Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 33 out of 78
to spread with him, but he refused, because, as he said, he meant to keep
out of it altogether; and for the same reason he declined to take part in
the spread of a rather jay society he belonged to. In his secret heart
he trusted that some friendly fortuity might throw an invitation to Beck
Hall in his way, or at least a card for the Gym, which, if no longer the
place it had been, was still by no means jay. He got neither; but as he
felt all the joy of the June day in his young blood he consoled himself
very well with the dancing at one of the halls, where the company
happened that year to be openly, almost recklessly jay. Jeff had some
distinction among the fellows who enviously knew of his social success
during the winter, and especially of his affair with Bessie Lynde; and
there were some girls very pretty and very well dressed among the crowd
of girls who were neither. They were from remote parts of the country,
and in the charge of chaperons ignorant of the differences so poignant to
local society. Jeff went about among them, and danced with the sisters
and cousins of several men who seemed superior to the lost condition of
their kinswomen; these were nice fellows enough, but doomed by their
grinding, or digging, or their want of worldly wisdom, to a place among
the jays, when they really had some qualifications for a nobler standing.
He had a very good time, and he was enjoying himself in his devotion to a
lively young brunette whom he was making laugh with his jokes about some
of the others, when his eye was caught by a group of ladies who advanced
among the jays with something of that collective intrepidity and
individual apprehension characteristic of people in slumming. They had
the air of not knowing what might happen to them, but the adventurous
young Boston matron in charge of the girls kept on a bold front behind
her lorgnette, and swept the strange company she found herself in with an
unshrinking eye as she led her band among the promenaders, and past the
couples seated along the walls. She hesitated a moment as her glance
fell upon Jeff, and then she yielded, at whatever risk, to the comfort of
finding a known face among so many aliens. "Why, Mr. Durgin!" she called
out. "Bessie, here's Mr. Durgin," and she turned to the girl, who was in
her train, as Jeff had perceived by something finer than the senses from
He rose from the side of his brunette, whose brother was standing near,
and shook hands with the adventurous young matron, who seemed suddenly
much better acquainted with him than he had ever thought her, and with
Bessie Lynde; the others were New York girls, and the matron presented
him. "Are you going on?" she asked, and the vague challenge with the
smile that accompanied it was sufficient invitation for him.
"Why, I believe so," he said, and he turned to take leave of his pretty
brunette; but she had promptly vanished with her brother, and he was
spared the trouble of getting rid of her. He would have been equal to
much more for the sake of finding himself with Bessie Lynde again, whose
excitement he could see burning in her eyes, though her thick complexion
grew neither brighter nor paler. He did not know what quality of
excitement it might be, but he said, audaciously: "It's a good while
since we met!" and he was sensible that his audacity availed.
"Is it?" she asked. He put himself at her side, and he did not leave her
again till he went to dress for the struggle around the Tree. He found
himself easily included in the adventurous young matron's party. He had
not the elegance of some of the taller and slenderer men in the scholar's
gown, but the cap became his handsome face. His affair with Bessie Lynde
had given him a certain note, and an adventurous young matron, who was
naturally a little indiscriminate, might very well have been willing to
let him go about with her party. She could not know how impudent his
mere presence was with reference to Bessie, and the girl herself made no
sign that could have enlightened her. She accepted something more that
her share of his general usefulness to the party; she danced with him
whenever he asked her, and she seemed not to scruple to publish her
affair with him in the openest manner. If he could have stilled a
certain shame for her which he felt, he would have thought he was having
the best kind of time. They made no account of by-gones in their talk,
but she had never been so brilliant, or prompted him to so many of the
effronteries which were the spirit of his humor. He thought her awfully
nice, with lots of sense; he liked her letting him come back without any
fooling or fuss, and he began to admire instead of despising her for it.
Decidedly it was, as she would have said, the chicquest sort of thing.
What was the use, anyway? He made up his mind.
When he said he must go and dress for the Tree, he took leave of her
first, and he was aware of a vivid emotion, which was like regret in her
at parting with him. She said, Must he? She seemed to want to say
something more to him; while he was dismissing himself from the others,
he noticed that once or twice she opened her lips as if she were going to
speak. In the end she did nothing more important than to ask if he had
seen her brother; but after he had left the party he turned and saw her
following him with eyes that he fancied anxious and even frightened in
The riot round the Tree roared itself through its wonted events. Class
after class of the undergraduates filed in and sank upon the grass below
the terraces and parterres of brilliantly dressed ladies within the
quadrangle of seats; the alumni pushed themselves together against the
wall of Holder Chapel; the men of the Senior class came last in their
grotesque variety of sweaters and second and third best clothes for the
scramble at the Tree. The regulation cheers tore from throats that grew
hoarser and hoarser, till every class and every favorite in the faculty
had been cheered. Then the signal-hat was flung into the air, and the
rush at the Tree was made, and the combat' for the flowers that garlanded
its burly waist began.
Jeff's size and shape forbade him to try for the flowers from the
shoulders of others. He was one of a group of jays who set their backs
to the Tree, and fought away all comers except their own; they pulled
down every man not of their sort, and put up a jay, who stripped the Tree
of its flowers and flung them to his fellows below. As he was let drop
to the ground, Jeff snatched a handful of his spoil from him, and made
off with it toward the place where he had seen Bessie Lynde and her
party. But when he reached the place, shouldering and elbowing his way
through the press, she was no longer there. He saw her hat at a distance
through the crowd, where he did not choose to follow, and he stuffed the
flowers into his breast to give to her later. He expected to meet her
somewhere in the evening; if not, he would try to find her at her aunt's
house in town; failing that, he could send her the flowers, and trust her
for some sort of leading acknowledgment.
He went and had a bath and dressed himself freshly, and then he went for
a walk in the still evening air. He was very hot from the battle which
had been fought over him, and which he had shared with all his strength,
and it seemed to him as if he could not get cool. He strolled far out
along Concord Avenue, beyond the expanses and ice-horses of Fresh Pond,
into the country toward Belmont, with his hat off and his head down. He
was very well satisfied, and he was smiling to himself at the ease of his
return to Bessie, and securely speculating upon the outcome of their
He heard a vehicle behind him, rapidly driven, and he turned out for it
without looking around. Then suddenly he felt a fiery sting on his
forehead, and then a shower of stings swiftly following each other over
his head and face. He remembered stumbling, when he was a boy, into a
nest of yellow-jackets, that swarmed up around him and pierced him like
sparks of fire at every uncovered point. But he knew at the same time
that it was some one in the vehicle beside him who was lashing him over
the head with a whip. He bowed his head with his eyes shut and lunged
blindly out toward his assailant, hoping to seize him.
But the horse sprang aside, and tore past him down the road. Jeff opened
his eyes, and through the blood that dripped from the cuts above them he
saw the wicked face of Alan Lynde looking back at him from the dogcart
where he sat with his man beside him. He brandished his broken whip in
the air, and flung it into the bushes. Jeff walked on, and picked it up,
before he turned aside to the pools of the marsh stretching on either
hand, and tried to stanch his hurts, and get himself into shape for
returning to town and stealing back to his lodging. He had to wait till
after dark, and watch his chance to get into the house unnoticed.
The chum to whom Jeff confided the story of his encounter with a man he
left nameless inwardly thanked fortune that he was not that man; for he
knew him destined sooner or later to make such reparation for the
injuries he had inflicted as Jeff chose to exact. He tended him
carefully, and respected the reticence Jeff guarded concerning the whole
matter, even with the young doctor whom his friend called, and who kept
to himself his impressions of the nature of Jeff's injuries.
Jeff lay in his darkened room, and burned with them, and with the
thoughts, guesses, purposes which flamed through his mind. Had she,
that girl, known what her brother meant to do? Had she wished him to
think of her in the moment of his punishment, and had she spoken of her
brother so that he might recall her, or had she had some ineffective
impulse to warn him against her brother when she spoke of him?
He lay and raged in vain with his conjectures, and he did a thousand
imagined murders upon Lynde in revenge of his shame.
Toward the end of the week, while his hurts were still too evident to
allow him to go out-of-doors before dark, he had a note from Westover
asking him to come in at once to see him.
"Your brother Jackson," Westover wrote, "reached Boston by the New York
train this morning, and is with me here. I must tell you I think he is
not at all well, but he does not know how sick he is, and so I forewarn
you. He wants to get on home, but I do not feel easy about letting him
make the rest of the journey alone. Some one ought to go with him. I
write not knowing whether you are still in Cambridge or not; or whether,
if you are, you can get away at this time. But I think yon ought, and I
wish, at any rate, that you would come in at once and see Jackson. Then
we can settle what had best be done."
Jeff wrote back that he had been suffering with a severe attack of
erysipelas--he decided upon erysipelas for the time being, but he meant
to let Westover know later that he had been in a row--and the doctor
would not let him go out yet. He promised to come in as soon as he
possibly could. If Westover thought Jackson ought to be got home at
once, and was not fit to travel alone, he asked him to send a hospital
nurse with him.
Westover replied by Jeff's messenger that it would worry and alarm
Jackson to be put in charge of a nurse; but that he would go home with
him, and they would start the next day. He urged Jeff to come and see
his brother if it was at all safe for him to do so. But if he could not,
Westover would give his mother a reassuring reason for his failure.
Mrs. Durgin did not waste any anxiety for the sickness which prevented
Jeff from coming home with his brother. She said ironically that it must
be very bad, and she gave all her thought and care to Jackson. The sick
man rallied, as he prophesied he should, in his native air, and
celebrated the sense and science of the last doctor he had seen in
Europe, who told him that he had made a great gain, but he had better
hurry home as fast as he could, for he had got all the advantage he could
expect to have from his stay abroad, and now home air was the best thing
It could not be known how much of this he believed; he had, at any rate,
the pathetic hopefulness of his malady; but his mother believed it all,
and she nursed him with a faith in his recovery which Whitwell confided
to Westover was about as much as he wanted to see, for one while. She
seemed to grow younger in the care of him, and to get back to herself,
more and more, from the facts of Jeff's behavior, which had aged and
broken her. She had to tell Jackson about it all, but he took it with
that indifference to the things of this world which the approach of death
sometimes brings, and in the light of his passivity it no longer seemed
to her so very bad. It was a relief to have Jackson say, Well, perhaps
it was for the best; and it was a comfort to see how he and Cynthia took
to each other; it was almost as if that dreadful trouble had not been.
She told Jackson what hard work she had had to make Cynthia stay with
her, and how the girl had consented to stay only until Jeff came home;
but she guessed, now that Jackson had got back, he could make Cynthia see
it all in another light, and perhaps it would all come right again. She
consulted him about Jeff's plan of going abroad, and Jackson said it
might be about as well; he should soon be around, and he thought if Jeff
went it would give Cynthia more of a chance to get reconciled. After
all, his mother suggested, a good many fellows behaved worse than Jeff
had done and still had made it up with the girls they were engaged to;
and Jackson gently assented.
