Part 3 out of 3
authority in the place, where he was constantly set aside from the
management as if his future were so definitely dedicated to another
calling that not even his advice was desired or permitted; and he could
not help sympathizing a little with him when he chafed at his rejection.
He saw a great deal of him, and he thought him quite up to the average of
Harvard's Seniors in some essentials. He had been sobered, apparently,
by experience; his unfortunate love-affair seemed to have improved him,
as the phrase is.
They had some long walks and long talks together, and in one of them Jeff
opened his mind, if not his heart, to the painter. He wanted to be the
Landlord of the Lion's Head, which he believed he could make the best
hotel in the mountains. He knew, of course, that he could not hope to
make any changes that did not suit his mother and his brother, as long as
they had the control, but he thought they would let him have the control
sooner if his mother could only be got to give up the notion of his being
a lawyer. As nearly as he could guess, she wanted him to be a lawyer
because she did not want him to be a hotel-keeper, and her prejudice
against that was because she believed that selling liquor made her father
"Well, now you know enough about me, Mr. Westover, to know that drink
isn't my danger."
"Yes, I think I do," said Westover.
"I went a little wild in my Freshman year, and I got into that scrape,
but I've never been the worse for liquor since; fact is, I never touch it
now. There isn't any more reason why I should take to drink because I
keep a hotel than Jackson; but just that one time has set mother against
it, and I can't seem to make her understand that once is enough for me.
Why, I should keep a temperance house, here, of course; you can't do
anything else in these days. If I was left to choose between hotel-
keeping and any other life that I know of, I'd choose it every time,"
Jeff went on, after a moment of silence. "I like a hotel. You can be
your own man from the start; the start's made here, and I've helped to
make it. All you've got to do is to have common-sense in the hotel
business, and you're sure to succeed. I believe I've got common-sense,
and I believe I've got some ideas that I can work up into a great
success. The reason that most people fail in the hotel business is that
they waste so much, and the landlord that wastes on his guests can't
treat them well. It's got so now that in the big city houses they can't
make anything on feeding people, and so they try to make it up on the
rooms. I should feed them well--I believe I know how--and I should make
money on my table, as they do in Europe.
"I've thought a good many things out; my mind runs on it all the time; but
I'm not going to bore you with it now."
"Oh, not at all," said Westover. "I'd like to know what your ideas are."
Well, some time I'll tell you. But look here, Mr. Westover, I wish if
mother gets to talking about me with you that you'd let her know how I
feel. We can't talk together, she and I, without quarrelling about it;
but I guess you could put in a word that would show her I wasn't quite a
fool. She thinks I've gone crazy from seeing the way they do things in
Europe; that I'm conceited and unpatriotic, and I don't know what all."
Jeff laughed as if with an inner fondness for his mother's wrong-
"And would you be willing to settle down here in the country for the rest
of your life, and throw away your Harvard training on hotel-keeping?"
"What do the other fellows do with their Harvard training when they go
into business, as nine-tenths of them do? Business is business, whether
you keep a hotel or import dry-goods or manufacture cotton or run a
railroad or help a big trust to cheat legally. Harvard has got to take a
back seat when you get out of Harvard. But you don't suppose that
keeping a summer hotel would mean living in the country the whole time,
do you? That's the way mother does, but I shouldn't. It isn't good for
the hotel, even. If I had such a place as Lion's Head, I should put a
man and his family into it for the winter to look after it, and I should
go to town myself--to Boston or New York, or I might go to London or
Paris. They're not so far off, and it's so easy to get to them that you
can hardly keep away." Jeff laughed, and looked up at Westover from the
log where he sat, whittling a pine stick; Westover sat on the stump from
which the log had been felled eight or ten years before.
"You are modern," he said.
"That's what I should do at first. But I don't believe I should have
Lion's Head very long before I had another hotel--in Florida, or the
Georgia uplands, or North Carolina, somewhere. I should take my help
back and forth; it would be as easy to run two hotels as one-easier!
It would keep my hand in. But if you want to know, I'd rather stick here
in the country, year in and year out, and run Lion's Head, than to be a
lawyer and hang round trying to get a case for nine or ten years. Who's
going to support me? Do you suppose I want to live on mother till I'm
forty? She don't think of that. She thinks I can go right into court
and begin distinguishing myself, if I can fight the people off from
sending me to Congress. I'd rather live in the country, anyway. I think
town's the place for winter, or two-three months of it, and after that I
haven't got any use for it. But mother, she's got this old-fashioned
ambition to have me go to a city and set up there. She thinks that if I
was a lawyer in Boston I should be at the top of the heap. But I know
better than that, and so do you; and I want you to give her some little
hint of how it really is: how it takes family and money and a lot of
influence to get to the top in any city."
It occurred to Westover, and not for the first time, that the frankest
thing in Jeff Durgin was his disposition to use his friends. It seemed
to him that Jeff was always asking something of him, and it did not
change the fact that in this case he thought him altogether in the right.
He said that if Mrs. Durgin spoke to him of the matter he would not keep
the light from her. He looked behind him, now, for the first time, in
recognition of the place where they had stopped. "Why, this is
"Didn't you know it?" Jeff asked. "It changes a good deal every year,
and you haven't been here for awhile, have you?"
"Not since Mrs. Marven's picnic," said Westover, and he added, quickly,
to efface the painful association which he must have called up by his
"The woods have crowded back upon it so. It can't be more than half its
"No," Jeff assented. He struck his heel against a fragment of the pine
bough he had been whittling, and drove it into the soft ground beside the
log, and said, without looking up from it: "I met that woman at a dance
last winter. It wasn't her dance, but she was running it as if it were,
just the way she did with the picnic. She seemed to want to let bygones
be bygones, and I danced with her daughter. She's a nice girl.
I thought mother did wrong about that." Now he looked at Westover.
"She couldn't help it, but it wasn't the thing to do. A hotel is a
public house, and you can't act as if it wasn't. If mother hadn't known
how to keep a hotel so well in other ways, she might have ruined the
house by not knowing in a thing like that. But we've got some of the
people with us this year that used to come here when we first took farm-
boarders; mother don't know that they're ever so much nicer, socially,
than the people that take the fifty-dollar rooms." He laughed, and then
he said, seriously: "If I ever had a son, I don't believe I should let my
pride in him risk doing him mischief. And if you've a mind to let her
understand that you believe I'm set against the law for good and all--"
"I guess I shall not be your ambassador, so far as that. Why don't you
tell her yourself?"
"She won't believe me," said Jeff, with a laugh. "She thinks I don't
know my mind. And I don't like the way we differ when we differ. We
differ more than we mean to. I don't pretend to say I'm always right.
She was right about that other picnic--the one I wanted to make for Mrs.
Vostrand. I suppose," he ended, unexpectedly, "that you hear from them,
now and then?"
"No, I don't. I haven't heard from them for a year; not since--You knew
Genevieve was married?"
"Yes, I knew that," said Jeff, steadily.
"I don't quite make it all out. Mr. Vostrand was very much opposed to
it, Mrs. Vostrand told me; but he must have given way at last; and he
must have put up the money." Jeff looked puzzled, and Westover
explained. "You know the officers in the Italian army--and all the other
armies in Europe, for that matter--have to deposit a certain sum with the
government before they can marry and in the case of Count Grassi,
Mr. Vostrand had to furnish the money."
