Part 1 out of 4
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks at the end of each file
for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making
an entire meal of them. D.W.]
THE LANDLORD AT LION'S HEAD
By William Dean Howells
Jackson kept his promise to write to Westover, but he was better than his
word to his mother, and wrote to her every week that winter.
"I seem just to live from letter to letter. It's ridic'lous," she said
to Cynthia once when the girl brought the mail in from the barn, where
the men folks kept it till they had put away their horses after driving
over from Lovewell with it. The trains on the branch road were taken off
in the winter, and the post-office at the hotel was discontinued. The
men had to go to the town by cutter, over a highway that the winds sifted
half full of snow after it had been broken out by the ox-teams in the
morning. But Mrs. Durgin had studied the steamer days and calculated the
time it would take letters to come from New York to Lovewell; and, unless
a blizzard was raging, some one had to go for the mail when the day came.
It was usually Jombateeste, who reverted in winter to the type of
habitant from which he had sprung. He wore a blue woollen cap, like a
large sock, pulled over his ears and close to his eyes, and below it his
clean-shaven brown face showed. He had blue woollen mittens, and boots
of russet leather, without heels, came to his knees; he got a pair every
time he went home on St. John's day. His lean little body was swathed in
several short jackets, and he brought the letters buttoned into one of
the innermost pockets. He produced the letter from Jackson promptly
enough when Cynthia came out to the barn for it, and then he made a show
of getting his horse out of the cutter shafts, and shouting international
reproaches at it, till she was forced to ask, "Haven't you got something
for me, Jombateeste?"
"You expec' some letter?" he said, unbuckling a strap and shouting
"You know whether I do. Give it to me."
"I don' know. I think I drop something on the road. I saw something
white; maybe snow; good deal of snow."
"Don't plague! Give it here!"
"Wait I finish unhitch. I can't find any letter till I get some time to
"Oh, now, Jombateeste! Give me my letter!"
"W'at you want letter for? Always same thing. Well! 'Old the 'oss; I
goin' to feel."
Jombateeste felt in one pocket after another, while Cynthia clung to the
colt's bridle, and he was uncertain till the last whether he had any
letter for her. When it appeared she made a flying snatch at it and ran;
and the comedy was over, to be repeated in some form the next week.
The girl somehow always possessed herself of what was in her letters
before she reached the room where Mrs. Durgin was waiting for hers. She
had to read that aloud to Jackson's mother, and in the evening she had to
read it again to Mrs. Durgin and Whitwell and Jombateeste and Frank,
after they had done their chores, and they had gathered in the old farm-
house parlor, around the air-tight sheet-iron stove, in a heat of eighty
degrees. Whitwell listened, with planchette ready on the table before
him, and he consulted it for telepathic impressions of Jackson's actual
mental state when the reading was over.
He got very little out of the perverse instrument. "I can't seem to work
her. If Jackson was here--"
"We shouldn't need to ask planchette about him," Cynthia once suggested,
with the spare sense of humor that sometimes revealed itself in her.
"Well, I guess that's something so," her father candidly admitted. But
the next time he consulted the helpless planchette as hopefully as
before. "You can't tell, you can't tell," he urged.
"The trouble seems to be that planchette can't tell," said Mrs. Durgin,
and they all laughed. They were not people who laughed a great deal, and
they were each intent upon some point in the future that kept them from
pleasure in the present. The little Canuck was the only one who suffered
himself a contemporaneous consolation. His early faith had so far lapsed
from him that he could hospitably entertain the wild psychical
conjectures of Whitwell without an accusing sense of heresy, and he found
the winter of northern New England so mild after that of Lower Canada
that he experienced a high degree of animal comfort in it, and looked
forward to nothing better. To be well fed, well housed, and well heated;
to smoke successive pipes while the others talked, and to catch through
his smoke-wreaths vague glimpses of their meanings, was enough. He felt
that in being promoted to the care of the stables in Jackson's absence he
occupied a dignified and responsible position, with a confidential
relation to the exile which justified him in sending special messages to
him, and attaching peculiar value to Jackson's remembrances.
The exile's letters said very little about his health, which in the sense
of no news his mother held to be good news, but they were full concerning
the monuments and the ethnological interest of life in Egypt.
They were largely rescripts of each day's observations and experiences,
close and full, as his mother liked them in regard to fact, and
generously philosophized on the side of politics and religion for
Whitwell. The Eastern question became in the snow-choked hills of New
England the engrossing concern of this speculative mind, and he was apt
to spring it upon Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia at mealtimes and other
defenceless moments. He tried to debate it with Jombateeste, who
conceived of it as a form of spiritualistic inquiry, and answered from
the hay-loft, where he was throwing down fodder for the cattle to
Whitwell, volubly receiving it on the barn floor below, that he believed,
him, everybody got a hastral body, English same as Mormons.
"Guess you mean Moslems," said Whitwell, and Jombateeste asked the
The letters which came to Cynthia could not be made as much a general
interest, and, in fact, no one else cared so much for them as for
Jackson's letters, not even Jeff's mother. After Cynthia got one of
them, she would ask, perfunctorily, what Jeff said, but when she was told
there was no news she did not press her question.
"If Jackson don't get back in time next summer," Mrs. Durgin said, in one
of the talks she had with the girl, "I guess I shall have to let Jeff and
you run the house alone."
"I guess we shall want a little help from you," said Cynthia, demurely.
She did not refuse the implication of Mrs. Durgin's words, but she would
not assume that there was more in them than they expressed.
When Jeff came home for the three days' vacation at Thanksgiving, he
wished again to relinquish his last year at Harvard, and Cynthia had to
summon all her forces to keep him to his promise of staying. He brought
home the books with which he was working off his conditions, with a half-
hearted intention of study, and she took hold with him, and together they
fought forward over the ground he had to gain. His mother was almost
willing at last that he should give up his last year in college.
"What is the use?" she asked. "He's give up the law, and he might as
well commence here first as last, if he's goin' to."
The girl had no reason to urge against this; she could only urge her
feeling that he ought to go back and take his degree with the rest of his
"If you're going to keep Lion's Head the way you pretend you are," she
said to him, as she could not say to his mother, "you want to keep all
your Harvard friends, don't you, and have them remember you? Go back,
Jeff, and don't you come here again till after you've got your degree.
Never mind the Christmas vacation, nor the Easter. Stay in Cambridge and
work off your conditions. You can do it, if you try. Oh, don't you
suppose I should like to have you here?" she reproached him.
He went back, with a kind of grudge in his heart, which he confessed in
his first letter home to her, when he told her that she was right and he
was wrong. He was sure now, with the impulse which their work on them in
common had given him, that he should get his conditions off, and he
wanted her and his mother to begin preparing their minds to come to his
Class Day. He planned how they could both be away from the hotel for
that day. The house was to be opened on the 20th of June, but it was not
likely that there would be so many people at once that they could not
give the 21st to Class Day; Frank and his father could run Lion's Head
somehow, or, if they could not, then the opening could be postponed till
the 24th. At all events, they must not fail to come. Cynthia showed the
whole letter to his mother, who refused to think of such a thing, and
then asked, as if the fact had not been fully set before her: "When is it
"The 21st of June."
"Well, he's early enough with his invitation," she grumbled.
"Yes, he is," said Cynthia; and she laughed for shame and pleasure as she
confessed, "I was thinking he was rather late."
She hung her head and turned her face away. But Mrs. Durgin understood.
"You be'n expectin' it all along, then."
"I guess so."
"I presume," said the elder woman, "that he's talked to you about it.
He never tells me much. I don't see why you should want to go. What's
"Oh, I don't know. But it's the day the graduating class have to
themselves, and all their friends come."
"Well, I don't know why anybody should want to go," said Mrs. Durgin.
"I sha'n't. Tell him he won't want to own me when he sees me. What am I
goin' to wear, I should like to know? What you goin' to wear, Cynthy?"
Jeff's place at Harvard had been too long fixed among the jays to allow
the hope of wholly retrieving his condition now. It was too late for him
to be chosen in any of the nicer clubs or societies, but he was not
beyond the mounting sentiment of comradery, which begins to tell in the
last year among college men, and which had its due effect with his class.
One of the men, who had always had a foible for humanity, took advantage
of the prevailing mood in another man, and wrought upon him to ask, among
the fellows he was asking to a tea at his rooms, several fellows who were
distinctly and almost typically jay. The tea was for the aunt of the man
who gave it, a very pretty woman from New York, and it was so richly
qualified by young people of fashion from Boston that the infusion of the
jay flavor could not spoil it, if it would not rather add an agreeable
piquancy. This college mood coincided that year with a benevolent
emotion in the larger world, from which fashion was not exempt. Society
had just been stirred by the reading of a certain book, which had then a
very great vogue, and several people had been down among the wretched at
the North End doing good in a conscience-stricken effort to avert the
millennium which the book in question seemed to threaten. The lady who
matronized the tea was said to have done more good than you could imagine
at the North End, and she caught at the chance to meet the college jays
in a spirit of Christian charity. When the man who was going to give the
tea rather sheepishly confessed what the altruistic man had got him in
for, she praised him so much that he went away feeling like the hero of a
holy cause. She promised the assistance and sympathy of several brave
girls, who would not be afraid of all the jays in college.
After all, only one of the jays came. Not many, in fact, had been asked,
and when Jeff Durgin actually appeared, it was not known that he was both
the first and the last of his kind. The lady who was matronizing the tea
recognized him, with a throe of her quickened conscience, as the young
fellow whom she had met two winters before at the studio tea which Mr.
Westover had given to those queer Florentine friends of his, and whom she
had never thought of since, though she had then promised herself to do
something for him. She had then even given him some vague hints of a
prospective hospitality, and she confessed her sin of omission in a swift
but graphic retrospect to one of her brave girls, while Jeff stood
blocking out a space for his stalwart bulk amid the alien elegance just
within the doorway, and the host was making his way toward him, with an
outstretched hand of hardy welcome.