He did not talk with Cynthia about Jeff, out of that delicacy, or that
coldness, common to them both. Perhaps it was not necessary for them to
speak of him; perhaps they understood him aright in their understanding
of each other.
Westover stayed on, day after day, thinking somehow that he ought to wait
till Jeff came. There were only a few other people in the hotel, and
these were of a quiet sort; they were not saddened by the presence of a
doomed man under the same roof, as gayer summer folks might have been,
and they were themselves no disturbance to him.
He sat about with them on the veranda, and he made friends among them,
and they did what they could to encourage and console him in his
impatience to take up his old cares in the management of the hotel. The
Whitwells easily looked after the welfare of the guests, and Jackson was
so much better to every one's perception that Westover could honestly
write Jeff a good report of him.
The report may have been so good that Jeff took the affair too easily.
It was a fortnight after Jackson's return to Lion's Head when he began to
fail so suddenly and alarmingly that Westover decided upon his own
responsibility to telegraph Jeff of his condition. But he had the
satisfaction of Whitwell's approval when he told him what he had done.
"Of course, Jackson a'n't long for this world. Anybody but him and his
mother could see that; and now he's just melting away, as you might say.
I ha'n't liked his not carin' to work plantchette since he got back;
looked to me from the start that he kind of knowed that it wa'n't worth
while for him to trouble about a world that he'll know all about so soon,
anyways; and d' you notice he don't seem to care about Mars, either?
I've tried to wake him up on it two-three times, but you can't git him to
take an interest. I guess Jeff can't git here any too soon on Jackson's
account; but as far forth as I go, he couldn't git here too late. I
should like to take the top of his head off."
Westover had been in Whitwell's confidence since their first chance of
speech together. He now said:
"I know it will be rather painful to you to have him here for some
"You mean Cynthy? Well! I guess when Cynthy can't get along with the
sight of Jeff Durgin, she'll be a different girl from what she's ever
been before. If she's got to see that skunk ag'in, I guess this is about
the best time to do it."
It was Westover who drove to meet Jeff at the station, when he got his
despatch, naming the train he would take, and he found him looking very
well, and perhaps stouter than he had been.
They left the station in silence, after their greeting and Jeff's
inquiries about Jackson. Jeff had taken the reins, and now he put them
with the whip in one hand, and pushed up his hat with the other, and
turned his face full upon Westover. "Notice anything in particular?" he
" No; yes--some slight marks."
"I guess that fellow fixed me up pretty well: paints black eyes, and that
kind of thing. I got to scrapping with a man, Class Day; we wanted to
settle a little business we began at the Tree, and he left his marks on
me. I meant to tell you the truth as soon as I could get at you; but I
had to say erysipelas in my letter. I guess, if you don't mind, we'll
let erysipelas stand, with the rest."
"I shouldn't have cared," Westover said, "if you'd let it stand with me."
"Oh, thank you," Jeff returned.
There could have been no show of affection at his meeting with Jackson
even if there had been any fact of it; that was not the law of their
life. But Jeff had always been a turbulent, rebellious, younger brother,
resentful of Jackson's control, too much his junior to have the
associations of an equal companionship in the past, and yet too near him
in age to have anything like a filial regard for him. They shook hands,
and each asked the other how he was, and then they seemed to have done
with each other. Jeff's mother kissed him in addition to the
handshaking, but made him feel her preoccupation with Jackson; she asked
him if he had hurried home on Jackson's account, and he promptly lied her
out of this anxiety.
He shook hands with Cynthia, too, but it was across the barrier which had
not been lowered between them since they parted. He spoke to Jackson
about her, the day after he came home, when Jackson said he was feeling
unusually strong and well, and the two brothers had strolled out through
the orchard together. Now and then he gave the sick man his arm, and
when he wanted to sit down in a sunny place he spread the shawl he
carried for him.
"I suppose mother's told you about Cynthy and me, Jackson?" he began.
Jackson answered, with lack-lustre eyes, "Yes." Presently he asked:
"What's become of the other girl?"
"Damn her! I don't know what's become of her, and I don't care!" Jeff
"Then you don't care for her any more?" Jackson pursued, with the same
"I never cared for her."
Jackson was silent, and the matter seemed to have faded out of his mind.
But it was keenly alive in Jeff's mind, and he was in the strange
necessity which men in the flush of life and health often feel of seeking
counsel of those who stand in the presence of death, as if their words
should have something of the mystical authority of the unknown wisdom
they are about to penetrate.
"What I want to know is, what I am going to do about Cynthy?"
"I don't know," Jackson answered, vaguely, and he expressed by his
indirection the sense he must sometimes have had of his impending fate--
"I don't know what she's going to do, her or mother, either."
"Yes," Jeff assented, "that's what I think of. And I'd do anything that
I could--that you thought was right."
Jackson apparently concentrated his mind upon the question by an effort.
"Do you care as much for Cynthy as you used to?"
"Yes," said Jeff, after a moment, "as much as I ever did; and more. But
I've been thinking, since the thing happened, that, if I'd cared for her
the way she did for me, it wouldn't have happened. Look here, Jackson!
You know I've never pretended to be like some men--like Mr. Westover,
for example--always looking out for the right and the wrong, and all
that. I didn't make myself, and I guess if the Almighty don't make me go
right it's because He don't want me to. But I have got a conscience
about Cynthy, and I'd be willing to help out a little if I knew how,
about her. The devil of it is, I've got to being afraid. I don't mean
that I'm not fit for her; any man's fit for any woman if he wants her bad
enough; but I'm afraid I sha'n't ever care for her in the right way.
That's the point. I've cared for just one woman in this world, and it
a'n't Cynthy, as far as I can make out. But she's gone, and I guess I
could coax Cynthy round again, and I could be what she wants me to be,
Jackson lay upon his shawl, looking up at the sky full of islands of warm
clouds in its sea of blue; he was silent so long that Jeff began to think
he had not been listening; he could not hear him breathe, and he came
forward to him quickly from the shadow of the tree where he sat.
"Well?" Jackson whispered, turning his eyes upon him.
"Well?" Jeff returned.
"I guess you'd better let it alone," said Jackson.
"All right. That's what I think, too."
Jackson died a week later, and they buried him in the old family lot in
the farthest corner of the orchard. His mother and Cynthia put on
mourning for him, and they stood together by his open grave, Mrs. Durgin
leaning upon her son's arm and the girl upon her father's. The women
wept quietly, but Jeff's eyes were dry, though his face was discharged of
all its prepotent impudence. Westover, standing across the grave from
him, noticed the marks on his forehead that he said were from his
scrapping, and wondered what really made them. He recognized the spot
where they were standing as that where the boy had obeyed the law of his
nature and revenged the stress put upon him for righteousness. Over the
stone of the nearest grave Jeff had shown a face of triumphant derision
when he pelted Westover with apples. The painter's mind fell into a
chaos of conjecture and misgiving, so that he scarcely took in the words
of the composite service which the minister from the Union Chapel at the
Huddle read over the dead.
Some of the guests from the hotel came to the funeral, but others who
were not in good health remained away, and there was a general sense
among them, which imparted itself to Westover, that Jackson's dying so,
at the beginning of the season, was not a fortunate incident. As he sat
talking with Jeff at a corner of the piazza late in the afternoon, Frank
Whitwell came up to them and said there were some people in the office
who had driven over from another hotel to see about board, but they had
heard there was sickness in the house, and wished to talk with him.
"I won't come," said Jeff.
"They're not satisfied with what I've said," the boy urged. "What shall
I tell them?"
"Tell them to-go to the devil," said Jeff, and when Frank Whitwell made
off with this message for delivery in such decent terms as he could
imagine for it, Jeff said, rather to himself than to Westover, "I don't
see how we're going to run this hotel with that old family lot down there
in the orchard much longer."
He assumed the air of full authority at Lion's Head; and Westover felt
the stress of a painful conjecture in regard to the Whitwells intensified
upon him from the moment he turned away from Jackson's grave.
Cynthia and her father had gone back to their own house as soon as Jeff
returned, and though the girl came home with Mrs. Durgin after the
funeral, and helped her in their common duties through the afternoon and
evening, Westover saw her taking her way down the hill with her brother
when the long day's work was over. Jeff saw her too; he was sitting with
Westover at the office door smoking, and he was talking of the Whitwells.
"I suppose they won't stay," he said, "and I can't expect it; but I don't
know what mother will do, exactly."
At the same moment Whitwell came round the corner of the hotel from the
barn, and approached them: "Jeff, I guess I better tell you straight off
that we're goin', the children and me."
"All right, Mr. Whitwell, "said Jeff, with respectful gravity; "I was
afraid of it."
Westover made a motion to rise, but Whitwell laid a detaining hand upon
his knee. "There ain't anything so private about it, so far as I know."
"Don't go, Mr. Westover," said Jeff, and Westover remained.
"We a'n't a-goin' to leave you in the lurch, and we want you should take
your time, especially Mis' Durgin. But the sooner the better. Heigh?"
"Yes, I understand that, Mr. Whitwell; I guess mother will miss you, but
if you must go, you must." The two men remained silent a moment, and
then Jeff broke out passionately, rising and flinging his cigar away:
"I wish I could go, instead! That would be the right way, and I guess
mother would like it full as well. Do you see any way to manage it?
"He put his foot up in his chair, and dropped his elbow on his knee, with
his chin propped in his hand. Westover could see that he meant what he
was saying. "If there was any way, I'd do it. I know what you think of
me, and I should be just like you, in your place. I don't feel right to
turn you out here, I don't, Mr. Whitwell, and yet if I stay, I've got to
do it. What's the reason I can't go?"
"You can't," said Whitwell, "and that's all about it. We shouldn't let
you, if you could. But I a'n't surprised you feel the way you do," he
added, unsparingly. "As you say, I should feel just so myself if I was
in your place. Well, goodnight, Mr. Westover."
Whitwell turned and slouched down the hill, leaving the painter to the
most painful moment he had known with Jeff Durgin, and nearer sympathy.
"That's all right, Mr. Westover," Jeff said, "I don't blame him."
He remained in a constraint from which he presently broke with mocking
hilarity when Jombateeste came round the corner of the house, as if he
had been waiting for Whitwell to be gone, and told Jeff he must get
somebody else to look after the horses.
"Why don't you wait and take the horses with you, Jombateeste?"
he inquired. "They'll be handing in their resignation, the next thing.
Why not go altogether?"
The little Canuck paused, as if uncertain whether he was made the object
of unfriendly derision or not, and looked at Westover for help.
Apparently he decided to chance it in as bitter an answer as he could
invent. "The 'oss can't 'elp 'imself, Mr. Durgin. 'E stay. But you
don' hown EVERYBODY."
"That's so, Jombateeste," said Jeff. "That's a good hit. It makes me
feel awfully. Have a cigar?" The Canuck declined with a dignified bow,
and Jeff said: "You don't smoke any more? Oh, I see! It's my tobacco
you're down on. What's the matter, Jombateeste? What are you going
away for?" Jeff lighted for himself the cigar the Canuck had refused,
and smoked down upon the little man.
