Part 2 out of 3
she got him orders; sold his pictures, even in Boston, where they never
buy American pictures; found him pupils, and kept the boldest of these
from flirting with him. Westover, who was so newly from Paris, was able
to console him with talk of the salons and ateliers, which he had not
heard from so directly in ten years. After the first inevitable moment
of jealousy, his wife forgave Westover when she found that he did not
want pupils, and she took a leading part in the movement to have him read
Browning at a picnic, organized by the ladies shortly after he came.
The picnic was held in Whitwell's Clearing, on the side of Lion's Head,
where the moss, almost as white as snow, lay like belated drifts among
the tall, thin grass which overran the space opened by the axe, and crept
to the verge of the low pines growing in the shelter of the loftier
woods. It was the end of one of Whitwell's "Tramps Home to Nature," as
he called his walks and talks with the ladies, and on this day Westover's
fellow-painter had added to his lessons in woodlore the claims of art,
intending that his class should make studies of various bits in the
clearing, and should try to catch something of its peculiar charm. He
asked Westover what he thought of the notion, and Westover gave it his
approval, which became enthusiastic when he saw the place. He found in
it the melancholy grace, the poignant sentiment of ruin which expresses
itself in some measure wherever man has invaded nature and then left his
conquest to her again. In Whitwell's Clearing the effect was intensified
by the approach on the fading wood road, which the wagons had made in
former days when they hauled the fallen timber to the pulp-mill. In
places it was so vague and faint as to be hardly a trail; in others,
where the wheel-tracks remained visible, the trees had sent out a new
growth of lower branches in the place of those lopped away, and almost
forbade the advance of foot-passengers. The ladies said they did not see
how Jeff was ever going to get through with the wagon, and they expressed
fears for the lunch he was bringing, which seemed only too well grounded.
But Whitwell, who was leading them on, said: "You let a Durgin alone to
do a thing when he's made up his mind to it. I guess you'll have your
lunch all right"; and by the time that they had got enough of Browning
they heard the welcome sound of wheels crashing upon dead boughs and
swishing through the underbrush, and, in the pauses of these pleasant
noises, the voice of Jeff Durgin encouraging his horses. The children of
the party broke away to meet him, and then he came in sight ahead of his
team, looking strong and handsome in his keeping with the scene: Before
he got within hearing, the ladies murmured a hymn of praise to his type
of beauty; they said he looked like a young Hercules, and Westover owned
with an inward smile that Jeff had certainly made the best of himself for
the time being. He had taken a leaf from the book of the summer folks;
his stalwart calves revealed themselves in thick, ribbed stockings; he
wore knickerbockers and a Norfolk jacket of corduroy; he had style as
well as beauty, and he had the courage of his clothes and looks.
Westover was still in the first surprise of the American facts, and he
wondered just what part in the picnic Jeff was to bear socially. He was
neither quite host nor guest; but no doubt in the easy play of the life,
which Westover was rather proud to find so charming, the question would
solve itself rationally and gracefully.
"Where do you want the things?" the young fellow asked of the company at
large, as he advanced upon them from the green portals of the roadway,
pulling off his soft wool hat, and wiping his wet forehead with his blue-
bordered white handkerchief.
"Oh, right here, Jeff!" The nimblest of the nymphs sprang to her feet
from the lounging and crouching circle about Westover. She was a young
nymph no longer, but with a daughter not so much younger than herself as
to make the contrast of her sixteen years painful. Westover recognized
the officious, self-approving kind of the woman, but he admired the brisk
efficiency with which she had taken possession of the affair from the
beginning and inspired every one to help, in strict subordination to
When the cloths were laid on the smooth, elastic moss, and the meal was
spread, she heaped a plate without suffering any interval in her
"I suppose you've got to go back to your horses, Jeff, and you shall be
the first served," she said, and she offered him the plate with a bright
smile and friendly grace, which were meant to keep him from the hurt of
Jeff did not offer to take the plate which she raised to him from where
she was kneeling, but looked down at her with perfect intelligence.
"I guess I don't want anything," he said, and turned and walked away into
The ill-advised woman remained kneeling for a moment with her
ingratiating smile hardening on her face, while the sense of her blunder
petrified the rest. She was the first to recover herself, and she said,
with a laugh that she tried to make reckless, "Well, friends, I suppose
the rest of you are hungry; I know I am," and she began to eat.
The others ate, too, though their appetites might well have been affected
by the diplomatic behavior of Whitwell. He would not take anything, just
at present, he said, and got his long length up from the root of a tree
where he had folded it down. "I don't seem to care much for anything in
the middle of the day; breakfast's my best meal," and he followed Jeff
off into the woods.
"Really," said the lady, "what did they expect?" But the question was so
difficult that no one seemed able to make the simple answer.
The incident darkened the day and spoiled its pleasure; it cast a
lessening shadow into the evening when the guests met round the fire in
the large, ugly new parlor at the hotel.
The next morning the ladies assembled again on the piazza to decide what
should be done with the beautiful day before them. Whitwell stood at the
foot of the flag-staff with one hand staying his person against it, like
a figure posed in a photograph to verify proportions in the different
features of a prospect.
The heroine of the unhappy affair of the picnic could not forbear
authorizing herself to invoke his opinion at a certain point of the
debate, and "Mr. Whitwell," she called to him, "won't you please come
here a moment?"
Whitwell slowly pulled himself across the grass to the group, and at the
same moment, as if she had been waiting for him to be present, Mrs.
Durgin came out of the office door and advanced toward the ladies.
"Mrs. Marven," she said, with the stony passivity which the ladies used
to note in her when they came over to Lion's Head Farm in the tally-hos,
"the stage leaves here at two o'clock to get the down train at three. I
want you should have your trunks ready to go on the wagon a little before
"You want I should have my--What do you mean, Mrs. Durgin?"
"I want your rooms."
"You want my rooms?"
Mrs. Durgin did not answer. She let her steadfast look suffice; and Mrs.
Marven went on in a rising flutter: "Why, you can't have my rooms!
I don't understand you. I've taken my rooms for the whole of August,
and they are mine; and--"
"I have got to have your rooms," said Mrs. Durgin.
"Very well, then, I won't give them up," said the lady. "A bargain's a
bargain, and I have your agreement--"
"If you're not out of your rooms by two o'clock, your things will be put
out; and after dinner to-day you will not eat another bite under my
Mrs. Durgin went in, and it remained for the company to make what they
could of the affair. Mrs. Marven did not wait for the result. She was
not a dignified person, but she rose with hauteur and whipped away to her
rooms, hers no longer, to make her preparations. She knew at least how
to give her going the effect of quitting the place with disdain and
The incident of her expulsion was brutal, but it was clearly meant to be
so. It made Westover a little sick, and he would have liked to pity Mrs.
Marven more than he could. The ladies said that Mrs. Durgin's behavior
was an outrage, and they ought all to resent it by going straight to
their own rooms and packing their things and leaving on the same stage
with Mrs. Marven. None of them did so, and their talk veered around to
something extenuating, if not justifying, Mrs. Durgin's action.
"I suppose," one of them said, "that she felt more indignant about it
because she has been so very good to Mrs. Marven, and her daughter, too.
They were both sick on her hands here for a week after they came, first
one and then the other, and she looked after them and did for them like a
"And yet," another lady suggested, "what could Mrs. Marven have done?
What did she do? He wasn't asked to the picnic, and I don't see why he
should have been treated as a guest. He was there, purely and simply, to
bring the things and take them away. And, besides, if there is anything
in distinctions, in differences, if we are to choose who is to associate
with us--or our daughters--"
"That is true," the ladies said, in one form or another, with the tone of
conviction; but they were not so deeply convinced that they did not want
a man's opinion, and they all looked at Westover.
He would not respond to their look, and the lady who had argued for Mrs.
Marven had to ask: "What do you think, Mr. Westover?"
"Ah, it's a difficult question," he said. "I suppose that as long as one
person believes himself or herself socially better than another, it must
always be a fresh problem what to do in every given case."
The ladies said they supposed so, and they were forced to make what they
could of wisdom in which they might certainly have felt a want of
Westover went away from them in a perplexed mind which was not simplified
by the contempt he had at the bottom of all for something unmanly in
Jeff, who had carried his grievance to his mother like a slighted boy,
and provoked her to take up arms for him.
The sympathy for Mrs. Marven mounted again when it was seen that she did
not come to dinner, or permit her daughter to do so, and when it became
known later that she had refused for both the dishes sent to their rooms.
Her farewells to the other ladies, when they gathered to see her off on
the stage, were airy rather than cheery; there was almost a demonstration
in her behalf, but Westover was oppressed by a kind of inherent squalor
in the incident.
At night he responded to a knock which he supposed that of Frank Whitwell
with ice-water, and Mrs. Durgin came into his room and sat down in one of
his two chairs. "Mr. Westover," she said, "if you knew all I had done
for that woman and her daughter, and how much she had pretended to think
of us all, I don't believe you'd be so ready to judge me."
"Judge you!" cried Westover. "Bless my soul, Mrs. Durgin! I haven't
said a word that could be tormented into the slightest censure."
"But you think I done wrong?"
"I have not been at all able to satisfy myself on that point, Mrs.
Durgin. I think it's always wrong to revenge one's self."
"Yes, I suppose it is," said Mrs. Durgin, humbly; and the tears came into
her eyes. "I got the tray ready with my own hands that was sent to her
room; but she wouldn't touch it. I presume she didn't like having a
plate prepared for her! But I did feel sorry for her. She a'n't over
and above strong, and I'm afraid she'll be sick; there a'n't any
rest'rant at our depot."
Westover fancied this a fit mood in Mrs. Durgin for her further
instruction, and he said: "And if you'll excuse me, Mrs. Durgin, I don't
think what you did was quite the way to keep a hotel."
More tears flashed into Mrs. Durgin's eyes, but they were tears of wrath
now. "I would 'a' done it," she said, "if I thought every single one of
'em would 'a' left the house the next minute, for there a'n't one that
has the first word to say against me, any other way. It wa'n't that I
cared whether she thought my son was good enough to eat with her or not;
I know what I think, and that's enough for me. He wa'n't invited to the
picnic, and he a'n't one to put himself forward. If she didn't want him
to stay, all she had to do was to do nothin'. But to make him up a plate
before everybody, and hand it to him to eat with the horses, like a tramp
or a dog--"Mrs. Durgin filled to the throat with her wrath, and the sight
of her made Westover keenly unhappy.
"Yes, yes," he said, "it was a miserable business." He could not help
adding: "If Jeff could have kept it to himself--but perhaps that wasn't
"Mr. Westover!" said Mrs. Durgin, sternly. "Do you think Jeff would come
to me, like a great crybaby, and complain of my lady boarders and the way
they used him? It was Mr. Whit'ell that let it out, or I don't know as I
should ever known about it."
