Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells by William Dean Howells

Part 30 out of 78

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 9.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

gits off too far again he might make something out of it. I couldn't
seem to find much sense in what plantchette done to-night; we couldn't
either of us; but she has her spells when you can't make head or tail of
her. But mebbe she's just leadin' up to something, the way she did about
that broken shaft when Jeff come home. We ha'n't ever made out exactly
what she meant by that yet."

Whitwell paused, and Cynthia seized the advantage of his getting round to
Jeff again. "He wanted to give up going to Harvard this last year, but I
wouldn't let him."

"Jeff did?" asked her father. "Well, you done a good thing that time,
anyway, Cynthy. His mother 'd never get over it."

"There's something else she's got to get over, and I don't know how she
ever will. He's going to give up the law."

"Give up the law!"

"Yes. Don't tease, father! He says he's never cared about it, and he
wants to keep a hotel. I thought that I'd ought to tell him how we felt
about Jackson's having a rest and going off somewhere; and he wanted to
begin at once. But I said if he left off the last year at Harvard I
wouldn't have anything to do with him."

Whitwell put his hand in his pocket for his knife, and mechanically
looked down for a stick to whittle. In default of any, he scratched his
head. "I guess she'll make it warm for him. She's had her mind set on
his studyin' law so long, 't she won't give up in a hurry. She can't see
that Jackson ain't fit to help her run the hotel any more--till he's had
a rest, anyway--and I believe she thinks her and Frank could run it--and
you. She'll make an awful kick," said Whitwell, solemnly. "I hope you
didn't encourage him, Cynthy?"

"I should encourage him," said the girl. "He's got the right to shape
his own life, and nobody else has got the right to do it; and I should
tell his mother so, if she ever said anything to me about it."

"All right," said Whitwell. "I suppose you know what you're about."

"I do, father. Jeff would make a good landlord; he's got ideas about a
hotel, and I can see that they're the right ones. He's been out in the
world, and he's kept his eyes open. He will make Lion's Head the best
hotel in the mountains."

"It's that already."

"He doesn't think it's half as good as he can make it."

"It wouldn't be half what it is now, if it wa'n't for you and Frank."

"I guess he understands that," said Cynthia. "Frank would be the clerk."

"Got it all mapped out!" said Whitwell, proudly, in his turn. "Look out
you don't slip up in your calculations. That's all."

"I guess we cha'n't slip up."


Jeff came into the ugly old family parlor, where his mother sat mending
by the kerosene-lamp which she had kept through all the household
changes, and pushed enough of her work aside from the corner of the table
to rest his arm upon it.

"Mother, I want you to listen to me, and to wait till I get done. Will

She looked up at him over her spectacles from the stocking she was
darning; the china egg gleamed through the frayed place. "What notion
have you got in your head, now?"

"It's about Jackson. He isn't well. He's got to leave off work and go

The mother's hand dropped at the end of the yarn she had drawn through
the stocking heel, and she stared at Jeff. Then she resumed her work
with the decision expressed in her tone. "Your father lived to be sixty
years old, and Jackson a'n't forty! The doctor said there wa'n't any
reason why he shouldn't live as long as his father did."

"I'm not saying he won't live to a hundred. I'm saying he oughtn't to
stay another winter here," Jeff said, decisively.

Mrs. Durgin was silent for a time, and then she said. "Jeff, is that
your notion about Jackson, or whose is it?"

"It's mine, now."

Mrs, Durgin waited a moment. Then she began, with a feeling quite at
variance with her words:

"Well, I'll thank Cynthy Whit'ell to mind her own business! Of course,"
she added, and in what followed her feeling worked to the surface in her
words, "I know 't she thinks the world of Jackson, and he does of her;
and I presume she means well. I guess she'd be more apt to notice, if
there was any change, than what I should. What did she say?"

Jeff told, as nearly as he could remember, and he told what Cynthia and
he had afterward jointly worked out as to the best thing for Jackson to
do. Mrs. Durgin listened frowningly, but not disapprovingly, as it
seemed; though at the end she asked: "And what am I going to do, with
Jackson gone?"

Jeff laughed, with his head down. "Well, I guess you and Cynthy could
run it, with Frank and Mr. Whitwell."

"Mr. Whit'ell!" said Mrs. Durgin, concentrating in her accent of his name
the contempt she could not justly pour out on the others.

"Oh," Jeff went on, "I did think that I could take hold with you, if you
could bring yourself to let me off this last year at Harvard."

"Jeff!" said his mother, reproachfully. "You know you don't mean that
you'd give up your last year in college?"

"I do mean it, but I don't expect you to do it; and I don't ask it. I
suggested it to Cynthy, when we got to talking it over, and she saw it
wouldn't do."

"Well, she showed some sense that time," Mrs. Durgin said.

"I don't know when Cynthy hasn't shown sense; except once, and then I
guess it was my fault."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, this afternoon I asked her to marry me some time, and she said she
would." He looked at his mother and laughed, and then he did not laugh.
He had expected her to be pleased; he had thought to pave the way with
this confession for the declaration of his intention not to study law,
and to make his engagement to Cynthia serve him in reconciling his mother
to the other fact. But a menacing suspense followed his words.

His mother broke out at last: "You asked Cynthy Whit'ell to marry you!
And she said she would! Well, I can tell her she won't, then!"

"And I can tell you she will!" Jeff stormed back. He rose to his feet
and stood over his mother.

She began steadily, as if he had not spoken. "If that designin'--"

"Look out, mother! Don't you say anything against Cynthia! She's been
the best girl to you in the world, and you know it. She's been as true
to you as Jackson has himself. She hasn't got a selfish bone in her
body, and she's so honest she couldn't design anything against you or any
one, unless she told you first. Now you take that back! Take it back!
She's no more designing than--than you are!"

Mrs. Durgin was not moved by his storming, but she was inwardly convinced
of error. "I do take it back. Cynthy is all right. She's all you say
and more. It's your fault, then, and you've got yourself to thank, for
whosever fault it is, she'll pack--"

"If Cynthy packs, I pack!" said Jeff. "Understand that. The moment she
leaves this house I leave it, too, and I'll marry her anyway. Frank 'd
leave and--and--Pshaw! What do you care for that? But I don't know what
you mean! I always thought you liked Cynthy and respected her. I didn't
believe I could tell you a thing that would please you better than that
she had said she would have me. But if it don't, all right."

Mrs. Durgin held her peace in bewilderment; she stared at her son with
dazed eyes, under the spectacles lifted above her forehead. She felt a
change of mood in his unchanged tone of defiance, and she met him half-
way. "I tell you I take back what I called Cynthia, and I told you so.
But--but I didn't ever expect you to marry her."

"Why didn't you? There isn't one of the summer folks to compare with
her. She's got more sense than all of 'em. I've known her ever since I
can remember. Why didn't you expect it?"

"I didn't expect it."

"Oh, I know! You thought I'd see somebody in Boston--some swell girl.
Well, they wouldn't any of them look at me, and if they would, they
wouldn't look at you."

"I shouldn't care whether they looked at me or not."

"I tell you they wouldn't look at me. You don't understand about these
things, and I do. They marry their own kind, and I'm not their kind,
and I shouldn't be if I was Daniel Webster himself. Daniel Webster!
Who remembers him, or cares for him, or ever did? You don't believe it?
You think that because I've been at Harvard--Oh, can't I make you see it?
I'm what they call a jay in Harvard, and Harvard don't count if you're a

His mother looked at him without speaking. She would not confess the
ambition he taxed her with, and perhaps she had nothing so definite in
her mind. Perhaps it was only her pride in him, and her faith in a
splendid future for him, that made her averse to his marriage in the lot
she had always known, and on a little lower level in it that her own.
She said at last:

"I don't know what you mean by being a jay. But I guess we better not
say anything more about this to-night."

"All right," Jeff returned. There never were any formal good-nights
between the Durgins, and he went away now without further words.

His mother remained sitting where he left her. Two or three times she
drew her empty darning-needle through the heel of the stocking she was

She was still sitting there when Jackson passed on his way to bed, after
leaving the office in charge of the night porter. He faltered, as he
went by, and as he stood on the threshold she told him what Jeff had told

"That's good," he said, lifelessly. "Good for Jeff," he added,
thoughtfully, conscientiously.

"Why a'n't it good for her, too?" demanded Jeff's mother, in quick
resentment of the slight put upon him.

"I didn't say it wa'n't," said Jackson. "But it's better for Jeff."

"She may be very glad to get him!"

"I presume she is. She's always cared for him, I guess. She'll know how
to manage him."

"I don't know," said Mrs. Durgin, "as I like to have you talk so, about
Jeff. He was here, just now, wantin' to give up his last year in
Harvard, so 's to let you go off on a vacation. He thinks you've worked
yourself down."

Jackson made no recognition of Jeff's professed self-sacrifice. "I don't
want any vacation. I'm feeling first-rate now. I guess that stuff I had
from the writin' medium has begun to take hold of me. I don't know when
I've felt so well. I believe I'm going to get stronger than ever I was.
Jeff say I needed a rest?"

Something like a smile of compassion for the delusion of his brother
dawned upon the sick man's wasted face, which was blotched with large
freckles, and stared with dim, large eyes from out a framework of grayish
hair, and grayish beard cut to the edges of the cheeks and chin.


Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia did not seek any formal meeting the next morning.
The course of their work brought them together, but it was not till after
they had transacted several household affairs of pressing importance that
Mrs. Durgin asked: "What's this about you and Jeff?"

"Has he been telling you?" asked Cynthia, in her turn, though she knew he

"Yes," said Mrs. Durgin, with a certain dryness, which was half humorous.
"I presume, if you two are satisfied, it's all right."

