Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 28 out of 78
Westover fancied there was more of fury than of fright in her face. She
seemed lost to any sense of his presence, and kept on talking fiercely to
herself, while she put the little boy in order, like an indignant woman.
"Great, mean, ugly thing! I'll tell the teacher on him, that's what I
will, as soon as ever school begins. I'll see if he can come round with
that dog of his scaring folks! I wouldn't 'a' been a bit afraid if it
hadn't 'a' been for Franky. Don't cry any more, Franky. Don't you see
they're gone? I presume he thinks it smart to scare a little boy and a
girl. If I was a boy once, I'd show him!"
She made no sign of gratitude to Westover: as far as any recognition from
her was concerned, his intervention was something as impersonal as if it
had been a thunder-bolt falling upon her enemies from the sky.
"Where do you live?" he asked. "I'll go home with you if you'll tell me
where you live."
She looked up at him in a daze, and Westover heard the Durgin boy saying:
"She lives right there in that little wood-colored house at the other end
of the lane. There ain't no call to go home with her."
Westover turned and saw the boy kneeling at the edge of a clump of
bushes, where he must have struck; he was rubbing, with a tuft of grass,
at the dirt ground into the knees of his trousers.
The little, girl turned hawkishly upon him. "Not for anything you can
do, Jeff Durgin!"
The boy did not answer.
"There!" she said, giving a final pull and twitch to the dress of her
brother, and taking him by the hand tenderly. "Now, come right along,
"Let me have your other hand," said Westover, and, with the little boy
between them, they set off toward the point where the lane joined the
road on the northward. They had to pass the bushes where Jeff Durgin was
crouching, and the little girl turned and made a face at him. "Oh, oh!
I don't think I should have done that," said Westover.
"I don't care!" said the little girl. But she said, in explanation and
partial excuse: "He tries to scare all the girls. I'll let him know 't
he can't scare one!"
Westover looked up toward the Durgin house with a return of interest in
the canvas he had left in the lane on the easel. Nothing had happened to
it. At the door of the barn he saw the farmer and his eldest son
slanting forward and staring down the hill at the point he had come from.
Mrs. Durgin was looking out from the shelter of the porch, and she turned
and went in with Jeff's dog at her skirts when Westover came in sight
with the children.
Westover had his tea with the family, but nothing was said or done to
show that any of them resented or even knew of what had happened to the
boy from him. Jeff himself seemed to have no grudge. He went out with
Westover, when the meal was ended, and sat on the steps of the porch with
him, watching the painter watch the light darken on the lonely heights
and in the lonely depths around. Westover smoked a pipe, and the fire
gleamed and smouldered in it regularly with his breathing; the boy, on a
lower' step, pulled at the long ears of his dog and gazed up at him.
They were both silent till the painter asked: "What do you do here when
you're not trying to scare little children to death?"
The boy hung his head and said, with the effect of excusing a long
arrears of uselessness: "I'm goin' to school as soon as it commences."
"There's one branch of your education that I should like to undertake if
I ever saw you at a thing like that again. Don't you feel ashamed of
The boy pulled so hard at the dog's ear that the dog gave a faint yelp of
"They might 'a' seen that I had him by the collar. I wa'n't a-goin' to
"Well, the next time I have you by the collar I won't let go, either,"
said the painter; but he felt an inadequacy in his threat, and he
imagined a superfluity, and he made some haste to ask: "who are they?"
"Whitwell is their name. They live in that little house where you took
them. Their father's got a piece of land on Zion's Head that he's
clearin' off for the timber. Their mother's dead, and Cynthy keeps
house. She's always makin' up names and faces," added the boy. "She
thinks herself awful smart. That Franky's a perfect cry-baby."
"Well, upon my word! You are a little ruffian," said Westover, and he
knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "The next time you meet that poor
little creature you tell her that I think you're about the shabbiest chap
I know, and that I hope the teacher will begin where I left off with you
and not leave blackguard enough in you to--"
He stopped for want of a fitting figure, and the boy said: "I guess the
teacher won't touch me."
Westover rose, and the boy flung his dog away from him with his foot.
"Want I should show you where to sleep?"
"Yes," said Westover, and the boy hulked in before him, vanishing into
the dark of the interior, and presently appeared with a lighted
hand-lamp. He led the way upstairs to a front room looking down upon the
porch roof and over toward Zion's Head, which Westover could see dimly
outlined against the night sky, when he lifted the edge of the paper
shade and peered out.
The room was neat, with greater comfort in its appointments than he hoped
for. He tried the bed, and found it hard, but of straw, and not the
feathers he had dreaded; while the boy looked into the water-pitcher to
see if it was full; and then went out without any form of goodnight.
Westover would have expected to wash in a tin basin at the back door, and
wipe on the family towel, but all the means of toilet, such as they were,
he found at hand here, and a surprise which he had felt at a certain
touch in the cooking renewed itself at the intelligent arrangements for
his comfort. A secondary quilt was laid across the foot of his bed; his
window-shade was pulled down, and, though the window was shut and the air
stuffy within, there was a sense of cleanliness in everything which was
not at variance with the closeness.
The bed felt fresh when he got into it, and the sweet breath of the
mountains came in so cold through the sash he had lifted that he was glad
to pull the secondary quilt up over him. He heard the clock tick in some
room below; from another quarter came the muffled sound of coughing; but
otherwise the world was intensely still, and he slept deep and long.
The men folks had finished their breakfast and gone to their farm-work
hours before Westover came down to his breakfast, but the boy seemed to
be of as much early leisure as himself, and was lounging on the threshold
of the back door, with his dog in waiting upon him. He gave the effect
of yesterday's cleanliness freshened up with more recent soap and water.
At the moment Westover caught sight of him, he heard his mother calling
to him from the kitchen, "Well, now, come in and get your breakfast,
Jeff," and the boy called to Westover, in turn, "I'll tell her you're
here," as he rose and came in-doors. "I guess she's got your breakfast
Mrs. Durgin brought the breakfast almost as soon as Westover had found
his way to the table, and she lingered as if for some expression of his
opinion upon it. The biscuit and the butter were very good, and he said
so; the eggs were fresh, and the hash from yesterday's corned-beef could
not have been better, and he praised them; but he was silent about the
"It a'n't very good," she suggested.
"Why, I'm used to making my own coffee; I lived so long in a country
where it's nearly the whole of breakfast that I got into the habit of it,
and I always carry my little machine with me; but I don't like to bring
it out, unless--"
"Unless you can't stand the other folks's," said the woman, with a
humorous gleam. "Well, you needn't mind me. I want you should have good
coffee, and I guess I a'n't too old to learn, if you want to show me.
Our folks don't care for it much; they like tea; and I kind of got out of
the way of it. But at home we had to have it." She explained, to his
"My father kept the tavern on the old road to St. Albans, on the other
side of Lion's Head. That's where I always lived till I married here."
"Oh," said Westover, and he felt that she had proudly wished to account
for a quality which she hoped he had noticed in her cooking. He thought
she might be going to tell him something more of herself, but she only
said, "Well, any time you want to show me your way of makin' coffee," and
went out of the room.
That evening, which was the close of another flawless day, he sat again
watching the light outside, when he saw her come into the hallway with a
large shade-lamp in her hand. She stopped at the door of a room he had
not seen yet, and looked out at him to ask:
"Won't you come in and set in the parlor if you want to?"
He found her there when he came in, and her two sons with her; the
younger was sleepily putting away some school-books, and the elder seemed
to have been helping him with his lessons.
"He's got to begin school next week," she said to Westover; and at the
preparations the other now began to make with a piece of paper and a
planchette which he had on the table before him, she asked, in the half-
mocking, half-deprecating way which seemed characteristic of her: "You
believe any in that?"
"I don't know that I've ever seen it work," said the painter.
"Well, sometimes it won't work," she returned, altogether mockingly now,
and sat holding her shapely hands, which were neither so large nor so
rough as they might have been, across her middle and watching her son
while the machine pushed about under his palm, and he bent his wan eyes
upon one of the oval-framed photographs on the wall, as if rapt in a
supernal vision. The boy stared drowsily at the planchette, jerking this
way and that, and making abrupt starts and stops. At last the young man
lifted his palm from it, and put it aside to study the hieroglyphics it
had left on the paper.
"What's it say?" asked his mother.
The young man whispered: "I can't seem to make out very clear. I guess I
got to take a little time to it," he added, leaning back wearily in his
chair. "Ever seen much of the manifestations?" he gasped at Westover.
"Never any, before," said the painter, with a leniency for the invalid
which he did not feel for his belief.
The young man tried for his voice, and found enough of it to say:
"There's a trance medium over at the Huddle. Her control says 't I can
develop into a writin' medium." He seemed to refer the fact as a sort of
question to Westover, who could think of nothing to say but that it must
be very interesting to feel that one had such a power.
"I guess he don't know he's got it yet," his mother interposed. "And
planchette don't seem to know, either."
"We ha'n't given it a fair trial yet," said the young man, impartially,
"Wouldn't you like to see it do some of your sums, Jeff ?" said the
mother to the drowsy boy, blinking in a corner. "You better go to bed."
The elder brother rose. "I guess I'll go, too."
The father had not joined their circle in the parlor, now breaking up by
Mrs. Durgin took up her lamp again and looked round on the appointments
of the room, as if she wished Westover to note them, too: the drab
wallpaper, the stiff chairs, the long, hard sofa in haircloth, the high
bureau of mahogany veneer.
"You can come in here and set or lay down whenever you feel like it," she
said. "We use it more than folks generally, I presume; we got in the
habit, havin' it open for funerals."
Four or five days of perfect weather followed one another, and Westover
worked hard at his picture in the late afternoon light he had chosen for
it. In the morning he tramped through the woods and climbed the hills
with Jeff Durgin, who seemed never to do anything about the farm, and had
a leisure unbroken by anything except a rare call from his mother to help
her in the house. He built the kitchen fire, and got the wood for it;
he picked the belated pease and the early beans in the garden, and
shelled them; on the Monday when the school opened he did a share of the
family wash, which seemed to have been begun before daylight, and
Westover saw him hanging out the clothes before he started off with his
books. He suffered no apparent loss of self-respect in these
employments, and, while he still had his days free, he put himself at
Westover's disposal with an effect of unimpaired equality. He had
expected, evidently, that Westover would want to fish or shoot, or at
least join him in the hunt for woodchucks, which he still carried on with
abated zeal for lack of his company when the painter sat down to sketch
certain bits that struck him. When he found that Westover cared for
nothing in the way of sport, as people commonly understand it, he did not
openly contemn him. He helped him get the flowers he studied, and he
learned to know true mushrooms from him, though he did not follow his
teaching in eating the toadstools, as his mother called them, when they
brought them home to be cooked.