"I'm glad Jeff didn't tell you," said Westover, with a revulsion of good
feeling toward him.
"He'd 'a' died first," said his mother. "But Mr. Whit'ell done just
right all through, and I sha'n't soon forget it. Jeff's give me a proper
goin' over for what I done; both the boys have. But I couldn't help it,
and I should do just so again. All is, I wanted you should know just
what you was blamin' me for--"
"I don't know that I blame you. I only wish you could have helped it--
managed some other way."
"I did try to get over it, and all I done was to lose a night's rest.
Then, this morning, when I see her settin' there so cool and mighty with
the boarders, and takin' the lead as usual, I just waited till she got
Whit'ell across, and nearly everybody was there that saw what she done to
Jeff, and then I flew out on her."
Westover could not suppress a laugh. "Well, Mrs. Durgin, your
retaliation was complete; it was dramatic."
"I don't know what you mean by that," said Mrs. Durgin, rising and
resuming her self-control; she did not refuse herself a grim smile.
"But I guess she thought it was pretty perfect herself--or she will, when
she's able to give her mind to it. I'm sorry for her daughter; I never
had anything against her; or her mother, either, for that matter, before.
Franky look after you pretty well? I'll send him up with your ice-water.
Got everything else you want?"
I should have to invent a want if I wished to complain," said Westover.
"Well, I should like to have you do it. We can't ever do too much for
you. Well, good-night, Mr. Westover."
"Good'-night, Mrs. Durgin."
Jeff Durgin entered Harvard that fall, with fewer conditions than most
students have to work off. This was set down to the credit of Lovewell
Academy, where he had prepared for the university; and some observers in
such matters were interested to note how thoroughly the old school in a
remote town had done its work for him.
None who formed personal relations with him at that time conjectured that
he had done much of the work for himself, and even to Westover, when Jeff
came to him some weeks after his settlement in Cambridge, he seemed
painfully out of his element, and unamiably aware of it. For the time,
at least, he had lost the jovial humor, not too kindly always, which
largely characterized him, and expressed itself in sallies of irony which
were not so unkindly, either. The painter perceived that he was on his
guard against his own friendly interest; Jeff made haste to explain that
he came because he had told his mother that he would do so. He scarcely
invited a return of his visit, and he left Westover wondering at the sort
of vague rebellion against his new life which he seemed to be in. The
painter went out to see him in Cambridge, not long after, and was rather
glad to find him rooming with some other rustic Freshman in a humble
street running from the square toward the river; for he thought Jeff must
have taken his lodging for its cheapness, out of regard to his mother's
means. But Jeff was not glad to be found there, apparently; he said at
once that he expected to get a room in the Yard the next year, and eat at
Memorial Hall. He spoke scornfully of his boarding-house as a place
where they were all a lot of jays together; and Westover thought him
still more at odds with his environment than he had before. But Jeff
consented to come in and dine with him at his restaurant, and afterward
go to the theatre with him.
When he came, Westover did not quite like his despatch of the half-bottle
of California claret served each of them with the Italian table d'hote.
He did not like his having already seen the play he proposed; and he
found some difficulty in choosing a play which Jeff had not seen. It
appeared then that he had been at the theatre two or three times a week
for the last month, and that it was almost as great a passion with him as
with Westover himself. He had become already a critic of acting, with a
rough good sense of it, and a decided opinion. He knew which actors he
preferred, and which actresses, better still. It was some consolation
for Westover to find that he mostly took an admission ticket when he went
to the theatre; but, though he could not blame Jeff for showing his own
fondness for it, he wished that he had not his fondness.
So far Jeff seemed to have spent very few of his evenings in Cambridge,
and Westover thought it would be well if he had some acquaintance there.
He made favor for him with a friendly family, who asked him to dinner.
They did it to oblige Westover, against their own judgment and knowledge,
for they said it was always the same with Freshmen; a single act of
hospitality finished the acquaintance. Jeff came, and he behaved with as
great indifference to the kindness meant him as if he were dining out
every night; he excused himself very early in the evening on the ground
that he had to go into Boston, and he never paid his dinner-call. After
that Westover tried to consider his whole duty to him fulfilled, and not
to trouble himself further. Now and then, however, Jeff disappointed the
expectation Westover had formed of him, by coming to see him, and being
apparently glad of the privilege. But he did not make the painter think
that he was growing in grace or wisdom, though he apparently felt an
increasing confidence in his own knowledge of life.
Westover could only feel a painful interest tinged with amusement in his
grotesque misconceptions of the world where he had not yet begun to right
himself. Jeff believed lurid things of the society wholly unknown to
him; to his gross credulity, Boston houses, which at the worst were the
homes of a stiff and cold exclusiveness, were the scenes of riot only
less scandalous than the dissipation to which fashionable ladies
abandoned themselves at champagne suppers in the Back Bay hotels and on
their secret visits to the Chinese opium-joints in Kingston Street.
Westover tried to make him see how impossible his fallacies were; but he
could perceive that Jeff thought him either wilfully ignorant or
helplessly innocent, and of far less authority than a barber who had the
entree of all these swell families as hair-dresser, and who corroborated
the witness of a hotel night-clerk (Jeff would not give their names) to
the depravity of the upper classes. He had to content himself with
saying: "I hope you will be ashamed some day of having believed such rot.
But I suppose it's something you've got to go through. You may take my
word for it, though? that it isn't going to do you any good. It's going
to do you harm, and that's why I hate to have you think it, for your own
sake. It can't hurt any one else."
What disgusted the painter most was that, with all his belief in the
wickedness of the fine world, it was clear that Jeff would have willingly
been of it; and he divined that if he had any strong aspirations they
were for society and for social acceptance. He had fancied, when the
fellow seemed to care so little for the studies of the university, that
he might come forward in its sports. Jeff gave more and more the effect
of tremendous strength in his peculiar physique, though there was always
the disappointment of not finding him tall. He was of the middle height,
but he was hewn out and squared upward massively. He felt like stone to
any accidental contact, and the painter brought away a bruise from the
mere brunt of his shoulders. He learned that Jeff was a frequenter of
the gymnasium, where his strength must have been known, but he could not
make out that he had any standing among the men who went in for
athletics. If Jeff had even this, the sort of standing in college which
he failed of would easily have been won, too. But he had been falsely
placed at the start, or some quality of his nature neutralized other
qualities that would have made him a leader in college, and he remained
one of the least forward men in it. Other jays won favor and liking, and
ceased to be jays; Jeff continued a jay. He was not chosen into any of
the nicer societies; those that he joined when he thought they were swell
he could not care for when he found they were not.
Westover came into a knowledge of the facts through his casual and
scarcely voluntary confidences, and he pitied him somewhat while he
blamed him a great deal more, without being able to help him at all.
It appeared to him that the fellow had gone wrong more through ignorance
than perversity, and that it was a stubbornness of spirit rather than a
badness of heart that kept him from going right. He sometimes wondered
whether it was not more a baffled wish to be justified in his own esteem
than anything else that made him overvalue the things he missed. He knew
how such an experience as that with Mrs. Marven rankles in the heart of
youth, and will not cease to smart till some triumph in kind brines it
ease; but between the man of thirty and the boy of twenty there is a gulf
fixed, and he could not ask. He did not know that a college man often
goes wrong in his first year, out of no impulse that he can very clearly
account for himself, and then when he ceases to be merely of his type and
becomes more of his character, he pulls up and goes right. He did not
know how much Jeff had been with a set that was fast without being fine.
The boy had now and then a book in his hand when he came; not always such
a book as Westover could have wished, but still a book; and to his
occasional questions about how he was getting on with his college work,
Jeff made brief answers, which gave the notion that he was not neglecting
Toward the end of his first year he sent to Westover one night from a
station-house, where he had been locked up for breaking a street-lamp in
Boston. By his own showing he had not broken the lamp, or assisted,
except through his presence, at the misdeed of the tipsy students who had
done it. His breath betrayed that he had been drinking, too; but
otherwise he seemed as sober as Westover himself, who did not know
whether to augur well or ill for him from the proofs he had given before
of his ability to carry off a bottle of wine with a perfectly level head.
Jeff seemed to believe Westover a person of such influence that he could
secure his release at once, and he was abashed to find that he must pass
the night in the cell, where he conferred with Westover through the bars.
In the police court, where his companions were fined, the next morning,
he was discharged for want of evidence against him; but the university
authorities did not take the same view as the civil authorities. He was
suspended, and for the time he passed out of Westover's sight and
He expected to find him at Lion's Head, where he went to pass the month
of August--in painting those pictures of the mountain which had in some
sort, almost in spite of him, become his specialty. But Mrs. Durgin
employed the first free moments after their meeting in explaining that
Jeff had got a chance to work his way to London on a cattle-steamer, and
had been abroad the whole summer. He had written home that the voyage
had been glorious, with plenty to eat and little to do; and he had made
favor with the captain for his return by the same vessel in September.
By other letters it seemed that he had spent the time mostly in England;
but he had crossed over into France for a fortnight, and had spent a week
in Paris. His mother read some passages from his letters aloud to show
Westover how Jeff was keeping his eyes open. His accounts of his travel
were a mixture of crude sensations in the presence of famous scenes and
objects of interest, hard-headed observation of the facts of life,
narrow-minded misconception of conditions, and wholly intelligent and
adequate study of the art of inn-keeping in city and country.
Mrs. Durgin seemed to feel that there was some excuse due for the
relative quantity of the last. "He knows that's what I'd care for the
most; and Jeff a'n't one to forget his mother." As if the word reminded
her, she added, after a moment: "We sha'n't any of us soon forget what
you done for Jeff--that time."
"I didn't do anything for him, Mrs. Durgin; I couldn't," Westover
"You done what you could, and I know that you saw the thing in the right
light, or you wouldn't 'a' tried to do anything. Jeff told me every word
about it. I know he was with a pretty harum-scarum crowd. But it was a
lesson to him; and I wa'n't goin' to have him come back here, right away,
and have folks talkin' about what they couldn't understand, after the way
the paper had it."
"Did it get into the papers?"
"Mm." Mrs. Durgin nodded. "And some dirty, sneakin' thing, here, wrote
a letter to the paper and told a passel o' lies about Jeff and all of us;
and the paper printed Jeff's picture with it; I don't know how they got a
hold of it. So when he got that chance to go, I just said, 'Go.' You'll
see he'll keep all straight enough after this, Mr. Westover."
"Old woman read you any of Jeff's letters?" Whit-well asked, when his
chance for private conference with Westover came. "What was the rights
of that scrape he got into?"
