Part 3 out of 4
She asked herself whether she was at all moved at heart; till now it
seemed to her that it had not been different with her toward him from
what it had been toward all the other men whose meaning she would have
liked to find out. She had not in the least respected them, and she did
not respect him; but if it happened because he was overcome by his love
for her, and could not help it, then perhaps she must forgive him whether
she cared for him or not.
These ideas presented themselves with the simultaneity of things in a
dream in that instant when she lingered helplessly in his hold, and she
even wondered if by any chance Andrew had seen them; but she heard his
step on the floor below; and at the same time it appeared to her that she
must be in love with this man if she did not resent what he had done.
Westover was sitting at an open window of his studio smoking out into the
evening air, and looking down into the thinly foliaged tops of the public
garden, where the electrics fainted and flushed and hissed. Cars trooped
by in the troubled street, scraping the wires overhead that screamed as
if with pain at the touch of their trolleys, and kindling now and again a
soft planet, as the trolleys struck the batlike plates that connected the
crossing lines. The painter was getting almost as much pleasure out of
the planets as pain out of the screams, and he was in an after-dinner
languor in which he was very reluctant to recognize a step, which he
thought he knew, on his stairs and his stairs-landing. A knock at his
door followed the sound of the approaching steps. He lifted himself, and
called out, inhospitably, "Come in!" and, as he expected, Jeff Durgin
came in. Westover's meetings with him had been an increasing discomfort
since his return from Lion's Head. The uneasiness which he commonly felt
at the first moment of encounter with him yielded less and less to the
influence of Jeff's cynical bonhomie, and it returned in force as soon as
It was rather dim in the place, except for the light thrown up into it
from the turmoil of lights outside, but he could see that there was
nothing of the smiling mockery on Jeff's face which habitually expressed
his inner hardihood. It was a frowning mockery.
"Hello!" said Westover,
"Hello!" answered Jeff. "Any commands for Lion's Head?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going up there to-morrow. I've got to see Cynthia, and tell her
what I've been doing."
Westover waited a moment before he asked: "Do you want me to ask what
you've been doing?"
"I shouldn't mind it."
The painter paused again. "I don't know that I care to ask. Is it any
"No!" shouted Jeff. "It's the worst thing yet, I guess you'll think.
I couldn't have believed it myself, if I hadn't been through it.
I shouldn't have supposed I was such a fool. I don't care for the girl;
I never did."
"Cynthia? No! Miss Lynde. Oh, try to take it in!" Jeff cried, with a
laugh at the daze in Westover's face. "You must have known about the
flirtation; if you haven't, you're the only one." His vanity in the fact
betrayed itself in his voice. "It came to a crisis last week, and we
tried to make each other believe that we were in earnest. But there
won't be any real love lost."
Westover did not speak. He could not make out whether he was surprised
or whether he was shocked, and it seemed to him that he was neither
surprised nor shocked. He wondered whether he had really expected
something of the kind, sooner or later, or whether he was not always so
apprehensive of some deviltry in Durgin that nothing he did could quite
take him unawares. At last he said: "I suppose it's true--even though
you say it. It's probably the only truth in you."
"That's something like," said Jeff, as if the contempt gave him a sort of
pleasure; and his heavy face lighted up and then darkened again.
"Well," said Westover, "what are we going to do? You've come to tell me."
"I'm going to break with her. I don't care for her--that!" He snapped
his fingers. "I told her I cared because she provoked me to. It
happened because she wanted it to and led up to it."
"Ah!" said Westover. "You put it on her!" But he waited for Durgin's
justification with a dread that he should find something in it.
"Pshaw! What's the use? It's been a game from the beginning, and a
question which should ruin. I won. She meant to throw me over, if the
time came for her, but it came for me first, and it's only a question now
which shall break first; we've both been near it once or twice already.
I don't mean she shall get the start of me."
Westover had a glimpse of the innate enmity of the sexes in this game;
of its presence in passion that was lived and of its prevalence in
passion that was played. But the fate of neither gambler concerned him;
he was impatient of his interest in what Jeff now went on to tell him,
without scruple concerning her, or palliation of himself. He scarcely
realized that he was listening, but afterward he remembered it all, with
a little pity for Bessie and none for Jeff, but with more shame for her,
too. Love seems more sacredly confided to women than to men; it is and
must be a higher and finer as well as a holier thing with them; their
blame for its betrayal must always be the heavier. He had sometimes
suspected Bessie's willingness to amuse herself with Jeff, as with any
other man who would let her play with him; and he would not have relied
upon anything in him to defeat her purpose, if it had been anything so
serious as a purpose.
At the end of Durgin's story he merely asked: "And what are you going to
do about Cynthia?"
"I am going to tell her," said Jeff. "That's what I am going up there
Westover rose, but Jeff remained sitting where he had put himself astride
of a chair, with his face over the back. The painter walked slowly up
and down before him in the capricious play of the street light. He
turned a little sick, and he stopped a moment at the window for a breath
"Well?" asked Jeff.
"Oh! You want my advice?" Westover still felt physically incapable of
the indignation which he strongly imagined. "I don't know what to say to
you, Durgin. You transcend my powers. Are you able to see this whole
"I guess so," Jeff answered. "I don't idealize it, though. I look at
facts; they're bad enough. You don't suppose that Miss Lynde is going to
break her heart over--"
"I don't believe I care for Miss Lynde any more than I care for you.
But I believe I wish you were not going to break with her."
"Because you and she are fit for each other. If you want my advice, I
advise you to be true to her--if you can."
"Break with her."
"Oh!" Jeff gave a snort of derision.
"You're not fit for her. You couldn't do a crueler thing for her than to
keep faith with her."
"Do you mean it?"
"Yes, I mean it. Stick to Miss Lynde--if she'll let you."
Jeff seemed puzzled by Westover's attitude, which was either too sincere
or too ironical for him. He pushed his hat, which he had kept on, back
from his forehead. "Damned if I don't believe she would," he mused
aloud. The notion seemed to flatter him and repay him for what he must
have been suffering. He smiled, but he said: "She wouldn't do, even if
she were any good. Cynthia is worth a million of her. If she wants to
give me up after she knows all about me, well and good. I shu'n't blame
her. But I shall give her a fair chance, and I shu'n't whitewash myself;
you needn't be afraid of that, Mr. Westover."
"Why should I care what you do?" asked the painter, scornfully.
"Well, you can't, on my account," Durgin allowed. "But you do care on
"Yes, I do," said Westover, sitting down again, and he did not say
Durgin waited a long while for him to speak before he asked: "Then
that's really your advice, is it?"
"Yes, break with her."
"And stick to Miss Lynde."
"If she'll let you."
Jeff was silent in his turn. He started from his silence with a laugh.
"She'd make a daisy landlady for Lion's Head. I believe she would like
to try it awhile just for the fun. But after the ball was over--well,
it would be a good joke, if it was a joke. Cynthia is a woman--she a'n't
any corpse-light. She understands me, and she don't overrate me, either.
She knew just how much I was worth, and she took me at her own valuation.
I've got my way in life marked out, and she believes in it as much as I
do. If anybody can keep me level and make the best of me, she can, and
she's going to have the chance, if she wants to. I'm going to act square
with her about the whole thing. I guess she's the best judge in a case
like this, and I shall lay the whole case before her, don't you be afraid
of that. And she's got to have a free field. Why, even if there wa'n't
any question of her," he went on, falling more and more into his
vernacular, "I don't believe I should care in the long run for this other
one. We couldn't make it go for any time at all. She wants excitement,
and after the summer folks began to leave, and we'd been to Florida for a
winter, and then came back to Lion's Head-well! This planet hasn't got
excitement enough in it for that girl, and I doubt if the solar system
has. At any rate, I'm not going to act as advance-agent for her."
"I see," said Westover, "that you've been reasoning it all out, and I'm
not surprised that you've kept your own advantage steadily in mind.
I don't suppose you know what a savage you are, and I don't suppose I
could teach you. I sha'n't try, at any rate. I'll take you on your own
ground, and I tell you again you had better break with Cynthia. I won't
say that it's what you owe her, for that won't have any effect with you,
but it's what you owe yourself. You can't do a wrong thing and prosper
"Oh yes, you can," Jeff interrupted, with a sneering laugh. "How do you
suppose all the big fortunes were made? By keeping the Commandments?"
"No. But you're an unlucky man if life hasn't taught you that you must
pay in suffering of some kind, sooner or later, for every wrong thing you
"Now that's one of your old-fashioned superstitions, Mr. Westover," said
Jeff, with a growing kindliness in his tone, as if the pathetic delusion
of such a man really touched him. "You pay, or you don't pay, just as it
happens. If you get hit soon after you've done wrong, you think it's
retribution, and if it holds off till you've forgotten all about it, you
think it's a strange Providence, and you puzzle over it, but you don't
reform. You keep right along in the old way. Prosperity and adversity,
they've got nothing to do with conduct. If you're a strong man, you get
there, and if you're a weak man, all the righteousness in the universe
won't help you. But I propose to do what's right about Cynthia, and not
what's wrong; and according to your own theory, of life--which won't hold
water a minute--I ought to be blessed to the third and fourth generation.
I don't look for that, though. I shall be blessed if I look out for
myself; and if I don't, I shall suffer for my want of foresight. But I
sha'n't suffer for anything else. Well, I'm going to cut some of my
recitations, and I'm going up to Lion's Head, to-morrow, to settle my
business with Cynthia. I've got a little business to look after here
with some one else first, and I guess I shall have to be about it. I
don't know which I shall like the best." He rose, and went over to where
Westover was sitting, and held out his hand to him.
"What is it?" asked Westover.
"Any commands for Lion's Head?" Jeff said, as at first.
"No," said Westover, turning his face away.
"Oh, all right." Durgin put his hand into his pocket unshaken.
"What is it, Jeff?" asked Cynthia, the next night, as they started out
together after supper, and began to stroll down the hill toward her
father's house. It lay looking very little and low in the nook at the
foot of the lane, on the verge of the woods that darkened away to the
northward from it, under the glassy night sky, lit with the spare young
moon. The peeping of the frogs in the marshy places filled the air; the
hoarse voice of the brook made itself heard at intervals through them.
