Part 2 out of 4
"But it seems to me very often, in such cases, as if it were to escape
the excitement. I think you're both keyed up pretty sharply by nature,
Miss Bessie," said the doctor, with the personal kindness he felt for the
girl, and the pity softening his scientific spirit.
"I know!" she answered. "We're alike. Why don't I take to drinking,
The doctor laughed at such a question from a young lady, but with an
inner seriousness in his laugh, as if, coming from a patient, it was to
be weighed. "Well, I suppose it isn't the habit of your sex, Miss
"Sometimes it is. Sometimes women get drunk, and then I think they do
less harm than if they did other things to get away from the excitement."
She longed to confide in him; the words were on her tongue; she believed
he could help her, tell her what to do; out of his stores of knowledge
and experience he must have some suggestion, some remedy; he could advise
her; he could stand her friend, so far. People told their doctors all
kinds of things, silly things. Why should she not tell her doctor this?
It would have been easier if it had been an older man, who might have had
a daughter of her age. But he was in that period of the early forties
when a doctor sometimes has a matter-of-fact, disagreeable wife whose
idea stands between him and the spiritual intimacy of his patients, so
that it seems as if they were delivering their confidences rather to her
than to him. He was able, he was good, he was extremely acute, he was
even with the latest facts and theories; but as he sat straight up in his
chair his stomach defined itself as a half-moon before him, and he said
to the quivering heap of emotions beside him, "You mean like breaking
hearts, and such little matters?"
It was fatally stupid, and it beat her back into herself.
"Yes," she said, with a contempt that she easily hid from him, "that's
worse than getting drunk, isn't it?"
"Well, it isn't so regarded," said the doctor, who supposed himself to
have made a sprightly answer, and laughed at it. "I wish, Miss Bessie,
you'd take a little remedy I'm going to send you. You've merely been up
too late, but it's a very good thing for people who've been up too late."
"Thank you. And about my brother?"
"Oh! I'll send a man to look after him to-night, and tomorrow I really
think he'd better go."
Miss Lynde had gone earlier than usual to bed, when Bessie heard Alan's
door open, and then heard him feeling his way fumbingly down-stairs. She
surmised that he had drunk up all that he had in his room, and was making
for the side-board in the dining-room.
She ran and got the two decanters-one of whiskey and one of brandy, which
he was in the habit of carrying back to his room from such an incursion.
"Alan!" she called to him, in a low voice.
"Where are you?" he answered back.
"In the library," she said. "Come in here, please."
He came, and stood looking gloomily in from the doorway. He caught sight
of the decanters and the glasses on the library table. "Oh!" he said,
and gave a laugh cut in two by a hiccough.
"Come in, and shut the door, Alan," she said. "Let's make a night of it.
I've got the materials here." She waved her hand toward the decanters.
Alan shrugged. "I don't know what you mean." But he came forward, and
slouched into one of the deep chairs.
"Well, I'll tell you what," said Bessie, with a laugh. "We're both
excited, and we want to get away from ourselves. Isn't that what's the
matter with you when it begins? Doctor Lacy thinks it is."
"Does he?" Alan asked. "I didn't suppose he had so much sense. What of
"Nothing. Merely that I'm going to drink a glass of whiskey and a glass
of brandy for every glass that you drink to-night."
"You mustn't play the fool, Bess," said her brother, with dignified
"But I'm really serious, Alan. Shall I give you something? Which shall
we begin on? And we'd better begin soon, for there's a man coming from
the doctor to look after you, and then you won't get anything."
"Don't be ridiculous! Give me those decanters!" Alan struggled out of
his chair, and trembled over to where she had them on the table beside
She caught them up, one in either hand, and held them as high as she
could lift them. "If you don't sit down and promise to keep still, I'll
smash them both on the hearth. You know I will."
Her strange eyes gleamed, and he hesitated; then he went back to his
"I don't see what's got into you to-night. I don't want anything," he
said. He tried to brave it out, but presently he cast a piteous glance
at the decanters where she had put them down beside her again. "Does the
doctor think I'd better go again?" he asked.
He looked at the decanters. "And when is that fellow coming?"
"He may be here any moment."
"It's pretty rough," he sighed. "Two glasses of that stuff would drive
you so wild you wouldn't know where you were, Bess," he expostulated.
"Well, I wish I didn't know where I was. I wish I wasn't anywhere." He
looked at her, and then dropped his eyes, with the effect of giving up a
But he asked: "What's the matter?"
She scanned him keenly before she answered: "Something that I should like
to tell you--that you ought to know. Alan, do you think you are fit to
judge of a very serious matter?"
He laughed pathetically. "I don't believe I'm in a very judicial frame
of mind to-night, Bess. To-morrow--"
"Oh, to-morrow! Where will you be to-morrow?"
"That's true! Well, what is it? I'll try to listen. But if you knew
how my nerves were going." His eyes wandered from hers back to the
decanters. "If I had just one glass--"
"I'll have one, too," she said, with a motion toward the decanter next
He threw up his arms. "Oh well, go on. I'll listen as well as I can."
He sank down in his chair and stretched his little feet out toward the
fire. "Go on!"
She hesitated before she began. "Do you know who brought you home last
"Yes," he answered, quickly, "Westover."
"Yes, Mr. Westover brought yon, and you wouldn't stay. You don't
remember anything else?"
"No. What else?"
"Nothing for you, if you don't remember." She sat in silent hopelessness
for a while, and her brother's eyes dwelt on the decanters, which she
seemed to have forgotten. "Alan!" she broke out, abruptly, "I'm worried,
and if I can't tell you about it there's no one I can."
The appeal in tier voice must have reached him, though he seemed scarcely
to have heeded her words. "What is it?" he asked, kindly.
"You went back to the Enderbys' after Mr. Westover brought you home, and
then some one else had to bring you again."
"How do you know?"
"I was up, and let you in--"
"Did you, Bessie? That was like you," he said, tenderly.
"And I had to let him in, too. You pulled him into the house, and you
made such a disturbance at the door that he had to come in for fear you
would bring the police."
"What a beast!" said Alan, of himself, as if it were some one else.
"He came in with you. And you wanted him to have some supper. And you
fell asleep before the fire in the reception-room."
"That--that was the dream!" said Alan, severely. "What are you talking
that stuff for, Bessie?"
"Oh no!" she retorted, with a laugh, as if the pleasure of its coming in
so fitly were compensation for the shame of the fact. "The dream was
what happened afterward. The dream was that you fell asleep there, and
left me there with him--"
"Well, poor old Westover; he's a gentleman! You needn't be worried about
"You're not fit!" cried the girl. "I give it up." She got upon her feet
and stood a moment listless.
"No, I'm not, Bessie. I can't pull my mind together tonight. But look
here!" He seemed to lose what he wanted to say. He asked: "Is it
something I've got you in for? Do I understand that?"
"Partly," she said.
"Well, then, I'll help you out. You can trust me, Bessie; you can,
indeed. You don't believe it?"
"Oh, I believe you think I can trust you."
"But this time you can. If you need my help I will stand by you, right
or wrong. If you want to tell me now I'll listen, and I'll advise you
the best I can--"
"It's just something I've got nervous about," she said, while her eyes
shone with sudden tears. "But I won't trouble you with it to-night.
There's no such great hurry. We can talk about it in the morning if
you're better then. Oh, I forgot! You're going away!"
"No," said the young man, with pathetic dignity, "I'm not going if you
need my help. But you're right about me tonight, Bessie. I'm not fit.
I'm afraid I can't grasp anything to-night. Tell me in the morning.
Oh, don't be afraid!" he cried out at the glance she gave the decanters.
"That's over, now; you could put them in my hands and be safe enough.
I'm going back to bed, and in the morning--"
He rose and went toward the door. "If that doctor's man comes to-night
you can send him away again. He needn't bother."
"All right, Alan," she said, fondly. "Good-night. Don't worry about me.
Try to get some sleep."
"And you must sleep, too. You can trust me, Bessie."
He came back after he got out of the room and looked in. "Bess, if
you're anxious about it, if you don't feel perfectly sure of me, you can
take those things to your room with you." He indicated the decanters
with a glance.
"Oh no! I shall leave them here. It wouldn't be any use your just
keeping well overnight. You'll have to keep well a long time, Alan, if
you're going to help me. And that's the reason I'd rather talk to you
when you can give your whole mind to what I say."
"Is it something so serious?"
"I don't know. That's for you to judge. Not very--not at all, perhaps."
"Then I won't fail you, Bessie. I shall 'keep well,' as you call it, as
long as you want me. Good-night."
"Good-night. I shall leave these bottles here, remember."
"You needn't be afraid. You might put them beside my bed."
Bessie slept soundly, from exhaustion, and in that provisional fashion in
which people who have postponed a care to a given moment are able to
sleep. But she woke early, and crept down-stairs before any one else was
astir, and went to the library. The decanters stood there on the table,
empty. Her brother lay a shapeless heap in one of the deep arm-chairs.
Westover got home from the Enderby dance at last with the forecast of a
violent cold in his system, which verified itself the next morning. He
had been housed a week, when Jeff Durgin came to see him. "Why didn't
you let me know you were sick?" he demanded, "I'd have come and looked
"Thank you," said Westover, with as much stiffness as he could command in
his physical limpness. "I shouldn't have allowed you to look after me;
and I want you to understand, now, that there can't be any sort of
friendliness between us till you've accounted for your behavior with
Lynde the other night."
"You mean at the party?" Jeff asked, tranquilly.
"Yes!" cried Westover. "If I had not been shut up ever since, I should
have gone to see you and had it out with you. I've only let you in, now,
to give you the chance to explain; and I refuse to hear a word from you
till you do." Westover did not think that this was very forcible, and he
was not much surprised that it made Jeff smile.
"Why, I don't know what there is to explain. I suppose you think I got
him drunk; I know what you thought that night. But he was pretty well
loaded when he struck my champagne. It wasn't a question of what he was
going to do any longer, but how he was going to do it. I kept an eye on
him, and at the right time I helped the caterer's man to get him up into
that room where he wouldn't make any trouble. I expected to go back and
look after him, but I forgot him."