Westover explained as favorably to Jeff as he could; the worst of the
affair was the bad company he was in.
Well, where there's smoke there's some fire. Cou't discharged him and
college suspended him. That's about where it is? I guess he'll keep out
o' harm's way next time. Read you what he said about them scenes of the
Revolution in Paris?"
"Yes; he seems to have looked it all up pretty thoroughly."
"Done it for me, I guess, much as anything. I was always talkin' it up
with him. Jeff's kep' his eyes open, that's a fact. He's got a head on
him, more'n I ever thought."
Westover decided that Mrs. Durgin's prepotent behavior toward Mrs. Marven
the summer before had not hurt her materially, with the witnesses even.
There were many new boarders, but most of those whom he had already met
were again at Lion's Head. They said there was no air like it, and no
place so comfortable. If they had sold their birthright for a mess of
pottage, Westover had to confess that the pottage was very good. Instead
of the Irish woman at ten dollars a week who had hitherto been Mrs.
Durgin's cook, under her personal surveillance and direction, she had now
a man cook, whom she boldly called a chef and paid eighty dollars a
month. He wore the white apron and white cap of his calling, but
Westover heard him speak Yankee through his nose to one of the stablemen
as they exchanged hilarities across the space between the basement and
the barn-door. "Yes," Mrs. Durgin admitted, "he's an American; and he
learnt his trade at one of the best hotels in Portland. He's pretty
headstrong, but I guess he does what he's told--in the end. The meanyous?
Oh, Franky Whitwell prints then. He's got an amateur printing-office in
One morning toward the end of August, Whitwell, who was starting
homeward, after leaving his ladies, burdened with their wishes and
charges for the morrow, met Westover coming up the hill with his
painting-gear in his hand. "Say!" he hailed him. "Why don't you come
down to the house to-night? Jackson's goin' to come, and, if you ha'n't
seen him work the plantchette for a spell, you'll be surprised. There
a'n't hardly anybody he can't have up. You'll come? Good enough!"
What affected Westover first of all at the seance, and perhaps most of
all, was the quality of the air in the little house; it was close and
stuffy, mixed with an odor of mould and an ancient smell of rats. The
kerosene-lamp set in the centre of the table, where Jackson afterward
placed his planchette, devoured the little life that was left in it. At
the gasps which Westover gave, with some despairing glances at the closed
windows, Whitwell said: "Hot? Well, I guess it is a little. But, you
see, Jackson has got to be careful about the night air; but I guess I can
fix it for you." He went out into the ell, and Westover heard him
raising a window. He came back and asked, "That do? It 'll get around
in here directly," and Westover had to profess relief.
Jackson came in presently with the little Canuck, whom Whitwell presented
to Westover: "Know Jombateeste?"
The two were talking about a landslide which had taken place on the other
side of the mountain; the news had just come that they had found among
the ruins the body of the farm-hand who had been missing since the
morning of the slide; his funeral was to be the next day.
Jackson put his planchette on the table, and sat down before it with a
sigh; the Canuck remained standing, and on foot he was scarcely a head
higher than the seated Yankees. "Well," Jackson said, "I suppose he
knows all about it now," meaning the dead farm-hand.
"Yes," Westover suggested, "if he knows anything."
"Know anything!" Whitwell shouted. "Why, man, don't you believe he's as
much alive as ever he was?"
"I hope so," said Westover, submissively.
"Don't you know it?"
"Not as I know other things. In fact, I don't know it," said Westover,
and he was painfully aware of having shocked his hearers by the
agnosticism so common among men in towns that he had confessed it quite
simply and unconsciously. He perceived that faith in the soul and life
everlasting was as quick as ever in the hills, whatever grotesque or
unwonted form it wore. Jackson sat with closed eyes and his head fallen
back; Whitwell stared at the painter, with open mouth; the little Canuck
began to walk up and down impatiently; Westover felt a reproach, almost
an abhorrence, in all of them.
Whitwell asked: "Why, don't you think there's any proof of it?"
"Proof? Oh Yes. There's testimony enough to carry conviction to the
stubbornest mind on any other point. But it's very strange about all
that. It doesn't convince anybody but the witnesses. If a man tells me
he's seen a disembodied spirit, I can't believe him. I must see the
disembodied spirit myself."
"That's something so," said Whitwell, with a relenting laugh.
"If one came back from the dead, to tell us of a life beyond the grave,
we should want the assurance that he'd really been dead, and not merely
Whitwell laughed again, in the delight the philosophic mind finds even in
the reasoning that hates it.
The Canuck felt perhaps the simpler joy that the average man has in any
strange notion that he is able to grasp. He stopped in his walk and
said: "Yes, and if you was dead and went to heaven, and stayed so long
you smelt, like Lazarus, and you come back and tol' 'em what you saw,
nobody goin' believe you."
"Well, I guess you're right there, Jombateeste," said Whitwell, with
pleasure in the Canuck's point. After a moment he suggested to Westover:
"Then I s'pose, if you feel the way you do, you don't care much about
"Oh yes, I do," said the painter. "We never know when we may be upon the
point of revelation. I wouldn't miss any chance."
Whether Whitwell felt an ironic slant in the words or not, he paused a
moment before he said: "Want to start her up, Jackson?"
Jackson brought to the floor the forefeet of his chair, which he had
tilted from it in leaning back, and without other answer put his hand on
the planchette. It began to fly over the large sheet of paper spread
upon the table, in curves and angles and eccentrics.
"Feels pootty lively to-night," said Whitwell, with a glance at Westover.
The little Canuck, as if he had now no further concern in the matter, sat
down in a corner and smoked silently. Whitwell asked, after a moment's
"Can't you git her down to business, Jackson?"
Jackson gasped: "She'll come down when she wants to."
The little instrument seemed, in fact, trying to control itself. Its
movements became less wild and large; the zigzags began to shape
themselves into something like characters. Jackson's wasted face gave no
token of interest; Whitwell laid half his gaunt length across the table
in the endeavor to make out some meaning in them; the Canuck, with his
hands crossed on his stomach, smoked on, with the same gleam in his pipe
The planchette suddenly stood motionless.
"She done?" murmured Whitwell.
"I guess she is, for a spell, anyway," said Jackson, wearily.
"Let's try to make out what she says." Whitwell drew the sheets toward
himself and Westover, who sat next him. "You've got to look for the
letters everywhere. Sometimes she'll give you fair and square writin',
and then again she'll slat the letters down every which way, and you've
got to hunt 'em out for yourself. Here's a B I've got. That begins
along pretty early in the alphabet. Let's see what we can find next."
Westover fancied he could make out an F and a T.
Whitwell exulted in an unmistakable K and N; and he made sure of an I,
and an E. The painter was not so sure of an S. "Well, call it an S,"
said Whitwell. "And I guess I've got an O here, and an H. Hello!
Here's an A as large as life. Pootty much of a mixture."
"Yes; I don't see that we're much better off than we were before," said
"Well, I don't know about that," said Whitwell.
"Write 'em down in a row and see if we can't pick out some sense. I've
had worse finds than this; no vowels at all sometimes; but here's three."
He wrote the letters down, while Jackson leaned back against the wall, in
"Well, sir," said Whitwell, pushing the paper, where he had written the
letters in a line, to Westover, "make anything out of 'em?"
Westover struggled with them a moment. "I can make out one word-shaft."
"Anything else?" demanded Whitwell, with a glance of triumph at Jackson.
Westover studied the remaining letters. "Yes, I get one other word-
"Just what I done! But I wanted you to speak first. It's Broken Shaft.
Jackson, she caught right onto what we was talkin' about. This life," he
turned to Westover, in solemn exegesis, "is a broken shaft when death
comes. It rests upon the earth, but you got to look for the top of it in
the skies. That's the way I look at it. What do you think, Jackson?
"I think anybody can't see that. Better go and get some heye-glass."
Westover remained in a shameful minority. He said, meekly: "It suggests
a beautiful hope."
Jackson brought his chair-legs down again, and put his hand on the
"Feel that tinglin'?" asked. Whitwell, and Jackson made yes with silent
lips. "After he's been workin' the plantchette for a spell, and then
leaves off, and she wants to say something more," Whitwell explained to
Westover, "he seems to feel a kind of tinglin' in his arm, as if it was
asleep, and then he's got to tackle her again. Writin' steady enough
now, Jackson!" he cried, joyously. "Let's see." He leaned over and
read, "Thomas Jefferson--" The planchette stopped, "My, I didn't go to
do that," said Whitwell, apologetically. "You much acquainted with
Jefferson's writin's?" he asked of Westover.
The painter had to own his ignorance of all except the diction that the
government is best which governs least; but he was not in a position to
deny that Jefferson had ever said anything about a broken shaft.
"It may have come to him on the other side," said Whitwell.
"Perhaps," Westover assented.
The planchette began to stir itself again. "She's goin' ahead !" cried
Whitwell. He leaned over the table so as to get every letter as it was
formed. "D--Yes! Death. Death is the Broken Shaft. Go on!" After a
moment of faltering the planchette formed another letter. It was a U,
and it was followed by an R, and so on, till Durgin had been spelled.
"Thunder!" cried Whitwell. "If anything's happened to Jeff!"
Jackson lifted his hand from the planchette.
"Oh, go on, Jackson!" Whitwell entreated. "Don't leave it so!"
"I can't seem to go on," Jackson whispered, and Westover could not resist
the fear that suddenly rose among them. But he made the first struggle
against it. "This is nonsense. Or, if there's any sense in it, it means
that Jeff's ship has broken her shaft and put back."
Whitwell gave a loud laugh of relief. "That's so! You've hit it, Mr.
Jackson said, quietly: "He didn't mean to start home till tomorrow. And
how could he send any message unless he was--"
"Easily!" cried Westover. "It's simply an instance of mental impression-
of telepathy, as they call it."
"That's so!" shouted Whitwell, with eager and instant conviction.
Westover could see that Jackson still doubted. "If you believe that a
disembodied spirit can communicate with you, why not an embodied spirit?
If anything has happened to your brother's ship, his mind would be
strongly on you at home, and why couldn't it convey its thought to you?"
"Because he ha'n't started yet," said Jackson.
Westover wanted to laugh; but they all heard voices without, which seemed
to be coming nearer, and he listened with the rest. He made out Frank
Whitwell's voice, and his sister's; and then another voice, louder and
gayer, rose boisterously above them. Whitwell flung the door open and
plunged out into the night. He came back, hauling Jeff Durgin in by the
"Here, now," he shouted to Jackson, "you just let this feller and
plantchette fight it out together!"