"Mr. W'itwell goin'," Jombateeste said, a little confused and daunted.
"What's Mr. Whitwell going for?"
"You hask Mr. W'itwell."
"All right. And if I can get him to stay will you stay too, Jombateeste?
I don't like to see a rat leaving a ship; the ship's sure to sink, if he
does. How do you suppose I'm going to run Lion's Head without you to
throw down hay to the horses? It will be ruin to me, sure, Jombateeste.
All the guests know how you play on the pitchfork out there, and they'll
leave in a body if they hear you've quit. Do say you'll stay, and I'll
reduce your wages one-half on the spot."
Jombateeste waited to hear no more injuries. He said: "You'll don' got
money enough, Mr. Durgin, by gosh! to reduce my wages," and he started
down the hill toward Whitwell's house with as great loftiness as could
comport with a down-hill gait and his stature.
"Well, I seem to be getting it all round, Mr. Westover," said Jeff.
"This must make you feel good. I don't know but I begin to believe
there's a God in Israel, myself."
He walked away without saying good-night, and Westover went to bed
without the chance of setting himself right. In the morning, when he
came down to breakfast, and stopped at the desk to engage a conveyance
for the station from Frank Whitwell the boy forestalled him with a grave
face. "You don't know about Mrs. Durgin?"
"No; what about her?"
"Well, we can't tell exactly. Father thinks it's a shock; Jombateeste
gone over to Lovewell for the doctor. Cynthia's with her. It seemed to
come on in the night."
He spoke softly, that no one else might hear; but by noon the fact that
Mrs. Durgin had been stricken with paralysis was all over the place. The
gloom cast upon the opening season by Jackson's death was deepened among
the guests. Some who had talked of staying through July went away that
day. But under Cynthia's management the housekeeping was really
unaffected by Mrs. Durgin's calamity, and the people who stayed found
themselves as comfortable as ever. Jeff came fully into the hotel
management, and in their business relation Cynthia and he were
continually together; there was no longer a question of the Whitwells
leaving him; even Jombateeste persuaded himself to stay, and Westover
felt obliged to remain at least till the present danger in Mrs. Durgin's
case was past.
With the first return of physical strength, Mrs. Durgin was impatient to
be seen about the house, and to retrieve the season that her affliction
had made so largely a loss. The people who had become accustomed to it
stayed on, and the house filled up as she grew better, but even the sight
of her in a wheeled chair did not bring back the prosperity of other
years. She lamented over it with a keen and full perception of the fact,
but in a cloudy association of it with the joint future of Jeff and
One day, after Mrs. Durgin had declared that she did not know what they
were to do, if things kept on as they were going, Whitwell asked his
"Do you suppose she thinks you and Jeff have made it up again?"
"I don't know," said the girl, with a troubled voice, "and I don't know
what to do about it. It don't seem as if I could tell her, and yet it's
wrong to let her go on."
"Why didn't he tell her?" demanded her father. "'Ta'n't fair his leavin'
it to you. But it's like him."
The sick woman's hold upon the fact weakened most when she was tired.
When she was better, she knew how it was with them. Commonly it was when
Cynthia had got her to bed for the night that she sent for Jeff, and
wished to ask him what he was going to do. "You can't expect Cynthy to
stay here another winter helpin' you, with Jackson away. You've got to
either take her with you, or else come here yourself. Give up your last
year in college, why don't you? I don't want you should stay, and I
don't know who does. If I was in Cynthia's place, I'd let you work off
your own conditions, now you've give up the law. She'll kill herself,
tryin' to keep you along."
Sometimes her speech became so indistinct that no one but Cynthia could
make it out; and Jeff, listening with a face as nearly discharged as
might be of its laughing irony, had to turn to Cynthia for the word which
no one else could catch, and which the stricken woman remained
distressfully waiting for her to repeat to him, with her anxious eyes
upon the girl's face. He was dutifully patient with all his mother's
whims. He came whenever she sent for him, and sat quiet under the
severities with which she visited all his past unworthiness. "Who you
been hectorin' now, I should like to know," she began on him one evening
when he came at her summons. "Between you and Fox, I got no peace of my
life. Where is the dog?"
"Fox is all right, mother," Jeff responded. "You're feeling a little
better to-night, a'n't you?"
"I don't know; I can't tell," she returned, with a gleam of intelligence
in her eye. Then she said: "I don't see why I'm left to strangers all
"You don't call Cynthia a stranger, do you, mother?" he asked, coaxingly.
"Oh--Cynthy!" said Mrs. Durgin, with a glance as of surprise at seeing
her. "No, Cynthy's all right. But where's Jackson and your father? If
I've told them not to be out in the dew once, I've told 'em a hundred
times. Cynthy'd better look after her housekeepin' if she don't want the
whole place to run behind, and not a soul left in the house. What time
o' year is it now?" she suddenly asked, after a little weary pause.
"It's the last of August, mother."
"Oh," she sighed, "I thought it was the beginnin' of May. Didn't you
come up here in May?"
"Well, then--Or, mebbe that's one o' them tormentin' dreams; they do
pester so! What did you come for?"
Jeff was sitting on one side of her bed and Cynthia on the other: She was
looking at the sufferer's face, and she did not meet the glance of
amusement which Jeff turned upon her at being so fairly cornered. "Well,
I don't know," he said. "I thought you might like to see me."
"What 'd he come for?"--the sick woman turned to Cynthia.
"You'd better tell her," said the girl, coldly, to Jeff. "She won't be
satisfied till you do. She'll keep coming back to it."
"Well, mother," said Jeff, still with something of his hardy amusement,
"I hadn't been acting just right, and I thought I'd better tell Cynthy."
"You better let the child alone. If I ever catch you teasin' them
children again, I'll make Jackson shoot Fox."
"All right, mother," said Jeff.
She moved herself restively in bed. "What's this," she demanded of her
son, "that Whitwell's tellin' about you and Cynthy breakin' it off?"
"Well, there was talk of that," said Jeff, passing his hand over his lips
to keep back the smile that was stealing to them.
"Who done it?"
Cynthia kept her eyes on Jeff, who dropped his to his mother's face.
"Cynthy did it; but I guess I gave her good enough reason."
"About that hussy in Boston? She was full more to blame than what you
was. I don't see what Cynthy wanted to do it for on her account."
"I guess Cynthy was right."
Mrs. Durgin's speech had been thickening more and more. She now said
something that Jeff could not understand. He looked involuntarily at
"She says she thinks I was hasty with you," the girl interpreted.
Jeff kept his eyes on hers, but he answered to his mother: "Not any more
than I deserved. I hadn't any right to expect that she would stand it."
Again the sick woman tried to say something. Jeff made out a few
syllables, and, after his mother had repeated her words, he had to look
to Cynthia for help.
"She wants to know if it's all right now."
"What shall I say?" asked Jeff, huskily.
"Tell her the truth."
"What is the truth?"
"That we haven't made it up."
Jeff hesitated, and then said: "Well, not yet, mother," and he bent an
entreating look upon Cynthia which she could not feel was wholly for
himself. "I--I guess we can fix it, somehow. I behaved very badly to
"No, not to me!" the girl protested in an indignant burst.
"Not to that little scalawag, then!" cried Jeff. "If the wrong wasn't to
you, there wasn't any wrong."
"It was to you!" Cynthia retorted.
"Oh, I guess I can stand it," said Jeff, and his smile now came to his
lips and eyes.
His mother had followed their quick parley with eager looks, as if she
were trying to keep her intelligence to its work concerning them. The
effort seemed to exhaust her, and when she spoke again her words were so
indistinct that even Cynthia could not understand them till she had
repeated them several times.
Then the girl was silent, while the invalid kept an eager look upon her.
She seemed to understand that Cynthia did not mean to speak; and the
tears came into her eyes.
"Do you want me to know what she said?" asked Jeff, respectfully,
Cynthia said, gently: "She says that then you must show you didn't mean
any harm to me, and that you cared for me, all through, and you didn't
care for anybody else."
"Thank you," said Jeff, and he turned to his mother. "I'll do everything
I can to make Cynthy believe that, mother."
The girl broke into tears and went out of the room. She sent in the
night-watcher, and then Jeff took leave of his mother with an unwonted
Into the shadow of a starlit night he saw the figure he had been waiting
for glide out of the glitter of the hotel lights. He followed it down
"Cynthia!" he called; and when he came up with her he asked: "What's the
reason we can't make it true? Why can't you believe what mother wants me
to make you?"
Cynthia stopped, as her wont was when she wished to speak seriously.
"Do you ask that for my sake or hers?"
"For both your sakes."
"I thought so. You ought to have asked it for your own sake, Jeff, and
then I might have been fool enough to believe you. But now--"
She started swiftly down the hill again, and this time he did not try to
Mrs. Durgin's speech never regained the measure of clearness it had
before; no one but Cynthia could understand her, and often she could not.
The doctor from Lovewell surmised that she had sustained another stroke,
lighter, more obscure than the first, and it was that which had rendered
her almost inarticulate. The paralysis might have also affected her
brain, and silenced her thoughts as well as her words. Either she
believed that the reconciliation between Jeff and Cynthia had taken
place, or else she could no longer care. She did not question them
again, but peacefully weakened more and more. Near the end of September
she had a third stroke, and from this she died.
The day after the funeral Jeff had a talk with Whitwell, and opened his
mind to him.
"I'm going over to the other side, and I shan't be back before spring, or
about time to start the season here. What I want to know is whether, if
I'm out of the house, and not likely to come back, you'll stay here and
look after the place through the winter. It hasn't been a good season,
but I guess I can afford to make it worth your while if you look at it as
a matter of business."
Whitwell leaned forward and took a straw into his mouth from the golden
wall of oat sheaves in the barn where they were talking. A soft rustling
in the mow overhead marked the remote presence of Jombateeste, who was
getting forward the hay for the horses, pushing it toward the holes where
it should fall into their racks.
"I should want to think about it," said Whitwell. "I do' know as
Cynthy'd care much about stayin'--or Frank."
"How long do you want to think about it?" Jeff demanded, ignoring the
possible wishes of Cynthia and Frank.
"I guess I could let you know by night."
"All right," said Jeff.
He was turning away, when Whitwell remarked:
"I don't know as I should want to stay without I could have somebody I
could depend on, with me, to look after the hosses. Frank wouldn't want
"Who'd you like?"
Whitwell called to the Canuck, and he came forward to the edge of the
mow, and stood, fork in hand, looking down.
"Want to stay here this winter and look after the horses, Jombateeste?"
"Nosseh!" said the Canuck, with a misliking eye on Jeff.
"I mean, along with me," Whitwell explained. "If I conclude to stay,
will you? Jeff's goin' abroad."
"I guess I stay," said Jombateeste.
"Don't strain yourself, Jombateeste," said Jeff, with malevolent
"Not for you, Jeff Dorrgin," returned the Canuck. "I strain myself till
I bust, if I want."