Jeff said, after a moment: "Well, she couldn't help that."
"No, the girl wasn't to blame. I don't know that any one was to blame.
But I'm afraid our girls wouldn't marry many titles if their fathers
didn't put up the money."
"Well, I don't see why they shouldn't spend their money that way as well
as any other," said Jeff, and this proof of his impartiality suggested to
Westover that he was not only indifferent to the mercenary international
marriages, which are a scandal to so many of our casuists, but had quite
outlived his passion for the girl concerned in this.
"At any rate," Jeff added, "I haven't got anything to say against it.
Mr. Westover, I've always wanted to say one thing to you. Then I came to
your room that night, I wanted to complain of Mrs. Vostrand for not
letting me know about the engagement; and I wasn't man enough to
acknowledge that what you said would account for their letting me make a
fool of myself. But I believe I am now, and I want to say it."
"I'm glad you can see it in that way," said Westover, "and since you do,
I don't mind saying that I think Mrs. Vostrand might have been a little
franker with you without being less kind. She was kind, but she wasn't
"Well, it's all over now," said Jeff, and he rose up and brushed the
whittlings from his knees. "And I guess it's just as well."
That afternoon Westover saw Jeff helping Cynthia Whitwell into his
buckboard, and then, after his lively horse had made some paces of a
start, spring to the seat beside her, and bring it to a stand. "Can I do
anything for you over at Lovewell, Mr. Westover?" he called, and he
smiled toward the painter. Then he lightened the reins on the mare's
back; she squared herself for a start in earnest, and flashed down the
sloping hotel road to the highway below, and was lost to sight in the
clump of woods to the southward.
"That's a good friend of yours, Cynthy," he said, leaning toward the girl
with a simple comfort in her proximity. She was dressed in a pale-pink
color, with a hat of yet paler pink; without having a great deal of
fashion, she had a good deal of style. She looked bright and fresh;
there was a dash of pink in her cheeks, which suggested the color of the
sweetbrier, its purity and sweetness, and if there was something in
Cynthia's character and temperament that suggested its thorns too, one
still could not deny that she was like that flower. She liked to shop,
and she liked to ride after a good horse, as the neighbors would have
said; she was going over to Lovewell to buy a number of things, and Jeff
Durgin was driving her there with the swift mare that was his peculiar
property. She smiled upon him without the usual reservations she
contrived to express in her smiles.
"Well, I don't know anybody I'd rather have for my friend than Mr.
Westover." She added: "He acted like a friend the very first time I saw
Jeff laughed with shameless pleasure in the reminiscence her words
suggested. "Well, I did get my come-uppings that time. And I don't know
but he's been a pretty good friend to me, too. I'm not sure he likes me;
but Mr. Westover is a man that could be your friend if he didn't like
"What have you done to make him like you?" asked the girl.
"Nothing!" said Jeff, with a shout of laughter in his conviction.
"I've done a lot of things to make him despise me from the start. But if
you like a person yourself, you want him to like you whether you deserve
it or not."
"I don't know as I do."
"You say that because you always deserve it. You can't tell how it is
with a fellow like me. I should want you to like me, Cynthy, whatever
you thought of me." He looked round into her face, but she turned it
They had struck the level, long for the hill country, at the foot of the
hotel road, and the mare, that found herself neither mounting nor
descending a steep, dropped from the trot proper for an acclivity into a
"This mare can walk like a Kentucky horse," said Jeff. "I believe I
could teach her single-foot." He added, with a laugh, "If I knew how,"
and now Cynthia laughed with him.
"I was just going to say that."
"Yes, you don't lose many chances to give me a dig, do you?"
"Oh, I don't know as I look for them. Perhaps I don't need to." The
pine woods were deep on either side. They whispered in the thin, sweet
wind, and gave out their odor in the high, westering sun. They covered
with their shadows the road that ran velvety between them.
"This is nice," said Jeff, letting himself rest against the back of the
seat. He stretched his left arm along the top, and presently it dropped
and folded itself about the waist of the girl.
"You may take your arm away, Jeff," she said, quietly.
"Because it has no right there, for one thing!" She drew herself a
little aside and looked round at him. "You wouldn't put it round a town
girl if you were riding with her."
"I shouldn't be riding with her: Girls don't go buggy-riding in town any
more," said Jeff, brutally.
"Then I shall know what to do the next time you ask me."
"Oh, they'd go quick enough if I asked them up here in the country.
Etiquette don't count with them when they're on a vacation."
"I'm not on a vacation; so it counts with me. Please take your arm
away," said Cynthia.
"Oh, all right. But I shouldn't object to your putting your arm around
"You will never have the chance."
"Why are you so hard on me, Cynthy ?" asked Jeff. "You didn't used to be
"Not for the better."
Jeff was dumb. She was pleased with her hit, and laughed. But her laugh
did not encourage him to put his arm round her again. He let the mare
walk on, and left her to resume the conversation at whatever point she
She made no haste to resume it. At last she said, with sufficient
apparent remoteness from the subject they had dropped: "Jeff, I don't
know whether you want me to talk about it. But I guess I ought to, even
if it isn't my place exactly. I don't think Jackson's very well, this
Jeff faced round toward her. "What makes you think he isn't well?"
"He's weaker. Haven't you noticed it?"
"Yes, I have noticed that. He's worked down; that's all."
"No, that isn't all. But if you don't think so--"
"I want to know what you think, Cynthy," said Jeff, with the amorous
resentment all gone from his voice. "Sometimes folks outside notice the
signs more--I don't mean that you're an outsider, as far as we're
She put by that point. "Father's noticed it, too; and he's with Jackson
a good deal."
"I'll look after it. If he isn't so well, he's got to have a doctor.
That medium's stuff can't do him any good. Don't you think he ought to
have a doctor?"
"You don't think a doctor can do him much good?"
"He ought to have one," said the girl, noncommittally.
"Cynthia, I've noticed that Jackson was weak, too; and it's no use
pretending that he's simply worked down. I believe he's worn out. Do
you think mother's ever noticed it?"
"I don't believe she has."
"It's the one thing I can't very well make up my mind to speak to her
about. I don't know what she would do." He did not say, "If she lost
Jackson," but Cynthia knew he meant that, and they were both silent.
"Of course," he went on, "I know that she places a great deal of
dependence upon you, but Jackson's her main stay. He's a good man, and
he's a good son. I wish I'd always been half as good."
Cynthia did not protest against his self-reproach as he possibly hoped
she would. She said: "I think Jackson's got a very good mind. He reads
a great deal, and he's thought a great deal, and when it comes to
talking, I never heard any one express themselves better. The other
night, we were out looking at the stars--I came part of the way home with
him; I didn't like to let him go alone, he seemed so feeble and he got to
showing me Mars. He thinks it's inhabited, and he's read all that the
astronomers say about it, and the seas and the canals that they've found
on it. He spoke very beautifully about the other life, and then he spoke
about death." Cynthia's voice broke, and she pulled her handkerchief out
of her belt, and put it to her eyes. Jeff's heart melted in him at the
sight; he felt a tender affection for her, very unlike the gross content
he had enjoyed in her presence before, and he put his arm round her
again, but this time almost unconsciously, and drew her toward him. She
did not repel him; she even allowed her head to rest a moment on his
shoulder; though she quickly lifted it, and drew herself away, not
resentfully, it seemed, but for her greater freedom in talking.