"I don't suppose, really, that you're aware what a devil's argument that
is," said Westover. "You got Lynde drunk, and then you went back to his
sister, and allowed her to treat you as if you were a gentleman, and
didn't deserve to be thrown out of the house." This at last was
something like what Westover had imagined he would say to Jeff, and he
looked to see it have the imagined effect upon him.
"Do you suppose," asked Jeff, with cheerful cynicism, "that it was the
first time she was civil to a man her brother got drunk with?"
"No! But all the more you ought to have considered her helplessness.
It ought to have made her the more sacred"--Jeff gave an exasperating
shrug--"to you, and you ought to have kept away from her for decency's
"I was engaged to dance with her."
"I can't allow you to be trivial with me, Durgin," said Westover.
"You've acted like a blackguard, and worse, if there is anything worse."
Jeff stood at a corner of the fire, leaning one elbow on the mantel, and
he now looked thoughtfully down on Westover, who had sunk weakly into a
chair before the hearth. "I don't deny it from your point of view, Mr.
Westover," he said, without the least resentment in his tone. "You
believe that everything is done from a purpose, or that a thing is
intended because it's done. But I see that most things in this world are
not thought about, and not intended. They happen, just as much as the
other things that we call accidents."
"Yes," said Westover, "but the wrong things don't happen from people who
are in the habit of meaning the right ones."
"I believe they do, fully half the time," Jeff returned; "and, as far as
the grand result is concerned, you might as well think them and intend
them as not. I don't mean that you ought to do it; that's another thing,
and if I had tried to get Lynde drunk, and then gone to dance with his
sister, I should have been what you say I am. But I saw him getting
worse without meaning to make him so; and I went back to her because--I
"And you think, I suppose," said Westover, "that she wouldn't have cared
any more than you cared if she had known what you did."
"I can't say anything about that."
The painter continued, bitterly: "You used to come in here, the first
year, with notions of society women that would have disgraced a Goth, or
a gorilla. Did you form your estimate of Miss Lynde from those
"I'm not a boy now," Jeff answered, "and I haven't stayed all the kinds
of a fool I was."
"Then you don't think Miss Lynde would speak to you, or look at you,
after she knew what you had done?"
"I should like to tell her and see," said Jeff, with a hardy laugh.
"But I guess I sha'n't have the chance. I've never been a favorite in
society, and I don't expect to meet her again."
"Perhaps you'd like to have me tell her?"
"Why, yes, I believe I should, if you could tell me what she thought--not
what she said about it."
"You are a brute," answered Westover, with a puzzled air. What puzzled
him most and pleased him least was the fellow's patience under his
severity, which he seemed either not to feel or not to mind. It was of a
piece with the behavior of the rascally boy whom he had cuffed for
frightening Cynthia and her little brother long ago, and he wondered what
final malevolence it portended.
Jeff said, as if their controversy were at an end and they might now turn
to more personal things: "You look pretty slim, Mr. Westover. A'n't
there something I can do for you-get you? I've come in with a message
from mother. She says if you ever want to get that winter view of Lion's
Head, now's your time. She wants you to come up there; she and Cynthia
both do. They can make you as comfortable as you please, and they'd like
to have a visit from you. Can't you go?"
Westover shook his head ruefully. "It's good of them, and I want you to
thank them for me. But I don't know when I'm going to get out again."
"Oh, you'll soon get out," said Jeff. "I'm going to look after you a
little," and this time Westover was too weak to protest. He did not
forbid Jeff's taking off his overcoat; he suffered him to light his
spirit-lamp and make a punch of the whiskey which he owned the doctor was
giving him; and when Jeff handed him the steaming glass, and asked him,
"How's that?" he answered, with a pleasure in it which he knew to be
deplorable, "It's fine."
Jeff stayed the whole evening with him, and made him more comfortable
than he had been since his cold began. Westover now talked seriously and
frankly with him, but no longer so harshly, and in his relenting he felt
a return of his old illogical liking for him. He fancied in Durgin's
kindness to himself an indirect regret, and a desire to atone for what he
had done, and he said: "The effect is in you--the worst effect. I don't
think either of the young Lyndes very exemplary people. But you'd be
doing yourself a greater wrong than you've done then if you didn't
recognize that you had been guilty toward them."
Jeff seemed struck by this notion. "What do you want me to do? What can
I do? Chase myself out of society? Something like that? I'm willing.
It's too easy, though. As I said, I've never been wanted much, there,
and I shouldn't be missed."
"Well, then, how would you like to leave it to the people at Lion's Head
to say what you should do?" Westover suggested.
I shouldn't like it," said Jeff, promptly. "They'd judge it as you do
--as if they'd done it themselves. That's the reason women are not fit
to judge." His gay face darkened. "But tell 'em if you want to."
"Bah!" cried the painter. "Why should I want to I'm not a woman in
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Westover. I didn't mean that. I only meant that
you're an idealist. I look at this thing as if some one else had done
it; I believe that's the practical way; and I shouldn't go in for
punishing any one else for such a thing very severely." He made another
punch--for himself this time, he said; but Westover joined him in a glass
"It won't do to take that view of your faults, Jeff," he said, gravely.
"What's the reason?" Jeff demanded; and now either the punch had begun to
work in Westover's brain, or some other influence of like force and
quality. He perceived that in this earth-bound temperament was the
potentiality of all the success it aimed at. The acceptance of the moral
fact as it was, without the unconscious effort to better it, or to hold
himself strictly to account for it, was the secret of the power in the
man which would bring about the material results he desired; and this
simplicity of the motive involved had its charm.
Westover was aware of liking Durgin at that moment much more than he
ought, and of liking him helplessly. In the light of his good-natured
selfishness, the injury to the Lyndes showed much less a sacrilege than
it had seemed; Westover began to see it with Jeff's eyes, and to see it
with reference to what might be low and mean in them, instead of what
might be fine and high.
He was sensible of the growth Jeff had made intellectually. He had not
been at Harvard nearly four years for nothing. He had phrases and could
handle them. In whatever obscure or perverse fashion, he had profited by
his opportunities. The fellow who could accuse him of being an idealist,
and could in some sort prove it, was no longer a naughty boy to be
tutored and punished. The revolt latent in him would be violent in
proportion to the pressure put upon him, and Westover began to be without
the wish to press his fault home to him so strongly. In the optimism
generated by the punch, he felt that he might leave the case to Jeff
himself; or else in the comfort we all experience in sinking to a lower
level, he was unwilling to make the effort to keep his own moral
elevation. But he did make an effort to save himself by saying: "You
can't get what you've done before yourself as you can the action of some
one else. It's part of you, and you have to judge the motive as well as
"Well, that's what I'm doing," said Jeff; "but it seems to me that you're
trying to have me judge of the effect from a motive I didn't have. As
far as I can make out, I hadn't any motive at all."
He laughed, and all that Westover could say was, "Then you're still
responsible for the result." But this no longer appeared so true to him.
It was not a condition of Westover's welcome at Lion's Head that he
should seem peculiarly the friend of Jeff Durgin, but he could not help
making it so, and he began to overact the part as soon as he met Jeff's
mother. He had to speak of him in thanking her for remembering his wish
to paint Lion's Head in the winter, and he had to tell her of Jeff's
thoughtfulness during the past fortnight; he had to say that he did not
believe he should ever have got away if it had not been for him. This
was true; Durgin had even come in from Cambridge to see him off on the
train; he behaved as if the incident with Lynde and all their talk about
it had cemented the friendship between Westover and himself, and he could
not be too devoted. It now came out that he had written home all about
Westover, and made his mother put up a stove in the painter's old room,
so that he should have the instant use of it when he arrived.
It was an air-tight wood-stove, and it filled the chamber with a heat in
which Westover drowsed as soon as he entered it. He threw himself on the
bed, and slept away the fatigue of his railroad journey and the cold of
his drive with Jombateeste from the station. His nap was long, and he
woke from it in a pleasant languor, with the dream-clouds still hanging
in his brain. He opened the damper of his stove, and set it roaring
again; then he pulled down the upper sash of his window and looked out on
a world whose elements of wood and snow and stone he tried to co-
ordinate. There was nothing else in that world but these things,
so repellent of one another. He suffered from the incongruity of the
wooden bulk of the hotel, with the white drifts deep about it, and with
the granite cliffs of Lion's Head before it, where the gray crags
darkened under the pink afternoon light which was beginning to play upon
its crest from the early sunset. The wind that had seemed to bore
through his thick cap and his skull itself, and that had tossed the dry
snow like dust against his eyes on his way from the railroad, had now
fallen, and an incomparable quiet wrapped the solitude of the hills. A
teasing sense of the impossibility of the scene, as far as his art was
concerned, filled him full of a fond despair of rendering its feeling.
He could give its light and color and form in a sufficiently vivid
suggestion of the fact, but he could not make that pink flush seem to
exhale, like a long breath, upon those rugged shapes; he could not impart
that sentiment of delicately, almost of elegance, which he found in the
wilderness, while every detail of civilization physically distressed him.
In one place the snow had been dug down to the pine planking of the
pathway round the house; and the contact of this woodenness with the
frozen ground pierced his nerves and set his teeth on edge like a harsh
noise. When once he saw it he had to make an effort to take his eyes
from it, and in a sort unknown to him in summer he perceived the offence
of the hotel itself amid the pure and lonely beauty of the winter
landscape. It was a note of intolerable banality, of philistine pretence
and vulgar convention, such as Whitwell's low, unpainted cottage at the
foot of the hill did not give, nor the little red school-house, on the
other hand, showing through the naked trees. There should have been
really no human habitation visible except a wigwam in the shelter of the
pines, here and there; and when he saw Whitwell making his way up the
hill-side road, Westover felt that if there must be any human presence it
should be some savage clad in skins, instead of the philosopher in his
rubber boots and his clothing-store ulster. He preferred the small, wiry
shape of Jombateeste, in his blue woollen cap and his Canadian footgear,
as he ran round the corner of the house toward the barn, and left the
breath of his pipe in the fine air behind him.