Jeff sneered to Whitwell: "Well, then, the most important point is
settled. Let me know about the minor details as soon as you can."
Whitwell talked the matter over with his children at supper that evening.
Jeff had made him a good offer, and he had the winter before him to
"I don't know what deviltry he's up to," he said in conclusion.
Frank looked to his sister for their common decision. "I am going to try
for a school," she said, quietly. "It's pretty late, but I guess I can
get something. You and Frank had better stay."
"And you don't feel as if it was kind of meechin', our takin' up with his
offer, after what's--" Whitwell delicately forbore to fill out his
"You are doing the favor, father," said the girl. "He knows that, and I
guess he wouldn't know where to look if you refused. And, after all,
what's happened now is as much my doing as his."
"I guess that's something so," said Whitwell, with a long sigh of relief.
"Well, I'm glad you can look at it in that light, Cynthy. It's the way
the feller's built, I presume, as much as anything."
His daughter waived the point. "I shouldn't feel just right if none of
us stayed in the old place. I should feel as if we had turned our backs
on Mrs. Durgin."
Her eyes shone, and her father said: "Well, I guess that's so, come to
think of it. She's been like a mother to you, this past year, ha'n't
she? And it must have come pootty hard for her, sidin' ag'in' Jeff. But
she done it."
The girl turned her head away. They were sitting in the little, low
keeping-room of Whitwell's house, and her father had his hat on
provisionally. Through the window they could see the light of the
lantern at the office door of the hotel, whose mass was lost in the dark
above and behind the lamp. It was all very still outside.
"I declare," Whitwell went on, musingly, "I wisht Mr. Westover was here."
Cynthia started, but it was to ask: "Do you want I should help you with
your Latin, Frank?"
Whitwell came back an hour later and found them still at their books.
He told them it was all arranged; Durgin was to give up the place to him
in a week, and he was to surrender it again when Jeff came back in the
spring. In the mean time things were to remain as they were; after he
was gone, they could all go and live at Lion's Head if they chose.
"We'll see," said Cynthia. "I've been thinking that might be the best
way, after all. I might not get a school, it's so late."
"That's so," her father assented. "I declare," he added, after a
moment's muse, "I felt sorry for the feller settin' up there alone, with
nobody to do for him but that old thing he's got in. She can't cook any
more than--" He desisted for want of a comparison, and said: "Such a
lookin' table, too."
"Do you think I better go and look after things a little?" Cynthia asked.
"Well, you no need to," said her father. He got down the planchette, and
labored with it, while his children returned to Frank's lessons.
"Dumn 'f I can make the thing work," he said to himself at last.
"I can't git any of 'em up. If Jackson was here, now!"
Thrice a day Cynthia went up to the hotel and oversaw the preparation of
Jeff's meals and kept taut the slack housekeeping of the old Irish woman
who had remained as a favor, after the hotel closed, and professed to
have lost the chance of a place for the winter by her complaisance.
She submitted to Cynthia's authority, and tried to make interest for an
indefinite stay by sudden zeal and industry, and the last days of Jeff in
the hotel were more comfortable than he openly recognized. He left the
care of the building wholly to Whitwell, and shut himself up in the old
farm parlor with the plans for a new hotel which he said he meant to put
up some day, if he could ever get rid of the old one. He went once to
Lovewell, where he renewed the insurance, and somewhat increased it; and
he put a small mortgage on the property. He forestalled the slow
progress of the knowledge of others' affairs, which, in the country, is
as sure as it is slow, and told Whitwell what he had done. He said he
wanted the mortgage money for his journey, and the insurance money, if he
could have the luck to cash up by a good fire, to rebuild with.
Cynthia seldom met him in her comings and goings, but if they met they
spoke on the terms of their boy and girl associations, and with no
approach through resentment or tenderness to the relation that was ended
between them. She saw him oftener than at any other time setting off on
the long tramps he took through the woods in the afternoons. He was
always alone, and, so far as any one knew, his wanderings had no object
but to kill the time which hung heavy on his hands during the fortnight
after his mother's death, before he sailed. It might have seemed strange
that he should prefer to pass the days at Lion's Head after he had
arranged for the care of the place with Whitwell, and Whitwell always
believed that he stayed in the hope of somehow making up with Cynthia.
One day, toward the very last, Durgin found himself pretty well fagged in
the old pulp-mill clearing on the side of Lion's Head, which still
belonged to Whitwell, and he sat down on a mouldering log there to rest.
It had always been a favorite picnic ground, but the season just past had
known few picnics, and it was those of former years that had left their
traces in rusty sardine-cans and broken glass and crockery on the border
of the clearing, which was now almost covered with white moss. Jeff
thought of the day when he lurked in the hollow below with Fox, while
Westover remained talking with Whitwell. He thought of the picnic that
Mrs. Marven had embittered for him, and he thought of the last time that
he had been there with Westover, when they talked of the Vostrands.
Life had, so far, not been what he meant it, and just now it occurred to
him that he might not have wholly made it what it had been. It seemed to
him that a good many other people had come in and taken a hand in making
his own life what it had been; and if he had meddled with theirs more
than he was wanted, it was about an even thing. As far as he could make
out, he was a sort of ingredient in the general mixture. He had probably
done his share of the flavoring, but he had had very little to do with
the mixing. There were different ways of looking at the thing. Westover
had his way, but it struck Jeff that it put too much responsibility on
the ingredient, and too little on the power that chose it. He believed
that he could prove a clear case in his own favor, as far as the question
of final justice was concerned, but he had no complaints to make. Things
had fallen out very much to his mind. He was the Landlord at Lion's
Head, at last, with the full right to do what he pleased with the place,
and with half a year's leisure before him to think it over. He did not
mean to waste the time while he was abroad; if there was anything to be
learned anywhere about keeping a summer hotel, he was going to learn it;
and he thought the summer hotel could be advantageously studied in its
winter phases in the mild climates of Southern Europe. He meant to
strike for the class of Americans who resorted to those climates; to
divine their characters and to please their tastes.
He unconsciously included Cynthia in his scheme of inquiry; he had been
used so long to trust to her instincts and opinions, and to rely upon her
help, and he realized that she was no longer in his life with something
like the shock a man experiences when the loss of a limb, which continues
a part of his inveterate consciousness, is brought to his sense by some
mechanical attempt to use it. But even in this pang he did not regret
that all was over between them. He knew now that he had never cared for
her as he had once thought, and on her account, if not his own, he was
glad their engagement was broken. A soft melancholy for his own
disappointment imparted itself to his thoughts of Cynthia. He felt truly
sorry for her, and he truly admired and respected her. He was in a very
lenient mood toward every one, and he went so far in thought toward
forgiving his enemies that he was willing at least to pardon all those
whom he had injured. A little rustling in the underbrush across the
clearing caught his quick ear, and he looked up to see Jombateeste
parting the boughs of the young pines on its edge and advancing into the
open with a gun on his shoulder. He called to him, cheerily: "Hello,
John! Any luck?"
Jombateeste shook his head. "Nawthing." He hesitated.
"What are you after?"
"Partridge," Jombateeste ventured back.
Jeff could not resist the desire to scoff which always came upon him at
sight of the Canuck. "Oh, pshaw! Why don't you go for woodchucks? They
fly low, and you can hit them on the wing, if you can't sneak on 'em
Jombateeste received his raillery in dignified silence, and turned back
into the woods again. He left Durgin in heightened good-humor with
himself and with the world, which had finally so well adapted itself to
his desires and designs.
Jeff watched his resentful going with a grin, and then threw himself back
on the thick bed of dry moss where he had been sitting, and watched the
clouds drifting across the space of blue which the clearing opened
overhead. His own action reminded him of Jackson, lying in the orchard
and looking up at the sky. He felt strangely at one with him, and he
experienced a tenderness for his memory which he had not known before.
Jackson had been a good man; he realized that with a curious sense of
novelty in the reflection; he wondered what the incentives and the
objects of such men as Jackson and Westover were, anyway. Something like
grief for his brother came upon him; not such grief as he had felt,
passionately enough, though tacitly, for his mother, but a regret for not
having shown Jackson during his life that he could appreciate his
unselfishness, though he could not see the reason or the meaning of it.
He said to himself, in their safe remoteness from each other, that he
wished he could do something for Jackson. He wondered if in the course
of time he should get to be something like him. He imagined trying.
He heard sounds again in the edge of the clearing, but he decided that it
was that fool Jombateeste coming back; and when steps approached softly
and hesitantly across the moss, he did not trouble himself to take his
eyes from the clouds. He was only vexed to have his revery broken in
A voice that was not Jombateeste's spoke: "I say! Can you tell me the
way to the Brooker Institute, or to the road down the mountain?"
Jeff sat suddenly bolt-upright; in another moment he jumped to his feet.
The Brooker Institute was a branch of the Keeley Cure recently
established near the Huddle, and this must be a patient who had wandered
from it, on one of the excursions the inmates made with their guardians,
and lost his way. This was the fact that Jeff realized at the first
glance he gave the man. The next he recognized that the man was Alan
"Oh, it's you," he said, quite simply. He felt so cruelly the hardship
of his one unforgiven enemy's coming upon him just when he had resolved
to be good that the tears came into his eyes. Then his rage seemed to
swell up in him like the rise of a volcanic flood. "I'm going to kill
you!" he, roared, and he launched himself upon Lynde, who stood dazed.
But the murder which Jeff meant was not to be so easily done. Lynde had
not grown up in dissolute idleness without acquiring some of the arts of
self-defence which are called manly. He met Jeff's onset with remembered
skill and with the strength which he had gained in three months of the
wholesome regimen of the Brooker Institute. He had been sent there, not
by Dr. Lacy's judgment, but by his despair, and so far the Cure had
cured. He felt strong and fresh, and the hate which filled Jeff at sight
of him steeled his shaken nerves and reinforced his feebler muscles, too.
He made a desperate fight where he could not hope for mercy, and kept
himself free of his powerful foe, whom he fought round and foiled, if he
could not hurt him. Jeff never knew of the blows Lynde got in upon him;
he had his own science, too, but he would not employ it. He wanted to
crash through Lynde's defence and lay hold of him and crush the life out
The contest could not have lasted long at the best; but before Lynde was
worn out he caught his heel in an old laurel root, and while he whirled
to recover his footing Jeff closed in upon him, caught him by the middle,
flung him down upon the moss, and was kneeling on his breast with both
hands at his throat.
He glared down into his enemy's face, and suddenly it looked pitifully
little and weak, like a girl's face, a child's.
Sometimes, afterward, it seemed to him that he forbore because at that
instant he saw Jombateeste appear at the edge of the clearing and come
running upon them. At other times he had the fancy that his action was
purely voluntary, and that, against the logic of his hate and habit of
his life, he had mercy upon his enemy. He did not pride himself upon it;
he rather humbled himself before the fact, which was accomplished through
his will, and not by it, and remained a mystery he did not try to solve.