If it could not be said that he shared the affection which began to grow
up in Westover from their companionship, there could be no doubt of the
interest he took in him, though it often seemed the same critical
curiosity which appeared in the eye of his dog when it dwelt upon the
painter. Fox had divined in his way that Westover was not only not to be
molested, but was to be respectfully tolerated, yet no gleam of kindness
ever lighted up his face at sight of the painter; he never wagged his
tail in recognition of him; he simply recognized him and no more, and he
remained passive under Westover's advances, which he had the effect of
covertly referring to Jeff, when the boy was by, for his approval or
disapproval; when he was not by, the dog's manner implied a reservation
of opinion until the facts could be submitted to his master.
On the Saturday morning which was the last they were to have together,
the three comrades had strayed from the vague wood road along one of the
unexpected levels on the mountain slopes, and had come to a standstill in
a place which the boy pretended not to know his way out of. Westover
doubted him, for he had found that Jeff liked to give himself credit for
woodcraft by discovering an escape from the depths of trackless
"I guess you know where we are," he suggested.
"No, honestly," said the boy; but he grinned, and Westover still doubted
"Hark! What's that?" he said, hushing further speech from him with a
motion of his hand. It was the sound of an axe.
"Oh, I know where we are," said Jeff. "It's that Canuck chopping in
Whitwell's clearing. Come along."
He led the way briskly down the mountain-side now, stopping from time to
time and verifying his course by the sound of the axe. This came and
went, and by-and-by it ceased altogether, and Jeff crept forward with a
real or feigned uncertainty. Suddenly he stopped. A voice called,
"Heigh, there!" and the boy turned and fled, crashing through the
underbrush at a tangent, with his dog at his heels.
Westover looked after them, and then came forward. A lank figure of a
man at the foot of a poplar, which he had begun to fell, stood waiting
him, one hand on his axe-helve and the other on his hip. There was the
scent of freshly smitten bark and sap-wood in the air; the ground was
paved with broad, clean chips.
"Good-morning," said Westover.
"How are you?" returned the other, without moving or making any sign of
welcome for a moment. But then he lifted his axe and struck it into the
carf on the tree, and came to meet Westover.
As he advanced he held out his. hand. "Oh, you're the one that stopped
that fellow that day when he was tryin' to scare my children. Well, I
thought I should run across you some time." He shook hands with
Westover, in token of the gratitude which did not express itself in
words. "How are you? Treat you pretty well up at the Durgins'? I guess
so. The old woman knows how to cook, anyway. Jackson's about the best
o' the lot above ground, though I don't know as I know very much against
the old man, either. But that boy! I declare I 'most feel like takin'
the top of his head off when he gets at his tricks. Set down."
Whitwell, as Westover divined the man to be, took a seat himself on a
high stump, which suited his length of leg, and courteously waved
Westover to a place on the log in front of him. A long, ragged beard of
brown, with lines of gray in it, hung from his chin and mounted well up
on his thin cheeks toward his friendly eyes. His mustache lay sunken on
his lip, which had fallen in with the loss of his upper teeth. From the
lower jaw a few incisors showed at this slant and that as he talked.
"Well, well!" he said, with the air of wishing the talk to go on, but
without having anything immediately to offer himself.
Westover said, "Thank you," as he dropped on the log, and Whitwell added,
relentingly: "I don't suppose a fellow's so much to blame, if he's got
the devil in him, as what the devil is."
He referred the point with a twinkle of his eyes to Westover, who said:
"It's always a question, of course, whether it's the devil. It may be
original sin with the fellow himself."
"Well, that's something so," said Whitwell, with pleasure in the
distinction rather than assent. "But I guess it ain't original sin in
the boy. Got it from his gran'father pootty straight, I should say, and
maybe the old man had it secondhand. Ha'd to say just where so much
cussedness gits statted."
"His father's father?" asked Westover, willing to humor Whitwell's
evident wish to philosophize the Durgins' history.
"Mother's. He kept the old tavern stand on the west side of Lion's Head,
on the St. Albans Road, and I guess he kept a pootty good house in the
old times when the stages stopped with him. Ever noticed how a man on
the mean side in politics always knows how to keep a hotel? Well, it's
something curious. If there was ever a mean side to any question, old
Mason was on it. My folks used to live around there, and I can remember
when I was a boy hangin' around the bar-room nights hearin' him argue
that colored folks had no souls; and along about the time the fugitive-
slave law was passed the folks pootty near run him out o' town for
puttin' the United States marshal on the scent of a fellow that was
breakin' for Canada. Well, it was just so when the war come. It was
known for a fact that he was in with them Secesh devils up over the line
that was plannin' a raid into Vermont in '63. He'd got pootty low down
by that time; railroads took off all the travel; tavern 'd got to be a
regular doggery; old man always drank some, I guess. That was a good
while after his girl had married Durgin. He was dead against it, and it
broke him up consid'able when she would have him: Well, one night the old
stand burnt up and him in it, and neither of 'em insured."
Whitwell laughed with a pleasure in his satire which gave the monuments
in his lower jaw a rather sinister action. But, as if he felt a rebuke
in Westover's silence, he added: "There ain't anything against Mis'
Durgin. She's done her part, and she's had more than her share of hard
knocks. If she was tough, to sta't with, she's had blows enough to
meller her. But that's the way I account for the boy. I s'pose--I'd
oughtn't to feel the way I do about him, but he's such a pest to the
whole neighborhood that he'd have the most pop'la' fune'l. Well, I guess
I've said enough. I'm much obliged to you, though, Mr.--"
"Westover," the painter suggested. "But the boy isn't so bad all the
"Couldn't be," said Whitwell, with a cackle of humorous enjoyment.
"He has his spells of bein' decent, and he's pootty smart, too. But when
the other spell ketches him it's like as if the devil got a-hold of him,
as I said in the first place. I lost my wife here two-three years along
back, and that little girl you see him tormentin', she's a regular little
mother to her brother; and whenever Jeff Durgin sees her with him, seems
as if the Old Scratch got into him. Well, I'm glad I didn't come across
him that day. How you gittin' along with Lion's Head? Sets quiet enough
for you?" Whitwell rose from the stump and brushed the clinging chips
from his thighs. "Folks trouble you any, lookin' on?"
"Not yet," said Westover.
"Well, there ain't a great many to," said Whitwell, going back to his
axe. "I should like to see you workin' some day. Do' know as I ever saw
an attist at it."
"I should like to have you," said Westover. "Any time."
"All right." Whitwell pulled his axe out of the carf, and struck it in
again with a force that made a wide, square chip leap out. He looked
over his shoulder at Westover, who was moving away. "Say, stop in some
time you're passin'. I live in that wood-colored house at the foot of
the Durgins' lane."
In a little sunken place, behind a rock, some rods away, Westover found
Jeff lurking with his dog, both silent and motionless. "Hello?" he said,
"Come back to show you the way," said the boy. "Thought you couldn't
find it alone."
"Oh, why didn't you say you'd wait?" The boy grinned. "I shouldn't
think a fellow like you would want to be afraid of any man, even for the
fun of scaring a little girl." Jeff stopped grinning and looked
interested, as if this was a view of the case that had not occurred to
him. "But perhaps you like to be afraid."
"I don't know as I do," said the boy, and Westover left him to the
question a great part of the way home. He did not express any regret or
promise any reparation. But a few days after that, when he had begun to
convoy parties of children up to see Westover at work, in the late
afternoon, on their way home from school, and to show the painter off to
them as a sort of family property, he once brought the young Whitwells.
He seemed on perfect terms with them now, and when the crowd of larger
children hindered the little boy's view of the picture, Jeff, in his
quality of host, lifted him under his arms and held him up so that he
could look as long as he liked.
The girl seemed ashamed of the good understanding before Westover. Jeff
offered to make a place for her among the other children who had looked
long enough, but she pulled the front of her bonnet across her face and
said that she did not want to look, and caught her brother by the hand
and ran away with him. Westover thought this charming, somewhat; he
liked the intense shyness which the child's intense passion had hidden
from him before.
Jeff acted as host to the neighbors who came to inspect the picture, and
they all came, within a circuit of several miles around, and gave him
their opinions freely or scantily, according to their several
temperaments. They were mainly favorable, though there was some frank
criticism, too, spoken over the painter's shoulder as openly as if he
were not by. There was no question but of likeness; all finer facts were
far from them; they wished to see how good a portrait Westover had made,
and some of them consoled him with the suggestion that the likeness would
come out more when the picture got dry.
Whitwell, when he came, attempted a larger view of the artist's work, but
apparently more out of kindness for him than admiration of the picture.
He said he presumed you could not always get a thing like that just right
the first time, and that you had to keep trying till you did get it; but
it paid in the end. Jeff had stolen down from the house with his dog,
drawn by the fascination which one we have injured always has for us;
when Whitwell suddenly turned upon him and asked, jocularly, "What do you
think, Jeff?" the boy could only kick his dog and drive it home, as a
means of hiding his feelings.
He brought the teacher to see the picture the last Friday before the
painter went away. She was a cold-looking, austere girl, pretty enough,
with eyes that wandered away from the young man, although Jeff used all
his arts to make her feel at home in his presence. She pretended to have
merely stopped on her way up to see Mrs. Durgin, and she did not venture
any comment on the painting; but, when Westover asked something about her
school, she answered him promptly enough as to the number and ages and
sexes of the school-children. He ventured so far toward a joke with her
as to ask if she had much trouble with such a tough subject as Jeff, and
she said he could be good enough when he had a mind. If he could get
over his teasing, she said, with the air of reading him a lecture, she
would not have anything to complain of; and Jeff looked ashamed, but
rather of the praise than the blame. His humiliation seemed complete
when she said, finally: "He's a good scholar."
On the Tuesday following, Westover meant to go. It was the end of his
third week, and it had brought him into September. The weather since he
had begun to paint Lion's Head was perfect for his work; but, with the
long drought, it had grown very warm. Many trees now had flamed into
crimson on the hill-slopes; the yellowing corn in the fields gave out a
thin, dry sound as the delicate wind stirred the blades; but only the
sounds and sights were autumnal. The heat was oppressive at midday, and
at night the cold had lost its edge. There was no dew, and Mrs. Durgin
sat out with Westover on the porch while he smoked a final pipe there.