"It's not so warm here, quite, as it is in Boston," he returned. "Are
you wrapped up enough? This air has an edge to it."
"I'm all right," said the girl. "What is it?"
"You think there's something? You don't believe I've come up for rest
over Sunday? I guess mother herself didn't, and I could see your father
following up my little lies as if he wa'n't going to let one escape him.
Well, you're right. There is something. Think of the worst thing you
She pulled her hand out of his arm, which she had taken, and halted him
by her abrupt pause. "You're not going to get through!"
"I'm all right on my conditions," said Jeff, with forlorn derision.
"You'll have to guess again." He stood looking back over his shoulder at
her face, which showed white in the moonlight, swathed airily round in
the old-fashioned soft woollen cloud she wore.
"Is it some trouble you've got into? I shall stand by you!"
"Oh, you splendid girl! The trouble's over, but it's something you can't
stand by me in, I guess. You know that girl I wrote to you about--the
one I met at the college tea, and--"
"Yes! Miss Lynde!"
"Come on! We can't stay here talking. Let's go down and sit on your
porch." She mechanically obeyed him, and they started on together down
the hill again; but she did not offer to take his arm, and he kept the
width of the roadway from her.
"What about her?" she quietly asked.
"Last night I ended up the flirtation I've been carrying on with her ever
"I want to know just what you mean, Jeff."
"I mean that last week I got engaged to her, and last night I broke with
her." Cynthia seemed to stumble on something; he sprang over and caught.
her, and now she put her hand in his arm, and stayed herself by him as
"Go on," she said.
"That's all there is of it."
"No!" She stopped, and then she asked, with a kind of gentle
bewilderment: "What did you want to tell me for?"
"To let you break with me--if you wanted to."
"Don't you care for me any more?"
"Yes, more than ever I did. But I'm not fit for you, Cynthia. Mr.
Westover said I wasn't. I told him about it--"
"What did he say?"
"That I ought to break with you."
"But if you broke with her?"
"He told me to stick to her. He was right about you, Cynthy. I'm not
fit for you, and that's a fact."
"What was it about that girl? Tell me everything." She spoke in a tone
of plaintive entreaty, very unlike the command she once used with Jeff
when she was urging him to be frank with her and true to himself. They
had come to her father's house and she freed her hand from his arm again,
and sat down on the step before the side door with a little sigh as of
"You'll take cold," said Jeff, who remained on foot in front of her.
"No," she said, briefly. "Go on."
"Why," Jeff began, harshly, and with a note of scorn for himself and his
theme in his voice, "there isn't any more of it, but there's no end to
her. I promised Mr. Westover I shouldn't whitewash myself, and I
sha'n't. I've been behaving badly, and it's no excuse for me because she
wanted me to. I began to go for her as soon as I saw that she wanted me
to, and that she liked the excitement. The excitement is all that she
cared for; she didn't care for me except for the excitement of it. She
thought she could have fun with me, and then throw me over; but I guess
she found her match. You couldn't understand such a girl, and I don't
brag of it. All she cared for was to flirt with me, and she liked it all
the more because I was a jay and she could get something new out of it.
I can't explain it; but I could see it right along. She fooled herself
more than she fooled me."
"Was she--very good-looking?" Cynthia asked, listlessly.
"No!" shouted Jeff." She wasn't good-looking at all. She was dark and
thin, and she had little slanting eyes; but she was graceful, and she
knew how to make herself go further than any girl I ever saw. If she
came into a room, she made you look at her, or you had to somehow. She
was bright, too; and she had more sense than all the other girls there
put together. But she was a fool, all the same." Jeff paused. "Is that
"It isn't all."
"No, it isn't all. We didn't meet much at first, but I got to walking
home with her from some teas; and then we met at a big ball. I danced
with her the whole while nearly, and--and I took her brother home--Pshaw!
He was drunk; and I--well, he had got drunk drinking with me at the ball.
The wine didn't touch me, but it turned his head; and I took him home;
he's a drunkard, anyway. She let us in when we got to their house, and
that kind of made a tie between us. She pretended to think she was under
obligations to me, and so I got to going to her house."
"Did she know how her brother got drunk?"
"She does now. I told her last night." How came you to tell her?"
"I wanted to break with her. I wanted to stop it, once for all, and I
thought that would do it, if anything would."
"Did that make her willing to give you up?"
Jeff checked himself in a sort of retrospective laugh. "I'm not so sure.
I guess she liked the excitement of that, too. You couldn't understand
the kind of girl she--She wanted to flirt with me that night I brought
him home tipsy."
"I don't care to hear any more about her. Why did you give her up?"
"Because I didn't care for her, and I did care for you, Cynthy."
"I don't believe it." Cynthia rose from the step, where she had been
sitting, as if with renewed strength. "Go up and tell father to come
down here. I want to see him." She turned and put her hand on the latch
of the door.
"You're not going in there, Cynthia," said Jeff. "It must be like death
"It's more like death out here. But if it's the cold you mean, you
needn't be troubled. We've had a fire to-day, airing out the house.
Will you go?"
"But what do you--what are you going to say to me?"
"I don't know, yet. If I said anything now, I should tell you what Mr.
Westover did: go back to that girl, if she'll let you. You're fit for
each other, as he said. Did you tell her that you were engaged to some
"I did, last night."
"But before that she didn't know how false you were. Well, you're not
fit for her, then; you're not good enough."
She opened the door and went in, closing it after her. Jeff turned and
walked slowly away; then he came quickly back, as if he were going to
follow her within. But through the window he saw her as she stood by the
table with a lamp in her hand. She had turned up the light, which shone
full in her face and revealed its severe beauty broken and writhen with
the effort to repress her weeping. He might not have minded the severity
or the beauty, but the pathos was more than he could stand. "Oh, Lord!"
he said, with a shrug, and he turned again and walked slowly up the hill.
When Whitwell faced his daughter in the little sitting-room, whose low
ceiling his hat almost touched as he stood before her, the storm had
passed with her, and her tear-drenched visage wore its wonted look of
"Did Jeff tell you why I sent for you, father?"
"No. But I knew it was trouble," said Whitwell, with a dignity which-
his sympathy for her gave a countenance better adapted to the expression
of the lighter emotions.
"I guess you were right about him," she resumed: She went on to tell in
brief the story that Jeff had told her. Her father did not interrupt
her, but at the end he said, inadequately: "He's a comical devil. I knew
about his gittin' that feller drunk. Mr. Westover told me when he was up
"Mr. Westover did!" said Cynthia, in a note of indignation.
"He didn't offer to," Whitwell explained. "I got it out of him in spite
of him, I guess." He had sat down with his hat on, as his absent-minded
habit was, and he now braced his knees against the edge of the table.
Cynthia sat across it from him with her head drooped over it, drawing
vague figures on the board with her finger. "What are you goin' to do?"
"I don't know," she answered.
"I guess you don't quite realize it yet," her father suggested, tenderly.
"Well, I don't want to hurry you any. Take your time."
"I guess I realize it," said the girl.
"Well, it's a pootty plain case, that's a fact," Whitwell conceded. She
was silent, and he asked: "How did he come to tell you?"
"It's what he came up for. He began to tell me at once. I was certain
there was some trouble."
"Was it his notion to come, I wonder, or Mr. Westover's?"
"It was his. But Mr. Westover told him to break off with me, and keep on
with her, if she would let him."
"I guess that was pootty good advice," said Whitwell, letting his face
betray his humorous relish of it. "I guess there's a pair of 'em."
"She was not playing any one else false," said Cynthia, bitterly.
"Well, I guess that's so, too," her father assented. "'Ta'n't so much of
a muchness as you might think, in that light." He took refuge from the
subject in an undirected whistle.
After a moment the girl asked, forlornly: "What should you do, father,
if you were in my place?"
"Well, there I guess you got me, Cynthy," said her father. "I don't
believe 't any man, I don't care how old he is, or how much experience
he's had, knows exactly how a girl feels about a thing like this, or has
got any call to advise her. Of course, the way I feel is like takin' the
top of his head off. But I d' know," he added, "as that would do a great
deal of good, either. I presume a woman's got rather of a chore to get
along with a man, anyway. We a'n't any of us much to brag on. It's out
o' sight, out o' mind, with the best of us, I guess."
"It wouldn't be with Jackson--it wouldn't be with Mr. Westover."
"There a'n't many men like Mr. Westover--well, not a great many; or
Jackson, either. Time! I wish Jackson was home! He'd know how to
straighten this thing out, and he wouldn't weaken over Jeff much--well,
not much. But he a'n't here, and you've got to act for yourself. The
way I look at it is this: you took Jeff when you knowed what a comical
devil he was, and I presume you ha'n't got quite the same right to be
disappointed in what he done as if you hadn't knowed. Now mind, I a'n't
excusin' him. But if you knowed he was the feller to play the devil if
he got a chance, the question is whether--whether--"
"I know what you mean, father," said the girl, "and I don't want to shirk
my responsibility. It was everything to have him come right up and tell
"Well," said Whitwell, impartially, "as far forth as that goes, I don't
think he's strained himself. He'd know you would hear of it sooner or
later anyway, and he ha'n't just found out that he was goin' wrong.
Been keepin' it up for the last three months, and writin' you all the
while them letters you was so crazy to get."
"Yes," sighed the girl. "But we've got to be just to his disposition as
well as his actions. I can see it in one light that can excuse it some.
He can't bear to be put down, and I know he's been left out a good deal
among the students, and it's made him bitter. He told me about it;
that's one reason why he wanted to leave Harvard this last year. He saw
other young men made much of, when he didn't get any notice; and when he
had the chance to pay them back with a girl of their own set that was
trying to make a fool of him--"
"That was the time for him to remember you," said Whitwell.
Cynthia broke under the defence she was trying to make. "Yes," she said,
with an indrawn sigh, and she began to sob piteously.
The sight of her grief seemed to kindle her father's wrath to a flame.
"Any way you look at him, he's been a dumn blackguard; that's what he's
been. You're a million times too good for him; and I--"
She sobbed herself quiet, and then she said: "Father, I don't like to go
up there to-night. I want to stay here."
"All right, Cynthia. I'll come down and stay with you. You got
everything we want here?"
