em so well, but
I guess he's made a pootty sightly thing of it. He told me he'd had
one of the leadin' Boston architects to plan the thing out for him,
and I tell you he's got something nice. 'Tain't so big as old Lion's
Head, and Jeff wants to cater to a different style of custom, anyway.
The buildin's longer'n what she is deep, and she spreads in front
so's to give as many rooms a view of the mountain as she can. Know
what 'runnaysonce' is? Well, that's the style Jeff said it was; it's
all pillars and pilasters; and you ride up to the office through a
double row of colyums, under a kind of a portico. It's all painted
like them old Colonial houses down on Brattle Street, buff and white.
Well, it made me think of one of them old pagan temples. He's got
her shoved along to the south'ard, and he's widened out a piece of
level for her to stand on, so 't that piece o' wood up the hill there
is just behind her, and I tell you she looks nice, backin' up ag'inst
the trees. I tell you, Jeff's got a head on him! I wish you could see
that dinin'-room o' his: all white colyums, and frontin' on the view.
Why, that devil's got a regular little theatyre back o' the
dinin'-room for the young folks to act ammyture plays in, and the
shows that come along, and he's got a dance-hall besides; the parlors
ain't much--folks like to set in the office; and a good many of the
rooms are done off into soots, and got their own parlors. I tell you,
it's swell, as they say. You can order what you please for breakfast,
but for lunch and dinner you got to take what Jeff gives you; but he
treats you well. He's a Durgin, when it comes to that. Served in
cou'ses, and dinner at seven o'clock. I don't know where he got his
money for 't all, but I guess he put in his insurance fust, and then
he put a mortgage on the buildin'; be as much as owned it; said he'd
had a splendid season last year, and if he done as well for a copule
of seasons more he'd have the whole prop'ty free o' debt."
Westover could see that the prosperity of the unjust man had
corrupted the imagination and confounded the conscience of this simple
witness, and he asked, in the hope of giving his praises pause: "What
has he done about the old family burying-ground in the orchard?"
"Well, there!" said Whitwell. "That got me more than any other one
thing: I naturally expected that Jeff 'd had 'em moved, for you know
and I know, Mr. Westover, that a place like that couldn't be very
pop'la' with summer folks; they don't want to have anything to kind of
make 'em serious, as you may say. But that devil got his architect to
treat the place, as he calls it, and he put a high stone wall around
it, and planted it to bushes and evergreens so 't looks like a piece
of old garden, down there in the corner of the orchard, and if you
didn't hunt for it you wouldn't know it was there. Jeff said 't when
folks did happen to find it out, he believed they liked it; they think
it's picturesque and ancient. Why, some on 'em wanted him to put up a
little chapel alongside and have services there; and Jeff said he
didn't know but he'd do it yet. He's got dark-colored stones up for
Mis' Durgin and Jackson, so 't they look as old as any of 'em. I tell
you, he knows how to do things."
"It seems so," said Westover, with a bitterness apparently lost
upon the optimistic philosopher.
"Yes, sir. I guess it's all worked out for the best. So long's he
didn't marry Cynthy, I don't care who he married, and--I guess he's
made out fust-rate, and he treats his wife well, and his
mother-in-law, too. You wouldn't hardly know they was in the house,
they're so kind of quiet; and if a guest wants to see Jeff, he's got
to send and ask for him; clerk does everything, but I guess Jeff keeps
an eye out and knows what's goin' on. He's got an elegant soot of
appartments, and he lives as private as if he was in his own house,
him and his wife. But when there's anything goin' on that needs a
head, they're both right on deck.