She had come to join him for some fixed purpose, apparently, and she
called to her boy, "You go to bed, Jeff," as if she wished to be alone
with Westover; the men folks were already in bed; he could hear them
cough now and then.
"Mr. Westover," the woman began, even as she swept her skirts forward
before she sat down, "I want to ask you whether you would let that
picture of yours go on part board? I'll give you back just as much as
you say of this money."
He looked round and saw that she had in the hand dropped in her lap the
bills he had given her after supper.
"Why, I couldn't, very well, Mrs. Durgin--" he began.
"I presume you'll think I'm foolish," she pursued. "But I do want that
picture; I don't know when I've ever wanted a thing more. It's just like
Lion's Head, the way I've seen it, day in and day out, every summer since
I come here thirty-five years ago; it's beautiful!"
"Mrs. Durgin," said Westover, "you gratify me more than I can tell you.
I wish--I wish I could let you have the picture. I--I don't know what to
"Why don't you let me have it, then? If we ever had to go away from
here--if anything happened to us--it's the one thing I should want to
keep and take with me. There! That's the way I feel about it. I can't
explain; but I do wish you'd let me have it."
Some emotion which did not utter itself in the desire she expressed made
her voice shake in the words. She held out the bank-notes to him, and
they rustled with the tremor of her hand.
"Mrs. Durgin, I suppose I shall have to be frank with you, and you
mustn't feel hurt. I have to live by my work, and I have to get as much
as I can for it--"
"That's what I say. I don't want to beat you down on it. I'll give you
whatever you think is right. It's my money, and my husband feels just as
I do about it," she urged.
"You don't quite understand," he said, gently. "I expect to have an
exhibition of my pictures in Boston this fall, and I hope to get two or
three hundred dollars for Lion's Head."
"I've been a proper fool," cried the woman, and she drew in a long
"Oh, don't mind," he begged; "it's all right. I've never had any offer
for a picture that I'd rather take than yours. I know the thing can't be
altogether bad after what you've said. And I'll tell you what! I'll
have it photographed when I get to Boston, and I'll send you a photograph
"How much will that be?" Mrs. Durgin asked, as if taught caution by her
offer for the painting.
"Nothing. And if you'll accept it and hang it up here somewhere I shall
be very glad."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Durgin, and the meekness, the wounded pride, he
fancied in her, touched him.
He did not know at first how to break the silence which she let follow
upon her words. At last he said:
"You spoke, just now, about taking it with you. Of course, you don't
think of leaving Lion's Head?"
She did not answer for so long a time that he thought she had not perhaps
heard him or heeded what he said; but she answered, finally: "We did
think of it. The day you come we had about made up our minds to leave."
"But I've been thinkin' of something since you've been here that I don't
know but you'll say is about as wild as wantin' to buy a three-hundred-
dollar picture with a week's board." She gave a short, self-scornful
laugh; but it was a laugh, and it relieved the tension.
"It may not be worth any more," he said, glad of the relief.
"Oh, I guess it is," she rejoined, and then she waited for him to prompt
"Well, it's this; and I wanted to ask you, anyway. You think there'd be
any chance of my gettin' summer folks to come here and board if I was to
put an advertisement in a Boston paper? I know it's a lonesome place,
and there ain't what you may call attractions. But the folks from the
hotels, sometimes, when they ride over in a stage to see the view, praise
up the scenery, and I guess it is sightly. I know that well enough; and
I ain't afraid but what I can do for boarders as well as some, if not
better. What do you think?"
"I think that's a capital idea, Mrs. Durgin."
"It's that or go," she said. "There ain't a livin' for us on the farm
any more, and we got to do somethin'. If there was anything else I could
do! But I've thought it out and thought it out, and I guess there ain't
anything I can do but take boarders--if I can get them."
"I should think you'd find it rather pleasant on some accounts. Your
boarders would be company for you," said Westover.
"We're company enough for ourselves," said Mrs. Durgin. "I ain't ever
been lonesome here, from the first minute. I guess I had company enough
when I was a girl to last me the sort that hotel folks are. I presume
Mr. Whitwell spoke to you about my father?"
"Yes; he did, Mrs. Durgin."
"I don't presume he said anything that wa'n't true. It's all right. But
I know how my mother used to slave, and how I used to slave myself; and I
always said I'd rather do anything than wait on boarders; and now I guess
I got to come to it. The sight of summer folks makes me sick! I guess I
could 'a' had 'em long ago if I'd wanted to. There! I've said enough."
She rose, with a sudden lift of her powerful frame, and stood a moment as
if expecting Westover to say something.
He said: "Well, when you've made your mind up, send your advertisement to
me, and I'll attend to it for you."
"And you won't forget about the picture?"
"No; I won't forget that."
The next morning he made ready for an early start, and in his
preparations he had the zealous and even affectionate help of Jeff
Durgin. The boy seemed to wish him to carry away the best impression of
him, or, at least, to make him forget all that had been sinister or
unpleasant in his behavior. They had been good comrades since the first
evil day; they had become good friends even; and Westover was touched by
the boy's devotion at parting. He helped the painter get his pack
together in good shape, and he took pride in strapping it on Westover's
shoulders, adjusting and readjusting it with care, and fastening it so
that all should be safe and snug. He lingered about at the risk of being
late for school, as if to see the last of the painter, and he waved his
hat to him when Westover looked back at the house from half down the
lane. Then he vanished, and Westover went slowly on till he reached that
corner of the orchard where the slanting gravestones of the family
burial-ground showed above the low wall. There, suddenly, a storm burst
upon him. The air rained apples, that struck him on the head, the back,
the side, and pelted in violent succession on his knapsack and canvases,
camp-stool and easel. He seemed assailed by four or five skilful
marksmen, whose missiles all told.
When he could lift his face to look round he heard a shrill, accusing
voice, "Oh, Jeff Durgin!" and he saw another storm of apples fly through
the air toward the little Whitwell girl, who dodged and ran along the
road below and escaped in the direction of the schoolhouse. Then the
boy's face showed itself over the top of one of the gravestones, all
agrin with joy. He waited and watched Westover keep slowly on, as if
nothing had happened, and presently he let some apples fall from his
hands and walked slowly back to the house, with his dog at his heels.
When Westover reached the level of the road and the shelter of the woods
near Whitwell's house, he unstrapped his load to see how much harm had
been done to his picture. He found it unhurt, and before he had got the
burden back again he saw Jeff Durgin leaping along the road toward the
school-house, whirling his satchel of books about his head and shouting
gayly to the girl, now hidden by the bushes at the other end of the lane:
"Cynthy! Oh, Cynthy! Wait for me! I want to tell you something!"
Westover, received next spring the copy for an advertisement from Mrs.
Durgin, which she asked to have him put in some paper for her. She said
that her son Jackson had written it out, and Westover found it so well
written that he had scarcely to change the wording. It offered the best
of farm-board, with plenty of milk and eggs, berries and fruit, for five
dollars a week at Lion's Head Farm, and it claimed for the farm the merit
of the finest view of the celebrated Lion's Head Mountain. It was
signed, as her letter was signed, "Mrs. J. M. Durgin," with her post-
office address, and it gave Westover as a reference.
The letter was in the same handwriting as the advertisement, which he
took to be that of Jackson Durgin. It enclosed a dollar note to pay for
three insertions of the advertisement in the evening Transcript, and it
ended, almost casually: "I do not know as you have heard that my husband,
James Monroe Durgin, passed to spirit life this spring. My son will help
me to run the house."
This death could not move Westover more than it had apparently moved the
widow. During the three weeks he had passed under his roof, he had
scarcely exchanged three words with James Monroe Durgin, who remained to
him an impression of large, round, dull-blue eyes, a stubbly upper lip,
and cheeks and chin tagged with coarse, hay-colored beard. The
impression was so largely the impression that he had kept of the dull-
blue eyes and the gaunt, slanted figure of Andrew Jackson Durgin that he
could not be very distinct in his sense of which was now the presence and
which the absence. He remembered, with an effort, that the son's beard
was straw-colored, but he had to make no effort to recall the robust
effect of Mrs. Durgin and her youngest son. He wondered now, as he had
often wondered before, whether she knew of the final violence which had
avenged the boy for the prolonged strain of repression Jeff had inflicted
upon himself during Westover's stay at the farm. After several impulses
to go back and beat him, to follow him to school and expose him to the
teacher, to write to his mother and tell her of his misbehavior, Westover
had decided to do nothing. As he had come off unhurt in person and
property, he could afford to be more generously amused than if he had
suffered damage in either. The more he thought of the incident, the more
he was disposed to be lenient with the boy, whom he was aware of having
baffled and subdued by his superior wit and virtue in perhaps intolerable
measure. He could not quite make out that it was an act of bad faith;
there was no reason to think that the good-natured things the fellow had
done, the constant little offices of zeal and friendliness, were less
sincere than this violent outbreak.
The letter from Lion's Head Farm brought back his three weeks there very
vividly, and made Westover wish he was going there for the summer. But
he was going over to France for an indefinite period of work in the only
air where he believed modern men were doing good things in the right way.
He W a sale in the winter, and he had sold pictures enough to provide the
means for this sojourn abroad; though his lion's Head Mountain had not
brought the two hundred and fifty or three hundred dollars he had hoped
for. It brought only a hundred and sixty; but the time had almost come
already when Westover thought it brought too much. Now, the letter from
Mrs. Durgin reminded him that he had never sent her the photograph of the
picture which he had promised her. He encased the photograph at once,
and wrote to her with many avowals of contrition for his neglect, and
strong regret that he was not soon to see the original of the painting
again. He paid a decent reverence to the bereavement she had suffered,
and he sent his regards to all, especially his comrade Jeff, whom he
advised to keep out of the apple-orchard.
Five years later Westover came home in the first week of a gasping
August, whose hot breath thickened round the Cunarder before she got
half-way up the harbor. He waited only to see his pictures through the
custom-house, and then he left for the mountains. The mountains meant
Lion's Head for him, and eight hours after he was dismounting from the
train at a station on the road which had been pushed through on a new
line within four miles of the farm. It was called Lion's Head House now,
as he read on the side of the mountain-wagon which he saw waiting at the
platform, and he knew at a glance that it was Jeff Durgin who was coming
forward to meet him and take his hand-bag.
The boy had been the prophecy of the man in even a disappointing degree.
