Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 29 out of 78
Jackson brought to the floor the forefeet of his chair, which he had
tilted from it in leaning back, and without other answer put his hand on
the planchette. It began to fly over the large sheet of paper spread
upon the table, in curves and angles and eccentrics.
"Feels pootty lively to-night," said Whitwell, with a glance at Westover.
The little Canuck, as if he had now no further concern in the matter, sat
down in a corner and smoked silently. Whitwell asked, after a moment's
"Can't you git her down to business, Jackson?"
Jackson gasped: "She'll come down when she wants to."
The little instrument seemed, in fact, trying to control itself. Its
movements became less wild and large; the zigzags began to shape
themselves into something like characters. Jackson's wasted face gave no
token of interest; Whitwell laid half his gaunt length across the table
in the endeavor to make out some meaning in them; the Canuck, with his
hands crossed on his stomach, smoked on, with the same gleam in his pipe
The planchette suddenly stood motionless.
"She done?" murmured Whitwell.
"I guess she is, for a spell, anyway," said Jackson, wearily.
"Let's try to make out what she says." Whitwell drew the sheets toward
himself and Westover, who sat next him. "You've got to look for the
letters everywhere. Sometimes she'll give you fair and square writin',
and then again she'll slat the letters down every which way, and you've
got to hunt 'em out for yourself. Here's a B I've got. That begins
along pretty early in the alphabet. Let's see what we can find next."
Westover fancied he could make out an F and a T.
Whitwell exulted in an unmistakable K and N; and he made sure of an I,
and an E. The painter was not so sure of an S. "Well, call it an S,"
said Whitwell. "And I guess I've got an O here, and an H. Hello!
Here's an A as large as life. Pootty much of a mixture."
"Yes; I don't see that we're much better off than we were before," said
"Well, I don't know about that," said Whitwell.
"Write 'em down in a row and see if we can't pick out some sense. I've
had worse finds than this; no vowels at all sometimes; but here's three."
He wrote the letters down, while Jackson leaned back against the wall, in
"Well, sir," said Whitwell, pushing the paper, where he had written the
letters in a line, to Westover, "make anything out of 'em?"
Westover struggled with them a moment. "I can make out one word-shaft."
"Anything else?" demanded Whitwell, with a glance of triumph at Jackson.
Westover studied the remaining letters. "Yes, I get one other word-
"Just what I done! But I wanted you to speak first. It's Broken Shaft.
Jackson, she caught right onto what we was talkin' about. This life," he
turned to Westover, in solemn exegesis, "is a broken shaft when death
comes. It rests upon the earth, but you got to look for the top of it in
the skies. That's the way I look at it. What do you think, Jackson?
"I think anybody can't see that. Better go and get some heye-glass."
Westover remained in a shameful minority. He said, meekly: "It suggests
a beautiful hope."
Jackson brought his chair-legs down again, and put his hand on the
"Feel that tinglin'?" asked. Whitwell, and Jackson made yes with silent
lips. "After he's been workin' the plantchette for a spell, and then
leaves off, and she wants to say something more," Whitwell explained to
Westover, "he seems to feel a kind of tinglin' in his arm, as if it was
asleep, and then he's got to tackle her again. Writin' steady enough
now, Jackson!" he cried, joyously. "Let's see." He leaned over and
read, "Thomas Jefferson--" The planchette stopped, "My, I didn't go to
do that," said Whitwell, apologetically. "You much acquainted with
Jefferson's writin's?" he asked of Westover.
The painter had to own his ignorance of all except the diction that the
government is best which governs least; but he was not in a position to
deny that Jefferson had ever said anything about a broken shaft.
"It may have come to him on the other side," said Whitwell.
"Perhaps," Westover assented.
The planchette began to stir itself again. "She's goin' ahead !" cried
Whitwell. He leaned over the table so as to get every letter as it was
formed. "D--Yes! Death. Death is the Broken Shaft. Go on!" After a
moment of faltering the planchette formed another letter. It was a U,
and it was followed by an R, and so on, till Durgin had been spelled.
"Thunder!" cried Whitwell. "If anything's happened to Jeff!"
Jackson lifted his hand from the planchette.
"Oh, go on, Jackson!" Whitwell entreated. "Don't leave it so!"
"I can't seem to go on," Jackson whispered, and Westover could not resist
the fear that suddenly rose among them. But he made the first struggle
against it. "This is nonsense. Or, if there's any sense in it, it means
that Jeff's ship has broken her shaft and put back."
Whitwell gave a loud laugh of relief. "That's so! You've hit it, Mr.
Jackson said, quietly: "He didn't mean to start home till tomorrow. And
how could he send any message unless he was--"
"Easily!" cried Westover. "It's simply an instance of mental impression-
of telepathy, as they call it."
"That's so!" shouted Whitwell, with eager and instant conviction.
Westover could see that Jackson still doubted. "If you believe that a
disembodied spirit can communicate with you, why not an embodied spirit?
If anything has happened to your brother's ship, his mind would be
strongly on you at home, and why couldn't it convey its thought to you?"
"Because he ha'n't started yet," said Jackson.
Westover wanted to laugh; but they all heard voices without, which seemed
to be coming nearer, and he listened with the rest. He made out Frank
Whitwell's voice, and his sister's; and then another voice, louder and
gayer, rose boisterously above them. Whitwell flung the door open and
plunged out into the night. He came back, hauling Jeff Durgin in by the
"Here, now," he shouted to Jackson, "you just let this feller and
plantchette fight it out together!"
"What's the matter with plantchette ?" said Jeff, before he said to his
brother, "Hello, Jackson!" and to the Canuck, "Hello, Jombateeste!"
He shook hands conventionally with them both, and then with the painter,
whom he greeted with greater interest. "Glad to see you here, Mr.
Westover. Did I take you by surprise?" he asked of the company at large.
"No, sir," said Whitwell. "Didn't surprise us any, if you are a
fortnight ahead of time," he added, with a wink at the others.
"Well, I took a notion I wouldn't wait for the cattle-ship, and I started
back on a French boat. Thought I'd try it. They live well. But I hoped
I should astonish you a little, too. I might as well waited."
Whitwell laughed. "We heard from you--plantchette kept right round after
"That so?" asked Jeff, carelessly.
"Fact. Have a good voyage?" Whitwell had the air of putting a casual
"First-rate," said Jeff. "Plantchette say not?"
"No. Only about the broken shaft."
"Broken shaft? We didn't have any broken shaft. Plantchette's got mixed
a little. Got the wrong ship."
After a moment of chop-fallenness, Whitwell said:
"Then somebody's been makin' free with your name. Curious how them
devils cut up oftentimes."
He explained, and Jeff laughed uproariously when he understood the whole
case. "Plantchette's been havin' fun with you."
Whitwell gave himself time for reflection. "No, sir, I don't look at it
that way. I guess the wires got crossed some way. If there's such a
thing as the spirits o' the livin' influencin' plantchette, accordin' to
Mr. Westover's say, here, I don't see why it wa'n't. Jeff's being so
near that got control of her and made her sign his name to somebody
else's words. It shows there's something in it."
"Well, I'm glad to come back alive, anyway," said Jeff, with a joviality
new to Westover. "I tell you, there a'n't many places finer than old
Lion's Head, after all. Don't you think so, Mr. Westover? I want to get
the daylight on it, but it does well by moonlight, even." He looked
round at the tall girl, who had been lingering to hear the talk of
planchette; at the backward tilt he gave his head, to get her in range,
she frowned as if she felt his words a betrayal, and slipped out of the
room; the boy had already gone, and was making himself heard in the low
"There's a lot of folks here this summer, mother says," he appealed from
the check he had got to Jackson. "Every room taken for the whole month,
"We've been pretty full all July, too," said Jackson, blankly.
"Well, it's a great business; and I've picked up a lot of hints over
there. We're not so smart as we think we are. The Swiss can teach us a
thing or two. They know how to keep a hotel."
"Go to Switzerland?" asked Whitwell.
"I slipped over into the edge of it."
"I want to know! Well, now them Alps, now--they so much bigger 'n the
White Hills, after all?"
"Well, I don't know about all of 'em," said Jeff. "There may be some
that would compare with our hills, but I should say that you could take
Mount Washington up and set it in the lap of almost any one of the Alps I
saw, and it would look like a baby on its mother's knee."
"I want to know!" said Whitwell again. His tone expressed
disappointment, but impartiality; he would do justice to foreign
superiority if he must. "And about the ocean. What about waves runnin?
"Well, we didn't have it very rough. But I don't believe I saw any waves
much higher than Lion's Head." Jeff laughed to find Whitwell taking him
seriously. "Won't that satisfy you?"
"Oh, it satisfies me. Truth always does. But, now, about London. You
didn't seem to say so much about London in your letters, now. Is it so
big as they let on? Big--that is, to the naked eye, as you may say?"
"There a'n't any one place where you can get a complete bird's-eye view
of it," said Jeff, "and two-thirds of it would be hid in smoke, anyway.
You've got to think of a place that would take in the whole population of
New England, outside of Massachusetts, and not feel as if it had more
than a comfortable meal."
Whitwell laughed for joy in the bold figure.
"I'll tell you. When you've landed and crossed up from Liverpool, and
struck London, you feel as if you'd gone to sea again. It's an ocean--
a whole Atlantic of houses."
"That's right!" crowed Whitwell. "That's the way I thought it was.
Jeff hesitated. "It grows in the night. You've heard about Chicago
"Well, London grows a whole Chicago every night."
"Good!" said Whitwell. "That suits me. And about Paris, now. Paris
strike you the same way?"
"It don't need to," said Jeff. "That's a place where I'd like to live.
Everybody's at home there. It's a man's house and his front yard, and I
tell you they keep it clean. Paris is washed down every morning;
scrubbed and mopped and rubbed dry. You couldn't find any more dirt than
you could in mother's kitchen after she's hung out her wash. That so,
Westover confirmed in general Jeff's report of the cleanliness of Paris.
"And beautiful! You don't know what a good-looking town is till you
strike Paris. And they're proud of it, too. Every man acts as if he
owned it. They've had the statue of Alsace in that Place de la Concorde
of yours, Mr. Whitwell, where they had the guillotine all draped in black
ever since the war with Germany; and they mean to have her back, some
"Great country, Jombateeste!" Whitwell shouted to the Canuck.