At an earlier period of his neglect and exclusion, Jeff would not have
responded to the belated overture which had now been made him, for no
reason that he could divine. But he had nothing to lose by accepting the
invitation, and he had promised the altruistic man, whom he rather liked;
he did not dislike the giver of the tea so much as some other men, and so
The brave girl whom the matron was preparing to devote to him stood
shrinking with a trepidation which she could not conceal at sight of his
strange massiveness, with his rust-gold hair coming down toward his thick
yellow brows and mocking blue eyes in a dense bang, and his jaw squaring
itself under the rather insolent smile of his full mouth. The matron
felt that her victim teas perhaps going to fail her, when a voice at her
ear said, as if the question were extorted, "Who in the world is that?"
She instantly turned, and flashed out in a few inspired syllables the
fact she had just imparted to her treacherous heroine. "Do let me
introduce him, Miss Lynde. I must do something for him, when he gets up
to me, if he ever does."
"By all means," said the girl, who had an impulse to laugh at the rude
force of Jeff's face and figure, so disproportioned to the occasion, and
she vented it at the matron's tribulation. The matron was shaking hands
with people right and left, and exchanging inaudible banalities with
them. She did not know what the girl said in answer, but she was aware
that she remained near her. She had professed her joy at seeing Jeff
again, when he reached her, and she turned with him and said, "Let me
present you to Miss Lynde, Mr. Durgin," and so abandoned them to each
As Jeff had none of the anxiety for social success which he would have
felt at an earlier period, he now left it to Miss Lynde to begin the
talk, or not, as she chose. He bore himself with so much indifference
that she was piqued to an effort to hold his eyes, that wandered from her
to this face and that in the crowd.
"Do you find many people you know, Mr. Durgin?"
"I don't find any."
"I supposed you didn't from the way you looked at them."
"How did I look at them?"
"As if you wanted to eat them, and one never wants to eat one's friends."
"Oh, I don't know. They wouldn't agree with one."
Jeff laughed, and he now took fuller note of the slender girl who stood
before him, and swayed a little backward, in a graceful curve. He saw
that she had a dull, thick complexion, with liquid eyes, set wide apart
and slanted upward slightly, and a nose that was deflected inward from
the straight line; but her mouth was beautiful and vividly red like a
"Couldn't you find me some place to sit down, Mr. Durgin?" she asked.
He had it on his tongue to say, "Well, not unless you want to sit down on
some enemy," but he did not venture this: when it comes to daring of that
sort, the boldest man is commonly a little behind a timid woman.
Several of the fellows had clubbed their rooms, and lent them to the man
who was giving the tea; he used one of the apartments for a cloak-room,
and he meant the other for the social overflow from his own. But people
always prefer to remain dammed-up together in the room where they are
received, and Miss Lynde looked between the neighboring heads, and over
the neighboring shoulders, and saw the borrowed apartment quite empty.
At the moment of this discovery the host came fighting his way up to make
sure that Jeff had been provided for in the way of introductions. He
promptly introduced him to Miss Lynde. She said: "Oh, that's been done!
Can't you think of something new?" Jeff liked the style of this.
"I don't mind it, but I'm afraid Mr. Durgin must find it monotonous."
"Oh, well, do something original yourself, then, Miss Lynde!" said the
host. "Start a movement for that room across the passage; that's mine,
too, for the occasion; and save some of these people's lives. It's
suffocating in here."
"I don't mind saving Mr. Durgin's," said the girl, "if he wants it
"Oh, I know he's just dying to have you save it," said the host, and he
left them, to inspire other people to follow their example. But such as
glanced across the passage into the overflow room seemed to think it now
the possession solely of the pioneers of the movement. At any rate, they
made no show of joining them; and after Miss Lynde and Jeff had looked at
the pictures on the walls and the photographs on the mantel of the room
where they found themselves, they sat down on chairs fronting the open
door and the door of the room they had left. The window-seat would have
been more to Jeff's mind, and he had proposed it, but the girl seemed not
to have heard him; she took the deep easy-chair in full view of the
company opposite, and left him to pull up a chair beside her.
"I always like to see the pictures in a man's room," she said, with a
little sigh of relief from their inspection and a partial yielding of her
figure to the luxury of the chair. "Then I know what the man is. This
man--I don't know whose room it is--seems to have spent a good deal of
his time at the theatre."
"Isn't that where most of them spend their time?" asked Jeff.
"I'm sure I don't know. Is that where you spend yours?"
"It used to be. I'm not spending my time anywhere just now." She looked
questioningly, and he added, "I haven't got any to spend."
"Oh, indeed! Is that a reason? Why don't you spend somebody else's?"
"Nobody has any, that I know."
"You're all working off conditions, you mean?"
"That's what I'm doing, or trying to."
"Then it's never certain whether you can do it, after all?"
"Not so certain as to be free from excitement," said Jeff, smiling.
"And are you consumed with the melancholy that seems to be balling up all
the men at the prospect of having to leave Harvard and go out into the
hard, cold world?"
"I don't look it, do I? Jeff asked:
"No, you don't. And you don't feel it? You're not trying concealment,
and so forth?"
"No; if I'd had my own way, I'd have left Harvard before this." He could
see that his bold assumption of difference, or indifference, told upon
her. "I couldn't get out into the hard, cold world too soon."
"How fearless! Most of them don't know what they're going to do in it."
"And what are you going to do? Or perhaps you think that's asking!"
"Oh no. I'm going to keep a hotel."
He had hoped to startle her, but she asked, rather quietly, "What do you
mean?" and she added, as if to punish him for trying to mystify her:
"I've heard that it requires gifts for that. Isn't there some proverb?"
"Yes. But I'm going to try to do it on experience." He laughed, and he
did not mind her trying to hit him, for he saw that be had made her
"Do you mean that you have kept a hotel?"
"For three generations," he returned, with a gravity that mocked her from
his bold eyes.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," she said, indifferently. "Where
is your hotel? In Boston--New York--Chicago?"
"It's in the country--it's a summer hotel," he said, as before.
She looked away from him toward the other room. "There's my brother.
I didn't know he was coming."
"Shall I go and tell him where you are?" Jeff asked, following the
direction of her eyes.
"No, no; he can find me," said the girl, sinking back in her chair again.
He left her to resume the talk where she chose, and she said: "If it's
something ancestral, of course--"
"I don't know as it's that, exactly. My grandfather used to keep a
country tavern, and so it's in the blood, but the hotel I mean is
something that we've worked up into from a farm boarding-house."
"You don't talk like a country person," the girl broke in, abruptly.
"Not in Cambridge. I do in the country."
"And so," she prompted, "you're going to turn it into a hotel when you've
got out of Harvard."
"It's a hotel already, and a pretty big one; but I'm going to make the
right kind of hotel of it when I take hold of it."
"And what is the right kind of a hotel?"
"That's a long story. It would make you tired."
"It might, but we've got to spend the time somehow. You could begin, and
then if I couldn't stand it you could stop."
"It's easier to stop first and begin some other time. I guess I'll let
you imagine my hotel, Miss Lynde."
"Oh, I understand now," said the girl. "The table will be the great
thing. You will stuff people."
"Do you mean that I'm trying to stuff you?"
"How do I know? You never can tell what men really mean."
Jeff laughed with mounting pleasure in her audacity, that imparted a
sense of tolerance for him such as he had experienced very seldom from
the Boston girls he had met; after all, he had met but few. It flattered
him to have her doubt what he had told her in his reckless indifference;
it implied that he was fit for better things than hotel-keeping.
"You never can tell how much a woman believes," he retorted.
"And you keep trying to find out?"
"No, but I think that they might believe the truth."
"You'd better try them with it!"
"Well, I will. Do you really want to know what I'm going to do when I
"Let me see!" Miss Lynde leaned forward, with her elbow on her knee and
her chin in her hand, and softly kicked the edge of her skirt with the
toe of her shoe, as if in deep thought. Jeff waited for her to play her
comedy through. "Yes," she said, "I think I did wish to know--at one
"But you don't now?"
"Now? How can I tell? It was a great while ago!"
"I see you don't."
Miss Lynde did not make any reply. She asked, "Do you know my aunt,
"I didn't know you had one."
"Yes, everybody has an aunt--even when they haven't a mother, if you can
believe the Gilbert operas. I ask because I happen to live with my aunt,
and if you knew her she might--ask you to call." Miss Lynde scanned
Jeff's face for the effect of this.
He said, gravely: "If you'll introduce me to her, I'll ask her to let
"Would you, really?" said the girl. "I've half a mind to try. I wonder
if you'd really have the courage."
"I don't think I'm easily rattled."
"You mean that I'm trying to rattle you."
"I'm not. My aunt is just what I've said."
"You haven't said what she was. Is she here?"
"No; that's the worst of it. If she were, I should introduce you, just
to see if you'd dare. Well, some other time I will."
"You think there'll be some other time?" Jeff asked.
"I don't know. There are all kinds of times. By-the-way, what time is
Jeff looked at his watch. "Quarter after six."
"Then I must go." She jumped to her feet, and faced about for a glimpse
of herself in the little glass on the mantel, and put her hand on the
large pink roses massed at her waist. One heavy bud dropped from its
stem to the floor, where, while she stood, the edge of her skirt pulled
and pushed it. She moved a little aside to peer over at a photograph.
Jeff stooped and picked up the flower, which he offered her.
"You dropped it," he said, bowing over it.
"Did I?" She looked at it with an effect of surprise and doubt.
"I thought so, but if you don't, I shall keep it."
The girl removed her careless eyes from it. "When they break off so
short, they won't go back."
"If I were a rose, I should want to go back," said Jeff.
She stopped in one of her many aversions and reversions, and looked at
him steadily across her shoulder. "You won't have to keep a poet, Mr.