"Yes. And I'll go up and get the breakfast for them in the morning.
There won't be much to do."
"Dumn 'em! Let 'em get their own breakfast!" said Whitwell, recklessly.
"And, father," the girl went on as if he had not spoken, "don't you talk
to Mrs. Durgin about it, will you?"
"No, no. I sha'n't speak to her. I'll just tell Frank you and me are
goin' to stay down here to-night. She'll suspicion something, but she
can figure it out for herself. Or she can make Jeff tell her. It can't
be kept from her."
"Well, let him be the one to tell her. Whatever happens, I shall never
speak of it to a soul besides you."
"All right, Cynthy. You'll have the night to think it over--I guess you
won't sleep much--and I'll trust you to do what's the best thing about
Cynthia found Mrs. Durgin in the old farm-house kitchen at work getting
breakfast when she came up to the hotel in the morning. She was early,
but the elder woman had been earlier still, and her heavy face showed
more of their common night-long trouble than the girl's.
She demanded, at sight of her, "What's the matter with you and Jeff,
Cynthia was unrolling the cloud from her hair. She said, as she tied on
her apron: "You must get him to tell you, Mrs. Durgin."
"Then there is something?"
"Has Jeff been using you wrong?"
Cynthia stooped to open the oven door, and to turn the pan of biscuit she
found inside. She shut the door sharply to, and said, as she rose:
"I don't want to tell anything about it, and I sha'n't, Mrs. Durgin. He
can do it, if he wants to. Shall I make the coffee?"
"Yes; you seem to make it better than I do. Do you think I shouldn't
believe you was fair to him?"
"I wasn't thinking of that. But it's his secret. If he wants to keep
it, he can keep it, for all me."
"You ha'n't give each other up?"
"I don't know." Cynthia turned away with a trembling chin, and began to
beat the coffee up with an egg she had dropped into the pot. She put the
breakfast on the table when it was ready, but she would not sit down with
the rest. She said she did not want any breakfast, and she drank a cup
of coffee in the kitchen.
It fell to Jeff mainly to keep the talk going. He had been out at the
barn with Jombateeste since daybreak, looking after the cattle, and the
joy of the weather had got into his nerves and spirits. At first he had
lain awake after he went to bed, but he had fallen asleep about midnight,
and got a good night's rest. He looked fresh and strong and very
handsome. He talked resolutely to every one at the table, but
Jombateeste was always preoccupied with eating at his meals, and Frank
Whitwell had on a Sunday silence, which was perhaps deepened by a feeling
that there was something wrong between his sister and Jeff, and it would
be rash to commit himself to an open friendliness until he understood the
case. His father met Jeff's advances with philosophical blandness and
evasion, and Mrs. Durgin was provisionally dry and severe both with the
Whitwells and her son. After breakfast she went to the parlor, and Jeff
set about a tour of the hotel, inside and out. He looked carefully to
the details of its winter keeping. Then he came back and boldly joined
his mother where she sat before her stove, whose subdued heat she found
pleasant in the lingering cold of the early spring.
He tossed his hat on the table beside her, and sat down on the other side
of the stove. "Well, I must say the place has been well looked after.
I don't believe Jackson himself could have kept it in better shape. When
was the last you heard from him?"
"I hope," said his mother, gravely, "you've been lookin' after your end
at Boston, too."
"Well, not as well as you have here, mother," said Jeff, candidly.
"Has Cynthy told you?"
"I guess she expected you to tell me, if there was anything."
"There's a lot; but I guess I needn't go over it all. I've been playing
"Yes, I have. I've been going with another girl down there, one the kind
you wanted me to make up to, and I went so far I--well, I made love to
her; and then I thought it over, and found out I didn't really care for
her, and I had to tell her so, and then I came up to tell Cynthy. That's
about the size of it. What do you think of it?"
"D' you tell Cynthy?"
"Yes, I told her."
"What 'd she say?"
"She said I'd better go back to the other girl." Jeff laughed hardily,
but his mother remained impassive.
"I guess she's right; I guess you had."
"That seems to be the general opinion. That's what Mr. Westover advised.
I seem to be the only one against it. I suppose you mean that I'm not
fit for Cynthy. I don't deny it. All I say is I want her, and I don't
want the other one. What are you going to do in a case like that?"
"The way I should look at it," said his mother, "is this: whatever you
are, Cynthy made you. You was a lazy, disobedient, worthless boy,
and it was her carin' for you from the first that put any spirit and any
principle into you. It was her that helped you at school when you was
little things together; and she helped you at the academy, and she's
helped you at college. I'll bet she could take a degree, or whatever it
is, at Harvard better than you could now; and if you ever do take a
degree, you've got her to thank for it."
"That's so," said Jeff. "And what's the reason you didn't want me to
marry her when I came in here last summer and told you I'd asked her to?"
"You know well enough what the reason was. It was part of the same thing
as my wantin' you to be a lawyer; but I might knowed that if you didn't
have Cynthy to go into court with you, and put the words into your mouth,
you wouldn't make a speech that would"--Mrs. Durgin paused for a fitting
figure--"save a flea from the gallows."
Jeff burst into a laugh. "Well, I guess that's so, mother. And now you
want me to throw away the only chance I've got of learning how to run
Lion's Head in the right way by breaking with Cynthy."
"Nobody wants you to run Lion's Head for a while yet," his mother
returned, scornfully. "Jackson is going to run Lion's Head. He'll be
home the end of June, and I'll run Lion's Head till he gets here. You
talk," she went on, "as if it was in your hands to break with Cynthy, or
throw away the chance with her. The way I look at it, she's broke with
you, and you ha'n't got any chance with her. Oh, Jeff," she suddenly
appealed to him, "tell me all about it! What have you been up to?
If I understood it once, I know I can make her see it in the right
"The better you understand it, mother, the less you'll like it; and I
guess Cynthy sees it in the right light already. What did she say?"
"Nothing. She said she'd leave it to you."
"Well, that's like Cynthy. I'll tell you, then," said Jeff; and he told
his mother his whole affair with Bessie Lynde. He had to be very
elemental, and he was aware, as he had never been before, of the
difference between Bessie's world and his mother's world, in trying to
make Bessie's world conceivable to her.
He was patient in going over every obscure point, and illustrating from
the characters and condition of different summer folks the facts of
Bessie's entourage. It is doubtful, however, if he succeeded in
conveying to his mother a clear and just notion of the purely chic nature
of the girl. In the end she seemed to conceive of her simply as a hussy,
and so pronounced her, without limit or qualification, in spite of Jeff's
laughing attempt to palliate her behavior, and to inculpate himself.
She said she did not see what he had done that was so much out of the
way. That thing had led him on from the beginning; she had merely got
her come-uppings, when all was said. Mrs. Durgin believed Cynthia would
look at it as she did, if she could have it put before her rightly. Jeff
shook his head with persistent misgiving. His notion was that Cynthia
saw the affair only too clearly, and that there was no new light to be
thrown on it from her point of view. Mrs. Durgin would not allow this;
she was sure that she could bring Cynthia round; and she asked Jeff
whether it was his getting that fellow drunk that she seemed to blame him
for the most. He answered that he thought that was pretty bad, but he
did not believe that was the worst thing in Cynthia's eyes. He did not
forbid his mother's trying to do what she could with her, and he went
away for a walk, and left the house to the two women. Jombateeste was in
the barn, which he preferred to the house, and Frank Whitwell had gone to
church over at the Huddle. As Jeff passed Whitwell's cottage in setting
out on his stroll he saw the philosopher through the window, seated with
his legs on the table, his hat pushed back, and his spectacles fallen to
the point of his nose, reading, and moving his lips as he read.
The forenoon sun was soft, but the air was cool.
There was still plenty of snow on the upper slopes of the hills, and
there was a drift here and there in a corner of pasture wall in the
valley; but the springtime green was beginning to hover over the wet
places in the fields; the catkins silvered the golden tracery of the
willow branches by the brook; there was a buzz of bees about them,
and about the maples, blackened by the earlier flow of sap through the
holes in the bark made by the woodpeckers' bills. Now and then the
tremolo of a bluebird shook in the tender light and the keen air. At one
point in the road where the sun fell upon some young pines in a sheltered
spot a balsamic odor exhaled from them.
These gentle sights and sounds and odors blended in the influence which
Jeff's spirit felt more and more. He realized that he was a blot on the
loveliness of the morning. He had a longing to make atonement and to win
forgiveness. His heart was humbled toward Cynthia, and he went wondering
how his mother would make it out with her, and how, if she won him any
advantage, he should avail himself of it and regain the girl's trust;
he had no doubt of her love. He perceived that there was nothing for him
hereafter but the most perfect constancy of thought and deed, and he
desired nothing better.
At a turn of his road where it branched toward the Huddle a group of
young girls stood joking and laughing; before Jeff came up with them they
separated, and all but one continued on the way beyond the turning. She
came toward Jeff, who gayly recognized her as she drew near.
She blushed and bridled at his bow and at his beauty and splendor, and in
her embarrassment pertly said that she did not suppose he would have
remembered her. She was very young, but at fifteen a country girl is not
so young as her town sister at eighteen in the ways of the other sex.
Jeff answered that he should have known her anywhere, in spite of her
looking so much older than she did in the summer when she had come with
berries to the hotel. He said she must be feeling herself quite a young
lady now, in her long dresses, and he praised the dress which she had on.
He said it became her style; and he found such relief from his heavy
thoughts in these harmless pleasantries that he kept on with them. He
had involuntarily turned with her to walk back to her house on the way he
had come, and he asked her if he might not carry her catkins for her.
She had a sheaf of them in the hollow of her slender arm, which seemed to
him very pretty, and after a little struggle she yielded them to him.
The struggle gave him still greater relief from his self-reproach,
and at her gate he begged her to let him keep one switch of the
pussywillows, and he stood a moment wondering whether he might not ask
her for something else. She chose one from the bundle, and drew it
lightly across his face before she put it in his hand. "You may have
this for Cynthy," she said, and she ran laughingly up the pathway to her
Cynthia did not appear at dinner, and Jeff asked his mother when he saw
her alone if she had spoken to the girl. "Yes, but she said she did not
want to talk yet."