"I guess we're satisfied," said the girl, with a tremor of relief which
she tried to hide.

Nothing more was said, and there was no physical demonstration of
affection or rejoicing between the women. They knew that the time would
come when they would talk over the affair down to the bone together, but
now they were content to recognize the fact, and let the time for talking
arrive when it would. "I guess," said Mrs. Durgin, "you'd better go over
to the helps' house and see how that youngest Miller girl's gittin'
along. She'd ought to give up and go home if she a'n't fit for her

"I'll go and see her," said Cynthia. "I don't believe she's strong
enough for a waitress, and I have got to tell her so."

"Well," returned Mrs. Durgin, glumly, after a moment's reflection,
"I shouldn't want you should hurry her. Wait till she's out of bed, and
give her another chance."

"All right."

Jeff had been lurking about for the event of the interview, and he
waylaid Cynthia on the path to the helps' house.

"I'm going over to see that youngest Miller girl," she explained.

"Yes, I know all about that," said Jeff. "Well, mother took it just
right, didn't she? You can't always count on her; but I hadn't much
anxiety in this case. She likes you, Cynthia."

"I guess so," said the girl, demurely; and she looked away from him to
smile her pleasure in the fact.

"But I believe if she hadn't known you were with her about my last year
in Harvard--it would have been different. I could see, when I brought it
in that you wanted me to go back, her mind was made up for you."

"Why need you say anything about that?"

"Oh, I knew it would clinch her. I understand mother. If you want
something from her you mustn't ask it straight out. You must propose
something very disagreeable. Then when she refuses that, you can come in
for what you were really after and get it."

"I don't know," said Cynthia, "as I should like to think that your
mother had been tricked into feeling right about me."

"Tricked!" The color flashed up in Jeff's face.

"Not that, Jeff," said the girl, tenderly. "But you know what I mean.
I hope you talked it all out fully with her."

"Fully? I don't know what you mean."

"About your not studying law, and--everything."

"I don't believe in crossing a river till I come to it," said Jeff.
"I didn't say anything to her about that."

"You didn't!"

"No. What had it got to do with our being engaged?"

"What had your going back to Harvard to do with it? If your mother
thinks I'm with her in that, she'll think I'm with her in the other.
And I'm not. I'm with you." She let her hand find his, as they walked
side by side, and gave it a little pressure.

"It's the greatest thing, Cynthy," he said, breathlessly, "to have you
with me in that. But, if you said I ought to study law, I should do it."

"I shouldn't say that, for I believe you're right; but even if I believed
you were wrong, I shouldn't say it. You have a right to make your life
what you want it; and your mother hasn't. Only she must know it, and you
must tell her at once."

"At once?"

"Yes--now. What good will it do to put it off? You're not afraid to
tell her!"

"I don't like you to use that word."

"And I don't like to use it. But I know how it is. You're afraid that
the brunt of it will come on ME. She'll think you're all right, but I'm
all wrong because I agree with you."

"Something like that."

"Well, now, I'm not afraid of anything she can say; and what could she
do? She can't part us, unless you let her, and then I should let her,

"But what's the hurry? What's the need of doing it right off?"

"Because it's a deceit not to do it. It's a lie!"

"I don't see it in that light. I might change my mind, and still go on
and study law."

"You know you never will. Now, Jeff! Why do you act so?"

Jeff did not answer at once. He walked beside her with a face of trouble
that became one of resolve in the set jaws. "I guess you're right,
Cynthy. She's got to know the worst, and the sooner she knows it the


He had another moment of faltering. "You don't want I should talk it
over with Mr. Westover?"

"What has he got to do with it?"

"That's true!"

"If you want to see it in the right light, you can think you've let it
run on till after you're out of college, and then you've got to tell her.
Suppose she asked you how long you had made up your mind against the law,
how should you feel? And if she asked me whether I'd known it all along,
and I had to say I had, and that I'd supported and encouraged you in it,
how should I feel?"

"She mightn't ask any such question," said Jeff, gloomily. Cynthia gave
a little impatient "Oh!" and he hastened to add: "But you're right; I've
got to tell her. I'll tell her to-night--"

"Don't wait till to-night; do it now."


"Yes; and I'll go with you as soon as I've seen the youngest Miller
girl." They had reached the helps' house now, and Cynthia said: "You
wait outside here, and I'll go right back with you. Oh, I hope it isn't
doing wrong to put it off till I've seen that girl!" She disappeared
through the door, and Jeff waited by the steps outside, plucking up one
long grass stem after another and biting it in two. When Cynthia came
out she said: "I guess she'll be all right. Now come, and don't-lose
another second."

"You're afraid I sha'n't do it if I wait any longer!"

"I'm afraid I sha'n't." There was a silence after this.

"Do you know what I think of you, Cynthy?" asked Jeff, hurrying to keep
up with her quick steps. "You've got more courage--"

"Oh, don't praise me, or I shall break down!"

"I'll see that you don't break down," said Jeff, tenderly. "It's the
greatest thing to have you go with me!"

"Why, don't you SEE?" she lamented. "If you went alone, and told your
mother that I approved of it, you would look as if you were afraid, and
wanted to get behind me; and I'm not going to have that."

They found. Mrs. Durgin in the dark entry of the old farmhouse, and
Cynthia said, with involuntary imperiousness: "Come in here, Mrs. Durgin;
I want to tell you something."

She led the way to the old parlor, and she checked Mrs. Durgin's
question, "Has that Miller girl--"

"It isn't about her," said Cynthy, pushing the door to. "It's about me
and Jeff."

Mrs. Durgin became aware of Jeff's presence with an effect of surprise.
"There a'n't anything more, is there?"

"Yes, there is!" Cynthia shrilled. "Now, Jeff!"

"It's just this, mother: Cynthy thinks I ought to tell you--and she
thinks I ought to have told you last night--she expected me to--that I'm
not going to study law."

"And I approve of his not doing it," Cynthia promptly followed, and she
put herself beside Jeff where he stood in front of his mother's rocking-

She looked from one to the other of the faces before her. "I'm sorry a
son of mine," she said, with dignity, "had to be told how to act with his
mother. But, if he had, I don't know as anybody had a better right to do
it than the girl that's going to marry him. And I'll say this, Cynthia
Whitwell, before I say anything else: you've begun right. I wish I could
say Jeff had."

There was an uncomfortable moment before Cynthia said: "He expected to
tell you."

"Oh Yes! I know," said his mother, sadly. She added, sharply: "And did
be expect to tell me what he intended to do for a livin'?"

"Jeff took the word. "Yes, I did. I intend to keep a hotel."

"What hotel?" asked Mrs. Durgin, with a touch of taunting in her tone.

"This one."

The mother of the bold, rebellious boy that Jeff had been stirred in Mrs.
Durgin's heart, and she looked at him with the eyes, that used to condone
his mischief. But she said: "I guess you'll find out that there's more
than one has to agree to that."

"Yes, there are two: you and Jackson; and I don't know but what three, if
you count Cynthy, here."

His mother turned to the girl. "You think this fellow's got sense enough
to keep a hotel?"

"Yes, Mrs. Durgin, I do. I think he's got good ideas about a hotel."

"And what's he goin' to do with his college education?"

Jeff interposed. "You think that all the college graduates turn out
lawyers and doctors and professors? Some of 'em are mighty glad to sweep
out banks in hopes of a clerkship; and some take any sort of a place in a
mill or a business house, to work up; and some bum round out West 'on
cattle ranches; and some, if they're lucky, get newspaper reporters'
places at ten dollars a week."

Cynthia followed with the generalization: "I don't believe anybody can
know too much to keep a hotel. It won't hurt Jeff if he's been to
Harvard, or to Europe, either."

"I guess there's a pair of you," said Mrs. Durgin, with superficial
contempt. She was silent for a time, and they waited. "Well, there!"
she broke out again. "I've got something to chew upon for a spell, I
guess. Go along, now, both of you! And the next time you've got to face
your mother, Jeff, don't you come in lookin' round anybody's petticoats!
I'll see you later about all this."

They went away with the joyful shame of children who have escaped

"That's the last of it, Cynthy," said Jeff.

"I guess so," the girl assented, with a certain grief in her voice.
"I wish you had told her first!"

"Oh, never mind that now!" cried Jeff, and in the dim passageway he took
her in his arms and kissed her.

He would have released her, but she lingered in his embrace. "Will you
promise that if there's ever anything like it again, you won't wait for
me to make you?"

"I like your having made me, but I promise," he said.

Then she tightened her arms round his neck and kissed him.