The little man roused himself from the muse in which he was listening and
smoking. "Me, I'm Frantsh," he said.
"Yes, that's what Jeff was sayin'," said Whitwell. "I meant France."
"Oh," answered Jombateeste, impatiently, "I thought you mean the Hunited
"Well, not this time," said Whitwell, amid the general laughter.
"Good for Jombateeste," said Jeff. "Stand up for Canada every time,
John. It's the livest country, in the world three months of the year,
and the ice keeps it perfectly sweet the other nine."
Whitwell could not brook a diversion from the high and serious inquiry
they had entered upon. "It must have made this country look pretty slim
when you got back. How'd New York look, after Paris?"
"Like a pigpen," said Jeff. He left his chair and walked round the table
toward a door opening into the adjoining room. For the first time
Westover noticed a figure in white seated there, and apparently rapt in
the talk which had been going on. At the approach of Jeff, and before he
could have made himself seen at the doorway, a tremor seemed to pass over
the figure; it fluttered to its feet, and then it vanished into the
farther dark of the room. When Jeff disappeared within, there was a
sound of rustling skirts and skurrying feet and the crash of a closing
door, and then the free rise of laughing voices without. After a
discreet interval, Westover said: "Mr. Whitwell, I must say good-night.
I've got another day's work before me. It's been a most interesting
"You must try it again," said Whitwell, hospitably. "We ha'n't got to
the bottom of that broken shaft yet. You'll see 't plantchette 'll have
something more to say about it: Heigh, Jackson?" He rose to receive
Westover's goodnight; the others nodded to him.
As the painter climbed the hill to the hotel he saw two figures on the
road below; the one in white drapery looked severed by a dark line
slanting across it at the waist. In the country, he knew, such an
appearance might mark the earliest stages of love-making, or mere
youthful tenderness, in which there was nothing more implied or expected.
But whatever the fact was, Westover felt a vague distaste for it, which,
as it related itself to a more serious possibility, deepened to something
like pain. It was probable that it should come to this between those
two, but Westover rebelled against the event with a sense of its
unfitness for which he could not give himself any valid reason; and in
the end he accused himself of being a fool.
Two ladies sat on the veranda of the hotel and watched a cloud-wreath
trying to lift itself from the summit of Lion's Head. In the effort it
thinned away to transparency in places; in others, it tore its frail
texture asunder and let parts of the mountain show through; then the
fragments knitted themselves loosely together, and the vapor lay again in
The ladies were older and younger, and apparently mother and daughter.
The mother had kept her youth in face and figure so admirably that in
another light she would have looked scarcely the elder. It was the
candor of the morning which confessed the fine vertical lines running up
and down to her lips, only a shade paler than the girl's, and that showed
her hair a trifle thinner in its coppery brown, her blue eyes a little
dimmer. They were both very graceful, and they had soft, caressing
voices; they now began to talk very politely to each other, as if they
were strangers, or as if strangers were by. They talked of the
landscape, and of the strange cloud effect before them. They said that
they supposed they should see the Lion's Head when the cloud lifted, and
they were both sure they had never been quite so near a cloud before.
They agreed that this was because in Switzerland the mountains were so
much higher and farther off. Then the daughter said, without changing
the direction of her eyes or the tone of her voice, "The gentleman who
came over from the station with us last night," and the mother was aware
of Jeff Durgin advancing toward the corner of the veranda where they sat.
"I hope you have got rested," he said, with the jovial bluntness which
was characteristic of him with women.
"Oh, yes indeed," said the elder lady. Jeff had spoken to her, but had
looked chiefly at the younger. "I slept beautifully. So quiet here, and
with this delicious air! Have you just tasted it?"
"No; I've been up ever since daylight, driving round," said Jeff. "I'm
glad you like the air," he said, after a certain hesitation. "We always
want to have people do that at Lion's Head. There's no air like it,
though perhaps I shouldn't say so."
"Shouldn't?" the lady repeated.
"Yes; we own the air here--this part of it." Jeff smiled easily down at
the lady's puzzled face.
"Oh! Then you are--are you a son of the house?"
"Son of the hotel, yes," said Jeff, with increasing ease. The lady
continued her question in a look, and he went on: "I've been scouring the
country for butter and eggs this morning. We shall get all our supplies
from Boston next year, I hope, but we depend on the neighbors a little
"How very interesting!" said the lady. "You must have a great many queer
adventures," she suggested in a provisional tone.
"Well, nothing's queer to me in the hill country. But you see some
characters here." He nodded over his shoulder to where Whitwell stood by
the flag-staff, waiting the morning impulse of the ladies. "There's one
of the greatest of them now."
The lady put up a lorgnette and inspected Whitwell. "What are those
strange things he has got in his hatband?"
"The flowers and the fungi of the season," said Jeff. "He takes parties
of the ladies walking, and that collection is what he calls his almanac."
"Really?" cried the girl. "That's charming!"
"Delightful!" said the mother, moved by the same impulse, apparently.
"Yes," said Jeff. "You ought to hear him talk. I'll introduce him to
you after breakfast, if you like."
"Oh, we should only be too happy," said the mother, and her daughter,
from her inflection, knew that she would be willing to defer her
But Jeff did not. "Mr. Whitwell !" he called out, and Whitwell came
across the grass to the edge of the veranda. "I want to introduce you to
Mrs. Vostrand--and Miss Vostrand."
Whitwell took their slim hands successively into his broad, flat palm,
and made Mrs. Vostrand repeat her name to him. "Strangers at Lion's
Head, I presume?" Mrs. Vostrand owned as much; and he added: "Well,
I guess you won't find a much sightlier place anywhere; though, accordin'
to Jeff's say, here, they've got bigger mountains on the other side.
Ever been in Europe?"
"Why, yes," said Mrs. Vostrand, with a little mouth of deprecation.
"In fact, we've just come home. We've been living there."
"That so?" returned Whitwell, in humorous toleration. "Glad to get back,
"Oh yes--yes," said Mrs. Vostrand, in a sort of willowy concession, as if
the character before her were not to be crossed or gainsaid.
"Well, it 'll do you good here," said Whitwell. "'N' the young lady,
too. A few tramps over these hills 'll make you look like another
woman." He added, as if he had perhaps made his remarks too personal to
the girl, "Both of you."
"Oh yes," the mother assented, fervently. "We shall count upon your
showing us all their-mysteries."
Whitwell looked pleased. "I'll do my best-whenever you're ready."
He went on: "Why, Jeff, here, has just got back, too. Jeff, what was the
name of that French boat you said you crossed on? I want to see if I
can't make out what plantchette meant by that broken shaft. She must
have meant something, and if I could find out the name of the ship--
Tell the ladies about it?" Jeff laughed, with a shake of the head, and
Whitwell continued, "Why, it was like this," and he possessed the ladies
of a fact which they professed to find extremely interesting. At the end
of their polite expressions he asked Jeff again: "What did you say the
"Aquitaine," said Jeff, briefly.
"Why, we came on the Aquitaine!" said Mrs. Vostrand, with a smile for
Jeff. "But how did we happen not to see one another?"
"Oh, I came second-cabin," said Jeff. "I worked my way over on a cattle-
ship to London, and, when I decided not to work my way back, I found I
hadn't enough money for a first-cabin passage. I was in a hurry to get
back in time to get settled at Harvard, and so I came second-cabin. It
wasn't bad. I used to see you across the rail."
"Well!" said Whitwell.
"How very--amusing!" said Mrs. Vostrand. "What a small world it is!"
With these words she fell into a vagary; her daughter recalled her from
it with a slight movement. "Breakfast? How impatient you are,
Genevieve! Well!" She smiled the sweetest parting to Whitwell, and
suffered herself to be led away by Jeff.
"And you're at Harvard? I'm so interested! My own boy will be going
"Well, there's no place like Harvard," said Jeff. "I'm in my Sophomore
"Oh, a Sophomore! Fancy!" cried Mrs. Vostrand, as if nothing could give
her more pleasure. "My son is going to prepare at St. Mark's. Did you
"No, I prepared at Lovewell Academy, over here." Jeff nodded in a
"Oh, indeed!" said Mrs. Vostrand, as if she knew where Lovewell was, and
instantly recognized the name of the ancient school.
They had reached the dining room, and Jeff pushed the screen-door open
with one hand, and followed the ladies in. He had the effect of
welcoming them like invited guests; he placed the ladies himself at a
window, where he said Mrs. Vostrand would be out of the draughts, and
they could have a good view of Lion's Head.
He leaned over between them, when they were seated, to get sight of the
mountain, and, "There!" he said. "That cloud's gone at last." Then, as
if it would be modester in the proprietor of the view to leave them to
their flattering raptures in it, he moved away and stood talking a moment
with Cynthia Whitwell near the door of the serving-room. He talked
gayly, with many tosses of the head and turns about, while she listened
with a vague smile, motionlessly.
"She's very pretty," said Miss Vostrand to her mother.
"Yes. The New England type," murmured the mother.
"They all have the same look, a good deal," said the girl, glancing over
the room where the waitresses stood ranged against the wall with their
hands folded at their waists. "They have better faces than figures, but
she is beautiful every way. Do you suppose they are all schoolteachers?
They look intellectual. Or is it their glasses?"
"I don't know," said the mother. "They used to be; but things change
here so rapidly it may all be different. Do you like it?"
"I think it's charming here," said the younger lady, evasively.
"Everything is so exquisitely clean. And the food is very good. Is this
corn-bread--that you've told me about so much?"
"Yes, this is corn-bread. You will have to get accustomed to it."
"Perhaps it won't take long. I could fancy that girl knowing about
everything. Don't you like her looks?"
"Oh, very much." Mrs. Vostrand turned for another glance at Cynthia.
"What say?" Their smiling waitress came forward from the wall where she
was leaning, as if she thought they had spoken to her.
"Oh, we were speaking--the young lady to whom Mr. Durgin was talking--she
"She's the housekeeper--Miss Whitwell."
"Oh, indeed! She seems so young--"
"I guess she knows what to do-o-o," the waitress chanted. "We think
she's about ri-i-ght." She smiled tolerantly upon the misgiving of the
stranger, if it was that, and then retreated when the mother and daughter
began talking together again.
