THE LANDLORD AT LION'S HEAD
By William Dean Howells
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
"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 next week.
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 Egypt.
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 Mormons.
"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 expressed.
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
"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 him.
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
"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
"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 wear, Cynthy?"
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 welcome.
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
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
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 friends."
"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
"Couldn't you find me some place to sit down, Mr. Durgin?" she asked.
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 timid woman.
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 else's?"
"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
"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 soon."
"How fearless! Most of them don't know what they're going to do in it."
"And what are you going to do? Or perhaps you think that's asking!"
"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 proverb?"
"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 he had made her
"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, abruptly.
"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 hotel-keeping.
"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
"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
"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 aunt,
"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 let
"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
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 her.
"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, Mr.
"Thank you. I always expected to write the circulars myself. I'll send
"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
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
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 great deal.
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
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
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
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
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
"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 her.
"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 self-complacence.
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
"Why sha'n't you go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays?" she asked. "They're
"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 next
"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 him.
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 afterward."
"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
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
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
"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 it."
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
"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 jay."
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
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,
"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
"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 drowsy."
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
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 errors.
"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 fool."
"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
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
"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 brother,
"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
"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
"Well, you'd better let him alone, after this," he said, at the end.
"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, to
"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.
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
"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
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 stammering.
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 good stuff.
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 of
"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
"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
"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. Westover?"
"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
"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
"What time is it, Mr. Westover? I see my aunt beginning to nod on her
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, sor."
"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
"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
"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 of us."
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 together.
"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. "Whin 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 together.
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 admitted.
"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 while
"Oh!" said the girl. "Then I think my aunt and I had better go, too."
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. Westover?"
"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
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 on.
"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
"There's a fire here in the reception-room," she said. "Can you get him
"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 carry
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
"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
"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 to know."
"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
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
"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 what
"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 sympathetic
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 swearing
"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
"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, last
"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
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
"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
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
"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 drinking, too?"
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, Miss
"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 matters?"
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 incursion.
"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 decanters.
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
"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 anything."
"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 beside her.
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 his
"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 expostulated.
"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
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 next
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.
She hesitated before she began. "Do you know who brought you home last
"Yes," he answered, quickly, "Westover."
"Yes, Mr. Westover brought you, and you wouldn't stay. You don't remember
"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 her 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 about
"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
"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, perhaps."
"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
"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
"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 worse."
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
"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 those premises?"
"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 again."
"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 toward them."
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, gravely.
"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
"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 him.
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 behind him.
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 woman.
"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 sleeping."
"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 again."
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 came
"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 hungry."
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 happiness.
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
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 letters!"
"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 thought.
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 so."
"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
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 appreciated?"
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
"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
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 own guest—?"
"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
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 end."
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.
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
"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 work?"
"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 summer."
"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 were—"
"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 else's
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 breakfast
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 obscurity.
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 solitude.
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
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 to town.
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
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 respect himself.
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
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 people
"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
"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 best."
"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 credit.
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 he faltered.
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
"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
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
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 yourself?"
"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
"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 he
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 eyes.
"I suppose," her friend said, sadly, "you won't tell me more than you
"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
"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
"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 the
"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 transitory quality.
"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
"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 your
"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, now."
"I hate to have you staying on. Couldn't you come down to us for a week?"
"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 stopped.
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
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 tea?"
"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 been
"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 pessimist."
"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
"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 about it?"
"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
"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
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
"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
"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 Class Day."
"If you'll come out, I'll show you one," said Jeff, without wincing.
"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 Class Day—"
"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 you."
"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, then?"
"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 door.
She fluttered between him and it. "I wish to know what you accuse me of!"
"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 or not.
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 consciousness.
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 feel.
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 had done.
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
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 any
"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
"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 again.
"Well," said Westover, "what are we going to do? You've come to tell me."
"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 it.
"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 there
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
"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. Westover."
"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
"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 Commandments?"
"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
"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 through them.
"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,
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
"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
"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
"You'll take cold," said Jeff, who remained on foot in front of her.
"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
"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
"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 house."
"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 up?"
"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
"You're not going in there, Cynthia," said Jeff. "It must be like death
"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
"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
"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
"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 'em."
"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, I guess."
"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 whether—whether—"
"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
"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, recklessly.
"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 about
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 Jeff,
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
"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 her to?"
"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 right light."
"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 near.
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 other sex.
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 it's true."
"I don't believe I care for any share in your mind, then," said the girl.
"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,
"I'm not making you. I don't promise you anything, even if she won't have
"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
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 demanded.
"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
"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
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 little."
"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 engaged."
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
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 himself.
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
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 audacity availed.
"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 mind.
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
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 leading acknowledgment.
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
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 him.
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 him?
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 you 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
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 failure.
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
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 gently assented.
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 done.
"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 off."
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
"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 with me."
"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
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
"I suppose mother's told you about Cynthy and me, Jackson?" he began.
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
"Then you don't care for her any more?" Jackson pursued, with the same
"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
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 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 grave.
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 know."
"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. Heigh?"
"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 can't go?"
"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 him."
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'
"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 daunted.
"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
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 his
"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
"You don't call Cynthia a stranger, do you, mother?" he asked, coaxingly.
"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 tell Cynthy."
"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 off?"
"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
"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 stand it."
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
"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 unwonted
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
"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
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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
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
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 here."
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'
"Do you think I better go and look after things a little?" Cynthia asked.
"Well, you no need to," said her father. He got down the planchette, and
labored with it, while his children returned to Frank's lessons.
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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 all 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
"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 Lion's Head.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"Is this another charity patient?" asked his friend, with a grin.
"No," replied Westover. "You can charge this fellow along the whole
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
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," said
"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
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.
"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
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
"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 Mis' Fredericks."
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
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
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 the prop'ty."
"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 you 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'
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
"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
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 been?"
"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
"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
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
"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
"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 of respite.
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 he 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 became 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 gave him.
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
"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 parlor.
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," said
"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
"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, good-night,
"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!"