"Thank you. I always expected to write the circulars myself. I'll send
"With this rose pressed between the leaves, so you'll know."
"That would, be very pretty. But you must take me to Mrs. Bevidge, now,
if you can."
"I guess I can," said Jeff; and in a minute or two they stood before the
matronizing hostess, after a passage through the babbling and laughing
groups that looked as impossible after they had made it as it looked
Mrs. Bevidge gave the girl's hand a pressure distinct from the official
touch of parting, and contrived to say, for her hearing alone: "Thank you
so much, Bessie. You've done missionary work."
"I shouldn't call it that."
"It will do for you to say so! He wasn't really so bad, then? Thank you
Jeff had waited his turn. But now, after the girl had turned away, as if
she had forgotten him, his eyes followed her, and he did not know that
Mrs. Bevidge was speaking to him. Miss Lynde had slimly lost herself in
the mass, till she was only a graceful tilt of hat, before she turned
with a distraught air. When her eyes met Jeff's they lighted up with a
look that comes into the face when one remembers what one has been trying
to think of. She gave him a brilliant smile that seemed to illumine him
from head to foot, and before it was quenched he felt as if she had
kissed her hand to him from her rich mouth.
Then he heard Mrs. Bevidge asking something about a hall, and he was
aware of her bending upon him a look of the daring humanity that had
carried her triumphantly through her good works at the North End.
"Oh, I'm not in the Yard," said Jeff, with belated intelligence.
"Then will just Cambridge reach you?"
He gave his number and street, and she thanked him with the benevolence
that availed so much with the lower classes. He went away thrilling and
tingling, with that girl's tones in his ear, her motions in his nerves,
and the colors of her face filling his sight, which he printed on the air
whenever he turned, as one does with a vivid light after looking at it.
When Jeff reached his room he felt the need of writing to Cynthia, with
whatever obscure intention of atonement. He told her of the college tea
he had just come from, and made fun of it, and the kind of people he had
met, especially the affected girl who had tried to rattle him; he said he
guessed she did not think she had rattled him a great deal.
While he wrote he kept thinking how this Miss Lynde was nearer his early
ideal of fashion, of high life, which Westover had pretty well snubbed
out of him, than any woman he had seen yet; she seemed a girl who would
do what she pleased, and would not be afraid if it did not please other
people. He liked her having tried to rattle him, and he smiled to
himself in recalling her failure. It was as if she had laid hold of him
with her little hands to shake him, and had shaken herself. He laughed
out in the dark when this image came into his mind; its intimacy
flattered him; and he believed that it was upon some hint from her that
Mrs. Bevidge had asked his address. She must be going to ask him to her
house, and very soon, for it was part of Jeff's meagre social experience
that this was the way swells did; they might never ask you twice, but
they would ask you promptly.
The thing that Mrs. Bevidge asked Jeff to, when her note reached him the
second day after the tea, was a meeting to interest young people in the
work at the North End, and Jeff swore under his breath at the
disappointment and indignity put upon him. He had reckoned upon an
afternoon tea, at least, or even, in the flights of fancy which he now
disowned to himself, a dance after the Mid-Years, or possibly an earlier
reception of some sort. He burned with shame to think of a theatre-
party, which he had fondly specialized, with a seat next Miss Lynde.
He tore Mrs. Bevidge's note to pieces, and decided not to answer it at
all, as the best way of showing how he had taken her invitation. But
Mrs. Bevidge's benevolence was not wanting in courage; she believed that
Jeff should pay his footing in society, such as it was, and should allow
himself to be made use of, the first thing; when she had no reply from
him, she wrote him again, asking him to an adjourned meeting of the first
convocation, which had been so successful in everything but numbers.
This time she baited her hook, in hoping that the young men would feel
something of the interest the young ladies had already shown in the
matter. She expressed the fear that Mr. Durgin had not got her earlier
letter, and she sent this second to the care of the man who had given the
Jeff's resentment was now so far past that he would have civilly declined
to go to the woman's house; but all his hopes of seeing that girl, as he
always called Miss Lynde in his thought, were revived by the mention of
the young ladies interested in the cause. He accepted, though all the
way into Boston he laid wagers with himself that she would not be there;
and up to the moment of taking her hand he refused himself any hope of
There was not much business before the meeting; that had really been all
transacted before; it was mainly to make sure of the young men, who were
present in the proportion of one to five young ladies at least. Mrs.
Bevidge explained that she had seen the wastefulness of amateur effort
among the poor, and announced that hereafter she was going to work with
the established charities. These were very much in want of visitors,
especially young men, to go about among the applicants for relief, and
inquire into their real necessities, and get work for them. She was hers
self going to act as secretary for the meetings during the coming month,
and apparently she wished to signalize her accession to the regular
forces of charity by bringing into camp as large a body of recruits as
But Jeff had not come to be made use of, or as a jay who was willing to
work for his footing in society. He had come in the hope of meeting Miss
Lynde, and now that he had met her he had no gratitude to Mrs. Bevidge as
a means, and no regret for the defeat of her good purposes so far as she
intended their fulfilment in him. He was so cool and self-possessed in
excusing himself, for reasons that he took no pains to make seem
unselfish, that the altruistic man who had got him asked to the college
tea as a friendless jay felt it laid upon him to apologize for Mrs.
Bevidge's want of tact.
"She means well, and she's very much in earnest, in this work; but I must
say she can make herself very offensive--when she doesn't try! She has a
right to ask our help, but not to parade us as the captives of her bow
"Oh, that's all right," said Jeff. He perceived that the amiable fellow
was claiming for all an effect that Jeff knew really implicated himself
alone. "I couldn't load up with anything of that sort, if I'm to work
off my conditions, you know."
"Are you in that boat?" said the altruist, as if he were, too; and he put
his hand compassionately on Jeff's iron shoulder, and left him to Miss
Lynde, whose side he had not stirred from since he had found her.
"It seems to me," she said, "that where there are so many of you in the
same boat, you might manage to get ashore somehow."
"Yes, or all go down together." Jeff laughed, and ate Mrs. Bevidge's
bread-and-butter, and drank her tea, with a relish unaffected by his
refusal to do what she asked him. He was right, perhaps, and perhaps she
deserved nothing better at his hands, but the altruist, when he glanced
at him from the other side of the room, thought that he had possibly
wasted his excuses upon Jeff's self-complacence.
He went away in a halo of young ladies; several of the other girls
grouped themselves in their departure; and it happened that Miss Lynde
and Jeff took leave together. Mrs. Bevidge said to her, with the
caressing tenderness of one in the same set, "Good-bye, dear!" To Jeff
she said, with the cold conscience of those whom their nobility obliges,
"I am always at home on Thursdays, Mr. Durgin."
"Oh, thank you," said Jeff. He understood what the words and the manner
meant together, but both were instantly indifferent to him when he got
outside and found that Miss Lynde was not driving. Something, which was
neither look, nor smile, nor word, of course, but nothing more at most
than a certain pull and tilt of the shoulder, as she turned to walk away
from Mrs. Bevidge's door, told him from her that he might walk home with
her if he would not seem to do so.
It was one of the pink evenings, dry and clear, that come in the Boston
December, and they walked down the sidehill street, under the delicate
tracery of the elm boughs in the face of the metallic sunset. In the
section of the Charles that the perspective of the street blocked out,
the wrinkled current showed as if glazed with the hard color. Jeff's
strong frame rejoiced in the cold with a hale pleasure when he looked
round into the face of the girl beside him, with the gray film of her
veil pressed softly against her red mouth by her swift advance. Their
faces were nearly on a level, as they looked into each other's eyes, and
he kept seeing the play of the veil's edge against her lips as they
"Why sha'n't you go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays?" she asked. "They're
How do you know I'm not going?" he retorted.
"By the way you thanked her."
"Do you advise me to go?"
"I haven't got anything to do with it. What do mean by that?"
"I don't know. Curiosity, I suppose."
"Well, I do advise you to go," said the girl. Shall you be there next
"I? I never go to Mrs. Bevidge's Thursdays!"
"Touche," said Jeff, and they both laughed. "Can you always get in at an
enemy that way?"
"Well, friend. It's the same thing."
"I see," said the girl. "You belong to the pessimistic school of
"Why don't you try to make an optimist of me?"
"Would it be worth while?"
"That isn't for me to say."
"Don't be diffident! That's staler yet."
"I'll be anything you like."
"I'm not sure you could." For an instant Jeff did not feel the point,
and he had not the magnanimity, when he did, to own himself touched
again. Apparently, if this girl could not rattle him, she could beat him
at fence, and the will to dominate her began to stir in him. If he could
have thought of any sarcasm, no matter how crushing, he would have come
back at her with it. He could not think of anything, and he walked at
her side, inwardly chafing for the chance which would not come.
When they reached her door there was a young man at the lock with a
latch-key, which he was not making work, for, after a bated blasphemy of
his failure, he turned and twitched the bell impatiently.
Miss Lynde laughed provokingly, and he looked over his shoulder at her
and at Jeff, who felt his injury increased by the disadvantage this young
man put him at. Jeff was as correctly dressed; he wore a silk hat of the
last shape, and a long frock-coat; he was properly gloved and shod; his
clothes fitted him, and were from the best tailor; but at sight of this
young man in clothes of the same design he felt ill-dressed. He was in
like sort aware of being rudely blocked out physically, and coarsely
colored as to his blond tints of hair and eye and cheek. Even the
sinister something in the young man's look had distinction, and there was
style in the signs of dissipation in his handsome face which Jeff saw
with a hunger to outdo him.
Miss Lynde said to Jeff, "My brother, Mr. Durgin," and then she added to
the other, "You ought to ring first, Arthur, and try your key afterward."
"The key's all right," said the young man, without paying any attention
to Jeff beyond a glance of recognition; he turned his back, and waited
for the door to be opened.