"I don't believe he's going to die," Jeff said, consolingly, more as if
it were her brother than his that he meant. "But he's a very sick man,
and he's got to knock off and go somewhere. It won't do for him to pass
another winter here. He must go to California, or Colorado; they'd be
glad to have him there, either of them; or he can go to Florida, or over
to Italy. It won't matter how long he stays--"
"What are you talking about, Jeff Durgin?" Cynthia demanded, severely."
What would your mother do? What would she do this winter?"
"That brings me to something, Cynthia," said Jeff, "and I don't want you
to say anything till I've got through. I guess I could help mother run
the place as well as Jackson, and I could stay here next winter."
"Now, you let me talk! My mind's made up about one thing: I'm not going
to be a lawyer. I don't want to go back to Harvard. I'm going to keep a
hotel, and, if I don't keep one here at Lion's Head, I'm going to keep it
"Have you told your mother?"
"Not yet: I wanted to hear what you would say first."
"I? Oh, I haven't got anything to do with it," said Cynthia.
"Yes, you have! You've got everything to do with it, if you'll say one
thing first. Cynthia, you know how I feel about you. It's been so ever
since we were boy and girl here. I want you to promise to marry me.
The girl seemed neither surprised nor very greatly pleased; perhaps her
pleasure had spent itself in that moment of triumphant expectation when
she foresaw what was coming, or perhaps she was preoccupied in clearing
the way in her own mind to a definite result.
"What do you say, Cynthia?" Jeff pursued, with more injury than misgiving
in his voice at her delay in answering. "Don't you-care for me?"
"Oh yes, I presume I've always done that--ever since we were boy and
girl, as you say. But----"
"Well?" said Jeff, patiently, but not insecurely.
"Have I what?"
"Always cared for me."
He could not find his voice quite as promptly as before. He cleared his
throat before he asked: "Has Mr. Westover been saying anything about me?"
"I don't know what you mean, exactly; but I presume you do."
"Well, then--I always expected to tell you--I did have a fancy for that
girl, for Miss Vostrand, and I told her so. It's like something that
never happened. She wouldn't have me. That's all."
"And you expect me to take what she wouldn't have?"
"If you like to call it that. But I should call it taking a man that had
been out of his head for a while, and had come to his senses again."
"I don't know as I should ever feel safe with a man that had been out of
his head once."
"You wouldn't find many men that hadn't," said Jeff, with a laugh that
was rather scornful of her ignorance.
"No, I presume not," she sighed. "She was beautiful, and I believe she
was good, too. She was very nice. Perhaps I feel strangely about it.
But, if she hadn't been so nice, I shouldn't have been so willing that
you should have cared for her."
"I suppose I don't understand," said Jeff, "but I know I was hard hit.
What's the use? It's over. She's married. I can't go back and unlive
it all. But if you want time to think--of course you do--I've taken time
He was about to lift the reins on the mare's back as a sign to her that
the talk was over for the present, and to quicken her pace, when Cynthia
put out her hand and laid it on his, and said with a certain effect of
authority: "I shouldn't want you should give up your last year in
"Just as you say, Cynthy;" and in token of intelligence he wound his arm
round her neck and kissed her. It was not the first kiss by any means;
in the country kisses are not counted very serious, or at all binding,
and Cynthia was a country girl; but they both felt that this kiss sealed
a solemn troth between them, and that a common life began for them with
Cynthia came back in time to go into the dining-room and see that all was
in order there for supper before the door opened. The waitresses knew
that she had been out riding, as they called it, with Jeff Durgin; the
fact had spread electrically to them where they sat in a shady angle of
the hotel listening to one who read a novel aloud, and skipped all but
the most exciting love parts. They conjectured that the pair had gone to
Lovewell, but they knew nothing more, and the subtlest of them would not
have found reason for further conjecture in Cynthia's behavior, when she
came in and scanned the tables and the girls' dresses and hair, where
they stood ranged against the wall. She was neither whiter nor redder
than usual, and her nerves and her tones were under as good control as a
girl's ever are after she has been out riding with a fellow. It was not
such a great thing, anyway, to ride with Jeff Durgin. First and last,
nearly all the young lady boarders had been out with him, upon one errand
or another to Lovewell.
After supper, when the girls had gone over to their rooms in the helps'
quarters, and the guests had gathered in the wide, low office, in the
light of the fire kindled on the hearth to break the evening chill, Jeff
joined Cynthia in her inspection of the dining-room. She always gave it
a last look, to see that it was in perfect order for breakfast, before
she went home for the night. Jeff went home with her; he was impatient
of her duties, but he was in no hurry when they stole out of the side
door together under the stars, and began to stray sidelong down the hill
over the dewless grass.
He lingered more and more as they drew near her father's house, in the
abandon of a man's love. He wished to give himself solely up to it, to
think and to talk of nothing else, after a man's fashion. But a woman's
love is no such mere delight. It is serious, practical. For her it is
all future, and she cannot give herself wholly up to any present moment
of it, as a man does.
"Now, Jeff," she said, after a certain number of partings, in which she
had apparently kept his duty clearly in mind, "you had better go home and
tell your mother."
"Oh, there's time enough for that," he began.
"I want you to tell her right away, or there won't be anything to tell."
"Is that so?" he joked back. "Well, if I must, I must, I suppose. But I
didn't think you'd take the whip-hand so soon, Cynthia."
"Oh, I don't ever want to take the whip-hand with you, Jeff. Don't make
"Well, I won't, then. But what are you in such a hurry to have mother
know for? She's not going to object. And if she does--"
"It isn't that," said the girl, quickly. "If I had to go round a single
day with your mother hiding this from her, I should begin to hate you.
I couldn't bear the concealment. I shall tell father as soon as I go
"Oh, your father 'll be all right, of course."
"Yes, he'll be all right, but if he wouldn't, and I knew it, I should
have to tell him, all the same. Now, good-night. Well, there, then;
and there! Now, let me go!"
She paused for a moment in her own room, to smooth her tumbled hair, and
try to identify herself in her glass. Then she went into the sitting-
room, where she found her father pulled up to the table, with his hat on,
and poring over a sheet of hieroglyphics, which represented the usual
evening with planchette.
"Have you been to help Jackson up?" she asked.
"Well, I wanted to, but he wouldn't hear of it. He's feelin' ever so
much better to-night, and he wanted to go alone. I just come in."
"Yes, you've got your hat on yet."
Whitwell put his hand up and found that his daughter was right. He
laughed, and said: "I guess I must 'a' forgot it. We've had the most
interestin' season with plantchette that I guess we've about ever had.
She's said something here--"
"Well, never mind; I've got something more important to say than
plantchette has," said Cynthia, and she pulled the sheet away from under
her father's eyes.
This made him look up at her. "Why, what's happened?"
"Nothing. Jeff Durgin has asked me to marry him."
"He has!" The New England training is not such as to fit people for the
expression of strong emotion, and the best that Whitwell found himself
able to do in view of the fact was to pucker his mouth for a whistle
which did not come.
"Yes--this afternoon," said Cynthia, lifelessly. The tension of her
nerves relaxed in a languor which was evident even to her father, though
his eyes still wandered to the sheet she had taken from him.
"Well, you don't seem over and above excited about it. Did--did your--
What did you say--"
"How should I know what I said? What do you think of it, father?"