The light began to deepen from the pale pink to a crimson which stained
the tops and steeps of snow, and deepened the dark of the woods massed on
the mountain slopes between the irregular fields of white. The burnished
brown of the hard-wood trees, the dull carbon shadows of the evergreens,
seemed to wither to one black as the red strengthened in the sky.
Westover realized that he had lost the best of any possible picture in
letting that first delicate color escape him. This crimson was harsh and
vulgar in comparison; it would have almost a chromo quality; he censured
his pleasure in it as something gross and material, like that of eating;
and on a sudden he felt hungry. He wondered what time they would give
him supper, and he took slight account of the fact that a caprice of the
wind had torn its hood of snow from the mountain summit, and that the
profile of the Lion's Head showed almost as distinctly as in summer. He
stood before the picture which for that day at least was lost to him, and
questioned whether there would be a hearty meal, something like a dinner,
or whether there would be something like a farmhouse supper, mainly of
doughnuts and tea.
He pulled up his window and was going to lie down again, when some one
knocked, and Frank Whitwell stood at the door. "Do you want we should
bring your supper to you here, Mr. Westover, or will you--"
"Oh, let me join you all!" cried the painter, eagerly. "Is it ready--
shall I come now?"
"Well, in about five minutes or so." Frank went away, after setting down
in the room the lamp he had brought. It was a lamp which Westover
thought he remembered from the farm-house period, and on his way down he
realized as he had somehow not done in his summer sojourns, the entirety
of the old house in the hotel which had encompassed it. The primitive
cold of its stairways and passages struck upon him as soon as he left his
own room, and he found the parlor door closed against the chill. There
was a hot stove-fire within, and a kerosene-lamp turned low, but there
was no one there, and he had the photograph of his first picture of
Lion's Head to himself in the dim light. The voices of Mrs. Durgin and
Cynthia came to him from the dining-room, and from the kitchen beyond,
with the occasional clash of crockery, and the clang of iron upon iron
about the stove, and the quick tread of women's feet upon the bare floor.
With these pleasant noises came the smell of cooking, and later there was
an opening and shutting of doors, with a thrill of the freezing air from
without, and the dull thumping of Whitwell's rubber boots, and the
quicker flapping of Jombateeste's soft leathern soles. Then there was
the sweep of skirted feet at the parlor door, and Cynthia Whitwell came
in without perceiving him. She went to the table by the darkening
window, and quickly turned up the light of the lamp. In her ignorance of
his presence, he saw her as if she had been alone, almost as if she were
out of the body; he received from her unconsciousness the impression of
something rarely pure and fine, and he had a sudden compassion for her,
as for something precious that is fated to be wasted or misprized. At a
little movement which he made to relieve himself from a sense of
eavesdropping, she gave a start, and shut her lips upon the little cry
that would have escaped from another sort of woman.
"I didn't know you were here," she said; and she flushed with the shyness
of him which she always showed at first. She had met him already with
the rest, but they had scarcely spoken together; and he knew of the
struggle she must now be making with herself when she went on: "I didn't
know you had been called. I thought you were still sleeping."
"Yes. I seemed to sleep for centuries," said West over, "and I woke up
feeling coeval with Lion's Head. But I hope to grow younger again."
She faltered, and then she asked: "Did you see the light on it when the
sun went down?"
"I wish I hadn't. I could never get that light--even if it ever came
"It's there every afternoon, when it's clear."
"I'm sorry for that; I shall have to try for it, then."
"Wasn't that what you came for?" she asked, by one of the efforts she was
making with everything she said. He could have believed he saw the pulse
throbbing in her neck. But she held herself stone-still, and he divined
her resolution to conquer herself, if she should die for it.
"Yes, I came for that," said Westover. "That's what makes it so
dismaying. If I had only happened on it, I shouldn't have been
responsible for the failure I shall make of it."
She smiled, as if she liked his lightness, but doubted if she ought.
"We don't often get Lion's Head clear of snow."
"Yes; that's another hardship," said the painter. "Everything is against
me! If we don't have a snow overnight, and a cloudy day to-morrow, I
shall be in despair."
She played with the little wheel of the wick; she looked down, and then,
with a glance flashed at him, she gasped: "I shall have to take your lamp
for the table tea is ready."
"Oh, well, if you will only take me with it. I'm frightfully hungry."
Apparently she could not say anything to that. He tried to get the lamp
to carry it out for her, but she would not let him. "It isn't heavy,"
she said, and hurried out before him.
It was all nothing, but it was all very charming, and Westover was richly
content with it; and yet not content, for he felt that the pleasure of it
was not truly his, but was a moment of merely borrowed happiness.
The table was laid in the old farm-house sitting-room where he had been
served alone when he first came to Lion's Head. But now he sat down with
the whole family, even to Jombateeste, who brought in a faint odor of the
barn with him.
They had each been in contact with the finer world which revisits nature
in the summer-time, and they must all have known something of its usages,
but they had reverted in form and substance to the rustic living of their
neighbors. They had steak for Westover, and baked potatoes; but for
themselves they had such farm fare as Mrs. Durgin had given him the first
time he supped there. They made their meal chiefly of doughnuts and tea,
and hot biscuit, with some sweet dishes of a festive sort added in
recognition of his presence; and there was mince-pie for all. Mrs.
Durgin and Whitwell ate with their knives, and Jombateeste filled himself
so soon with every implement at hand that he was able to ask excuse of
the others if he left them for the horses before they had half finished.
Frank Whitwell fed with a kind of official or functional conformity to
the ways of summer folks; but Cynthia, at whom Westover glanced with
anxiety, only drank some tea and ate a little bread and butter. He was
ashamed of his anxiety, for he had owned that it ought not to have
mattered if she had used her knife like her father; and it seemed to him
as if he had prompted Mrs. Durgin by his curious glance to say: "We don't
know half the time how the child lives. Cynthy! Take something to
Cynthia pleaded that she was not hungry; Mrs. Durgin declared that she
would die if she kept on as she was going; and then the girl escaped to
the kitchen on one of the errands which she made from time to time
between the stove and the table.
"I presume it's your coming, Mr. Westover," Mrs. Durgin went on, with the
comfortable superiority of elderly people to all the trials of the young.
"I don't know why she should make a stranger of you, every time. You've
known her pretty much all her life."
"Ever since you give Jeff what he deserved for scaring her and Frank with
his dog," said Whitwell.
"Poor Fox!" Mrs. Durgin sighed. "He did have the least sense for a dog I
ever saw. And Jeff used to be so fond of him! Well, I guess he got
tired of him, too, toward the last."
"He's gone to the happy hunting-grounds now. Colorady didn't agree with
him-or old age," said Whitwell. "I don't see why the Injuns wa'n't
right," he pursued, thoughtfully. "If they've got souls, why ha'n't
their dogs? I suppose Mr. Westover here would say there wa'n't any
certainty about the Injuns themselves!"
"You know my weak point, Mr. Whitwell," the painter confessed. "But I
can't prove they haven't."
"Nor dogs, neither, I guess," said Whitwell, tolerantly. "It's curious,
though, if animals have got souls, that we ha'n't ever had any
communications from 'em. You might say that ag'in' the idea."
"No, I'll let you say it," returned Westover. "But a good many of the
communications seem to come from the lower intelligences, if not the
Whitwell laughed out his delight in the thrust. "Well, I guess that's
something so. And them old Egyptian devils, over there, that you say
discovered the doctrine of immortality, seemed to think a cat was about
as good as a man. What's that," he appealed to Mrs. Durgin, "Jackson
said in his last letter about their cat mummies?"
"Well, I guess I'll finish my supper first," said Mrs. Durgin, whose
nerves Westover would not otherwise have suspected of faintness. "But
Jackson's letters," she continued, loyally, "are about the best letters!"
"Know they'd got some of 'em in the papers?" Whitwell asked; and at the
surprise that Westover showed he told him how a fellow who was trying to
make a paper go over at the Huddle, had heard of Jackson's letters and
teased for some of them, and had printed them as neighborhood news in
that side of his paper which he did not buy ready printed in Boston.
Mrs. Durgin studied with modest deprecation the effect of the fact upon
Westover, and seemed satisfied with it. "Well, of course, it's
interestin' to Jackson's old friends in the country, here. They know
he'd look at things, over there, pretty much as they would. Well, I had
to lend the letters round so much, anyway, it was a kind of a relief to
have 'em in the paper, where everybody could see 'em, and be done with
it. Mr. Whit'ell here, he fixes 'em up so's to leave out the family
part, and I guess they're pretty well thought of."
Westover said he had no doubt they were, and he should want to see all
the letters they could show him, in print and out of print.
"If Jackson only had Jeff's health and opportunities--" the mother began,
with a suppressed passion in her regret.
Frank Whitwell pushed back his chair. "I guess I'll ask to be excused,"
he said to the head of table.
"There! I a'n't goin' to say any more about that, if that's what you're
afraid of, Frank," said Mrs. Durgin. "Well, I presume I do talk a good
deal about Jackson when I get goin', and I presume it's natural Cynthy
shouldn't want I should talk about Jeff before folks. Frank, a'n't you
goin' to wait for that plate of hot biscuit?--if she ever gits it here!"
"I guess I don't care for anything more," said Frank, and he got himself
out of the room more inarticulately than he need, Westover thought.
His, father followed his retreat with an eye of humorous intelligence.
"I guess Frank don't want to keep the young ladies waitin' a great while.
There's a church sociable over 't the Huddle," he explained to Westover.
"Oh, that's it, is it?" Mrs. Durgin put in. "Why didn't he say so."
"Well, the young folks don't any of 'em seem to want to talk about such
things nowadays, and I don't know as they ever did." Whitwell took
Westover into his confidence with a wink.
The biscuit that Cynthia brought in were burned a little on top, and Mrs.
Durgin recognized the fact with the question, "Did you get to studyin',
out there? Take one, do, Mr. Westover! You ha'n't made half a meal!
If I didn't keep round after her, I don't know what would become of us
all. The young ladies down at Boston, any of 'em, try to keep up with
the fellows in college?"
"I suppose they do in the Harvard Annex," said Westover, simply, in spite
of the glance with which Mrs. Durgin tried to convey a covert meaning.