The will of Jeff's mother relaxed its grip upon the purpose so long held,
as if the mere strain of the tenacity had wearied and weakened it. When
it finally appeared that her ambition for her son was not his ambition
for himself and would never be, she abandoned it. Perhaps it was the
easier for her to forego her hopes of his distinction in the world,
because she had learned before that she must forego her hopes of him in
other ways. She had vaguely fancied that with the acquaintance his
career at Harvard would open to him Jeff would make a splendid marriage.
She had followed darkling and stumbling his course in society as far as
he would report it to her, and when he would not suffer her to glory in
it, she believed that he was forbidding her from a pride that would not
recognize anything out of the common in it. She exulted in his pride,
and she took all his snubbing reserves tenderly, as so many proofs of his

At the bottom of her heart she had both fear and contempt of all towns-
people, whom she generalized from her experience of them as summer folks
of a greater or lesser silliness. She often found herself unable to cope
with them, even when she felt that she had twice their sense; she
perceived that they had something from their training that with all her
undisciplined force she could never hope to win from her own environment.
But she believed that her son would have the advantages which baffled her
in them, for he would have their environment; and she had wished him to
rivet his hold upon those advantages by taking a wife from among them,
and by living the life of their world. Her wishes, of course, had no
such distinct formulation, and the feeling she had toward Cynthia as a
possible barrier to her ambition had no more definition. There had been
times when the fitness of her marriage with Jeff had moved the mother's
heart to a jealousy that she always kept silent, while she hoped for the
accident or the providence which should annul the danger. But Genevieve
Vostrand had not been the kind of accident or the providence that she
would have invoked, and when she saw Jeff's fancy turning toward her,
Mrs. Durgin had veered round to Cynthia. All the same she kept a keen
eye upon the young ladies among the summer folks who came to Lion's Head,
and tacitly canvassed their merits and inclinations with respect to Jeff
in the often-imagined event of his caring for any one of them. She found
that her artfully casual references to her son's being in Harvard
scarcely affected their mothers in the right way. The fact made them
think of the head waiters whom they had met at other hotels, and who were
working their way through Dartmouth or Williams or Yale, and it required
all the force of Jeff's robust personality to dissipate their erroneous
impressions of him. He took their daughters out of their arms and from
under their noses on long drives upon his buckboard, and it became a
convention with them to treat his attentions somewhat like those of a
powerful but faithful vassal.

Whether he was indifferent, or whether the young ladies were coy, none of
these official flirtations came to anything. He seemed not to care for
one more than another; he laughed and joked with them all, and had an
official manner with each which served somewhat like a disparity of years
in putting them at their ease with him. They agreed that he was very
handsome, and some thought him very talented; but they questioned whether
he was quite what you would call a gentleman. It is true that this
misgiving attacked them mostly in the mass; singly, they were little or
not at all troubled by it, and they severally behaved in an unprincipled
indifference to it.

Mrs. Durgin had the courage of her own purposes, but she had the fear of
Jeff's. After the first pang of the disappointment which took final
shape from his declaration that he was going to marry Cynthia, she did
not really care much. She had the habit of the girl; she respected her,
she even loved her. The children, as she thought of them, had known each
other from their earliest days; Jeff had persecuted Cynthia throughout
his graceless boyhood, but he had never intimidated her; and his mother,
with all her weakness for him, felt that it was well for him that his
wife should be brave enough to stand up against him.

She formulated this feeling no more than the others, but she said to
Westover, whom Jeff bade her tell of the engagement: "It a'n't exactly as
I could 'a' wished it to be. But I don't know as mothers are ever quite
suited with their children's marriages. I presume it's from always kind
of havin' had her round under my feet ever since she was born, as you may
say, and seein' her family always so shiftless. Well, I can't say that
of Frank, either. He's turned out a fine boy; but the father! Cynthy is
one of the most capable girls, smart as a trap, and bright as a biscuit.
She's masterful, too! she NEED to have a will of her own with Jeff."

Something of the insensate pride that mothers have in their children's
faults, as their quick tempers, or their wastefulness, or their
revengefulness, expressed itself in her tone; and it was perhaps this
that irritated Westover.

"I hope he'll never let her know it. I don't think a strong will is a
thing to be prized, and I shouldn't consider it one of Cynthia's good
points. The happiest life for her would be one that never forced her to
use it."

"I don't know as I understand you exactly," said Mrs. Durgin, with some
dryness. "I know Jeff's got rather of a domineering disposition, but I
don't believe but she can manage him without meetin' him on his own
ground, as you may say."

"She's a girl in a thousand," Westover returned, evasively.

"Then you think he's shown sense in choosin' of her?" pursued Jeff's
mother, resolute to find some praise of him in Westover's words.

"He's a very fortunate man," said the painter.

"Well, I guess you're right," Mrs. Durgin acquiesced, as much to Jeff's
advantage as she could. "You know I was always afraid he would make a
fool of himself, but I guess he's kept his eyes pretty well open all the
while. Well!" She closed the subject with this exclamation. "Him and
Cynthy's been at me about Jackson," she added, abruptly. "They've cooked
it up between 'em that he's out of health or run down or something."

Her manner referred the matter to Westover, and he said: "He isn't
looking so well this summer. He ought to go away somewhere."

"That's what they thought," said Mrs. Durgin, smiling in her pleasure at
having their opinion confirmed by the old and valued friend of the

Whereabouts do you think he'd best go?"

"Oh, I don't know. Italy--or Egypt--"

"I guess, if you could get Jackson to go away at all, it would be to some
of them old Bible countries," said Mrs. Durgin. "We've got to have a
fight to get him off, make the best of it, and I've thought it over since
the children spoke about it, and I couldn't seem to see Jackson willin'
to go out to Californy or Colorady, to either of his brothers. But I
guess he would go to Egypt. That a good climate for the--his complaint?"

She entered eagerly into the question, and Westover promised to write to
a Boston doctor, whom he knew very well, and report Jackson's case to
him, and get his views of Egypt.

"Tell him how it is," said Mrs. Durgin, "and the tussle we shall have to
have anyway to make Jackson believe he'd ought to have a rest. He'll go
to Egypt if he'll go anywheres, because his mind keeps runnin' on Bible
questions, and it 'll interest him to go out there; and we can make him
believe it's just to bang around for the winter. He's terrible hopeful."
Now that she began to speak, all her long-repressed anxiety poured itself
out, and she hitched her chair nearer to Westover and wistfully clutched
his sleeve. "That's the worst of Jackson. You can't make him believe
anything's the matter. Sometimes I can't bear to hear him go on about
himself as if he was a well young man. He expects that medium's stuff is
goin' to cure him!"

"People sick in that way are always hopeful," said Westover.

"Oh, don't I know it! Ha'n't I seen my children and my husband--Oh, do
ask that doctor to answer as quick as he can!"


Westover had a difficulty in congratulating Jeff which he could scarcely
define to himself, but which was like that obscure resentment we feel
toward people whom we think unequal to their good fortune. He was
ashamed of his grudge, whatever it was, and this may have made him overdo
his expressions of pleasure. He was sensible of a false cordiality in
them, and he checked himself in a flow of forced sentiment to say, more
honestly: "I wish you'd speak to Cynthia for me. You know how much I
think of her, and how much I want to see her happy. You ought to be a
very good fellow, Jeff!"

"I'll tell her that; she'll like that," said Jeff. "She thinks the world
of you."

"Does she? Well!"

"And I guess she'll be glad you sent word. She's been wondering what you
would say; she's always so afraid of you."

"Is she? You're not afraid of me, are you? But perhaps you don't think
so much of me."

"I guess Cynthia and I think alike on that point," said Jeff, without
abating Westover's discomfort.

There was a stress of sharp cold that year about the 20th of August.
Then the weather turned warm again, and held fine till the beginning of
October, within a week of the time when Jackson was to sail. It had not
been so hard to make him consent when he knew where the doctor wished him
to go, and he had willingly profited by Westover's suggestions about
getting to Egypt. His interest in the matter, which he tried to hide at
first under a mask of decorous indifference, mounted with the fire of
Whitwell's enthusiasm, and they held nightly councils together, studying
his course on the map, and consulting planchette upon the points at
variance that rose between them, while Jombateeste sat with his chair
tilted against the wall, and pulled steadily at his pipe, which mixed its
strong fumes with the smell of the kerosene-lamp and the perennial odor
of potatoes in the cellar under the low room where the companions

Toward the end of September Westover spent the night before he went back
to town with them. After a season with planchette, their host pushed
himself back with his knees from the table till his chair reared upon its
hind legs, and shoved his hat up from his forehead in token of
philosophical mood.

"I tell you, Jackson," he said, "you'd ought to get hold o' some them
occult devils out there, and squeeze their science out of 'em. Any
Buddhists in Egypt, Mr. Westover?"

"I don't think there are," said Westover. "Unless Jackson should come
across some wandering Hindu. Or he might push on, and come home by the
way of India."

"Do it, Jackson!" his friend conjured him. "May cost you something more,
but it 'll be worth the money. If it's true, what some them Blavetsky
fellers claim, you can visit us here in your astral body--git in with 'em
the right way. I should like to have you try it. What's the reason
India wouldn't be as good for him as Egypt, anyway?" Whitwell demanded
of Westover.

"I suppose the climate's rather too moist; the heat would be rather
trying to him there."

"That so?"

"And he's taken his ticket for Alexandria," Westover pursued.

"Well, I guess that's so." Whitwell tilted his backward sloping hat to
one side, so as to scratch the northeast corner of his bead thoughtfully.

"But as far as that is concerned," said Westover, "and the doctrine of
immortality generally is concerned, Jackson will have his hands full if
he studies the Egyptian monuments."

"What they got to do with it?"

"Everything. Egypt is the home of the belief in a future life; it was
carried from Egypt to Greece. He might come home by way of Athens."

"Why, man!" cried Whitwell. "Do you mean to say that them old Hebrew
saints, Joseph's brethren, that went down into Egypt after corn, didn't
know about immortality, and them Egyptian devils did?"

"There's very little proof in the Old Testament that the Israelites knew
of it."

Whitwell looked at Jackson. "That the idee you got?"

"I guess he's right," said Jackson. "There's something a little about it
in Job, and something in the Psalms: but not a great deal."

"And we got it from them Egyptian d----"

"I don't say that," Westover interposed. "But they had it before we had.
As we imagine it, we got it though Christianity."

Jombateeste, who had taken his pipe out of his mouth in a controversial
manner, put it back again.

Westover added, "But there's no question but the Egyptians believed in
the life hereafter, and in future rewards and punishments for the deeds
done in the body, thousands of years before our era."

"Well, I'm dumned," said Whitwell.