"I don't know as I ever give the subject much attention," said the
philosopher. "I always meant to take it out of him, somehow, if he got
to playin' the fool."
"Then you wanted I should accept him?"
"What difference 'd it make what I wanted? That what you done?"
"Yes, I've accepted him," said the girl, with a sigh. "I guess I've
always expected to."
"Well, I thought likely it would come to that, myself. All I can say,
Cynthy, is 't he's a lucky feller."
Whitwell leaned back, bracing his knees against the table, which was one
of his philosophic poses. "I have sometimes believed that Jeff Durgin
was goin' to turn out a blackguard. He's got it in him. He's as like
his gran'father as two peas, and he was an old devil. But you got to
account in all these here heredity cases for counteractin' influences.
The Durgins are as good as wheat, right along, all of 'em; and I guess
Mis' Durgin's mother must have been a pretty good woman too. Mis'
Durgin's all right, too, if she has got a will of her own." Whitwell
returned from his scientific inquiry to ask: "How 'll she take it?"
"I don't know," said Cynthia, dreamily, but without apparent misgiving.
"That's Jeff's lookout."
"So 'tis. I guess she won't make much fuss. A woman never likes to see
her son get married; but you've been a kind of daughter to her so long.
Well, I guess that part of it 'll be all right. Jackson," said Whitwell,
in a tone of relief, as if turning from an irrelevant matter to something
of real importance, "was down here to-night tryin' to ring up some them
spirits from the planet Mars. Martians, he calls 'em. His mind's got to
runnin' a good deal on Mars lately. I guess it's this apposition that
they talk about that does it. Mars comin' so much nearer the earth by a
million of miles or so, it stands to reason that he should be more
influenced by the minds on it. I guess it's a case o' that telepathy
that Mr. Westover tells about. I judge that if he kept at it before Mars
gits off too far again he might make something out of it. I couldn't
seem to find much sense in what plantchette done to-night; we couldn't
either of us; but she has her spells when you can't make head or tail of
her. But mebbe she's just leadin' up to something, the way she did about
that broken shaft when Jeff come home. We ha'n't ever made out exactly
what she meant by that yet."
Whitwell paused, and Cynthia seized the advantage of his getting round to
Jeff again. "He wanted to give up going to Harvard this last year, but I
wouldn't let him."
"Jeff did?" asked her father. "Well, you done a good thing that time,
anyway, Cynthy. His mother 'd never get over it."
"There's something else she's got to get over, and I don't know how she
ever will. He's going to give up the law."
"Give up the law!"
"Yes. Don't tease, father! He says he's never cared about it, and he
wants to keep a hotel. I thought that I'd ought to tell him how we felt
about Jackson's having a rest and going off somewhere; and he wanted to
begin at once. But I said if he left off the last year at Harvard I
wouldn't have anything to do with him."
Whitwell put his hand in his pocket for his knife, and mechanically
looked down for a stick to whittle. In default of any, he scratched his
head. "I guess she'll make it warm for him. She's had her mind set on
his studyin' law so long, 't she won't give up in a hurry. She can't see
that Jackson ain't fit to help her run the hotel any more--till he's had
a rest, anyway--and I believe she thinks her and Frank could run it--and
you. She'll make an awful kick," said Whitwell, solemnly. "I hope you
didn't encourage him, Cynthy?"
"I should encourage him," said the girl. "He's got the right to shape
his own life, and nobody else has got the right to do it; and I should
tell his mother so, if she ever said anything to me about it."
"All right," said Whitwell. "I suppose you know what you're about."
"I do, father. Jeff would make a good landlord; he's got ideas about a
hotel, and I can see that they're the right ones. He's been out in the
world, and he's kept his eyes open. He will make Lion's Head the best
hotel in the mountains."
"It's that already."
"He doesn't think it's half as good as he can make it."
"It wouldn't be half what it is now, if it wa'n't for you and Frank."
"I guess he understands that," said Cynthia. "Frank would be the clerk."
"Got it all mapped out!" said Whitwell, proudly, in his turn. "Look out
you don't slip up in your calculations. That's all."
"I guess we cha'n't slip up."
Jeff came into the ugly old family parlor, where his mother sat mending
by the kerosene-lamp which she had kept through all the household
changes, and pushed enough of her work aside from the corner of the table
to rest his arm upon it.
"Mother, I want you to listen to me, and to wait till I get done. Will
She looked up at him over her spectacles from the stocking she was
darning; the china egg gleamed through the frayed place. "What notion
have you got in your head, now?"
"It's about Jackson. He isn't well. He's got to leave off work and go
The mother's hand dropped at the end of the yarn she had drawn through
the stocking heel, and she stared at Jeff. Then she resumed her work
with the decision expressed in her tone. "Your father lived to be sixty
years old, and Jackson a'n't forty! The doctor said there wa'n't any
reason why he shouldn't live as long as his father did."
"I'm not saying he won't live to a hundred. I'm saying he oughtn't to
stay another winter here," Jeff said, decisively.
Mrs. Durgin was silent for a time, and then she said. "Jeff, is that
your notion about Jackson, or whose is it?"
"It's mine, now."
Mrs, Durgin waited a moment. Then she began, with a feeling quite at
variance with her words:
"Well, I'll thank Cynthy Whit'ell to mind her own business! Of course,"
she added, and in what followed her feeling worked to the surface in her
words, "I know 't she thinks the world of Jackson, and he does of her;
and I presume she means well. I guess she'd be more apt to notice, if
there was any change, than what I should. What did she say?"
Jeff told, as nearly as he could remember, and he told what Cynthia and
he had afterward jointly worked out as to the best thing for Jackson to
do. Mrs. Durgin listened frowningly, but not disapprovingly, as it
seemed; though at the end she asked: "And what am I going to do, with
Jeff laughed, with his head down. "Well, I guess you and Cynthy could
run it, with Frank and Mr. Whitwell."
"Mr. Whit'ell!" said Mrs. Durgin, concentrating in her accent of his name
the contempt she could not justly pour out on the others.
"Oh," Jeff went on, "I did think that I could take hold with you, if you
could bring yourself to let me off this last year at Harvard."
"Jeff!" said his mother, reproachfully. "You know you don't mean that
you'd give up your last year in college?"
"I do mean it, but I don't expect you to do it; and I don't ask it. I
suggested it to Cynthy, when we got to talking it over, and she saw it
"Well, she showed some sense that time," Mrs. Durgin said.
"I don't know when Cynthy hasn't shown sense; except once, and then I
guess it was my fault."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, this afternoon I asked her to marry me some time, and she said she
would." He looked at his mother and laughed, and then he did not laugh.
He had expected her to be pleased; he had thought to pave the way with
this confession for the declaration of his intention not to study law,
and to make his engagement to Cynthia serve him in reconciling his mother
to the other fact. But a menacing suspense followed his words.
His mother broke out at last: "You asked Cynthy Whit'ell to marry you!
And she said she would! Well, I can tell her she won't, then!"
"And I can tell you she will!" Jeff stormed back. He rose to his feet
and stood over his mother.
She began steadily, as if he had not spoken. "If that designin'--"
"Look out, mother! Don't you say anything against Cynthia! She's been
the best girl to you in the world, and you know it. She's been as true
to you as Jackson has himself. She hasn't got a selfish bone in her
body, and she's so honest she couldn't design anything against you or any
one, unless she told you first. Now you take that back! Take it back!