"What's the matter with plantchette ?" said Jeff, before he said to his
brother, "Hello, Jackson!" and to the Canuck, "Hello, Jombateeste!"
He shook hands conventionally with them both, and then with the painter,
whom he greeted with greater interest. "Glad to see you here, Mr.
Westover. Did I take you by surprise?" he asked of the company at large.
"No, sir," said Whitwell. "Didn't surprise us any, if you are a
fortnight ahead of time," he added, with a wink at the others.
"Well, I took a notion I wouldn't wait for the cattle-ship, and I started
back on a French boat. Thought I'd try it. They live well. But I hoped
I should astonish you a little, too. I might as well waited."
Whitwell laughed. "We heard from you--plantchette kept right round after
"That so?" asked Jeff, carelessly.
"Fact. Have a good voyage?" Whitwell had the air of putting a casual
"First-rate," said Jeff. "Plantchette say not?"
"No. Only about the broken shaft."
"Broken shaft? We didn't have any broken shaft. Plantchette's got mixed
a little. Got the wrong ship."
After a moment of chop-fallenness, Whitwell said:
"Then somebody's been makin' free with your name. Curious how them
devils cut up oftentimes."
He explained, and Jeff laughed uproariously when he understood the whole
case. "Plantchette's been havin' fun with you."
Whitwell gave himself time for reflection. "No, sir, I don't look at it
that way. I guess the wires got crossed some way. If there's such a
thing as the spirits o' the livin' influencin' plantchette, accordin' to
Mr. Westover's say, here, I don't see why it wa'n't. Jeff's being so
near that got control of her and made her sign his name to somebody
else's words. It shows there's something in it."
"Well, I'm glad to come back alive, anyway," said Jeff, with a joviality
new to Westover. "I tell you, there a'n't many places finer than old
Lion's Head, after all. Don't you think so, Mr. Westover? I want to get
the daylight on it, but it does well by moonlight, even." He looked
round at the tall girl, who had been lingering to hear the talk of
planchette; at the backward tilt he gave his head, to get her in range,
she frowned as if she felt his words a betrayal, and slipped out of the
room; the boy had already gone, and was making himself heard in the low
"There's a lot of folks here this summer, mother says," he appealed from
the check he had got to Jackson. "Every room taken for the whole month,
"We've been pretty full all July, too," said Jackson, blankly.
"Well, it's a great business; and I've picked up a lot of hints over
there. We're not so smart as we think we are. The Swiss can teach us a
thing or two. They know how to keep a hotel."
"Go to Switzerland?" asked Whitwell.
"I slipped over into the edge of it."
"I want to know! Well, now them Alps, now--they so much bigger 'n the
White Hills, after all?"
"Well, I don't know about all of 'em," said Jeff. "There may be some
that would compare with our hills, but I should say that you could take
Mount Washington up and set it in the lap of almost any one of the Alps I
saw, and it would look like a baby on its mother's knee."
"I want to know!" said Whitwell again. His tone expressed
disappointment, but impartiality; he would do justice to foreign
superiority if he must. "And about the ocean. What about waves runnin?
"Well, we didn't have it very rough. But I don't believe I saw any waves
much higher than Lion's Head." Jeff laughed to find Whitwell taking him
seriously. "Won't that satisfy you?"
"Oh, it satisfies me. Truth always does. But, now, about London. You
didn't seem to say so much about London in your letters, now. Is it so
big as they let on? Big--that is, to the naked eye, as you may say?"
"There a'n't any one place where you can get a complete bird's-eye view
of it," said Jeff, "and two-thirds of it would be hid in smoke, anyway.
You've got to think of a place that would take in the whole population of
New England, outside of Massachusetts, and not feel as if it had more
than a comfortable meal."
Whitwell laughed for joy in the bold figure.
"I'll tell you. When you've landed and crossed up from Liverpool, and
struck London, you feel as if you'd gone to sea again. It's an ocean--
a whole Atlantic of houses."
"That's right!" crowed Whitwell. "That's the way I thought it was.
Jeff hesitated. "It grows in the night. You've heard about Chicago
"Well, London grows a whole Chicago every night."
"Good!" said Whitwell. "That suits me. And about Paris, now. Paris
strike you the same way?"
"It don't need to," said Jeff. "That's a place where I'd like to live.
Everybody's at home there. It's a man's house and his front yard, and I
tell you they keep it clean. Paris is washed down every morning;
scrubbed and mopped and rubbed dry. You couldn't find any more dirt than
you could in mother's kitchen after she's hung out her wash. That so,
Westover confirmed in general Jeff's report of the cleanliness of Paris.
"And beautiful! You don't know what a good-looking town is till you
strike Paris. And they're proud of it, too. Every man acts as if he
owned it. They've had the statue of Alsace in that Place de la Concorde
of yours, Mr. Whitwell, where they had the guillotine all draped in black
ever since the war with Germany; and they mean to have her back, some
"Great country, Jombateeste!" Whitwell shouted to the Canuck.
The little man roused himself from the muse in which he was listening and
smoking. "Me, I'm Frantsh," he said.
"Yes, that's what Jeff was sayin'," said Whitwell. "I meant France."
"Oh," answered Jombateeste, impatiently, "I thought you mean the Hunited
"Well, not this time," said Whitwell, amid the general laughter.
"Good for Jombateeste," said Jeff. "Stand up for Canada every time,
John. It's the livest country, in the world three months of the year,
and the ice keeps it perfectly sweet the other nine."
Whitwell could not brook a diversion from the high and serious inquiry
they had entered upon. "It must have made this country look pretty slim
when you got back. How'd New York look, after Paris?"
"Like a pigpen," said Jeff. He left his chair and walked round the table
toward a door opening into the adjoining room. For the first time
Westover noticed a figure in white seated there, and apparently rapt in
the talk which had been going on. At the approach of Jeff, and before he
could have made himself seen at the doorway, a tremor seemed to pass over
the figure; it fluttered to its feet, and then it vanished into the
farther dark of the room. When Jeff disappeared within, there was a
sound of rustling skirts and skurrying feet and the crash of a closing
door, and then the free rise of laughing voices without. After a
discreet interval, Westover said: "Mr. Whitwell, I must say good-night.
I've got another day's work before me. It's been a most interesting
"You must try it again," said Whitwell, hospitably. "We ha'n't got to
the bottom of that broken shaft yet. You'll see 't plantchette 'll have
something more to say about it: Heigh, Jackson?" He rose to receive
Westover's goodnight; the others nodded to him.
As the painter climbed the hill to the hotel he saw two figures on the
road below; the one in white drapery looked severed by a dark line
slanting across it at the waist. In the country, he knew, such an
appearance might mark the earliest stages of love-making, or mere
youthful tenderness, in which there was nothing more implied or expected.
But whatever the fact was, Westover felt a vague distaste for it, which,
as it related itself to a more serious possibility, deepened to something
like pain. It was probable that it should come to this between those
two, but Westover rebelled against the event with a sense of its
unfitness for which he could not give himself any valid reason; and in
the end he accused himself of being a fool.
Two ladies sat on the veranda of the hotel and watched a cloud-wreath
trying to lift itself from the summit of Lion's Head. In the effort it
thinned away to transparency in places; in others, it tore its frail
texture asunder and let parts of the mountain show through; then the
fragments knitted themselves loosely together, and the vapor lay again in
The ladies were older and younger, and apparently mother and daughter.
The mother had kept her youth in face and figure so admirably that in
another light she would have looked scarcely the elder. It was the
candor of the morning which confessed the fine vertical lines running up
and down to her lips, only a shade paler than the girl's, and that showed
her hair a trifle thinner in its coppery brown, her blue eyes a little
dimmer. They were both very graceful, and they had soft, caressing
voices; they now began to talk very politely to each other, as if they
were strangers, or as if strangers were by. They talked of the
landscape, and of the strange cloud effect before them. They said that
they supposed they should see the Lion's Head when the cloud lifted, and
they were both sure they had never been quite so near a cloud before.
They agreed that this was because in Switzerland the mountains were so
much higher and farther off. Then the daughter said, without changing
the direction of her eyes or the tone of her voice, "The gentleman who
came over from the station with us last night," and the mother was aware
of Jeff Durgin advancing toward the corner of the veranda where they sat.
"I hope you have got rested," he said, with the jovial bluntness which
was characteristic of him with women.
"Oh, yes indeed," said the elder lady. Jeff had spoken to her, but had
looked chiefly at the younger. "I slept beautifully. So quiet here, and
with this delicious air! Have you just tasted it?"
"No; I've been up ever since daylight, driving round," said Jeff. "I'm
glad you like the air," he said, after a certain hesitation. "We always
want to have people do that at Lion's Head. There's no air like it,
though perhaps I shouldn't say so."
"Shouldn't?" the lady repeated.
"Yes; we own the air here--this part of it." Jeff smiled easily down at
the lady's puzzled face.
"Oh! Then you are--are you a son of the house?"
"Son of the hotel, yes," said Jeff, with increasing ease. The lady
continued her question in a look, and he went on: "I've been scouring the
country for butter and eggs this morning. We shall get all our supplies
from Boston next year, I hope, but we depend on the neighbors a little
"How very interesting!" said the lady. "You must have a great many queer
adventures," she suggested in a provisional tone.
"Well, nothing's queer to me in the hill country. But you see some
characters here." He nodded over his shoulder to where Whitwell stood by
the flag-staff, waiting the morning impulse of the ladies. "There's one
of the greatest of them now."
The lady put up a lorgnette and inspected Whitwell. "What are those
strange things he has got in his hatband?"
"The flowers and the fungi of the season," said Jeff. "He takes parties
of the ladies walking, and that collection is what he calls his almanac."
"Really?" cried the girl. "That's charming!"
"Delightful!" said the mother, moved by the same impulse, apparently.
"Yes," said Jeff. "You ought to hear him talk. I'll introduce him to
you after breakfast, if you like."
"Oh, we should only be too happy," said the mother, and her daughter,
from her inflection, knew that she would be willing to defer her
But Jeff did not. "Mr. Whitwell !" he called out, and Whitwell came
across the grass to the edge of the veranda. "I want to introduce you to
Mrs. Vostrand--and Miss Vostrand."
Whitwell took their slim hands successively into his broad, flat palm,
and made Mrs. Vostrand repeat her name to him. "Strangers at Lion's
Head, I presume?" Mrs. Vostrand owned as much; and he added: "Well,
I guess you won't find a much sightlier place anywhere; though, accordin'
to Jeff's say, here, they've got bigger mountains on the other side.
Ever been in Europe?"
"Why, yes," said Mrs. Vostrand, with a little mouth of deprecation.
"In fact, we've just come home. We've been living there."