Westover had fancied him growing up to the height of his father and
brother, but Jeff Durgin's stalwart frame was notable for strength rather
than height. He could not have been taller than his mother, whose
stature was above the standard of her sex, but he was massive without
being bulky. His chest was deep, his square shoulders broad, his
powerful legs bore him with a backward bulge of the calves that showed
through his shapely trousers; he caught up the trunks and threw them into
the baggage-wagon with a swelling of the muscles on his short, thick arms
which pulled his coat-sleeves from his heavy wrists and broad, short
He had given one of these to Westover to shake when they met, but with
something conditional in his welcome, and with a look which was not so
much furtive as latent. The thatch of yellow hair he used to wear was
now cropped close to his skull, which was a sort of dun-color; and it had
some drops of sweat along the lighter edge where his hat had shaded his
forehead. He put his hat on the seat between himself and Westover, and
drove away from the station bareheaded, to cool himself after his bout
with the baggage, which was following more slowly in its wagon. There
was a good deal of it, and there were half a dozen people--women, of
course--going to Lion's Head House. Westover climbed to the place beside
Jeff to let them have the other two seats to themselves, and to have a
chance of talking; but the ladies had to be quieted in their several
anxieties concerning their baggage, and the letters and telegrams they
had sent about their rooms, before they settled down to an exchange of
apprehensions among themselves, and left Jeff Durgin free to listen to
"I don't know but I ought to have telegraphed you that I was coming,"
Westover said; "but I couldn't realize that you were doing things on the
hotel scale. Perhaps you won't have room for me?"
"Guess we can put you up," said Jeff.
"No chance of getting my old room, I suppose?"
"I shouldn't wonder. If there's any one in it, I guess mother could
"Is that so?" asked Westover, with a liking for being liked, which his
tone expressed. "How is your mother?"
Jeff seemed to think a moment before he answered:
"Just exactly the same."
"A little older?"
"Not as I can see."
"Does she hate keeping a hotel as badly as she expected?"
"That's what she says," answered Jeff, with a twinkle. All the time,
while he was talking with Westover, he was breaking out to his horses,
which he governed with his voice, trotting them up hill and down, and
walking them on the short, infrequent levels, in the mountain fashion.
Westover almost feared to ask: "And how is Jackson?"
"First-rate--that is, for him. He's as well as ever he was, I guess, and
he don't appear a day older. You've changed some," said Jeff, with a
look round at Westover.
"Yes; I'm twenty-nine now, and I wear a heavier beard." Westover noticed
that Jeff was clean shaved of any sign of an approaching beard, and
artistically he rejoiced in the fellow's young, manly beauty, which was
very regular and sculpturesque. "You're about eighteen?"
"Is Jackson as much interested in the other world as he used to be?"
"I guess he keeps it up with Mr. Whitwell. He don't say much about it at
home. He keeps all the books, and helps mother run the house. She
couldn't very well get along without him."
"And where do you come in?"
"Well, I look after the transportation," said Jeff, with a nod toward his
horses--" when I'm at home, that is. I've been at the Academy in
Lovewell the last three winters, and that means a good piece of the
summer, too, first and last. But I guess I'll let mother talk to you
"All right," said Westover. "What I don't know about education isn't
Jeff laughed, and said to the off horse, which seemed to know that he was
meant: "Get up, there!"
"And Cynthia? Is Cynthia at home?" Westover asked.
"Yes; they're all down in the little wood-colored house yet. Cynthia
teaches winters, and summers she helps mother. She has charge of the
"Does Franky cry as much as ever?"
"No, Frank's a fine boy. He's in the house, too. Kind of bell-boy."
"And you haven't worked Mr. Whitwell in anywhere?"
"Well, he talks to the ladies, and takes parties of 'em mountain-
climbing. I guess we couldn't get along without Mr. Whitwell. He talks
religion to 'em." He cast a mocking glance at Westover over his
shoulder. "Women seem to like religion, whether they belong to church or
Westover laughed and asked: "And Fox? How's Fox?"
"Well," said Jeff, "we had to give Fox away. He was always cross with
the boarders' children. My brother was on from Colorado, and he took Fox
back with him."
"I didn't suppose," said Westover, "that I should have been sorry to miss
Fox. But I guess I shall be."
Jeff seemed to enjoy the implication of his words. "He wasn't a bad dog.
He was stupid."
When they arrived at the foot of the lane, mounting to the farm, Westover
saw what changes had been made in the house. There were large additions,
tasteless and characterless, but giving the rooms that were needed.
There was a vulgar modernity in the new parts, expressed with a final
intensity in the four-light windows, which are esteemed the last word of
domestic architecture in the country. Jeff said nothing as they
approached the house, but Westover said: "Well, you've certainly
prospered. You're quite magnificent."
They reached the old level in front of the house, artificially widened
out of his remembrance, with a white flag-pole planted at its edge, and
he looked up at the front of the house, which was unchanged, except that
it had been built a story higher back of the old front, and discovered
the window of his old room. He could hardly wait to get his greetings
over with Mrs. Durgin and Jackson, who both showed a decorous pleasure
and surprise at his coming, before he asked:
"And could you let me have my own room, Mrs. Durgin?"
"Why, yes," she said, "if you don't want something a little nicer."
"I don't believe you've got anything nicer," Westover said.
"All right, if you think so," she retorted. "You can have the old room,
Westover could not have said he felt very much at home on his first
sojourn at the farm, or that he had cared greatly for the Durgins. But
now he felt very much at home, and as if he were in the hands of friends.
It was toward the close of the afternoon that he arrived, and he went in
promptly to the meal that was served shortly after. He found that the
farm-house had not evolved so far in the direction of a hotel as to have
reached the stage of a late dinner. It was tea that he sat down to, but
when he asked if there were not something hot, after listening to a
catalogue of the cold meats, the spectacled waitress behind his chair
demanded, with the air of putting him on his honor:
"You among those that came this afternoon?"
Westover claimed to be of the new arrivals.
"Well, then, you can have steak or chops and baked potatoes."
He found the steak excellent, though succinct, and he looked round in the
distinction it conferred upon him, on the older guests, who were served
with cold ham, tongue, and corned-beef. He had expected to be appointed
his place by Cynthia Whitwell, but Jeff came to the dining-room with him
and showed him to the table he occupied, with an effect of doing him
From his impressions of the berries, the cream, the toast, and the tea,
as well as the steak, he decided that on the gastronomic side there could
be no question but the Durgins knew how to keep a hotel; and his further
acquaintance with the house and its appointments confirmed him in his
belief. All was very simple, but sufficient; and no guest could have
truthfully claimed that he was stinted in towels, in water, in lamp-
light, in the quantity or quality of bedding, in hooks for clothes, or
wardrobe or bureau room. Westover made Mrs. Durgin his sincere
compliments on her success as they sat in the old parlor, which she had
kept for herself much in its former state, and she accepted them with
"But I don't know as I should ever had the courage to try it if it hadn't
been for you happening along just when you did," she said.
"Then I'm the founder of your fortunes?"
"If you want to call them fortunes. We don't complain It's been a fight,
but I guess we've got the best of it. The house is full, and we're
turnin' folks away. I guess they can't say that at the big hotels they
used to drive over from to see Lion's Head at the farm." She gave a low,
comfortable chuckle, and told Westover of the struggle they had made. It
was an interesting story and pathetic, like all stories of human endeavor
the efforts of the most selfish ambition have something of this interest;
and the struggle of the Durgins had the grace of the wish to keep their
"And is Jeff as well satisfied as the rest?" Westover asked, after other
talk and comment on the facts.
"Too much so," said Mrs. Durgin. "I should like to talk with you about
Jeff, Mr. Westover; you and him was always such friends."
"Yes," said Westover; "I shall be glad if I can be of use to you."
"Why, it's just this. I don't see why Jeff shouldn't do something
besides keep a hotel."
Westover's eyes wandered to the photograph of his painting of Lion's Head
which hung over the mantelpiece, in what he felt to be the place of the
greatest honor in the whole house, and a sudden fear came upon him that
perhaps Jeff had developed an artistic talent in the belief of his
family. But he waited silently to hear.
"We did think that before we got through the improvements last spring a
year ago we should have to get the savings-bank to put a mortgage on the
place; but we had just enough to start the season with, and we thought we
would try to pull through. We had a splendid season, and made money, and
this year we're doin' so well that I ain't afraid for the future any
more, and I want to give Jeff a chance in the world. I want he should go
Westover felt all the boldness of the aspiration, but it was at least not
in the direction of art. "Wouldn't you rather miss him in the
"We should, some. But he would be here the best part of the summer, in
his vacations, and Jackson and I are full able to run the house without
"Jackson seems very well," said Westover, evasively.
"He's better. He's only thirty-four years old. His father lived to be
sixty, and he had the same kind. Jeff tell you he had been at Lovewell
"Yes; he did."
"He done well there. All his teachers that he ever had," Mrs. Durgin
went on, with the mother-pride that soon makes itself tiresome to the
listener, "said Jeff done well at school when he had a mind to, and at
the Academy he studied real hard. I guess," said Mrs. Durgin, with her
chuckle, "that he thought that was goin' to be the end of it. One thing,
he had to keep up with Cynthy, and that put him on his pride. You seen
"No. Jeff told me she was in charge of the diningroom."
"I guess I'm in charge of the whole house," said Mrs. Durgin. "Cynthy's
the housekeeper, though. She's a fine girl, and a smart girl," said Mrs.
Durgin, with a visible relenting from some grudge, "and she'll do well
wherever you put her. She went to the Academy the first two winters Jeff
did. We've about scooped in the whole Whitwell family. Franky's here,
and his father's--well, his father's kind of philosopher to the lady
boarders." Mrs. Durgin laughed, and Westover laughed with her. "Yes, I
want Jeff should go to college, and I want he should be a lawyer."
Westover did not find that he had anything useful to say to this; so he
said: "I've no doubt it's better than being a painter."
"I'm not so sure; three hundred dollars for a little thing like that."
She indicated the photograph of his Lion's Head, and she was evidently so
proud of it that he reserved for the moment the truth as to the price he
had got for the painting. "I was surprised when you sent me a photograph
full as big. I don't let every one in here, but a good many of the
ladies are artists themselves-amateurs, I guess--and first and last they
all want to see it. I guess they'll all want to see you, Mr. Westover.
They'll be wild, as they call it, when they know you're in the house.
Yes, I mean Jeff shall go to college."
"Bowdoin or Dartmouth?" Westover suggested.
" Well, I guess you'll think I'm about as forth-putting as I was when I
wanted you to give me a three-hundred-dollar picture for a week's board."