She's no more designing than--than you are!"
Mrs. Durgin was not moved by his storming, but she was inwardly convinced
of error. "I do take it back. Cynthy is all right. She's all you say
and more. It's your fault, then, and you've got yourself to thank, for
whosever fault it is, she'll pack--"
"If Cynthy packs, I pack!" said Jeff. "Understand that. The moment she
leaves this house I leave it, too, and I'll marry her anyway. Frank 'd
leave and--and--Pshaw! What do you care for that? But I don't know what
you mean! I always thought you liked Cynthy and respected her. I didn't
believe I could tell you a thing that would please you better than that
she had said she would have me. But if it don't, all right."
Mrs. Durgin held her peace in bewilderment; she stared at her son with
dazed eyes, under the spectacles lifted above her forehead. She felt a
change of mood in his unchanged tone of defiance, and she met him half-
way. "I tell you I take back what I called Cynthia, and I told you so.
But--but I didn't ever expect you to marry her."
"Why didn't you? There isn't one of the summer folks to compare with
her. She's got more sense than all of 'em. I've known her ever since I
can remember. Why didn't you expect it?"
"I didn't expect it."
"Oh, I know! You thought I'd see somebody in Boston--some swell girl.
Well, they wouldn't any of them look at me, and if they would, they
wouldn't look at you."
"I shouldn't care whether they looked at me or not."
"I tell you they wouldn't look at me. You don't understand about these
things, and I do. They marry their own kind, and I'm not their kind,
and I shouldn't be if I was Daniel Webster himself. Daniel Webster!
Who remembers him, or cares for him, or ever did? You don't believe it?
You think that because I've been at Harvard--Oh, can't I make you see it?
I'm what they call a jay in Harvard, and Harvard don't count if you're a
His mother looked at him without speaking. She would not confess the
ambition he taxed her with, and perhaps she had nothing so definite in
her mind. Perhaps it was only her pride in him, and her faith in a
splendid future for him, that made her averse to his marriage in the lot
she had always known, and on a little lower level in it that her own.
She said at last:
"I don't know what you mean by being a jay. But I guess we better not
say anything more about this to-night."
"All right," Jeff returned. There never were any formal good-nights
between the Durgins, and he went away now without further words.
His mother remained sitting where he left her. Two or three times she
drew her empty darning-needle through the heel of the stocking she was
She was still sitting there when Jackson passed on his way to bed, after
leaving the office in charge of the night porter. He faltered, as he
went by, and as he stood on the threshold she told him what Jeff had told
"That's good," he said, lifelessly. "Good for Jeff," he added,
"Why a'n't it good for her, too?" demanded Jeff's mother, in quick
resentment of the slight put upon him.
"I didn't say it wa'n't," said Jackson. "But it's better for Jeff."
"She may be very glad to get him!"
"I presume she is. She's always cared for him, I guess. She'll know how
to manage him."
"I don't know," said Mrs. Durgin, "as I like to have you talk so, about
Jeff. He was here, just now, wantin' to give up his last year in
Harvard, so 's to let you go off on a vacation. He thinks you've worked
Jackson made no recognition of Jeff's professed self-sacrifice. "I don't
want any vacation. I'm feeling first-rate now. I guess that stuff I had
from the writin' medium has begun to take hold of me. I don't know when
I've felt so well. I believe I'm going to get stronger than ever I was.
Jeff say I needed a rest?"
Something like a smile of compassion for the delusion of his brother
dawned upon the sick man's wasted face, which was blotched with large
freckles, and stared with dim, large eyes from out a framework of grayish
hair, and grayish beard cut to the edges of the cheeks and chin.
Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia did not seek any formal meeting the next morning.
The course of their work brought them together, but it was not till after
they had transacted several household affairs of pressing importance that
Mrs. Durgin asked: "What's this about you and Jeff?"
"Has he been telling you?" asked Cynthia, in her turn, though she knew he
"Yes," said Mrs. Durgin, with a certain dryness, which was half humorous.
"I presume, if you two are satisfied, it's all right."
"I guess we're satisfied," said the girl, with a tremor of relief which
she tried to hide.
Nothing more was said, and there was no physical demonstration of
affection or rejoicing between the women. They knew that the time would
come when they would talk over the affair down to the bone together, but
now they were content to recognize the fact, and let the time for talking
arrive when it would. "I guess," said Mrs. Durgin, "you'd better go over
to the helps' house and see how that youngest Miller girl's gittin'
along. She'd ought to give up and go home if she a'n't fit for her
"I'll go and see her," said Cynthia. "I don't believe she's strong
enough for a waitress, and I have got to tell her so."
"Well," returned Mrs. Durgin, glumly, after a moment's reflection,
"I shouldn't want you should hurry her. Wait till she's out of bed, and
give her another chance."
Jeff had been lurking about for the event of the interview, and he
waylaid Cynthia on the path to the helps' house.
"I'm going over to see that youngest Miller girl," she explained.
"Yes, I know all about that," said Jeff. "Well, mother took it just
right, didn't she? You can't always count on her; but I hadn't much
anxiety in this case. She likes you, Cynthia."
"I guess so," said the girl, demurely; and she looked away from him to
smile her pleasure in the fact.
"But I believe if she hadn't known you were with her about my last year
in Harvard--it would have been different. I could see, when I brought it
in that you wanted me to go back, her mind was made up for you."
"Why need you say anything about that?"
"Oh, I knew it would clinch her. I understand mother. If you want
something from her you mustn't ask it straight out. You must propose
something very disagreeable. Then when she refuses that, you can come in
for what you were really after and get it."
"I don't know," said Cynthia, "as I should like to think that your
mother had been tricked into feeling right about me."
"Tricked!" The color flashed up in Jeff's face.
"Not that, Jeff," said the girl, tenderly. "But you know what I mean.
I hope you talked it all out fully with her."
"Fully? I don't know what you mean."
"About your not studying law, and--everything."
"I don't believe in crossing a river till I come to it," said Jeff.
"I didn't say anything to her about that."
"No. What had it got to do with our being engaged?"
"What had your going back to Harvard to do with it? If your mother
thinks I'm with her in that, she'll think I'm with her in the other.
And I'm not. I'm with you." She let her hand find his, as they walked
side by side, and gave it a little pressure.
"It's the greatest thing, Cynthy," he said, breathlessly, "to have you
with me in that. But, if you said I ought to study law, I should do it."
"I shouldn't say that, for I believe you're right; but even if I believed
you were wrong, I shouldn't say it. You have a right to make your life
what you want it; and your mother hasn't. Only she must know it, and you
must tell her at once."
"Yes--now. What good will it do to put it off? You're not afraid to
"I don't like you to use that word."
"And I don't like to use it. But I know how it is. You're afraid that
the brunt of it will come on ME. She'll think you're all right, but I'm
all wrong because I agree with you."
"Something like that."
"Well, now, I'm not afraid of anything she can say; and what could she
do? She can't part us, unless you let her, and then I should let her,
"But what's the hurry? What's the need of doing it right off?"
"Because it's a deceit not to do it. It's a lie!"
"I don't see it in that light. I might change my mind, and still go on
and study law."
"You know you never will. Now, Jeff! Why do you act so?"