"That so?" returned Whitwell, in humorous toleration. "Glad to get back,
"Oh yes--yes," said Mrs. Vostrand, in a sort of willowy concession, as if
the character before her were not to be crossed or gainsaid.
"Well, it 'll do you good here," said Whitwell. "'N' the young lady,
too. A few tramps over these hills 'll make you look like another
woman." He added, as if he had perhaps made his remarks too personal to
the girl, "Both of you."
"Oh yes," the mother assented, fervently. "We shall count upon your
showing us all their-mysteries."
Whitwell looked pleased. "I'll do my best-whenever you're ready."
He went on: "Why, Jeff, here, has just got back, too. Jeff, what was the
name of that French boat you said you crossed on? I want to see if I
can't make out what plantchette meant by that broken shaft. She must
have meant something, and if I could find out the name of the ship--
Tell the ladies about it?" Jeff laughed, with a shake of the head, and
Whitwell continued, "Why, it was like this," and he possessed the ladies
of a fact which they professed to find extremely interesting. At the end
of their polite expressions he asked Jeff again: "What did you say the
"Aquitaine," said Jeff, briefly.
"Why, we came on the Aquitaine!" said Mrs. Vostrand, with a smile for
Jeff. "But how did we happen not to see one another?"
"Oh, I came second-cabin," said Jeff. "I worked my way over on a cattle-
ship to London, and, when I decided not to work my way back, I found I
hadn't enough money for a first-cabin passage. I was in a hurry to get
back in time to get settled at Harvard, and so I came second-cabin. It
wasn't bad. I used to see you across the rail."
"Well!" said Whitwell.
"How very--amusing!" said Mrs. Vostrand. "What a small world it is!"
With these words she fell into a vagary; her daughter recalled her from
it with a slight movement. "Breakfast? How impatient you are,
Genevieve! Well!" She smiled the sweetest parting to Whitwell, and
suffered herself to be led away by Jeff.
"And you're at Harvard? I'm so interested! My own boy will be going
"Well, there's no place like Harvard," said Jeff. "I'm in my Sophomore
"Oh, a Sophomore! Fancy!" cried Mrs. Vostrand, as if nothing could give
her more pleasure. "My son is going to prepare at St. Mark's. Did you
"No, I prepared at Lovewell Academy, over here." Jeff nodded in a
"Oh, indeed!" said Mrs. Vostrand, as if she knew where Lovewell was, and
instantly recognized the name of the ancient school.
They had reached the dining room, and Jeff pushed the screen-door open
with one hand, and followed the ladies in. He had the effect of
welcoming them like invited guests; he placed the ladies himself at a
window, where he said Mrs. Vostrand would be out of the draughts, and
they could have a good view of Lion's Head.
He leaned over between them, when they were seated, to get sight of the
mountain, and, "There!" he said. "That cloud's gone at last." Then, as
if it would be modester in the proprietor of the view to leave them to
their flattering raptures in it, he moved away and stood talking a moment
with Cynthia Whitwell near the door of the serving-room. He talked
gayly, with many tosses of the head and turns about, while she listened
with a vague smile, motionlessly.
"She's very pretty," said Miss Vostrand to her mother.
"Yes. The New England type," murmured the mother.
"They all have the same look, a good deal," said the girl, glancing over
the room where the waitresses stood ranged against the wall with their
hands folded at their waists. "They have better faces than figures, but
she is beautiful every way. Do you suppose they are all schoolteachers?
They look intellectual. Or is it their glasses?"
"I don't know," said the mother. "They used to be; but things change
here so rapidly it may all be different. Do you like it?"
"I think it's charming here," said the younger lady, evasively.
"Everything is so exquisitely clean. And the food is very good. Is this
corn-bread--that you've told me about so much?"
"Yes, this is corn-bread. You will have to get accustomed to it."
"Perhaps it won't take long. I could fancy that girl knowing about
everything. Don't you like her looks?"
"Oh, very much." Mrs. Vostrand turned for another glance at Cynthia.
"What say?" Their smiling waitress came forward from the wall where she
was leaning, as if she thought they had spoken to her.
"Oh, we were speaking--the young lady to whom Mr. Durgin was talking--she
"She's the housekeeper--Miss Whitwell."
"Oh, indeed! She seems so young--"
"I guess she knows what to do-o-o," the waitress chanted. "We think
she's about ri-i-ght." She smiled tolerantly upon the misgiving of the
stranger, if it was that, and then retreated when the mother and daughter
began talking together again.
They had praised the mountain with the cloud off, to Jeff, very politely,
and now the mother said, a little more intimately, but still with the
deference of a society acquaintance: "He seems very gentlemanly, and I am
sure he is very kind. I don't quite know what to do about it, do you?"
"No, I don't. It's all strange to me, you know."
"Yes, I suppose it must be. But you will get used to it if we remain in
the country. Do you think you will dislike it?"
"Oh no! It's very different."
"Yes, it's different. He is very handsome, in a certain way." The
daughter said nothing, and the mother added: "I wonder if he was trying
to conceal that he had come second-cabin, and was not going to let us
know that he crossed with us?"
"Do you think he was bound to do so?"
"No. But it was very odd, his not mentioning it. And his going out on a
cattle-steamer?" the mother observed.
"Oh, but that's very chic, I've heard," the daughter replied. "I've
heard that the young men like it and think it a great chance. They have
great fun. It isn't at all like second-cabin."
"You young people have your own world," the mother answered, caressingly.
Westover met the ladies coming out of the dining-room as he went in
rather late to breakfast; he had been making a study of Lion's Head in
the morning light after the cloud lifted from it. He was always doing
Lion's Heads, it seemed to him; but he loved the mountain, and he was
always finding something new in it.
He was now seeing it inwardly with so exclusive a vision that he had no
eyes for these extremely pretty women till they were out of sight. Then
he remembered noticing them, and started with a sense of recognition,
which he verified by the hotel register when he had finished his meal.
It was, in fact, Mrs. James W. Vostrand, and it was Miss Vostrand, whom
Westover had know ten years before in Italy. Mrs. Vostrand had then
lately come abroad for the education of her children, and was pausing in
doubt at Florence whether she should educate them in Germany or
Switzerland. Her husband had apparently abandoned this question to her,
and he did not contribute his presence to her moral support during her
struggle with a problem which Westover remembered as having a tendency to
solution in the direction of a permanent stay in Florence.
In those days he liked Mrs. Vostrand very much, and at twenty he
considered her at thirty distinctly middle-aged. For one winter she had
a friendly little salon, which was the most attractive place in Florence
to him, then a cub painter sufficiently unlicked. He was aware of her
children being a good deal in the salon: a girl of eight, who was like
her mother, and quite a savage little boy of five, who may have been like
his father. If he was, and the absent Mr. Vostrand had the same habit of
sulking and kicking at people's shins, Westover could partly understand
why Mrs. Vostrand had come to Europe for the education of her children.
It all came vividly back to him, while he went about looking for Mrs.
Vostrand and her daughter on the verandas and in the parlors. But he did
not find them, and he was going to send his name to their rooms when he
came upon Jeff Durgin figuring about the office in a fresh London
conception of an outing costume.
"You're very swell," said Westover, halting him to take full note of it.
"Like it? Well, I knew you'd understand what it meant. Mother thinks
it's a little too rowdy-looking. Her idea is black broadcloth frock-coat
and doeskin trousers for a gentleman, you know." He laughed with a young
joyousness, and then became serious. "Couple of ladies here, somewhere,
I'd like to introduce you to. Came over with me from the depot last
night. Very nice people, and I'd like to make it pleasant for them--get
up something--go somewhere--and when you see their style you can judge
what it had better be. Mrs. Vostrand and her daughter."
"Thank you," said Westover. "I think I know them already at least one of
them. I used to go to Mrs. Vostrand's house in Florence."
"That so? Well, fact is, I crossed with them; but I came second-cabin,
because I'd spent all my money, and I didn't get acquainted with them on
the ship, but we met in the train coming up last night. Said they had
heard of Lion's Head on the other side from friends. But it was quite a
coincidence, don't you think? I'd like to have them see what this
neighborhood really is; and I wish, Mr. Westover, you'd find out, if you
can, what they'd like. If they're for walking, we could get Whitwell to
personally conduct a party, and if they're for driving, I'd like to show
them a little mountain-coaching myself."
"I don't know whether I'd better not leave the whole thing to you, Jeff,"
Westover said, after a moment's reflection. "I don't see exactly how I
could bring the question into a first interview."
"Well, perhaps it would be rather rushing it. But, if I get up
something, you'll come, Mr. Westover?"
"I will, with great pleasure," said Westover, and he went to make his
A half-hour later he was passing the door of the old parlor which Mrs.
Durgin still kept for hers, on his way up to his room, when a sound of
angry voices came out to him. Then the voice of Mrs. Durgin defined
itself in the words: "I'm not goin' to have to ask any more folks for
their rooms on your account, Jeff Durgin--Mr. Westover! Mr. Westover,
is that you?" her voice broke off to call after him as he hurried by,
"Won't you come in here a minute?"
He hesitated, and then Jeff called, "Yes, come in, Mr. Westover."
The painter found him sitting on the old hair-cloth sofa, with his stick
between his hands and knees, confronting his mother, who was rocking
excitedly to and fro in the old hair-cloth easy-chair.
"You know these folks that Jeff's so crazy about?" she demanded.
"Crazy!" cried Jeff, laughing and frowning at the same time. "What's
crazy in wanting to go off on a drive and choose your own party?"
"Do you know them?" Mrs. Durgin repeated to Westover.
"The Vostrands? Why, yes. I knew Mrs. Vostrand in Italy a good many
years ago, and I've just been calling on her and her daughter, who was a
little girl then."
"What kind of folks are they?"
"What kind? Really! Why, they're very charming people--"
"So Jeff seems to think. Any call to show them any particular
"I don't know if I quite understand--"
"Why, it's just this. Jeff, here, wants to make a picnic for them, or
something, and I can't see the sense of it. You remember what happened
at that other picnic, with that Mrs. Marven"--Jeff tapped the floor with
his stick impatiently, and Westover felt sorry for him--"and I don't want
it to happen again, and I've told Jeff so. I presume he thinks it 'll
set him right with them, if they're thinkin' demeaning of him because he
came over second-cabin on their ship."
Jeff set his teeth and compressed his lips to bear as best he could, the
give-away which his mother could not appreciate in its importance to him:
"They're not the kind of people to take such a thing shabbily," said
Westover. "They didn't happen to mention it, but Mrs. Vostrand must have
got used to seeing young fellows in straits of all kinds during her life
abroad. I know that I sometimes made the cup of tea and biscuit she used
to give me in Florence do duty for a dinner, and I believe she knew it."