He understood it afterward, but for the present his single-mindedness
spared the girl.
She remained to clear away the table, when the rest left it, and Westover
followed Mrs. Durgin into the parlor, where she indemnified herself for
refraining from any explicit allusion to Jeff before Cynthia. "The boy,"
she explained, when she had made him ransack his memory for every scrap
of fact concerning her son, "don't hardly ever write to me, and I guess
he don't give Cynthy very much news. I presume he's workin' harder than
ever this year. And I'm glad he's goin' about a little, from what you
say. I guess he's got to feelin' a little better. It did worry me for
him to feel so what you may call meechin' about folks. You see anything
that made you think he wa'n't appreciated?"
After Westover got back into his own room, some one knocked at his door,
and he found Whitwell outside. He scarcely asked him to come in, but
Whitwell scarcely needed the invitation. "Got everything you want?
I told Cynthy I'd come up and see after you; Frank won't be back in
time." He sat down and put his feet on top of the stove, and struck the
heels of his boots on its edge, from the habit of knocking the caked snow
off them in that way on stove-tops. He did not wait to find out that
there was no responsive sizzling before he asked, with a long nasal sigh,
"Well, how is Jeff gettin' along?"
He looked across at Westover, who had provisionally seated himself on his
"Why, in the old way." Whitwell kept his eye on him, and he added:
"I suppose we don't any of us change; we develop."
Whitwell smiled with pleasure in the loosely philosophic suggestion.
"You mean that he's the same kind of a man that he was a boy? Well, I
guess that's so. The question is, what kind of a boy was he? I've been
mullin' over that consid'able since Cynthy and him fixed it up together.
Of course, I know it's their business, and all that; but I presume I've
got a right to spee'late about it?"
He referred the point to Westover, who knew an inner earnestness in it,
in spite of Whitwell's habit of outside jocosity. "Every right in the
world, I should say, Mr. Whitwell," he answered, seriously.
"Well, I'm glad you feel that way," said Whitwell, with a little apparent
surprise. "I don't want to meddle, any; but I know what Cynthy is--I no
need to brag her up--and I don't feel so over and above certain 't I know
what he is. He's a good deal of a mixture, if you want to know how he
strikes me. I don't mean I don't like him; I do; the fellow's got a way
with him that makes me kind of like him when I see him. He's good-
natured and clever; and he's willin' to take any amount of trouble for
you; but you can't tell where to have him." Westover denied the appeal
for explicit assent in Whitwell's eye, and he went on: "If I'd done that
fellow a good turn, in spite of him, or if I'd held him up to something
that he allowed was right, and consented to, I should want to keep a
sharp lookout that he didn't play me some ugly trick for it. He's a
comical devil," Whitwell ended, rather inadequately. "How d's it look to
you? Seen anything lately that seemed to tally with my idee?"
"No, no; I can't say that I have," said Westover, reluctantly. He wished
to be franker than he now meant to be, but he consulted a scruple that he
did not wholly respect; a mere convention it seemed to him, presently.
He said: "I've always felt that charm in him, too, and I've seen the
other traits, though not so clearly as you seem to have done. He has a
powerful will, yes--"
He stopped, and Whitwell asked: "Been up to any deviltry lately?"
"I can't say he has. Nothing that I can call intentional."
"No," said Whitwell. "What's he done, though?"
"Really, Mr. Whitwell, I don't know that you have any right to expect me
to talk him over, when I'm here as his mother's guest--his own guest--?"
"No. I ha'n't," said Whitwell. "What about the father of the girl he's
goin' to marry?"
Westover could not deny the force of this. "You'd be anxious if I didn't
tell you what I had in mind, I dare say, more than if I did." He told
him of Jeff's behavior with Alan Lynde, and of his talk with him about
it. "And I think he was honest. It was something that happened, that
Whitwell did not assent directly, somewhat to Westover's surprise. He
asked: "Fellow ever done anything to Jeff?"
"Not that I know of. I don't know that they ever met before."
Whitwell kicked his heels on the edge of the stove again. "Then it might
been an accident," he said, dryly.
Westover had to break the silence that followed, and he found himself
defending Jeff, though somehow not for Jeff's sake. He urged that if he
had the strong will they both recognized in him, he would never commit
the errors of a weak man, which were usually the basest.
"How do you know that a strong-willed man a'n't a weak one?" Whitwell
astonished him by asking. "A'n't what we call a strong will just a kind
of a bull-dog clinch that the dog himself can't unloose? I take it a man
that has a good will is a strong man. If Jeff done a right thing against
his will, he wouldn't rest easy till he'd showed that he wa'n't obliged
to, by some mischief worse 'n what he was kept out of. I tell you, Mr.
Westover, if I'd made that fellow toe the mark any way, I'd be afraid of
him." Whitwell looked at Westover with eyes of significance, if not of
confidence. Then he rose with a prolonged "M--wel-l-l! We're all born,
but we a'n't all buried. This world is a queer place. But I guess Jeff
'll come out right in the end."
Westover said, "I'm sure he will!" and he shook hands warmly with the
father of the girl Jeff was going to marry.
Whitwell came back, after he had got some paces away, and said: "Of
course, this is between you and me, Mr. Westover."
"I don't mean Mis' Durgin. I shouldn't care what she thought of my
talkin' him over with you. I don't know," he continued, putting up his
hand against the door-frame, to give himself the comfort of its support
while he talked, "as you understood what she mean by the young ladies at
Boston keepin' up with the fellows in college. Well, that's what
Cynthy's doin' with Jeff, right along; and if he ever works off them
conditions of his, and gits his degree, it' ll be because she helped him
to. I tell you, there's more than one kind of telepathy in this world,
Mr. Westover. That's all."
Westover understood from Whitwell's afterthought that it was Cynthia he
was anxious to keep ignorant of his misgivings, if they were so much as
misgivings. But the importance of this fact could not stay him against
the tide of sleep which was bearing him down. When his head touched the
pillow it swept over him, and he rose from it in the morning with a
gayety of heart which he knew to be returning health. He jumped out of
bed, and stuffed some shavings into his stove from the wood-box beside
it, and laid some logs on them; he slid the damper open, and then lay
down again, listening to the fire that showed its red teeth through the
slats and roared and laughed to the day which sparkled on the white world
without. When he got out of bed a second time, he found the room so hot
that he had to pull down his window-sash, and he dressed in a temperature
of twenty degrees below zero without knowing that the dry air was more
than fresh. Mrs. Durgin called to him through the open door of her
parlor, as he entered the dining-room: "Cynthy will give you your
breakfast, Mr. Westover. We're all done long ago, and I'm busy in here,"
and the girl appeared with the coffee-pot and the dishes she had been
keeping hot for him at the kitchen stove. She seemed to be going to
leave him when she had put them down before him, but she faltered, and
then she asked: "Do you want I should pour your coffee for you?"
"Oh yes! Do!" he begged, and she sat down across the table from him.
"I'm ashamed to make this trouble for you," he added. "I didn't know it
was so late."
"Oh, we have the whole day for our work," she answered, tolerantly.
He laughed, and said: "How strange that seems! I suppose I shall get
used to it. But in town we seem never to have a whole day for a day's
work; we always have to do part of it at night, or the next morning. Do
you ever have a day here that's too large a size for its work?"
"You can nearly always find something to do about a house," she returned,
evasively. "But the time doesn't go the way it does in the summer."
"Oh, I know how the country is in the winter," he said. "I was brought
up in the country."
"I didn't know that," she said, and she gave him a stare of surprise
before her eyes fell.
"Yes. Out in Wisconsin. My people were emigrants, and I lived in the
woods, there, till I began to paint my way out. I began pretty early,
but I was in the woods till I was sixteen."
"I didn't know that," she repeated. "I always thought that you were--"
"Summer folks, like the rest? No, I'm all-the-year-round folks
originally. But I haven't been in the country in the winter since I was
a boy; and it's all been coming back to me, here, like some one else's
She did not say anything, but the interest in her eyes, which she could
not keep from his face now, prompted him to go on.
"You can make a beginning in the West easier than you can in the East,
and some people who came to our lumber camp discovered me, and gave me a
chance to begin. I went to Milwaukee first, and they made me think I was
somebody. Then I came on to New York, and they made me think I was
nobody. I had to go to Europe to find out which I was; but after I had
been there long enough I didn't care to know. What I was trying to do
was the important thing to me; not the fellow who was trying to do it."
"Yes," she said, with intelligence.
"I met some Boston people in Italy, and I thought I should like to live
where that kind of people lived. That's the way I came to be in Boston.
It all seems very simple now, but I used to think it might look romantic
from the outside. I've had a happy life; and I'm glad it began in the
country. I shouldn't care if it ended there. I don't know why I've
bothered you with my autobiography, though. Perhaps because I thought
you knew it already."
She looked as if she would have said something fitting if she could have
ruled herself to it; but she said nothing at all. Her failure seemed to
abash her, and she could only ask him if he would not have some more
coffee, and then excuse herself, and leave him to finish his breakfast
That day he tried for his picture from several points out-of-doors before
he found that his own window gave him the best. With the window open,
and the stove warm at his back, he worked there in great comfort nearly
every afternoon. The snows kept off, and the clear sunsets burned behind
the summit day after day. He painted frankly and faithfully, and made a
picture which, he said to himself, no one would believe in, with that
warm color tender upon the frozen hills. The soft suffusion of the
winter scene was improbable to him when he had it in, nature before his
eyes; when he looked at it as he got it on his canvas it was simply
In the forenoons he had nothing to do, for he worked at his picture only
when the conditions renewed themselves with the sinking sun. He tried to
be in the open air, and get the good of it; but his strength for walking
had failed him, and he kept mostly to the paths broken around the house.
He went a good deal to the barn with Whitwell and Jombateeste to look
after the cattle and the horses, whose subdued stamping and champing gave
him a sort of animal pleasure. The blended odors of the hay-mows and of
the creatures' breaths came to him with the faint warmth which their
bodies diffused through the cold obscurity.