"All right," he returned. "I'm going to take a nap; I believe I feel as
if I hadn't slept for a month."
He slept the greater part of the afternoon, and came down rather dull to
the early tea. Cynthia was absent again, and his mother was silent and
wore a troubled look. Whitwell was full of a novel conception of the
agency of hypnotism in interpreting the life of the soul as it is
intimated in dreams. He had been reading a book that affirmed the
consubstantiality of the sleep-dream and the hypnotic illusion. He
wanted to know if Jeff, down at Boston, had seen anything of the hypnotic
doings that would throw light on this theory.
It was still full light when they rose from the table, and it was
scarcely twilight when Jeff heard Cynthia letting herself out at the back
door. He fancied her going down to her father's house, and he went out
to the corner of the hotel to meet her. She faltered a moment at sight
of him, and then kept on with averted face.
He joined her, and walked beside her. "Well, Cynthy, what are you going
to say to me? I'm off for Cambridge again to-morrow morning, and I
suppose we've got to understand each other. I came up here to put myself
in your hands, to keep or to throw away, just as you please. Well? Have
you thought about it?"
"Every minute," said the girl, quietly.
"If you had cared for me, it couldn't have happened."
"Oh yes, it could. Now that's just where you're mistaken. That's where
a woman never can understand a man. I might carry on with half a dozen
girls, and yet never forget you, or think less of you, although I could
see all the time how pretty and bright every one of 'em was. That's the
way a man's mind is built. It's curious, but it's true."
"I don't believe I care for any share in your mind, then," said the girl.
"Oh, come, now! You don't mean that. You know I was just joking; you
know I don't justify what I've done, and I don't excuse it. But I think
I've acted pretty square with you about it--about telling you, I mean.
I don't want to lay any claim, but you remember when you made me promise
that if there was anything shady I wanted to hide from you--Well, I acted
on that. You do remember?"
"Yes," said Cynthia, and she pulled the cloud over the side of her face
next to him, and walked a little faster.
He hastened his steps to keep up with her. "Cynthy, if you put your arms
round me, as you did then--"
"I can't Jeff!"
"You don't want to."
"Yes, I do! But you don't want me to, as you did then. Do you?" She
stopped abruptly and faced him full. "Tell me, honestly!"
Jeff dropped his bold eyes, and the smile left his handsome mouth.
"You don't," said the girl, "for you know that if you did, I would do
it." She began to walk on again. "It wouldn't be hard for me to forgive
you anything you've done against me--or against yourself; I should care
for you the same--if you were the same person; but you're not the same,
and you know it. I told you then--that time that I didn't want to make
you do what you knew was right, and I never shall try to do it again.
I'm sorry I did it then. I was wrong. And I should be afraid of you if
I did now. Some time you would make me suffer for it, just as you've
made me suffer for making you do then what was right."
It struck Jeff as a very curious fact that Cynthia must always have known
him better than he knew himself in some ways, for he now perceived the
truth and accuracy of her words. He gave her mind credit for the
penetration due her heart; he did not understand that it is through their
love women divine the souls of men. What other witnesses of his
character had slowly and carefully reasoned out from their experience of
him she had known from the beginning, because he was dear to her.
He was silent, and then, with rare gravity, he said, "Cynthia, I believe
you're right," and he never knew how her heart leaped toward him at his
words. "I'm a pretty bad chap, I guess. But I want you to give me
another chance and I'll try not to make you pay for it, either," he
added, with a flicker of his saucy humor.
"I'll give you a chance, then," she said, and she shrank from the hand he
put out toward her. "Go back and tell that girl you're free now, and if
she wants you she can have you."
"Is that what you call a chance?" demanded Jeff, between anger and
injury. For an instant he imagined her deriding him and revenging
"It's the only one I can give you. She's never tried to make you do what
was right, and you'll never be tempted to hurt her."
"You're pretty rough on me, Cynthy," Jeff protested, almost plaintively.
He asked, more in character: "Ain't you afraid of making me do right,
"I'm not making you. I don't promise you anything, even if she won't
"Did you suppose I didn't mean that you were free? That I would put a
lie in your mouth for you to be true with?"
"I guess you're too deep for me," said Jeff, after a sulky silence.
"Then it's all off between us? What do you say?"
"What do you say?"
"I say it's just as it was before, if you care for me."
"I care for you, but it can never be the same as it was before. What
you've done, you've done. I wish I could help it, but I can't. I can't
make myself over into what I was twenty-four hours ago. I seem another
person, in another world; it's as if I died, and came to life somewhere
else. I'm sorry enough, if that could help, but it can't. Go and tell
that girl the truth: that you came up here to me, and I sent you back to
A gleam of amusement visited Jeff in the gloom where he seemed to be
darkling. He fancied doing that very thing with Bessie Lynde, and the
wild joy she would snatch from an experience so unique, so impossible.
Then the gleam faded. "And what if I didn't want her?" he demanded.
"Tell her that too," said Cynthia.
"I suppose," said Jeff, sulkily, "you'll let me go away and do as I
please, if I'm free."
"Oh yes. I don't want you to do anything because I told you. I won't
make that mistake again. Go and do what you are able to do of your own
free will. You know what you ought to do as well as I do; and you know a
great deal better what you can do."
They had reached Cynthia's house, and they were talking at the side door,
as they had the night before, when there had been hope for her in the
newness of her calamity, before she had yet fully imagined it.
Jeff made no answer to her last words. He asked, "Am I going to see you
"I guess not. I don't believe I shall be up before you start."
"All right. Good-bye, then." He held out his hand, and she put hers in
it for the moment he chose to hold it. Then he turned and slowly climbed
Cynthia was still lying with her face in her pillow when her father came
into the dark little house, and peered into her room with the newly
lighted lamp in his hand. She turned her face quickly over and looked at
him with dry and shining eyes.
"Well, it's all over with Jeff and me, father."
"Well, I'm satisfied," said Whitwell. "If you could ha' made it up, so
you could ha' felt right about it, I shouldn't ha' had anything to say
against it, but I'm glad it's turned out the way it has. He's a comical
devil, and he always was, and I'm glad you a'n't takin' on about him any
more. You used to have so much spirit when you was little."
"Oh,--spirit! You don't know how much spirit I've had, now."
"Well, I presume not," Whitwell assented.
"I've been thinking," said the girl, after a little pause, "that we
shall have to go away from here."
"Well, I guess not," her father began. "Not for no Jeff Dur--"
"Yes, yes. We must! Don't make one talk about it. We'll stay here till
Jackson gets back in June, and then--we must go somewhere else. We'll go
down to Boston, and I'll try to get a place to teach, or something, and
Frank can get a place."
"I presume," Whitwell mused, "that Mr. Westover could--"
"Father!" cried the girl, with an energy that startled him, as she lifted
herself on her elbow. "Don't ever think of troubling Mr. Westover! Oh,"
she lamented, "I was thinking of troubling him myself! But we mustn't,
we mustn't! I should be so ashamed!"
"Well," said Whitwell, "time enough to think about all that. We got two
good months yet to plan it out before Jackson gets back, and I guess we
can think of something before that. I presume," he added, thoughtfully,
"that when Mrs. Durgin hears that you've give Jeff the sack, she'll make
consid'able of a kick. She done it when you got engaged."
After he went back to Cambridge, Jeff continued mechanically in the
direction given him by motives which had ceased for him. In the midst of
his divergence with Bessie Lynde he had still kept an inner fealty to
Cynthia, and tried to fulfil the purposes and ambition she had for him.
The operation of this habitual allegiance now kept him up to his work,
but the time must come when it could no longer operate, when his whole
consciousness should accept the fact known to his intelligence, and he
should recognize the close of that incident of his life as the bereaved
finally accept and recognize the fact of death.
The event brought him relief, and it brought him freedom. He was
sensible in his relaxation of having strained up to another's ideal, of
having been hampered by another's will. His pleasure in the relief was
tempered by a regret, not wholly unpleasant, for the girl whose aims,
since they were no longer his, must be disappointed. He was sorry for
Cynthia, and in his remorse he was fonder of her than he had ever been.
He felt her magnanimity and clemency; he began to question, in that
wordless deep of being where volition begins, whether it would not be
paying a kind of duty to her if he took her at her word and tried to go
back to Bessie Lynde. But for the present he did nothing but renounce
all notion of working at his conditions, or attempting to take a degree.
That was part of a thing that was past, and was no part of anything to
come, so far as Jeff now forecast his future.
He did not choose to report himself to Westover, and risk a scolding, or
a snubbing. He easily forgave Westover for the tone he had taken at
their last meeting, but he did not care to see him. He would have met
him half-way, however, in a friendly advance, and he was aware of much
good-will toward him, which he could not have been reluctant to show if
chance had brought them together.
Jeff missed Cynthia's letters which used to come so regularly every
Tuesday, and he had a half-hour every Sunday which was at first rather
painfully vacant since he no longer wrote to her. But in this vacancy he
had at least no longer the pang of self-reproach which her letters always
brought him, and he was not obliged to put himself to the shame of
concealment in writing to her. He had never minded that tacit lying on
his own account, but he hated it in relation to her; it always hurt him
as something incongruous and unfit. He wrote to his mother now on
Sunday, and in his first letter, while the impression of Cynthia's
dignity and generosity was still vivid, he urged her to make it clear to
the girl that he wished her and her family to remain at Lion's Head as if
nothing had happened. He put a great deal of real feeling into this
request, and he offered to go and spend a year in Europe, if his mother
thought that Cynthia would be more reconciled to his coming back at the
end of that time.
His mother answered with a dryness to which his ear supplied the tones of
her voice, that she would try to get along in the management of Lion's
Head till his brother got back, but that she had no objection to his
going to Europe for a year if he had the money to spare. Jeff could not
refuse her joke, as he felt it, a certain applause, but he thought it
pretty rough that his mother should take part so decidedly against him as
she seemed to be doing. He had expected her to be angry with him, but
before they parted she had seemed to find some excuse for him, and yet
here she was siding against her own son in what he might very well
consider an unnatural way. If Jackson had been at home he would have
laid it to his charge; but he knew that Cynthia would have scorned even
to speak of him with his mother, and he knew too well his mother's slight
for Whitwell to suppose that he could have influenced her. His mind
turned in momentary suspicion to Westover. Had Westover, he wondered,
with a purpose to pay him up for it forming itself simultaneously with
his question, been setting his mother against him? She might have
written to Westover to get at the true inwardness of his behavior, and
Westover might have written her something that had made her harden her
heart against him. But upon reflection this seemed out of character for
both of them; and Jeff was thrown back upon his mother's sober second
thought of his misconduct for an explanation of her coldness. He could
not deny that he had grievously disappointed her in several ways.