Jeff did not answer at once. He walked beside her with a face of trouble
that became one of resolve in the set jaws. "I guess you're right,
Cynthy. She's got to know the worst, and the sooner she knows it the
He had another moment of faltering. "You don't want I should talk it
over with Mr. Westover?"
"What has he got to do with it?"
"If you want to see it in the right light, you can think you've let it
run on till after you're out of college, and then you've got to tell her.
Suppose she asked you how long you had made up your mind against the law,
how should you feel? And if she asked me whether I'd known it all along,
and I had to say I had, and that I'd supported and encouraged you in it,
how should I feel?"
"She mightn't ask any such question," said Jeff, gloomily. Cynthia gave
a little impatient "Oh!" and he hastened to add: "But you're right; I've
got to tell her. I'll tell her to-night--"
"Don't wait till to-night; do it now."
"Yes; and I'll go with you as soon as I've seen the youngest Miller
girl." They had reached the helps' house now, and Cynthia said: "You
wait outside here, and I'll go right back with you. Oh, I hope it isn't
doing wrong to put it off till I've seen that girl!" She disappeared
through the door, and Jeff waited by the steps outside, plucking up one
long grass stem after another and biting it in two. When Cynthia came
out she said: "I guess she'll be all right. Now come, and don't-lose
"You're afraid I sha'n't do it if I wait any longer!"
"I'm afraid I sha'n't." There was a silence after this.
"Do you know what I think of you, Cynthy?" asked Jeff, hurrying to keep
up with her quick steps. "You've got more courage--"
"Oh, don't praise me, or I shall break down!"
"I'll see that you don't break down," said Jeff, tenderly. "It's the
greatest thing to have you go with me!"
"Why, don't you SEE?" she lamented. "If you went alone, and told your
mother that I approved of it, you would look as if you were afraid, and
wanted to get behind me; and I'm not going to have that."
They found. Mrs. Durgin in the dark entry of the old farmhouse, and
Cynthia said, with involuntary imperiousness: "Come in here, Mrs. Durgin;
I want to tell you something."
She led the way to the old parlor, and she checked Mrs. Durgin's
question, "Has that Miller girl--"
"It isn't about her," said Cynthy, pushing the door to. "It's about me
Mrs. Durgin became aware of Jeff's presence with an effect of surprise.
"There a'n't anything more, is there?"
"Yes, there is!" Cynthia shrilled. "Now, Jeff!"
"It's just this, mother: Cynthy thinks I ought to tell you--and she
thinks I ought to have told you last night--she expected me to--that I'm
not going to study law."
"And I approve of his not doing it," Cynthia promptly followed, and she
put herself beside Jeff where he stood in front of his mother's rocking-
She looked from one to the other of the faces before her. "I'm sorry a
son of mine," she said, with dignity, "had to be told how to act with his
mother. But, if he had, I don't know as anybody had a better right to do
it than the girl that's going to marry him. And I'll say this, Cynthia
Whitwell, before I say anything else: you've begun right. I wish I could
say Jeff had."
There was an uncomfortable moment before Cynthia said: "He expected to
"Oh Yes! I know," said his mother, sadly. She added, sharply: "And did
be expect to tell me what he intended to do for a livin'?"
"Jeff took the word. "Yes, I did. I intend to keep a hotel."
"What hotel?" asked Mrs. Durgin, with a touch of taunting in her tone.
The mother of the bold, rebellious boy that Jeff had been stirred in Mrs.
Durgin's heart, and she looked at him with the eyes, that used to condone
his mischief. But she said: "I guess you'll find out that there's more
than one has to agree to that."
"Yes, there are two: you and Jackson; and I don't know but what three, if
you count Cynthy, here."
His mother turned to the girl. "You think this fellow's got sense enough
to keep a hotel?"
"Yes, Mrs. Durgin, I do. I think he's got good ideas about a hotel."
"And what's he goin' to do with his college education?"
Jeff interposed. "You think that all the college graduates turn out
lawyers and doctors and professors? Some of 'em are mighty glad to sweep
out banks in hopes of a clerkship; and some take any sort of a place in a
mill or a business house, to work up; and some bum round out West 'on
cattle ranches; and some, if they're lucky, get newspaper reporters'
places at ten dollars a week."
Cynthia followed with the generalization: "I don't believe anybody can
know too much to keep a hotel. It won't hurt Jeff if he's been to
Harvard, or to Europe, either."
"I guess there's a pair of you," said Mrs. Durgin, with superficial
contempt. She was silent for a time, and they waited. "Well, there!"
she broke out again. "I've got something to chew upon for a spell, I
guess. Go along, now, both of you! And the next time you've got to face
your mother, Jeff, don't you come in lookin' round anybody's petticoats!
I'll see you later about all this."
They went away with the joyful shame of children who have escaped
"That's the last of it, Cynthy," said Jeff.
"I guess so," the girl assented, with a certain grief in her voice.
"I wish you had told her first!"
"Oh, never mind that now!" cried Jeff, and in the dim passageway he took
her in his arms and kissed her.
He would have released her, but she lingered in his embrace. "Will you
promise that if there's ever anything like it again, you won't wait for
me to make you?"
"I like your having made me, but I promise," he said.
Then she tightened her arms round his neck and kissed him.
The will of Jeff's mother relaxed its grip upon the purpose so long held,
as if the mere strain of the tenacity had wearied and weakened it. When
it finally appeared that her ambition for her son was not his ambition
for himself and would never be, she abandoned it. Perhaps it was the
easier for her to forego her hopes of his distinction in the world,
because she had learned before that she must forego her hopes of him in
other ways. She had vaguely fancied that with the acquaintance his
career at Harvard would open to him Jeff would make a splendid marriage.
She had followed darkling and stumbling his course in society as far as
he would report it to her, and when he would not suffer her to glory in
it, she believed that he was forbidding her from a pride that would not
recognize anything out of the common in it. She exulted in his pride,
and she took all his snubbing reserves tenderly, as so many proofs of his
At the bottom of her heart she had both fear and contempt of all towns-
people, whom she generalized from her experience of them as summer folks
of a greater or lesser silliness. She often found herself unable to cope
with them, even when she felt that she had twice their sense; she
perceived that they had something from their training that with all her
undisciplined force she could never hope to win from her own environment.
But she believed that her son would have the advantages which baffled her
in them, for he would have their environment; and she had wished him to
rivet his hold upon those advantages by taking a wife from among them,
and by living the life of their world. Her wishes, of course, had no
such distinct formulation, and the feeling she had toward Cynthia as a
possible barrier to her ambition had no more definition. There had been
times when the fitness of her marriage with Jeff had moved the mother's
heart to a jealousy that she always kept silent, while she hoped for the
accident or the providence which should annul the danger. But Genevieve
Vostrand had not been the kind of accident or the providence that she
would have invoked, and when she saw Jeff's fancy turning toward her,
Mrs. Durgin had veered round to Cynthia. All the same she kept a keen
eye upon the young ladies among the summer folks who came to Lion's Head,
and tacitly canvassed their merits and inclinations with respect to Jeff
in the often-imagined event of his caring for any one of them. She found
that her artfully casual references to her son's being in Harvard
scarcely affected their mothers in the right way. The fact made them
think of the head waiters whom they had met at other hotels, and who were
working their way through Dartmouth or Williams or Yale, and it required
all the force of Jeff's robust personality to dissipate their erroneous
impressions of him. He took their daughters out of their arms and from
under their noses on long drives upon his buckboard, and it became a
convention with them to treat his attentions somewhat like those of a
powerful but faithful vassal.