He took his hands from Lynde's throat and his knees off his breast. "Get
up," he said; and when Lynde stood trembling on his feet he said to
Jombateeste: "Show this man the way to the Brooker Institute. I'll take
your gun home for you," and it was easy for him to detach the piece from
the bewildered Canuck's grasp. "Go! And if you stop, or even let him
look back, I'll shoot him. Quick!"
The day after Thanksgiving, when Westover was trying to feel well after
the turkey and cranberry and cider which a lady had given him at a
consciously old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner, but not making it out
sufficiently to be able to work, he was astonished to receive a visit
"Well, sir," said the philosopher, without giving himself pause for the
exchange of reflections upon his presence in Boston, which might have
been agreeable to him on a less momentous occasion. "It's all up with
"What do you mean?" demanded Westover, with his mind upon the mountain,
which he electrically figured in an incredible destruction.
"She's burnt. Burnt down the day before yist'd'y aft'noon. A'n't hardly
a stick of her left. Ketehed Lord knows how, from the kitchen chimney,
and a high northwest wind blowin', that ca'd the sparks to the barn, and
set fire to that, too. Hasses gone; couldn't get round to 'em; only
three of us there, and mixed up so about the house till it was so late
the critters wouldn't come out. Folks from over Huddle way see the
blaze, and helped ail they could; but it wa'n't no use. I guess all we
saved, about, was the flag-pole."
"But you're all right yourselves? Cynthia"
"Well, there was our misfortune," said Whitwell, while Westover's heart
stopped in a mere wantonness of apprehension. "If she'd be'n there, it
might ha' be'n diff'ent. We might ha' had more sense; or she would,
anyway. But she was over to Lovewell stockin' up for Thanksgivin', and I
had to make out the best I could, with Frank and Jombateeste. Why, that
Canuck didn't seem to have no more head on him than a hen. I was
disgusted; but Cynthy wouldn't let me say anything to him, and I d' know
as 't 'ould done any good, myself. We've talked it all over in every
light, ever since; guess we've set up most the time talkin', and nothin'
would do her but I should come down and see you before I took a single
step about it."
"How--step about what?" asked Westover, with a remote sense of hardship
at being brought in, tempered by the fact that it was Cynthia who had
brought him in.
"Why, that devil," said Whitwell, and Westover knew that he meant Jeff,
"went and piled on all the insurance he could pile on, before he left;
and I don't know what to do about it."
"I should think the best thing was to collect the insurance," Westover
"It a'n't so easy as what that comes to," said Whitwell. "I couldn't
collect the insurance; and here's the point, anyway. When a hotel's made
a bad season, and she's fully insured, she's pootty certain to burn up
some time in the winter. Everybody knows that comical devil wanted
lion's Head to burn up so 't he could build new, and I presume there
a'n't a man, woman, or child anywhere round but what believes I set her
on fire. Hired to do it. Now, see? Jeff off in Europe; daytime; no
lives lost; prop'ty total loss. 's a clear case. Heigh? I tell you,
I'm afraid I've got trouble ahead."
Westover tried to protest, to say something in derision or defiance; but
he was shaken himself, and he ended by getting his hat and coat; Whitwell
had kept his own on, in the excitement. "We'll go out and see a lawyer.
A friend of mine; it won't cost you anything." He added this assurance
at a certain look of reluctance that came into Whitwell's face, and that
left it as soon as he had spoken. Whitwell glanced round the studio even
cheerily. "Who'd ha' thought," he said, fastening upon the study which
Westover had made of Lion's head the winter before, "that the old place
would 'a' gone so soon?" He did not mean the mountain which he was
looking at, but the hotel that was present to his mind's eye; and
Westover perceived as he had not before that to Whitwell the hotel and
not the mountain was Lion's Head.
He remembered to ask now where Whitwell had left his family, and Whitwell
said that Frank and Cynthia were at home in his own house with
Jombateeste; but he presumed he could not get back to them now before the
next day. He refused to be interested in any of the aspects of Boston
which Westover casually pointed out, but when they had seen the lawyer he
came forth a new man, vividly interested in everything. The lawyer had
been able to tell them that though the insurance companies would look
sharply into the cause of the fire, there was no probability, hardly a
possibility, that they would inculpate him, and he need give himself no
anxiety about the affair.
"There's one thing, though," Whitwell said to Westover when they got out
upon the street. "Hadn't I ought to let Jeff know?"
"Yes, at once. You'd better cable him. Have you got his address?"
Whitwell had it, and he tasted all the dramatic quality of sending word
to Jeff, which he would receive in Florence an hour after it left Boston.
"I did hope I could ha' cabled once to Jackson while he was gone," he
said, regretfully, "but, unless we can fix up a wire with the other
world, I guess I shan't ever do it now. I suppose Jackson's still
hangin' round Mars, some'res."
He had a sectarian pride in the beauty of the Spiritual Temple which
Westover walked him by on his way to see Trinity Church and the Fine Arts
Museum, and he sorrowed that he could not attend a service' there. But
he was consoled by the lunch which he had with Westover at a restaurant
where it was served in courses. "I presume this is what Jeff's goin' to
give 'em at Lion's Head when he gits it goin' again."
"How is it he's in Florence?" it occurred to Westover to ask. "I thought
he was going to Nice for the winter."
"I don't know. That's the address he give in his last letter," said
Whitwell. "I'll be glad when I've done with him for good and all.
He's all kinds of a devil."
It was in Westover's mind to say that he wished the Whitwells had never
had anything to do with Durgin after his mother's death. He had felt it
a want of delicacy in them that they had been willing to stay on in his
employ, and his ideal of Cynthia had suffered a kind of wound from what
must have been her decision in the matter. He would have expected
something altogether different from her pride, her self-respect. But he
now merely said: "Yes, I shall be glad, too. I'm afraid he's a bad
His words seemed to appeal to Whitwell's impartiality. "Well, I d' know
as I should say bad, exactly. He's a mixture."
"He's a bad mixture," said Westover.
"Well, I guess you're partly right there," Whitwell admitted, with a
laugh. After a dreamy moment he asked: "Ever hear anything more about
that girl here in Boston?"
Westover knew that he meant Bessie Lynde. "She's abroad somewhere, with
Whitwell had not taken any wine; apparently he was afraid of forming
instantly the habit of drink if he touched it; but he tolerated
Westover's pint of Zinfandel, and he seemed to warm sympathetically to a
greater confidence as the painter made away with it. "There's one thing
I never told Cynthy yet; well, Jombateeste didn't tell me himself till
after Jeff was gone; and then, thinks I, what's the use? But I guess you
had better know."
He leaned forward across the table, and gave Jombateeste's story of the
encounter between Jeff and Alan Lynde in the clearing. "Now what do you
suppose was the reason Jeff let up on the feller? Of course, he meant to
choke the life out of him, and his just ketchin' sight of Jombateeste--do
you believe that was enough to stop him, when he'd started in for a thing
like that? Or what was it done it?"
Westover listened with less thought of the fact itself than of another
fact that it threw light upon. It was clear to him now that the Class-
Day scrapping which had left its marks upon Jeff's face was with Lynde,
and that when Jeff got him in his power he was in such a fury for revenge
that no mere motive of prudence could have arrested him. In both events,
it must have been Bessie Lynde that was the moving cause; but what was it
that stayed Jeff in his vengeance?
"Let him up, and let him walk away, you say?" he demanded of Whitwell.
Whitwell nodded. "That's what Jombateeste said. Said Jeff said if he
let the feller look back he'd shoot him. But he didn't haf to."
"I can't make it out," Westover sighed.
"It's been too much for me," Whitwell said. "I told Jombateeste he'd
better keep it to himself, and I guess he done so. S'pose Jeff still had
a sneakin' fondness for the girl?"
"I don't know; perhaps," Westover asserted.
Whitwell threw his head back in a sudden laugh that showed all the work
of his dentist. "Well, wouldn't it be a joke if he was there in Florence
after her? Be just like Jeff."
"It would be like Jeff; I don't know whether it would be a joke or not.
I hope he won't find it a joke, if it's so," said Westover, gloomily.
A fantastic apprehension seized him, which made him wish for the moment
that it might be so, and which then passed, leaving him simply sorry for
any chance that might bring Bessie Lynde into the fellow's way again.
For the evening Whitwell's preference would have been a lecture of some
sort, but there was none advertised, and he consented to go with Westover
to the theatre. He came back to the painter at dinner-time, after a wary
exploration of the city, which had resulted not only in a personal
acquaintance with its monuments, but an immunity from its dangers and
temptations which he prided himself hardly less upon. He had seen
Faneuil Hall, the old State House, Bunker Hill, the Public Library, and
the Old South Church, and he had not been sandbagged or buncoed or led
astray from the paths of propriety. In the comfortable sense of escape,
he was disposed, to moralize upon the civilization of great cities, which
he now witnessed at first hand for the first time; and throughout the
evening, between the acts of the "Old Homestead," which he found a play
of some merit, but of not so much novelty in its characters as he had
somehow led himself to expect, he recurred to the difficulties and
dangers that must beset a young man in coming to a place like Boston.
Westover found him less amusing than he had on his own ground at Lion's
Head, and tasted a quality of commonplace in his deliverances which made
him question whether he had not, perhaps, always owed more to this
environment than he had suspected. But they parted upon terms of mutual
respect and in the common hope of meeting again. Whitwell promised to
let Westover know what he heard of Jeff, but, when the painter had walked
the philosopher home to his hotel, he found a message awaiting him at his
studio from Jeff direct:
Whitwell's despatch received. Wait letter.
Westover raged at the intelligent thrift of this telegram, and at the
implication that he not only knew all about the business of Whitwell's
despatch, but that he was in communication with him, and would be
sufficiently interested to convey Jeff's message to him. Of course,
Durgin had at once divined that Whitwell must have come to him for
advice, and that he would hear from him, whether he was still in Boston
or not. By cabling to Westover, Jeff saved the cost of an elaborate
address to Whitwell at Lion's Head, and had brought the painter in for
further consultation and assistance in his affairs. What vexed him still
more was his own consciousness that he could not defeat this impudent
expectation. He had, indeed, some difficulty with himself to keep from
going to Whitwell's hotel with the despatch at once, and he slept badly,
in his fear that he might not get it to him in the morning before he left
The sum of Jeff's letter when it came, and it came to Westover and not to
Whitwell, was to request the painter to see a lawyer in his behalf, and
put his insurance policies in his hands, with full authority to guard his
interests in the matter. He told Westover where his policies would be
found, and enclosed the key of his box in the Safety Vaults, with a due
demand for Westover's admission to it. He registered his letter, and he
jocosely promised Westover to do as much for him some day, in pleading
that there was really no one else he could turn to. He put the whole
business upon him, and Westover discharged himself of it as briefly as he
could by delivering the papers to the lawyer he had already consulted for
"Is this another charity patient?" asked his friend, with a grin.