But he did not see why he should not take a certain hint from her letter,
or construct a hint from it, at one with a vague intent prompted by his
own restless and curious vanity. Since he had parted with Bessie Lynde,
on terms of humiliation for her which must have been anguish for him if
he had ever loved her, or loved anything but his power over her, he had
remained in absolute ignorance of her. He had not heard where she was or
how she was; but now, as the few weeks before Class Day and Commencement
crumbled away, he began to wonder why she made no sign. He believed that
since she had been willing to go so far to get him, she would not be
willing to give him up so easily. The thought of Cynthia had always
intruded more or less effectively between them, but now that this thought
began to fade into the past, the thought of Bessie began to grow out of
it with no interposing shadow.
However, Jeff was in no hurry. It was not passion that moved him, and
the mood in which he could play with the notion of getting back to his
flirtation with Bessie Lynde was pleasanter after the violence of recent
events than any renewal of strong sensations could be. He preferred to
loiter in this mood, and he was meantime much more comfortable than he
had been for a great while. He was rid of the disagreeable sense of
disloyalty to Cynthia, and he was rid of the stress of living up to her
conscience in various ways. He was rid of Bessie Lynde, too, and of the
trouble of forecasting and discounting her caprices. His thought turned
at times with a soft regret to hopes, disappointments, experiences
connected with neither, and now tinged with a tender melancholy,
unalloyed by shame or remorse. As he drew nearer to Class Day he had a
somewhat keener compunction for Cynthia and the hopes he had encouraged
her to build and had then dashed. But he was coming more and more to
regard it all as fatality; and if the chance that he counted upon to
bring him and Bessie together again had occurred he could have more
easily forgiven himself.
One of the jays, who was spreading on rather a large scale, wanted Jeff
to spread with him, but he refused, because, as he said, he meant to keep
out of it altogether; and for the same reason he declined to take part in
the spread of a rather jay society he belonged to. In his secret heart
he trusted that some friendly fortuity might throw an invitation to Beck
Hall in his way, or at least a card for the Gym, which, if no longer the
place it had been, was still by no means jay. He got neither; but as he
felt all the joy of the June day in his young blood he consoled himself
very well with the dancing at one of the halls, where the company
happened that year to be openly, almost recklessly jay. Jeff had some
distinction among the fellows who enviously knew of his social success
during the winter, and especially of his affair with Bessie Lynde; and
there were some girls very pretty and very well dressed among the crowd
of girls who were neither. They were from remote parts of the country,
and in the charge of chaperons ignorant of the differences so poignant to
local society. Jeff went about among them, and danced with the sisters
and cousins of several men who seemed superior to the lost condition of
their kinswomen; these were nice fellows enough, but doomed by their
grinding, or digging, or their want of worldly wisdom, to a place among
the jays, when they really had some qualifications for a nobler standing.
He had a very good time, and he was enjoying himself in his devotion to a
lively young brunette whom he was making laugh with his jokes about some
of the others, when his eye was caught by a group of ladies who advanced
among the jays with something of that collective intrepidity and
individual apprehension characteristic of people in slumming. They had
the air of not knowing what might happen to them, but the adventurous
young Boston matron in charge of the girls kept on a bold front behind
her lorgnette, and swept the strange company she found herself in with an
unshrinking eye as she led her band among the promenaders, and past the
couples seated along the walls. She hesitated a moment as her glance
fell upon Jeff, and then she yielded, at whatever risk, to the comfort of
finding a known face among so many aliens. "Why, Mr. Durgin!" she called
out. "Bessie, here's Mr. Durgin," and she turned to the girl, who was in
her train, as Jeff had perceived by something finer than the senses from
He rose from the side of his brunette, whose brother was standing near,
and shook hands with the adventurous young matron, who seemed suddenly
much better acquainted with him than he had ever thought her, and with
Bessie Lynde; the others were New York girls, and the matron presented
him. "Are you going on?" she asked, and the vague challenge with the
smile that accompanied it was sufficient invitation for him.
"Why, I believe so," he said, and he turned to take leave of his pretty
brunette; but she had promptly vanished with her brother, and he was
spared the trouble of getting rid of her. He would have been equal to
much more for the sake of finding himself with Bessie Lynde again, whose
excitement he could see burning in her eyes, though her thick complexion
grew neither brighter nor paler. He did not know what quality of
excitement it might be, but he said, audaciously: "It's a good while
since we met!" and he was sensible that his audacity availed.
"Is it?" she asked. He put himself at her side, and he did not leave her
again till he went to dress for the struggle around the Tree. He found
himself easily included in the adventurous young matron's party. He had
not the elegance of some of the taller and slenderer men in the scholar's
gown, but the cap became his handsome face. His affair with Bessie Lynde
had given him a certain note, and an adventurous young matron, who was
naturally a little indiscriminate, might very well have been willing to
let him go about with her party. She could not know how impudent his
mere presence was with reference to Bessie, and the girl herself made no
sign that could have enlightened her. She accepted something more that
her share of his general usefulness to the party; she danced with him
whenever he asked her, and she seemed not to scruple to publish her
affair with him in the openest manner. If he could have stilled a
certain shame for her which he felt, he would have thought he was having
the best kind of time. They made no account of by-gones in their talk,
but she had never been so brilliant, or prompted him to so many of the
effronteries which were the spirit of his humor. He thought her awfully
nice, with lots of sense; he liked her letting him come back without any
fooling or fuss, and he began to admire instead of despising her for it.
Decidedly it was, as she would have said, the chicquest sort of thing.
What was the use, anyway? He made up his mind.
When he said he must go and dress for the Tree, he took leave of her
first, and he was aware of a vivid emotion, which was like regret in her
at parting with him. She said, Must he? She seemed to want to say
something more to him; while he was dismissing himself from the others,
he noticed that once or twice she opened her lips as if she were going to
speak. In the end she did nothing more important than to ask if he had
seen her brother; but after he had left the party he turned and saw her
following him with eyes that he fancied anxious and even frightened in
The riot round the Tree roared itself through its wonted events. Class
after class of the undergraduates filed in and sank upon the grass below
the terraces and parterres of brilliantly dressed ladies within the
quadrangle of seats; the alumni pushed themselves together against the
wall of Holder Chapel; the men of the Senior class came last in their
grotesque variety of sweaters and second and third best clothes for the
scramble at the Tree. The regulation cheers tore from throats that grew
hoarser and hoarser, till every class and every favorite in the faculty
had been cheered. Then the signal-hat was flung into the air, and the
rush at the Tree was made, and the combat' for the flowers that garlanded
its burly waist began.
Jeff's size and shape forbade him to try for the flowers from the
shoulders of others. He was one of a group of jays who set their backs
to the Tree, and fought away all comers except their own; they pulled
down every man not of their sort, and put up a jay, who stripped the Tree
of its flowers and flung them to his fellows below. As he was let drop
to the ground, Jeff snatched a handful of his spoil from him, and made
off with it toward the place where he had seen Bessie Lynde and her
party. But when he reached the place, shouldering and elbowing his way
through the press, she was no longer there. He saw her hat at a distance
through the crowd, where he did not choose to follow, and he stuffed the
flowers into his breast to give to her later. He expected to meet her
somewhere in the evening; if not, he would try to find her at her aunt's
house in town; failing that, he could send her the flowers, and trust her
for some sort of leading acknowledgment.
He went and had a bath and dressed himself freshly, and then he went for
a walk in the still evening air. He was very hot from the battle which
had been fought over him, and which he had shared with all his strength,
and it seemed to him as if he could not get cool. He strolled far out
along Concord Avenue, beyond the expanses and ice-horses of Fresh Pond,
into the country toward Belmont, with his hat off and his head down. He
was very well satisfied, and he was smiling to himself at the ease of his
return to Bessie, and securely speculating upon the outcome of their
He heard a vehicle behind him, rapidly driven, and he turned out for it
without looking around. Then suddenly he felt a fiery sting on his
forehead, and then a shower of stings swiftly following each other over
his head and face. He remembered stumbling, when he was a boy, into a
nest of yellow-jackets, that swarmed up around him and pierced him like
sparks of fire at every uncovered point. But he knew at the same time
that it was some one in the vehicle beside him who was lashing him over
the head with a whip. He bowed his head with his eyes shut and lunged
blindly out toward his assailant, hoping to seize him.
But the horse sprang aside, and tore past him down the road. Jeff opened
his eyes, and through the blood that dripped from the cuts above them he
saw the wicked face of Alan Lynde looking back at him from the dogcart
where he sat with his man beside him. He brandished his broken whip in
the air, and flung it into the bushes. Jeff walked on, and picked it up,
before he turned aside to the pools of the marsh stretching on either
hand, and tried to stanch his hurts, and get himself into shape for
returning to town and stealing back to his lodging. He had to wait till
after dark, and watch his chance to get into the house unnoticed.
The chum to whom Jeff confided the story of his encounter with a man he
left nameless inwardly thanked fortune that he was not that man; for he
knew him destined sooner or later to make such reparation for the
injuries he had inflicted as Jeff chose to exact. He tended him
carefully, and respected the reticence Jeff guarded concerning the whole
matter, even with the young doctor whom his friend called, and who kept
to himself his impressions of the nature of Jeff's injuries.
Jeff lay in his darkened room, and burned with them, and with the
thoughts, guesses, purposes which flamed through his mind. Had she,
that girl, known what her brother meant to do? Had she wished him to
think of her in the moment of his punishment, and had she spoken of her
brother so that he might recall her, or had she had some ineffective
impulse to warn him against her brother when she spoke of him?