His sister suggested, with an amiability which Jeff felt was meant in
reparation to him, "Perhaps a night latch never works before dark--or
very well before midnight." The door was opened, and she said to Jeff,
with winning entreaty, "Won't you come in, Mr. Durgin?"
Jeff excused himself, for he perceived that her politeness was not so
much an invitation to him as a defiance to her brother; he gave her
credit for no more than it was worth, and he did not wish any the less to
get even with her because of it.
At dinner, in the absence of the butler, Alan Lynde attacked his sister
across the table for letting herself be seen with a jay, who was not only
a jay, but a cad, and personally so offensive to most of the college men
that he had never got into a decent club or society; he had been
suspended the first year, and if he had not had the densest kind of cheek
he would never have come back. Lynde said he would like to know where
she had picked the fellow up.
She answered that she had picked him up, if that was the phrase he liked,
at Mrs. Bevidge's; and then Alan swore a little, so as not to be heard by
their aunt, who sat at the head of the table, and looked down its length
between them, serenely ignorant, in her slight deafness, of what was
going on between them. To her perception Alan was no more vehement than
usual, and Bessie no more smilingly self-contained. He said he supposed
that it was some more of Lancaster's damned missionary work, then, and he
wondered that a gentleman like Morland had ever let Lancaster work such a
jay in on him; he had seen her 'afficher' herself with the fellow at
Morland's tea; he commanded her to stop it; and he professed to speak for
Bessie returned that she knew how strongly he felt from the way he had
misbehaved when she introduced him to Mr. Durgin, but that she supposed
he had been at the club and his nerves were unstrung. Was that the
reason, perhaps, why he could not make his latchkey work? Mr. Durgin
might be a cad, and she would not say he was not a jay, but so far he had
not sworn at her; and, if he had been suspended and come back, there were
some people who had not been suspended or come back, either, though that
might have been for want of cheek.
She ended by declaring she was used to going into society without her
brother's protection, or even his company, and she would do her best to
get on without his advice. Or was it his conduct he wished her to profit
It had come to the fish going out by this time, and Alan, who had eaten
with no appetite, and drunken feverishly of apollinaris, flung down his
napkin and went out, too.
"What is the matter?" asked his aunt, looking after him.
Bessie shrugged, but she said, presently, with her lips more than her
voice: "I don't think he feels very well."
"Do you think he--"
The girl frowned assent, and the meal went on to its end. Then she and
her aunt went into the large, dull library, where they passed the
evenings which Bessie did not spend in some social function. These
evenings were growing rather more frequent, with her advancing years,
for she was now nearly twenty-five, and there were few Seniors so old.
She was not the kind of girl to renew her youth with the Sophomores and
Freshmen in the classes succeeding the class with which she had danced
through college; so far as she had kept up the old relation with
students, she continued it with the men who had gone into the law-school.
But she saw less and less of these without seeing more of other men, and
perhaps in the last analysis she was not a favorite. She was allowed to
be fascinating, but she was not felt to be flattering, and people would
rather be flattered than fascinated. In fact, the men were mostly afraid
of her; and it has been observed of girls of this kind that the men who
are not afraid of them are such as they would do well to be afraid of.
Whether that was quite the case with Bessie Lynde or not, it was certain
that she who was always the cleverest girl in the room, and if not the
prettiest, then the most effective, had not the best men about her. Her
men were apt to be those whom the other girls called stupid or horrid,
and whom it would not be easy, though it might be more just, to classify
otherwise. The other girls wondered what she could see in them; but
perhaps it was not necessary that she should see anything in them, if
they could see all she wished them to see, and no more, in her.
The room where tea was now brought and put before her was volumed round
by the collections of her grandfather, except for the spaces filled by
his portrait and that of earlier ancestors, going back to the time when
Copley made masterpieces of his fellow-Bostonians. Her aunt herself
looked a family portrait of the middle period, a little anterior to her
father's, but subsequent to her great-grandfather's. She had a comely
face, with large, smooth cheeks and prominent eyes; the edges of her
decorous brown wig were combed rather near their corners, and a fitting
cap palliated but did not deny the wig. She had the quiet but rather
dull look of people slightly deaf, and she had perhaps been stupefied by
a life of unalloyed prosperity and propriety. She had grown an old maid
naturally, but not involuntarily, and she was without the sadness or the
harshness of disappointment. She had never known much of the world,
though she had always lived in it. She knew that it was made up of two
kinds of people--people who were like her and people who were not like
her; and she had lived solely in the society of people who were like her,
and in the shelter of their opinions and ideals. She did not contemn or
exclude the people who were unlike her, but she had never had any more
contact with them than she now had with the weather of the streets, as
she sat, filling her large arm-chair full of her ladylike correctness, in
the library of the handsome house her father had left her. The irruption
of her brother's son and daughter into its cloistered quiet had scarcely
broken its invulnerable order. It was right and fit they should be there
after his death, and it was not strange that in the course of time they
should both show certain unregulated tendencies which, since they were
not known to be Lynde tendencies, must have been derived from the
Southwestern woman her brother had married during his social and
financial periclitations in a region wholly inconceivable to her. Their
mother was dead, too, and their aunt's life closed about them with full
acceptance, if not complacence, as part of her world. They had grown to
manhood and womanhood without materially discomposing her faith in the
old-fashioned Unitarian deity, whose service she had always attended.
When Alan left college in his Freshman year, and did not go back, but
went rather to Europe and Egypt and Japan, it appeared to her myopic
optimism that his escapades had been pretty well hushed up by time and
distance. After he came home and devoted himself to his club, she could
have wished that he had taken up some profession or business; but since
there was money enough, she waited in no great disquiet until he showed
as decided a taste for something else as he seemed for the present to
have only for horses. In the mean while, from time to time, it came to
her doctor's advising his going to a certain retreat. But he came out
the first time so much better and remained well so long that his aunt
felt a kind of security in his going again and again, whenever he became
at all worse. He always came back better. As she took the cup of tea
that Bessie poured out for her, she recurred to the question that she had
partly asked already:
"Do you think Alan is getting worse again?"
"Not so very much," said the girl, candidly. "He's been at the club,
I suppose, but he left the table partly because I vexed him."
"Because you what?"
"Because I vexed him. He was scolding me, and I wouldn't stand it."
Her aunt tasted her tea, and found it so quite what she liked that she
said, from a natural satisfaction with Bessie, "I don't see what he had
to scold you about."
"Well," returned Bessie, and she got her pretty voice to the level of her
aunt's hearing, with some straining, and kept it there, "when he is in
that state, he has to scold some one; and I had been rather annoying, I
"What had you been doing?" asked her aunt, making out her words more from
the sight than from the sound, after all.
"I had been walking home with a jay, and we found Alan trying to get in
at the front door with his key, and I introduced him to the jay."
Miss Louisa Lynde had heard the word so often from her niece and nephew,
that she imagined herself in full possession of its meaning. She asked:
"Where had you met him?"
"I met him first," said the girl, "at Willie Morland's tea, last week,
and to-day I found him at Mrs. Bevidge's altruistic toot."
"I didn't know," said her aunt, after a momentary attention to her tea,
"that jays were interested in that sort of thing."
The girl laughed. "I believe they're not. It hasn't quite reached them,
yet; and I don't think it will ever reach my jay. Mrs. Bevidge tried to
work him into the cause, but he refused so promptly, and so-
intelligently, don't you know--and so almost brutally, that poor Freddy
Lancaster had to come and apologize to him for her want of tact." Bessie
enjoyed the fact, which she had colored a little, in another laugh, but
she had apparently not possessed her aunt of the humor of it. She
remained seriously-attentive, and the girl went on: "He was not the least
abashed at having refused; he stayed till the last, and as we came out
together and he was going my way, I let him walk home with me. He's a
jay, but he isn't a common jay." Bessie leaned forward and tried to
implant some notion of Jeff's character and personality in her aunt's
Miss Lynde listened attentively enough, but she merely asked, when all
was said: "And why was Alan vexed with you about him?"
"Well," said the girl, falling back into her chair, "generally because
this man's a jay, and particularly because he's been rather a baddish
jay, I believe. He was suspended in his first year for something or
other, and you know poor Alan's very particular! But Molly Enderby says
Freddy Lancaster gives him the best of characters now." Bessie pulled
down her mouth, with an effect befitting the notion of repentance and
atonement. Then she flashed out: "Perhaps he had been drinking when he
got into trouble. Alan could never forgive him for that."
"I think," said her aunt, "it is to your brother's credit that he is
anxious about your associations."
"Oh, very much!" shouted Bessie, with a burst of laughter. "And as he
isn't practically so, I ought to have been more patient with his theory.
But when he began to scold me I lost my temper, and I gave him a few
wholesome truths in the guise of taunts. That was what made him go away,
"But I don't really see," her aunt pursued,--"what occasion he had to be
angry with you in this instance."
"Oh, I do!" said Bessie. "Mr. Durgin isn't one to inspire the casual
beholder with the notion of his spiritual distinction. His face is so
rude and strong, and he has such a primitive effect in his clothes, that
you feel as if you were coming down the street with a prehistoric man
that the barbers and tailors had put a 'fin de siecle' surface on." At
the mystification which appeared in her aunt's face the girl laughed
again. "I should have been quite as anxious, if I had been in Alan's
place, and I shall tell him so, sometime. If I had not been so
interested in the situation I don't believe I could have kept my courage.
Whenever I looked round, and found that prehistoric man at my elbow, it
gave me the creeps, a little, as if he were really carrying me off to his
cave. I shall try to express that to Alan."
The ladies finished their tea, and the butler came and took the cups
away. Miss Lynde remained silent in her chair at her end of the library-
table, and by-and-by Bessie got a book and began to read. When her aunt
woke up it was half past nine. "Was that Alan coming in?" she asked.
"I don't think he's been out," said the girl. "It isn't late enough for
him to come in--or early enough."
"I believe I'll go to bed," Miss Lynde returned. "I feel rather drowsy."