They had praised the mountain with the cloud off, to Jeff, very politely,
and now the mother said, a little more intimately, but still with the
deference of a society acquaintance: "He seems very gentlemanly, and I am
sure he is very kind. I don't quite know what to do about it, do you?"
"No, I don't. It's all strange to me, you know."
"Yes, I suppose it must be. But you will get used to it if we remain in
the country. Do you think you will dislike it?"
"Oh no! It's very different."
"Yes, it's different. He is very handsome, in a certain way." The
daughter said nothing, and the mother added: "I wonder if he was trying
to conceal that he had come second-cabin, and was not going to let us
know that he crossed with us?"
"Do you think he was bound to do so?"
"No. But it was very odd, his not mentioning it. And his going out on a
cattle-steamer?" the mother observed.
"Oh, but that's very chic, I've heard," the daughter replied. "I've
heard that the young men like it and think it a great chance. They have
great fun. It isn't at all like second-cabin."
"You young people have your own world," the mother answered, caressingly.
Westover met the ladies coming out of the dining-room as he went in
rather late to breakfast; he had been making a study of Lion's Head in
the morning light after the cloud lifted from it. He was always doing
Lion's Heads, it seemed to him; but he loved the mountain, and he was
always finding something new in it.
He was now seeing it inwardly with so exclusive a vision that he had no
eyes for these extremely pretty women till they were out of sight. Then
he remembered noticing them, and started with a sense of recognition,
which he verified by the hotel register when he had finished his meal.
It was, in fact, Mrs. James W. Vostrand, and it was Miss Vostrand, whom
Westover had know ten years before in Italy. Mrs. Vostrand had then
lately come abroad for the education of her children, and was pausing in
doubt at Florence whether she should educate them in Germany or
Switzerland. Her husband had apparently abandoned this question to her,
and he did not contribute his presence to her moral support during her
struggle with a problem which Westover remembered as having a tendency to
solution in the direction of a permanent stay in Florence.
In those days he liked Mrs. Vostrand very much, and at twenty he
considered her at thirty distinctly middle-aged. For one winter she had
a friendly little salon, which was the most attractive place in Florence
to him, then a cub painter sufficiently unlicked. He was aware of her
children being a good deal in the salon: a girl of eight, who was like
her mother, and quite a savage little boy of five, who may have been like
his father. If he was, and the absent Mr. Vostrand had the same habit of
sulking and kicking at people's shins, Westover could partly understand
why Mrs. Vostrand had come to Europe for the education of her children.
It all came vividly back to him, while he went about looking for Mrs.
Vostrand and her daughter on the verandas and in the parlors. But he did
not find them, and he was going to send his name to their rooms when he
came upon Jeff Durgin figuring about the office in a fresh London
conception of an outing costume.
"You're very swell," said Westover, halting him to take full note of it.
"Like it? Well, I knew you'd understand what it meant. Mother thinks
it's a little too rowdy-looking. Her idea is black broadcloth frock-coat
and doeskin trousers for a gentleman, you know." He laughed with a young
joyousness, and then became serious. "Couple of ladies here, somewhere,
I'd like to introduce you to. Came over with me from the depot last
night. Very nice people, and I'd like to make it pleasant for them--get
up something--go somewhere--and when you see their style you can judge
what it had better be. Mrs. Vostrand and her daughter."
"Thank you," said Westover. "I think I know them already at least one of
them. I used to go to Mrs. Vostrand's house in Florence."
"That so? Well, fact is, I crossed with them; but I came second-cabin,
because I'd spent all my money, and I didn't get acquainted with them on
the ship, but we met in the train coming up last night. Said they had
heard of Lion's Head on the other side from friends. But it was quite a
coincidence, don't you think? I'd like to have them see what this
neighborhood really is; and I wish, Mr. Westover, you'd find out, if you
can, what they'd like. If they're for walking, we could get Whitwell to
personally conduct a party, and if they're for driving, I'd like to show
them a little mountain-coaching myself."
"I don't know whether I'd better not leave the whole thing to you, Jeff,"
Westover said, after a moment's reflection. "I don't see exactly how I
could bring the question into a first interview."
"Well, perhaps it would be rather rushing it. But, if I get up
something, you'll come, Mr. Westover?"
"I will, with great pleasure," said Westover, and he went to make his
A half-hour later he was passing the door of the old parlor which Mrs.
Durgin still kept for hers, on his way up to his room, when a sound of
angry voices came out to him. Then the voice of Mrs. Durgin defined
itself in the words: "I'm not goin' to have to ask any more folks for
their rooms on your account, Jeff Durgin--Mr. Westover! Mr. Westover,
is that you?" her voice broke off to call after him as he hurried by,
"Won't you come in here a minute?"
He hesitated, and then Jeff called, "Yes, come in, Mr. Westover."
The painter found him sitting on the old hair-cloth sofa, with his stick
between his hands and knees, confronting his mother, who was rocking
excitedly to and fro in the old hair-cloth easy-chair.
"You know these folks that Jeff's so crazy about?" she demanded.
"Crazy!" cried Jeff, laughing and frowning at the same time. "What's
crazy in wanting to go off on a drive and choose your own party?"
"Do you know them?" Mrs. Durgin repeated to Westover.
"The Vostrands? Why, yes. I knew Mrs. Vostrand in Italy a good many
years ago, and I've just been calling on her and her daughter, who was a
little girl then."
"What kind of folks are they?"
"What kind? Really! Why, they're very charming people--"
"So Jeff seems to think. Any call to show them any particular
"I don't know if I quite understand--"
"Why, it's just this. Jeff, here, wants to make a picnic for them, or
something, and I can't see the sense of it. You remember what happened
at that other picnic, with that Mrs. Marven"--Jeff tapped the floor with
his stick impatiently, and Westover felt sorry for him--"and I don't want
it to happen again, and I've told Jeff so. I presume he thinks it 'll
set him right with them, if they're thinkin' demeaning of him because he
came over second-cabin on their ship."
Jeff set his teeth and compressed his lips to bear as best he could, the
give-away which his mother could not appreciate in its importance to him:
"They're not the kind of people to take such a thing shabbily," said
Westover. "They didn't happen to mention it, but Mrs. Vostrand must have
got used to seeing young fellows in straits of all kinds during her life
abroad. I know that I sometimes made the cup of tea and biscuit she used
to give me in Florence do duty for a dinner, and I believe she knew it."
Jeff looked up at Westover with a grateful, sidelong glance.
His mother said: "Well, then, that's all right, and Jeff needn't do
anything for them on that account. And I've made up my mind about one
thing: whatever the hotel does has got to be done for the whole hotel.
It can't pick and choose amongst the guests." Westover liked so little
the part of old family friend which he seemed, whether he liked it or
not, to bear with the Durgins, that he would gladly have got away now,
but Mrs. Durgin detained him with a direct appeal. "Don't you think so,
Jeff spared him the pain of a response. "Very well," he said to his
mother; "I'm not the hotel, and you never want me to be. I can do this
on my own account."
"Not with my coach and not with my hosses," said his mother.
Jeff rose. "I might as well go on down to Cambridge, and get to work on
"Just as you please about that," said Mrs. Durgin, with the same
impassioned quiet that showed in her son's handsome face and made it one
angry red to his yellow hair. "We've got along without you so far, this
summer, and I guess we can the rest of the time. And the sooner you work
off your conditions the better, I presume."
The next morning Jeff came to take leave of him, where Westover had
pitched his easel and camp-stool on the slope behind the hotel.
"Why, are you really going?" he asked. "I was in hopes it might have
"No, things don't blow over so easy with mother," said Jeff, with an
embarrassed laugh, but no resentment. "She generally means what she
"Well, in this case, Jeff, I think she was right."
"Oh, I guess so," said Jeff, pulling up a long blade of grass and taking
it between his teeth. "Anyway, it comes to the same thing as far as I'm
concerned. It's for her to say what shall be done and what sha'n't be
done in her own house, even if it is a hotel. That's what I shall do in
mine. We're used to these little differences; but we talk it out, and
that's the end of it. I shouldn't really go, though, if I didn't think
I ought to get in some work on those conditions before the thing begins
regularly. I should have liked to help here a little, for I've had a
good time and I ought to be willing to pay for it. But she's in good
hands. Jackson's well--for him--and she's got Cynthia."
The easy security of tone with which Jeff pronounced the name vexed
Westover. "I suppose your mother would hardly know how to do without
her, even if you were at home," he said, dryly.
"Well, that's a fact," Jeff assented, with a laugh for the hit. "And
Jackson thinks the world of her. I believe he trusts her judgment more
than he does mother's about the hotel. Well, I must be going. You don't
know where Mrs. Vostrand is going to be this winter, I suppose?"
"No, I don't," said Westover. He could not help a sort of blind
resentment in the situation. If he could not feel that Jeff was the best
that could be for Cynthia, he had certainly no reason to regret that his
thoughts could be so lightly turned from her. But the fact anomalously
incensed him as a slight to the girl, who might have been still more
sacrificed by Jeff's constancy. He forced himself to add: "I fancy Mrs.
Vostrand doesn't know herself."
"I wish I didn't know where I was going to be," said Jeff. "Well, good-
bye, Mr. Westover. I'll see you in Boston."
"Oh, good-bye." The painter freed himself from his brush and palette for
a parting handshake, reluctantly.
Jeff plunged down the hill, waving a final adieu from the corner of the
hotel before he vanished round it.
Mrs. Vostrand and her daughter were at breakfast when Westover came in
after the early light had been gone some time. They entreated him to
join them at their table, and the mother said: "I suppose you were up
soon enough to see young Mr. Durgin off. Isn't it too bad he has to go
back to college when it's so pleasant in the country?"
"Not bad for him," said Westover. "He's a young man who can stand a
great deal of hard work." Partly because he was a little tired of Jeff,
and partly because he was embarrassed in their presence by the reason of
his going, he turned the talk upon the days they had known together.
Mrs. Vostrand was very willing to talk of her past, even apart from his,
and she told him of her sojourn in Europe since her daughter had left
school. They spent their winters in Italy and their summers in
Switzerland, where it seemed her son was still at his studies in
Lausanne. She wished him to go to Harvard, she said, and she supposed he
would have to finish his preparation at one of the American schools; but
she had left the choice entirely to Mr. Vostrand.