He lay and raged in vain with his conjectures, and he did a thousand
imagined murders upon Lynde in revenge of his shame.
Toward the end of the week, while his hurts were still too evident to
allow him to go out-of-doors before dark, he had a note from Westover
asking him to come in at once to see him.
"Your brother Jackson," Westover wrote, "reached Boston by the New York
train this morning, and is with me here. I must tell you I think he is
not at all well, but he does not know how sick he is, and so I forewarn
you. He wants to get on home, but I do not feel easy about letting him
make the rest of the journey alone. Some one ought to go with him. I
write not knowing whether you are still in Cambridge or not; or whether,
if you are, you can get away at this time. But I think yon ought, and I
wish, at any rate, that you would come in at once and see Jackson. Then
we can settle what had best be done."
Jeff wrote back that he had been suffering with a severe attack of
erysipelas--he decided upon erysipelas for the time being, but he meant
to let Westover know later that he had been in a row--and the doctor
would not let him go out yet. He promised to come in as soon as he
possibly could. If Westover thought Jackson ought to be got home at
once, and was not fit to travel alone, he asked him to send a hospital
nurse with him.
Westover replied by Jeff's messenger that it would worry and alarm
Jackson to be put in charge of a nurse; but that he would go home with
him, and they would start the next day. He urged Jeff to come and see
his brother if it was at all safe for him to do so. But if he could not,
Westover would give his mother a reassuring reason for his failure.
Mrs. Durgin did not waste any anxiety for the sickness which prevented
Jeff from coming home with his brother. She said ironically that it must
be very bad, and she gave all her thought and care to Jackson. The sick
man rallied, as he prophesied he should, in his native air, and
celebrated the sense and science of the last doctor he had seen in
Europe, who told him that he had made a great gain, but he had better
hurry home as fast as he could, for he had got all the advantage he could
expect to have from his stay abroad, and now home air was the best thing
It could not be known how much of this he believed; he had, at any rate,
the pathetic hopefulness of his malady; but his mother believed it all,
and she nursed him with a faith in his recovery which Whitwell confided
to Westover was about as much as he wanted to see, for one while. She
seemed to grow younger in the care of him, and to get back to herself,
more and more, from the facts of Jeff's behavior, which had aged and
broken her. She had to tell Jackson about it all, but he took it with
that indifference to the things of this world which the approach of death
sometimes brings, and in the light of his passivity it no longer seemed
to her so very bad. It was a relief to have Jackson say, Well, perhaps
it was for the best; and it was a comfort to see how he and Cynthia took
to each other; it was almost as if that dreadful trouble had not been.
She told Jackson what hard work she had had to make Cynthia stay with
her, and how the girl had consented to stay only until Jeff came home;
but she guessed, now that Jackson had got back, he could make Cynthia see
it all in another light, and perhaps it would all come right again. She
consulted him about Jeff's plan of going abroad, and Jackson said it
might be about as well; he should soon be around, and he thought if Jeff
went it would give Cynthia more of a chance to get reconciled. After
all, his mother suggested, a good many fellows behaved worse than Jeff
had done and still had made it up with the girls they were engaged to;
and Jackson gently assented.
He did not talk with Cynthia about Jeff, out of that delicacy, or that
coldness, common to them both. Perhaps it was not necessary for them to
speak of him; perhaps they understood him aright in their understanding
of each other.
Westover stayed on, day after day, thinking somehow that he ought to wait
till Jeff came. There were only a few other people in the hotel, and
these were of a quiet sort; they were not saddened by the presence of a
doomed man under the same roof, as gayer summer folks might have been,
and they were themselves no disturbance to him.
He sat about with them on the veranda, and he made friends among them,
and they did what they could to encourage and console him in his
impatience to take up his old cares in the management of the hotel. The
Whitwells easily looked after the welfare of the guests, and Jackson was
so much better to every one's perception that Westover could honestly
write Jeff a good report of him.
The report may have been so good that Jeff took the affair too easily.
It was a fortnight after Jackson's return to Lion's Head when he began to
fail so suddenly and alarmingly that Westover decided upon his own
responsibility to telegraph Jeff of his condition. But he had the
satisfaction of Whitwell's approval when he told him what he had done.
"Of course, Jackson a'n't long for this world. Anybody but him and his
mother could see that; and now he's just melting away, as you might say.
I ha'n't liked his not carin' to work plantchette since he got back;
looked to me from the start that he kind of knowed that it wa'n't worth
while for him to trouble about a world that he'll know all about so soon,
anyways; and d' you notice he don't seem to care about Mars, either?
I've tried to wake him up on it two-three times, but you can't git him to
take an interest. I guess Jeff can't git here any too soon on Jackson's
account; but as far forth as I go, he couldn't git here too late. I
should like to take the top of his head off."
Westover had been in Whitwell's confidence since their first chance of
speech together. He now said:
"I know it will be rather painful to you to have him here for some
"You mean Cynthy? Well! I guess when Cynthy can't get along with the
sight of Jeff Durgin, she'll be a different girl from what she's ever
been before. If she's got to see that skunk ag'in, I guess this is about
the best time to do it."
It was Westover who drove to meet Jeff at the station, when he got his
despatch, naming the train he would take, and he found him looking very
well, and perhaps stouter than he had been.
They left the station in silence, after their greeting and Jeff's
inquiries about Jackson. Jeff had taken the reins, and now he put them
with the whip in one hand, and pushed up his hat with the other, and
turned his face full upon Westover. "Notice anything in particular?" he
" No; yes--some slight marks."
"I guess that fellow fixed me up pretty well: paints black eyes, and that
kind of thing. I got to scrapping with a man, Class Day; we wanted to
settle a little business we began at the Tree, and he left his marks on
me. I meant to tell you the truth as soon as I could get at you; but I
had to say erysipelas in my letter. I guess, if you don't mind, we'll
let erysipelas stand, with the rest."
"I shouldn't have cared," Westover said, "if you'd let it stand with me."
"Oh, thank you," Jeff returned.
There could have been no show of affection at his meeting with Jackson
even if there had been any fact of it; that was not the law of their
life. But Jeff had always been a turbulent, rebellious, younger brother,
resentful of Jackson's control, too much his junior to have the
associations of an equal companionship in the past, and yet too near him
in age to have anything like a filial regard for him. They shook hands,
and each asked the other how he was, and then they seemed to have done
with each other. Jeff's mother kissed him in addition to the
handshaking, but made him feel her preoccupation with Jackson; she asked
him if he had hurried home on Jackson's account, and he promptly lied her
out of this anxiety.
He shook hands with Cynthia, too, but it was across the barrier which had
not been lowered between them since they parted. He spoke to Jackson
about her, the day after he came home, when Jackson said he was feeling
unusually strong and well, and the two brothers had strolled out through
the orchard together. Now and then he gave the sick man his arm, and
when he wanted to sit down in a sunny place he spread the shawl he
carried for him.
"I suppose mother's told you about Cynthy and me, Jackson?" he began.
Jackson answered, with lack-lustre eyes, "Yes." Presently he asked:
"What's become of the other girl?"
"Damn her! I don't know what's become of her, and I don't care!" Jeff
"Then you don't care for her any more?" Jackson pursued, with the same
"I never cared for her."
Jackson was silent, and the matter seemed to have faded out of his mind.
But it was keenly alive in Jeff's mind, and he was in the strange
necessity which men in the flush of life and health often feel of seeking
counsel of those who stand in the presence of death, as if their words
should have something of the mystical authority of the unknown wisdom
they are about to penetrate.
"What I want to know is, what I am going to do about Cynthy?"
"I don't know," Jackson answered, vaguely, and he expressed by his
indirection the sense he must sometimes have had of his impending fate--
"I don't know what she's going to do, her or mother, either."
"Yes," Jeff assented, "that's what I think of. And I'd do anything that
I could--that you thought was right."
Jackson apparently concentrated his mind upon the question by an effort.
"Do you care as much for Cynthy as you used to?"
"Yes," said Jeff, after a moment, "as much as I ever did; and more. But
I've been thinking, since the thing happened, that, if I'd cared for her
the way she did for me, it wouldn't have happened. Look here, Jackson!
You know I've never pretended to be like some men--like Mr. Westover,
for example--always looking out for the right and the wrong, and all
that. I didn't make myself, and I guess if the Almighty don't make me go
right it's because He don't want me to. But I have got a conscience
about Cynthy, and I'd be willing to help out a little if I knew how,
about her. The devil of it is, I've got to being afraid. I don't mean
that I'm not fit for her; any man's fit for any woman if he wants her bad
enough; but I'm afraid I sha'n't ever care for her in the right way.
That's the point. I've cared for just one woman in this world, and it
a'n't Cynthy, as far as I can make out. But she's gone, and I guess I
could coax Cynthy round again, and I could be what she wants me to be,
Jackson lay upon his shawl, looking up at the sky full of islands of warm
clouds in its sea of blue; he was silent so long that Jeff began to think
he had not been listening; he could not hear him breathe, and he came
forward to him quickly from the shadow of the tree where he sat.
"Well?" Jackson whispered, turning his eyes upon him.
"Well?" Jeff returned.
"I guess you'd better let it alone," said Jackson.
"All right. That's what I think, too."
Jackson died a week later, and they buried him in the old family lot in
the farthest corner of the orchard. His mother and Cynthia put on
mourning for him, and they stood together by his open grave, Mrs. Durgin
leaning upon her son's arm and the girl upon her father's. The women
wept quietly, but Jeff's eyes were dry, though his face was discharged of
all its prepotent impudence. Westover, standing across the grave from
him, noticed the marks on his forehead that he said were from his
scrapping, and wondered what really made them. He recognized the spot
where they were standing as that where the boy had obeyed the law of his
nature and revenged the stress put upon him for righteousness. Over the
stone of the nearest grave Jeff had shown a face of triumphant derision
when he pelted Westover with apples. The painter's mind fell into a
chaos of conjecture and misgiving, so that he scarcely took in the words
of the composite service which the minister from the Union Chapel at the
Huddle read over the dead.