Bessie did not smile at a comedy which was apt to be repeated every
evening that she and her aunt spent at home together; they parted for the
night with the decencies of family affection, and Bessie delivered the
elder lady over to her maid. Then the girl sank down again, and lay
musing in her deep chair before the fire with her book shut on her thumb.
She looked rather old and worn in her reverie; her face lost the air of
gay banter which, after the beauty of her queer eyes and her vivid mouth,
was its charm. The eyes were rather dull now, and the mouth was a little
She was waiting for her brother to come down, as he was apt to do if he
was in the house, after their aunt went to bed, to smoke a cigar in the
library. He was in his house shoes when he shuffled into the room, but
her ear had detected his presence before a hiccough announced it. She
did not look up, but let him make several failures to light his cigar,
and damn the matches under his breath, before she pushed the drop-light
to him in silent suggestion. As he leaned over her chair-back to reach
its chimney with his cigar in his mouth, she said, "You're all right,
He waited till he got round to his aunt's easy-chair and dropped into it
before he answered, "So are you, Bess."
"I'm not so sure of that," said the girl, "as I should be if you were
still scolding me. I knew that he was a jay, well enough, and I'd just
seen him behaving very like a cad to Mrs. Bevidge."
"Then I don't understand how you came to be with him."
"Oh yes, you do, Alan. You mustn't be logical! You might as well say
you can't understand how you came to be more serious than sober." The
brother laughed helplessly. "It was the excitement."
"But you can't give way to that sort of thing, Bess," said her brother,
with the gravity of a man feeling the consequences of his own errors.
"I know I can't, but I do," she returned. "I know it's bad for me, if it
isn't for other people. Come! I'll swear off if you will!"
"I'm always ready, to swear off," said the young man, gloomily. He
added, "But you've got brains, Bess, and I hate to see you playing the
"Do you really, Alan?" asked the girl, pleased perhaps as much by his
reproach as by his praise. "Do you think I've got brains?"
"You're the only girl that has."
"Oh, I didn't mean to ask so much as that! But what's the reason I can't
do anything with them? Other girls draw, and play, and write. I don't
do anything but go in for the excitement that's bad for me. I wish you'd
Alan Lynde did not try. The question seemed to turn his thoughts back
upon himself to dispiriting effect. "I've got brains, too, I believe,"
"Lots of them!" cried his sister, generously. "There isn't any of the
men to compare with you. If I had you to talk with all the time, I
shouldn't want jays. I don't mean to flatter. You're a constant feast
of reason; I don't care for flows of soul. You always take right views
of things when you're yourself, and even when you're somebody else you're
not stupid. You could be anything you chose."
"The devil of it is I can't choose," he replied.
"Yes, I suppose that's the devil of it," said the girl.
"You oughtn't to use such language as that, Bess," said her brother,
"Oh, I don't with everybody," she returned. "Never with ladies!"
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye with a smile at once rueful
"You got me, I guess, that time," he owned.
"'Touche',' Mr. Durgin says. He fences, it seems, and he speaks French.
It was like an animal speaking French; you always expect them to speak
English. But I don't mind your swearing before me; I know that it helps
to carry off the electricity." She laughed, and made him laugh with her.
"Is there anything to him?" he growled, when they stopped laughing.
"Yes, a good deal," said Bessie, with an air of thoughtfulness; and then
she went on to tell all that Jeff had told her of himself, and she
described his aplomb in dealing with the benevolent Bevidge, as she
called her, and sketched his character, as it seemed to her. The sketch
was full of shrewd guesses, and she made it amusing to her brother, who
from the vantage of his own baddishness no doubt judged the original more
"Well, you'd better let him alone, after this," he said, at the end.
"Yes," she pensively assented. "I suppose it's as if you took to some
very common kind of whiskey, isn't it? I see what you mean. If one
must, it ought to be champagne."
She turned upon him a look of that keen but limited knowledge which
renders women's conjectures of evil always so amusing, or so pathetic, to
"Better let the champagne alone, too," said her brother, darkly.
"Yes, I know that," she admitted, and she lay back in her chair, looking
dreamily into the fire. After a while she asked, abruptly: "Will you
give it up if I will?"
"I am afraid I couldn't."
"You could try."
"Oh, I'm used to that."
"Then it's a bargain," she said. She jumped from her chair and went over
to him, and smoothed his hair over his forehead and kissed the place she
had smoothed, though it was unpleasantly damp to her lips. "Poor boy,
poor boy! Now, remember! No more jays for me, and no more jags for you.
Her brother broke into a wild laugh at her slanging, which had such a
bizarre effect in relation to her physical delicacy.
Jeff did not know whether Miss Bessie Lynde meant to go to Mrs. Bevidge's
Thursdays or not. He thought she might have been bantering him by what
she said, and he decided that he would risk going to the first of them on
the chance of meeting her. She was not there, and there was no one there
whom he knew. Mrs. Bevidge made no effort to enlarge his acquaintance,
and after he had drunk a cup of her tea he went away with rage against
society in his heart, which he promised himself to vent at the first
chance of refusing its favors. But the chance seemed not to come. The
world which had opened its gates to him was fast shut again, and he had
to make what he could of renouncing it. He worked pretty hard, and he
renewed himself in his fealty to Cynthia, while his mind strayed
curiously to that other girl. But he had almost abandoned the hope of
meeting her again, when a large party was given on the eve of the Harvard
Mid-Year Examinations, which end the younger gayeties of Boston, for a
fortnight at least, in January. The party was so large that the
invitations overflowed the strict bounds of society at some points. In
the case of Jeff Durgin the excess was intentional beyond the vague
benevolence which prompted the giver of the party to ask certain other
outsiders. She was a lady of a soul several sizes larger than the souls
of some other society leaders; she was not afraid to do as she liked; for
instance, she had not only met the Vostrands at Westover's tea, several
years before, but she had afterward offered some hospitalities to those
ladies which had discharged her whole duty toward them without involving
her in any disadvantages. Jeff had been presented to her at Westover's,
but she disliked him so promptly and decidedly that she had left him out
of even the things that she asked some other jays to, like lectures and
parlor readings for good objects. It was not until one of her daughters
met him, first at Willie Morland's tea and then at Mrs. Bevidge's
meeting, that her social conscience concerned itself with him. At the
first her daughter had not spoken to him, as might very well have
happened, since Bessie Lynde had kept him away with her nearly all the
time; but at the last she had bowed pleasantly to him across the room,
and Jeff had responded with a stiff obeisance, whose coldness she felt
the more for having been somewhat softened herself in Mrs. Bevidge's
"I think he was hurt, mamma," the girl explained to her mother, "that
you've never had him to anything. I suppose they must feel it."
"Oh, well, send him a card, then," said her mother; and when Jeff got the
card, rather near the eleventh hour, he made haste to accept, not because
he cared to go to Mrs. Enderby's house, but because he hoped he should
meet Miss Lynde there.
Bessie was the first person he met after he turned from paying his duty
to the hostess. She was with her aunt, and she presented him, and
promised him a dance, which she let him write on her card. She sat out
another dance with him, and he took her to supper.
To Westover, who had gone with the increasing forlornness a man feels in
such pleasures after thirty-five, it seemed as if the two were in each
other's company the whole evening. The impression was so strong with him
that when Jeff restored Bessie to her aunt for the dance that was to be
for some one else, and came back to the supper-room, the painter tried to
satisfy a certain uneasiness by making talk with him. But Jeff would not
talk; he got away with a bottle of champagne, which he had captured, and
a plate heaped with croquettes and pease, and galantine and salad. There
were no ladies left in the room by that time, and few young men; but the
oldsters crowded the place, with their bald heads devoutly bowed over
their victual, or their frosty mustaches bathed in their drink, singly or
in groups; the noise of their talk and laughter mixed with the sound of
their eating and drinking, and the clash of the knives and dishes. Over
their stooped shoulders and past their rounded stomachs Westover saw Alan
Lynde vaguely making his way with a glass in his hand, and looking
vaguely about for wine; he saw Jeff catch his wandering eye, and make
offer of his bottle, and then saw Lynde, after a moment of haughty pause,
unbend and accept it. His thin face was flushed, and his hair tossed
over his forehead, but Jeff seemed not to take note of that. He laughed
boisterously at something Lynde said, and kept filling his glass for him.
His own color remained clear and cool. It was as if his powerful
physique absorbed the wine before it could reach his brain.
Westover wanted to interfere, and so far as Jeff was concerned he would
not have hesitated; but Lynde was concerned, too, and you cannot save
such a man from himself without offence. He made his way to the young
man, hoping he might somehow have the courage he wanted.
Jeff held up the bottle, and called to him, "Get yourself a glass, Mr.
Westover." He put on the air of a host, and would hardly be denied.
"Know Mr. Westover, Mr. Lynde? Just talking about you," he explained to
Alan had to look twice at the painter. "Oh yes. Mr. Durgin, here--
telling me about his place in the mountains. Says you've been there.
Going--going myself in the summer. See his--horses." He made pauses
between his words as some people do when they, try to keep from
Westover believed Lynde understood Jeff to be a country gentleman of
sporting tastes, and he would not let that pass. "Yes, it's the
pleasantest little hotel in the mountains."
"Strictly-temperance, I suppose?" said Alan, trying to smile with lips
that obeyed him stiffly. He appeared not to care who or what Jeff was;
the champagne had washed away all difference between them. He went on to
say that he had heard of Jeff's intention of running the hotel himself
when he got out of Harvard. He held it to be damned good stuff.
Jeff laughed. "Your sister wouldn't believe me when I told her."
"I think I didn't mention Miss Lynde," said Alan, haughtily.
Jeff filled his glass; Alan looked at it, faltered, and then drank it
off. The talk began again between the young men, but it left Westover
out, and he had to go away. Whether Jeff was getting Lynde beyond
himself from the love of mischief, such as had prompted him to tease
little children in his boyhood, or was trying to ingratiate himself with
the young fellow through his weakness, or doing him harm out of mere
thoughtlessness, Westover came away very unhappy at what he had seen.