"I only got a hundred and sixty, Mrs. Durgin," said Westover,
"Well, it's a shame. Any rate, three hundred's the price to all my
boarders. My, if I've told that story once, I guess I've told it fifty
Mrs. Durgin laughed at herself jollily, and Westover noted how prosperity
had changed her. It had freed her tongue, it has brightened her humor,
it had cheered her heart; she had put on flesh, and her stalwart frame
was now a far greater bulk than he remembered.
"Well, there," she said, "the long and the short of it is, I want Jeff
should go to Harvard."
He commanded himself to say: "I don't see why he shouldn't."
Mrs. Durgin called out, "Come in, Jackson," and Westover looked round and
saw the elder son like a gaunt shadow in the doorway. "I've just got
where I've told Mr. Westover where I want Jeff should go. It don't seem
to have ca'd him off his feet any, either."
"I presume," said Jackson, coming in and sitting lankly down in the
feather-cushioned rocking-chair which his mother pushed toward him with
her foot, "that the expense would be more at Harvard than it would at the
"If you want the best you got to pay for it," said Mrs. Durgin.
"I suppose it would cost more," Westover answered Jackson's conjecture.
"I really don't know much about it. One hears tremendous stories at
Boston of the rate of living among the swell students in Cambridge.
People talk of five thousand a year, and that sort of thing." Mrs.
Durgin shut her lips, after catching her breath. "But I fancy that it's
largely talk. I have a friend whose son went through Harvard for a
thousand a year, and I know that many fellows do it for much less."
"I guess we can manage to let Jeff have a thousand a year," said Mrs.
Durgin, proudly, "and not scrimp very much, either."
She looked at her elder son, who said: "I don't believe but what we
could. It's more of a question with me what sort of influence Jeff would
come under there. I think he's pretty much spoiled here."
"Now, Jackson!" said his mother.
"I've heard," said Westover, "that Harvard takes the nonsense out of a
man. I can't enter into what you say, and it isn't my affair; but in
regard to influence at Harvard, it depends upon the set Jeff is thrown
with or throws himself with. So, at least, I infer from what I've heard
my friend say of his son there. There are hard-working sets, loafing
sets, and fast sets; and I suppose it isn't different at Harvard in such
matters from other colleges."
Mrs. Durgin looked a little grave. "Of course," she said, "we don't
know anybody at Cambridge, except some ladies that boarded with us one
summer, and I shouldn't want to ask any favor of them. The trouble would
be to get Jeff started right."
Westover surmised a good many things, but in the absence of any
confidences from the Durgins he could not tell just how much Jackson
meant in saying that Jeff was pretty much spoiled, or how little.
At first, from Mrs. Durgin's prompt protest, he fancied that Jackson
meant that the boy had been over-indulged by his mother: "I understand,"
he said, in default of something else to say, "that the requirements at
Harvard are pretty severe."
"He's passed his preliminary examinations," said Jackson, with a touch of
hauteur, "and I guess he can enter this fall if we should so decide.
He'll have some conditions, prob'ly, but none but what he can work off,
"Then, if you wish to have him go to college, by all means let him go to
Harvard, I should say. It's our great university and our oldest. I'm
not a college man myself; but, if I were, I should wish to have been a
Harvard man. If Jeff has any nonsense in him, it will take it out;
and I don't believe there's anything in Harvard, as Harvard, to make him
"That's what we both think," said Jackson.
"I've heard," Westover continued, and he rose and stood while he spoke,
"that Harvard's like the world. A man gets on there on the same terms
that he gets on in the world. He has to be a man, and he'd better be a
Mrs. Durgin still looked serious. "Have you come back to Boston for good
now? Do you expect to be there right along?"
"I've taken a studio there. Yes, I expect to be in Boston now. I've
taken to teaching, and I fancy I can make a living. If Jeff comes to
Cambridge, and I can be of any use--"
"We should be ever so much obliged to you," said his mother, with an air
of great relief.
"Not at all. I shall be very glad. Your mountain air is drugging me,
Mrs. Durgin. I shall have to say good-night, or I shall tumble asleep
before I get upstairs. Oh, I can find the way, I guess; this part of the
house seems the same." He got away from them, and with the lamp that
Jackson gave him found his way to his room. A few moments later some one
knocked at his door, and a boy stood there with a pitcher. "Some ice-
water, Mr. Westover?"
"Why, is that you, Franky? I'm glad to see you again. How are you?"
"I'm pretty well," said the boy, shyly. He was a very handsome little
fellow of distinctly dignified presence, and Westover was aware at once
that here was not a subject for patronage. "Is there anything else you
want, Mr. Westover? Matches, or soap, or anything?" He put the pitcher
down and gave a keen glance round the room.
"No, everything seems to be here, Frank," said Westover.
"Well, good-night," said the boy, and he slipped out, quietly closing the
door after him.
Westover pushed up his window and looked at Lion's Head in the moonlight.
It slumbered as if with the sleep of centuries-austere, august. The moon
-rays seemed to break and splinter on the outline of the lion-shape, and
left all the mighty mass black below.
In the old porch under his window Westover heard whispering. Then, "You
behave yourself, Jeff Durgin!" came in a voice which could be no other
than Cynthia Whitwell's, and Jeff Durgin's laugh followed.
He saw the girl in the morning. She met him at the door of the dining-
room, and he easily found in her shy, proud manner, and her pure, cold
beauty, the temperament and physiognomy of the child he remembered.
She was tall and slim, and she held herself straight without stiffness;
her face was fine, with a straight nose, and a decided chin, and a mouth
of the same sweetness which looked from her still, gray eyes; her hair,
of the average brown, had a rough effect of being quickly tossed into
form, which pleased him; as she slipped down the room before him to place
him at table he saw that she was, as it were, involuntarily, unwillingly
graceful. She made him think of a wild sweetbrier, of a hermit-thrush;
but, if there were this sort of poetic suggestion in Cynthia's looks,
her acts were of plain and honest prose, such as giving Westover the
pleasantest place and the most intelligent waitress in the room.
He would have liked to keep her in talk a moment, but she made business-
like despatch of all his allusions to the past, and got herself quickly
away. Afterward she came back to him, with the effect of having forced
herself to come, and the color deepened in her cheeks while she stayed.
She seemed glad of his being there, but helpless against the instincts or
traditions that forbade her to show her pleasure in his presence.
Her reticence became almost snubbing in its strictness when he asked her
about her school-teaching in the winter; but he found that she taught at
the little school-house at the foot of the hill, and lived at home with
"And have you any bad boys that frighten little girls in your school?" he
"I don't know as I have," she said, with a consciousness that flamed into
"Perhaps the boys have reformed?" Westover suggested.
"I presume," she said, stiffly, "that there's room for improvement in
every one," and then, as if she were afraid he might take this
personally, she looked unhappy and tried to speak of other things.
She asked him if he did not see a great many changes at Lion's Head;
he answered, gravely, that he wished he could have found it just as he
left it, and then she must have thought she had gone wrong again, for she
left him in an embarrassment that was pathetic, but which was charming.
After breakfast Westover walked out and saw Whitwell standing on the
grass in front of the house, beside the flagstaff. He suffered Westover
to make the first advances toward the renewal of their acquaintance,
but when he was sure of his friendly intention he responded with a
cordial openness which the painter had fancied wanting in his children.
Whitwell had not changed much. The most noticeable difference was the
compact phalanx of new teeth which had replaced the staggering veterans
of former days, and which displayed themselves in his smile of relenting.
There was some novelty of effect also in an arrangement of things in his
hat-band. At first Westover thought they were fishhooks and artificial
flies, such as the guides wear in the Adirondacks to advertise their
calling about the hotel offices and the piazzas. But another glance
showd him that they were sprays and wild flowers of various sorts, with
gay mosses and fungi and some stems of Indian-pipe.
Whitwell seemed pleased that these things should have caught Westover's
eye. He said, almost immediately: "Lookin' at my almanac? This is one
of our field-days; we have 'em once a week; and I like to let the ladies
see beforehand what nature's got on the bill for 'em, in the woods and
"It's a good idea," said Westover, "and it's fresh and picturesque."
Whitwell laughed for pleasure.
"They told me what a consolation you were to the ladies, with your walks
"Well, I try to give 'em something to think about," said Whitwell.
"But why do you confine your ministrations to one sex?"
"I don't, on purpose. But it's the only sex here, three-fourths of the
time. Even the children are mostly all girls. When the husbands come up
Saturday nights, they don't want to go on a tramp Sundays. They want to
lay off and rest. That's about how it is. Well, you see some changes
about Lion's Head, I presume?" he asked, with what seemed an impersonal
pleasure in them.
"I should rather have found the old farm. But I must say I'm glad to
find such a good hotel."
"Jeff and his mother made their brags to you?" said Whitwell, with a kind
of amiable scorn. "I guess if it wa'n't for Cynthy she wouldn't know
where she was standin', half the time. It don't matter where Jeff
stands, I guess. Jackson's the best o' the lot, now the old man's gone."
There was no one by at the moment to hear these injuries except Westover,
but Whitwell called them out with a frankness which was perhaps more
carefully adapted to the situation than it seemed. Westover made no
attempt to parry them formally; but he offered some generalities in
extenuation of the unworthiness of the Durgins, which Whitwell did not
"Oh, it's ail right. Old woman talk to you about Jeff's going to
college? I thought so. Wants to make another Dan'el Webster of him.
Guess she can's far forth as Dan'el's graduatin' went." Westover tried
to remember how this had been with the statesman, but could not.
Whitwell added, with intensifying irony so of look and tone: "Guess the
second Dan'el won't have a chance to tear his degree up; guess he
wouldn't ever b'en ready to try for it if it had depended on him. They
don't keep any record at Harvard, do they, of the way fellows are
prepared for their preliminary examinations?"
"I don't quite know what you mean," said Westover.
"Oh, nothin'. You get a chance some time to ask Jeff who done most of
his studyin' for him at the Academy."
This hint was not so darkling but Westover could understand that Whitwell
attributed Jeff's scholarship to the help of Cynthia, but he would not
press him to an open assertion of the fact. There was something painful
in it to him; it had the pathos which perhaps most of the success in the
world would reveal if we could penetrate its outside.
He was silent, and Whitwell left the point. "Well," he concluded,
"what's goin' on in them old European countries?"
"Oh, the old thing," said Westover. "But I can't speak for any except
France, very well."