Jombateeste took his pipe out again. "Hit show they got good sense.
They know--they feel it in their bone--what goin' 'appen--when you dead.
Me, I guess they got some prophet find it hout for them; then they goin'
take the credit."

"I guess that's something so, Jombateeste," said Whitwell. "It don't
stand to reason that folks without any alphabet, as you may say, and only
a lot of pictures for words, like Injuns, could figure out the
immortality of the soul. They got the idee by inspiration somehow. Why,
here! It's like this. Them Pharaohs must have always been clawin' out
for the Hebrews before they got a hold of Joseph, and when they found out
the true doctrine, they hushed up where they got it, and their priests
went on teachin' it as if it was their own."

"That's w'at I say. Got it from the 'Ebrew."

"Well, it don't matter a great deal where they got it, so they got it,"
said Jackson, as he rose.

"I believe I'll go with you," said Westover.

"All there is about it," said the sick man, solemnly, with a frail effort
to straighten himself, to which his sunken chest would not respond, "is
this: no man ever did figure that out for himself. A man sees folks die,
and as far as his senses go, they don't live again. But somehow he knows
they do; and his knowledge comes from somewhere else; it's inspired--"

"That's w'at I say," Jombateeste hastened to interpose. "Got it from the
'Ebrew. Feel it in 'is bone."

Out under the stars Jackson and Westover silently mounted the hill-side
together. At one of the thank-you-marms in the road the sick man
stopped, like a weary horse, to breathe. He took off his hat and wiped
the sweat of weakness that had gathered upon his forehead, and looked
round the sky, powdered with the constellations and the planets. "It's
sightly," he whispered.

"Yes, it is fine," Westover assented. "But the stars of our Northern
nights are nothing to what you'll see in Egypt."

Jackson repeated, vaguely: "Egypt! Where I should like to go is Mars."
He fixed his eyes on the flaming planets, in a long stare. "But I
suppose they have their own troubles, same as we do. They must get sick
and die, like the rest of us. But I should like to know more about 'em.
You believe it's inhabited, don't you?"

Westover's agnosticism did not, somehow, extend to Mars. "Yes, I've no
doubt of it."

Jackson seemed pleased. "I've read everything I can lay my hands on
about it. I've got a notion that if there's any choosin', after we get
through here, I should like to go to Mars for a while, or as long as I
was a little homesick still, and wanted to keep as near the earth as I
could," he added, quaintly.

Westover laughed. "You could study up the subject of irrigation, there;
they say that's what keeps the parallel markings green on Mars; and
telegraph a few hints to your brother in Colorado, after the Martians
perfect their signal code."

Perhaps the invalid's fancy flagged. He drew a long, ragged breath.
"I don't know as I care to leave home, much. If it wa'n't a kind of
duty, I shouldn't." He seemed impelled by a sudden need to say, "How do
you think Jefferson and mother will make it out together?"

"I've no doubt they'll manage," said Westover.

"They're a good deal alike," Jackson suggested.

Westover preferred not to meet his overture. You'll be back, you know,
almost as soon as the season commences, next summer."

"Yes," Jackson assented, more cheerfully. "And now, Cynthy's sure to be

"Yes, she will be here," said Westover, not so cheerfully.

Jackson seemed to find the opening he was seeking, in Westover's tone.
"What do you think of gettin' married, anyway, Mr. Westover?" he asked.

"We haven't either of us thought so well of it as to try it, Jackson,"
said the painter, jocosely.

"Think it's a kind of chance?"

"It's a chance."

Jackson was silent. Then, "I a'n't one of them," he said, abruptly,
"that think a man's goin' to be made over by marryin' this woman or that.
If he a'n't goin' to be the right kind of a man himself, he a'n't because
his wife's a good woman. Sometimes I think that a man's wife is the last
person in the world that can change his disposition. She can influence
him about this and about that, but she can't change him. It seems as if
he couldn't let her if he tried, and after the first start-off he don't

"That's true," Westover assented. "We're terribly inflexible. Nothing
but something like a change of heart, as they used to call it, can make
us different, and even then we're apt to go back to our old shape. When
you look at it in that light, marriage seems impossible. Yet it takes
place every day!"

"It's a great risk for a woman," said Jackson, putting on his hat and
stirring for an onward movement. "But I presume that if the man is
honest with her it's the best thing she can have. The great trouble is
for the man to be honest with her."

"Honesty is difficult," said Westover.

He made Jackson promise to spend a day with him in Boston, on his way to
take the Mediterranean steamer at New York. When they met he yielded to
an impulse which the invalid's forlornness inspired, and went on to see
him off. He was glad that he did that, for, though Jackson was not sad
at parting, he was visibly touched by Westover's kindness.

Of course he talked away from it. "I guess I've left 'em in pretty good
shape for the winter at Lion's Head," he said. "I've got Whitwell to
agree to come up and live in the house with mother, and she'll have
Cynthy with her, anyway; and Frank and Jombateeste can look after the
bosses easy enough."

He had said something like this before, but Westover could see that it
comforted him to repeat it, and he encouraged him to do so in full. He
made him talk about getting home in the spring, after the frost was out
of the ground, but he questioned involuntarily, while the sick man spoke,
whether he might not then be lying under the sands that had never known a
frost since the glacial epoch. When the last warning for visitors to go
ashore came, Jackson said, with a wan smile, while he held Westover's
hand: "I sha'n't forget this very soon."

"Write to me," said Westover.


Crimson torch of a maple, kindled before its time
Disposition to use his friends
Fear of asking too much and the folly of asking too little
Government is best which governs least
Honesty is difficult
I don't ever want to take the whip-hand
I sha'n't forget this very soon
Insensate pride that mothers have in their children's faults
Iron forks had two prongs
Joyful shame of children who have escaped punishment
Man that could be your friend if he didn't like you
Married Man: after the first start-off he don't try
Nothing in the way of sport, as people commonly understand it
People whom we think unequal to their good fortune
Society interested in a woman's past, not her future
The great trouble is for the man to be honest with her
We're company enough for ourselves
Women talked their follies and men acted theirs
World seems to always come out at the same hole it went in at


By William Dean Howells

Part II.


Jackson kept his promise to write to Westover, but he was better than his
word to his mother, and wrote to her every week that winter.

"I seem just to live from letter to letter. It's ridic'lous," she said
to Cynthia once when the girl brought the mail in from the barn, where
the men folks kept it till they had put away their horses after driving
over from Lovewell with it. The trains on the branch road were taken off
in the winter, and the post-office at the hotel was discontinued. The
men had to go to the town by cutter, over a highway that the winds sifted
half full of snow after it had been broken out by the ox-teams in the
morning. But Mrs. Durgin had studied the steamer days and calculated the
time it would take letters to come from New York to Lovewell; and, unless
a blizzard was raging, some one had to go for the mail when the day came.
It was usually Jombateeste, who reverted in winter to the type of
habitant from which he had sprung. He wore a blue woollen cap, like a
large sock, pulled over his ears and close to his eyes, and below it his
clean-shaven brown face showed. He had blue woollen mittens, and boots
of russet leather, without heels, came to his knees; he got a pair every
time he went home on St. John's day. His lean little body was swathed in
several short jackets, and he brought the letters buttoned into one of
the innermost pockets. He produced the letter from Jackson promptly
enough when Cynthia came out to the barn for it, and then he made a show
of getting his horse out of the cutter shafts, and shouting international
reproaches at it, till she was forced to ask, "Haven't you got something
for me, Jombateeste?"

"You expec' some letter?" he said, unbuckling a strap and shouting

"You know whether I do. Give it to me."

"I don' know. I think I drop something on the road. I saw something
white; maybe snow; good deal of snow."

"Don't plague! Give it here!"

"Wait I finish unhitch. I can't find any letter till I get some time to

"Oh, now, Jombateeste! Give me my letter!"

"W'at you want letter for? Always same thing. Well! 'Old the 'oss; I
goin' to feel."

Jombateeste felt in one pocket after another, while Cynthia clung to the
colt's bridle, and he was uncertain till the last whether he had any
letter for her. When it appeared she made a flying snatch at it and ran;
and the comedy was over, to be repeated in some form the next week.

The girl somehow always possessed herself of what was in her letters
before she reached the room where Mrs. Durgin was waiting for hers. She
had to read that aloud to Jackson's mother, and in the evening she had to
read it again to Mrs. Durgin and Whitwell and Jombateeste and Frank,
after they had done their chores, and they had gathered in the old farm-
house parlor, around the air-tight sheet-iron stove, in a heat of eighty
degrees. Whitwell listened, with planchette ready on the table before
him, and he consulted it for telepathic impressions of Jackson's actual
mental state when the reading was over.

He got very little out of the perverse instrument. "I can't seem to work
her. If Jackson was here--"

"We shouldn't need to ask planchette about him," Cynthia once suggested,
with the spare sense of humor that sometimes revealed itself in her.

"Well, I guess that's something so," her father candidly admitted. But
the next time he consulted the helpless planchette as hopefully as
before. "You can't tell, you can't tell," he urged.

"The trouble seems to be that planchette can't tell," said Mrs. Durgin,
and they all laughed. They were not people who laughed a great deal, and
they were each intent upon some point in the future that kept them from
pleasure in the present. The little Canuck was the only one who suffered
himself a contemporaneous consolation. His early faith had so far lapsed
from him that he could hospitably entertain the wild psychical
conjectures of Whitwell without an accusing sense of heresy, and he found
the winter of northern New England so mild after that of Lower Canada
that he experienced a high degree of animal comfort in it, and looked
forward to nothing better. To be well fed, well housed, and well heated;
to smoke successive pipes while the others talked, and to catch through
his smoke-wreaths vague glimpses of their meanings, was enough. He felt
that in being promoted to the care of the stables in Jackson's absence he
occupied a dignified and responsible position, with a confidential
relation to the exile which justified him in sending special messages to
him, and attaching peculiar value to Jackson's remembrances.