When the wide doors were rolled back, and the full day was let in, he
liked the appeal of their startled eyes, and the calls they made to one
another from their stalls, while the men spoke back to them in terms
which they seemed to have in common with them, and with the poultry that
flew down from the barn lofts to the barn floor and out into the
brilliant day, with loud clamor and affected alarm.
In these simple experiences he could not imagine the summer life of the
place. It was nowhere more extinct than in the hollow verandas, where
the rocking-chairs swung in July and August, and where Westover's steps
in his long tramps up and down woke no echo of the absent feet. In-doors
he kept to the few stove-heated rooms where he dwelt with the family, and
sent only now and then a vague conjecture into the hotel built round the
old farm-house. He meant, before he left, to ask Mrs. Durgin to let him
go through the hotel, but he put it off from day to day, with a physical
shrinking from its cold and solitude.
The days went by in the swiftness of monotony. His excursions to the
barn, his walks on the verandas, his work on his picture, filled up the
few hours of the light, and when the dark came he contentedly joined the
little group in Mrs. Durgin's parlor. He had brought two or three books
with him, and sometimes he read from one of them; or he talked with
Whitwell on some of the questions of life and death that engaged his
speculative mind. Jombateeste preferred the kitchen for the naps he took
after supper before his early bedtime. Frank Whitwell sat with his books
there, where Westover sometimes saw his sister helping him at his
studies. He was loyally faithful and obedient to her in all things. He
helped her with the dishes, and was not ashamed to be seen at this work;
she had charge of his goings and comings in society; he submitted to her
taste in his dress, and accepted her counsel on many points which he
referred to her, and discussed with her in low-spoken conferences. He
seemed a formal, serious boy, shy like his sister; his father let fall
some hints of a religious cast of mind in him. He had an ambition beyond
the hotel; he wished to study for the ministry; and it was not alone the
chance of going home with the girls that made him constant at the evening
meetings. "I don't know where he gits it," said his father, with a shake
of the head that suggested doubt of the wisdom of the son's preference of
theology to planchette.
Cynthia had the same care of her father as of her brother; she kept him
neat, and held him up from lapsing into the slovenliness to which he
would have tended if she had not, as Westover suspected, made constant
appeals to him for the respect due their guest. Mrs. Durgin, for her
part, left everything to Cynthia, with a contented acceptance of her
future rule and an abiding trust in her sense and strength, which
included the details of the light work that employed her rather luxurious
leisure. Jombateeste himself came to Cynthia with his mending, and her
needle kept him tight and firm against the winter which it amused
Westover to realize was the Canuck's native element, insomuch that there
was now something incongruous in the notion of Jombateeste and any other
The girl's motherly care of all the household did not leave Westover out.
Buttons appeared on garments long used to shifty contrivances for getting
on without them; buttonholes were restored to their proper limits; his
overcoat pockets were searched for gloves, and the gloves put back with
their finger-tips drawn close as the petals of a flower which had decided
to shut and be a bud again.
He wondered how he could thank her for his share of the blessing that her
passion for motherly care was to all the house. It was pathetic, and he
used sometimes to forecast her self-devotion with a tender indignation,
which included a due sense of his own present demerit. He was not
reconciled to the sacrifice because it seemed the happiness, or at least
the will, of the nature which made it. All the same it seemed a waste,
in its relation to the man she was to marry.
Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia sat by the lamp and sewed at night, or listened
to the talk of the men. If Westover read aloud, they whispered together
from time to time about some matters remote from it, as women always do
where there is reading. It was quiet, but it was not dull for Westover,
who found himself in no hurry to get back to town.
Sometimes he thought of the town with repulsion; its unrest, its vacuous,
troubled life haunted him like a memory of sickness; but he supposed that
when he should be quite well again all that would change, and be as it
was before. He interested himself, with the sort of shrewd ignorance of
it that Cynthia showed in the questions she asked about it now and then
when they chanced to be left alone together. He fancied that she was
trying to form some intelligible image of Jeff's environment there, and
was piecing together from his talk of it the impressions she had got from
summer folks. He did his best to help her, and to construct for her a
veritable likeness of the world as far as he knew it.
A time came when he spoke frankly of Jeff in something they were saying,
and she showed no such shrinking as he had expected she would; he
reflected that she might have made stricter conditions with Mrs. Durgin
than she expected to keep herself in mentioning him. This might well
have been necessary with the mother's pride in her son, which knew no
stop when it once began to indulge itself. What struck Westover more
than the girl's self-possession when they talked of Jeff was a certain
austerity in her with regard to him. She seemed to hold herself tense
against any praise of him, as if she should fail him somehow if she
relaxed at all in his favor.
This, at least, was the rather mystifying impression which Westover got
from her evident wish to criticise and understand exactly all that he
reported, rather than to flatter herself from it. Whatever her motive
was, he was aware that through it all she permitted herself a closer and
fuller trust of himself. At times it was almost too implicit; he would
have liked to deserve it better by laying open all that had been in his
heart against Jeff. But he forbore, of course, and he took refuge, as
well as he could, in the respect by which she held herself at a reverent
distance from him when he could not wholly respect himself.
One morning Westover got leave from Mrs. Durgin to help Cynthia open the
dim rooms and cold corridors at the hotel to the sun and air. She
promised him he should take his death, but he said he would wrap up warm,
and when he came to join the girl in his overcoat and fur cap, he found
Cynthia equipped with a woollen cloud tied around her head, and a little
shawl pinned across her breast.
"Is that all?" he reproached her. "I ought to have put on a single
wreath of artificial flowers and some sort of a blazer for this
expedition. Don't you think so, Mrs. Durgin?"
"I believe women can stand about twice as much cold as you can, the best
of you," she answered, grimly.
"Then I must try to keep myself as warm as I can with work," he said.
"You must let me do all the rough work of airing out, won't you,
"There isn't any rough work about it," she answered, in a sort of
motherly toleration of his mood, without losing anything of her filial
She took care of him, he perceived, as she took care of her brother and
her father, but with a delicate respect for his superiority, which was no
They began with the office and the parlor, where they flung up the
windows, and opened the doors, and then they opened the dining-room,
where the tables stood in long rows, with the chairs piled on them legs
upward. Cynthia went about with many sighs for the dust on everything,
though to Westover's eyes it all seemed frigidly clean. "If it goes on
as it has for the past two years," she said, "we shall have to add on a
new dining-room. I don't know as I like to have it get so large!"
"I never wanted it to go beyond the original farmhouse," said Westover.
"I've been jealous of every boarder but the first. I should have liked
to keep it for myself, and let the world know Lion's Head from my
"I guess Mrs. Durgin thinks it was your picture that began to send people
"And do you blame me, too? What if the thing I'm doing now should make
it a winter resort? Nothing could save you, then, but a fire. I believe
that's Jeff's ambition. Only he would want to put another hotel in place
of this; something that would be more popular. Then the ruin I began
would be complete, and I shouldn't come any more; I couldn't bear the
"I guess Mrs. Durgin wouldn't think it was lion's Head if you stopped
coming," said Cynthia.
"But you would know better than that," said Westover; and then he was
sorry he had said it, for it seemed to ask something of different quality
from her honest wish to make him know their regard for him.
She did not answer, but went down a long corridor to which they had
mounted, to raise the window at the end, while he raised another at the
opposite extremity. When they met at the stairway again to climb to the
story above, he said: "I am always ashamed when I try to make a person of
sense say anything silly," and she flushed, still without answering, as
if she understood him, and his meaning pleased her. "But fortunately a
person of sense is usually equal to the temptation. One ought to be
serious when he tries it with a person of the other sort; but I don't
know that one is!"
"Do you feel any draught between these windows?" asked Cynthia, abruptly.
"I don't want you should take cold."
"Oh, I'm all right," said Westover.
She went into the rooms on one side of the corridor, and put up their
windows, and flung the blinds back. He did the same on the other side.
He got a peculiar effect of desolation from the mattresses pulled down
over the foot of the bedsteads, and the dismantled interiors reflected in
the mirrors of the dressing-cases; and he was going to speak of it when
he rejoined Cynthia at the stairway leading to the third story, when she
said, "Those were Mrs. Vostrand's rooms I came out of the last." She
nodded her head over her shoulder toward the floor they were leaving.
"Were they indeed! And do you remember people's rooms so long?"
"Yes; I always think of rooms by the name of people that have them, if
they're any way peculiar."
He thought this bit of uncandor charming, and accepted it as if it were
the whole truth. "And Mrs. Vostrand was certainly peculiar. Tell me,
Cynthia, what did you think of her?"
"She was only here a little while."
"But you wouldn't have come to think of her rooms by her name if she
hadn't made a strong impression on you!" She did not answer, and he
said, "I see you didn't like her!"
The girl would not speak, and Mr. Westover went on: "She used to be very
good to me, and I think she used to be better to herself than she is
now." He knew that Jeff must have told Cynthia of his affair with
Genevieve Vostrand, and he kept himself from speaking of her by a
resolution he thought creditable, as he mounted the stairs to the upper
story in the silence to which Cynthia left his last remark. At the top
she made a little pause in the obscurer light of the close-shuttered
corridor, while she said: "I liked her daughter the best."
"Yes?" he returned. "I--never felt very well acquainted with her, I
believe. One couldn't get far with her. Though, for the matter of that,
one didn't get far with Mrs. Vostrand herself. Did you think Genevieve
was much influenced by her mother?"
"She didn't seem a strong character."
"No, that was it. She was what her mother wished her to be. I've often
wondered how much she was interested in the marriage she made."
Cynthia let a rustic silence ensue, and Westover shrank again from the
inquisition he longed to make.