"What's their republic like, over there? Ours? See anything of it, how
"Well, you know," said Westover, "I was working so hard myself all the
"Good!" Whitwell slapped his leg. Westover saw that he had on long
India-rubber boots, which came up to his knees, and he gave a wayward
thought to the misery they would be on an August day to another man; but
Whitwell was probably insensible to any discomfort from them. "When a
man's mindin' his own business any government's good, I guess. But I
should like to prowl round some them places where they had the worst
scenes of the Revolution, Ever been in the Place de la Concorde?"
Whitwell gave it the full English pronunciation.
"I passed through it nearly every day."
"I want to know! And that column that they, pulled down in the Commune
that had that little Boney on it--see that?"
"In the Place Vendome?"
"Yes, Plass Vonndome."
"Oh yes. You wouldn't know it had ever been down."
"Nor the things it stood for?"
"As to that, I can't be so sure."
"Well, it's funny," said the philosopher, "how the world seems to always
come out at the same hole it went in at!" He paused, with his mouth open,
as if to let the notion have full effect with Westover.
The painter said: "And you're still in the old place, Mr. Whitwell?"
"Yes, I like my own house. They've wanted me to come up here often
enough, but I'm satisfied where I am. It's quiet down there, and, when I
get through for the day, I can read. And I like to keep my family
together. Cynthy and Frank always sleep at home, and Jombateeste eats
with me. You remember Jombateeste?"
Westover had to say that he did not.
"Well, I don't know as you did see him much. He was that Canuck I had
helpin' me clear that piece over on Lion's Head for the pulp-mill; pulp-
mill went all to thunder, and I never got a cent. And sometimes Jackson
comes down with his plantchette, and we have a good time."
"Jackson still believes in the manifestations?"
"Yes. But he's never developed much himself. He can't seem to do much
without the plantchette. We've had up some of them old philosophers
lately. We've had up Socrates."
"Is that so? It must be very interesting."
Whitwell did not answer, and Westover saw his eye wander. He looked
round. Several ladies were coming across the grass toward him from the
hotel, lifting their skirts and tiptoeing through the dew. They called
to him, "Good-morning, Mr. Whitwell!" and "Are you going up Lion's Head
to-day?" and "Don't you think it will rain?"--"Guess not," said Whitwell,
with a fatherly urbanity and an air of amusement at the anxieties of the
sex which seemed habitual to him. He waited tranquilly for them to come
up, and then asked, with a wave of his hand toward Westover: "Acquainted
with Mr. Westover, the attist?" He named each of them, and it would have
been no great vanity in Westover to think they had made their little
movement across the grass quite as much in the hope of an introduction to
him as in the wish to consult Whitwell about his plans.
The painter found himself the centre of an agreeable excitement with all
the ladies in the house. For this it was perhaps sufficient to be a man.
To be reasonably young and decently good-looking, to be an artist, and an
artist not unknown, were advantages which had the splendor of
He liked finding himself in the simple and innocent American circumstance
again, and he was not sorry to be confronted at once with one of the most
characteristic aspects of our summer. He could read in the present
development of Lion's Head House all the history of its evolution from
the first conception of farm-board, which sufficed the earliest comers,
to its growth in the comforts and conveniences which more fastidious
tastes and larger purses demanded. Before this point was reached, the
boarders would be of a good and wholesome sort, but they would be people
of no social advantages, and not of much cultivation, though they might
be intelligent; they would certainly not be fashionable; five dollars a
week implied all that, except in the case of some wandering artist or the
family of some poor young professor. But when the farm became a
boarding-house and called itself a hotel, as at present with Lion's Head
House, and people paid ten dollars a week, or twelve for transients,
a moment of its character was reached which could not be surpassed when
its prosperity became greater and its inmates more pretentious. In fact,
the people who can afford to pay ten dollars a week for summer board,
and not much more, are often the best of the American people, or, at
least, of the New England people. They may not know it, and those who
are richer may not imagine it. They are apt to be middle-aged maiden
ladies from university towns, living upon carefully guarded investments;
young married ladies with a scant child or two, and needing rest and
change of air; college professors with nothing but their modest salaries;
literary men or women in the beginning of their tempered success;
clergymen and their wives away from their churches in the larger country
towns or the smaller suburbs of the cities; here and there an agreeable
bachelor in middle life, fond of literature and nature; hosts of young
and pretty girls with distinct tastes in art, and devoted to the clever
young painter who leads them to the sources of inspiration in the fields
and woods. Such people are refined, humane, appreciative, sympathetic;
and Westover, fresh from the life abroad where life is seldom so free as
ours without some stain, was glad to find himself in the midst of this
unrestraint, which was so sweet and pure. He had seen enough of rich
people to know that riches seldom bought the highest qualities, even
among his fellow-countrymen who suppose that riches can do everything,
and the first aspects of society at Lion's Head seemed to him Arcadian.
There really proved to be a shepherd or two among all that troop of
shepherdesses, old and young; though it was in the middle of the week,
remote alike from the Saturday of arrivals and the Monday of departures.
To be sure, there was none quite so young as himself, except Jeff Durgin,
who was officially exterior to the social life.
The painter who gave lessons to the ladies was already a man of forty,
and he was strongly dragoned round by a wife almost as old, who had taken
great pains to secure him for herself, and who worked him to far greater
advantage in his profession than he could possibly have worked himself:
she got him orders; sold his pictures, even in Boston, where they never
buy American pictures; found him pupils, and kept the boldest of these
from flirting with him. Westover, who was so newly from Paris, was able
to console him with talk of the salons and ateliers, which he had not
heard from so directly in ten years. After the first inevitable moment
of jealousy, his wife forgave Westover when she found that he did not
want pupils, and she took a leading part in the movement to have him read
Browning at a picnic, organized by the ladies shortly after he came.
The picnic was held in Whitwell's Clearing, on the side of Lion's Head,
where the moss, almost as white as snow, lay like belated drifts among
the tall, thin grass which overran the space opened by the axe, and crept
to the verge of the low pines growing in the shelter of the loftier
woods. It was the end of one of Whitwell's "Tramps Home to Nature," as
he called his walks and talks with the ladies, and on this day Westover's
fellow-painter had added to his lessons in woodlore the claims of art,
intending that his class should make studies of various bits in the
clearing, and should try to catch something of its peculiar charm. He
asked Westover what he thought of the notion, and Westover gave it his
approval, which became enthusiastic when he saw the place. He found in
it the melancholy grace, the poignant sentiment of ruin which expresses
itself in some measure wherever man has invaded nature and then left his
conquest to her again. In Whitwell's Clearing the effect was intensified
by the approach on the fading wood road, which the wagons had made in
former days when they hauled the fallen timber to the pulp-mill. In
places it was so vague and faint as to be hardly a trail; in others,
where the wheel-tracks remained visible, the trees had sent out a new
growth of lower branches in the place of those lopped away, and almost
forbade the advance of foot-passengers. The ladies said they did not see
how Jeff was ever going to get through with the wagon, and they expressed
fears for the lunch he was bringing, which seemed only too well grounded.
But Whitwell, who was leading them on, said: "You let a Durgin alone to
do a thing when he's made up his mind to it. I guess you'll have your
lunch all right"; and by the time that they had got enough of Browning
they heard the welcome sound of wheels crashing upon dead boughs and
swishing through the underbrush, and, in the pauses of these pleasant
noises, the voice of Jeff Durgin encouraging his horses. The children of
the party broke away to meet him, and then he came in sight ahead of his
team, looking strong and handsome in his keeping with the scene: Before
he got within hearing, the ladies murmured a hymn of praise to his type
of beauty; they said he looked like a young Hercules, and Westover owned
with an inward smile that Jeff had certainly made the best of himself for
the time being. He had taken a leaf from the book of the summer folks;
his stalwart calves revealed themselves in thick, ribbed stockings; he
wore knickerbockers and a Norfolk jacket of corduroy; he had style as
well as beauty, and he had the courage of his clothes and looks.
Westover was still in the first surprise of the American facts, and he
wondered just what part in the picnic Jeff was to bear socially. He was
neither quite host nor guest; but no doubt in the easy play of the life,
which Westover was rather proud to find so charming, the question would
solve itself rationally and gracefully.
"Where do you want the things?" the young fellow asked of the company at
large, as he advanced upon them from the green portals of the roadway,
pulling off his soft wool hat, and wiping his wet forehead with his blue-
bordered white handkerchief.
"Oh, right here, Jeff!" The nimblest of the nymphs sprang to her feet
from the lounging and crouching circle about Westover. She was a young
nymph no longer, but with a daughter not so much younger than herself as
to make the contrast of her sixteen years painful. Westover recognized
the officious, self-approving kind of the woman, but he admired the brisk
efficiency with which she had taken possession of the affair from the
beginning and inspired every one to help, in strict subordination to
When the cloths were laid on the smooth, elastic moss, and the meal was
spread, she heaped a plate without suffering any interval in her
"I suppose you've got to go back to your horses, Jeff, and you shall be
the first served," she said, and she offered him the plate with a bright
smile and friendly grace, which were meant to keep him from the hurt of
Jeff did not offer to take the plate which she raised to him from where
she was kneeling, but looked down at her with perfect intelligence.
"I guess I don't want anything," he said, and turned and walked away into
The ill-advised woman remained kneeling for a moment with her
ingratiating smile hardening on her face, while the sense of her blunder
petrified the rest. She was the first to recover herself, and she said,
with a laugh that she tried to make reckless, "Well, friends, I suppose
the rest of you are hungry; I know I am," and she began to eat.
The others ate, too, though their appetites might well have been affected
by the diplomatic behavior of Whitwell. He would not take anything, just
at present, he said, and got his long length up from the root of a tree
where he had folded it down. "I don't seem to care much for anything in
the middle of the day; breakfast's my best meal," and he followed Jeff
off into the woods.
"Really," said the lady, "what did they expect?" But the question was so
difficult that no one seemed able to make the simple answer.
The incident darkened the day and spoiled its pleasure; it cast a
lessening shadow into the evening when the guests met round the fire in
the large, ugly new parlor at the hotel.
The next morning the ladies assembled again on the piazza to decide what
should be done with the beautiful day before them. Whitwell stood at the
foot of the flag-staff with one hand staying his person against it, like
a figure posed in a photograph to verify proportions in the different
features of a prospect.
The heroine of the unhappy affair of the picnic could not forbear
authorizing herself to invoke his opinion at a certain point of the
debate, and "Mr. Whitwell," she called to him, "won't you please come
here a moment?"
Whitwell slowly pulled himself across the grass to the group, and at the
same moment, as if she had been waiting for him to be present, Mrs.
Durgin came out of the office door and advanced toward the ladies.