Jeff looked up at Westover with a grateful, sidelong glance.
His mother said: "Well, then, that's all right, and Jeff needn't do
anything for them on that account. And I've made up my mind about one
thing: whatever the hotel does has got to be done for the whole hotel.
It can't pick and choose amongst the guests." Westover liked so little
the part of old family friend which he seemed, whether he liked it or
not, to bear with the Durgins, that he would gladly have got away now,
but Mrs. Durgin detained him with a direct appeal. "Don't you think so,
Jeff spared him the pain of a response. "Very well," he said to his
mother; "I'm not the hotel, and you never want me to be. I can do this
on my own account."
"Not with my coach and not with my hosses," said his mother.
Jeff rose. "I might as well go on down to Cambridge, and get to work on
"Just as you please about that," said Mrs. Durgin, with the same
impassioned quiet that showed in her son's handsome face and made it one
angry red to his yellow hair. "We've got along without you so far, this
summer, and I guess we can the rest of the time. And the sooner you work
off your conditions the better, I presume."
The next morning Jeff came to take leave of him, where Westover had
pitched his easel and camp-stool on the slope behind the hotel.
"Why, are you really going?" he asked. "I was in hopes it might have
"No, things don't blow over so easy with mother," said Jeff, with an
embarrassed laugh, but no resentment. "She generally means what she
"Well, in this case, Jeff, I think she was right."
"Oh, I guess so," said Jeff, pulling up a long blade of grass and taking
it between his teeth. "Anyway, it comes to the same thing as far as I'm
concerned. It's for her to say what shall be done and what sha'n't be
done in her own house, even if it is a hotel. That's what I shall do in
mine. We're used to these little differences; but we talk it out, and
that's the end of it. I shouldn't really go, though, if I didn't think
I ought to get in some work on those conditions before the thing begins
regularly. I should have liked to help here a little, for I've had a
good time and I ought to be willing to pay for it. But she's in good
hands. Jackson's well--for him--and she's got Cynthia."
The easy security of tone with which Jeff pronounced the name vexed
Westover. "I suppose your mother would hardly know how to do without
her, even if you were at home," he said, dryly.
"Well, that's a fact," Jeff assented, with a laugh for the hit. "And
Jackson thinks the world of her. I believe he trusts her judgment more
than he does mother's about the hotel. Well, I must be going. You don't
know where Mrs. Vostrand is going to be this winter, I suppose?"
"No, I don't," said Westover. He could not help a sort of blind
resentment in the situation. If he could not feel that Jeff was the best
that could be for Cynthia, he had certainly no reason to regret that his
thoughts could be so lightly turned from her. But the fact anomalously
incensed him as a slight to the girl, who might have been still more
sacrificed by Jeff's constancy. He forced himself to add: "I fancy Mrs.
Vostrand doesn't know herself."
"I wish I didn't know where I was going to be," said Jeff. "Well, good-
bye, Mr. Westover. I'll see you in Boston."
"Oh, good-bye." The painter freed himself from his brush and palette for
a parting handshake, reluctantly.
Jeff plunged down the hill, waving a final adieu from the corner of the
hotel before he vanished round it.
Mrs. Vostrand and her daughter were at breakfast when Westover came in
after the early light had been gone some time. They entreated him to
join them at their table, and the mother said: "I suppose you were up
soon enough to see young Mr. Durgin off. Isn't it too bad he has to go
back to college when it's so pleasant in the country?"
"Not bad for him," said Westover. "He's a young man who can stand a
great deal of hard work." Partly because he was a little tired of Jeff,
and partly because he was embarrassed in their presence by the reason of
his going, he turned the talk upon the days they had known together.
Mrs. Vostrand was very willing to talk of her past, even apart from his,
and she told him of her sojourn in Europe since her daughter had left
school. They spent their winters in Italy and their summers in
Switzerland, where it seemed her son was still at his studies in
Lausanne. She wished him to go to Harvard, she said, and she supposed he
would have to finish his preparation at one of the American schools; but
she had left the choice entirely to Mr. Vostrand.
This seemed a strange event after twelve years' stay in Europe for the
education of her children, but Westover did not feel authorized to make
any comment upon it. He fell rather to thinking how very pleasant both
mother and daughter were, and to wondering how much wisdom they had
between them. He reflected that men had very little wisdom, as far as he
knew them, and he questioned whether, after all, the main difference
between men and women might not be that women talked their follies and
men acted theirs. Probably Mrs. Vostrand, with all her babble, had done
fewer foolish things than her husband, but here Westover felt his
judgment disabled by the fact that he had never met her husband; and his
mind began to wander to a question of her daughter, whom he had there
before him. He found himself bent upon knowing more of the girl, and
trying to eliminate her mother from the talk, or, at least, to make
Genevieve lead in it. But apparently she was not one of the natures that
like to lead; at any rate, she remained discreetly in abeyance, and
Westover fancied she even respected her mother's opinions and ideas.
He thought this very well for both of them, whether it was the effect of
Mrs. Vostrand's merit or Miss Vostrand's training. They seemed both of
one exquisite gentleness, and of one sweet manner, which was rather
elaborate and formal in expression. They deferred to each other as
politely as they deferred to him, but, if anything, the daughter deferred
The Vostrands did not stay long at Lion's Head. Before the week was out
Mrs. Vostrand had a letter summoning them to meet her husband at
Montreal, where that mysterious man, who never came into the range of
Westover's vision, somehow, was kept by business from joining them in the
Early in October the painter received Mrs. Vostrand's card at his studio
in Boston, and learned from the scribble which covered it that she was
with her daughter at the Hotel Vendome. He went at once to see them
there, and was met, almost before the greetings were past, with a prayer
for his opinion.
"Favorable opinion?" he asked.
"Favorable? Oh yes; of course. It's simply this. When I sent you my
card, we were merely birds of passage, and now I don't know but we are--
What is the opposite of birds of passage?"
Westover could not think, and said so.
"Well, it doesn't matter. We were walking down the street, here, this
morning, and we saw the sign of an apartment to let, in a window, and we
thought, just for amusement, we would go in and look at it."
"And you took it?"
"No, not quite so rapid as that. But it was lovely; in such a pretty
'hotel garni', and so exquisitely furnished! We didn't really think of
staying in Boston; we'd quite made up our minds on New York; but this
apartment is a temptation."
"Why not yield, then?" said Westover. "That's the easiest way with a
temptation. Confess, now, that you've taken the apartment already!"
"No, no, I haven't yet," said Mrs. Vostrand.
"And if I advised not, you wouldn't?"
"Ah, that's another thing!"
"When are you going to take possession, Mrs. Vostrand?"
"Oh, at once, I suppose--if we do!"
"And may I come in when I'm hungry, just as I used to do in Florence, and
will you stay me with flagons in the old way?"
"There never was anything but tea, you know well enough."
"The tea had rum in it."
"Well, perhaps it will have rum in it here, if you're very good."
"I will try my best, on condition that you'll make any and every possible
use of me. Mrs. Vostrand, I can't tell you how very glad I am you're
going to stay," said the painter, with a fervor that made her impulsively
put out her hand to him. He kept it while he could add, "I don't forget
--I can never forget--how good you were to me in those days," and at that
she gave his hand a quick pressure. "If I can do anything at all for
you, you will let me, won't you. I'm afraid you'll be so well provided
for that there won't be anything. Ask them to slight you, to misuse you
in something, so that I can come to your rescue."
"Yes, I will," Mrs. Vostrand promised. "And may we come to your studio
to implore your protection?"
"The sooner the better." Westover got himself away with a very sweet
friendship in his heart for this rather anomalous lady, who, more than
half her daughter's life, had lived away from her daughter's father,
upon apparently perfectly good terms with him, and so discreetly and
self-respectfully that no breath of reproach had touched her. Until now,
however, her position had not really concerned Westover, and it would not
have concerned him now, if it had not been for a design that formed
itself in his mind as soon as he knew that Mrs. Vostrand meant to pass
the winter in Boston. He felt at once that he could not do things by
halves for a woman who had once done them for him by wholes and something
over, and he had instantly decided that he must not only be very pleasant
to her himself, but he must get his friends to be pleasant, too. His
friends were some of the nicest people in Boston; nice in both the
personal and the social sense; he knew they would not hesitate to
sacrifice themselves for him in a good cause, and that made him all the
more anxious that the cause should be good beyond question.
Since his last return from Paris he had been rather a fad as a teacher,
and his class had been kept quite strictly to the ladies who got it up
and to such as they chose to let enter it. These were not all chosen for
wealth or family; there were some whose gifts gave the class distinction,
and the ladies were glad to have them. It would be easy to explain Mrs.
Vostrand to these, but the others might be more difficult; they might
have their anxieties, and Westover meant to ask the leader of the class
to help him receive at the studio tea he had at once imagined for the
Vostrands, and that would make her doubly responsible.
He found himself drawing a very deep and long breath before he began to
mount the many stairs to his studio, and wishing either that Mrs.
Vostrand had not decided to spend the winter in Boston, or else that he
were of a slacker conscience and could wear his gratitude more lightly.
But there was some relief in thinking that he could do nothing for a
month yet. He gained a degree of courage by telling the ladies, when he
went to find them in their new apartment, that he should want them to
meet a few of his friends at tea as soon as people began to get back to
town; and he made the most of their instant joy in accepting his
His pleasure was somehow dashed a little, before he left them, by the
announcement of Jeff Durgin's name.
"I felt bound to send him my card," said Mrs. Vostrand, while Jeff was
following his up in the elevator. "He was so very kind to us the day we
arrived at Zion's Head; and I didn't know but he might be feeling a
little sensitive about coming over second-cabin in our ship; and--"
"How like you, Mrs. Vostrand !" cried Westover, and he was now distinctly
glad he had not tried to sneak out of doing something for her. "Your
kindness won't be worse wasted on Durgin than it was on me, in the old
days, when I supposed I had taken a second-cabin passage for the voyage
of life. There's a great deal of good in him; I don't mean to say he got
through his Freshman year without trouble with the college authorities,
but the Sophomore year generally brings wisdom."
"Oh," said Mrs. Vostrand, "they're always a little wild at first, I
Later, the ladies brought Jeff with them when they came to Westover's
studio, and the painter perceived that they were very good friends,
as if they must have met several times since he had seen them together.
He interested himself in the growing correctness of Jeff's personal
effect. During his Freshman year, while the rigor of the unwritten
Harvard law yet forbade him a silk hat or a cane, he had kept something
of the boy, if not the country boy. Westover had noted that he had
always rather a taste for clothes, but in this first year he did not get
beyond a derby-hat and a sack-coat, varied toward the end by a cutaway.