It was not Genevieve Vostrand's marriage which really concerned him,
but Cynthia's engagement, and it was her mind that he would have liked to
look into. It might well be supposed that she regarded it in a perfect
matter-of-fact way, and with no ambition beyond it. She was a country
girl, acquainted from childhood with facts of life which town-bred girls
would not have known without a blunting of the sensibilities, and why
should she be different from other country girls? She might be as good
and as fine as he saw her, and yet be insensible to the spiritual
toughness of Jeff, because of her love for him. Her very goodness might
make his badness unimaginable to her, and if her refinement were from the
conscience merely, and not from the tastes and experiences, too, there
was not so much to dread for her in her marriage with such a man. Still,
he would have liked, if he could, to tell her what he had told her father
of Durgin's behavior with Lynde, and let her bring the test of her self-
devotion to the case with a clear understanding. He had sometimes been
afraid that Whitwell might not be able to keep it to himself; but now he
wished that the philosopher had not been so discreet. He had all this so
absorbingly in mind that he started presently with the fear that she had
said something and he had not answered, but when he asked her he found
that she had not spoken. They were standing at an open window looking
out upon Lion's Head, when he said: "I don't know how I shall show my
gratitude to Mrs. Durgin and you for thinking of having me up here.
I've done a picture of Lion's Head that might be ever so much worse;
but I shouldn't have dreamed of getting at it if it hadn't been for you,
though I've so often dreamed of doing it. Now I shall go home richer in
every sort of way-thanks to you."
She answered, simply: "You needn't thank anybody; but it was Jeff who
thought of it; we were ready enough to ask you."
"That was very good of him," said Westover, whom her words confirmed in a
suspicion he had had all along. But what did it matter that Jeff had
suggested their asking him, and then attributed the notion to them? It
was not so malign for him to use that means of ingratiating himself with
Westover, and of making him forget his behavior with Lynde, and it was
not unnatural. It was very characteristic; at the worst it merely proved
that Jeff was more ashamed of what he had done than he would allow, and
that was to his credit.
He heard Cynthia asking: "Mr. Westover, have you ever been at Class Day?
He wants us to come."
"Class Day? Oh, Class Day!" He took a little time to gather himself
together. "Yes, I've been at a good many. If you care to see something
pretty, it's the prettiest thing in the world. The students' sisters and
mothers come from everywhere; and there's fashion and feasting and
flirting, from ten in the morning till ten at night. I'm not sure
there's so much happiness; but I can't tell. The young people know about
that. I fancy there's a good deal of defeat and disappointment in it
all. But if you like beautiful dresses, and music and dancing, and a
great flutter of gayety, you can get more of it at Class Day than you can
in any other way. The good time depends a great deal upon the
acquaintance a student has, and whether he is popular in college."
Westover found this road a little impassable, and he faltered.
Cynthia did not apparently notice his hesitation. "Do you think Mrs.
Durgin would like it?"
"Mrs. Durgin?" Westover found that he had been leaving her out of the
account, and had been thinking only of Cynthia's pleasure or pain.
"Well, I don't suppose--it would be rather fatiguing--Did Jeff want her
to come too?"
"He said so."
"That's very nice of him. If he could devote himself to her; but--And
would she like to go?"
"To please him, she would." Westover was silent, and the girl surprised
him by the appeal she suddenly made to him. "Mr. Westover, do you
believe it would be very well for either of us to go? I think it would
be better for us to leave all that part of his life alone. It's no use
in pretending that we're like the kind of people he knows, or that we
know their ways, and I don't believe--"
Westover felt his heart rise in indignant sympathy. "There isn't any one
he knows to compare with you!" he said, and in this he was thinking
mainly of Bessie Lynde. "You're worth a thousand--If I were--if he's
half a man he would be proud--I beg your pardon! I don't mean--but you
Cynthia put her head far out of the window and looked along the steep
roof before them. "There is a blind off one of the windows. I heard it
clapping in the wind the other night. I must go and see the number of
the room." She drew her head in quickly and ran away without letting him
see her face.
He followed her. "Let me help you put it on again!"
"No, no!" she called back. "Frank will do that, or Jombateeste, when
they come to shut up the house."
Westover, did not meet Durgin for several days after his return from
Lion's Head. He brought messages for him from his mother and from
Whitwell, and he waited for him to come and get them so long that he had
to blame himself for not sending them to him. When Jeff appeared, at the
end of a week, Westover had a certain embarrassment in meeting him, and
the effort to overcome this carried him beyond his sincerity. He was
aware of feigning the cordiality he showed, and of having less real
liking for him than ever before. He suggested that he must be busier
every day, now, with his college work, and he resented the air of social
prosperity which Jeff put on in saying, Yes, there was that, and then he
had some engagements which kept him from coming in sooner.
He did not say what the engagements were, and they did not recur to the
things they had last spoken of. Westover could not do so without Jeff's
leading, and he was rather glad that he gave none. He stayed only a
little time, which was spent mostly in a show of interest on both sides,
and the hollow hilarities which people use to mask their indifference to
one another's being and doing. Jeff declared that he had never seen
Westover looking so well, and said he must go up to Lion's Head again; it
had done him good. As for his picture, it was a corker; it made him feel
as if he were there! He asked about all the folks, and received
Westover's replies with vague laughter, and an absence in his bold eye,
which made the painter wonder what his mind was on, without the wish to
find out. He was glad to have him go, though he pressed him to drop in
soon again, and said they would take in a play together.
Jeff said he would like to do that, and he asked at the door whether
Westover was going to the tea at Mrs. Bellingham's. He said he had to
look in there, before he went out to Cambridge; and left Westover in mute
amaze at the length he had apparently gone in a road that had once seemed
no thoroughfare for him. Jeff's social acceptance, even after the
Enderby ball, which was now some six or seven weeks past, had been slow;
but of late, for no reason that he or any one else could have given, it
had gained a sudden precipitance; and people who wondered why they met
him at other houses began to ask him to their own.
He did not care to go to their houses, and he went at first in the hope
of seeing Bessie Lynde again. But this did not happen for some time, and
it was a mid-Lenten tea that brought them together. As soon as he caught
sight of her he went up to her and began to talk as if they had been in
the habit of meeting constantly. She could not control a little start at
his approach, and he frankly recognized it.
"What's the matter?"
"It isn't open," he said, trying it. "Do you want to try it yourself?"
"I think I can trust you," she answered, but she sank a little into the
shelter of the curtains, not to be seen talking with him, perhaps, or not
to be interrupted--she did not analyze her motive closely.
He remained talking to her until she went away, and then he contrived to
go with her. She did not try to escape him after that; each time they
met she had the pleasure of realizing that there had never been any
danger of what never happened. But beyond this she could perhaps have
given no better reason for her willingness to meet him again and again
than the bewildered witnesses of the fact. In her set people not only
never married outside of it, but they never flirted outside of it. For
one of themselves, even for a girl like Bessie, whom they had not quite
known from childhood, to be apparently amusing herself with a man like
that, so wholly alien in origin, in tradition, was something unheard of;
and it began to look as if Bessie Lynde was more than amused. It seemed
to Mary Enderby that wherever she went she saw that man talking to
Bessie. She could have believed that it was by some evil art that he
always contrived to reach Bessie's side, if anything could have been less
like any kind of art than the bold push he made for her as soon as he saw
her in a room. But sometimes Miss Enderby feared that it was Bessie who
used such finesse as there was, and always put herself where he could see
her. She waited with trembling for her to give the affair sanction by
making her aunt ask him to something at her house. On the other hand,
she could not help feeling that Bessie's flirtation was all the more
deplorable for the want of some such legitimation.
She did not even know certainly whether Jeff ever called upon Bessie at
her aunt's house, till one day the man let him out at the same time he
let her in.
"Oh, come up, Molly!" Bessie sang out from the floor above, and met her
half-way down the stairs, where she kissed her and led her embraced into
"You don't like my jay, do you, dear?" she asked, promptly.
Mary Enderby turned her face, the mirror of conscience, upon her, and
asked: "Is he your jay?"
"Well, no; not just in that sense, Molly. But suppose he was?"
"Then I should have nothing to say."
"And suppose he wasn't?"
Still Mary Enderby found herself with nothing of all she had a thousand
times thought she should say to Bessie if she had ever the slightest
chance. It always seemed so easy, till now, to take Bessie in her arms,
and appeal to her good sense, her self-respect, her regard for her family
and friends; and now it seemed so impossible.
She heard herself answering, very stiffly: "Perhaps I'd better apologize
for what I've said already. You must think I was very unjust the last
time we mentioned him."
"Not at all!" cried Bessie, with a laugh that sounded very mocking and
very unworthy to her friend. "He's all that you said, and worse. But
he's more than you said, and better."
"I don't understand," said Mary, coldly.
"He's very interesting; he's original; he's different!"
"Oh, every one says that."
"And he doesn't flatter me, or pretend to think much of me. If he did, I
couldn't bear him. You know how I am, Molly. He keeps me interested,
don't you understand, and prowling about in the great unknown where be
has his weird being."
Bessie put her hand to her mouth, and laughed at Mary Enderby with her
slanted eyes; a sort of Parisian version of a Chinese motive in eyes.
"I suppose," her friend said, sadly, "you won't tell me more than you
"I won't tell you more than I know--though I'd like to," said Bessie.
She gave Mary a sudden hug. "You dear! There isn't anything of it, if
that's what you mean."
"But isn't there danger that there will be, Bessie?" her friend
"Danger? I shouldn't call it danger, exactly!"
"But if you don't respect him, Bessie--"
"Why, how can I? He doesn't respect me!"
"I know you're teasing, now," said Mary Enderby, getting up, "and you're
quite right. I have no business to--"
Bessie pulled her down upon the seat again. "Yes, you have! Don't I
tell you, over and over? He doesn't respect me, because I don't know how
to make him, and he wouldn't like it if I did. But now I'll try to make
you understand. I don't believe I care for him the least; but mind, I'm
not certain, for I've never cared for any one, and I don't know what it's
like. You know I'm not sentimental; I think sentiment's funny; and I'm
"You're divine," murmured Mary Enderby, with reproachful adoration.
"Yes, but you see how my divinity could be improved," said Bessie, with a
wild laugh. "I'm not sentimental, but I'm emotional, and he gives me
emotions. He's a riddle, and I'm all the time guessing at him. You get
the answer to the kind of men we know easily; and it's very nice, but it
doesn't amuse you so much as trying. Now, Mr. Durgin--what a name!