The exile's letters said very little about his health, which in the sense
of no news his mother held to be good news, but they were full concerning
the monuments and the ethnological interest of life in Egypt.

They were largely rescripts of each day's observations and experiences,
close and full, as his mother liked them in regard to fact, and
generously philosophized on the side of politics and religion for
Whitwell. The Eastern question became in the snow-choked hills of New
England the engrossing concern of this speculative mind, and he was apt
to spring it upon Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia at mealtimes and other
defenceless moments. He tried to debate it with Jombateeste, who
conceived of it as a form of spiritualistic inquiry, and answered from
the hay-loft, where he was throwing down fodder for the cattle to
Whitwell, volubly receiving it on the barn floor below, that he believed,
him, everybody got a hastral body, English same as Mormons.

"Guess you mean Moslems," said Whitwell, and Jombateeste asked the
difference, defiantly.

The letters which came to Cynthia could not be made as much a general
interest, and, in fact, no one else cared so much for them as for
Jackson's letters, not even Jeff's mother. After Cynthia got one of
them, she would ask, perfunctorily, what Jeff said, but when she was told
there was no news she did not press her question.

"If Jackson don't get back in time next summer," Mrs. Durgin said, in one
of the talks she had with the girl, "I guess I shall have to let Jeff and
you run the house alone."

"I guess we shall want a little help from you," said Cynthia, demurely.
She did not refuse the implication of Mrs. Durgin's words, but she would
not assume that there was more in them than they expressed.

When Jeff came home for the three days' vacation at Thanksgiving, he
wished again to relinquish his last year at Harvard, and Cynthia had to
summon all her forces to keep him to his promise of staying. He brought
home the books with which he was working off his conditions, with a half-
hearted intention of study, and she took hold with him, and together they
fought forward over the ground he had to gain. His mother was almost
willing at last that he should give up his last year in college.

"What is the use?" she asked. "He's give up the law, and he might as
well commence here first as last, if he's goin' to."

The girl had no reason to urge against this; she could only urge her
feeling that he ought to go back and take his degree with the rest of his

"If you're going to keep Lion's Head the way you pretend you are," she
said to him, as she could not say to his mother, "you want to keep all
your Harvard friends, don't you, and have them remember you? Go back,
Jeff, and don't you come here again till after you've got your degree.
Never mind the Christmas vacation, nor the Easter. Stay in Cambridge and
work off your conditions. You can do it, if you try. Oh, don't you
suppose I should like to have you here?" she reproached him.

He went back, with a kind of grudge in his heart, which he confessed in
his first letter home to her, when he told her that she was right and he
was wrong. He was sure now, with the impulse which their work on them in
common had given him, that he should get his conditions off, and he
wanted her and his mother to begin preparing their minds to come to his
Class Day. He planned how they could both be away from the hotel for
that day. The house was to be opened on the 20th of June, but it was not
likely that there would be so many people at once that they could not
give the 21st to Class Day; Frank and his father could run Lion's Head
somehow, or, if they could not, then the opening could be postponed till
the 24th. At all events, they must not fail to come. Cynthia showed the
whole letter to his mother, who refused to think of such a thing, and
then asked, as if the fact had not been fully set before her: "When is it
to be?"

"The 21st of June."

"Well, he's early enough with his invitation," she grumbled.

"Yes, he is," said Cynthia; and she laughed for shame and pleasure as she
confessed, "I was thinking he was rather late."

She hung her head and turned her face away. But Mrs. Durgin understood.
"You be'n expectin' it all along, then."

"I guess so."

"I presume," said the elder woman, "that he's talked to you about it.
He never tells me much. I don't see why you should want to go. What's
it like?"

"Oh, I don't know. But it's the day the graduating class have to
themselves, and all their friends come."

"Well, I don't know why anybody should want to go," said Mrs. Durgin.
"I sha'n't. Tell him he won't want to own me when he sees me. What am I
goin' to wear, I should like to know? What you goin' to wear, Cynthy?"


Jeff's place at Harvard had been too long fixed among the jays to allow
the hope of wholly retrieving his condition now. It was too late for him
to be chosen in any of the nicer clubs or societies, but he was not
beyond the mounting sentiment of comradery, which begins to tell in the
last year among college men, and which had its due effect with his class.
One of the men, who had always had a foible for humanity, took advantage
of the prevailing mood in another man, and wrought upon him to ask, among
the fellows he was asking to a tea at his rooms, several fellows who were
distinctly and almost typically jay. The tea was for the aunt of the man
who gave it, a very pretty woman from New York, and it was so richly
qualified by young people of fashion from Boston that the infusion of the
jay flavor could not spoil it, if it would not rather add an agreeable
piquancy. This college mood coincided that year with a benevolent
emotion in the larger world, from which fashion was not exempt. Society
had just been stirred by the reading of a certain book, which had then a
very great vogue, and several people had been down among the wretched at
the North End doing good in a conscience-stricken effort to avert the
millennium which the book in question seemed to threaten. The lady who
matronized the tea was said to have done more good than you could imagine
at the North End, and she caught at the chance to meet the college jays
in a spirit of Christian charity. When the man who was going to give the
tea rather sheepishly confessed what the altruistic man had got him in
for, she praised him so much that he went away feeling like the hero of a
holy cause. She promised the assistance and sympathy of several brave
girls, who would not be afraid of all the jays in college.

After all, only one of the jays came. Not many, in fact, had been asked,
and when Jeff Durgin actually appeared, it was not known that he was both
the first and the last of his kind. The lady who was matronizing the tea
recognized him, with a throe of her quickened conscience, as the young
fellow whom she had met two winters before at the studio tea which Mr.
Westover had given to those queer Florentine friends of his, and whom she
had never thought of since, though she had then promised herself to do
something for him. She had then even given him some vague hints of a
prospective hospitality, and she confessed her sin of omission in a swift
but graphic retrospect to one of her brave girls, while Jeff stood
blocking out a space for his stalwart bulk amid the alien elegance just
within the doorway, and the host was making his way toward him, with an
outstretched hand of hardy welcome.

At an earlier period of his neglect and exclusion, Jeff would not have
responded to the belated overture which had now been made him, for no
reason that he could divine. But he had nothing to lose by accepting the
invitation, and he had promised the altruistic man, whom he rather liked;
he did not dislike the giver of the tea so much as some other men, and so
he came.

The brave girl whom the matron was preparing to devote to him stood
shrinking with a trepidation which she could not conceal at sight of his
strange massiveness, with his rust-gold hair coming down toward his thick
yellow brows and mocking blue eyes in a dense bang, and his jaw squaring
itself under the rather insolent smile of his full mouth. The matron
felt that her victim teas perhaps going to fail her, when a voice at her
ear said, as if the question were extorted, "Who in the world is that?"

She instantly turned, and flashed out in a few inspired syllables the
fact she had just imparted to her treacherous heroine. "Do let me
introduce him, Miss Lynde. I must do something for him, when he gets up
to me, if he ever does."

"By all means," said the girl, who had an impulse to laugh at the rude
force of Jeff's face and figure, so disproportioned to the occasion, and
she vented it at the matron's tribulation. The matron was shaking hands
with people right and left, and exchanging inaudible banalities with
them. She did not know what the girl said in answer, but she was aware
that she remained near her. She had professed her joy at seeing Jeff
again, when he reached her, and she turned with him and said, "Let me
present you to Miss Lynde, Mr. Durgin," and so abandoned them to each

As Jeff had none of the anxiety for social success which he would have
felt at an earlier period, he now left it to Miss Lynde to begin the
talk, or not, as she chose. He bore himself with so much indifference
that she was piqued to an effort to hold his eyes, that wandered from her
to this face and that in the crowd.

"Do you find many people you know, Mr. Durgin?"

"I don't find any."

"I supposed you didn't from the way you looked at them."

"How did I look at them?"

"As if you wanted to eat them, and one never wants to eat one's friends."


"Oh, I don't know. They wouldn't agree with one."

Jeff laughed, and he now took fuller note of the slender girl who stood
before him, and swayed a little backward, in a graceful curve. He saw
that she had a dull, thick complexion, with liquid eyes, set wide apart
and slanted upward slightly, and a nose that was deflected inward from
the straight line; but her mouth was beautiful and vividly red like a
crimson blossom.

"Couldn't you find me some place to sit down, Mr. Durgin?" she asked.

He had it on his tongue to say, "Well, not unless you want to sit down on
some enemy," but he did not venture this: when it comes to daring of that
sort, the boldest man is commonly a little behind a timid woman.

Several of the fellows had clubbed their rooms, and lent them to the man
who was giving the tea; he used one of the apartments for a cloak-room,
and he meant the other for the social overflow from his own. But people
always prefer to remain dammed-up together in the room where they are
received, and Miss Lynde looked between the neighboring heads, and over
the neighboring shoulders, and saw the borrowed apartment quite empty.
At the moment of this discovery the host came fighting his way up to make
sure that Jeff had been provided for in the way of introductions. He
promptly introduced him to Miss Lynde. She said: "Oh, that's been done!
Can't you think of something new?" Jeff liked the style of this.
"I don't mind it, but I'm afraid Mr. Durgin must find it monotonous."

"Oh, well, do something original yourself, then, Miss Lynde!" said the
host. "Start a movement for that room across the passage; that's mine,
too, for the occasion; and save some of these people's lives. It's
suffocating in here."