This seemed a strange event after twelve years' stay in Europe for the
education of her children, but Westover did not feel authorized to make
any comment upon it. He fell rather to thinking how very pleasant both
mother and daughter were, and to wondering how much wisdom they had
between them. He reflected that men had very little wisdom, as far as he
knew them, and he questioned whether, after all, the main difference
between men and women might not be that women talked their follies and
men acted theirs. Probably Mrs. Vostrand, with all her babble, had done
fewer foolish things than her husband, but here Westover felt his
judgment disabled by the fact that he had never met her husband; and his
mind began to wander to a question of her daughter, whom he had there
before him. He found himself bent upon knowing more of the girl, and
trying to eliminate her mother from the talk, or, at least, to make
Genevieve lead in it. But apparently she was not one of the natures that
like to lead; at any rate, she remained discreetly in abeyance, and
Westover fancied she even respected her mother's opinions and ideas.
He thought this very well for both of them, whether it was the effect of
Mrs. Vostrand's merit or Miss Vostrand's training. They seemed both of
one exquisite gentleness, and of one sweet manner, which was rather
elaborate and formal in expression. They deferred to each other as
politely as they deferred to him, but, if anything, the daughter deferred
The Vostrands did not stay long at Lion's Head. Before the week was out
Mrs. Vostrand had a letter summoning them to meet her husband at
Montreal, where that mysterious man, who never came into the range of
Westover's vision, somehow, was kept by business from joining them in the
Early in October the painter received Mrs. Vostrand's card at his studio
in Boston, and learned from the scribble which covered it that she was
with her daughter at the Hotel Vendome. He went at once to see them
there, and was met, almost before the greetings were past, with a prayer
for his opinion.
"Favorable opinion?" he asked.
"Favorable? Oh yes; of course. It's simply this. When I sent you my
card, we were merely birds of passage, and now I don't know but we are--
What is the opposite of birds of passage?"
Westover could not think, and said so.
"Well, it doesn't matter. We were walking down the street, here, this
morning, and we saw the sign of an apartment to let, in a window, and we
thought, just for amusement, we would go in and look at it."
"And you took it?"
"No, not quite so rapid as that. But it was lovely; in such a pretty
'hotel garni', and so exquisitely furnished! We didn't really think of
staying in Boston; we'd quite made up our minds on New York; but this
apartment is a temptation."
"Why not yield, then?" said Westover. "That's the easiest way with a
temptation. Confess, now, that you've taken the apartment already!"
"No, no, I haven't yet," said Mrs. Vostrand.
"And if I advised not, you wouldn't?"
"Ah, that's another thing!"
"When are you going to take possession, Mrs. Vostrand?"
"Oh, at once, I suppose--if we do!"
"And may I come in when I'm hungry, just as I used to do in Florence, and
will you stay me with flagons in the old way?"
"There never was anything but tea, you know well enough."
"The tea had rum in it."
"Well, perhaps it will have rum in it here, if you're very good."
"I will try my best, on condition that you'll make any and every possible
use of me. Mrs. Vostrand, I can't tell you how very glad I am you're
going to stay," said the painter, with a fervor that made her impulsively
put out her hand to him. He kept it while he could add, "I don't forget
--I can never forget--how good you were to me in those days," and at that
she gave his hand a quick pressure. "If I can do anything at all for
you, you will let me, won't you. I'm afraid you'll be so well provided
for that there won't be anything. Ask them to slight you, to misuse you
in something, so that I can come to your rescue."
"Yes, I will," Mrs. Vostrand promised. "And may we come to your studio
to implore your protection?"
"The sooner the better." Westover got himself away with a very sweet
friendship in his heart for this rather anomalous lady, who, more than
half her daughter's life, had lived away from her daughter's father,
upon apparently perfectly good terms with him, and so discreetly and
self-respectfully that no breath of reproach had touched her. Until now,
however, her position had not really concerned Westover, and it would not
have concerned him now, if it had not been for a design that formed
itself in his mind as soon as he knew that Mrs. Vostrand meant to pass
the winter in Boston. He felt at once that he could not do things by
halves for a woman who had once done them for him by wholes and something
over, and he had instantly decided that he must not only be very pleasant
to her himself, but he must get his friends to be pleasant, too. His
friends were some of the nicest people in Boston; nice in both the
personal and the social sense; he knew they would not hesitate to
sacrifice themselves for him in a good cause, and that made him all the
more anxious that the cause should be good beyond question.
Since his last return from Paris he had been rather a fad as a teacher,
and his class had been kept quite strictly to the ladies who got it up
and to such as they chose to let enter it. These were not all chosen for
wealth or family; there were some whose gifts gave the class distinction,
and the ladies were glad to have them. It would be easy to explain Mrs.
Vostrand to these, but the others might be more difficult; they might
have their anxieties, and Westover meant to ask the leader of the class
to help him receive at the studio tea he had at once imagined for the
Vostrands, and that would make her doubly responsible.
He found himself drawing a very deep and long breath before he began to
mount the many stairs to his studio, and wishing either that Mrs.
Vostrand had not decided to spend the winter in Boston, or else that he
were of a slacker conscience and could wear his gratitude more lightly.
But there was some relief in thinking that he could do nothing for a
month yet. He gained a degree of courage by telling the ladies, when he
went to find them in their new apartment, that he should want them to
meet a few of his friends at tea as soon as people began to get back to
town; and he made the most of their instant joy in accepting his
His pleasure was somehow dashed a little, before he left them, by the
announcement of Jeff Durgin's name.
"I felt bound to send him my card," said Mrs. Vostrand, while Jeff was
following his up in the elevator. "He was so very kind to us the day we
arrived at Zion's Head; and I didn't know but he might be feeling a
little sensitive about coming over second-cabin in our ship; and--"
"How like you, Mrs. Vostrand !" cried Westover, and he was now distinctly
glad he had not tried to sneak out of doing something for her. "Your
kindness won't be worse wasted on Durgin than it was on me, in the old
days, when I supposed I had taken a second-cabin passage for the voyage
of life. There's a great deal of good in him; I don't mean to say he got
through his Freshman year without trouble with the college authorities,
but the Sophomore year generally brings wisdom."
"Oh," said Mrs. Vostrand, "they're always a little wild at first, I
Later, the ladies brought Jeff with them when they came to Westover's
studio, and the painter perceived that they were very good friends,
as if they must have met several times since he had seen them together.
He interested himself in the growing correctness of Jeff's personal
effect. During his Freshman year, while the rigor of the unwritten
Harvard law yet forbade him a silk hat or a cane, he had kept something
of the boy, if not the country boy. Westover had noted that he had
always rather a taste for clothes, but in this first year he did not get
beyond a derby-hat and a sack-coat, varied toward the end by a cutaway.
In the outing dress he wore at home he was always effective, but there
was something in Jeff's figure which did not lend itself to more formal
fashion; something of herculean proportion which would have marked him of
a classic beauty perhaps if he had not been in clothes at all, or of a
yeomanly vigor and force if he had been clad for work, but which seemed
to threaten the more worldly conceptions of the tailor with danger.
It was as if he were about to burst out of his clothes, not because he
wore them tight, but because there was somehow more of the man than the
citizen in him; something native, primitive, something that Westover
could not find quite a word for, characterized him physically and
spiritually. When he came into the studio after these delicate ladies,
the robust Jeff Durgin wore a long frockcoat, with a flower in his
button-hole, and in his left hand he carried a silk hat turned over his
forearm as he must have noticed people whom he thought stylish carrying
their hats. He had on dark-gray trousers and sharp-pointed enamelled-
leather shoes; and Westover grotesquely reflected that he was dressed, as
he stood, to lead Genevieve Vostrand to the altar.
Westover saw at once that when he made his studio tea for the Vostrands
he must ask Jeff; it would be cruel, and for several reasons impossible,
not to do so, and he really did not see why he should not. Mrs. Vostrand
was taking him on the right ground, as a Harvard student, and nobody need
take him on any other. Possibly people would ask him to teas at their
own houses, from Westover's studio, but he could not feel that he was
concerned in that. Society is interested in a man's future, not his
past, as it is interested in a woman's past, not her future.
But when he gave his tea it went off wonderfully well in every way,
perhaps because it was one of the first teas of the fall. It brought
people together in their autumnal freshness before the winter had begun
to wither their resolutions to be amiable to one another, to dull their
wits, to stale their stories, or to give so wide a currency to their
sayings that they could not freely risk them with every one.
Westover had thought it best to be frank with the leading lady of his
class, when she said she should be delighted to receive for him, and
would provide suitable young ladies to pour: a brunette for the tea, and
a blonde for the chocolate. She took his scrupulosity very lightly when
he spoke of Mrs. Vostrand's educational sojourn in Europe; she laughed
and said she knew the type, and the situation was one of the most obvious
phases of the American marriage.
He protested in vain that Mrs. Vostrand was not the type; she laughed
again, and said, Oh, types were never typical. But she was hospitably
gracious both to her and to Miss Genevieve; she would not allow that the
mother was not the type when Westover challenged her experience, but she
said they were charming, and made haste to get rid of the question with
the vivid demand: "But who was your young friend who ought to have worn a
lion-skin and carried a club?"
Westover by this time disdained palliation. He said that Jeff was the
son of the landlady at Lion's Head Mountain, which he had painted so
much, and he was now in his second year at Harvard, where he was going to
make a lawyer of himself; and this interested the lady. She asked if he
had talent, and a number of other things about him and about his mother;
and Westover permitted himself to be rather graphic in telling of his
acquaintance with Mrs. Durgin.
After all, it was rather a simple-hearted thing of Westover to have
either hoped or feared very much for the Vostrands. Society, in the
sense of good society, can always take care of itself, and does so
perfectly. In the case of Mrs. Vostrand some ladies who liked Westover
and wished to be civil to him asked her and her daughter to other
afternoon teas, shook hands with them at their coming, and said, when
they went, they were sorry they must be going so soon. In the crowds
people recognized them now and then, both of those who had met them at
Westover's studio, and of those who had met them at Florence and
Lausanne. But if these were merely people of fashion they were readily,
rid of the Vostrands, whom the dullest among them quickly perceived not
to be of their own sort, somehow. Many of the ladies of Westover's class
made Genevieve promise to let them paint her; and her beauty and her
grace availed for several large dances at the houses of more daring
spirits, where the daughters made a duty of getting partners for her, and
discharged it conscientiously. But there never was an approach to more
intimate hospitalities, and toward the end of February, when good society
in Boston goes southward to indulge a Lenten grief at Old Point Comfort,
Genevieve had so many vacant afternoons and evenings at her disposal that
she could not have truthfully pleaded a previous engagement to the
invitations Jeff Durgin made her. They were chiefly for the theatre,
and Westover saw him with her and her mother at different plays; he
wondered how Jeff had caught on to the notion of asking Mrs. Vostrand to
come with them.