His unhappiness connected itself so distinctly with Lynde's family that
he went and sat down beside Miss Lynde from an obscure impulse of
compassion, and tried to talk with her. It would not have been so hard
if she were merely deaf, for she had the skill of deaf people in
arranging the conversation so that a nodded yes or no would be all that
was needed to carry it forward. But to Westover she was terribly dull,
and he was gasping, as in an exhausted receiver, when Bessie came up with
a smile of radiant recognition for his extremity. She got rid of her
partner, and devoted herself at once to Westover. "How good of you!"
she said, without giving him the pain of an awkward disclaimer.
He could counter in equal sincerity and ambiguity, "How beautiful of
"Yes," she said, "I am looking rather well, tonight; but don't you think
effective would have been a better word?" She smiled across her aunt at
him out of a cloud of pink, from which her thin shoulders and slender
neck emerged, and her arms, gloved to the top, fell into her lap; one of
them seemed to terminate naturally in the fan which sensitively shared
the inquiescence of her person.
"I will say effective, too, if you insist," said Westover. "But at the
same time you're the most beautiful person here."
"How lovely of you, even if you don't mean it," she sighed. "If girls
could have more of those things said to them, they would be better, don't
you think? Or at least feel better."
Westover laughed. "We might organize a society--they have them for
nearly everything now--for saying pleasant things to young ladies with a
view to the moral effect."
"Oh, do I"
"But it ought to be done conscientiously, and you couldn't go round
telling every one that she was the most beautiful girl in the room."
"Why not? She'd believe it!"
"Yes; but the effect on the members of the society?"
"Oh yes; that! But you could vary it so as to save your conscience. You
could say, 'How divinely you're looking!' or 'How angelic!' or 'You're
the very poetry of motion,' or 'You are grace itself,' or 'Your gown is a
perfect dream, or any little commonplace, and every one would take it for
praise of her personal appearance, and feel herself a great beauty, just
as I do now, though I know very well that I'm all out of drawing, and
just chicqued together."
"I couldn't allow any one but you to say that, Miss Bessie; and I only
let it pass because you say it so well."
"Yes; you're always so good! You wouldn't contradict me even when you
turned me out of your class."
"Did I turn you out of my class?"
"Not just in so many words, but when I said I couldn't do anything in
art, you didn't insist that it was because I wouldn't, and of course then
I had to go. I've never forgiven you, Mr. Westover, never! Do keep on
talking very excitedly; there's a man coming up to us that I don't want
to think I see him, or he'll stop. There! He's veered off! Where were
you, Mr. Westover?"
"Ah, Miss Bessie," said the painter; delighted at her drama, "there isn't
anything you couldn't do if you would."
"You mean parlor entertainments; impersonations; impressions; that sort
of thing? I have thought of it. But it would be too easy. I want to
try something difficult."
"Well, being very, very good. I want something that would really tax my
powers. I should like to be an example. I tried it the other night just
before I went to sleep, and it was fine. I became an example to others.
But when I woke up--I went on in the old way. I want something hard,
don't you know; but I want it to be easy!"
She laughed, and Westover said: "I am glad you're not serious. No one
ought to be an example to others. To be exemplary is as dangerous as to
"It certainly isn't so agreeable to the object," said the girl. "But
it's fine for the subject as long as it lasts. How metaphysical we're
getting! The objective and the subjective. It's quite what I should
expect of talk at a Boston dance if I were a New-Yorker. Have you seen
anything of my brother, within the last hour or so, Mr. Westover?"
"Yes; I just left him in the supper-room. Shall I go get him for you?"
When he had said this, with the notion of rescuing him from Jeff,
Westover was sorry, for he doubted if Alan Lynde were any longer in the
state to be brought away from the supper-room, and he was glad to have
"No, no. He'll look us up in the course of the evening--or the morning."
A young fellow came to claim her for a dance, and Westover had not the
face to leave Miss Lynde, all the less because she told him he must not
think of staying. He stayed till the dance was over, and Bessie came
back to him.
"What time is it, Mr. Westover? I see my aunt beginning to nod on her
Westover looked at his watch. "It's ten minutes past two."
"How early!" sighed the girl. "I'm tired of it, aren't you?"
"Very," said Westover. "I was tired an hour ago."
Bessie sank back in her chair with an air of nervous collapse, and did
not say anything. Westover saw her watching the young couples who passed
in and out of the room where the dancing was, or found corners on sofas,
or window-seats, or sheltered spaces beside the doors and the chimney-
piece, the girls panting and the men leaning forward to fan them. She
looked very tired of it; and when a young fellow came up and asked her to
dance, she told him that she was provisionally engaged. "Come back and
get me, if you can't do better," she said, and he answered there was no
use trying to do better, and said he would wait till the other man turned
up, or didn't, if she would let him. He sat down beside her, and some
young talk began between them.
In the midst of it Jeff appeared. He looked at Westover first, and then
approached with an embarrassed face.
Bessie got vividly to her feet. "No apologies, Mr. Durgin, please! But
in just another moment you'd have last your dance."
Westover saw what he believed a change pass in Jeff's look from
embarrassment to surprise and then to flattered intelligence. He beamed
all over; and he went away with Bessie toward the ballroom, and left
Westover to a wholly unsupported belief that she had not been engaged to
dance with Jeff. He wondered what her reckless meaning could be, but he
had always thought her a young lady singularly fitted by nature and art
to take care of herself, and when he reasoned upon what was in his mind
he had to own that there was no harm in Jeff's dancing with her.
He took leave of Miss Lynde, and was going to get his coat and hat for
his walk home when he was mysteriously stopped in a corner of the stairs
by one of the caterer's men whom he knew. It is so unnatural to be
addressed by a servant at all unless he asks you if you will have
something to eat or drink, that Westover was in a manner prepared to have
him say something startling. "It's about young Mr. Lynde, sor. We've
got um in one of the rooms up-stairs, but he ain't fit to go home alone,
and I've been lookin' for somebody that knows the family to help get um
into a car'ge. He won't go for anny of us, sor."
"Where is he?" asked Westover, in anguish at being unable to refuse the
appeal, but loathing the office put upon him.
"I'll show you, sor," said the caterer's man, and he sprang up the stairs
before Westover, with glad alacrity.
In a little room at the side of that where the men's hats and coats were
checked, Alan Lynde sat drooping forward in an arm-chair, with his head
fallen on his breast. He roused himself at the flash of the burner which
the man turned up. "What's all this?" he demanded, haughtily. "Where's
the carriage? What's the matter?"
"Your carriage is waiting, Lynde," said Westover. "I'll see you down to
it," and he murmured, hopelessly, to the caterer's man: "Is there any
"There's the wan we got um up by."
"It will do," said Westover, as simply.
But Lynde called out, defiantly: "Back way; I sha'n't go down back way.
Inshult to guest. I wish--say--good-night to--Mrs. Enderby. Who you,
anyway? Damn caterer's man?"
"I'm Westover, Lynde," the painter began, but the young fellow broke in
upon him, shaking his hand and then taking his arm.
"Oh, Westover! All right! I'll go down back way with you. Thought--
thought it was damn caterer's man. No--offence."
"No. It's all right. "Westover got his arm under Lynde's elbow, and,
with the man going before for them to fall upon jointly in case they
should stumble, he got him down the dark and twisting stairs and through
the basement hall, which was vaguely haunted by the dispossessed women
servants of the family, and so out upon the pavement of the moonlighted
"Call Miss Lynde's car'ge," shouted the caterer's man to the barker, and
escaped back into the basement, leaving Westover to stay his helpless
charge on the sidewalk.
It seemed a publication of the wretch's shame when the barker began to
fill the night with hoarse cries of, "Miss Lynde's carriage; carriage for
Miss Lynde!" The cries were taken up by a coachman here and there in the
rank of vehicles whose varnished roofs shone in the moon up and down the
street. After a time that Westover of course felt to be longer than it
was, Miss Lynde's old coachman was roused from his sleep on the box and
started out of the rank. He took in the situation with the eye of
custom, when he saw Alan supported on the sidewalk by a stranger at the
end of the canopy covering the pavement.
He said, "Oh, ahl right, sor!" and when the two white-gloved policemen
from either side of it helped Westover into the carriage with Lynde, he
set off at a quick trot. The policemen clapped their hands together, and
smiled across the strip of carpet that separated them, and winks and nods
of intelligence passed among the barkers to the footmen about the curb
and steps. There were none of them sorry to see a gentleman in that
state; some of them had perhaps seen Alan in that state before.
Half-way home he roused himself and put his hand on the carriage-door
latch. "Tell the coachman drive us to--the--club. Make night of it."
"No, no," said Westover, trying to restrain him. "We'd better go right
on to your house."
"Who--who--who are you?" demanded Alan.
"Oh yes--Westover. Thought we left Westover at Mrs. Enderby's. Thought
it was that jay--What's his name? Durgin. He's awful jay, but civil to
me, and I want be civil to him. You're not--jay? No? That's right.
Fellow made me sick; but I took his champagne; and I must show him some
--attention." He released the door-handle, and fell back against the
cushioned carriage wall. "He's a blackguard!" he said, sourly. "Not--
simple jay-blackguard, too. No--no--business bring in my sister's name,
hey? You--you say it's--Westover? Oh yes, Westover. Old friend of
family. Tell you good joke, Westover--my sister's. No more jays for me,
no more jags for you. That's what she say--just between her and me, you
know; she's a lady, Bess is; knows when to use--slang. Mark--mark of a
lady know when to use slang. Pretty good--jays and jags. Guess we
didn't count this time--either of us."
When the carriage pulled up before Miss Lynde's house, Westover opened
the door. "You're at home, now, Lynde. Come, let's get out."