"I don't mind saving Mr. Durgin's," said the girl, "if he wants it

"Oh, I know he's just dying to have you save it," said the host, and he
left them, to inspire other people to follow their example. But such as
glanced across the passage into the overflow room seemed to think it now
the possession solely of the pioneers of the movement. At any rate, they
made no show of joining them; and after Miss Lynde and Jeff had looked at
the pictures on the walls and the photographs on the mantel of the room
where they found themselves, they sat down on chairs fronting the open
door and the door of the room they had left. The window-seat would have
been more to Jeff's mind, and he had proposed it, but the girl seemed not
to have heard him; she took the deep easy-chair in full view of the
company opposite, and left him to pull up a chair beside her.

"I always like to see the pictures in a man's room," she said, with a
little sigh of relief from their inspection and a partial yielding of her
figure to the luxury of the chair. "Then I know what the man is. This
man--I don't know whose room it is--seems to have spent a good deal of
his time at the theatre."

"Isn't that where most of them spend their time?" asked Jeff.

"I'm sure I don't know. Is that where you spend yours?"

"It used to be. I'm not spending my time anywhere just now." She looked
questioningly, and he added, "I haven't got any to spend."

"Oh, indeed! Is that a reason? Why don't you spend somebody else's?"

"Nobody has any, that I know."

"You're all working off conditions, you mean?"

"That's what I'm doing, or trying to."

"Then it's never certain whether you can do it, after all?"

"Not so certain as to be free from excitement," said Jeff, smiling.

"And are you consumed with the melancholy that seems to be balling up all
the men at the prospect of having to leave Harvard and go out into the
hard, cold world?"

"I don't look it, do I? Jeff asked:

"No, you don't. And you don't feel it? You're not trying concealment,
and so forth?"

"No; if I'd had my own way, I'd have left Harvard before this." He could
see that his bold assumption of difference, or indifference, told upon
her. "I couldn't get out into the hard, cold world too soon."

"How fearless! Most of them don't know what they're going to do in it."

"I do."

"And what are you going to do? Or perhaps you think that's asking!"

"Oh no. I'm going to keep a hotel."

He had hoped to startle her, but she asked, rather quietly, "What do you
mean?" and she added, as if to punish him for trying to mystify her:
"I've heard that it requires gifts for that. Isn't there some proverb?"

"Yes. But I'm going to try to do it on experience." He laughed, and he
did not mind her trying to hit him, for he saw that be had made her

"Do you mean that you have kept a hotel?"

"For three generations," he returned, with a gravity that mocked her from
his bold eyes.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," she said, indifferently. "Where
is your hotel? In Boston--New York--Chicago?"

"It's in the country--it's a summer hotel," he said, as before.

She looked away from him toward the other room. "There's my brother.
I didn't know he was coming."

"Shall I go and tell him where you are?" Jeff asked, following the
direction of her eyes.

"No, no; he can find me," said the girl, sinking back in her chair again.
He left her to resume the talk where she chose, and she said: "If it's
something ancestral, of course--"

"I don't know as it's that, exactly. My grandfather used to keep a
country tavern, and so it's in the blood, but the hotel I mean is
something that we've worked up into from a farm boarding-house."

"You don't talk like a country person," the girl broke in, abruptly.

"Not in Cambridge. I do in the country."

"And so," she prompted, "you're going to turn it into a hotel when you've
got out of Harvard."

"It's a hotel already, and a pretty big one; but I'm going to make the
right kind of hotel of it when I take hold of it."

"And what is the right kind of a hotel?"

"That's a long story. It would make you tired."

"It might, but we've got to spend the time somehow. You could begin, and
then if I couldn't stand it you could stop."

"It's easier to stop first and begin some other time. I guess I'll let
you imagine my hotel, Miss Lynde."

"Oh, I understand now," said the girl. "The table will be the great
thing. You will stuff people."

"Do you mean that I'm trying to stuff you?"

"How do I know? You never can tell what men really mean."

Jeff laughed with mounting pleasure in her audacity, that imparted a
sense of tolerance for him such as he had experienced very seldom from
the Boston girls he had met; after all, he had met but few. It flattered
him to have her doubt what he had told her in his reckless indifference;
it implied that he was fit for better things than hotel-keeping.

"You never can tell how much a woman believes," he retorted.

"And you keep trying to find out?"

"No, but I think that they might believe the truth."

"You'd better try them with it!"

"Well, I will. Do you really want to know what I'm going to do when I
get through?"

"Let me see!" Miss Lynde leaned forward, with her elbow on her knee and
her chin in her hand, and softly kicked the edge of her skirt with the
toe of her shoe, as if in deep thought. Jeff waited for her to play her
comedy through. "Yes," she said, "I think I did wish to know--at one

"But you don't now?"

"Now? How can I tell? It was a great while ago!"

"I see you don't."

Miss Lynde did not make any reply. She asked, "Do you know my aunt,

"I didn't know you had one."

"Yes, everybody has an aunt--even when they haven't a mother, if you can
believe the Gilbert operas. I ask because I happen to live with my aunt,
and if you knew her she might--ask you to call." Miss Lynde scanned
Jeff's face for the effect of this.

He said, gravely: "If you'll introduce me to her, I'll ask her to let

"Would you, really?" said the girl. "I've half a mind to try. I wonder
if you'd really have the courage."

"I don't think I'm easily rattled."

"You mean that I'm trying to rattle you."


"I'm not. My aunt is just what I've said."

"You haven't said what she was. Is she here?"

"No; that's the worst of it. If she were, I should introduce you, just
to see if you'd dare. Well, some other time I will."

"You think there'll be some other time?" Jeff asked.

"I don't know. There are all kinds of times. By-the-way, what time is

Jeff looked at his watch. "Quarter after six."

"Then I must go." She jumped to her feet, and faced about for a glimpse
of herself in the little glass on the mantel, and put her hand on the
large pink roses massed at her waist. One heavy bud dropped from its
stem to the floor, where, while she stood, the edge of her skirt pulled
and pushed it. She moved a little aside to peer over at a photograph.
Jeff stooped and picked up the flower, which he offered her.

"You dropped it," he said, bowing over it.

"Did I?" She looked at it with an effect of surprise and doubt.

"I thought so, but if you don't, I shall keep it."

The girl removed her careless eyes from it. "When they break off so
short, they won't go back."

"If I were a rose, I should want to go back," said Jeff.

She stopped in one of her many aversions and reversions, and looked at
him steadily across her shoulder. "You won't have to keep a poet, Mr.

"Thank you. I always expected to write the circulars myself. I'll send
you one."


"With this rose pressed between the leaves, so you'll know."

"That would, be very pretty. But you must take me to Mrs. Bevidge, now,
if you can."

"I guess I can," said Jeff; and in a minute or two they stood before the
matronizing hostess, after a passage through the babbling and laughing
groups that looked as impossible after they had made it as it looked

Mrs. Bevidge gave the girl's hand a pressure distinct from the official
touch of parting, and contrived to say, for her hearing alone: "Thank you
so much, Bessie. You've done missionary work."

"I shouldn't call it that."

"It will do for you to say so! He wasn't really so bad, then? Thank you
again, dear!"

Jeff had waited his turn. But now, after the girl had turned away, as if
she had forgotten him, his eyes followed her, and he did not know that
Mrs. Bevidge was speaking to him. Miss Lynde had slimly lost herself in
the mass, till she was only a graceful tilt of hat, before she turned
with a distraught air. When her eyes met Jeff's they lighted up with a
look that comes into the face when one remembers what one has been trying
to think of. She gave him a brilliant smile that seemed to illumine him
from head to foot, and before it was quenched he felt as if she had
kissed her hand to him from her rich mouth.

Then he heard Mrs. Bevidge asking something about a hall, and he was
aware of her bending upon him a look of the daring humanity that had
carried her triumphantly through her good works at the North End.

"Oh, I'm not in the Yard," said Jeff, with belated intelligence.

"Then will just Cambridge reach you?"

He gave his number and street, and she thanked him with the benevolence
that availed so much with the lower classes. He went away thrilling and
tingling, with that girl's tones in his ear, her motions in his nerves,
and the colors of her face filling his sight, which he printed on the air
whenever he turned, as one does with a vivid light after looking at it.


When Jeff reached his room he felt the need of writing to Cynthia, with
whatever obscure intention of atonement. He told her of the college tea
he had just come from, and made fun of it, and the kind of people he had
met, especially the affected girl who had tried to rattle him; he said he
guessed she did not think she had rattled him a great deal.

While he wrote he kept thinking how this Miss Lynde was nearer his early
ideal of fashion, of high life, which Westover had pretty well snubbed
out of him, than any woman he had seen yet; she seemed a girl who would
do what she pleased, and would not be afraid if it did not please other
people. He liked her having tried to rattle him, and he smiled to
himself in recalling her failure. It was as if she had laid hold of him
with her little hands to shake him, and had shaken herself. He laughed
out in the dark when this image came into his mind; its intimacy
flattered him; and he believed that it was upon some hint from her that
Mrs. Bevidge had asked his address. She must be going to ask him to her
house, and very soon, for it was part of Jeff's meagre social experience
that this was the way swells did; they might never ask you twice, but
they would ask you promptly.

The thing that Mrs. Bevidge asked Jeff to, when her note reached him the
second day after the tea, was a meeting to interest young people in the
work at the North End, and Jeff swore under his breath at the
disappointment and indignity put upon him. He had reckoned upon an
afternoon tea, at least, or even, in the flights of fancy which he now
disowned to himself, a dance after the Mid-Years, or possibly an earlier
reception of some sort. He burned with shame to think of a theatre-
party, which he had fondly specialized, with a seat next Miss Lynde.