"Mrs. Marven," she said, with the stony passivity which the ladies used
to note in her when they came over to Lion's Head Farm in the tally-hos,
"the stage leaves here at two o'clock to get the down train at three. I
want you should have your trunks ready to go on the wagon a little before
"You want I should have my--What do you mean, Mrs. Durgin?"
"I want your rooms."
"You want my rooms?"
Mrs. Durgin did not answer. She let her steadfast look suffice; and Mrs.
Marven went on in a rising flutter: "Why, you can't have my rooms!
I don't understand you. I've taken my rooms for the whole of August,
and they are mine; and--"
"I have got to have your rooms," said Mrs. Durgin.
"Very well, then, I won't give them up," said the lady. "A bargain's a
bargain, and I have your agreement--"
"If you're not out of your rooms by two o'clock, your things will be put
out; and after dinner to-day you will not eat another bite under my
Mrs. Durgin went in, and it remained for the company to make what they
could of the affair. Mrs. Marven did not wait for the result. She was
not a dignified person, but she rose with hauteur and whipped away to her
rooms, hers no longer, to make her preparations. She knew at least how
to give her going the effect of quitting the place with disdain and
The incident of her expulsion was brutal, but it was clearly meant to be
so. It made Westover a little sick, and he would have liked to pity Mrs.
Marven more than he could. The ladies said that Mrs. Durgin's behavior
was an outrage, and they ought all to resent it by going straight to
their own rooms and packing their things and leaving on the same stage
with Mrs. Marven. None of them did so, and their talk veered around to
something extenuating, if not justifying, Mrs. Durgin's action.
"I suppose," one of them said, "that she felt more indignant about it
because she has been so very good to Mrs. Marven, and her daughter, too.
They were both sick on her hands here for a week after they came, first
one and then the other, and she looked after them and did for them like a
"And yet," another lady suggested, "what could Mrs. Marven have done?
What did she do? He wasn't asked to the picnic, and I don't see why he
should have been treated as a guest. He was there, purely and simply, to
bring the things and take them away. And, besides, if there is anything
in distinctions, in differences, if we are to choose who is to associate
with us--or our daughters--"
"That is true," the ladies said, in one form or another, with the tone of
conviction; but they were not so deeply convinced that they did not want
a man's opinion, and they all looked at Westover.
He would not respond to their look, and the lady who had argued for Mrs.
Marven had to ask: "What do you think, Mr. Westover?"
"Ah, it's a difficult question," he said. "I suppose that as long as one
person believes himself or herself socially better than another, it must
always be a fresh problem what to do in every given case."
The ladies said they supposed so, and they were forced to make what they
could of wisdom in which they might certainly have felt a want of
Westover went away from them in a perplexed mind which was not simplified
by the contempt he had at the bottom of all for something unmanly in
Jeff, who had carried his grievance to his mother like a slighted boy,
and provoked her to take up arms for him.
The sympathy for Mrs. Marven mounted again when it was seen that she did
not come to dinner, or permit her daughter to do so, and when it became
known later that she had refused for both the dishes sent to their rooms.
Her farewells to the other ladies, when they gathered to see her off on
the stage, were airy rather than cheery; there was almost a demonstration
in her behalf, but Westover was oppressed by a kind of inherent squalor
in the incident.
At night he responded to a knock which he supposed that of Frank Whitwell
with ice-water, and Mrs. Durgin came into his room and sat down in one of
his two chairs. "Mr. Westover," she said, "if you knew all I had done
for that woman and her daughter, and how much she had pretended to think
of us all, I don't believe you'd be so ready to judge me."
"Judge you!" cried Westover. "Bless my soul, Mrs. Durgin! I haven't
said a word that could be tormented into the slightest censure."
"But you think I done wrong?"
"I have not been at all able to satisfy myself on that point, Mrs.
Durgin. I think it's always wrong to revenge one's self."
"Yes, I suppose it is," said Mrs. Durgin, humbly; and the tears came into
her eyes. "I got the tray ready with my own hands that was sent to her
room; but she wouldn't touch it. I presume she didn't like having a
plate prepared for her! But I did feel sorry for her. She a'n't over
and above strong, and I'm afraid she'll be sick; there a'n't any
rest'rant at our depot."
Westover fancied this a fit mood in Mrs. Durgin for her further
instruction, and he said: "And if you'll excuse me, Mrs. Durgin, I don't
think what you did was quite the way to keep a hotel."
More tears flashed into Mrs. Durgin's eyes, but they were tears of wrath
now. "I would 'a' done it," she said, "if I thought every single one of
'em would 'a' left the house the next minute, for there a'n't one that
has the first word to say against me, any other way. It wa'n't that I
cared whether she thought my son was good enough to eat with her or not;
I know what I think, and that's enough for me. He wa'n't invited to the
picnic, and he a'n't one to put himself forward. If she didn't want him
to stay, all she had to do was to do nothin'. But to make him up a plate
before everybody, and hand it to him to eat with the horses, like a tramp
or a dog--"Mrs. Durgin filled to the throat with her wrath, and the sight
of her made Westover keenly unhappy.
"Yes, yes," he said, "it was a miserable business." He could not help
adding: "If Jeff could have kept it to himself--but perhaps that wasn't
"Mr. Westover!" said Mrs. Durgin, sternly. "Do you think Jeff would come
to me, like a great crybaby, and complain of my lady boarders and the way
they used him? It was Mr. Whit'ell that let it out, or I don't know as I
should ever known about it."
"I'm glad Jeff didn't tell you," said Westover, with a revulsion of good
feeling toward him.
"He'd 'a' died first," said his mother. "But Mr. Whit'ell done just
right all through, and I sha'n't soon forget it. Jeff's give me a proper
goin' over for what I done; both the boys have. But I couldn't help it,
and I should do just so again. All is, I wanted you should know just
what you was blamin' me for--"
"I don't know that I blame you. I only wish you could have helped it--
managed some other way."
"I did try to get over it, and all I done was to lose a night's rest.
Then, this morning, when I see her settin' there so cool and mighty with
the boarders, and takin' the lead as usual, I just waited till she got
Whit'ell across, and nearly everybody was there that saw what she done to
Jeff, and then I flew out on her."
Westover could not suppress a laugh. "Well, Mrs. Durgin, your
retaliation was complete; it was dramatic."
"I don't know what you mean by that," said Mrs. Durgin, rising and
resuming her self-control; she did not refuse herself a grim smile.
"But I guess she thought it was pretty perfect herself--or she will, when
she's able to give her mind to it. I'm sorry for her daughter; I never
had anything against her; or her mother, either, for that matter, before.
Franky look after you pretty well? I'll send him up with your ice-water.
Got everything else you want?"
I should have to invent a want if I wished to complain," said Westover.
"Well, I should like to have you do it. We can't ever do too much for
you. Well, good-night, Mr. Westover."
"Good'-night, Mrs. Durgin."
Jeff Durgin entered Harvard that fall, with fewer conditions than most
students have to work off. This was set down to the credit of Lovewell
Academy, where he had prepared for the university; and some observers in
such matters were interested to note how thoroughly the old school in a
remote town had done its work for him.
None who formed personal relations with him at that time conjectured that
he had done much of the work for himself, and even to Westover, when Jeff
came to him some weeks after his settlement in Cambridge, he seemed
painfully out of his element, and unamiably aware of it. For the time,
at least, he had lost the jovial humor, not too kindly always, which
largely characterized him, and expressed itself in sallies of irony which
were not so unkindly, either. The painter perceived that he was on his
guard against his own friendly interest; Jeff made haste to explain that
he came because he had told his mother that he would do so. He scarcely
invited a return of his visit, and he left Westover wondering at the sort
of vague rebellion against his new life which he seemed to be in. The
painter went out to see him in Cambridge, not long after, and was rather
glad to find him rooming with some other rustic Freshman in a humble
street running from the square toward the river; for he thought Jeff must
have taken his lodging for its cheapness, out of regard to his mother's
means. But Jeff was not glad to be found there, apparently; he said at
once that he expected to get a room in the Yard the next year, and eat at
Memorial Hall. He spoke scornfully of his boarding-house as a place
where they were all a lot of jays together; and Westover thought him
still more at odds with his environment than he had before. But Jeff
consented to come in and dine with him at his restaurant, and afterward
go to the theatre with him.
When he came, Westover did not quite like his despatch of the half-bottle
of California claret served each of them with the Italian table d'hote.
He did not like his having already seen the play he proposed; and he
found some difficulty in choosing a play which Jeff had not seen. It
appeared then that he had been at the theatre two or three times a week
for the last month, and that it was almost as great a passion with him as
with Westover himself. He had become already a critic of acting, with a
rough good sense of it, and a decided opinion. He knew which actors he
preferred, and which actresses, better still. It was some consolation
for Westover to find that he mostly took an admission ticket when he went
to the theatre; but, though he could not blame Jeff for showing his own
fondness for it, he wished that he had not his fondness.
So far Jeff seemed to have spent very few of his evenings in Cambridge,
and Westover thought it would be well if he had some acquaintance there.
He made favor for him with a friendly family, who asked him to dinner.
They did it to oblige Westover, against their own judgment and knowledge,
for they said it was always the same with Freshmen; a single act of
hospitality finished the acquaintance. Jeff came, and he behaved with as
great indifference to the kindness meant him as if he were dining out
every night; he excused himself very early in the evening on the ground
that he had to go into Boston, and he never paid his dinner-call. After
that Westover tried to consider his whole duty to him fulfilled, and not
to trouble himself further. Now and then, however, Jeff disappointed the
expectation Westover had formed of him, by coming to see him, and being
apparently glad of the privilege. But he did not make the painter think
that he was growing in grace or wisdom, though he apparently felt an
increasing confidence in his own knowledge of life.
Westover could only feel a painful interest tinged with amusement in his
grotesque misconceptions of the world where he had not yet begun to right
himself. Jeff believed lurid things of the society wholly unknown to
him; to his gross credulity, Boston houses, which at the worst were the
homes of a stiff and cold exclusiveness, were the scenes of riot only
less scandalous than the dissipation to which fashionable ladies
abandoned themselves at champagne suppers in the Back Bay hotels and on
their secret visits to the Chinese opium-joints in Kingston Street.
Westover tried to make him see how impossible his fallacies were; but he
could perceive that Jeff thought him either wilfully ignorant or
helplessly innocent, and of far less authority than a barber who had the
entree of all these swell families as hair-dresser, and who corroborated
the witness of a hotel night-clerk (Jeff would not give their names) to
the depravity of the upper classes. He had to content himself with
saying: "I hope you will be ashamed some day of having believed such rot.