Whether he was indifferent, or whether the young ladies were coy, none of
these official flirtations came to anything. He seemed not to care for
one more than another; he laughed and joked with them all, and had an
official manner with each which served somewhat like a disparity of years
in putting them at their ease with him. They agreed that he was very
handsome, and some thought him very talented; but they questioned whether
he was quite what you would call a gentleman. It is true that this
misgiving attacked them mostly in the mass; singly, they were little or
not at all troubled by it, and they severally behaved in an unprincipled
indifference to it.
Mrs. Durgin had the courage of her own purposes, but she had the fear of
Jeff's. After the first pang of the disappointment which took final
shape from his declaration that he was going to marry Cynthia, she did
not really care much. She had the habit of the girl; she respected her,
she even loved her. The children, as she thought of them, had known each
other from their earliest days; Jeff had persecuted Cynthia throughout
his graceless boyhood, but he had never intimidated her; and his mother,
with all her weakness for him, felt that it was well for him that his
wife should be brave enough to stand up against him.
She formulated this feeling no more than the others, but she said to
Westover, whom Jeff bade her tell of the engagement: "It a'n't exactly as
I could 'a' wished it to be. But I don't know as mothers are ever quite
suited with their children's marriages. I presume it's from always kind
of havin' had her round under my feet ever since she was born, as you may
say, and seein' her family always so shiftless. Well, I can't say that
of Frank, either. He's turned out a fine boy; but the father! Cynthy is
one of the most capable girls, smart as a trap, and bright as a biscuit.
She's masterful, too! she NEED to have a will of her own with Jeff."
Something of the insensate pride that mothers have in their children's
faults, as their quick tempers, or their wastefulness, or their
revengefulness, expressed itself in her tone; and it was perhaps this
that irritated Westover.
"I hope he'll never let her know it. I don't think a strong will is a
thing to be prized, and I shouldn't consider it one of Cynthia's good
points. The happiest life for her would be one that never forced her to
"I don't know as I understand you exactly," said Mrs. Durgin, with some
dryness. "I know Jeff's got rather of a domineering disposition, but I
don't believe but she can manage him without meetin' him on his own
ground, as you may say."
"She's a girl in a thousand," Westover returned, evasively.
"Then you think he's shown sense in choosin' of her?" pursued Jeff's
mother, resolute to find some praise of him in Westover's words.
"He's a very fortunate man," said the painter.
"Well, I guess you're right," Mrs. Durgin acquiesced, as much to Jeff's
advantage as she could. "You know I was always afraid he would make a
fool of himself, but I guess he's kept his eyes pretty well open all the
while. Well!" She closed the subject with this exclamation. "Him and
Cynthy's been at me about Jackson," she added, abruptly. "They've cooked
it up between 'em that he's out of health or run down or something."
Her manner referred the matter to Westover, and he said: "He isn't
looking so well this summer. He ought to go away somewhere."
"That's what they thought," said Mrs. Durgin, smiling in her pleasure at
having their opinion confirmed by the old and valued friend of the
Whereabouts do you think he'd best go?"
"Oh, I don't know. Italy--or Egypt--"
"I guess, if you could get Jackson to go away at all, it would be to some
of them old Bible countries," said Mrs. Durgin. "We've got to have a
fight to get him off, make the best of it, and I've thought it over since
the children spoke about it, and I couldn't seem to see Jackson willin'
to go out to Californy or Colorady, to either of his brothers. But I
guess he would go to Egypt. That a good climate for the--his complaint?"
She entered eagerly into the question, and Westover promised to write to
a Boston doctor, whom he knew very well, and report Jackson's case to
him, and get his views of Egypt.
"Tell him how it is," said Mrs. Durgin, "and the tussle we shall have to
have anyway to make Jackson believe he'd ought to have a rest. He'll go
to Egypt if he'll go anywheres, because his mind keeps runnin' on Bible
questions, and it 'll interest him to go out there; and we can make him
believe it's just to bang around for the winter. He's terrible hopeful."
Now that she began to speak, all her long-repressed anxiety poured itself
out, and she hitched her chair nearer to Westover and wistfully clutched
his sleeve. "That's the worst of Jackson. You can't make him believe
anything's the matter. Sometimes I can't bear to hear him go on about
himself as if he was a well young man. He expects that medium's stuff is
goin' to cure him!"
"People sick in that way are always hopeful," said Westover.
"Oh, don't I know it! Ha'n't I seen my children and my husband--Oh, do
ask that doctor to answer as quick as he can!"
Westover had a difficulty in congratulating Jeff which he could scarcely
define to himself, but which was like that obscure resentment we feel
toward people whom we think unequal to their good fortune. He was
ashamed of his grudge, whatever it was, and this may have made him overdo
his expressions of pleasure. He was sensible of a false cordiality in
them, and he checked himself in a flow of forced sentiment to say, more
honestly: "I wish you'd speak to Cynthia for me. You know how much I
think of her, and how much I want to see her happy. You ought to be a
very good fellow, Jeff!"
"I'll tell her that; she'll like that," said Jeff. "She thinks the world
"Does she? Well!"
"And I guess she'll be glad you sent word. She's been wondering what you
would say; she's always so afraid of you."
"Is she? You're not afraid of me, are you? But perhaps you don't think
so much of me."
"I guess Cynthia and I think alike on that point," said Jeff, without
abating Westover's discomfort.
There was a stress of sharp cold that year about the 20th of August.
Then the weather turned warm again, and held fine till the beginning of
October, within a week of the time when Jackson was to sail. It had not
been so hard to make him consent when he knew where the doctor wished him
to go, and he had willingly profited by Westover's suggestions about
getting to Egypt. His interest in the matter, which he tried to hide at
first under a mask of decorous indifference, mounted with the fire of
Whitwell's enthusiasm, and they held nightly councils together, studying
his course on the map, and consulting planchette upon the points at
variance that rose between them, while Jombateeste sat with his chair
tilted against the wall, and pulled steadily at his pipe, which mixed its
strong fumes with the smell of the kerosene-lamp and the perennial odor
of potatoes in the cellar under the low room where the companions
Toward the end of September Westover spent the night before he went back
to town with them. After a season with planchette, their host pushed
himself back with his knees from the table till his chair reared upon its
hind legs, and shoved his hat up from his forehead in token of
"I tell you, Jackson," he said, "you'd ought to get hold o' some them
occult devils out there, and squeeze their science out of 'em. Any
Buddhists in Egypt, Mr. Westover?"
"I don't think there are," said Westover. "Unless Jackson should come
across some wandering Hindu. Or he might push on, and come home by the
way of India."
"Do it, Jackson!" his friend conjured him. "May cost you something more,
but it 'll be worth the money. If it's true, what some them Blavetsky
fellers claim, you can visit us here in your astral body--git in with 'em
the right way. I should like to have you try it. What's the reason
India wouldn't be as good for him as Egypt, anyway?" Whitwell demanded
"I suppose the climate's rather too moist; the heat would be rather
trying to him there."
"And he's taken his ticket for Alexandria," Westover pursued.