He tore Mrs. Bevidge's note to pieces, and decided not to answer it at
all, as the best way of showing how he had taken her invitation. But
Mrs. Bevidge's benevolence was not wanting in courage; she believed that
Jeff should pay his footing in society, such as it was, and should allow
himself to be made use of, the first thing; when she had no reply from
him, she wrote him again, asking him to an adjourned meeting of the first
convocation, which had been so successful in everything but numbers.
This time she baited her hook, in hoping that the young men would feel
something of the interest the young ladies had already shown in the
matter. She expressed the fear that Mr. Durgin had not got her earlier
letter, and she sent this second to the care of the man who had given the

Jeff's resentment was now so far past that he would have civilly declined
to go to the woman's house; but all his hopes of seeing that girl, as he
always called Miss Lynde in his thought, were revived by the mention of
the young ladies interested in the cause. He accepted, though all the
way into Boston he laid wagers with himself that she would not be there;
and up to the moment of taking her hand he refused himself any hope of

There was not much business before the meeting; that had really been all
transacted before; it was mainly to make sure of the young men, who were
present in the proportion of one to five young ladies at least. Mrs.
Bevidge explained that she had seen the wastefulness of amateur effort
among the poor, and announced that hereafter she was going to work with
the established charities. These were very much in want of visitors,
especially young men, to go about among the applicants for relief, and
inquire into their real necessities, and get work for them. She was hers
self going to act as secretary for the meetings during the coming month,
and apparently she wished to signalize her accession to the regular
forces of charity by bringing into camp as large a body of recruits as
she could.

But Jeff had not come to be made use of, or as a jay who was willing to
work for his footing in society. He had come in the hope of meeting Miss
Lynde, and now that he had met her he had no gratitude to Mrs. Bevidge as
a means, and no regret for the defeat of her good purposes so far as she
intended their fulfilment in him. He was so cool and self-possessed in
excusing himself, for reasons that he took no pains to make seem
unselfish, that the altruistic man who had got him asked to the college
tea as a friendless jay felt it laid upon him to apologize for Mrs.
Bevidge's want of tact.

"She means well, and she's very much in earnest, in this work; but I must
say she can make herself very offensive--when she doesn't try! She has a
right to ask our help, but not to parade us as the captives of her bow
and spear."

"Oh, that's all right," said Jeff. He perceived that the amiable fellow
was claiming for all an effect that Jeff knew really implicated himself
alone. "I couldn't load up with anything of that sort, if I'm to work
off my conditions, you know."

"Are you in that boat?" said the altruist, as if he were, too; and he put
his hand compassionately on Jeff's iron shoulder, and left him to Miss
Lynde, whose side he had not stirred from since he had found her.

"It seems to me," she said, "that where there are so many of you in the
same boat, you might manage to get ashore somehow."

"Yes, or all go down together." Jeff laughed, and ate Mrs. Bevidge's
bread-and-butter, and drank her tea, with a relish unaffected by his
refusal to do what she asked him. He was right, perhaps, and perhaps she
deserved nothing better at his hands, but the altruist, when he glanced
at him from the other side of the room, thought that he had possibly
wasted his excuses upon Jeff's self-complacence.

He went away in a halo of young ladies; several of the other girls
grouped themselves in their departure; and it happened that Miss Lynde
and Jeff took leave together. Mrs. Bevidge said to her, with the
caressing tenderness of one in the same set, "Good-bye, dear!" To Jeff
she said, with the cold conscience of those whom their nobility obliges,
"I am always at home on Thursdays, Mr. Durgin."

"Oh, thank you," said Jeff. He understood what the words and the manner
meant together, but both were instantly indifferent to him when he got
outside and found that Miss Lynde was not driving. Something, which was
neither look, nor smile, nor word, of course, but nothing more at most
than a certain pull and tilt of the shoulder, as she turned to walk away
from Mrs. Bevidge's door, told him from her that he might walk home with
her if he would not seem to do so.

It was one of the pink evenings, dry and clear, that come in the Boston
December, and they walked down the sidehill street, under the delicate
tracery of the elm boughs in the face of the metallic sunset. In the
section of the Charles that the perspective of the street blocked out,
the wrinkled current showed as if glazed with the hard color. Jeff's
strong frame rejoiced in the cold with a hale pleasure when he looked
round into the face of the girl beside him, with the gray film of her
veil pressed softly against her red mouth by her swift advance. Their
faces were nearly on a level, as they looked into each other's eyes, and
he kept seeing the play of the veil's edge against her lips as they

"Why sha'n't you go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays?" she asked. "They're
very nice."

How do you know I'm not going?" he retorted.

"By the way you thanked her."

"Do you advise me to go?"

"I haven't got anything to do with it. What do mean by that?"

"I don't know. Curiosity, I suppose."

"Well, I do advise you to go," said the girl. Shall you be there next

"I? I never go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays!"

"Touche," said Jeff, and they both laughed. "Can you always get in at an
enemy that way?"


"Well, friend. It's the same thing."

"I see," said the girl. "You belong to the pessimistic school of

"Why don't you try to make an optimist of me?"

"Would it be worth while?"

"That isn't for me to say."

"Don't be diffident! That's staler yet."

"I'll be anything you like."

"I'm not sure you could." For an instant Jeff did not feel the point,
and he had not the magnanimity, when he did, to own himself touched
again. Apparently, if this girl could not rattle him, she could beat him
at fence, and the will to dominate her began to stir in him. If he could
have thought of any sarcasm, no matter how crushing, he would have come
back at her with it. He could not think of anything, and he walked at
her side, inwardly chafing for the chance which would not come.

When they reached her door there was a young man at the lock with a
latch-key, which he was not making work, for, after a bated blasphemy of
his failure, he turned and twitched the bell impatiently.

Miss Lynde laughed provokingly, and he looked over his shoulder at her
and at Jeff, who felt his injury increased by the disadvantage this young
man put him at. Jeff was as correctly dressed; he wore a silk hat of the
last shape, and a long frock-coat; he was properly gloved and shod; his
clothes fitted him, and were from the best tailor; but at sight of this
young man in clothes of the same design he felt ill-dressed. He was in
like sort aware of being rudely blocked out physically, and coarsely
colored as to his blond tints of hair and eye and cheek. Even the
sinister something in the young man's look had distinction, and there was
style in the signs of dissipation in his handsome face which Jeff saw
with a hunger to outdo him.

Miss Lynde said to Jeff, "My brother, Mr. Durgin," and then she added to
the other, "You ought to ring first, Arthur, and try your key afterward."

"The key's all right," said the young man, without paying any attention
to Jeff beyond a glance of recognition; he turned his back, and waited
for the door to be opened.

His sister suggested, with an amiability which Jeff felt was meant in
reparation to him, "Perhaps a night latch never works before dark--or
very well before midnight." The door was opened, and she said to Jeff,
with winning entreaty, "Won't you come in, Mr. Durgin?"

Jeff excused himself, for he perceived that her politeness was not so
much an invitation to him as a defiance to her brother; he gave her
credit for no more than it was worth, and he did not wish any the less to
get even with her because of it.


At dinner, in the absence of the butler, Alan Lynde attacked his sister
across the table for letting herself be seen with a jay, who was not only
a jay, but a cad, and personally so offensive to most of the college men
that he had never got into a decent club or society; he had been
suspended the first year, and if he had not had the densest kind of cheek
he would never have come back. Lynde said he would like to know where
she had picked the fellow up.

She answered that she had picked him up, if that was the phrase he liked,
at Mrs. Bevidge's; and then Alan swore a little, so as not to be heard by
their aunt, who sat at the head of the table, and looked down its length
between them, serenely ignorant, in her slight deafness, of what was
going on between them. To her perception Alan was no more vehement than
usual, and Bessie no more smilingly self-contained. He said he supposed
that it was some more of Lancaster's damned missionary work, then, and he
wondered that a gentleman like Morland had ever let Lancaster work such a
jay in on him; he had seen her 'afficher' herself with the fellow at
Morland's tea; he commanded her to stop it; and he professed to speak for
her good.

Bessie returned that she knew how strongly he felt from the way he had
misbehaved when she introduced him to Mr. Durgin, but that she supposed
he had been at the club and his nerves were unstrung. Was that the
reason, perhaps, why he could not make his latchkey work? Mr. Durgin
might be a cad, and she would not say he was not a jay, but so far he had
not sworn at her; and, if he had been suspended and come back, there were
some people who had not been suspended or come back, either, though that
might have been for want of cheek.

She ended by declaring she was used to going into society without her
brother's protection, or even his company, and she would do her best to
get on without his advice. Or was it his conduct he wished her to profit

It had come to the fish going out by this time, and Alan, who had eaten
with no appetite, and drunken feverishly of apollinaris, flung down his
napkin and went out, too.

"What is the matter?" asked his aunt, looking after him.

Bessie shrugged, but she said, presently, with her lips more than her
voice: "I don't think he feels very well."

"Do you think he--"

The girl frowned assent, and the meal went on to its end. Then she and
her aunt went into the large, dull library, where they passed the
evenings which Bessie did not spend in some social function. These
evenings were growing rather more frequent, with her advancing years,
for she was now nearly twenty-five, and there were few Seniors so old.
She was not the kind of girl to renew her youth with the Sophomores and
Freshmen in the classes succeeding the class with which she had danced
through college; so far as she had kept up the old relation with
students, she continued it with the men who had gone into the law-school.
But she saw less and less of these without seeing more of other men, and
perhaps in the last analysis she was not a favorite. She was allowed to
be fascinating, but she was not felt to be flattering, and people would
rather be flattered than fascinated. In fact, the men were mostly afraid
of her; and it has been observed of girls of this kind that the men who
are not afraid of them are such as they would do well to be afraid of.
Whether that was quite the case with Bessie Lynde or not, it was certain
that she who was always the cleverest girl in the room, and if not the
prettiest, then the most effective, had not the best men about her. Her
men were apt to be those whom the other girls called stupid or horrid,
and whom it would not be easy, though it might be more just, to classify
otherwise. The other girls wondered what she could see in them; but
perhaps it was not necessary that she should see anything in them, if
they could see all she wished them to see, and no more, in her.