Lynde did not stir. He asked Westover again who he was, and when he had
made sure of him, he said, with dignity, Very well; now they must get the
other fellow. Westover entreated; he even reasoned; Lynde lay back in
the corner of the carriage, and seemed asleep.
Westover thought of pulling him up and getting him indoors by main force.
He appealed to the coachman to know if they could not do it together.
"Why, you see, I couldn't leave me harsses, sor," said the coachman.
"What's he wants, sor?" He bent urbanely down from his box and listened
to the explanation that Westover made him, standing in the cold on the
curbstone, with one hand on the carriage door. "Then it's no use, sor,"
the man decided. "Whin he's that way, ahl hell couldn't stir um. Best
go back, sor, and try to find the gentleman."
This was in the end what Westover had to do, feeling all the time that a
thing so frantically absurd could not be a waking act, but helpless to
escape from its performance. He thought of abandoning his charge and
leaving him, to his fate when he opened the carriage door before Mrs.
Enderby's house; but with the next thought he perceived that this was on
all accounts impossible. He went in, and began his quest for Jeff,
sending various serving men about with vague descriptions of him, and
asking for him of departing guests, mostly young men he did not know, but
who, he thought, might know Jeff.
He had to take off his overcoat at last, and reappear at the ball. The
crowd was still great, but visibly less dense than it had been. By a
sudden inspiration he made his way to the supper-room, and he found Jeff
there, filling a plate, as if he were about to carry it off somewhere.
He commanded Jeff's instant presence in the carriage outside; he told him
of Alan's desire for him.
Jeff leaned back against the wall with the plate in his hand and laughed
till it half slipped from his hold. When he could get his breath, he
said: "I'll be back in a few minutes; I've got to take this to Miss
Bessie Lynde. But I'll be right back."
Westover hardly believed him. But when he got on his own things again,
Jeff joined him in his hat and overcoat, and they went out together.
It was another carriage that stopped the way now, and once more the
barker made the night ring with what Westover felt his heartless and
shameless cries for Miss Lynde's carriage. After a maddening delay,
it lagged up to the curb and Jeff pulled the door open.
"Hello!" he said. "There's nobody here!"
"Nobody there?" cried Westover, and they fell upon the coachman with wild
question and reproach; the policeman had to tell him at last that the
carriage must move on, to make way for others.
The coachman had no explanation to offer: he did not know how or when Mr.
Alan had got away.
"But you can give a guess where he's gone?" Jeff suggested, with a
presence of mind which Westover mutely admired.
"Well, sor, I know where he do be gahn, sometimes," the man admitted.
"Well, that will do; take me there," said Jeff. "You go in and account
for me to Miss Lynde," he instructed Westover, across his shoulder.
"I'll get him home before morning, somehow; and I'll send the carriage
right back for the ladies, now."
Westover had the forethought to decide that Miss Bessie should ask for
Jeff if she wanted him, and this simplified matters very much. She asked
nothing about him. At sight of Westover coming up to her where she sat
with her aunt, she merely said: "Why, Mr. Westover! I thought you took
leave of this scene of gayety long ago."
"Did you?" Westover returned, provisionally, and she saved him from the
sin of framing some deceit in final answer by her next question.
"Have you seen anything of Alan lately?" she asked, in a voice
Westover replied in the same octave: "Yes; I saw him going a good while
"Oh!" said the girl. "Then I think my aunt and I had better go, too."
Still she did not go, and there was an interval in which she had the air
of vaguely waiting. To Westover's vision, the young people still passing
to and from the ballroom were like the painted figures of a picture
quickened with sudden animation. There were scarcely any elders to be
seen now, except the chaperons, who sat in their places with iron
fortitude; Westover realized that he was the only man of his age left.
He felt that the lights ought to have grown dim, but the place was as
brilliant as ever. A window had been opened somewhere, and the cold
breath of the night was drawing through the heated rooms.
He was content to have Bessie stay on, though he was almost dropping with
sleep, for he was afraid that if she went at once, the carriage might not
have got back, and the whole affair must somehow be given away; at last,
if she were waiting, she decided to wait no longer, and then Westover did
not know how to keep her. He saw her rise and stoop over her aunt,
putting her mouth to the elder lady's ear, and he heard her saying,
"I am going home, Aunt Louisa." She turned sweetly to him. "Won't you
let us set you down, Mr. Westover?"
"Why, thank you, I believe I prefer walking. But do let me have your
carriage called," and again he hurried himself into his overcoat and hat,
and ran down-stairs, and the barker a third time sent forth his
lamentable cries in summons of Miss Lynde's carriage.
While he stood on the curb-stone eagerly peering up and down the street,
he heard, without being able either to enjoy or resent it, one of the
policemen say across him to the other, "Miss lynde seems to be doin' a
livery-stable business to-night."
Almost at the moment a carriage drove up, and he recognized Miss Lynde's
coachman, who recognized him.
"Just got back, sor," he whispered, and a minute later Bessie came
daintily out over the carpeted way with her aunt.
"How good of you!" she said, and "Good-night, Mr. Westover," said Miss
Lynde, with an implication in her voice that virtue was peculiarly its
own reward for those who performed any good office for her or hers.
Westover shut them in, the carriage rolled off, and he started on his
homeward walk with a long sigh of relief.
Bessie asked the sleepy man who opened her aunt's door whether her
brother had come in yet, and found that he had not. She helped her aunt
off up-stairs with her maid, and when she came down again she sent the
man to bed; she told him she was going to sit up and she would let her
brother in. The caprices of Alan's latch-key were known to all the
servants, and the man understood what she, meant. He said he had left a
light in the reception-room and there was a fire there; and Bessie
tripped on down from the library floor, where she had met him. She had
put off her ball dress and had slipped into the simplest and easiest of
breakfast frocks, which was by no means plain. Bessie had no plain
frocks for any hour of the day; her frocks all expressed in stuff and
style and color, and the bravery of their flying laces and ribbons, the
audacity of spirit with which she was herself chicqued together, as she
said. This one she had on now was something that brightened her dull
complexion, and brought out the best effect of her eyes and mouth, and
seemed the effluence of her personal dash and grace. It made the most of
her, and she liked it beyond all her other negligees for its
She got a book, and sat down in a long, low chair before the fire and
crossed her pretty slippers on the warm hearth. It was a quarter after
three by the clock on the mantel; but she had never felt more eagerly
awake. The party had not been altogether to her mind, up to midnight,
but after that it had been a series of rapid and vivid emotions, which
continued themselves still in the tumult of her nerves, and seemed to
demand an indefinite sequence of experience. She did not know what state
her brother might be in when he came home; she had not seen anything of
him after she first went out to supper; till then, though, he had kept
himself straight, as he needs must; but she could not tell what happened
to him afterward. She hoped that he would come home able to talk, for
she wished to talk. She wished to talk about herself; and as she had
already had flattery enough, she wanted some truth about herself; she
wanted Alan to say what he thought of her behavior the whole evening with
that jay. He must have seen something of it in the beginning, and she
should tell him all the rest. She should tell him just how often she had
danced with the man, and how many dances she had sat out with him; how
she had pretended once that she was engaged when another man asked her,
and then danced with the jay, to whom she pretended that he had engaged
her for the dance. She had wished to see how he would take it; for the
same reason she had given to some one else a dance that was really his.
She would tell Alan how the jay had asked her for that last dance, and
then never come near her again. That would give him the whole situation,
and she would know just what he thought of it.
What she thought of herself she hardly knew, or made believe she hardly
knew. She prided herself upon not being a flirt; she might not be very
good, as goodness went, but she was not despicable, and a flirt was
despicable. She did not call the audacity of her behavior with the jay
flirting; he seemed to understand it as well as she, and to meet her in
her own spirit; she wondered now whether this jay was really more
interesting than the other men one met, or only different; whether he was
original, like Alan himself, or merely novel, and would soon wear down to
the tiresomeness that seemed to underlie them all, and made one wish to
do something dreadful. In the jay's presence she had no wish to do
anything dreadful. Was it because he was dreadful enough for both, all
the time, without doing anything? She would like to ask Alan that, and
see how he would take it. Nothing seemed to put the jay out, so far as
she had tried, and she had tried some bold impertinences with him. He
was very jolly through them all, and at the worst of them he laughed and
asked her for that dance, which he never came to claim, though in the
mean time he brought her some belated supper, and was devoted to her and
her aunt, inventing services to do for them. Then suddenly he went off
and did not return, and Mr. Westover mysteriously reappeared, and got
She heard a scratching at the key-hole of the outside door; she knew it
was Alan's latch. She had left the inner door ajar that there might be
no uncertainty of hearing him, and she ran out into the space between
that and the outer door where the fumbling and scraping kept on.
"Is that you, Alan?" she called, softly, and if she had any doubt before,
she had none when she heard her brother outside, cursing his luck with
his key as usual.
She flung the door open, and confronted him with another man, who had his
arms around him as if he had caught him from falling with the inward pull
of the door. Alan got to his feet and grappled with the man, and
insisted that he should come in and make a night of it.
Bessie saw that it was Jeff, and they stood a moment, looking at each
other. Jeff tried to free himself with an appeal to Bessie: "I beg your
pardon, Miss Lynde. I walked home with your brother, and I was just
helping him to get in--I didn't think that you--"
Alan said, with his measured distinctness: "Nobody cares what you think.
Come in, and get something to carry you over the bridge. Cambridge cars
stopped running long ago. I say you shall!" He began to raise his
voice. A light flashed in a window across the way, and a sash was
lifted; some one must be looking out.
"Oh, come in with him!" Bessie implored, and at a little yielding in Jeff
her brother added:
"Come in, you damn jay!" He pulled at Jeff.