"Well, I guess that's so." Whitwell tilted his backward sloping hat to
one side, so as to scratch the northeast corner of his bead thoughtfully.
"But as far as that is concerned," said Westover, "and the doctrine of
immortality generally is concerned, Jackson will have his hands full if
he studies the Egyptian monuments."
"What they got to do with it?"
"Everything. Egypt is the home of the belief in a future life; it was
carried from Egypt to Greece. He might come home by way of Athens."
"Why, man!" cried Whitwell. "Do you mean to say that them old Hebrew
saints, Joseph's brethren, that went down into Egypt after corn, didn't
know about immortality, and them Egyptian devils did?"
"There's very little proof in the Old Testament that the Israelites knew
Whitwell looked at Jackson. "That the idee you got?"
"I guess he's right," said Jackson. "There's something a little about it
in Job, and something in the Psalms: but not a great deal."
"And we got it from them Egyptian d----"
"I don't say that," Westover interposed. "But they had it before we had.
As we imagine it, we got it though Christianity."
Jombateeste, who had taken his pipe out of his mouth in a controversial
manner, put it back again.
Westover added, "But there's no question but the Egyptians believed in
the life hereafter, and in future rewards and punishments for the deeds
done in the body, thousands of years before our era."
"Well, I'm dumned," said Whitwell.
Jombateeste took his pipe out again. "Hit show they got good sense.
They know--they feel it in their bone--what goin' 'appen--when you dead.
Me, I guess they got some prophet find it hout for them; then they goin'
take the credit."
"I guess that's something so, Jombateeste," said Whitwell. "It don't
stand to reason that folks without any alphabet, as you may say, and only
a lot of pictures for words, like Injuns, could figure out the
immortality of the soul. They got the idee by inspiration somehow. Why,
here! It's like this. Them Pharaohs must have always been clawin' out
for the Hebrews before they got a hold of Joseph, and when they found out
the true doctrine, they hushed up where they got it, and their priests
went on teachin' it as if it was their own."
"That's w'at I say. Got it from the 'Ebrew."
"Well, it don't matter a great deal where they got it, so they got it,"
said Jackson, as he rose.
"I believe I'll go with you," said Westover.
"All there is about it," said the sick man, solemnly, with a frail effort
to straighten himself, to which his sunken chest would not respond, "is
this: no man ever did figure that out for himself. A man sees folks die,
and as far as his senses go, they don't live again. But somehow he knows
they do; and his knowledge comes from somewhere else; it's inspired--"
"That's w'at I say," Jombateeste hastened to interpose. "Got it from the
'Ebrew. Feel it in 'is bone."
Out under the stars Jackson and Westover silently mounted the hill-side
together. At one of the thank-you-marms in the road the sick man
stopped, like a weary horse, to breathe. He took off his hat and wiped
the sweat of weakness that had gathered upon his forehead, and looked
round the sky, powdered with the constellations and the planets. "It's
sightly," he whispered.
"Yes, it is fine," Westover assented. "But the stars of our Northern
nights are nothing to what you'll see in Egypt."
Jackson repeated, vaguely: "Egypt! Where I should like to go is Mars."
He fixed his eyes on the flaming planets, in a long stare. "But I
suppose they have their own troubles, same as we do. They must get sick
and die, like the rest of us. But I should like to know more about 'em.
You believe it's inhabited, don't you?"
Westover's agnosticism did not, somehow, extend to Mars. "Yes, I've no
doubt of it."
Jackson seemed pleased. "I've read everything I can lay my hands on
about it. I've got a notion that if there's any choosin', after we get
through here, I should like to go to Mars for a while, or as long as I
was a little homesick still, and wanted to keep as near the earth as I
could," he added, quaintly.
Westover laughed. "You could study up the subject of irrigation, there;
they say that's what keeps the parallel markings green on Mars; and
telegraph a few hints to your brother in Colorado, after the Martians
perfect their signal code."
Perhaps the invalid's fancy flagged. He drew a long, ragged breath.
"I don't know as I care to leave home, much. If it wa'n't a kind of
duty, I shouldn't." He seemed impelled by a sudden need to say, "How do
you think Jefferson and mother will make it out together?"
"I've no doubt they'll manage," said Westover.
"They're a good deal alike," Jackson suggested.
Westover preferred not to meet his overture. You'll be back, you know,
almost as soon as the season commences, next summer."
"Yes," Jackson assented, more cheerfully. "And now, Cynthy's sure to be
"Yes, she will be here," said Westover, not so cheerfully.
Jackson seemed to find the opening he was seeking, in Westover's tone.
"What do you think of gettin' married, anyway, Mr. Westover?" he asked.
"We haven't either of us thought so well of it as to try it, Jackson,"
said the painter, jocosely.
"Think it's a kind of chance?"
"It's a chance."
Jackson was silent. Then, "I a'n't one of them," he said, abruptly,
"that think a man's goin' to be made over by marryin' this woman or that.
If he a'n't goin' to be the right kind of a man himself, he a'n't because
his wife's a good woman. Sometimes I think that a man's wife is the last
person in the world that can change his disposition. She can influence
him about this and about that, but she can't change him. It seems as if
he couldn't let her if he tried, and after the first start-off he don't
"That's true," Westover assented. "We're terribly inflexible. Nothing
but something like a change of heart, as they used to call it, can make
us different, and even then we're apt to go back to our old shape. When
you look at it in that light, marriage seems impossible. Yet it takes
place every day!"
"It's a great risk for a woman," said Jackson, putting on his hat and
stirring for an onward movement. "But I presume that if the man is
honest with her it's the best thing she can have. The great trouble is
for the man to be honest with her."
"Honesty is difficult," said Westover.
He made Jackson promise to spend a day with him in Boston, on his way to
take the Mediterranean steamer at New York. When they met he yielded to
an impulse which the invalid's forlornness inspired, and went on to see
him off. He was glad that he did that, for, though Jackson was not sad
at parting, he was visibly touched by Westover's kindness.
Of course he talked away from it. "I guess I've left 'em in pretty good
shape for the winter at Lion's Head," he said. "I've got Whitwell to
agree to come up and live in the house with mother, and she'll have
Cynthy with her, anyway; and Frank and Jombateeste can look after the
bosses easy enough."
He had said something like this before, but Westover could see that it
comforted him to repeat it, and he encouraged him to do so in full. He
made him talk about getting home in the spring, after the frost was out
of the ground, but he questioned involuntarily, while the sick man spoke,
whether he might not then be lying under the sands that had never known a
frost since the glacial epoch. When the last warning for visitors to go
ashore came, Jackson said, with a wan smile, while he held Westover's
hand: "I sha'n't forget this very soon."
"Write to me," said Westover.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Crimson torch of a maple, kindled before its time
Disposition to use his friends
Fear of asking too much and the folly of asking too little
Government is best which governs least
Honesty is difficult
I don't ever want to take the whip-hand
I sha'n't forget this very soon
Insensate pride that mothers have in their children's faults
Iron forks had two prongs
Joyful shame of children who have escaped punishment
Man that could be your friend if he didn't like you
Married Man: after the first start-off he don't try
Nothing in the way of sport, as people commonly understand it
People whom we think unequal to their good fortune
Society interested in a woman's past, not her future
The great trouble is for the man to be honest with her
We're company enough for ourselves
Women talked their follies and men acted theirs
World seems to always come out at the same hole it went in at