I can see it makes you creep--is no more like one of us than a--bear is
--and his attitude toward us is that of a bear who's gone so much with
human beings that he thinks he's a human being. He's delightful, that
way. And, do you know, he's intellectual! He actually brings me books,
and wants to read passages to me out of them! He has brought me the
plans of the new hotel he's going to build. It's to be very aesthetic,
and it's going to be called The Lion's Head Inn. There's to be a little
theatre, for amateur dramatics, which I could conduct, and for all sorts
of professional amusements. If you should ever come, Molly, I'm sure we
shall do our best to make you comfortable."
Mary Enderby would not let Bessie laugh upon her shoulder after she said
this. "Bessie Lynde," she said, severely, "if you have no regard for
yourself, you ought to have some regard for him. You may say you are not
encouraging him, and you may believe it--"
"Oh, I shouldn't say it if I didn't believe it," Bessie broke in, with a
mock air of seriousness.
"I must be going," said Mary, stiffly, and this time she succeeded in
getting to her feet.
Bessie laid hold of her again. "You think you've been trifled with,
don't you, dear?"
"Yes, you do! Don't you try to be slippery, Molly. The plain pikestaff
is your style, morally speaking--if any one knows what a pikestaff is.
Well, now, listen! You're anxious about me."
"You know how I feel, Bessie," said Mary Enderby, looking her in the
"Yes, I do," said Bessie. "The trouble is, I don't know how I feel.
But if I ever do, Molly, I'll tell you! Is that fair?"
"I'll give you ample warning. At the least little consciousness in the
region of the pericardium, off will go a note by a district messenger,
and when you come I'll do whatever you say. There!"
"Oh, Bessie!" cried her friend, and she threw her arms round her, "you
always were the most fascinating creature in the world!"
"Yes," said Bessie, "that's what I try to have him think."
Toward the end of April most people who had places at the Shore were
mostly in them, but they came up to town on frequent errands, and had one
effect of evanescence with people who still remained in their Boston
houses provisionally, and seemed more than half absent. The Enderbys had
been at the Shore for a fortnight, and the Lyndes were going to be a
fortnight longer in Boston, yet, as Bessie made her friend observe, when
Mary, ran in for lunch, or stopped for a moment on her way to the train,
every few days, they were both of the same transitory quality.
"It might as well be I as you," Bessie said one day, "if we only think
so. It's all very weird, dear, and I'm not sure but it is you who sit
day after day at my lonely casement and watch the sparrows examining the
fuzzy buds of the Jap ivy to see just how soon they can hope to build in
the vines. Do you object to the ivy buds looking so very much like
snipped woollen rags? If you do, I'm sure it's you, here in my place,
for when I come up to town in your personality it sets my teeth on edge.
In fact, that's the worst thing about Boston now--the fuzzy ivy buds;
there's so much ivy! When you can forget the buds, there are a great many
things to make you happy. I feel quite as if we were spending the summer
in town and I feel very adventurous and very virtuous, like some sort of
self-righteous bohemian. You don't know how I look down on people who
have gone out of town. I consider them very selfish and heartless;
I don't know why, exactly. But when we have a good marrow-freezing
northeasterly storm, and the newspapers come out with their ironical
congratulations to the tax-dodgers at the Shore, I feel that Providence
is on my side, and I'm getting my reward, even in this world." Bessie
suddenly laughed. "I see by your expression of fixed inattention, Molly,
that you're thinking of Mr. Durgin!"
Mary gave a start of protest, but she was too honest to deny the fact
outright, and Bessie ran on:
"No, we don't sit on a bench in the Common, or even in the Garden, or on
the walk in Commonwealth Avenue. If we come to it later, as the season
advances, I shall make him stay quite at the other end of the bench, and
not put his hand along the top. You needn't be afraid, Molly; all the
proprieties shall be religiously observed. Perhaps I shall ask Aunt
Louisa to let us sit out on her front steps, when the evenings get
warmer; but I assure you it's much more comfortable in-doors yet, even in
town, though you'll hardly, believe it at the Shore. Shall you come up
to Class Day?"
"Oh, I don't know," Mary began, with a sigh of the baffled hope and the
inextinguishable expectation which the mention of Class Day stirs in the
heart of every Boston girl past twenty.
"Yes!" said Bessie, with a sigh burlesqued from Mary's. "That is what we
all say, and it is certainly the most maddening of human festivals.
I suppose, if we were quite left to ourselves, we shouldn't go; but we
seem never to be, quite. After every Class Day I say to myself that
nothing on earth could induce me to go to another; but when it comes
round again, I find myself grasping at any straw of a pretext. I'm
pretending now that I've a tender obligation to go because it's his Class
"Bessie!" cried Mary Enderby. "You don't mean it!"
"Not if I say it, Mary dear. What did I promise you about the
pericardiac symptoms? But I feel--I feel that if he asks me I must go.
Shouldn't you like to go and see a jay Class Day--be part of it? Think
of going once to the Pi Ute spread--or whatever it is! And dancing in
their tent! And being left out of the Gym, and Beck! Yes, I ought to
go, so that it can be brought home to me, and I can have a realizing
sense of what I am doing, and be stayed in my mad career."
"Perhaps," Mary Enderby suggested, colorlessly, "he will be devoted to
his own people." She had a cold fascination in the picture Bessie's
words had conjured up, and she was saying this less to Bessie than to
"And I should meet them--his mothers and sisters!" Bessie dramatized an
excess of anguish. "Oh, Mary, that is the very thorn I have been trying
not to press my heart against; and does your hand commend it to my
embrace? His folks! Yes, they would be folks; and what folks! I think
I am getting a realizing sense. Wait! Don't speak don't move, Molly!"
Bessie dropped her chin into her hand, and stared straight forward,
gripping Mary Enderby's hand.
Mary withdrew it. "I shall have to go, Bessie," she said. "How is your
"Must you? Then I shall always say that it was your fault that I
couldn't get a realizing sense--that you prevented me, just when I was
about to see myself as others see me--as you see me. She's very well!"
Bessie sighed in earnest, and her friend gave her hand a little pressure
of true sympathy. "But of course it's rather dull here, now."
"I hate to have you staying on. Couldn't you come down to us for a
"No. We both think it's best to be here when Alan gets back. We want
him to go down with us." Bessie had seldom spoken openly with Mary
Enderby about her brother; but that was rather from Mary's shrinking than
her own; she knew that everybody understood his case. She went so far
now as to say: "He's ever so much better than he has been. We have such
hopes of him, if he can keep well, when he gets back this time."
"Oh, I know he will," said Mary, fervently. "I'm sure of it. Couldn't
we do something for you, Bessie?"
"No, there isn't anything. But--thank you. I know you always think of
me, and that's worlds. When are you coming up again?"
"I don't know. Next week, some time."
"Come in and see me--and Alan, if he should be at home. He likes you,
and he will be so glad."
Mary kissed Bessie for consent. "You know how much I admire Alan. He
could be anything."
"Yes, he could. If he could!"
Bessie seldom put so much earnest in anything, and Mary loved (as she
would have said) the sad sincerity, the honest hopelessness of her tone.
"We must help him. I know we can."
"We must try. But people who could--if they could--" Bessie stopped.
Her friend divined that she was no longer speaking wholly of her brother,
but she said: "There isn't any if about it; and there are no ifs about
anything if we only think so. It's a sin not to think so."
The mixture of severity and of optimism in the nature of her friend had
often amused Bessie, and it did not escape her tacit notice in even so
serious a moment as this. Her theory was that she was shocked to
recognize it now, because of its relation to her brother, but her
theories did not always agree with the facts.
That evening, however, she was truly surprised when, after a rather
belated ring at the door, the card of Mr. Thomas Jefferson Durgin came up
to her from the reception-room. Her aunt had gone to bed, and she had a
luxurious moment in which she reaped all the reward of self-denial by
supposing herself to have foregone the pleasure of seeing him, and
sending down word that she was not at home. She did not wish, indeed, to
see him, but she wished to know how he felt warranted in calling in the
evening, and it was this unworthy, curiosity which she stifled for that
luxurious moment. The next, with undiminished dignity, she said, "Ask
him to come up, Andrew," and she waited in the library for him to offer a
justification of the liberty he had taken.
He offered none whatever, but behaved at once as if he had always had the
habit of calling in the evening, or as if it was a general custom which
he need not account for in his own case. He brought her a book which
they had talked of at their last meeting, but he made no excuse or
pretext of it.
He said it was a beautiful night, and that he had found it rather warm
walking in from Cambridge. The exercise had moistened his whole rich,
red color, and fine drops of perspiration stood on his clean-shaven upper
lip and in the hollow between his under lip and his bold chin; he pushed
back the coarse, dark-yellow hair from his forehead with his
handkerchief, and let his eyes mock her from under his thick, straw-
colored eyebrows. She knew that he was enjoying his own impudence, and
he was so handsome that she could not refuse to enjoy it with him. She
asked him if he would not have a fan, and he allowed her to get it for
him from the mantel. "Will you have some tea?"
"No; but a glass of water, if you please," he said, and Bessie rang and
sent for some apollinaris, which Jeff drank a great goblet of when it
came. Then he lay back in the deep chair he had taken, with the air of
being ready for any little amusing thing she had to say.
"Are you still a pessimist, Mr. Durgin?" she asked, tentatively, with
the effect of innocence that he knew meant mischief.
"No," he said. "I'm a reformed optimist."
"What is that?"
"It's a man who can't believe all the good he would like, but likes to
believe all the good he can."
Bessie said it over, with burlesque thoughtfulness. "There was a girl
here to-day," she said, solemnly, "who must have been a reformed
pessimist, then, for she said the same thing."
"Oh! Miss Enderby," said Jeff.
Bessie started. "You're preternatural! But what a pity you should be
mistaken. How came you to think of her?"
"She doesn't like me, and you always put me on trial after she's been
"Am I putting you on trial now? It's your guilty conscience! Why
shouldn't Mary Enderby like you?"
"Because I'm not good enough."
"Oh! And what has that to do with people's liking you? If that was a
reason, how many friends do you think you would have?"
"I'm not sure that I should have any."
"And doesn't that make you feel badly?"
"Very." Jeff's confession was a smiling one.
"You don't show it!"
"I don't want to grieve you."
"Oh, I'm not sure that would grieve me."
"Well, I thought I wouldn't risk it."