"No," replied Westover. "You can charge this fellow along the whole
Before he parted with the lawyer he had his misgivings, and he said:
"I shouldn't want the blackguard to think I had got a friend a fat job
out of him."
The lawyer laughed intelligently. "I shall only make the usual charge.
Then he is a blackguard."
"There ought to be a more blistering word."
"One that would imply that he was capable of setting fire to his
"I don't say that. But I'm glad he was away when it took fire," said
"You give him the benefit of the doubt."
"Yes, of every kind of doubt."
Westover once more promised himself to have nothing to do with Jeff
Durgin or his affairs. But he did not promise this so confidently as
upon former occasions, and he instinctively waited for a new
complication. He could not understand why Jeff should not have come home
to look after his insurance, unless it was because he had become
interested in some woman even beyond his concern for his own advantage.
He believed him capable of throwing away advantages for disadvantages in
a thing of that kind, but he thought it more probable that he had fallen
in love with one whom he would lose nothing by winning. It did not seem
at all impossible that he should have again met Bessie Lynde, and that
they should have made up their quarrel, or whatever it was. Jeff would
consider that he had done his whole duty by Cynthia, and that he was free
to renew his suit with Bessie; and there was nothing in Bessie's
character, as Westover understood it, to prevent her taking him back upon
a very small show of repentance if the needed emotions were in prospect.
He had decided pretty finally that it would be Bessie rather than another
when he received a letter from Mrs. Vostrand. It was dated at Florence,
and after some pretty palaver about their old friendship, which she only
hoped he remembered half as fondly as she did, the letter ran:
"I am turning to you now in a very strange difficulty, but I do not
know that I should turn to you even now, and knowing all I do of
your goodness, if I were not asked to do so by another.
"I believe we have not heard from each other since the first days of
my poor Genevieve's marriage, when everything looked so bright and
fair, and we little realized the clouds that were to overcast her
happiness. It is a long story, and I will not go into it fully.
The truth is that poor Gigi did not treat her very kindly, and that
she has not lived with him since the birth of their little girl, now
nearly two years old, and the sweetest little creature in the world;
I wish you could see her; I am sure it would inspire your pencil
with the idea of an angel-child. At first I hoped that the
separation would be only temporary, and that when Genevieve had
regained her strength she would be willing to go back to her
husband; but nothing would induce her to do so. In fact, poor Gigi
had spent all her money, and they would have had nothing to live
upon but his pay, and you know that the pay of the Italian officers
is very small.
"Gigi made several attempts to see her, and he threatened to take
the child from her, but he was always willing to compromise for
money. I am afraid that he never really loved her and that we were
both deceived by his fervent protestations. We managed to get away
from Florence without his knowing it, and we have spent the last two
years in Lausanne, very happily, though very quietly. Our dear
Checco is in the university there, his father having given up the
plan of sending him to Harvard, and we had him with us, while we
were taking measures to secure the divorce. Even in the simple way
we lived Genevieve attracted a great deal of attention, as she
always has done, and she would have had several eligible offers if
she had been divorced, or if her affections had not already been
engaged, as I did not know at the time.
"We were in this state of uncertainty up to the middle of last
summer, when the news of poor Gigi's sudden death came. I am sorry
to say that his habits in some respects were not good, and that
probably hastened it some; it had obliged him to leave the army.
Genevieve did not feel that she could consistently put on black for
him, and I did not urge her, under the peculiar circumstances;
there is so much mere formality in those kind of things at the best;
but we immediately returned to Florence to try and see if we could
not get back some of her effects which his family had seized. I am
opposed to lawsuits if they can possibly be avoided, and we arranged
with poor Gigi's family by agreeing to let them have Genevieve's
furniture if they would promise never to molest her with the child,
and I must say they have behaved very well. We are on the best of
terms with them, and they have let us have some of the things back
which were endeared to her by old associations, at a very reasonable
"This brings me to the romantic part of my letter, and I will say at
once that we found your friend Mr. Durgin in Florence, in the very
hotel we went to. We all met in the dining-room, at the table
d'hote one evening, and Genevieve and he took to each other at once.
He spent the evening with us in our private drawing-room, and she
said to me, after he went, that for the first time in years she felt
rested. It seems that she had always secretly fancied him, and that
she gave up to me in the matter of marrying poor Gigi, because she
knew I had my heart set upon it, and she was not very certain of her
own feelings when Mr. D. offered himself in Boston; but the
conviction that she had made a mistake grew upon, her more and more
after she had married Gigi.
"Well, now, Mr. Westover, I suppose you have guessed by this time
that Mr. Durgin has renewed his offer, and Genevieve has
conditionally accepted him; we do not feel that she is like an
ordinary widow, and that she has to fill up a certain season of
mourning; she and Gigi have been dead to each other for years; and
Mr. Durgin is as fond of our dear little Bice as her own father
could be, and they are together all the time. Her name is Beatrice
de' Popolani Grassi. Isn't it lovely? She has poor Gigi's black
eyes, with the most beautiful golden hair, which she gets from our
aide. You remember Genevieve's hair back in the dear old days,
before any trouble had come, and we were all so happy together? And
this brings me to what I wanted to say. You are the oldest friend
we have, and by a singular coincidence you are the oldest friend of
Mr. Durgin, too. I cannot bear to risk my child's happiness a
second time, and though Mr. Vostrand fully approves of the match,
and has cabled his consent from Seattle, Washington, still, you
know, a mother's heart cannot be at rest without some positive
assurance. I told Mr. Durgin quite frankly how I felt, and he
agreed with me that after our experience with poor Gigi we could not
be too careful, and he authorized me to write to you and find out
all you knew about him. He said you had known him ever since he was
a boy, and that if there was anything bad in his record you could
tell it, and he did not want you to spire the truth. He knows you
will be just, and he wants you to write out the facts as they struck
you at the time.
"I shall be on pins and needles, as the saying is, till we hear from
you, and you know hew Genevieve and Mr. D. must be feeling. She is
fully resolved not to have him without your endorsement, and he is
quite willing to abide by what you say.
"I could almost wish you to cable me just Good or Bad, but I know
that this will not be wise, and I am going to wait for your letter,
and get your opinion in full.
"We all join in the kindest regards. Mr. D. is talking with
Genevieve while I write, and has our darling Bice on his knees.
You cannot imagine what a picture it makes, her childish delicacy
contrasted with his stalwart strength. She says to send you a
baciettino, and I wish you were here to receive it from her angel
lips. Yours faithfully,
"P. S.--Mr. D. says that he fell in love with Genevieve across the
barrier between the first and second cabin when he came over with us
on the Aquitaine four years ago, and that he has never ceased to
love her, though at one time he persuaded himself that he cared for
another because he felt that she was lost to him forever, and it was
no use: He really did care for the lady he was engaged to, and had a
true affection for her, which he mistook for a warmer feeling. He
says that she was worthy of any man's love and of the highest
respect. I tell Genevieve that, she ought to honor him for it, and
that she must never be jealous of a memory. We are very happy in
Mr. Vostrand's cordial approval of the match. He is so glad to
think that Mr. D. is a business man. His cable from Seattle was
Westover did not know whether to laugh or cry when he read this letter,
which covered several sheets of paper in lines that traversed each other
in different directions. His old, youthful ideal of Mrs. Vostrand
finally perished in its presence, though still he could not blame her for
wishing to see her daughter well married after having seen her married so
ill. He asked himself, without getting any very definite response,
whether Mrs. Vostrand had always been this kind of a woman, or had grown
into it by the use of arts which her peculiar plan of life had rendered
necessary to her. He remembered the intelligent toleration of Cynthia in
speaking of her, and his indignation in behalf of the girl was also
thrill of joy for her escape from the fate which Mrs. Vostrand was so
eagerly invoking for her daughter. But he thought of Genevieve with
something of the same tenderness, and with a compassion that was for her
alone. She seemed to him a victim who was to be sacrificed a second
time, and he had clearly a duty to her which he must not evade. The only
question could be how best to discharge it, and Westover took some hours
from his work to turn the question over in his mind. In the end, when he
was about to give the whole affair up for the present, and lose a night's
sleep over it later, he had an inspiration, and he acted upon it at once.
He perceived that he owed no formal response to the sentimental
insincerities of Mrs. Vostrand's letter, and he decided to write to
Durgin himself, and to put the case altogether in his hands. If Durgin
chose to show the Vostrands what he should write, very well; if he chose
not to show it, then Westover's apparent silence would be a sufficient
reply to Mrs. Vostrand's appeal.
"I prefer to address you," he began, "because I do not choose to let
you think that I have any feeling to indulge against you, and
because I do not think I have the right to take you out of your own
keeping in any way. You would be in my keeping if I did, and I do
not wish that, not only because it would be a bother to me, but
because it would be a wrong to you.
"Mrs. Vostrand, whose letter to me I will leave you to answer by
showing her this, or in any other manner you choose, tells me you do
not want me to spare the truth concerning you. I have never been
quite certain what the truth was concerning you; you know that
better than I do; and I do not propose to write your biography here.
But I will remind you of a few things.
"The first day I saw you, I caught you amusing yourself with the
terror of two little children, and I had the pleasure of cuffing you
for it. But you were only a boy then, and afterward you behaved so
well that I decided you were not so much cruel as thoughtlessly
mischievous. When you had done all you could to lead me to this
favorable conclusion, you suddenly turned and avenged yourself on
me, so far as you could, for the help I had given the little ones
against you. I never greatly blamed you for that, for I decided
that you had a vindictive temperament, and that you were not
responsible for your temperament, but only for your character.
"In your first year at Harvard your associations were bad, and your
conduct generally was so bad that you were suspended. You were
arrested with other rowdy students, and passed the night in a police
station. I believe you were justly acquitted of any specific
offence, and I always believed that if you had experienced greater
kindness socially during your first year in college you would have
been a better man.
"You seem to have told Mrs. Vostrand of your engagement, and I will
not speak of that. It was creditable to you that so wise and good a
girl as your betrothed should have trusted you, and I do not know
that it was against you that another girl who was neither wise nor
good should have trusted you at the same time. You broke with the
last, because you had to choose between the two; and, so far as I
know, you accepted with a due sense of your faithlessness your
dismissal by the first. In this connection I must remind you that
while you were doing your best to make the party to your second
engagement believe that you were in love with her, you got her
brother, an habitual inebriate, drunk, and were, so far,
instrumental in breaking down the weak will with which he was
struggling against his propensity. It is only fair to you that I
should add that you persuaded me you got him only a little drunker
than he already got himself, and that you meant to have looked after
him, but forgot him in your preoccupation with his sister.
"I do not know what took place between you and these people after
you broke your engagement with the sister, until your encounter with
the brother in Whitwell's Clearing, and I know of this only at
second hand. I can well believe that you had some real or fancied
injury to pay off; and I give you all the credit you may wish to
claim for sparing him at last. For one of your vindictive
temperament it must have been difficult.