In the outing dress he wore at home he was always effective, but there
was something in Jeff's figure which did not lend itself to more formal
fashion; something of herculean proportion which would have marked him of
a classic beauty perhaps if he had not been in clothes at all, or of a
yeomanly vigor and force if he had been clad for work, but which seemed
to threaten the more worldly conceptions of the tailor with danger.
It was as if he were about to burst out of his clothes, not because he
wore them tight, but because there was somehow more of the man than the
citizen in him; something native, primitive, something that Westover
could not find quite a word for, characterized him physically and
spiritually. When he came into the studio after these delicate ladies,
the robust Jeff Durgin wore a long frockcoat, with a flower in his
button-hole, and in his left hand he carried a silk hat turned over his
forearm as he must have noticed people whom he thought stylish carrying
their hats. He had on dark-gray trousers and sharp-pointed enamelled-
leather shoes; and Westover grotesquely reflected that he was dressed, as
he stood, to lead Genevieve Vostrand to the altar.
Westover saw at once that when he made his studio tea for the Vostrands
he must ask Jeff; it would be cruel, and for several reasons impossible,
not to do so, and he really did not see why he should not. Mrs. Vostrand
was taking him on the right ground, as a Harvard student, and nobody need
take him on any other. Possibly people would ask him to teas at their
own houses, from Westover's studio, but he could not feel that he was
concerned in that. Society is interested in a man's future, not his
past, as it is interested in a woman's past, not her future.
But when he gave his tea it went off wonderfully well in every way,
perhaps because it was one of the first teas of the fall. It brought
people together in their autumnal freshness before the winter had begun
to wither their resolutions to be amiable to one another, to dull their
wits, to stale their stories, or to give so wide a currency to their
sayings that they could not freely risk them with every one.
Westover had thought it best to be frank with the leading lady of his
class, when she said she should be delighted to receive for him, and
would provide suitable young ladies to pour: a brunette for the tea, and
a blonde for the chocolate. She took his scrupulosity very lightly when
he spoke of Mrs. Vostrand's educational sojourn in Europe; she laughed
and said she knew the type, and the situation was one of the most obvious
phases of the American marriage.
He protested in vain that Mrs. Vostrand was not the type; she laughed
again, and said, Oh, types were never typical. But she was hospitably
gracious both to her and to Miss Genevieve; she would not allow that the
mother was not the type when Westover challenged her experience, but she
said they were charming, and made haste to get rid of the question with
the vivid demand: "But who was your young friend who ought to have worn a
lion-skin and carried a club?"
Westover by this time disdained palliation. He said that Jeff was the
son of the landlady at Lion's Head Mountain, which he had painted so
much, and he was now in his second year at Harvard, where he was going to
make a lawyer of himself; and this interested the lady. She asked if he
had talent, and a number of other things about him and about his mother;
and Westover permitted himself to be rather graphic in telling of his
acquaintance with Mrs. Durgin.
After all, it was rather a simple-hearted thing of Westover to have
either hoped or feared very much for the Vostrands. Society, in the
sense of good society, can always take care of itself, and does so
perfectly. In the case of Mrs. Vostrand some ladies who liked Westover
and wished to be civil to him asked her and her daughter to other
afternoon teas, shook hands with them at their coming, and said, when
they went, they were sorry they must be going so soon. In the crowds
people recognized them now and then, both of those who had met them at
Westover's studio, and of those who had met them at Florence and
Lausanne. But if these were merely people of fashion they were readily,
rid of the Vostrands, whom the dullest among them quickly perceived not
to be of their own sort, somehow. Many of the ladies of Westover's class
made Genevieve promise to let them paint her; and her beauty and her
grace availed for several large dances at the houses of more daring
spirits, where the daughters made a duty of getting partners for her, and
discharged it conscientiously. But there never was an approach to more
intimate hospitalities, and toward the end of February, when good society
in Boston goes southward to indulge a Lenten grief at Old Point Comfort,
Genevieve had so many vacant afternoons and evenings at her disposal that
she could not have truthfully pleaded a previous engagement to the
invitations Jeff Durgin made her. They were chiefly for the theatre,
and Westover saw him with her and her mother at different plays; he
wondered how Jeff had caught on to the notion of asking Mrs. Vostrand to
come with them.
Jeff's introductions at Westover's tea had not been many, and they had
not availed him at all. He had been asked to no Boston houses, and when
other students, whom he knew, were going in to dances, the whole winter
he was socially as quiet, but for the Vostrands, as at the Mid-year
Examinations. Westover could not resent the neglect of society in his
case, and he could not find that he quite regretted it; but he thought it
characteristically nice of Mrs. Vostrand to make as much of the
friendless fellow as she fitly could. He had no doubt but her tact would
be equal to his management in every way, and that she could easily see to
it that he did not become embarrassing to her daughter or herself.
One day, after the east wind had ceased to blow the breath of the ice-
fields of Labrador against the New England coast, and the buds on the
trees along the mall between the lawns of the avenue were venturing forth
in a hardy experiment of the Boston May, Mrs. Vostrand asked Westover if
she had told him that Mr. Vostrand was actually coming on to Boston.
He rejoiced with her in this prospect, and he reciprocated the wish which
she said Mr. Vostrand had always had for a meeting with himself.
A fortnight later, when the leaves had so far inured themselves to the
weather as to have fully expanded, she announced another letter from Mr.
Vostrand, saying that, after all, he should not be able to come to
Boston, but hoped to be in New York before she sailed.
"Sailed!" cried Westover.
"Why, yes! Didn't you know we were going to sail in June? I thought I
had told you!"
"Why, yes. We must go out to poor Checco, now; Mr. Vostrand insists upon
that. If ever we are a united family again, Mr. Westover--if Mr.
Vostrand can arrange his business, when Checco is ready to enter Harvard
--I mean to take a house in Boston. I'm sure I should be contented to
live nowhere else in America. The place has quite bewitched me--dear
old, sober, charming Boston! I'm sure I should like to live here all the
rest of my life. But why in the world do people go out of town so early?
Those houses over there have been shut for a whole month past!"
They were sitting at Mrs. Vostrand's window looking out on the avenue,
where the pale globular electrics were swimming like jelly-fish in the
clear evening air, and above the ranks of low trees the houses on the
other side were close-shuttered from basement to attic.
Westover answered: "Some go because they have such pleasant houses at the
shore, and some because they want to dodge their taxes."
"To dodge their taxes?" she repeated, and he had to explain how if people
were in their country-houses before the 1st of May they would not have to
pay the high personal tax of the city; and she said that she would write
that to Mr. Vostrand; it would be another point in favor of Boston.
Women, she declared, would never have thought of such a thing; she
denounced them as culpably ignorant of so many matters that concerned
them, especially legal matters. "And you think," she asked, "that Mr.
Durgin will be a good lawyer? That he will-distinguish himself?"
Westover thought it rather a short-cut to Jeff from the things they had
been talking of, but if she wished to speak of him he had no reason to
oppose her wish. "I've heard it's all changed a good deal. There are
still distinguished lawyers, and lawyers who get on, but they don't
distinguish themselves in the old way so much, and they get on best by
becoming counsel for some powerful corporation."
"And you think he has talent?" she pursued. "For that, I mean."
"Oh, I don't know," said Westover. "I think he has a good head. He can
do what he likes within certain limits, and the limits are not all on the
side I used to fancy. He baffles me. But of late I fancy you've seen
rather more of him than I have."
"I have urged him to go more to you. But," said Mrs. Vostrand, with a
burst of frankness, "he thinks you don't like him."
"He's wrong," said Westover. "But I might dislike him very much."
"I see what you mean," said Mrs. Vostrand, "and I'm glad you've been so
frank with me. I've been so interested in Mr. Durgin, so interested!
Isn't he very young?"
The question seemed a bit of indirection to Westover. But he answered
directly enough. "He's rather old for a Sophomore, I believe. He's
"And Genevieve is twenty. Mr. Westover, may I trust you with something?"
"With everything, I hope, Mrs. Vostrand."
"It's about Genevieve. Her father is so opposed to her making a foreign
marriage. It seems to be his one great dread. And, of course, she's
very much exposed to it, living abroad so much with me, and I feel doubly
bound on that account to respect her father's opinions, or even
prejudices. Before we left Florence--in fact, last winter--there was a
most delightful young officer wished to marry her. I don't know that she
cared anything for him, though he was everything that I could have
wished: handsome, brilliant, accomplished, good family; everything but
rich, and that was what Mr. Vostrand objected to; or, rather, he objected
to putting up, as he called it, the sum that Captain Grassi would have
had to deposit with the government before he was allowed to marry.
You know how it is with the poor fellows in the army, there; I don't
understand the process exactly, but the sum is something like sixty
thousand francs, I believe; and poor Gigi hadn't it: I always called him
Gigi, but his name is Count Luigi de' Popolani Grassi; and he is
descended from one of the old republican families of Florence. He is so
nice! Mr. Vostrand was opposed to him from the beginning, and as soon as
he heard of the sixty thousand francs, he utterly refused. He called it
buying a son-in-law, but I don't see why he need have looked at it in
that light. However, it was broken off, and we left Florence--more for
poor Gigi's sake than for Genevieve's, I must say. He was quite heart-
broken; I pitied him."
Her voice had a tender fall in the closing words, and Westover could
fancy how sweet she would make her compassion to the young man. She
began several sentences aimlessly, and he suggested, to supply the broken
thread of her discourse rather than to offer consolation, while her eyes
seemed to wander with her mind, and ranged the avenue up and down: "Those
foreign marriages are not always successful."
"No, they are not," she assented. "But don't you think they're better
with Italians than with Germans, for instance."
"I don't suppose the Italians expect their wives to black their boots,
but I've heard that they beat them, sometimes."
"In exaggerated cases, perhaps they do," Mrs. Vostrand admitted. "And,
of course," she added, thoughtfully, "there is nothing like a purely
American marriage for happiness."
Westover wondered how she really regarded her own marriage, but she never
betrayed any consciousness of its variance from the type.
A young couple came strolling down the avenue who to Westover's artistic
eye first typified grace and strength, and then to his more personal
perception identified themselves as Genevieve Vostrand and Jeff Durgin.
They faltered before one of the benches beside the mall, and he seemed to
be begging her to sit down. She cast her eyes round till they must have
caught the window of her mother's apartment; then, as if she felt safe
under it, she sank into the seat and Jeff put himself beside her. It was
quite too early yet for the simple lovers who publicly notify their
happiness by the embraces and hand-clasps everywhere evident in our parks
and gardens; and a Boston pair of social tradition would not have dreamed
of sitting on a bench in Commonwealth Avenue at any hour. But two such
aliens as Jeff and Miss Vostrand might very well do so; and Westover
sympathized with their bohemian impulse.