Jeff made haste to shut the door behind them. He was laughing; and if it
was from mere brute insensibility to what would have shocked another in
the situation, his frank recognition of its grotesqueness was of better
effect than any hopeless effort to ignore it would have been. People
adjust themselves to their trials; it is the pretence of the witness that
there is no trial which hurts, and Bessie was not wounded by Jeff's
"There's a fire here in the reception-room," she said. "Can you get him
"I guess so."
Jeff lifted Alan into the room and stayed him on foot there, while he
took off his hat and overcoat, and then he let him sink into the low
easy-chair Bessie had just risen from. All the time, Alan was bidding
her ring and have some champagne and cold meat set out on the side-board,
and she was lightly promising and coaxing. But he drowsed quickly in the
warmth, and the last demand for supper died half uttered on his lips.
Jeff asked across him: "Can't I get him up-stairs for you? I can carry
She shook her head and whispered back, "I can leave him here," and she
looked at Jeff with a moment's hesitation. "Did you--do you think that--
any one noticed him at Mrs. Enderby's?"
"No; they had got him in a room by himself--the caterer's men had."
"And you found him there?"
"Mr. Westover found him there," Jeff answered.
"I don't understand."
"Didn't he come to you after I left?"
"I told him to excuse me--"
"Well, I guess he was pretty badly rattled." Jeff stopped himself in the
vague laugh of one who remembers something ludicrous, and turned his face
"Tell me what it was!" she demanded, nervously.
"Mr. Westover had been home with him once, and he wouldn't stay. He made
Mr. Westover come back for me."
"What did he want with you?"
"And then what?"
"We went out to the carriage, as soon as I could get away from you; but
he wasn't in it. I sent Mr. Westover back to you and set out to look for
"That was very good of you. And I--thank you for your kindness to my
brother. I shall not forget it. And I wish to beg your pardon."
"What for?" asked Jeff, bluntly.
"For blaming you when you didn't come back for the dance."
If Bessie had meant nothing but what was fitting to the moment some
inherent lightness of nature played her false. But even the histrionic
touch which she could not keep out of her voice, her manner, another sort
of man might have found merely pathetic.
Jeff laughed with subtle intelligence. "Were you very hard on me?"
"Very," she answered in kind, forgetting her brother and the whole
"Tell me what you thought of me," he said, and he came a little nearer to
her, looking very handsome and very strong. "I should like to know."
"I said I should never speak to you again."
"And you kept your word," said Jeff. "Well, that's all right. Good-
night-or good-morning, whichever it is." He took her hand, which she
could not withdraw, or feigned to herself that she could not withdraw,
and looked at her with a silent laugh, and a hardy, sceptical glance that
she felt take in every detail of her prettiness, her plainness. Then he
turned and went out, and she ran quickly and locked the door upon him.
Bessie crept up to her room, where she spent the rest of the night in her
chair, amid a tumult of emotion which she would have called thinking.
She asked herself the most searching questions, but she got no very
candid answers to them, and she decided that she must see the whole fact
with some other's eyes before she could know what she had meant or what
she had done.
When she let the daylight into her room, it showed her a face in her
mirror that bore no trace of conflicting anxieties. Her complexion
favored this effect of inward calm; it was always thick; and her eyes
seemed to her all the brighter for their vigils.
A smile, even, hovered on her mouth as she sat down at the breakfast-
table, in the pretty negligee she had worn all night, and poured out Miss
Lynde's coffee for her.
"That's always very becoming to you, Bessie," said her aunt. "It's the
nicest breakfast gown you have."
"Do you think so?" Bessie looked down at it, first on one side and then
on the other, as a woman always does when her dress is spoken of.
"Mr. Alan said he would have his breakfast in his room, miss," murmured
the butler, in husky respectfulness, as he returned to Bessie from
carrying Miss Lynde's cup to her. "He don't want anything but a little
toast and coffee."
She perceived that the words were meant to make it easy for her to ask:
"Isn't he very well, Andrew?"
"About as usual, miss," said Andrew, a thought more sepulchral than
before. "He's going on--about as usual."
She knew this to mean that he was going on from bad to worse, and that
his last night's excess was the beginning of a debauch which could end
only in one way. She must send for the doctor; he would decide what was
best, when he saw how Alan came through the day.
Late in the afternoon she heard Mary Enderby's voice in the reception-
room, bidding the man say that if Miss Bessie were lying down she would
come up to her, or would go away, just as she wished. She flew
downstairs with a glad cry of "Molly! What an inspiration! I was just
thinking of you, and wishing for you. But I didn't suppose you were up
"It's pretty early," said Miss Enderby. "But I should have been here
before if I could, for I knew I shouldn't wake you, Bessie, with your
habit of turning night into day, and getting up any time in the
"How dissipated you sound!"
"Yes, don't I? But I've been thinking about you ever since I woke, and I
had to come and find out if you were alive, anyhow."
"Come up-stairs and see!" said Bessie, holding her friend's hand on the
sofa where they had dropped down together, and going all over the scene
of last night in that place for the thousandth time.
"No, no; I really mustn't. I hope you had a good time?"
"At your house!"
"How dear of you! But, Bessie, I got to thinking you'd been rather
sacrificed. It came into my mind the instant I woke, and gave me this
severe case of conscience. I suppose it's a kind of conscience."
"Yes, yes. Go on! I like having been a martyr, if I don't know what
"Why, you know, Bessie, or if you don't you will presently, that it was I
who got mamma to send him a card; I felt rather sorry for him, that day
at Mrs. Bevidge's, because she'd so obviously got him there to use him,
and I got mamma to ask him. Everything takes care of itself, at a large
affair, and I thought I might trust in Providence to deal with him after
he came; and then I saw you made a means the whole evening! I didn't
reflect that there always has to be a means!"
"It's a question of Mr. Durgin?" said Bessie, coldly thrilling at the
sound of a name that she pronounced so gayly in a tone of sympathetic
Miss Enderby bobbed her head. "It shows that we ought never to do a good
action, doesn't it? But, poor thing! How you must have been swearing
"I don't know. Was it so very bad? I'm trying to think," said Bessie,
thinking that after this beginning it would be impossible to confide in
"Oh, now, Bessie! Don't you be patient, or I shall begin to lose my
faith in human nature. Just say at once that it was an outrage and I'll
forgive you! You see," Miss Enderby went on, "it isn't merely that he's
a jay; but he isn't a very nice jay. None of the men like him--except
Freddy Lancaster, of course; he likes everybody, on principle; he doesn't
count. I thought that perhaps, although he's so crude and blunt, he
might be sensitive and high-minded; you're always reading about such
things; but they say he isn't, in the least; oh, not the least! They say
he goes with a set of fast jays, and that he's dreadful; though he has a
very good mind, and could do very well if he chose. That's what cousin
Jim said to-day; he's just been at our house; and it was so extremely
telepathic that I thought I must run round and prevent your having the
man on your conscience if you felt you had had too much of him. You
won't lay him up against us, will you?" She jumped to her feet.
"You dear!" said Bessie, keeping Mary Enderby's hand, and pressing it
between both of hers against her breast as they now stood face to face,
"do come up and have some tea!"
"No, no! Really, I can't."
They were both involuntarily silent. The door had been opened to some
one, and there was a brief parley, which ended in a voice they knew to be
the doctor's, saying, "Then I'll go right up to his room." Both the
girls broke into laughing adieux, to hide their consciousness that the
doctor was going up to see Alan Lynde, who was never sick except in the
Miss Enderby even said: "I was so glad to see Alan looking so well, last
"Yes, he had such a good time," said Bessie, and she followed her friend
to the door, where she kissed her reassuringly, and thanked her for
taking all the trouble she had, bidding her not be the least anxious on
It seemed to her that she should sink upon the stairs in mounting them to
the library. Mary Enderby had told her only what she had known before;
it was what her brother had told her; but then it had not been possible
for the man to say that he had brought Alan home tipsy, and been alone in
the house with her at three o'clock in the morning. He would not only
boast of it to all that vulgar comradehood of his, but it might get into
those terrible papers which published the society scandals. There would
be no way but to appeal to his pity, his generosity. She fancied herself
writing to him, but he could show her note, and she must send for him to
come and see her, and try to put him on his honor. Or, that would not
do, either. She must make it happen that they should be thrown together,
and then speak to him. Even that might make him think she was afraid of
him; or he might take it wrong, and believe that she cared for him.
He had really been very good to Alan, and she tried to feel safe in the
thought of that. She did feel safe for a moment; but if she had meant
nothing but to make him believe her grateful, what must he infer from her
talking to him in the light way she did about forgiving him for not
coming back to dance with her. Her manner, her looks, her tone, had
given him the right to say that she had been willing to flirt with him
there, at that hour, and in those dreadful circumstances.
She found herself lying in a deep arm-chair in the library, when she was
aware of Dr. Lacy pausing at the door and looking tentatively in upon
"Come in, doctor," she said, and she knew that her face was wet with
tears, and that she spoke with the voice of weeping.
He came forward and looked narrowly at her, without sitting down.
"There's nothing to be alarmed about, Miss Bessie," he said. "But I
think your brother had better leave home again, for a while."
"Yes," she said, blankly. Her mind was not on his words.
"I will make the arrangements."
"Thank you," said Bessie, listlessly.
The doctor had made a step backward, as if he were going away, and now he
stopped. "Aren't you feeling quite well, Miss Bessie?"
"Oh yes," she said, and she began to cry.
The doctor came forward and said, cheerily: "Let me see." He pulled a
chair up to hers, and took her wrist between his fingers. "If you were
at Mrs. Enderby's last night, you'll need another night to put you just
right. But you're pretty well as it is." He let her wrist softly go,
and said: "You mustn't distress yourself about your brother's case.
Of course, it's hard to have it happen now after he's held up so long;
longer than it has been before, I think, isn't it? But it's something
that it has been so long. The next time, let us hope, it will be longer
The doctor made as if to rise. Bessie put her hand out to stay him.
"What is it makes him do it?"
"Ah, that's a great mystery," said the doctor. "I suppose you might say