"I have told you the worst things I know of you, and I do not
pretend to know them more than superficially. I am not asked to
judge you, and I will not. You must be your own judge. You are to
decide whether these and other acts of yours are the acts of a man
good enough to be intrusted with the happiness of a woman who has
already been very unhappy.
"You have sometimes, however--oftener than I wished--come to me for
advice, and I now offer you some advice voluntarily. Do not suppose
that because you love this woman, as you believe, you are fit to be
the keeper of her future. Ask yourself how you have dealt hitherto
with those who have loved you, and whom in a sort you loved, and do
not go further unless the answer is such as you can fully and
faithfully report to the woman you wish to marry. What you have
made yourself you will be to the end. You once called me an
idealist, and perhaps you will call this idealism. I will only add,
and I will give the last word in your defence, you alone know what
As soon as Westover had posted his letter he began to blame himself for
it. He saw that the right and manly thing would have been to write to
Mrs. Vostrand, and tell her frankly what he thought of Durgin. Her
folly, her insincerity, her vulgarity, had nothing to do with the affair,
so far as he was concerned. If she had once been so kind to him as to
bind him to her in grateful friendship, she certainly had a claim upon
his best offices. His duty was to her, and not at all to Durgin. He
need not have said anything against him because it was against him, but
because it was true; and if he had written he must not have said anything
less than the truth.
He could have chosen not to write at all. He could have said that her
mawkish hypocrisy was a little too much; that she was really wanting him
to whitewash Durgin for her, and she had no right to put upon him the
responsibility for the step she clearly wished to take. He could have
made either of these decisions, and defended them to himself; but in what
he had done he had altogether shirked. While he was writing to Durgin,
and pretending that he could justly leave this affair to him, he was
simply indulging a bit of sentimental pose, far worse than anything in
Mrs. Vostrand's sham appeal for his help.
He felt, as the time went by, that she had not written of her own
impulse, but at her daughter's urgence, and that it was this poor
creature whose trust he had paltered with. He believed that Durgin would
not fail to make her unhappy, yet he had not done what he might to
deliver her out of his hand. He had satisfied a wretched pseudo-
magnanimity toward a faithless scoundrel, as he thought Durgin, at the
cost of a woman whose anxious hope of his aid had probably forced her
At first he thought his action irrevocable, and he bitterly upbraided
himself for not taking council with Cynthia upon Mrs. Vostrand's letter.
He had thought of doing that, and then he had dismissed the thought as
involving pain that he had no right to inflict; but now he perceived that
the pain was such as she must suffer in the event, and that he had
stupidly refused himself the only means of finding out the right thing to
do. Her true heart and her clear mind would have been infallible in the
affair, and he had trusted to his own muddled impulse.
He began to write other letters: to Durgin, to Mrs. Vostrand, to
Genevieve; but none of them satisfied him, and he let the days go by
without doing anything to retrieve his error or fulfil his duty. At last
he did what he ought to have done at first: he enclosed Mrs. Vostrand's
letter to Cynthia, and asked her what she thought he ought to have done.
While he was waiting Cynthia's answer to his letter, a cable message
reached him from Florence:
"Kind letter received. Married to-day. Written.
The next mail brought Cynthia's reply, which was very brief:
"I am sorry you had to write at all; nothing could have prevented
it. Perhaps if he cares for her he will be good to her."
Since the matter was now irremediable, Westover crept less miserably
through the days than he could have believed he should, until the letter
which Mrs. Vostrand's cable promised came to hand.
"Dear friend," she wrote, "your generous and satisfactory answer
came yesterday. It was so delicate and high,-minded, and so like
you, to write to Mr. Durgin, and leave the whole affair to him; and
he did not lose a moment in showing us your beautiful letter. He
said you were a man after his own heart, and I wish you could have
heard how he praised you. It made Genevieve quite jealous, or would
have, if it had been any one else. But she is so happy in your
approval of her marriage, which is to take place before the
'sindaco' to-morrow, We shall only have the civil rite; she feels
that it is more American, and we are all coming home to Lion's Head
in the spring to live and die true Americans. I wish you could
spend the summer with us there, but, until Lion's Head is rebuilt,
we can't ask you. I don't know exactly how we shall do ourselves,
but Mr. Durgin is full of plans, and we leave everything to him.
He is here, making Genevieve laugh so that I can hardly write.
He joins us in love and thanks, and our darling Bice sends you a
"P. S. Mr. D. has told us all about the affairs you alluded to.
With Miss L. we cannot feel that he was to blame; but he blames
himself in regard to Miss W. He says his only excuse is that he was
always in love with Genevieve; and I think that is quite excuse
enough. M. V."
From time to time during the winter Westover wrote to Cynthia, and had
letters from her in which he pleased himself fancying almost a personal
effect of that shyness which he thought a charming thing in her. But no
doubt this was something he read into them; on their face they were
plain, straightforward accounts of the life she led in the little old
house at Lion's Head, under the shadow of the black ruin on the hill.
Westover had taken to sending her books and magazines, and in thanking
him for these she would sometimes speak of things she had read in them.
Her criticism related to the spirit rather than the manner of the things
she spoke of, and it pleased him that she seemed, with all her insight,
to have very little artistic sense of any kind; in the world where he
lived there were so many women with an artistic sense in every kind that
he was rather weary of it.
There never was anything about Durgin in the letters, and Westover was
both troubled and consoled by this silence. It might be from
consciousness, and it probably was; it might be from indifference.
In the worst event, it hid any pain she might have felt with a dignity
from which no intimation of his moved her. The nearest she came to
speaking of Jeff was when she said that Jombateeste was going to work at
the brick-yards in Cambridge as soon as the spring opened, and was not
going to stay any longer at Lion's Head.
Her brother Frank, she reported, had got a place with part work in the
drug-and-book store at Lovewell, where he could keep on more easily with
his studies; he had now fully decided to study for the ministry; he had
always wanted to be an Episcopalian.
One day toward the end of April, when several weeks had passed without
bringing Westover any word from Cynthia, her father presented himself,
and enjoyed in the painter's surprise the sensation of having dropped
upon him from the clouds. He gave due accounts of the health of each of
his household; ending with Jombateeste. "You know he's out at the brick,
as he calls it, in Cambridge."
"Cynthia said he was coming. I didn't know he had come yet," said
Westover. "I must go out and look him up, if you think I could find him
among all those Canucks."
" Well, I don't know but you'd better look us up at the same time," said
Whitwell, with additional pleasure in the painter's additional surprise.
"I guess we're out in Cambridge, too," he added, at Westover's start of
question. "We're out there, visitin' one of our summer folks, as you
might say. Remember Mis' Fredericks?"
"Why, what the deuce kept you from telling me so at once?" Westover
"Guess I hadn't got round to it," said Whitwell, with dry relish.
"Do you mean that Cynthia's there?"
"Well, I guess they wouldn't cared much for a visit from me."
Whitwell took advantage of Westover's moment of mystification to explain
that Jeff had written over to him from Italy, offering him a pretty good
rent for his house, which he wanted to occupy while he was rebuilding
Lion's Head. He was going to push the work right through in the summer,
and be ready for the season the year after. That was what Whitwell
understood, and he understood that Jeff's family was going to stay in
Lovewell, but Jeff himself wanted to be on the ground day and night.
"So that's kind of turned us out of doors, as you may say, and Cynthia's
always had this idee of comin' down Boston way: and she didn't know
anybody that could advise with her as well as Mis' Fredericks, and she
wrote to her, and Mis' Fredericks answered her to come right down and
talk it over." Westover felt a pang of resentment that Cynthia, had not
turned to him for counsel, but he said nothing, and Whitwell went on:
"She said she was, ashamed to bother you, you'd had the whole
neighborhood on your hands so much, and so she wrote to Mis' Fredericks."
Westover had a vague discomfort in it all, which ultimately defined
itself as a discontent with the willingness of the Whitwells to let
Durgin occupy their house upon any terms, for any purpose, and a
lingering grudge that Cynthia should have asked help of any one but
himself, even from a motive of delicacy.
In the evening he went out to see the girl at the house of Mrs.
Fredericks, whom he found living in the Port. They had a first moment of
intolerable shyness on her part. He had been afraid to see her, with the
jealousy for her dignity he always felt, lest she should look as if she
had been unhappy about Durgin. But he found her looking, not only very
well, but very happy and full of peace, as soon as that moment of shyness
passed. It seemed to Westover as if she had begun to live on new terms,
and that a harassing element, which had always been in it, had gone out
of her life, and in its absence she was beginning to rejoice in a lasting
repose. He found himself rejoicing with her, and he found himself on
simpler and franker terms with her than ever before. Neither of them
spoke of Jeff, or made any approach to mention him, and Westover believed
that this was not from a morbid feeling in her, but from a final and
He saw her alone, for Mrs. Fredericks and her daughter had gone into town
to a concert, which he made her confess she would have gone to herself if
it had not been that her father said he was coming out to see her. She
would not let him joke about the sacrifice he pretended she had made; he
had a certain pain in fancying that his visit was the highest and finest
favor that life could do her. She told him of the ambition she had that
she might get a school somewhere in the neighborhood of Boston, and then
find something for her brother to do, while he began his studies in the
Theological School at Harvard. Frank was still at Lovewell, it seemed.
At the end of the long call he made, he said, abruptly, when he had risen
to go, "I should like to paint you."
"Who? Me?" she cried, as if it were the most incredible thing, while a
glad color rushed over her face.
"Yes. While you're waiting to get your school, couldn't you come in with
your father, now and then, and sit for me?"
"What's he want me to come fer?" Whitwell demanded, when the plan was
laid before him. He was giving his unlimited leisure to the exploration
of Boston, and his tone expressed something of the injury, which he also
put into words, as a sole objection to the proposed interruption. "Can't
you go alone, Cynthy ?" Cynthia said she did not know, but when the point
was referred to Mrs. Fredericks, she was sure Cynthia could not go alone,
and she acquainted them both, as far as she could, with that mystery of
chaperonage which had never touched their lives before. Whitwell seemed
to think that his daughter would give the matter up; and perhaps she
might have done so, though she seemed reluctant, if Mrs. Fredericks had
not further instructed them that it was the highest possible honor Mr.
Westover was offering them, and that if he had proposed to paint her
daughter she would simply have gone and lived with him while he was doing
Whitwell found some compensation for the time lost to his study of Boston
in the conversation of the painter, which he said was worth a hundred
cents on the dollar every time, though it dealt less with the
metaphysical aspect of the latest facts of science than the philosopher
could have wished. He did not, to be sure, take very much stock in the
picture as it advanced, somewhat fitfully, with a good many reversions to
its original state of sketch. It appeared to him always a slight and
feeble representation of Cynthia, though, of course, a native politeness
forbade him to express his disappointment. He avowed a faith in
Westover's ability to get it right in the end, and always bade him go on,
and take as much time to it as he wanted.