"He don't let his wife worry about things a great deal; he's got a
fust- rate of a housekeeper, but I guess old Mis' Vostrand keeps the
housekeeper, as you may say. I hear some of the boa'ders talkin' up
there, and one of 'em said 't the great thing about Lion's Head was 't
you could feel everywheres in it that it was a lady's house. I guess
Jeff has a pootty good time, and a time 't suits him. He shows up on
the coachin' parties, and he's got himself a reg'lar English
coachman's rig, with boots outside his trouse's, and a long coat and a
fuzzy plug-hat: I tell you, he looks gay! He don't spend his winters
at Lion's Head: he is off to Europe about as soon as the house closes
in the fall, and he keeps bringin' home new dodges. Guess you
couldn't get no boa'd there for no seven dollars a week now! I tell
you, Jeff's the gentleman now, and his wife's about the nicest lady I
ever saw. Do' know as I care so much about her mother; do' know as I
got anything ag'inst her, either, very much. But that little girl,
Beechy, as they call her, she's a beauty! And round with Jeff all the
while! He seems full as fond of her as her own mother does, and that
devil, that couldn't seem to get enough of tormentin' little children
when he was a boy, is as good and gentle with that little thing
Whitwell seemed to have come to an end of his celebration of Jeff's
success, and Westover asked:
"And what do you make now, of planchette's brokenshaft business?
Or don't you believe in planchette any more?"
Whitwell's beaming face clouded. "Well, sir, that's a thing that's
always puzzled me. If it wa'n't that it was Jackson workin'
plantchette that night, I shouldn't placed much dependence on what she
said; but Jackson could get the truth out of her, if anybody could.
Sence I b'en up there I b'en figurin' it out like this: the broken
shaft is the old Jeff that he's left off bein'--"
Whitwell stopped midway in his suggestion, with an inquiring eye on
the painter, who asked: "You think he's left off being the old Jeff?"
"Well, sir, you got me there," the philosopher confessed. "I
didn't see anything to the contrary, but come to think of it--"
"Why couldn't the broken shaft be his unfulfilled destiny on the
old lines? What reason is there to believe he isn't what he's always
"Well, come to think of it--"
"People don't change in a day, or a year," Westover went on, "or
two or three years, even. Sometimes I doubt if they ever change."
"Well, all that I thought," Whitwell urged, faintly, against the
hard scepticism of a man ordinarily so yielding, "is 't there must be
a moral government of the universe somewheres, and if a bad feller is
to get along and prosper hand over hand, that way, don't it look kind
of as if--"
"There wasn't any moral government of the universe? Not the way I
see it," said Westover. "A tree brings forth of its kind. As a man
sows he reaps. It's dead sure, pitilessly sure. Jeff Durgin sowed
success, in a certain way, and he's reaping it. He once said to me,
when I tried to waken his conscience, that he should get where he was
trying to go if he was strong enough, and being good had nothing to do
with it. I believe now he was right. But he was wrong too, as such a
man always is. That kind of tree bears Dead Sea apples, after all.
He sowed evil, and he must reap evil. He may never know it, but he
will reap what he has sown. The dreadful thing is that others must
share in his harvest. What do you think?"
Whitwell scratched his head. "Well, sir, there's something in what
you say, I guess. But here! What's the use of thinkin' a man can't
change? Wa'n't there ever anything in that old idee of a change of
heart? What do you s'pose made Jeff let up on that feller that
Jombateeste see him have down, that day, in my Clearin'? What Jeff
would natch'ly done would b'en to shake the life out of him; but he
didn't; he let him up, and he let him go. What's the reason that
wa'n't the beginnin' of a new life for him?"
"We don't know all the ins and outs of that business," said
Westover, after a moment. " I've puzzled over it a good deal. The
man was the brother of that girl that Jeff had jilted in Boston. I've
found out that much. I don't know just the size and shape of the
trouble between them, but Jeff may have felt that he had got even with
his enemy before that day. Or he may have felt that if he was going
in for full satisfaction, there was Jombateeste looking on."
"That's true," said Whitwell, greatly daunted. After a while he
took refuge in the reflection, "Well, he's a comical devil."
Westover said, in a sort of absence: "Perhaps we're all broken
shafts, here. Perhaps that old hypothesis of another life, a world
where there is room enough and time enough for all the beginnings of
this to complete themselves--"
"Well, now you're shoutin'," said Whitwell. "And if plantchette--"
Westover rose. "Why, a'n't you goin' to wait and see Cynthy ? I'm
expectin' her along every minute now; she's just gone down to Harvard
Square. She'll be awfully put out when she knows you've be'n here."
"I'll come out again soon," said Westover. "Tell her--"
" Well, you must see your picture, anyway. We've got it in the
parlor. I don't know what she'll say to me, keepin' you here in the
settin'-room all the time."