Jeff's introductions at Westover's tea had not been many, and they had
not availed him at all. He had been asked to no Boston houses, and when
other students, whom he knew, were going in to dances, the whole winter
he was socially as quiet, but for the Vostrands, as at the Mid-year
Examinations. Westover could not resent the neglect of society in his
case, and he could not find that he quite regretted it; but he thought it
characteristically nice of Mrs. Vostrand to make as much of the
friendless fellow as she fitly could. He had no doubt but her tact would
be equal to his management in every way, and that she could easily see to
it that he did not become embarrassing to her daughter or herself.
One day, after the east wind had ceased to blow the breath of the ice-
fields of Labrador against the New England coast, and the buds on the
trees along the mall between the lawns of the avenue were venturing forth
in a hardy experiment of the Boston May, Mrs. Vostrand asked Westover if
she had told him that Mr. Vostrand was actually coming on to Boston.
He rejoiced with her in this prospect, and he reciprocated the wish which
she said Mr. Vostrand had always had for a meeting with himself.
A fortnight later, when the leaves had so far inured themselves to the
weather as to have fully expanded, she announced another letter from Mr.
Vostrand, saying that, after all, he should not be able to come to
Boston, but hoped to be in New York before she sailed.
"Sailed!" cried Westover.
"Why, yes! Didn't you know we were going to sail in June? I thought I
had told you!"
"Why, yes. We must go out to poor Checco, now; Mr. Vostrand insists upon
that. If ever we are a united family again, Mr. Westover--if Mr.
Vostrand can arrange his business, when Checco is ready to enter Harvard
--I mean to take a house in Boston. I'm sure I should be contented to
live nowhere else in America. The place has quite bewitched me--dear
old, sober, charming Boston! I'm sure I should like to live here all the
rest of my life. But why in the world do people go out of town so early?
Those houses over there have been shut for a whole month past!"
They were sitting at Mrs. Vostrand's window looking out on the avenue,
where the pale globular electrics were swimming like jelly-fish in the
clear evening air, and above the ranks of low trees the houses on the
other side were close-shuttered from basement to attic.
Westover answered: "Some go because they have such pleasant houses at the
shore, and some because they want to dodge their taxes."
"To dodge their taxes?" she repeated, and he had to explain how if people
were in their country-houses before the 1st of May they would not have to
pay the high personal tax of the city; and she said that she would write
that to Mr. Vostrand; it would be another point in favor of Boston.
Women, she declared, would never have thought of such a thing; she
denounced them as culpably ignorant of so many matters that concerned
them, especially legal matters. "And you think," she asked, "that Mr.
Durgin will be a good lawyer? That he will-distinguish himself?"
Westover thought it rather a short-cut to Jeff from the things they had
been talking of, but if she wished to speak of him he had no reason to
oppose her wish. "I've heard it's all changed a good deal. There are
still distinguished lawyers, and lawyers who get on, but they don't
distinguish themselves in the old way so much, and they get on best by
becoming counsel for some powerful corporation."
"And you think he has talent?" she pursued. "For that, I mean."
"Oh, I don't know," said Westover. "I think he has a good head. He can
do what he likes within certain limits, and the limits are not all on the
side I used to fancy. He baffles me. But of late I fancy you've seen
rather more of him than I have."
"I have urged him to go more to you. But," said Mrs. Vostrand, with a
burst of frankness, "he thinks you don't like him."
"He's wrong," said Westover. "But I might dislike him very much."
"I see what you mean," said Mrs. Vostrand, "and I'm glad you've been so
frank with me. I've been so interested in Mr. Durgin, so interested!
Isn't he very young?"
The question seemed a bit of indirection to Westover. But he answered
directly enough. "He's rather old for a Sophomore, I believe. He's
"And Genevieve is twenty. Mr. Westover, may I trust you with something?"
"With everything, I hope, Mrs. Vostrand."
"It's about Genevieve. Her father is so opposed to her making a foreign
marriage. It seems to be his one great dread. And, of course, she's
very much exposed to it, living abroad so much with me, and I feel doubly
bound on that account to respect her father's opinions, or even
prejudices. Before we left Florence--in fact, last winter--there was a
most delightful young officer wished to marry her. I don't know that she
cared anything for him, though he was everything that I could have
wished: handsome, brilliant, accomplished, good family; everything but
rich, and that was what Mr. Vostrand objected to; or, rather, he objected
to putting up, as he called it, the sum that Captain Grassi would have
had to deposit with the government before he was allowed to marry.
You know how it is with the poor fellows in the army, there; I don't
understand the process exactly, but the sum is something like sixty
thousand francs, I believe; and poor Gigi hadn't it: I always called him
Gigi, but his name is Count Luigi de' Popolani Grassi; and he is
descended from one of the old republican families of Florence. He is so
nice! Mr. Vostrand was opposed to him from the beginning, and as soon as
he heard of the sixty thousand francs, he utterly refused. He called it
buying a son-in-law, but I don't see why he need have looked at it in
that light. However, it was broken off, and we left Florence--more for
poor Gigi's sake than for Genevieve's, I must say. He was quite heart-
broken; I pitied him."
Her voice had a tender fall in the closing words, and Westover could
fancy how sweet she would make her compassion to the young man. She
began several sentences aimlessly, and he suggested, to supply the broken
thread of her discourse rather than to offer consolation, while her eyes
seemed to wander with her mind, and ranged the avenue up and down: "Those
foreign marriages are not always successful."
"No, they are not," she assented. "But don't you think they're better
with Italians than with Germans, for instance."
"I don't suppose the Italians expect their wives to black their boots,
but I've heard that they beat them, sometimes."
"In exaggerated cases, perhaps they do," Mrs. Vostrand admitted. "And,
of course," she added, thoughtfully, "there is nothing like a purely
American marriage for happiness."
Westover wondered how she really regarded her own marriage, but she never
betrayed any consciousness of its variance from the type.
A young couple came strolling down the avenue who to Westover's artistic
eye first typified grace and strength, and then to his more personal
perception identified themselves as Genevieve Vostrand and Jeff Durgin.
They faltered before one of the benches beside the mall, and he seemed to
be begging her to sit down. She cast her eyes round till they must have
caught the window of her mother's apartment; then, as if she felt safe
under it, she sank into the seat and Jeff put himself beside her. It was
quite too early yet for the simple lovers who publicly notify their
happiness by the embraces and hand-clasps everywhere evident in our parks
and gardens; and a Boston pair of social tradition would not have dreamed
of sitting on a bench in Commonwealth Avenue at any hour. But two such
aliens as Jeff and Miss Vostrand might very well do so; and Westover
sympathized with their bohemian impulse.
Mrs. Vostrand and he watched them awhile, in talk that straggled away
from them, and became more and more distraught in view of them. Jeff
leaned forward, and drew on the ground with the point of his stick;
Genevieve held her head motionless at a pensive droop. It was only their
backs that Westover could see, and he could not, of course, make out a
syllable of what was effectively their silence; but all the same he began
to feel as if he were peeping and eavesdropping. Mrs. Vostrand seemed
not to share his feeling, and there was no reason why he should have it
if she had not. He offered to go, but she said, No, no; he must not
think of it till Genevieve came in; and she added some banalities about
her always scolding when she had missed one of his calls; they would be
so few, now, at the most.
"Why, do you intend to go so soon?" he asked.
She did not seem to hear him, and he could see that she was watching the
young people intently. Jeff had turned his face up toward Genevieve,
without lifting his person, and was saying something she suddenly shrank
back from. She made a start as if to rise, but he put out his hand in
front of her, beseechingly or compellingly, and she sank down again.
But she slowly shook her head at what he was saying, and turned her face
toward him so that it gave her profile to the spectators. In that light
and at that distance it was impossible to do more than fancy anything
fateful in the words which she seemed to be uttering; but Westover chose
to fancy this. Jeff waited a moment in apparent silence, after she had
spoken. He sat erect and faced her, and this gave his profile, too.
He must have spoken, for she shook her head again; and then, at other
words from him, nodded assentingly. Then she listened motionlessly while
he poured a rapid stream of visible but inaudible words. He put out his
hand, as if to take hers, but she put it behind her; Westover could see
it white there against the belt of her dark dress.
Jeff went on more vehemently, but she remained steadfast, slowly shaking
her head. When he ended she spoke, and with something of his own energy;
he made a gesture of submission, and when she rose he rose, too. She
stood a moment, and with a gentle and almost entreating movement she put
out her hand to him. He stood looking down, with both his hands resting
on the top of his stick, as if ignoring her proffer. Then he suddenly
caught her hand, held it a moment; dropped it, and walked quickly away
without looking back. Genevieve ran across the lawn and roadway toward
"Oh, must, you go?" Mrs. Vostrand said to Westover. He found that he had
probably risen in sympathy with Jeff's action. He was not aware of an
intention of going, but he thought he had better not correct Mrs.
"Yes, I really must, now," he said.
"Well, then," she returned, distractedly, "do come often."
He hurried out to avoid meeting Genevieve. He passed her, on the public
stairs of the house, but he saw that she did not recognize him in the dim
Late that night he was startled by steps that seemed to be seeking their
way up the stairs to his landing, and then by a heavy knock on his door.
He opened it, and confronted Jeff Durgin.
"May I come in, Mr. Westover?" he asked, with unwonted deference.
"Yes, come in," said Westover, with no great relish, setting his door
open, and then holding onto it a moment, as if he hoped that, having come
in, Jeff might instantly go out again.
His reluctance was lost upon Jeff, who said, unconscious of keeping his
hat on: "I want to talk with you--I want to tell you something--"
"All right. Won't you sit down?"
At this invitation Jeff seemed reminded to take his hat off, and he put
it on the floor beside his chair. "I'm not in a scrape, this time--or,
rather, I'm in the worst kind of a scrape, though it isn't the kind that
you want bail for."