Some of the guests from the hotel came to the funeral, but others who
were not in good health remained away, and there was a general sense
among them, which imparted itself to Westover, that Jackson's dying so,
at the beginning of the season, was not a fortunate incident. As he sat
talking with Jeff at a corner of the piazza late in the afternoon, Frank
Whitwell came up to them and said there were some people in the office
who had driven over from another hotel to see about board, but they had
heard there was sickness in the house, and wished to talk with him.
"I won't come," said Jeff.
"They're not satisfied with what I've said," the boy urged. "What shall
I tell them?"
"Tell them to-go to the devil," said Jeff, and when Frank Whitwell made
off with this message for delivery in such decent terms as he could
imagine for it, Jeff said, rather to himself than to Westover, "I don't
see how we're going to run this hotel with that old family lot down there
in the orchard much longer."
He assumed the air of full authority at Lion's Head; and Westover felt
the stress of a painful conjecture in regard to the Whitwells intensified
upon him from the moment he turned away from Jackson's grave.
Cynthia and her father had gone back to their own house as soon as Jeff
returned, and though the girl came home with Mrs. Durgin after the
funeral, and helped her in their common duties through the afternoon and
evening, Westover saw her taking her way down the hill with her brother
when the long day's work was over. Jeff saw her too; he was sitting with
Westover at the office door smoking, and he was talking of the Whitwells.
"I suppose they won't stay," he said, "and I can't expect it; but I don't
know what mother will do, exactly."
At the same moment Whitwell came round the corner of the hotel from the
barn, and approached them: "Jeff, I guess I better tell you straight off
that we're goin', the children and me."
"All right, Mr. Whitwell, "said Jeff, with respectful gravity; "I was
afraid of it."
Westover made a motion to rise, but Whitwell laid a detaining hand upon
his knee. "There ain't anything so private about it, so far as I know."
"Don't go, Mr. Westover," said Jeff, and Westover remained.
"We a'n't a-goin' to leave you in the lurch, and we want you should take
your time, especially Mis' Durgin. But the sooner the better. Heigh?"
"Yes, I understand that, Mr. Whitwell; I guess mother will miss you, but
if you must go, you must." The two men remained silent a moment, and
then Jeff broke out passionately, rising and flinging his cigar away:
"I wish I could go, instead! That would be the right way, and I guess
mother would like it full as well. Do you see any way to manage it?
"He put his foot up in his chair, and dropped his elbow on his knee, with
his chin propped in his hand. Westover could see that he meant what he
was saying. "If there was any way, I'd do it. I know what you think of
me, and I should be just like you, in your place. I don't feel right to
turn you out here, I don't, Mr. Whitwell, and yet if I stay, I've got to
do it. What's the reason I can't go?"
"You can't," said Whitwell, "and that's all about it. We shouldn't let
you, if you could. But I a'n't surprised you feel the way you do," he
added, unsparingly. "As you say, I should feel just so myself if I was
in your place. Well, goodnight, Mr. Westover."
Whitwell turned and slouched down the hill, leaving the painter to the
most painful moment he had known with Jeff Durgin, and nearer sympathy.
"That's all right, Mr. Westover," Jeff said, "I don't blame him."
He remained in a constraint from which he presently broke with mocking
hilarity when Jombateeste came round the corner of the house, as if he
had been waiting for Whitwell to be gone, and told Jeff he must get
somebody else to look after the horses.
"Why don't you wait and take the horses with you, Jombateeste?"
he inquired. "They'll be handing in their resignation, the next thing.
Why not go altogether?"
The little Canuck paused, as if uncertain whether he was made the object
of unfriendly derision or not, and looked at Westover for help.
Apparently he decided to chance it in as bitter an answer as he could
invent. "The 'oss can't 'elp 'imself, Mr. Durgin. 'E stay. But you
don' hown EVERYBODY."
"That's so, Jombateeste," said Jeff. "That's a good hit. It makes me
feel awfully. Have a cigar?" The Canuck declined with a dignified bow,
and Jeff said: "You don't smoke any more? Oh, I see! It's my tobacco
you're down on. What's the matter, Jombateeste? What are you going
away for?" Jeff lighted for himself the cigar the Canuck had refused,
and smoked down upon the little man.
"Mr. W'itwell goin'," Jombateeste said, a little confused and daunted.
"What's Mr. Whitwell going for?"
"You hask Mr. W'itwell."
"All right. And if I can get him to stay will you stay too, Jombateeste?
I don't like to see a rat leaving a ship; the ship's sure to sink, if he
does. How do you suppose I'm going to run Lion's Head without you to
throw down hay to the horses? It will be ruin to me, sure, Jombateeste.
All the guests know how you play on the pitchfork out there, and they'll
leave in a body if they hear you've quit. Do say you'll stay, and I'll
reduce your wages one-half on the spot."
Jombateeste waited to hear no more injuries. He said: "You'll don' got
money enough, Mr. Durgin, by gosh! to reduce my wages," and he started
down the hill toward Whitwell's house with as great loftiness as could
comport with a down-hill gait and his stature.
"Well, I seem to be getting it all round, Mr. Westover," said Jeff.
"This must make you feel good. I don't know but I begin to believe
there's a God in Israel, myself."
He walked away without saying good-night, and Westover went to bed
without the chance of setting himself right. In the morning, when he
came down to breakfast, and stopped at the desk to engage a conveyance
for the station from Frank Whitwell the boy forestalled him with a grave
face. "You don't know about Mrs. Durgin?"
"No; what about her?"
"Well, we can't tell exactly. Father thinks it's a shock; Jombateeste
gone over to Lovewell for the doctor. Cynthia's with her. It seemed to
come on in the night."
He spoke softly, that no one else might hear; but by noon the fact that
Mrs. Durgin had been stricken with paralysis was all over the place. The
gloom cast upon the opening season by Jackson's death was deepened among
the guests. Some who had talked of staying through July went away that
day. But under Cynthia's management the housekeeping was really
unaffected by Mrs. Durgin's calamity, and the people who stayed found
themselves as comfortable as ever. Jeff came fully into the hotel
management, and in their business relation Cynthia and he were
continually together; there was no longer a question of the Whitwells
leaving him; even Jombateeste persuaded himself to stay, and Westover
felt obliged to remain at least till the present danger in Mrs. Durgin's
case was past.
With the first return of physical strength, Mrs. Durgin was impatient to
be seen about the house, and to retrieve the season that her affliction
had made so largely a loss. The people who had become accustomed to it
stayed on, and the house filled up as she grew better, but even the sight
of her in a wheeled chair did not bring back the prosperity of other
years. She lamented over it with a keen and full perception of the fact,
but in a cloudy association of it with the joint future of Jeff and
One day, after Mrs. Durgin had declared that she did not know what they
were to do, if things kept on as they were going, Whitwell asked his
"Do you suppose she thinks you and Jeff have made it up again?"
"I don't know," said the girl, with a troubled voice, "and I don't know
what to do about it. It don't seem as if I could tell her, and yet it's
wrong to let her go on."
"Why didn't he tell her?" demanded her father. "'Ta'n't fair his leavin'
it to you. But it's like him."
The sick woman's hold upon the fact weakened most when she was tired.
When she was better, she knew how it was with them. Commonly it was when
Cynthia had got her to bed for the night that she sent for Jeff, and
wished to ask him what he was going to do. "You can't expect Cynthy to
stay here another winter helpin' you, with Jackson away. You've got to
either take her with you, or else come here yourself. Give up your last
year in college, why don't you? I don't want you should stay, and I
don't know who does. If I was in Cynthia's place, I'd let you work off
your own conditions, now you've give up the law. She'll kill herself,
tryin' to keep you along."
Sometimes her speech became so indistinct that no one but Cynthia could
make it out; and Jeff, listening with a face as nearly discharged as
might be of its laughing irony, had to turn to Cynthia for the word which
no one else could catch, and which the stricken woman remained
distressfully waiting for her to repeat to him, with her anxious eyes
upon the girl's face. He was dutifully patient with all his mother's
whims. He came whenever she sent for him, and sat quiet under the
severities with which she visited all his past unworthiness. "Who you
been hectorin' now, I should like to know," she began on him one evening
when he came at her summons. "Between you and Fox, I got no peace of my
life. Where is the dog?"
"Fox is all right, mother," Jeff responded. "You're feeling a little
better to-night, a'n't you?"
"I don't know; I can't tell," she returned, with a gleam of intelligence
in her eye. Then she said: "I don't see why I'm left to strangers all
"You don't call Cynthia a stranger, do you, mother?" he asked, coaxingly.
"Oh--Cynthy!" said Mrs. Durgin, with a glance as of surprise at seeing
her. "No, Cynthy's all right. But where's Jackson and your father? If
I've told them not to be out in the dew once, I've told 'em a hundred
times. Cynthy'd better look after her housekeepin' if she don't want the
whole place to run behind, and not a soul left in the house. What time
o' year is it now?" she suddenly asked, after a little weary pause.
"It's the last of August, mother."
"Oh," she sighed, "I thought it was the beginnin' of May. Didn't you
come up here in May?"
"Well, then--Or, mebbe that's one o' them tormentin' dreams; they do
pester so! What did you come for?"
Jeff was sitting on one side of her bed and Cynthia on the other: She was
looking at the sufferer's face, and she did not meet the glance of
amusement which Jeff turned upon her at being so fairly cornered. "Well,
I don't know," he said. "I thought you might like to see me."
"What 'd he come for?"--the sick woman turned to Cynthia.
"You'd better tell her," said the girl, coldly, to Jeff. "She won't be
satisfied till you do. She'll keep coming back to it."
"Well, mother," said Jeff, still with something of his hardy amusement,
"I hadn't been acting just right, and I thought I'd better tell Cynthy."
"You better let the child alone. If I ever catch you teasin' them
children again, I'll make Jackson shoot Fox."
"All right, mother," said Jeff.
She moved herself restively in bed. "What's this," she demanded of her
son, "that Whitwell's tellin' about you and Cynthy breakin' it off?"
"Well, there was talk of that," said Jeff, passing his hand over his lips
to keep back the smile that was stealing to them.
"Who done it?"
Cynthia kept her eyes on Jeff, who dropped his to his mother's face.
"Cynthy did it; but I guess I gave her good enough reason."
"About that hussy in Boston? She was full more to blame than what you
was. I don't see what Cynthy wanted to do it for on her account."