Whitwell led him into the little dark front hall, and into the
parlor, less dim than it should have been because the afternoon sun
was burning full upon its shutters. The portrait hung over the
mantel, in a bad light, but the painter could feel everything in it
that he could not see.
"Yes, it had that look in it."
"Well, she ha'n't took wing yet, I'm thankful to think," said
Whitwell, and he spoke from his own large mind to the sympathy of an
old friend who he felt could almost share his feelings as a father.
When Westover turned out of the baking little street where the
Whitwells lived into an elm-shaded stretch of North Avenue, he took
off his hat and strolled bareheaded along in the cooler air. He was
disappointed not to have seen Cynthia, and yet he found himself
hurrying away after his failure, with a sense of escape, or at least
What he had come to say, to do, was the effect of long experience
and much meditation. The time had arrived when he could no longer
feign to himself that his feelings toward the girl were not those of a
lover, but he had his modest fears that she could never imagine him in
that character, and that if he should ask her to do so he should shock
and grieve her, and inflict upon himself an incurable wound.
During this last absence of his he had let his fancy dwell
constantly upon her, until life seemed worth having only if she would
share it with him. He was an artist, and he had always been a
bohemian, but at heart he was philistine and bourgeois. His ideal was
a settlement, a fixed habitation, a stated existence, a home where he
could work constantly in an air of affection, and unselfishly do his
part to make his home happy. It was a very simple-hearted ambition,
and I do not quite know how to keep it from appearing commonplace and
almost sordid; but such as it was, I must confess that it was his. He
had not married his model, because he was mainly a landscapist,
perhaps; and he had not married any of his pupils, because he had not
been in love with them, charming and good and lovely as he had thought
some of them; and of late he had realized more and more why his fancy
had not turned in their direction. He perceived that it was already
fixed, and possibly had long been fixed.
He did not blink the fact that there were many disparities, and
that there would be certain disadvantages which could never be quite
overcome. The fact had been brought rather strenuously home to him by
his interview with Cynthia's father. He perceived, as indeed he had
always known, that with a certain imaginative lift in his thinking and
feeling, Whitwell was irreparably rustic, that he was and always must
be practically Yankee. Westover was not a Yankee, and he did not love
or honor the type, though its struggles against itself touched and
amused him. It made him a little sick to hear how Whitwell had
profited by Durgin's necessity, and had taken advantage of him with
conscientious and self-applausive rapacity, while he admired his
prosperity, and tried to account for it by doubt of its injustice.
For a moment this seemed to him worse than Durgin's conscientious
toughness, which was the antithesis of Whitwell's remorseless
self-interest. For the moment this claimed Cynthia of its kind, and
Westover beheld her rustic and Yankee of her father's type. If she was
not that now, she would grow into that through the lapse from the
personal to the ancestral which we all undergo in the process of the
The sight of her face as he had pictured it, and of the soul which
be had imagined for it, restored him to a better sense of her, but he
felt the need of escaping from the suggestion of her father's
presence, and taking further thought. Perhaps he should never again
reach the point that he was aware of deflecting from now; he filled
his lungs with long breaths, which he exhaled in sighs of relief. It
might have been a mistake on the spiritual as well as the worldly
side; it would certainly not have promoted his career; it might have
impeded it. These misgivings flitted over the surface of thought that
more profoundly was occupied with a question of other things. In the
time since he had seen her last it might very well be that a young and
pretty girl had met some one who had taken her fancy; and he could not
be sure that her fancy had ever been his, even if this had not
happened. He had no proof at all that she had ever cared or could
care for him except gratefully, respectfully, almost reverentially,
with that mingling of filial and maternal anxiety which had hitherto
been the warmest expression of her regard. He tried to reason it out,
and could not. He suddenly found himself bitterly disappointed that
he had missed seeing her, for if they had met, he would have known by
this time what to think, what to hope. He felt old-- he felt fully
thirty-six years old--as he passed his hand over his crown, whose
gossamer growth opposed so little resistance to his touch. He had
begun to lose his hair early, but till then he had not much regretted
his baldness. He entered into a little question of their comparative
ages, which led him to the conclusion that Cynthia must now be about
Almost at the same moment he saw her coming up the walk toward him
from far down the avenue. For a reason, or rather a motive, of his
own he pretended to himself that it was not she, but he knew instantly
that it was, and he put on his hat. He could see that she did not
know him, and it was a pretty thing to witness the recognition dawn on
her. When it had its full effect, he was aware of a flutter, a pause
in her whole figure before she came on toward him, and he hurried his
steps for the charm of her beautiful blushing face.