"Yes," Westover prompted.
"I don't know whether you've noticed--and if you haven't it don't make
any difference--that I've seemed to--care a good deal for Miss Vostrand?"
Westover saw no reason why he should not be frank, and said: "Too much,
I've fancied sometimes, for a student in his Sophomore year."
"Yes, I know that. Well, it's over, whether it was too much or too
little." He laughed in a joyless, helpless way, and looked deprecatingly
at Westover. "I guess I've been making a fool of myself--that's all."
"It's better to make a fool of one's self than to make a fool of some one
else," said Westover, oracularly.
"Yes," said Jeff, apparently finding nothing more definite in the oracle
than people commonly find in oracles. "But I think," he went on, with a
touch of bitterness, "that her mother might have told me that she was
engaged--or the same as engaged."
"I don't know that she was bound to take you seriously, or to suppose you
took yourself so, at your age and with your prospects in life. If you
want to know"--Westover faltered, and then went on--"she began to be kind
to you because she was afraid that you might think she didn't take your
coming home second-cabin in the right way; and one thing led to another.
You mustn't blame her for what's happened."
Westover defended Mrs. Vostrand, but he did not feel strong in her
defence; he was not sure that Durgin was quite wrong, absurd as he had
been. He sat down and looked up at his visitor under his brows.
"What are you here for, Jeff? Not to complain of Mrs. Vostrand?"
Jeff gave a short, shamefaced laugh. "No, it's this you're such an old
friend of Mrs. Vostrand's that I thought she'd be pretty sure to tell you
about it; and I wanted to ask--to ask--that you wouldn't say anything to
"You are a boy! I shouldn't think of meddling with your affairs," said
Westover; he got up again, and Jeff rose, too.
Before noon the next day a district messenger brought Westover a letter
which he easily knew, from, the now belated tall, angular hand, to be
from Mrs. Vostrand. It announced on a much criss-crossed little sheet
that she and Genevieve were inconsolably taking a very sudden departure,
and were going on the twelve-o'clock train to New York, where Mr.
Vostrand was to meet them. "In regard to that affair which I mentioned
last night, he withdraws his objections (we have had an overnight
telegram), and so I suppose all will go well. I cannot tell you how
sorry we both are not to see you again; you have been such a dear, good
friend to us; and if you don't hear from us again at New York, you will
from the other side. Genevieve had some very strange news when she came
in, and we both feel very sorry for the poor young fellow. You must
console him from us all you can. I did not know before how much she was
attached to Gigi: but it turned out very fortunately that she could say
she considered herself bound to him, and did everything to save Mr. D.'s
Westover was not at Lion's Head again till the summer before Jeff's
graduation. In the mean time the hotel had grown like a living thing.
He could not have imagined wings in connection with the main edifice, but
it had put forth wings--one that sheltered a new and enlarged dining-
room, with two stories of chambers above, and another that hovered a
parlor and ball-room under a like provision of chambers. An ell had been
pushed back on the level behind the house; the barn had been moved
farther to the southward, and on its old site a laundry built, with
quarters for the help over it. All had been carefully, frugally, yet
sufficiently done, and Westover was not surprised to learn that it was
all the effect of Jackson Durgin's ingenuity and energy. Mrs. Durgin
confessed to having no part in it; but she had kept pace, with Cynthia
Whitwell's help, in the housekeeping. As Jackson had cautiously felt his
way to the needs of their public in the enlargement and rearrangement of
the hotel, the two housewives had watchfully studied, not merely the
demands, but the half-conscious instincts of their guests, and had
responded to them simply and adequately, in the spirit of Jackson's
exterior and structural improvements. The walls of the new rooms were
left unpapered and their floors uncarpeted; there were thin rugs put
down; the wood-work was merely stained. Westover found that he need not
to ask especially for some hot dish at night; there was almost the
abundance of a dinner, though dinner was still at one o'clock.
Mrs. Durgin asked him the first day if he would not like to go into the
serving-room and see it while they were serving dinner. She tried to
conceal her pride in the busy scene--the waitresses pushing in through
one valve of the double-hinged doors with their empty trays, and out
through the other with the trays full laden; delivering their dishes with
the broken victual at the wicket, where the untouched portions were put
aside and the rest poured into the waste; following in procession along
the reeking steamtable, with its great tanks of soup and vegetables,
where, the carvers stood with the joints and the trussed fowls smoking
before them, which they sliced with quick sweeps of their blades, or
waiting their turn at the board where the little plates with portions of
fruit and dessert stood ready. All went regularly on amid a clatter of
knives and voices and dishes; and the clashing rise and fall of the wire
baskets plunging the soiled crockery into misty depths, whence it came up
clean and dry without the touch of finger or towel. Westover could not
deny that there were elements of the picturesque in it, so that he did
not respond quite in kind to Jeff's suggestion--"Scene for a painter, Mr.
The young fellow followed satirically at his mother's elbow, and made a
mock of her pride in it, trying to catch Westover's eye when she led him
through the kitchen with its immense range, and introduced him to a new
chef, who wiped his hand on his white apron to offer it to Westover.
"Don't let him get away without seeing the laundry, mother," her son
jeered at a final air of absent-mindedness in her, and she defiantly
accepted his challenge.
"Jeff's mad because he wasn't consulted," she explained, "and because we
don't run the house like his one-horse European hotels."
"Oh, I'm not in it at all, Mr. Westover," said the young fellow. "I'm as
much a passenger as you are. The only difference is that I'm allowed to
work my passage."
"Well, one thing," said his mother, "is that we've got a higher class of
boarders than we ever had before. You'll see, Mr. Westover, if you stay
on here till August. There's a class that boards all the year round, and
that knows what a hotel is--about as well as Jeff, I guess. You'll find
'em at the big city houses, the first of the winter, and then they go
down to Floridy or Georgy for February and March; and they get up to
Fortress Monroe in April, and work along north about the middle of May to
them family hotels in the suburbs around Boston; and they stay there till
it's time to go to the shore. They stay at the shore through July,
and then they come here in August, and stay till the leaves turn.
They're folks that live on their money, and they're the very highest
class, I guess. It's a round of gayety with 'em the whole year through."
Jeff, from the vantage of his greater worldly experience, was trying to
exchange looks of intelligence with Westover concerning those hotel-
dwellers whom his mother revered as aristocrats; but he did not openly
question her conceptions. "They've told me how they do, some of the
ladies have," she went on. "They've got the money for it, and they know
how to get the most for their money. Why, Mr. Westover, we've got rooms
in this house, now, that we let for thirty-five to fifty dollars a week
for two persons, and folks like that take 'em right along through August
and September, and want a room apiece. It's different now, I can tell
you, from what it was when folks thought we was killin' 'em if we wanted
ten or twelve dollars."
Westover had finished his dinner before this tour of the house began, and
when it was over the two men strolled away together.
"You see, it's on the regular American lines," Jeff pursued, after
parting with his mother. "Jackson's done it, and he can't imagine
anything else. I don't say it isn't well done in its way, but the way's
wrong; it's stupid and clumsy." When they were got so far from the hotel
as to command a prospect of its ungainly mass sprawled upon the plateau,
his smouldering disgust burst out: "Look at it! Did you ever see
anything like it? I wish the damned thing would burn up--or down!"
Westover was aware in more ways than one of Jeff's exclusion from
authority in the place, where he was constantly set aside from the
management as if his future were so definitely dedicated to another
calling that not even his advice was desired or permitted; and he could
not help sympathizing a little with him when he chafed at his rejection.
He saw a great deal of him, and he thought him quite up to the average of
Harvard's Seniors in some essentials. He had been sobered, apparently,
by experience; his unfortunate love-affair seemed to have improved him,
as the phrase is.
They had some long walks and long talks together, and in one of them Jeff
opened his mind, if not his heart, to the painter. He wanted to be the
Landlord of the Lion's Head, which he believed he could make the best
hotel in the mountains. He knew, of course, that he could not hope to
make any changes that did not suit his mother and his brother, as long as
they had the control, but he thought they would let him have the control
sooner if his mother could only be got to give up the notion of his being
a lawyer. As nearly as he could guess, she wanted him to be a lawyer
because she did not want him to be a hotel-keeper, and her prejudice
against that was because she believed that selling liquor made her father
"Well, now you know enough about me, Mr. Westover, to know that drink
isn't my danger."
"Yes, I think I do," said Westover.
"I went a little wild in my Freshman year, and I got into that scrape,
but I've never been the worse for liquor since; fact is, I never touch it
now. There isn't any more reason why I should take to drink because I
keep a hotel than Jackson; but just that one time has set mother against
it, and I can't seem to make her understand that once is enough for me.
Why, I should keep a temperance house, here, of course; you can't do
anything else in these days. If I was left to choose between hotel-
keeping and any other life that I know of, I'd choose it every time,"
Jeff went on, after a moment of silence. "I like a hotel. You can be
your own man from the start; the start's made here, and I've helped to
make it. All you've got to do is to have common-sense in the hotel
business, and you're sure to succeed. I believe I've got common-sense,
and I believe I've got some ideas that I can work up into a great
success. The reason that most people fail in the hotel business is that
they waste so much, and the landlord that wastes on his guests can't
treat them well. It's got so now that in the big city houses they can't
make anything on feeding people, and so they try to make it up on the
rooms. I should feed them well--I believe I know how--and I should make
money on my table, as they do in Europe.
"I've thought a good many things out; my mind runs on it all the time; but
I'm not going to bore you with it now."
"Oh, not at all," said Westover. "I'd like to know what your ideas are."
Well, some time I'll tell you. But look here, Mr. Westover, I wish if
mother gets to talking about me with you that you'd let her know how I
feel. We can't talk together, she and I, without quarrelling about it;
but I guess you could put in a word that would show her I wasn't quite a
fool. She thinks I've gone crazy from seeing the way they do things in
Europe; that I'm conceited and unpatriotic, and I don't know what all."
Jeff laughed as if with an inner fondness for his mother's wrong-
"And would you be willing to settle down here in the country for the rest
of your life, and throw away your Harvard training on hotel-keeping?"