He felt less uneasy than at first, because he had now found a little
furnished house in the woodenest outskirts of North Cambridge, which he
hired cheap from the recently widowed owner, and they were keeping house
there. Jombateeste lived with them, and worked in the brick-yards. Out
of hours he helped Cynthia, and kept the ugly little place looking trim
and neat, and left Whitwell free for the tramps home to nature, which he
began to take over the Belmont uplands as soon as the spring opened.
He was not homesick, as Cynthia was afraid he might be; his mind was
fully occupied by the vast and varied interests opened to it by the
intellectual and material activities of the neighboring city; and he
found ample scope for his physical energies in doing Cynthia's errands,
as well as studying the strange flora of the region. He apparently
thought that he had made a distinct rise and advance in the world.
Sometimes, in the first days of his satisfaction with his establishment,
he expressed the wish that Jackson could only have seen how he was fixed,
once. In his preoccupation with other things, he no longer attempted to
explore the eternal mysteries with the help of planchette; the ungrateful
instrument gathered as much dust as Cynthia would suffer on the what-not
in the corner of the solemn parlor; and after two or three visits to the
First Spiritual Temple in Boston, he lapsed altogether from an interest
in the other world, which had, perhaps, mainly flourished in the absence
of pressing subjects of inquiry, in this.
When at last Westover confessed that he had carried his picture of
Cynthia as far as he could, Whitwell did his best to hide his
disappointment. "Well, sir," he said, tolerantly and even cheeringly,
"I presume we're every one of us a different person to whoever looks at
us. They say that no two men see the same star."
"You mean that she doesn't look so to you," suggested the painter, who
seemed not at all abashed.
"Well, you might say--Why, here! It's like her; photograph couldn't get
it any better; but it makes me think-well, of a bird that you've come on
sudden, and it stoops as if it was goin' to fly--"
"Ah," said Westover, "does it make you think of that?"
The painter could not make out at first whether the girl herself was
pleased with the picture or not, and in his uncertainty he could not give
it her at once, as he had hoped and meant to do. It was by a kind of
accident he found afterward that she had always been passionately proud
of his having painted her. This was when he returned from the last
sojourn he had made in Paris, whither he went soon after the Whitwells
settled in North Cambridge. He left the picture behind him to be framed
and then sent to her with a letter he had written, begging her to give it
houseroom while he was gone. He got a short, stiff note in reply after
he reached Paris, and he had not tried to continue the correspondence.
But as soon as he returned he went out to see the Whitwells in North
Cambridge. They were still in their little house there; the young
widower had married again; but neither he nor his new wife had cared to
take up their joint life in his first home, and he had found Whitwell
such a good tenant that he had not tried to put up the rent on him.
Frank was at home, now, with an employment that gave him part of his time
for his theological studies; Cynthia had been teaching school ever since
the fall after Westover went away, and they were all, as Whitwell said,
in clover. He was the only member of the family at home when Westover
called on the afternoon of a warm summer day, and he entertained him with
a full account of a visit he had paid Lion's Head earlier in the season.
"Yes, sir," he said, as if he had already stated the fact, "I've sold my
old place there to that devil." He said devil without the least rancor;
with even a smile of good-will, and he enjoyed the astonishment Westover
expressed in his demand:
"Sold Durgin your house?"
"Yes; I see we never wanted to go back there to live, any of us, and I
went up to pass the papers and close the thing out. Well, I did have an
offer for it from a feller that wanted to open a boa'din'-house there and
get the advantage of Jeff's improvements, and I couldn't seem to make up
my mind till I'd looked the ground over. Fust off, you know, I thought
I'd sell to the other feller, because I could see in a minute what a
thorn it 'd be in Jeff's flesh. But, dumn it all! When I met the
comical devil I couldn't seem to want to pester him. Why, here, thinks
I, if we've made an escape from him--and I guess we have, about the
biggest escape--what have I got ag'in' him, anyway? I'd ought to feel
good to him; and I guess that's the way I did feel, come to boil it down.
He's got a way with him, you know, when you're with him, that makes you
like him. He may have a knife in your ribs the whole while, but so
long's he don't turn it, you don't seem to know it, and you can't help
likin' him. Why, I hadn't been with Jeff five minutes before I made up
my mind to sell to him. I told him about the other offer--felt bound to
do it--and he was all on fire. 'I want that place, Mr. Whitwell,' s'd
he. 'Name your price.' Well, I wa'n't goin' to take an advantage of the
feller, and I guess he see it. 'You've offered me three thousand,' s'd
I, 'n' I don't want to be no ways mean about it. Five thousand buys the
place.' 'It's mine,' s'd he; just like that. I guess he see he had a
gentleman to deal with, and we didn't say a word more. Don't you think I
done right to sell to him? I couldn't 'a' got more'n thirty-five hundred
out the other feller, to save me, and before Jeff begun his improvements
I couldn't 'a' realized a thousand dollars on the prop'ty."
"I think you did right to sell to him," said Westover, saddened somewhat
by the proof Whitwell alleged of his magnanimity.
"Well, Sir, I'm glad you do. I don't believe in crowdin' a man because
you got him in a corner, an' I don't believe in bearin' malice. Never
did. All I wanted was what the place was wo'th--to him. 'Twa'n't wo'th
nothin' to me! He's got the house and the ten acres around it, and he's
got the house on Lion's Head, includin' the Clearin', that the poottiest
picnic-ground in the mountains. Think of goin' up there this summer?"
"No," said Westover, briefly.
"Well, I some wish yon did. I sh'd like to know how Jeff's improvements
struck you. Of course, I can't judge of 'em so well, but I guess he's
made a pootty sightly thing of it. He told me he'd had one of the
leadin' Boston architects to plan the thing out for him, and I tell you
he's got something nice. 'Tain't so big as old Lion's Head, and Jeff
wants to cater to a different style of custom, anyway. The buildin's
longer'n what she is deep, and she spreads in front so's to give as many
rooms a view of the mountain as she can. Know what 'runnaysonce' is?
Well, that's the style Jeff said it was; it's all pillars and pilasters;
and you ride up to the office through a double row of colyums, under a
kind of a portico. It's all painted like them old Colonial houses down
on Brattle Street, buff and white. Well, it made me think of one of them
old pagan temples. He's got her shoved along to the south'ard, and he's
widened out a piece of level for her to stand on, so 't that piece o'
wood up the hill there is just behind her, and I tell you she looks nice,
backin' up ag'inst the trees. I tell you, Jeff's got a head on him!
I wish you could see that dinin'-room o' his: all white colyums, and
frontin' on the view. Why, that devil's got a regular little theatyre
back o' the dinin'-room for the young folks to act ammyture plays in, and
the shows that come along, and he's got a dance-hall besides; the parlors
ain't much--folks like to set in the office; and a good many of the rooms
are done off into soots, and got their own parlors. I tell you, it's
swell, as they say. You can order what you please for breakfast, but for
lunch and dinner you got to take what Jeff gives you; but he treats you
well. He's a Durgin, when it comes to that. Served in cou'ses, and
dinner at seven o'clock. I don't know where he got his money for 't all,
but I guess he put in his insurance fust, and then he put a mortgage on
the buildin'; be as much as owned it; said he'd had a splendid season
last year, and if he done as well for a copule of seasons more he'd have
the whole prop'ty free o' debt."
Westover could see that the prosperity of the unjust man had corrupted
the imagination and confounded the conscience of this simple witness, and
he asked, in the hope of giving his praises pause: "What has he done
about the old family burying-ground in the orchard?"
"Well, there!" said Whitwell. "That got me more than any other one
thing: I naturally expected that Jeff 'd had 'em moved, for you know and
I know, Mr. Westover, that a place like that couldn't be very pop'la'
with summer folks; they don't want to have anything to kind of make 'em
serious, as you may say. But that devil got his architect to treat the
place, as he calls it, and he put a high stone wall around it, and
planted it to bushes and evergreens so 't looks like a piece of old
garden, down there in the corner of the orchard, and if you didn't hunt
for it you wouldn't know it was there. Jeff said 't when folks did
happen to find it out, he believed they liked it; they think it's
picturesque and ancient. Why, some on 'em wanted him to put up a little
chapel alongside and have services there; and Jeff said he didn't know
but he'd do it yet. He's got dark-colored stones up for Mis' Durgin and
Jackson, so 't they look as old as any of 'em. I tell you, he knows how
to do things."
"It seems so," said Westover, with a bitterness apparently lost upon the
"Yes, sir. I guess it's all worked out for the best. So long's he
didn't marry Cynthy, I don't care who he married, and--I guess he's made
out fust-rate, and he treats his wife well, and his mother-in-law, too.
You wouldn't hardly know they was in the house, they're so kind of quiet;
and if a guest wants to see Jeff, he's got to send and ask for him; clerk
does everything, but I guess Jeff keeps an eye out and knows what's goin'
on. He's got an elegant soot of appartments, and he lives as private as
if he was in his own house, him and his wife. But when there's anything
goin' on that needs a head, they're both right on deck.
"He don't let his wife worry about things a great deal; he's got a fust-
rate of a housekeeper, but I guess old Mis' Vostrand keeps the
housekeeper, as you may say. I hear some of the boa'ders talkin' up
there, and one of 'em said 't the great thing about Lion's Head was 't
you could feel everywheres in it that it was a lady's house. I guess
Jeff has a pootty good time, and a time 't suits him. He shows up on the
coachin' parties, and he's got himself a reg'lar English coachman's rig,
with boots outside his trouse's, and a long coat and a fuzzy plug-hat: I
tell you, he looks gay! He don't spend his winters at Lion's Head: he is
off to Europe about as soon as the house closes in the fall, and he keeps
bringin' home new dodges. Guess you couldn't get no boa'd there for no
seven dollars a week now! I tell you, Jeff's the gentleman now, and his
wife's about the nicest lady I ever saw. Do' know as I care so much
about her mother; do' know as I got anything ag'inst her, either, very
much. But that little girl, Beechy, as they call her, she's a beauty!
And round with Jeff all the while! He seems full as fond of her as her
own mother does, and that devil, that couldn't seem to get enough of
tormentin' little children when he was a boy, is as good and gentle with
that little thing as-pie!"
Whitwell seemed to have come to an end of his celebration of Jeff's
success, and Westover asked:
"And what do you make now, of planchette's brokenshaft business? Or
don't you believe in planchette any more?"
Whitwell's beaming face clouded. "Well, sir, that's a thing that's
always puzzled me. If it wa'n't that it was Jackson workin' plantchette
that night, I shouldn't placed much dependence on what she said; but
Jackson could get the truth out of her, if anybody could. Sence I b'en
up there I b'en figurin' it out like this: the broken shaft is the old
Jeff that he's left off bein'--"
Whitwell stopped midway in his suggestion, with an inquiring eye on the
painter, who asked: "You think he's left off being the old Jeff?"
"Well, sir, you got me there," the philosopher confessed. "I didn't see
anything to the contrary, but come to think of it--"
"Why couldn't the broken shaft be his unfulfilled destiny on the old
lines? What reason is there to believe he isn't what he's always been?"
"Well, come to think of it--"
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