"I guess Cynthy was right."
Mrs. Durgin's speech had been thickening more and more. She now said
something that Jeff could not understand. He looked involuntarily at
"She says she thinks I was hasty with you," the girl interpreted.
Jeff kept his eyes on hers, but he answered to his mother: "Not any more
than I deserved. I hadn't any right to expect that she would stand it."
Again the sick woman tried to say something. Jeff made out a few
syllables, and, after his mother had repeated her words, he had to look
to Cynthia for help.
"She wants to know if it's all right now."
"What shall I say?" asked Jeff, huskily.
"Tell her the truth."
"What is the truth?"
"That we haven't made it up."
Jeff hesitated, and then said: "Well, not yet, mother," and he bent an
entreating look upon Cynthia which she could not feel was wholly for
himself. "I--I guess we can fix it, somehow. I behaved very badly to
"No, not to me!" the girl protested in an indignant burst.
"Not to that little scalawag, then!" cried Jeff. "If the wrong wasn't to
you, there wasn't any wrong."
"It was to you!" Cynthia retorted.
"Oh, I guess I can stand it," said Jeff, and his smile now came to his
lips and eyes.
His mother had followed their quick parley with eager looks, as if she
were trying to keep her intelligence to its work concerning them. The
effort seemed to exhaust her, and when she spoke again her words were so
indistinct that even Cynthia could not understand them till she had
repeated them several times.
Then the girl was silent, while the invalid kept an eager look upon her.
She seemed to understand that Cynthia did not mean to speak; and the
tears came into her eyes.
"Do you want me to know what she said?" asked Jeff, respectfully,
Cynthia said, gently: "She says that then you must show you didn't mean
any harm to me, and that you cared for me, all through, and you didn't
care for anybody else."
"Thank you," said Jeff, and he turned to his mother. "I'll do everything
I can to make Cynthy believe that, mother."
The girl broke into tears and went out of the room. She sent in the
night-watcher, and then Jeff took leave of his mother with an unwonted
Into the shadow of a starlit night he saw the figure he had been waiting
for glide out of the glitter of the hotel lights. He followed it down
"Cynthia!" he called; and when he came up with her he asked: "What's the
reason we can't make it true? Why can't you believe what mother wants me
to make you?"
Cynthia stopped, as her wont was when she wished to speak seriously.
"Do you ask that for my sake or hers?"
"For both your sakes."
"I thought so. You ought to have asked it for your own sake, Jeff, and
then I might have been fool enough to believe you. But now--"
She started swiftly down the hill again, and this time he did not try to
Mrs. Durgin's speech never regained the measure of clearness it had
before; no one but Cynthia could understand her, and often she could not.
The doctor from Lovewell surmised that she had sustained another stroke,
lighter, more obscure than the first, and it was that which had rendered
her almost inarticulate. The paralysis might have also affected her
brain, and silenced her thoughts as well as her words. Either she
believed that the reconciliation between Jeff and Cynthia had taken
place, or else she could no longer care. She did not question them
again, but peacefully weakened more and more. Near the end of September
she had a third stroke, and from this she died.
The day after the funeral Jeff had a talk with Whitwell, and opened his
mind to him.
"I'm going over to the other side, and I shan't be back before spring, or
about time to start the season here. What I want to know is whether, if
I'm out of the house, and not likely to come back, you'll stay here and
look after the place through the winter. It hasn't been a good season,
but I guess I can afford to make it worth your while if you look at it as
a matter of business."
Whitwell leaned forward and took a straw into his mouth from the golden
wall of oat sheaves in the barn where they were talking. A soft rustling
in the mow overhead marked the remote presence of Jombateeste, who was
getting forward the hay for the horses, pushing it toward the holes where
it should fall into their racks.
"I should want to think about it," said Whitwell. "I do' know as
Cynthy'd care much about stayin'--or Frank."
"How long do you want to think about it?" Jeff demanded, ignoring the
possible wishes of Cynthia and Frank.
"I guess I could let you know by night."
"All right," said Jeff.
He was turning away, when Whitwell remarked:
"I don't know as I should want to stay without I could have somebody I
could depend on, with me, to look after the hosses. Frank wouldn't want
"Who'd you like?"
Whitwell called to the Canuck, and he came forward to the edge of the
mow, and stood, fork in hand, looking down.
"Want to stay here this winter and look after the horses, Jombateeste?"
"Nosseh!" said the Canuck, with a misliking eye on Jeff.
"I mean, along with me," Whitwell explained. "If I conclude to stay,
will you? Jeff's goin' abroad."
"I guess I stay," said Jombateeste.
"Don't strain yourself, Jombateeste," said Jeff, with malevolent
"Not for you, Jeff Dorrgin," returned the Canuck. "I strain myself till
I bust, if I want."
Jeff sneered to Whitwell: "Well, then, the most important point is
settled. Let me know about the minor details as soon as you can."
Whitwell talked the matter over with his children at supper that evening.
Jeff had made him a good offer, and he had the winter before him to
"I don't know what deviltry he's up to," he said in conclusion.
Frank looked to his sister for their common decision. "I am going to try
for a school," she said, quietly. "It's pretty late, but I guess I can
get something. You and Frank had better stay."
"And you don't feel as if it was kind of meechin', our takin' up with his
offer, after what's--" Whitwell delicately forbore to fill out his
"You are doing the favor, father," said the girl. "He knows that, and I
guess he wouldn't know where to look if you refused. And, after all,
what's happened now is as much my doing as his."
"I guess that's something so," said Whitwell, with a long sigh of relief.
"Well, I'm glad you can look at it in that light, Cynthy. It's the way
the feller's built, I presume, as much as anything."
His daughter waived the point. "I shouldn't feel just right if none of
us stayed in the old place. I should feel as if we had turned our backs
on Mrs. Durgin."
Her eyes shone, and her father said: "Well, I guess that's so, come to
think of it. She's been like a mother to you, this past year, ha'n't
she? And it must have come pootty hard for her, sidin' ag'in' Jeff. But
she done it."
The girl turned her head away. They were sitting in the little, low
keeping-room of Whitwell's house, and her father had his hat on
provisionally. Through the window they could see the light of the
lantern at the office door of the hotel, whose mass was lost in the dark
above and behind the lamp. It was all very still outside.
"I declare," Whitwell went on, musingly, "I wisht Mr. Westover was here."
Cynthia started, but it was to ask: "Do you want I should help you with
your Latin, Frank?"
Whitwell came back an hour later and found them still at their books.
He told them it was all arranged; Durgin was to give up the place to him
in a week, and he was to surrender it again when Jeff came back in the
spring. In the mean time things were to remain as they were; after he
was gone, they could all go and live at Lion's Head if they chose.
"We'll see," said Cynthia. "I've been thinking that might be the best
way, after all. I might not get a school, it's so late."
"That's so," her father assented. "I declare," he added, after a
moment's muse, "I felt sorry for the feller settin' up there alone, with
nobody to do for him but that old thing he's got in. She can't cook any
more than--" He desisted for want of a comparison, and said: "Such a
lookin' table, too."
"Do you think I better go and look after things a little?" Cynthia asked.
"Well, you no need to," said her father. He got down the planchette, and
labored with it, while his children returned to Frank's lessons.
"Dumn 'f I can make the thing work," he said to himself at last.
"I can't git any of 'em up. If Jackson was here, now!"
Thrice a day Cynthia went up to the hotel and oversaw the preparation of
Jeff's meals and kept taut the slack housekeeping of the old Irish woman
who had remained as a favor, after the hotel closed, and professed to
have lost the chance of a place for the winter by her complaisance.
She submitted to Cynthia's authority, and tried to make interest for an
indefinite stay by sudden zeal and industry, and the last days of Jeff in
the hotel were more comfortable than he openly recognized. He left the
care of the building wholly to Whitwell, and shut himself up in the old
farm parlor with the plans for a new hotel which he said he meant to put
up some day, if he could ever get rid of the old one. He went once to
Lovewell, where he renewed the insurance, and somewhat increased it; and
he put a small mortgage on the property. He forestalled the slow
progress of the knowledge of others' affairs, which, in the country, is
as sure as it is slow, and told Whitwell what he had done. He said he
wanted the mortgage money for his journey, and the insurance money, if he
could have the luck to cash up by a good fire, to rebuild with.
Cynthia seldom met him in her comings and goings, but if they met they
spoke on the terms of their boy and girl associations, and with no
approach through resentment or tenderness to the relation that was ended
between them. She saw him oftener than at any other time setting off on
the long tramps he took through the woods in the afternoons. He was
always alone, and, so far as any one knew, his wanderings had no object
but to kill the time which hung heavy on his hands during the fortnight
after his mother's death, before he sailed. It might have seemed strange
that he should prefer to pass the days at Lion's Head after he had
arranged for the care of the place with Whitwell, and Whitwell always
believed that he stayed in the hope of somehow making up with Cynthia.
One day, toward the very last, Durgin found himself pretty well fagged in
the old pulp-mill clearing on the side of Lion's Head, which still
belonged to Whitwell, and he sat down on a mouldering log there to rest.
It had always been a favorite picnic ground, but the season just past had
known few picnics, and it was those of former years that had left their
traces in rusty sardine-cans and broken glass and crockery on the border
of the clearing, which was now almost covered with white moss. Jeff
thought of the day when he lurked in the hollow below with Fox, while
Westover remained talking with Whitwell. He thought of the picnic that
Mrs. Marven had embittered for him, and he thought of the last time that
he had been there with Westover, when they talked of the Vostrands.
Life had, so far, not been what he meant it, and just now it occurred to
him that he might not have wholly made it what it had been. It seemed to
him that a good many other people had come in and taken a hand in making
his own life what it had been; and if he had meddled with theirs more
than he was wanted, it was about an even thing. As far as he could make
out, he was a sort of ingredient in the general mixture. He had probably
done his share of the flavoring, but he had had very little to do with
the mixing. There were different ways of looking at the thing. Westover
had his way, but it struck Jeff that it put too much responsibility on
the ingredient, and too little on the power that chose it. He believed
that he could prove a clear case in his own favor, as far as the question
of final justice was concerned, but he had no complaints to make. Things