"How considerate of you!"
They had come to a little barrier, up that way, and could go no further.
Jeff said: "I've just been interviewing another reformed pessimist."
"You're preternatural, too. And you're not mistaken, either. Do you
ever go to his studio?"
"No; I haven't been there since he told me it would be of no use to come
as a student. He can be terribly frank."
"Nobody knows that better than I do," said Jeff, with a smile for the
notion of Westover's frankness as he had repeatedly experienced it. "But
he means well."
"Oh, that's what they always say. But all the frankness can't be well
meant. Why should uncandor be the only form of malevolence?"
"That's a good idea. I believe I'll put that up on Westover the next
time he's frank."
"And will you tell me what he says?"
"Oh, I don't know about that." Jeff lay back in his chair at large ease
and chuckled. "I should like to tell you what he's just been saying to
me, but I don't believe I can."
"You know he was up at Lion's Head in February, and got a winter
impression of the mountain. Did you see it?"
"No. Was that what you were talking about?"
"We talked about something a great deal more interesting--the impression
he got of me."
"Cold enough. He had come to the conclusion that I was very selfish and
unworthy; that I used other people for my own advantage, or let them use
themselves; that I was treacherous and vindictive, and if I didn't betray
a man I couldn't be happy till I had beaten him. He said that if I ever
behaved well, it came after I had been successful one way or the other."
"How perfectly fascinating!" Bessie rested her elbow on the corner of
the table, and her chin in the palm of the hand whose thin fingers tapped
her red lips; the light sleeve fell down and showed her pretty, lean
little forearm. "Did it strike you as true, at all?"
"I could see how it might strike him as true."
"Now you are candid. But go on! What did he expect you to do about it?"
"Nothing. He said he didn't suppose I could help it."
"This is immense," said Bessie. "I hope I'm taking it all in. How came
he to give you this flattering little impression? So hopeful, too! Or,
perhaps your frankness doesn't go any farther?"
"Oh, I don't mind saying. He seemed to think it was a sort of abstract
duty he owed to my people."
"Your-folks?" asked Bessie.
"Yes," said Jeff, with a certain dryness. But as her face looked blankly
innocent, he must have decided that she meant nothing offensive. He
relaxed into a broad smile. "It's a queer household up there, in the
winter. I wonder what you would think of it."
"You might describe it to me, and perhaps we shall see."
"You couldn't realize it," said Jeff, with a finality that piqued her.
He reached out for the bottle of apollinaris, with somehow the effect of
being in another student's room, and poured himself a glass. This would
have amused her, nine times out of ten, but the tenth time had come when
she chose to resent it.
"I suppose," she said, "you are all very much excited about Class Day at
"That sounds like a remark made to open the way to conversation." Jeff
went on to burlesque a reply in the same spirit. "Oh, very much so
indeed, Miss Lynde! We are all looking forward to it so eagerly. Are
She rejected his lead with a slight sigh so skilfully drawn that it
deceived him when she said, gravely:
"I don't know. It's apt to be a very baffling time at the best. All the
men that you like are taken up with their own people, and even the men
that you don't like overvalue themselves, and think they're doing you a
favor if they give you a turn at the Gym or bring you a plate of
"Well, they are, aren't they?"
"I suppose, yes, that's what makes me hate it. One doesn't like to have
such men do one a favor. And then, Juniors get younger every year! Even
a nice Junior is only a Junior," she concluded, with a sad fall of her
"I don't believe there's a Senior in Harvard that wouldn't forsake his
family and come to the rescue if your feelings could be known," said
Jeff. He lifted the bottle at his elbow and found it empty, and this
seemed to remind him to rise.
"Don't make them known, please," said Bessie. "I shouldn't want an
ovation." She sat, after he had risen, as if she wished to detain him,
but when he came up to take leave she had to put her hand in his. She
looked at it there, and so did he; it seemed very little and slim, about
one-third the size of his palm, and it seemed to go to nothing in his
grasp. "I should think," she added, "that the jays would have the best
time on Class Day. I should like to dance at one of their spreads, and
do everything they did. It would be twice the fun, and there would be
some nature in it. I should like to see a jay Class Day."
"If you'll come out, I'll show you one," said Jeff, without wincing.
"Oh, will you?" she said, taking away her hand. "That would be
delightful. But what would become of your folks?" She caught a corner of
her mouth with her teeth, as if the word had slipped out.
"Do you call them folks?" asked Jeff, quietly:
"Not in Boston. I do at Lion's Head."
"I don't know as they're coming."
"How delightful! I don't mean that; but if they're not, and if you
really knew some jays, and could get me a little glimpse of their Class
"I think I could manage it for you." He spoke as before, but he looked
at her with a mockery in his lips and eyes as intelligent as her own, and
the latent change in his mood gave her the sense of being in the presence
of a vivid emotion. She rose in her excitement; she could see that he
admired her, and was enjoying her insolence too, in a way, though in a
way that she did not think she quite understood; and she had the wish to
make him admire her a little more.
She let a light of laughter come into her eyes, of harmless mischief
played to an end. "I don't deserve your kindness, and I won't come.
I've been very wicked, don't you think?"
"Not very--for you," said Jeff.
"Oh, how good!" she broke out. "But be frank now! I've offended you."
"How? I know I'm a jay, and in the country I've got folks."
"Ah, I see you're hurt at my joking, and I'm awfully sorry. I wish there
was some way of making you forgive me. But it couldn't be that alone,"
she went on rather aimlessly as to her words, trusting to his answer for
some leading, and willing meanwhile to prolong the situation for the
effect in her nerves. It had been a very dull and tedious day, and she
was finding much more than she could have expected in the mingled fear
and slight which he inspired her with in such singular measure. These
feminine subtleties of motive are beyond any but the finest natures in
the other sex, and perhaps all that Jeff perceived was the note of
insincerity in her words.
"Couldn't be what alone?" he asked.
"What I've said," she ventured, letting her eyes fall; but they were not
eyes that fell effectively, and she instantly lifted them again to his.
"You haven't said anything, and if you've thought anything, what have I
got to do with that? I think all sorts of things about people--or folks,
as you call them--"
"Oh, thank you! Now you are forgiving me!"
"I think them about you"
"Oh, do sit down and tell me the kind of things you think about me!"
Bessie implored, sinking back into her chair.
"You mightn't like them."
"But if they would do me good?"
"What should I want to do you good for?"
"That's true," sighed Bessie, thoughtfully.
"Thank you so much!"
"Don't try to do each other good, unless they're cranks like Lancaster,
or bores like Mrs. Bevidge--"
"You belong to the analytical school of Seniors! Go on!"
"That's all," said Jeff.
"And you don't think I've tried to do you good?"
He laughed. Her comedy was delicious to him. He had never found,
anybody so amusing; he almost respected her for it.
"If that is your opinion of me, Mr. Durgin," she said, very gravely,
"I am sorry. May I remark that I don't see why you come, then?"
"I can tell you," said Jeff, and he advanced upon her where she sat so
abruptly that she started and shrank back in her chair. "I come because
you've got brains, and you're the only girl that has--here." They were
Alan's words, almost his words, and for an instant she thought of her
brother, end wondered what he would think of this jay's praising her in
his terms. "Because," Jeff went on, "you've got more sense and nonsense
--than all the women here put together. Because it's better than a play
to hear you talk--and act; and because you're graceful--and fascinating,
and chic, and--Good-night, Miss Lynde."
He put out his hand, but she did not take it as she rose haughtily.
"We've said good-night once. I prefer to say good-bye this time. I'm
sure you will understand why after this I cannot see you again." She
seemed to examine him for the effect of these words upon him before she
"No, I don't understand," he answered, coolly; "but it isn't necessary I
should; and I'm quite willing to say good-bye, if you prefer. You
haven't been so frank with me as I have with you; but that doesn't make
any difference; perhaps you never meant to be, or couldn't be, if you
meant. Good-bye." He bowed and turned toward the door.
She fluttered between him and it. "I wish to know what you accuse
"You imply that I have been unjust toward you."
"And I can't let you go till you prove it."
"Prove to a woman that--Will you let me pass?"
"No!" She spread her slender arms across the doorway.
"Oh, very well!" Jeff took her hands and put them both in the hold of
one of his large, strong bands. Then, with the contact, it came to him,
from a varied experience of girls in his rustic past, that this young
lady, who was nothing but a girl after all, was playing her comedy with a
certain purpose, however little she might know it or own it. He put his
other large, strong hand upon her waist, and pulled her to him and kissed
her. Another sort of man, no matter what he had believed of her, would
have felt his act a sacrilege then and there. Jeff only knew that she
had not made the faintest straggle against him; she had even trembled
toward him, and he brutally exulted in the belief that he had done what
she wished, whether it was what she meant or not.
She, for her part, realized that she had been kissed as once she had
happened to see one of the maids kissed by the grocer's boy at the
basement door. In an instant this man had abolished all her defences of
family, of society, of personality, and put himself on a level with her
in the most sacred things of life. Her mind grasped the fact and she
realized it intellectually, while as yet all her emotions seemed
paralyzed. She did not know whether she resented it as an abominable
outrage or not; whether she hated the man for it or not. But perhaps he
was in love with her, and his love overpowered him; in that case she
could forgive him, if she were in love with him. She asked herself
whether she was, and whether she had betrayed herself to him so that he
was somehow warranted in what he did. She wondered if another sort of
man would have done it, a gentleman, who believed she was in love with
him. She wondered if she were as much shocked as she was astonished.
She knew that there was everything in the situation to make the fact
shocking, but she got no distinct reply from her jarred consciousness.
It ought to be known, and known at once; she ought to tell her brother,
as soon as she saw him; she thought of telling her aunt, and she fancied
having to shout the affair into her ear, and having to repeat, "He kissed
me! Don't you understand? Kissed me!" Then she reflected with a start
that she could never tell any one, that in the midst of her world she was
alone in relation to this; she was as helpless and friendless as the
poorest and lowliest girl could be. She was more so, for if she were
like the maid whom the grocer's boy kissed she would be of an order of
things in which she could advise with some one else who had been kissed;
and she would know what to feel.