But I suppose it's something you've got to go through. You may take my
word for it, though? that it isn't going to do you any good. It's going
to do you harm, and that's why I hate to have you think it, for your own
sake. It can't hurt any one else."
What disgusted the painter most was that, with all his belief in the
wickedness of the fine world, it was clear that Jeff would have willingly
been of it; and he divined that if he had any strong aspirations they
were for society and for social acceptance. He had fancied, when the
fellow seemed to care so little for the studies of the university, that
he might come forward in its sports. Jeff gave more and more the effect
of tremendous strength in his peculiar physique, though there was always
the disappointment of not finding him tall. He was of the middle height,
but he was hewn out and squared upward massively. He felt like stone to
any accidental contact, and the painter brought away a bruise from the
mere brunt of his shoulders. He learned that Jeff was a frequenter of
the gymnasium, where his strength must have been known, but he could not
make out that he had any standing among the men who went in for
athletics. If Jeff had even this, the sort of standing in college which
he failed of would easily have been won, too. But he had been falsely
placed at the start, or some quality of his nature neutralized other
qualities that would have made him a leader in college, and he remained
one of the least forward men in it. Other jays won favor and liking, and
ceased to be jays; Jeff continued a jay. He was not chosen into any of
the nicer societies; those that he joined when he thought they were swell
he could not care for when he found they were not.
Westover came into a knowledge of the facts through his casual and
scarcely voluntary confidences, and he pitied him somewhat while he
blamed him a great deal more, without being able to help him at all.
It appeared to him that the fellow had gone wrong more through ignorance
than perversity, and that it was a stubbornness of spirit rather than a
badness of heart that kept him from going right. He sometimes wondered
whether it was not more a baffled wish to be justified in his own esteem
than anything else that made him overvalue the things he missed. He knew
how such an experience as that with Mrs. Marven rankles in the heart of
youth, and will not cease to smart till some triumph in kind brines it
ease; but between the man of thirty and the boy of twenty there is a gulf
fixed, and he could not ask. He did not know that a college man often
goes wrong in his first year, out of no impulse that he can very clearly
account for himself, and then when he ceases to be merely of his type and
becomes more of his character, he pulls up and goes right. He did not
know how much Jeff had been with a set that was fast without being fine.
The boy had now and then a book in his hand when he came; not always such
a book as Westover could have wished, but still a book; and to his
occasional questions about how he was getting on with his college work,
Jeff made brief answers, which gave the notion that he was not neglecting
Toward the end of his first year he sent to Westover one night from a
station-house, where he had been locked up for breaking a street-lamp in
Boston. By his own showing he had not broken the lamp, or assisted,
except through his presence, at the misdeed of the tipsy students who had
done it. His breath betrayed that he had been drinking, too; but
otherwise he seemed as sober as Westover himself, who did not know
whether to augur well or ill for him from the proofs he had given before
of his ability to carry off a bottle of wine with a perfectly level head.
Jeff seemed to believe Westover a person of such influence that he could
secure his release at once, and he was abashed to find that he must pass
the night in the cell, where he conferred with Westover through the bars.
In the police court, where his companions were fined, the next morning,
he was discharged for want of evidence against him; but the university
authorities did not take the same view as the civil authorities. He was
suspended, and for the time he passed out of Westover's sight and
He expected to find him at Lion's Head, where he went to pass the month
of August--in painting those pictures of the mountain which had in some
sort, almost in spite of him, become his specialty. But Mrs. Durgin
employed the first free moments after their meeting in explaining that
Jeff had got a chance to work his way to London on a cattle-steamer, and
had been abroad the whole summer. He had written home that the voyage
had been glorious, with plenty to eat and little to do; and he had made
favor with the captain for his return by the same vessel in September.
By other letters it seemed that he had spent the time mostly in England;
but he had crossed over into France for a fortnight, and had spent a week
in Paris. His mother read some passages from his letters aloud to show
Westover how Jeff was keeping his eyes open. His accounts of his travel
were a mixture of crude sensations in the presence of famous scenes and
objects of interest, hard-headed observation of the facts of life,
narrow-minded misconception of conditions, and wholly intelligent and
adequate study of the art of inn-keeping in city and country.
Mrs. Durgin seemed to feel that there was some excuse due for the
relative quantity of the last. "He knows that's what I'd care for the
most; and Jeff a'n't one to forget his mother." As if the word reminded
her, she added, after a moment: "We sha'n't any of us soon forget what
you done for Jeff--that time."
"I didn't do anything for him, Mrs. Durgin; I couldn't," Westover
"You done what you could, and I know that you saw the thing in the right
light, or you wouldn't 'a' tried to do anything. Jeff told me every word
about it. I know he was with a pretty harum-scarum crowd. But it was a
lesson to him; and I wa'n't goin' to have him come back here, right away,
and have folks talkin' about what they couldn't understand, after the way
the paper had it."
"Did it get into the papers?"
"Mm." Mrs. Durgin nodded. "And some dirty, sneakin' thing, here, wrote
a letter to the paper and told a passel o' lies about Jeff and all of us;
and the paper printed Jeff's picture with it; I don't know how they got a
hold of it. So when he got that chance to go, I just said, 'Go.' You'll
see he'll keep all straight enough after this, Mr. Westover."
"Old woman read you any of Jeff's letters?" Whit-well asked, when his
chance for private conference with Westover came. "What was the rights
of that scrape he got into?"
Westover explained as favorably to Jeff as he could; the worst of the
affair was the bad company he was in.
Well, where there's smoke there's some fire. Cou't discharged him and
college suspended him. That's about where it is? I guess he'll keep out
o' harm's way next time. Read you what he said about them scenes of the
Revolution in Paris?"
"Yes; he seems to have looked it all up pretty thoroughly."
"Done it for me, I guess, much as anything. I was always talkin' it up
with him. Jeff's kep' his eyes open, that's a fact. He's got a head on
him, more'n I ever thought."
Westover decided that Mrs. Durgin's prepotent behavior toward Mrs. Marven
the summer before had not hurt her materially, with the witnesses even.
There were many new boarders, but most of those whom he had already met
were again at Lion's Head. They said there was no air like it, and no
place so comfortable. If they had sold their birthright for a mess of
pottage, Westover had to confess that the pottage was very good. Instead
of the Irish woman at ten dollars a week who had hitherto been Mrs.
Durgin's cook, under her personal surveillance and direction, she had now
a man cook, whom she boldly called a chef and paid eighty dollars a
month. He wore the white apron and white cap of his calling, but
Westover heard him speak Yankee through his nose to one of the stablemen
as they exchanged hilarities across the space between the basement and
the barn-door. "Yes," Mrs. Durgin admitted, "he's an American; and he
learnt his trade at one of the best hotels in Portland. He's pretty
headstrong, but I guess he does what he's told--in the end. The meanyous?
Oh, Franky Whitwell prints then. He's got an amateur printing-office in
One morning toward the end of August, Whitwell, who was starting
homeward, after leaving his ladies, burdened with their wishes and
charges for the morrow, met Westover coming up the hill with his
painting-gear in his hand. "Say!" he hailed him. "Why don't you come
down to the house to-night? Jackson's goin' to come, and, if you ha'n't
seen him work the plantchette for a spell, you'll be surprised. There
a'n't hardly anybody he can't have up. You'll come? Good enough!"
What affected Westover first of all at the seance, and perhaps most of
all, was the quality of the air in the little house; it was close and
stuffy, mixed with an odor of mould and an ancient smell of rats. The
kerosene-lamp set in the centre of the table, where Jackson afterward
placed his planchette, devoured the little life that was left in it. At
the gasps which Westover gave, with some despairing glances at the closed
windows, Whitwell said: "Hot? Well, I guess it is a little. But, you
see, Jackson has got to be careful about the night air; but I guess I can
fix it for you." He went out into the ell, and Westover heard him
raising a window. He came back and asked, "That do? It 'll get around
in here directly," and Westover had to profess relief.
Jackson came in presently with the little Canuck, whom Whitwell presented
to Westover: "Know Jombateeste?"
The two were talking about a landslide which had taken place on the other
side of the mountain; the news had just come that they had found among
the ruins the body of the farm-hand who had been missing since the
morning of the slide; his funeral was to be the next day.
Jackson put his planchette on the table, and sat down before it with a
sigh; the Canuck remained standing, and on foot he was scarcely a head
higher than the seated Yankees. "Well," Jackson said, "I suppose he
knows all about it now," meaning the dead farm-hand.
"Yes," Westover suggested, "if he knows anything."
"Know anything!" Whitwell shouted. "Why, man, don't you believe he's as
much alive as ever he was?"
"I hope so," said Westover, submissively.
"Don't you know it?"
"Not as I know other things. In fact, I don't know it," said Westover,
and he was painfully aware of having shocked his hearers by the
agnosticism so common among men in towns that he had confessed it quite
simply and unconsciously. He perceived that faith in the soul and life
everlasting was as quick as ever in the hills, whatever grotesque or
unwonted form it wore. Jackson sat with closed eyes and his head fallen
back; Whitwell stared at the painter, with open mouth; the little Canuck
began to walk up and down impatiently; Westover felt a reproach, almost
an abhorrence, in all of them.
Whitwell asked: "Why, don't you think there's any proof of it?"
"Proof? Oh Yes. There's testimony enough to carry conviction to the
stubbornest mind on any other point. But it's very strange about all
that. It doesn't convince anybody but the witnesses. If a man tells me
he's seen a disembodied spirit, I can't believe him. I must see the
disembodied spirit myself."
"That's something so," said Whitwell, with a relenting laugh.
"If one came back from the dead, to tell us of a life beyond the grave,
we should want the assurance that he'd really been dead, and not merely
Whitwell laughed again, in the delight the philosophic mind finds even in
the reasoning that hates it.
The Canuck felt perhaps the simpler joy that the average man has in any
strange notion that he is able to grasp. He stopped in his walk and
said: "Yes, and if you was dead and went to heaven, and stayed so long
you smelt, like Lazarus, and you come back and tol' 'em what you saw,
nobody goin' believe you."
"Well, I guess you're right there, Jombateeste," said Whitwell, with
pleasure in the Canuck's point. After a moment he suggested to Westover:
"Then I s'pose, if you feel the way you do, you don't care much about
"Oh yes, I do," said the painter. "We never know when we may be upon the
point of revelation. I wouldn't miss any chance."
Whether Whitwell felt an ironic slant in the words or not, he paused a
moment before he said: "Want to start her up, Jackson?"
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