"What do the other fellows do with their Harvard training when they go
into business, as nine-tenths of them do? Business is business, whether
you keep a hotel or import dry-goods or manufacture cotton or run a
railroad or help a big trust to cheat legally. Harvard has got to take a
back seat when you get out of Harvard. But you don't suppose that
keeping a summer hotel would mean living in the country the whole time,
do you? That's the way mother does, but I shouldn't. It isn't good for
the hotel, even. If I had such a place as Lion's Head, I should put a
man and his family into it for the winter to look after it, and I should
go to town myself--to Boston or New York, or I might go to London or
Paris. They're not so far off, and it's so easy to get to them that you
can hardly keep away." Jeff laughed, and looked up at Westover from the
log where he sat, whittling a pine stick; Westover sat on the stump from
which the log had been felled eight or ten years before.
"You are modern," he said.
"That's what I should do at first. But I don't believe I should have
Lion's Head very long before I had another hotel--in Florida, or the
Georgia uplands, or North Carolina, somewhere. I should take my help
back and forth; it would be as easy to run two hotels as one-easier!
It would keep my hand in. But if you want to know, I'd rather stick here
in the country, year in and year out, and run Lion's Head, than to be a
lawyer and hang round trying to get a case for nine or ten years. Who's
going to support me? Do you suppose I want to live on mother till I'm
forty? She don't think of that. She thinks I can go right into court
and begin distinguishing myself, if I can fight the people off from
sending me to Congress. I'd rather live in the country, anyway. I think
town's the place for winter, or two-three months of it, and after that I
haven't got any use for it. But mother, she's got this old-fashioned
ambition to have me go to a city and set up there. She thinks that if I
was a lawyer in Boston I should be at the top of the heap. But I know
better than that, and so do you; and I want you to give her some little
hint of how it really is: how it takes family and money and a lot of
influence to get to the top in any city."
It occurred to Westover, and not for the first time, that the frankest
thing in Jeff Durgin was his disposition to use his friends. It seemed
to him that Jeff was always asking something of him, and it did not
change the fact that in this case he thought him altogether in the right.
He said that if Mrs. Durgin spoke to him of the matter he would not keep
the light from her. He looked behind him, now, for the first time, in
recognition of the place where they had stopped. "Why, this is
"Didn't you know it?" Jeff asked. "It changes a good deal every year,
and you haven't been here for awhile, have you?"
"Not since Mrs. Marven's picnic," said Westover, and he added, quickly,
to efface the painful association which he must have called up by his
"The woods have crowded back upon it so. It can't be more than half its
"No," Jeff assented. He struck his heel against a fragment of the pine
bough he had been whittling, and drove it into the soft ground beside the
log, and said, without looking up from it: "I met that woman at a dance
last winter. It wasn't her dance, but she was running it as if it were,
just the way she did with the picnic. She seemed to want to let bygones
be bygones, and I danced with her daughter. She's a nice girl.
I thought mother did wrong about that." Now he looked at Westover.
"She couldn't help it, but it wasn't the thing to do. A hotel is a
public house, and you can't act as if it wasn't. If mother hadn't known
how to keep a hotel so well in other ways, she might have ruined the
house by not knowing in a thing like that. But we've got some of the
people with us this year that used to come here when we first took farm-
boarders; mother don't know that they're ever so much nicer, socially,
than the people that take the fifty-dollar rooms." He laughed, and then
he said, seriously: "If I ever had a son, I don't believe I should let my
pride in him risk doing him mischief. And if you've a mind to let her
understand that you believe I'm set against the law for good and all--"
"I guess I shall not be your ambassador, so far as that. Why don't you
tell her yourself?"
"She won't believe me," said Jeff, with a laugh. "She thinks I don't
know my mind. And I don't like the way we differ when we differ. We
differ more than we mean to. I don't pretend to say I'm always right.
She was right about that other picnic--the one I wanted to make for Mrs.
Vostrand. I suppose," he ended, unexpectedly, "that you hear from them,
now and then?"
"No, I don't. I haven't heard from them for a year; not since--You knew
Genevieve was married?"
"Yes, I knew that," said Jeff, steadily.
"I don't quite make it all out. Mr. Vostrand was very much opposed to
it, Mrs. Vostrand told me; but he must have given way at last; and he
must have put up the money." Jeff looked puzzled, and Westover
explained. "You know the officers in the Italian army--and all the other
armies in Europe, for that matter--have to deposit a certain sum with the
government before they can marry and in the case of Count Grassi,
Mr. Vostrand had to furnish the money."
Jeff said, after a moment: "Well, she couldn't help that."
"No, the girl wasn't to blame. I don't know that any one was to blame.
But I'm afraid our girls wouldn't marry many titles if their fathers
didn't put up the money."
"Well, I don't see why they shouldn't spend their money that way as well
as any other," said Jeff, and this proof of his impartiality suggested to
Westover that he was not only indifferent to the mercenary international
marriages, which are a scandal to so many of our casuists, but had quite
outlived his passion for the girl concerned in this.
"At any rate," Jeff added, "I haven't got anything to say against it.
Mr. Westover, I've always wanted to say one thing to you. Then I came to
your room that night, I wanted to complain of Mrs. Vostrand for not
letting me know about the engagement; and I wasn't man enough to
acknowledge that what you said would account for their letting me make a
fool of myself. But I believe I am now, and I want to say it."
"I'm glad you can see it in that way," said Westover, "and since you do,
I don't mind saying that I think Mrs. Vostrand might have been a little
franker with you without being less kind. She was kind, but she wasn't
"Well, it's all over now," said Jeff, and he rose up and brushed the
whittlings from his knees. "And I guess it's just as well."
That afternoon Westover saw Jeff helping Cynthia Whitwell into his
buckboard, and then, after his lively horse had made some paces of a
start, spring to the seat beside her, and bring it to a stand. "Can I do
anything for you over at Lovewell, Mr. Westover?" he called, and he
smiled toward the painter. Then he lightened the reins on the mare's
back; she squared herself for a start in earnest, and flashed down the
sloping hotel road to the highway below, and was lost to sight in the
clump of woods to the southward.
"That's a good friend of yours, Cynthy," he said, leaning toward the girl
with a simple comfort in her proximity. She was dressed in a pale-pink
color, with a hat of yet paler pink; without having a great deal of
fashion, she had a good deal of style. She looked bright and fresh;
there was a dash of pink in her cheeks, which suggested the color of the
sweetbrier, its purity and sweetness, and if there was something in
Cynthia's character and temperament that suggested its thorns too, one
still could not deny that she was like that flower. She liked to shop,
and she liked to ride after a good horse, as the neighbors would have
said; she was going over to Lovewell to buy a number of things, and Jeff
Durgin was driving her there with the swift mare that was his peculiar
property. She smiled upon him without the usual reservations she
contrived to express in her smiles.
"Well, I don't know anybody I'd rather have for my friend than Mr.
Westover." She added: "He acted like a friend the very first time I saw
Jeff laughed with shameless pleasure in the reminiscence her words
suggested. "Well, I did get my come-uppings that time. And I don't know
but he's been a pretty good friend to me, too. I'm not sure he likes me;
but Mr. Westover is a man that could be your friend if he didn't like
"What have you done to make him like you?" asked the girl.
"Nothing!" said Jeff, with a shout of laughter in his conviction.
"I've done a lot of things to make him despise me from the start. But if
you like a person yourself, you want him to like you whether you deserve
it or not."
"I don't know as I do."
"You say that because you always deserve it. You can't tell how it is
with a fellow like me. I should want you to like me, Cynthy, whatever
you thought of me." He looked round into her face, but she turned it
They had struck the level, long for the hill country, at the foot of the
hotel road, and the mare, that found herself neither mounting nor
descending a steep, dropped from the trot proper for an acclivity into a
"This mare can walk like a Kentucky horse," said Jeff. "I believe I
could teach her single-foot." He added, with a laugh, "If I knew how,"
and now Cynthia laughed with him.
"I was just going to say that."
"Yes, you don't lose many chances to give me a dig, do you?"
"Oh, I don't know as I look for them. Perhaps I don't need to." The
pine woods were deep on either side. They whispered in the thin, sweet
wind, and gave out their odor in the high, westering sun. They covered
with their shadows the road that ran velvety between them.
"This is nice," said Jeff, letting himself rest against the back of the
seat. He stretched his left arm along the top, and presently it dropped
and folded itself about the waist of the girl.
"You may take your arm away, Jeff," she said, quietly.
"Because it has no right there, for one thing!" She drew herself a
little aside and looked round at him. "You wouldn't put it round a town
girl if you were riding with her."
"I shouldn't be riding with her: Girls don't go buggy-riding in town any
more," said Jeff, brutally.
"Then I shall know what to do the next time you ask me."
"Oh, they'd go quick enough if I asked them up here in the country.
Etiquette don't count with them when they're on a vacation."
"I'm not on a vacation; so it counts with me. Please take your arm
away," said Cynthia.
"Oh, all right. But I shouldn't object to your putting your arm around
"You will never have the chance."
"Why are you so hard on me, Cynthy ?" asked Jeff. "You didn't used to be
"Not for the better."
Jeff was dumb. She was pleased with her hit, and laughed. But her laugh
did not encourage him to put his arm round her again. He let the mare
walk on, and left her to resume the conversation at whatever point she
She made no haste to resume it. At last she said, with sufficient
apparent remoteness from the subject they had dropped: "Jeff, I don't
know whether you want me to talk about it. But I guess I ought to, even
if it isn't my place exactly. I don't think Jackson's very well, this
Jeff faced round toward her. "What makes you think he isn't well?"
"He's weaker. Haven't you noticed it?"
"Yes, I have noticed that. He's worked down; that's all."
"No, that isn't all. But if you don't think so--"
"I want to know what you think, Cynthy," said Jeff, with the amorous
resentment all gone from his voice. "Sometimes folks outside notice the
signs more--I don't mean that you're an outsider, as far as we're
She put by that point. "Father's noticed it, too; and he's with Jackson
a good deal."
"I'll look after it. If he isn't so well, he's got to have a doctor.
That medium's stuff can't do him any good. Don't you think he ought to
have a doctor?"
"You don't think a doctor can do him much good?"
"He ought to have one," said the girl, noncommittally.
"Cynthia, I've noticed that Jackson was weak, too; and it's no use
pretending that he's simply worked down. I believe he's worn out. Do
you think mother's ever noticed it?"
"I don't believe she has."