Mrs. Vostrand and he watched them awhile, in talk that straggled away
from them, and became more and more distraught in view of them. Jeff
leaned forward, and drew on the ground with the point of his stick;
Genevieve held her head motionless at a pensive droop. It was only their
backs that Westover could see, and he could not, of course, make out a
syllable of what was effectively their silence; but all the same he began
to feel as if he were peeping and eavesdropping. Mrs. Vostrand seemed
not to share his feeling, and there was no reason why he should have it
if she had not. He offered to go, but she said, No, no; he must not
think of it till Genevieve came in; and she added some banalities about
her always scolding when she had missed one of his calls; they would be
so few, now, at the most.
"Why, do you intend to go so soon?" he asked.
She did not seem to hear him, and he could see that she was watching the
young people intently. Jeff had turned his face up toward Genevieve,
without lifting his person, and was saying something she suddenly shrank
back from. She made a start as if to rise, but he put out his hand in
front of her, beseechingly or compellingly, and she sank down again.
But she slowly shook her head at what he was saying, and turned her face
toward him so that it gave her profile to the spectators. In that light
and at that distance it was impossible to do more than fancy anything
fateful in the words which she seemed to be uttering; but Westover chose
to fancy this. Jeff waited a moment in apparent silence, after she had
spoken. He sat erect and faced her, and this gave his profile, too.
He must have spoken, for she shook her head again; and then, at other
words from him, nodded assentingly. Then she listened motionlessly while
he poured a rapid stream of visible but inaudible words. He put out his
hand, as if to take hers, but she put it behind her; Westover could see
it white there against the belt of her dark dress.
Jeff went on more vehemently, but she remained steadfast, slowly shaking
her head. When he ended she spoke, and with something of his own energy;
he made a gesture of submission, and when she rose he rose, too. She
stood a moment, and with a gentle and almost entreating movement she put
out her hand to him. He stood looking down, with both his hands resting
on the top of his stick, as if ignoring her proffer. Then he suddenly
caught her hand, held it a moment; dropped it, and walked quickly away
without looking back. Genevieve ran across the lawn and roadway toward
"Oh, must, you go?" Mrs. Vostrand said to Westover. He found that he had
probably risen in sympathy with Jeff's action. He was not aware of an
intention of going, but he thought he had better not correct Mrs.
"Yes, I really must, now," he said.
"Well, then," she returned, distractedly, "do come often."
He hurried out to avoid meeting Genevieve. He passed her, on the public
stairs of the house, but he saw that she did not recognize him in the dim
Late that night he was startled by steps that seemed to be seeking their
way up the stairs to his landing, and then by a heavy knock on his door.
He opened it, and confronted Jeff Durgin.
"May I come in, Mr. Westover?" he asked, with unwonted deference.
"Yes, come in," said Westover, with no great relish, setting his door
open, and then holding onto it a moment, as if he hoped that, having come
in, Jeff might instantly go out again.
His reluctance was lost upon Jeff, who said, unconscious of keeping his
hat on: "I want to talk with you--I want to tell you something--"
"All right. Won't you sit down?"
At this invitation Jeff seemed reminded to take his hat off, and he put
it on the floor beside his chair. "I'm not in a scrape, this time--or,
rather, I'm in the worst kind of a scrape, though it isn't the kind that
you want bail for."
"Yes," Westover prompted.
"I don't know whether you've noticed--and if you haven't it don't make
any difference--that I've seemed to--care a good deal for Miss Vostrand?"
Westover saw no reason why he should not be frank, and said: "Too much,
I've fancied sometimes, for a student in his Sophomore year."
"Yes, I know that. Well, it's over, whether it was too much or too
little." He laughed in a joyless, helpless way, and looked deprecatingly
at Westover. "I guess I've been making a fool of myself--that's all."
"It's better to make a fool of one's self than to make a fool of some one
else," said Westover, oracularly.
"Yes," said Jeff, apparently finding nothing more definite in the oracle
than people commonly find in oracles. "But I think," he went on, with a
touch of bitterness, "that her mother might have told me that she was
engaged--or the same as engaged."
"I don't know that she was bound to take you seriously, or to suppose you
took yourself so, at your age and with your prospects in life. If you
want to know"--Westover faltered, and then went on--"she began to be kind
to you because she was afraid that you might think she didn't take your
coming home second-cabin in the right way; and one thing led to another.
You mustn't blame her for what's happened."
Westover defended Mrs. Vostrand, but he did not feel strong in her
defence; he was not sure that Durgin was quite wrong, absurd as he had
been. He sat down and looked up at his visitor under his brows.
"What are you here for, Jeff? Not to complain of Mrs. Vostrand?"
Jeff gave a short, shamefaced laugh. "No, it's this you're such an old
friend of Mrs. Vostrand's that I thought she'd be pretty sure to tell you
about it; and I wanted to ask--to ask--that you wouldn't say anything to
"You are a boy! I shouldn't think of meddling with your affairs," said
Westover; he got up again, and Jeff rose, too.
Before noon the next day a district messenger brought Westover a letter
which he easily knew, from, the now belated tall, angular hand, to be
from Mrs. Vostrand. It announced on a much criss-crossed little sheet
that she and Genevieve were inconsolably taking a very sudden departure,
and were going on the twelve-o'clock train to New York, where Mr.
Vostrand was to meet them. "In regard to that affair which I mentioned
last night, he withdraws his objections (we have had an overnight
telegram), and so I suppose all will go well. I cannot tell you how
sorry we both are not to see you again; you have been such a dear, good
friend to us; and if you don't hear from us again at New York, you will
from the other side. Genevieve had some very strange news when she came
in, and we both feel very sorry for the poor young fellow. You must
console him from us all you can. I did not know before how much she was
attached to Gigi: but it turned out very fortunately that she could say
she considered herself bound to him, and did everything to save Mr. D.'s
Westover was not at Lion's Head again till the summer before Jeff's
graduation. In the mean time the hotel had grown like a living thing.
He could not have imagined wings in connection with the main edifice, but
it had put forth wings--one that sheltered a new and enlarged dining-
room, with two stories of chambers above, and another that hovered a
parlor and ball-room under a like provision of chambers. An ell had been
pushed back on the level behind the house; the barn had been moved
farther to the southward, and on its old site a laundry built, with
quarters for the help over it. All had been carefully, frugally, yet
sufficiently done, and Westover was not surprised to learn that it was
all the effect of Jackson Durgin's ingenuity and energy. Mrs. Durgin
confessed to having no part in it; but she had kept pace, with Cynthia
Whitwell's help, in the housekeeping. As Jackson had cautiously felt his
way to the needs of their public in the enlargement and rearrangement of
the hotel, the two housewives had watchfully studied, not merely the
demands, but the half-conscious instincts of their guests, and had
responded to them simply and adequately, in the spirit of Jackson's
exterior and structural improvements. The walls of the new rooms were
left unpapered and their floors uncarpeted; there were thin rugs put
down; the wood-work was merely stained. Westover found that he need not
to ask especially for some hot dish at night; there was almost the
abundance of a dinner, though dinner was still at one o'clock.
Mrs. Durgin asked him the first day if he would not like to go into the
serving-room and see it while they were serving dinner. She tried to
conceal her pride in the busy scene--the waitresses pushing in through
one valve of the double-hinged doors with their empty trays, and out
through the other with the trays full laden; delivering their dishes with
the broken victual at the wicket, where the untouched portions were put
aside and the rest poured into the waste; following in procession along
the reeking steamtable, with its great tanks of soup and vegetables,
where, the carvers stood with the joints and the trussed fowls smoking
before them, which they sliced with quick sweeps of their blades, or
waiting their turn at the board where the little plates with portions of
fruit and dessert stood ready. All went regularly on amid a clatter of
knives and voices and dishes; and the clashing rise and fall of the wire
baskets plunging the soiled crockery into misty depths, whence it came up
clean and dry without the touch of finger or towel. Westover could not
deny that there were elements of the picturesque in it, so that he did
not respond quite in kind to Jeff's suggestion--"Scene for a painter, Mr.
The young fellow followed satirically at his mother's elbow, and made a
mock of her pride in it, trying to catch Westover's eye when she led him
through the kitchen with its immense range, and introduced him to a new
chef, who wiped his hand on his white apron to offer it to Westover.
"Don't let him get away without seeing the laundry, mother," her son
jeered at a final air of absent-mindedness in her, and she defiantly
accepted his challenge.
"Jeff's mad because he wasn't consulted," she explained, "and because we
don't run the house like his one-horse European hotels."
"Oh, I'm not in it at all, Mr. Westover," said the young fellow. "I'm as
much a passenger as you are. The only difference is that I'm allowed to
work my passage."
"Well, one thing," said his mother, "is that we've got a higher class of
boarders than we ever had before. You'll see, Mr. Westover, if you stay
on here till August. There's a class that boards all the year round, and
that knows what a hotel is--about as well as Jeff, I guess. You'll find
'em at the big city houses, the first of the winter, and then they go
down to Floridy or Georgy for February and March; and they get up to
Fortress Monroe in April, and work along north about the middle of May to
them family hotels in the suburbs around Boston; and they stay there till
it's time to go to the shore. They stay at the shore through July,
and then they come here in August, and stay till the leaves turn.
They're folks that live on their money, and they're the very highest
class, I guess. It's a round of gayety with 'em the whole year through."
Jeff, from the vantage of his greater worldly experience, was trying to
exchange looks of intelligence with Westover concerning those hotel-
dwellers whom his mother revered as aristocrats; but he did not openly
question her conceptions. "They've told me how they do, some of the
ladies have," she went on. "They've got the money for it, and they know
how to get the most for their money. Why, Mr. Westover, we've got rooms
in this house, now, that we let for thirty-five to fifty dollars a week
for two persons, and folks like that take 'em right along through August
and September, and want a room apiece. It's different now, I can tell
you, from what it was when folks thought we was killin' 'em if we wanted
ten or twelve dollars."
Westover had finished his dinner before this tour of the house began, and
when it was over the two men strolled away together.
"You see, it's on the regular American lines," Jeff pursued, after
parting with his mother. "Jackson's done it, and he can't imagine
anything else. I don't say it isn't well done in its way, but the way's
wrong; it's stupid and clumsy." When they were got so far from the hotel
as to command a prospect of its ungainly mass sprawled upon the plateau,
his smouldering disgust burst out: "Look at it! Did you ever see
anything like it? I wish the damned thing would burn up--or down!"
Westover was aware in more ways than one of Jeff's exclusion from