It was the spiritual effect of figure and face that he had carried
in his thought ever since he had arrived at that one-sided intimacy
through his study of her for the picture he had just seen. He had
often had to ask himself whether he had really perceived or only
imagined the character he had translated into it; but here, for the
moment at least, was what he had seen. He hurried forward and
joyfully took the hand she gave him. He thought he should speak of
that at once, but it was not possible, of course. There had to come
first the unheeded questions and answers about each other's health,
and many other commonplaces. He turned and walked home with her, and
at the gate of the little ugly house she asked him if he would not
come in and take tea with them.
Her father talked with him while she got the tea, and when it was
ready her brother came in from his walk home out of Old Cambridge and
helped her put it on the table. He had grown much taller than
Westover, and he was very ecclesiastical in his manner; more so than
he would be, probably, if he ever be came a bishop, Westover decided.
Jombateeste, in an interval of suspended work at the brick yard, was
paying a visit to his people in Canada, and Westover did not see him.
All the time while they sat at table and talked together Westover
realized more and more that for him, at least, the separation of the
last two years had put that space between them which alone made it
possible for them to approach each other on new ground. A kind of
horror, of repulsion, for her engagement to Jeff Durgin had ceased
from his sense of her; it was as if she had been unhappily married,
and the man, who had been unworthy and unkind, was like a ghost who
could never come to trouble his joy. He was more her contemporary, he
found, than formerly; she had grown a great deal in the past two
years, and a certain affliction which her father's fixity had given
him concerning her passed in the assurance of change which she herself
She had changed her world, and grown to it, but her nature had not
changed. Even her look had not changed, and he told her how he had
seen his picture in her at the moment of their meeting in the street.
They all went in to verify his impression from the painting. "Yes,
that is the way you looked."
"It seems to me that is the way I felt," she asserted.
Frank went about the house-work, and left her to their guest. When
Whitwell came back from the post-office, where he said he would only
be gone a minute, he did not rejoin Westover and Cynthia in the
The parlor door was shut; he had risked his fate, and they were
talking it over. Cynthia was not sure; she was sure of nothing but
that there was no one in the world she cared for so much; but she was
not sure that was enough. She did not pretend that she was surprised;
she owned that she had sometimes expected it; she blamed herself for
not expecting it then.
Westover said that he did not blame her for not knowing her mind;
he had been fifteen years learning his own fully. He asked her to
take all the time she wished. If she could not make sure after all,
he should always be sure that she was wise and good. She told him
everything there was to tell of her breaking with Jeff, and he thought
the last episode a supreme proof of her wisdom and goodness.
After a certain time they went for a walk in the warm summer
moonlight under the elms, where they had met on the avenue.
"I suppose," she said, as they drew near her door again, "that
people don't often talk it over as we've done."
"We only know from the novels," he answered. "Perhaps people do,
oftener than is ever known. I don't see why they shouldn't."
"I've never wished to be sure of you so much as since you've wished
to be sure of yourself."
"And I've never been so sure as since you were willing to let me,"
"I am glad of that. Try to think of me, if that will help my
cause, as some one you might have always known in this way. We don't
really know each other yet. I'm a great deal older than you, but
still I'm not so very old."
"Oh, I don't care for that. All I want to be certain of is that
the feeling I have is really--the feeling."
"I know, dear," said Westover, and his heart surged toward her in
his tenderness for her simple conscience, her wise question. "Take
time. Don't hurry. Forget what I've said--or no; that's absurd!
Think of it; but don't let anything but the truth persuade you. Now,
"Mr. Westover" he reproached her.
She stood thinking, as if the question were crucial. Then she
said, firmly, "I should always have to call you Mr. Westover."
"Oh, well," he returned, " if that's all!"