"It's the one thing I can't very well make up my mind to speak to her
about. I don't know what she would do." He did not say, "If she lost
Jackson," but Cynthia knew he meant that, and they were both silent.
"Of course," he went on, "I know that she places a great deal of
dependence upon you, but Jackson's her main stay. He's a good man, and
he's a good son. I wish I'd always been half as good."
Cynthia did not protest against his self-reproach as he possibly hoped
she would. She said: "I think Jackson's got a very good mind. He reads
a great deal, and he's thought a great deal, and when it comes to
talking, I never heard any one express themselves better. The other
night, we were out looking at the stars--I came part of the way home with
him; I didn't like to let him go alone, he seemed so feeble and he got to
showing me Mars. He thinks it's inhabited, and he's read all that the
astronomers say about it, and the seas and the canals that they've found
on it. He spoke very beautifully about the other life, and then he spoke
about death." Cynthia's voice broke, and she pulled her handkerchief out
of her belt, and put it to her eyes. Jeff's heart melted in him at the
sight; he felt a tender affection for her, very unlike the gross content
he had enjoyed in her presence before, and he put his arm round her
again, but this time almost unconsciously, and drew her toward him. She
did not repel him; she even allowed her head to rest a moment on his
shoulder; though she quickly lifted it, and drew herself away, not
resentfully, it seemed, but for her greater freedom in talking.
"I don't believe he's going to die," Jeff said, consolingly, more as if
it were her brother than his that he meant. "But he's a very sick man,
and he's got to knock off and go somewhere. It won't do for him to pass
another winter here. He must go to California, or Colorado; they'd be
glad to have him there, either of them; or he can go to Florida, or over
to Italy. It won't matter how long he stays--"
"What are you talking about, Jeff Durgin?" Cynthia demanded, severely."
What would your mother do? What would she do this winter?"
"That brings me to something, Cynthia," said Jeff, "and I don't want you
to say anything till I've got through. I guess I could help mother run
the place as well as Jackson, and I could stay here next winter."
"Now, you let me talk! My mind's made up about one thing: I'm not going
to be a lawyer. I don't want to go back to Harvard. I'm going to keep a
hotel, and, if I don't keep one here at Lion's Head, I'm going to keep it
"Have you told your mother?"
"Not yet: I wanted to hear what you would say first."
"I? Oh, I haven't got anything to do with it," said Cynthia.
"Yes, you have! You've got everything to do with it, if you'll say one
thing first. Cynthia, you know how I feel about you. It's been so ever
since we were boy and girl here. I want you to promise to marry me.
The girl seemed neither surprised nor very greatly pleased; perhaps her
pleasure had spent itself in that moment of triumphant expectation when
she foresaw what was coming, or perhaps she was preoccupied in clearing
the way in her own mind to a definite result.
"What do you say, Cynthia?" Jeff pursued, with more injury than misgiving
in his voice at her delay in answering. "Don't you-care for me?"
"Oh yes, I presume I've always done that--ever since we were boy and
girl, as you say. But----"
"Well?" said Jeff, patiently, but not insecurely.
"Have I what?"
"Always cared for me."
He could not find his voice quite as promptly as before. He cleared his
throat before he asked: "Has Mr. Westover been saying anything about me?"
"I don't know what you mean, exactly; but I presume you do."
"Well, then--I always expected to tell you--I did have a fancy for that
girl, for Miss Vostrand, and I told her so. It's like something that
never happened. She wouldn't have me. That's all."
"And you expect me to take what she wouldn't have?"
"If you like to call it that. But I should call it taking a man that had
been out of his head for a while, and had come to his senses again."
"I don't know as I should ever feel safe with a man that had been out of
his head once."
"You wouldn't find many men that hadn't," said Jeff, with a laugh that
was rather scornful of her ignorance.
"No, I presume not," she sighed. "She was beautiful, and I believe she
was good, too. She was very nice. Perhaps I feel strangely about it.
But, if she hadn't been so nice, I shouldn't have been so willing that
you should have cared for her."
"I suppose I don't understand," said Jeff, "but I know I was hard hit.
What's the use? It's over. She's married. I can't go back and unlive
it all. But if you want time to think--of course you do--I've taken time
He was about to lift the reins on the mare's back as a sign to her that
the talk was over for the present, and to quicken her pace, when Cynthia
put out her hand and laid it on his, and said with a certain effect of
authority: "I shouldn't want you should give up your last year in
"Just as you say, Cynthy;" and in token of intelligence he wound his arm
round her neck and kissed her. It was not the first kiss by any means;
in the country kisses are not counted very serious, or at all binding,
and Cynthia was a country girl; but they both felt that this kiss sealed
a solemn troth between them, and that a common life began for them with
Cynthia came back in time to go into the dining-room and see that all was
in order there for supper before the door opened. The waitresses knew
that she had been out riding, as they called it, with Jeff Durgin; the
fact had spread electrically to them where they sat in a shady angle of
the hotel listening to one who read a novel aloud, and skipped all but
the most exciting love parts. They conjectured that the pair had gone to
Lovewell, but they knew nothing more, and the subtlest of them would not
have found reason for further conjecture in Cynthia's behavior, when she
came in and scanned the tables and the girls' dresses and hair, where
they stood ranged against the wall. She was neither whiter nor redder
than usual, and her nerves and her tones were under as good control as a
girl's ever are after she has been out riding with a fellow. It was not
such a great thing, anyway, to ride with Jeff Durgin. First and last,
nearly all the young lady boarders had been out with him, upon one errand
or another to Lovewell.
After supper, when the girls had gone over to their rooms in the helps'
quarters, and the guests had gathered in the wide, low office, in the
light of the fire kindled on the hearth to break the evening chill, Jeff
joined Cynthia in her inspection of the dining-room. She always gave it
a last look, to see that it was in perfect order for breakfast, before
she went home for the night. Jeff went home with her; he was impatient
of her duties, but he was in no hurry when they stole out of the side
door together under the stars, and began to stray sidelong down the hill
over the dewless grass.
He lingered more and more as they drew near her father's house, in the
abandon of a man's love. He wished to give himself solely up to it, to
think and to talk of nothing else, after a man's fashion. But a woman's
love is no such mere delight. It is serious, practical. For her it is
all future, and she cannot give herself wholly up to any present moment
of it, as a man does.
"Now, Jeff," she said, after a certain number of partings, in which she
had apparently kept his duty clearly in mind, "you had better go home and
tell your mother."
"Oh, there's time enough for that," he began.
"I want you to tell her right away, or there won't be anything to tell."
"Is that so?" he joked back. "Well, if I must, I must, I suppose. But I
didn't think you'd take the whip-hand so soon, Cynthia."
"Oh, I don't ever want to take the whip-hand with you, Jeff. Don't make
"Well, I won't, then. But what are you in such a hurry to have mother
know for? She's not going to object. And if she does--"
"It isn't that," said the girl, quickly. "If I had to go round a single
day with your mother hiding this from her, I should begin to hate you.
I couldn't bear the concealment. I shall tell father as soon as I go
"Oh, your father 'll be all right, of course."
"Yes, he'll be all right, but if he wouldn't, and I knew it, I should
have to tell him, all the same. Now, good-night. Well, there, then;
and there! Now, let me go!"
She paused for a moment in her own room, to smooth her tumbled hair, and
try to identify herself in her glass. Then she went into the sitting-
room, where she found her father pulled up to the table, with his hat on,
and poring over a sheet of hieroglyphics, which represented the usual
evening with planchette.
"Have you been to help Jackson up?" she asked.
"Well, I wanted to, but he wouldn't hear of it. He's feelin' ever so
much better to-night, and he wanted to go alone. I just come in."
"Yes, you've got your hat on yet."
Whitwell put his hand up and found that his daughter was right. He
laughed, and said: "I guess I must 'a' forgot it. We've had the most
interestin' season with plantchette that I guess we've about ever had.
She's said something here--"
"Well, never mind; I've got something more important to say than
plantchette has," said Cynthia, and she pulled the sheet away from under
her father's eyes.
This made him look up at her. "Why, what's happened?"
"Nothing. Jeff Durgin has asked me to marry him."
"He has!" The New England training is not such as to fit people for the
expression of strong emotion, and the best that Whitwell found himself
able to do in view of the fact was to pucker his mouth for a whistle
which did not come.
"Yes--this afternoon," said Cynthia, lifelessly. The tension of her
nerves relaxed in a languor which was evident even to her father, though
his eyes still wandered to the sheet she had taken from him.
"Well, you don't seem over and above excited about it. Did--did your--
What did you say--"
"How should I know what I said? What do you think of it, father?"
"I don't know as I ever give the subject much attention," said the
philosopher. "I always meant to take it out of him, somehow, if he got
to playin' the fool."
"Then you wanted I should accept him?"
"What difference 'd it make what I wanted? That what you done?"
"Yes, I've accepted him," said the girl, with a sigh. "I guess I've
always expected to."
"Well, I thought likely it would come to that, myself. All I can say,
Cynthy, is 't he's a lucky feller."
Whitwell leaned back, bracing his knees against the table, which was one
of his philosophic poses. "I have sometimes believed that Jeff Durgin
was goin' to turn out a blackguard. He's got it in him. He's as like
his gran'father as two peas, and he was an old devil. But you got to
account in all these here heredity cases for counteractin' influences.
The Durgins are as good as wheat, right along, all of 'em; and I guess
Mis' Durgin's mother must have been a pretty good woman too. Mis'
Durgin's all right, too, if she has got a will of her own." Whitwell
returned from his scientific inquiry to ask: "How 'll she take it?"
"I don't know," said Cynthia, dreamily, but without apparent misgiving.
"That's Jeff's lookout."
"So 'tis. I guess she won't make much fuss. A woman never likes to see
her son get married; but you've been a kind of daughter to her so long.
Well, I guess that part of it 'll be all right. Jackson," said Whitwell,
in a tone of relief, as if turning from an irrelevant matter to something
of real importance, "was down here to-night tryin' to ring up some them
spirits from the planet Mars. Martians, he calls 'em. His mind's got to
runnin' a good deal on Mars lately. I guess it's this apposition that
they talk about that does it. Mars comin' so much nearer the earth by a
million of miles or so, it stands to reason that he should be more
influenced by the minds on it. I guess it's a case o' that telepathy
that Mr. Westover tells about. I judge that if he kept at it before Mars
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