The room where tea was now brought and put before her was volumed round
by the collections of her grandfather, except for the spaces filled by
his portrait and that of earlier ancestors, going back to the time when
Copley made masterpieces of his fellow-Bostonians. Her aunt herself
looked a family portrait of the middle period, a little anterior to her
father's, but subsequent to her great-grandfather's. She had a comely
face, with large, smooth cheeks and prominent eyes; the edges of her
decorous brown wig were combed rather near their corners, and a fitting
cap palliated but did not deny the wig. She had the quiet but rather
dull look of people slightly deaf, and she had perhaps been stupefied by
a life of unalloyed prosperity and propriety. She had grown an old maid
naturally, but not involuntarily, and she was without the sadness or the
harshness of disappointment. She had never known much of the world,
though she had always lived in it. She knew that it was made up of two
kinds of people--people who were like her and people who were not like
her; and she had lived solely in the society of people who were like her,
and in the shelter of their opinions and ideals. She did not contemn or
exclude the people who were unlike her, but she had never had any more
contact with them than she now had with the weather of the streets, as
she sat, filling her large arm-chair full of her ladylike correctness, in
the library of the handsome house her father had left her. The irruption
of her brother's son and daughter into its cloistered quiet had scarcely
broken its invulnerable order. It was right and fit they should be there
after his death, and it was not strange that in the course of time they
should both show certain unregulated tendencies which, since they were
not known to be Lynde tendencies, must have been derived from the
Southwestern woman her brother had married during his social and
financial periclitations in a region wholly inconceivable to her. Their
mother was dead, too, and their aunt's life closed about them with full
acceptance, if not complacence, as part of her world. They had grown to
manhood and womanhood without materially discomposing her faith in the
old-fashioned Unitarian deity, whose service she had always attended.

When Alan left college in his Freshman year, and did not go back, but
went rather to Europe and Egypt and Japan, it appeared to her myopic
optimism that his escapades had been pretty well hushed up by time and
distance. After he came home and devoted himself to his club, she could
have wished that he had taken up some profession or business; but since
there was money enough, she waited in no great disquiet until he showed
as decided a taste for something else as he seemed for the present to
have only for horses. In the mean while, from time to time, it came to
her doctor's advising his going to a certain retreat. But he came out
the first time so much better and remained well so long that his aunt
felt a kind of security in his going again and again, whenever he became
at all worse. He always came back better. As she took the cup of tea
that Bessie poured out for her, she recurred to the question that she had
partly asked already:

"Do you think Alan is getting worse again?"

"Not so very much," said the girl, candidly. "He's been at the club,
I suppose, but he left the table partly because I vexed him."

"Because you what?"

"Because I vexed him. He was scolding me, and I wouldn't stand it."

Her aunt tasted her tea, and found it so quite what she liked that she
said, from a natural satisfaction with Bessie, "I don't see what he had
to scold you about."

"Well," returned Bessie, and she got her pretty voice to the level of her
aunt's hearing, with some straining, and kept it there, "when he is in
that state, he has to scold some one; and I had been rather annoying, I

"What had you been doing?" asked her aunt, making out her words more from
the sight than from the sound, after all.

"I had been walking home with a jay, and we found Alan trying to get in
at the front door with his key, and I introduced him to the jay."

Miss Louisa Lynde had heard the word so often from her niece and nephew,
that she imagined herself in full possession of its meaning. She asked:
"Where had you met him?"

"I met him first," said the girl, "at Willie Morland's tea, last week,
and to-day I found him at Mrs. Bevidge's altruistic toot."

"I didn't know," said her aunt, after a momentary attention to her tea,
"that jays were interested in that sort of thing."

The girl laughed. "I believe they're not. It hasn't quite reached them,
yet; and I don't think it will ever reach my jay. Mrs. Bevidge tried to
work him into the cause, but he refused so promptly, and so-
intelligently, don't you know--and so almost brutally, that poor Freddy
Lancaster had to come and apologize to him for her want of tact." Bessie
enjoyed the fact, which she had colored a little, in another laugh, but
she had apparently not possessed her aunt of the humor of it. She
remained seriously-attentive, and the girl went on: "He was not the least
abashed at having refused; he stayed till the last, and as we came out
together and he was going my way, I let him walk home with me. He's a
jay, but he isn't a common jay." Bessie leaned forward and tried to
implant some notion of Jeff's character and personality in her aunt's

Miss Lynde listened attentively enough, but she merely asked, when all
was said: "And why was Alan vexed with you about him?"

"Well," said the girl, falling back into her chair, "generally because
this man's a jay, and particularly because he's been rather a baddish
jay, I believe. He was suspended in his first year for something or
other, and you know poor Alan's very particular! But Molly Enderby says
Freddy Lancaster gives him the best of characters now." Bessie pulled
down her mouth, with an effect befitting the notion of repentance and
atonement. Then she flashed out: "Perhaps he had been drinking when he
got into trouble. Alan could never forgive him for that."

"I think," said her aunt, "it is to your brother's credit that he is
anxious about your associations."

"Oh, very much!" shouted Bessie, with a burst of laughter. "And as he
isn't practically so, I ought to have been more patient with his theory.
But when he began to scold me I lost my temper, and I gave him a few
wholesome truths in the guise of taunts. That was what made him go away,
I suppose."

"But I don't really see," her aunt pursued,--"what occasion he had to be
angry with you in this instance."

"Oh, I do!" said Bessie. "Mr. Durgin isn't one to inspire the casual
beholder with the notion of his spiritual distinction. His face is so
rude and strong, and he has such a primitive effect in his clothes, that
you feel as if you were coming down the street with a prehistoric man
that the barbers and tailors had put a 'fin de siecle' surface on." At
the mystification which appeared in her aunt's face the girl laughed
again. "I should have been quite as anxious, if I had been in Alan's
place, and I shall tell him so, sometime. If I had not been so
interested in the situation I don't believe I could have kept my courage.
Whenever I looked round, and found that prehistoric man at my elbow, it
gave me the creeps, a little, as if he were really carrying me off to his
cave. I shall try to express that to Alan."


The ladies finished their tea, and the butler came and took the cups
away. Miss Lynde remained silent in her chair at her end of the library-
table, and by-and-by Bessie got a book and began to read. When her aunt
woke up it was half past nine. "Was that Alan coming in?" she asked.

"I don't think he's been out," said the girl. "It isn't late enough for
him to come in--or early enough."

"I believe I'll go to bed," Miss Lynde returned. "I feel rather drowsy."

Bessie did not smile at a comedy which was apt to be repeated every
evening that she and her aunt spent at home together; they parted for the
night with the decencies of family affection, and Bessie delivered the
elder lady over to her maid. Then the girl sank down again, and lay
musing in her deep chair before the fire with her book shut on her thumb.
She looked rather old and worn in her reverie; her face lost the air of
gay banter which, after the beauty of her queer eyes and her vivid mouth,
was its charm. The eyes were rather dull now, and the mouth was a little

She was waiting for her brother to come down, as he was apt to do if he
was in the house, after their aunt went to bed, to smoke a cigar in the
library. He was in his house shoes when he shuffled into the room, but
her ear had detected his presence before a hiccough announced it. She
did not look up, but let him make several failures to light his cigar,
and damn the matches under his breath, before she pushed the drop-light
to him in silent suggestion. As he leaned over her chair-back to reach
its chimney with his cigar in his mouth, she said, "You're all right,

He waited till he got round to his aunt's easy-chair and dropped into it
before he answered, "So are you, Bess."

"I'm not so sure of that," said the girl, "as I should be if you were
still scolding me. I knew that he was a jay, well enough, and I'd just
seen him behaving very like a cad to Mrs. Bevidge."

"Then I don't understand how you came to be with him."

"Oh yes, you do, Alan. You mustn't be logical! You might as well say
you can't understand how you came to be more serious than sober." The
brother laughed helplessly. "It was the excitement."

"But you can't give way to that sort of thing, Bess," said her brother,
with the gravity of a man feeling the consequences of his own errors.

"I know I can't, but I do," she returned. "I know it's bad for me, if it
isn't for other people. Come! I'll swear off if you will!"

"I'm always ready, to swear off," said the young man, gloomily. He
added, "But you've got brains, Bess, and I hate to see you playing the

"Do you really, Alan?" asked the girl, pleased perhaps as much by his
reproach as by his praise. "Do you think I've got brains?"

"You're the only girl that has."

"Oh, I didn't mean to ask so much as that! But what's the reason I can't
do anything with them? Other girls draw, and play, and write. I don't
do anything but go in for the excitement that's bad for me. I wish you'd
explain it."

Alan Lynde did not try. The question seemed to turn his thoughts back
upon himself to dispiriting effect. "I've got brains, too, I believe,"
he began.

"Lots of them!" cried his sister, generously. "There isn't any of the
men to compare with you. If I had you to talk with all the time, I
shouldn't want jays. I don't mean to flatter. You're a constant feast
of reason; I don't care for flows of soul. You always take right views
of things when you're yourself, and even when you're somebody else you're
not stupid. You could be anything you chose."

Book of the day: