Part 4 out of 4
had fallen out very much to his mind. He was the Landlord at Lion's
Head, at last, with the full right to do what he pleased with the place,
and with half a year's leisure before him to think it over. He did not
mean to waste the time while he was abroad; if there was anything to be
learned anywhere about keeping a summer hotel, he was going to learn it;
and he thought the summer hotel could be advantageously studied in its
winter phases in the mild climates of Southern Europe. He meant to
strike for the class of Americans who resorted to those climates; to
divine their characters and to please their tastes.
He unconsciously included Cynthia in his scheme of inquiry; he had been
used so long to trust to her instincts and opinions, and to rely upon her
help, and he realized that she was no longer in his life with something
like the shock a man experiences when the loss of a limb, which continues
a part of his inveterate consciousness, is brought to his sense by some
mechanical attempt to use it. But even in this pang he did not regret
that all was over between them. He knew now that he had never cared for
her as he had once thought, and on her account, if not his own, he was
glad their engagement was broken. A soft melancholy for his own
disappointment imparted itself to his thoughts of Cynthia. He felt truly
sorry for her, and he truly admired and respected her. He was in a very
lenient mood toward every one, and he went so far in thought toward
forgiving his enemies that he was willing at least to pardon all those
whom he had injured. A little rustling in the underbrush across the
clearing caught his quick ear, and he looked up to see Jombateeste
parting the boughs of the young pines on its edge and advancing into the
open with a gun on his shoulder. He called to him, cheerily: "Hello,
John! Any luck?"
Jombateeste shook his head. "Nawthing." He hesitated.
"What are you after?"
"Partridge," Jombateeste ventured back.
Jeff could not resist the desire to scoff which always came upon him at
sight of the Canuck. "Oh, pshaw! Why don't you go for woodchucks? They
fly low, and you can hit them on the wing, if you can't sneak on 'em
Jombateeste received his raillery in dignified silence, and turned back
into the woods again. He left Durgin in heightened good-humor with
himself and with the world, which had finally so well adapted itself to
his desires and designs.
Jeff watched his resentful going with a grin, and then threw himself back
on the thick bed of dry moss where he had been sitting, and watched the
clouds drifting across the space of blue which the clearing opened
overhead. His own action reminded him of Jackson, lying in the orchard
and looking up at the sky. He felt strangely at one with him, and he
experienced a tenderness for his memory which he had not known before.
Jackson had been a good man; he realized that with a curious sense of
novelty in the reflection; he wondered what the incentives and the
objects of such men as Jackson and Westover were, anyway. Something like
grief for his brother came upon him; not such grief as he had felt,
passionately enough, though tacitly, for his mother, but a regret for not
having shown Jackson during his life that he could appreciate his
unselfishness, though he could not see the reason or the meaning of it.
He said to himself, in their safe remoteness from each other, that he
wished he could do something for Jackson. He wondered if in the course
of time he should get to be something like him. He imagined trying.
He heard sounds again in the edge of the clearing, but he decided that it
was that fool Jombateeste coming back; and when steps approached softly
and hesitantly across the moss, he did not trouble himself to take his
eyes from the clouds. He was only vexed to have his revery broken in
A voice that was not Jombateeste's spoke: "I say! Can you tell me the
way to the Brooker Institute, or to the road down the mountain?"
Jeff sat suddenly bolt-upright; in another moment he jumped to his feet.
The Brooker Institute was a branch of the Keeley Cure recently
established near the Huddle, and this must be a patient who had wandered
from it, on one of the excursions the inmates made with their guardians,
and lost his way. This was the fact that Jeff realized at the first
glance he gave the man. The next he recognized that the man was Alan
"Oh, it's you," he said, quite simply. He felt so cruelly the hardship
of his one unforgiven enemy's coming upon him just when he had resolved
to be good that the tears came into his eyes. Then his rage seemed to
swell up in him like the rise of a volcanic flood. "I'm going to kill
you!" he, roared, and he launched himself upon Lynde, who stood dazed.
But the murder which Jeff meant was not to be so easily done. Lynde had
not grown up in dissolute idleness without acquiring some of the arts of
self-defence which are called manly. He met Jeff's onset with remembered
skill and with the strength which he had gained in three months of the
wholesome regimen of the Brooker Institute. He had been sent there, not
by Dr. Lacy's judgment, but by his despair, and so far the Cure had
cured. He felt strong and fresh, and the hate which filled Jeff at sight
of him steeled his shaken nerves and reinforced his feebler muscles, too.
He made a desperate fight where he could not hope for mercy, and kept
himself free of his powerful foe, whom he fought round and foiled, if he
could not hurt him. Jeff never knew of the blows Lynde got in upon him;
he had his own science, too, but he would not employ it. He wanted to
crash through Lynde's defence and lay hold of him and crush the life out
The contest could not have lasted long at the best; but before Lynde was
worn out he caught his heel in an old laurel root, and while he whirled
to recover his footing Jeff closed in upon him, caught him by the middle,
flung him down upon the moss, and was kneeling on his breast with both
hands at his throat.
He glared down into his enemy's face, and suddenly it looked pitifully
little and weak, like a girl's face, a child's.
Sometimes, afterward, it seemed to him that he forbore because at that
instant he saw Jombateeste appear at the edge of the clearing and come
running upon them. At other times he had the fancy that his action was
purely voluntary, and that, against the logic of his hate and habit of
his life, he had mercy upon his enemy. He did not pride himself upon it;
he rather humbled himself before the fact, which was accomplished through
his will, and not by it, and remained a mystery he did not try to solve.
He took his hands from Lynde's throat and his knees off his breast. "Get
up," he said; and when Lynde stood trembling on his feet he said to
Jombateeste: "Show this man the way to the Brooker Institute. I'll take
your gun home for you," and it was easy for him to detach the piece from
the bewildered Canuck's grasp. "Go! And if you stop, or even let him
look back, I'll shoot him. Quick!"
The day after Thanksgiving, when Westover was trying to feel well after
the turkey and cranberry and cider which a lady had given him at a
consciously old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner, but not making it out
sufficiently to be able to work, he was astonished to receive a visit
"Well, sir," said the philosopher, without giving himself pause for the
exchange of reflections upon his presence in Boston, which might have
been agreeable to him on a less momentous occasion. "It's all up with
"What do you mean?" demanded Westover, with his mind upon the mountain,
which he electrically figured in an incredible destruction.
"She's burnt. Burnt down the day before yist'd'y aft'noon. A'n't hardly
a stick of her left. Ketehed Lord knows how, from the kitchen chimney,
and a high northwest wind blowin', that ca'd the sparks to the barn, and
set fire to that, too. Hasses gone; couldn't get round to 'em; only
three of us there, and mixed up so about the house till it was so late
the critters wouldn't come out. Folks from over Huddle way see the
blaze, and helped ail they could; but it wa'n't no use. I guess all we
saved, about, was the flag-pole."
"But you're all right yourselves? Cynthia"
"Well, there was our misfortune," said Whitwell, while Westover's heart
stopped in a mere wantonness of apprehension. "If she'd be'n there, it
might ha' be'n diff'ent. We might ha' had more sense; or she would,
anyway. But she was over to Lovewell stockin' up for Thanksgivin', and I
had to make out the best I could, with Frank and Jombateeste. Why, that
Canuck didn't seem to have no more head on him than a hen. I was
disgusted; but Cynthy wouldn't let me say anything to him, and I d' know
as 't 'ould done any good, myself. We've talked it all over in every
light, ever since; guess we've set up most the time talkin', and nothin'
would do her but I should come down and see you before I took a single
step about it."
"How--step about what?" asked Westover, with a remote sense of hardship
at being brought in, tempered by the fact that it was Cynthia who had
brought him in.
"Why, that devil," said Whitwell, and Westover knew that he meant Jeff,
"went and piled on all the insurance he could pile on, before he left;
and I don't know what to do about it."
"I should think the best thing was to collect the insurance," Westover
"It a'n't so easy as what that comes to," said Whitwell. "I couldn't
collect the insurance; and here's the point, anyway. When a hotel's made
a bad season, and she's fully insured, she's pootty certain to burn up
some time in the winter. Everybody knows that comical devil wanted
lion's Head to burn up so 't he could build new, and I presume there
a'n't a man, woman, or child anywhere round but what believes I set her
on fire. Hired to do it. Now, see? Jeff off in Europe; daytime; no
lives lost; prop'ty total loss. 's a clear case. Heigh? I tell you,
I'm afraid I've got trouble ahead."
Westover tried to protest, to say something in derision or defiance; but
he was shaken himself, and he ended by getting his hat and coat; Whitwell
had kept his own on, in the excitement. "We'll go out and see a lawyer.
A friend of mine; it won't cost you anything." He added this assurance
at a certain look of reluctance that came into Whitwell's face, and that
left it as soon as he had spoken. Whitwell glanced round the studio even
cheerily. "Who'd ha' thought," he said, fastening upon the study which
Westover had made of Lion's head the winter before, "that the old place
would 'a' gone so soon?" He did not mean the mountain which he was
looking at, but the hotel that was present to his mind's eye; and
Westover perceived as he had not before that to Whitwell the hotel and
not the mountain was Lion's Head.
He remembered to ask now where Whitwell had left his family, and Whitwell
said that Frank and Cynthia were at home in his own house with
Jombateeste; but he presumed he could not get back to them now before the
next day. He refused to be interested in any of the aspects of Boston
which Westover casually pointed out, but when they had seen the lawyer he
came forth a new man, vividly interested in everything. The lawyer had
been able to tell them that though the insurance companies would look
sharply into the cause of the fire, there was no probability, hardly a
possibility, that they would inculpate him, and he need give himself no
anxiety about the affair.
"There's one thing, though," Whitwell said to Westover when they got out
upon the street. "Hadn't I ought to let Jeff know?"
"Yes, at once. You'd better cable him. Have you got his address?"
Whitwell had it, and he tasted all the dramatic quality of sending word
to Jeff, which he would receive in Florence an hour after it left Boston.
"I did hope I could ha' cabled once to Jackson while he was gone," he
said, regretfully, "but, unless we can fix up a wire with the other
world, I guess I shan't ever do it now. I suppose Jackson's still
hangin' round Mars, some'res."
He had a sectarian pride in the beauty of the Spiritual Temple which
Westover walked him by on his way to see Trinity Church and the Fine Arts
Museum, and he sorrowed that he could not attend a service' there. But
he was consoled by the lunch which he had with Westover at a restaurant
where it was served in courses. "I presume this is what Jeff's goin' to
give 'em at Lion's Head when he gits it goin' again."
"How is it he's in Florence?" it occurred to Westover to ask. "I thought
he was going to Nice for the winter."
"I don't know. That's the address he give in his last letter," said
Whitwell. "I'll be glad when I've done with him for good and all.
He's all kinds of a devil."
It was in Westover's mind to say that he wished the Whitwells had never
had anything to do with Durgin after his mother's death. He had felt it
a want of delicacy in them that they had been willing to stay on in his
employ, and his ideal of Cynthia had suffered a kind of wound from what
must have been her decision in the matter. He would have expected
something altogether different from her pride, her self-respect. But he
now merely said: "Yes, I shall be glad, too. I'm afraid he's a bad
His words seemed to appeal to Whitwell's impartiality. "Well, I d' know
as I should say bad, exactly. He's a mixture."
"He's a bad mixture," said Westover.
"Well, I guess you're partly right there," Whitwell admitted, with a
laugh. After a dreamy moment he asked: "Ever hear anything more about
that girl here in Boston?"
Westover knew that he meant Bessie Lynde. "She's abroad somewhere, with
Whitwell had not taken any wine; apparently he was afraid of forming
instantly the habit of drink if he touched it; but he tolerated
Westover's pint of Zinfandel, and he seemed to warm sympathetically to a
greater confidence as the painter made away with it. "There's one thing
I never told Cynthy yet; well, Jombateeste didn't tell me himself till
after Jeff was gone; and then, thinks I, what's the use? But I guess you
had better know."
He leaned forward across the table, and gave Jombateeste's story of the
encounter between Jeff and Alan Lynde in the clearing. "Now what do you
suppose was the reason Jeff let up on the feller? Of course, he meant to
choke the life out of him, and his just ketchin' sight of Jombateeste--do
you believe that was enough to stop him, when he'd started in for a thing
like that? Or what was it done it?"
Westover listened with less thought of the fact itself than of another
fact that it threw light upon. It was clear to him now that the Class-
Day scrapping which had left its marks upon Jeff's face was with Lynde,
and that when Jeff got him in his power he was in such a fury for revenge
that no mere motive of prudence could have arrested him. In both events,
it must have been Bessie Lynde that was the moving cause; but what was it
that stayed Jeff in his vengeance?
"Let him up, and let him walk away, you say?" he demanded of Whitwell.
Whitwell nodded. "That's what Jombateeste said. Said Jeff said if he
let the feller look back he'd shoot him. But he didn't haf to."
"I can't make it out," Westover sighed.
"It's been too much for me," Whitwell said. "I told Jombateeste he'd
better keep it to himself, and I guess he done so. S'pose Jeff still had
a sneakin' fondness for the girl?"
"I don't know; perhaps," Westover asserted.
Whitwell threw his head back in a sudden laugh that showed all the work
of his dentist. "Well, wouldn't it be a joke if he was there in Florence
after her? Be just like Jeff."
"It would be like Jeff; I don't know whether it would be a joke or not.
I hope he won't find it a joke, if it's so," said Westover, gloomily.
A fantastic apprehension seized him, which made him wish for the moment
that it might be so, and which then passed, leaving him simply sorry for
any chance that might bring Bessie Lynde into the fellow's way again.
For the evening Whitwell's preference would have been a lecture of some
sort, but there was none advertised, and he consented to go with Westover
to the theatre. He came back to the painter at dinner-time, after a wary
exploration of the city, which had resulted not only in a personal
acquaintance with its monuments, but an immunity from its dangers and
temptations which he prided himself hardly less upon. He had seen
Faneuil Hall, the old State House, Bunker Hill, the Public Library, and
the Old South Church, and he had not been sandbagged or buncoed or led
astray from the paths of propriety. In the comfortable sense of escape,
he was disposed, to moralize upon the civilization of great cities, which
he now witnessed at first hand for the first time; and throughout the
evening, between the acts of the "Old Homestead," which he found a play
of some merit, but of not so much novelty in its characters as he had
somehow led himself to expect, he recurred to the difficulties and
dangers that must beset a young man in coming to a place like Boston.
Westover found him less amusing than he had on his own ground at Lion's
Head, and tasted a quality of commonplace in his deliverances which made
him question whether he had not, perhaps, always owed more to this
environment than he had suspected. But they parted upon terms of mutual
respect and in the common hope of meeting again. Whitwell promised to
let Westover know what he heard of Jeff, but, when the painter had walked
the philosopher home to his hotel, he found a message awaiting him at his
studio from Jeff direct:
Whitwell's despatch received. Wait letter.
Westover raged at the intelligent thrift of this telegram, and at the
implication that he not only knew all about the business of Whitwell's
despatch, but that he was in communication with him, and would be
sufficiently interested to convey Jeff's message to him. Of course,
Durgin had at once divined that Whitwell must have come to him for
advice, and that he would hear from him, whether he was still in Boston
or not. By cabling to Westover, Jeff saved the cost of an elaborate
address to Whitwell at Lion's Head, and had brought the painter in for
further consultation and assistance in his affairs. What vexed him still
more was his own consciousness that he could not defeat this impudent
expectation. He had, indeed, some difficulty with himself to keep from
going to Whitwell's hotel with the despatch at once, and he slept badly,
in his fear that he might not get it to him in the morning before he left
The sum of Jeff's letter when it came, and it came to Westover and not to
Whitwell, was to request the painter to see a lawyer in his behalf, and
put his insurance policies in his hands, with full authority to guard his
interests in the matter. He told Westover where his policies would be
found, and enclosed the key of his box in the Safety Vaults, with a due
demand for Westover's admission to it. He registered his letter, and he
jocosely promised Westover to do as much for him some day, in pleading
that there was really no one else he could turn to. He put the whole
business upon him, and Westover discharged himself of it as briefly as he
could by delivering the papers to the lawyer he had already consulted for
"Is this another charity patient?" asked his friend, with a grin.
"No," replied Westover. "You can charge this fellow along the whole
Before he parted with the lawyer he had his misgivings, and he said:
"I shouldn't want the blackguard to think I had got a friend a fat job
out of him."
The lawyer laughed intelligently. "I shall only make the usual charge.
Then he is a blackguard."
"There ought to be a more blistering word."
"One that would imply that he was capable of setting fire to his
"I don't say that. But I'm glad he was away when it took fire," said
"You give him the benefit of the doubt."
"Yes, of every kind of doubt."
Westover once more promised himself to have nothing to do with Jeff
Durgin or his affairs. But he did not promise this so confidently as
upon former occasions, and he instinctively waited for a new
complication. He could not understand why Jeff should not have come home
to look after his insurance, unless it was because he had become
interested in some woman even beyond his concern for his own advantage.
He believed him capable of throwing away advantages for disadvantages in
a thing of that kind, but he thought it more probable that he had fallen
in love with one whom he would lose nothing by winning. It did not seem
at all impossible that he should have again met Bessie Lynde, and that
they should have made up their quarrel, or whatever it was. Jeff would
consider that he had done his whole duty by Cynthia, and that he was free
to renew his suit with Bessie; and there was nothing in Bessie's
character, as Westover understood it, to prevent her taking him back upon
a very small show of repentance if the needed emotions were in prospect.
He had decided pretty finally that it would be Bessie rather than another
when he received a letter from Mrs. Vostrand. It was dated at Florence,
and after some pretty palaver about their old friendship, which she only
hoped he remembered half as fondly as she did, the letter ran:
"I am turning to you now in a very strange difficulty, but I do not
know that I should turn to you even now, and knowing all I do of
your goodness, if I were not asked to do so by another.
"I believe we have not heard from each other since the first days of
my poor Genevieve's marriage, when everything looked so bright and
fair, and we little realized the clouds that were to overcast her
happiness. It is a long story, and I will not go into it fully.
The truth is that poor Gigi did not treat her very kindly, and that
she has not lived with him since the birth of their little girl, now
nearly two years old, and the sweetest little creature in the world;
I wish you could see her; I am sure it would inspire your pencil
with the idea of an angel-child. At first I hoped that the
separation would be only temporary, and that when Genevieve had
regained her strength she would be willing to go back to her
husband; but nothing would induce her to do so. In fact, poor Gigi
had spent all her money, and they would have had nothing to live
upon but his pay, and you know that the pay of the Italian officers
is very small.
"Gigi made several attempts to see her, and he threatened to take
the child from her, but he was always willing to compromise for
money. I am afraid that he never really loved her and that we were
both deceived by his fervent protestations. We managed to get away
from Florence without his knowing it, and we have spent the last two
years in Lausanne, very happily, though very quietly. Our dear
Checco is in the university there, his father having given up the
plan of sending him to Harvard, and we had him with us, while we
were taking measures to secure the divorce. Even in the simple way
we lived Genevieve attracted a great deal of attention, as she
always has done, and she would have had several eligible offers if
she had been divorced, or if her affections had not already been
engaged, as I did not know at the time.
"We were in this state of uncertainty up to the middle of last
summer, when the news of poor Gigi's sudden death came. I am sorry
to say that his habits in some respects were not good, and that
probably hastened it some; it had obliged him to leave the army.
Genevieve did not feel that she could consistently put on black for
him, and I did not urge her, under the peculiar circumstances;
there is so much mere formality in those kind of things at the best;
but we immediately returned to Florence to try and see if we could
not get back some of her effects which his family had seized. I am
opposed to lawsuits if they can possibly be avoided, and we arranged
with poor Gigi's family by agreeing to let them have Genevieve's
furniture if they would promise never to molest her with the child,
and I must say they have behaved very well. We are on the best of
terms with them, and they have let us have some of the things back
which were endeared to her by old associations, at a very reasonable
"This brings me to the romantic part of my letter, and I will say at
once that we found your friend Mr. Durgin in Florence, in the very
hotel we went to. We all met in the dining-room, at the table
d'hote one evening, and Genevieve and he took to each other at once.
He spent the evening with us in our private drawing-room, and she
said to me, after he went, that for the first time in years she felt
rested. It seems that she had always secretly fancied him, and that
she gave up to me in the matter of marrying poor Gigi, because she
knew I had my heart set upon it, and she was not very certain of her
own feelings when Mr. D. offered himself in Boston; but the
conviction that she had made a mistake grew upon, her more and more
after she had married Gigi.
"Well, now, Mr. Westover, I suppose you have guessed by this time
that Mr. Durgin has renewed his offer, and Genevieve has
conditionally accepted him; we do not feel that she is like an
ordinary widow, and that she has to fill up a certain season of
mourning; she and Gigi have been dead to each other for years; and
Mr. Durgin is as fond of our dear little Bice as her own father
could be, and they are together all the time. Her name is Beatrice
de' Popolani Grassi. Isn't it lovely? She has poor Gigi's black
eyes, with the most beautiful golden hair, which she gets from our
aide. You remember Genevieve's hair back in the dear old days,
before any trouble had come, and we were all so happy together? And
this brings me to what I wanted to say. You are the oldest friend
we have, and by a singular coincidence you are the oldest friend of
Mr. Durgin, too. I cannot bear to risk my child's happiness a
second time, and though Mr. Vostrand fully approves of the match,
and has cabled his consent from Seattle, Washington, still, you
know, a mother's heart cannot be at rest without some positive
assurance. I told Mr. Durgin quite frankly how I felt, and he
agreed with me that after our experience with poor Gigi we could not
be too careful, and he authorized me to write to you and find out
all you knew about him. He said you had known him ever since he was
a boy, and that if there was anything bad in his record you could
tell it, and he did not want you to spire the truth. He knows you
will be just, and he wants you to write out the facts as they struck
you at the time.
"I shall be on pins and needles, as the saying is, till we hear from
you, and you know hew Genevieve and Mr. D. must be feeling. She is
fully resolved not to have him without your endorsement, and he is
quite willing to abide by what you say.
"I could almost wish you to cable me just Good or Bad, but I know
that this will not be wise, and I am going to wait for your letter,
and get your opinion in full.
"We all join in the kindest regards. Mr. D. is talking with
Genevieve while I write, and has our darling Bice on his knees.
You cannot imagine what a picture it makes, her childish delicacy
contrasted with his stalwart strength. She says to send you a
baciettino, and I wish you were here to receive it from her angel
lips. Yours faithfully,
"P. S.--Mr. D. says that he fell in love with Genevieve across the
barrier between the first and second cabin when he came over with us
on the Aquitaine four years ago, and that he has never ceased to
love her, though at one time he persuaded himself that he cared for
another because he felt that she was lost to him forever, and it was
no use: He really did care for the lady he was engaged to, and had a
true affection for her, which he mistook for a warmer feeling. He
says that she was worthy of any man's love and of the highest
respect. I tell Genevieve that, she ought to honor him for it, and
that she must never be jealous of a memory. We are very happy in
Mr. Vostrand's cordial approval of the match. He is so glad to
think that Mr. D. is a business man. His cable from Seattle was
Westover did not know whether to laugh or cry when he read this letter,
which covered several sheets of paper in lines that traversed each other
in different directions. His old, youthful ideal of Mrs. Vostrand
finally perished in its presence, though still he could not blame her for
wishing to see her daughter well married after having seen her married so
ill. He asked himself, without getting any very definite response,
whether Mrs. Vostrand had always been this kind of a woman, or had grown
into it by the use of arts which her peculiar plan of life had rendered
necessary to her. He remembered the intelligent toleration of Cynthia in
speaking of her, and his indignation in behalf of the girl was also
thrill of joy for her escape from the fate which Mrs. Vostrand was so
eagerly invoking for her daughter. But he thought of Genevieve with
something of the same tenderness, and with a compassion that was for her
alone. She seemed to him a victim who was to be sacrificed a second
time, and he had clearly a duty to her which he must not evade. The only
question could be how best to discharge it, and Westover took some hours
from his work to turn the question over in his mind. In the end, when he
was about to give the whole affair up for the present, and lose a night's
sleep over it later, he had an inspiration, and he acted upon it at once.
He perceived that he owed no formal response to the sentimental
insincerities of Mrs. Vostrand's letter, and he decided to write to
Durgin himself, and to put the case altogether in his hands. If Durgin
chose to show the Vostrands what he should write, very well; if he chose
not to show it, then Westover's apparent silence would be a sufficient
reply to Mrs. Vostrand's appeal.
"I prefer to address you," he began, "because I do not choose to let
you think that I have any feeling to indulge against you, and
because I do not think I have the right to take you out of your own
keeping in any way. You would be in my keeping if I did, and I do
not wish that, not only because it would be a bother to me, but
because it would be a wrong to you.
"Mrs. Vostrand, whose letter to me I will leave you to answer by
showing her this, or in any other manner you choose, tells me you do
not want me to spare the truth concerning you. I have never been
quite certain what the truth was concerning you; you know that
better than I do; and I do not propose to write your biography here.
But I will remind you of a few things.
"The first day I saw you, I caught you amusing yourself with the
terror of two little children, and I had the pleasure of cuffing you
for it. But you were only a boy then, and afterward you behaved so
well that I decided you were not so much cruel as thoughtlessly
mischievous. When you had done all you could to lead me to this
favorable conclusion, you suddenly turned and avenged yourself on
me, so far as you could, for the help I had given the little ones
against you. I never greatly blamed you for that, for I decided
that you had a vindictive temperament, and that you were not
responsible for your temperament, but only for your character.
"In your first year at Harvard your associations were bad, and your
conduct generally was so bad that you were suspended. You were
arrested with other rowdy students, and passed the night in a police
station. I believe you were justly acquitted of any specific
offence, and I always believed that if you had experienced greater
kindness socially during your first year in college you would have
been a better man.
"You seem to have told Mrs. Vostrand of your engagement, and I will
not speak of that. It was creditable to you that so wise and good a
girl as your betrothed should have trusted you, and I do not know
that it was against you that another girl who was neither wise nor
good should have trusted you at the same time. You broke with the
last, because you had to choose between the two; and, so far as I
know, you accepted with a due sense of your faithlessness your
dismissal by the first. In this connection I must remind you that
while you were doing your best to make the party to your second
engagement believe that you were in love with her, you got her
brother, an habitual inebriate, drunk, and were, so far,
instrumental in breaking down the weak will with which he was
struggling against his propensity. It is only fair to you that I
should add that you persuaded me you got him only a little drunker
than he already got himself, and that you meant to have looked after
him, but forgot him in your preoccupation with his sister.
"I do not know what took place between you and these people after
you broke your engagement with the sister, until your encounter with
the brother in Whitwell's Clearing, and I know of this only at
second hand. I can well believe that you had some real or fancied
injury to pay off; and I give you all the credit you may wish to
claim for sparing him at last. For one of your vindictive
temperament it must have been difficult.
"I have told you the worst things I know of you, and I do not
pretend to know them more than superficially. I am not asked to
judge you, and I will not. You must be your own judge. You are to
decide whether these and other acts of yours are the acts of a man
good enough to be intrusted with the happiness of a woman who has
already been very unhappy.
"You have sometimes, however--oftener than I wished--come to me for
advice, and I now offer you some advice voluntarily. Do not suppose
that because you love this woman, as you believe, you are fit to be
the keeper of her future. Ask yourself how you have dealt hitherto
with those who have loved you, and whom in a sort you loved, and do
not go further unless the answer is such as you can fully and
faithfully report to the woman you wish to marry. What you have
made yourself you will be to the end. You once called me an
idealist, and perhaps you will call this idealism. I will only add,
and I will give the last word in your defence, you alone know what
As soon as Westover had posted his letter he began to blame himself for
it. He saw that the right and manly thing would have been to write to
Mrs. Vostrand, and tell her frankly what he thought of Durgin. Her
folly, her insincerity, her vulgarity, had nothing to do with the affair,
so far as he was concerned. If she had once been so kind to him as to
bind him to her in grateful friendship, she certainly had a claim upon
his best offices. His duty was to her, and not at all to Durgin. He
need not have said anything against him because it was against him, but
because it was true; and if he had written he must not have said anything
less than the truth.
He could have chosen not to write at all. He could have said that her
mawkish hypocrisy was a little too much; that she was really wanting him
to whitewash Durgin for her, and she had no right to put upon him the
responsibility for the step she clearly wished to take. He could have
made either of these decisions, and defended them to himself; but in what
he had done he had altogether shirked. While he was writing to Durgin,
and pretending that he could justly leave this affair to him, he was
simply indulging a bit of sentimental pose, far worse than anything in
Mrs. Vostrand's sham appeal for his help.
He felt, as the time went by, that she had not written of her own
impulse, but at her daughter's urgence, and that it was this poor
creature whose trust he had paltered with. He believed that Durgin would
not fail to make her unhappy, yet he had not done what he might to
deliver her out of his hand. He had satisfied a wretched pseudo-
magnanimity toward a faithless scoundrel, as he thought Durgin, at the
cost of a woman whose anxious hope of his aid had probably forced her
At first he thought his action irrevocable, and he bitterly upbraided
himself for not taking council with Cynthia upon Mrs. Vostrand's letter.
He had thought of doing that, and then he had dismissed the thought as
involving pain that he had no right to inflict; but now he perceived that
the pain was such as she must suffer in the event, and that he had
stupidly refused himself the only means of finding out the right thing to
do. Her true heart and her clear mind would have been infallible in the
affair, and he had trusted to his own muddled impulse.
He began to write other letters: to Durgin, to Mrs. Vostrand, to
Genevieve; but none of them satisfied him, and he let the days go by
without doing anything to retrieve his error or fulfil his duty. At last
he did what he ought to have done at first: he enclosed Mrs. Vostrand's
letter to Cynthia, and asked her what she thought he ought to have done.
While he was waiting Cynthia's answer to his letter, a cable message
reached him from Florence:
"Kind letter received. Married to-day. Written.
The next mail brought Cynthia's reply, which was very brief:
"I am sorry you had to write at all; nothing could have prevented
it. Perhaps if he cares for her he will be good to her."
Since the matter was now irremediable, Westover crept less miserably
through the days than he could have believed he should, until the letter
which Mrs. Vostrand's cable promised came to hand.
"Dear friend," she wrote, "your generous and satisfactory answer
came yesterday. It was so delicate and high,-minded, and so like
you, to write to Mr. Durgin, and leave the whole affair to him; and
he did not lose a moment in showing us your beautiful letter. He
said you were a man after his own heart, and I wish you could have
heard how he praised you. It made Genevieve quite jealous, or would
have, if it had been any one else. But she is so happy in your
approval of her marriage, which is to take place before the
'sindaco' to-morrow, We shall only have the civil rite; she feels
that it is more American, and we are all coming home to Lion's Head
in the spring to live and die true Americans. I wish you could
spend the summer with us there, but, until Lion's Head is rebuilt,
we can't ask you. I don't know exactly how we shall do ourselves,
but Mr. Durgin is full of plans, and we leave everything to him.
He is here, making Genevieve laugh so that I can hardly write.
He joins us in love and thanks, and our darling Bice sends you a
"P. S. Mr. D. has told us all about the affairs you alluded to.
With Miss L. we cannot feel that he was to blame; but he blames
himself in regard to Miss W. He says his only excuse is that he was
always in love with Genevieve; and I think that is quite excuse
enough. M. V."
From time to time during the winter Westover wrote to Cynthia, and had
letters from her in which he pleased himself fancying almost a personal
effect of that shyness which he thought a charming thing in her. But no
doubt this was something he read into them; on their face they were
plain, straightforward accounts of the life she led in the little old
house at Lion's Head, under the shadow of the black ruin on the hill.
Westover had taken to sending her books and magazines, and in thanking
him for these she would sometimes speak of things she had read in them.
Her criticism related to the spirit rather than the manner of the things
she spoke of, and it pleased him that she seemed, with all her insight,
to have very little artistic sense of any kind; in the world where he
lived there were so many women with an artistic sense in every kind that
he was rather weary of it.
There never was anything about Durgin in the letters, and Westover was
both troubled and consoled by this silence. It might be from
consciousness, and it probably was; it might be from indifference.
In the worst event, it hid any pain she might have felt with a dignity
from which no intimation of his moved her. The nearest she came to
speaking of Jeff was when she said that Jombateeste was going to work at
the brick-yards in Cambridge as soon as the spring opened, and was not
going to stay any longer at Lion's Head.
Her brother Frank, she reported, had got a place with part work in the
drug-and-book store at Lovewell, where he could keep on more easily with
his studies; he had now fully decided to study for the ministry; he had
always wanted to be an Episcopalian.
One day toward the end of April, when several weeks had passed without
bringing Westover any word from Cynthia, her father presented himself,
and enjoyed in the painter's surprise the sensation of having dropped
upon him from the clouds. He gave due accounts of the health of each of
his household; ending with Jombateeste. "You know he's out at the brick,
as he calls it, in Cambridge."
"Cynthia said he was coming. I didn't know he had come yet," said
Westover. "I must go out and look him up, if you think I could find him
among all those Canucks."
" Well, I don't know but you'd better look us up at the same time," said
Whitwell, with additional pleasure in the painter's additional surprise.
"I guess we're out in Cambridge, too," he added, at Westover's start of
question. "We're out there, visitin' one of our summer folks, as you
might say. Remember Mis' Fredericks?"
"Why, what the deuce kept you from telling me so at once?" Westover
"Guess I hadn't got round to it," said Whitwell, with dry relish.
"Do you mean that Cynthia's there?"
"Well, I guess they wouldn't cared much for a visit from me."
Whitwell took advantage of Westover's moment of mystification to explain
that Jeff had written over to him from Italy, offering him a pretty good
rent for his house, which he wanted to occupy while he was rebuilding
Lion's Head. He was going to push the work right through in the summer,
and be ready for the season the year after. That was what Whitwell
understood, and he understood that Jeff's family was going to stay in
Lovewell, but Jeff himself wanted to be on the ground day and night.
"So that's kind of turned us out of doors, as you may say, and Cynthia's
always had this idee of comin' down Boston way: and she didn't know
anybody that could advise with her as well as Mis' Fredericks, and she
wrote to her, and Mis' Fredericks answered her to come right down and
talk it over." Westover felt a pang of resentment that Cynthia, had not
turned to him for counsel, but he said nothing, and Whitwell went on:
"She said she was, ashamed to bother you, you'd had the whole
neighborhood on your hands so much, and so she wrote to Mis' Fredericks."
Westover had a vague discomfort in it all, which ultimately defined
itself as a discontent with the willingness of the Whitwells to let
Durgin occupy their house upon any terms, for any purpose, and a
lingering grudge that Cynthia should have asked help of any one but
himself, even from a motive of delicacy.
In the evening he went out to see the girl at the house of Mrs.
Fredericks, whom he found living in the Port. They had a first moment of
intolerable shyness on her part. He had been afraid to see her, with the
jealousy for her dignity he always felt, lest she should look as if she
had been unhappy about Durgin. But he found her looking, not only very
well, but very happy and full of peace, as soon as that moment of shyness
passed. It seemed to Westover as if she had begun to live on new terms,
and that a harassing element, which had always been in it, had gone out
of her life, and in its absence she was beginning to rejoice in a lasting
repose. He found himself rejoicing with her, and he found himself on
simpler and franker terms with her than ever before. Neither of them
spoke of Jeff, or made any approach to mention him, and Westover believed
that this was not from a morbid feeling in her, but from a final and
He saw her alone, for Mrs. Fredericks and her daughter had gone into town
to a concert, which he made her confess she would have gone to herself if
it had not been that her father said he was coming out to see her. She
would not let him joke about the sacrifice he pretended she had made; he
had a certain pain in fancying that his visit was the highest and finest
favor that life could do her. She told him of the ambition she had that
she might get a school somewhere in the neighborhood of Boston, and then
find something for her brother to do, while he began his studies in the
Theological School at Harvard. Frank was still at Lovewell, it seemed.
At the end of the long call he made, he said, abruptly, when he had risen
to go, "I should like to paint you."
"Who? Me?" she cried, as if it were the most incredible thing, while a
glad color rushed over her face.
"Yes. While you're waiting to get your school, couldn't you come in with
your father, now and then, and sit for me?"
"What's he want me to come fer?" Whitwell demanded, when the plan was
laid before him. He was giving his unlimited leisure to the exploration
of Boston, and his tone expressed something of the injury, which he also
put into words, as a sole objection to the proposed interruption. "Can't
you go alone, Cynthy ?" Cynthia said she did not know, but when the point
was referred to Mrs. Fredericks, she was sure Cynthia could not go alone,
and she acquainted them both, as far as she could, with that mystery of
chaperonage which had never touched their lives before. Whitwell seemed
to think that his daughter would give the matter up; and perhaps she
might have done so, though she seemed reluctant, if Mrs. Fredericks had
not further instructed them that it was the highest possible honor Mr.
Westover was offering them, and that if he had proposed to paint her
daughter she would simply have gone and lived with him while he was doing
Whitwell found some compensation for the time lost to his study of Boston
in the conversation of the painter, which he said was worth a hundred
cents on the dollar every time, though it dealt less with the
metaphysical aspect of the latest facts of science than the philosopher
could have wished. He did not, to be sure, take very much stock in the
picture as it advanced, somewhat fitfully, with a good many reversions to
its original state of sketch. It appeared to him always a slight and
feeble representation of Cynthia, though, of course, a native politeness
forbade him to express his disappointment. He avowed a faith in
Westover's ability to get it right in the end, and always bade him go on,
and take as much time to it as he wanted.
He felt less uneasy than at first, because he had now found a little
furnished house in the woodenest outskirts of North Cambridge, which he
hired cheap from the recently widowed owner, and they were keeping house
there. Jombateeste lived with them, and worked in the brick-yards. Out
of hours he helped Cynthia, and kept the ugly little place looking trim
and neat, and left Whitwell free for the tramps home to nature, which he
began to take over the Belmont uplands as soon as the spring opened.
He was not homesick, as Cynthia was afraid he might be; his mind was
fully occupied by the vast and varied interests opened to it by the
intellectual and material activities of the neighboring city; and he
found ample scope for his physical energies in doing Cynthia's errands,
as well as studying the strange flora of the region. He apparently
thought that he had made a distinct rise and advance in the world.
Sometimes, in the first days of his satisfaction with his establishment,
he expressed the wish that Jackson could only have seen how he was fixed,
once. In his preoccupation with other things, he no longer attempted to
explore the eternal mysteries with the help of planchette; the ungrateful
instrument gathered as much dust as Cynthia would suffer on the what-not
in the corner of the solemn parlor; and after two or three visits to the
First Spiritual Temple in Boston, he lapsed altogether from an interest
in the other world, which had, perhaps, mainly flourished in the absence
of pressing subjects of inquiry, in this.
When at last Westover confessed that he had carried his picture of
Cynthia as far as he could, Whitwell did his best to hide his
disappointment. "Well, sir," he said, tolerantly and even cheeringly,
"I presume we're every one of us a different person to whoever looks at
us. They say that no two men see the same star."
"You mean that she doesn't look so to you," suggested the painter, who
seemed not at all abashed.
"Well, you might say--Why, here! It's like her; photograph couldn't get
it any better; but it makes me think-well, of a bird that you've come on
sudden, and it stoops as if it was goin' to fly--"
"Ah," said Westover, "does it make you think of that?"
The painter could not make out at first whether the girl herself was
pleased with the picture or not, and in his uncertainty he could not give
it her at once, as he had hoped and meant to do. It was by a kind of
accident he found afterward that she had always been passionately proud
of his having painted her. This was when he returned from the last
sojourn he had made in Paris, whither he went soon after the Whitwells
settled in North Cambridge. He left the picture behind him to be framed
and then sent to her with a letter he had written, begging her to give it
houseroom while he was gone. He got a short, stiff note in reply after
he reached Paris, and he had not tried to continue the correspondence.
But as soon as he returned he went out to see the Whitwells in North
Cambridge. They were still in their little house there; the young
widower had married again; but neither he nor his new wife had cared to
take up their joint life in his first home, and he had found Whitwell
such a good tenant that he had not tried to put up the rent on him.
Frank was at home, now, with an employment that gave him part of his time
for his theological studies; Cynthia had been teaching school ever since
the fall after Westover went away, and they were all, as Whitwell said,
in clover. He was the only member of the family at home when Westover
called on the afternoon of a warm summer day, and he entertained him with
a full account of a visit he had paid Lion's Head earlier in the season.
"Yes, sir," he said, as if he had already stated the fact, "I've sold my
old place there to that devil." He said devil without the least rancor;
with even a smile of good-will, and he enjoyed the astonishment Westover
expressed in his demand:
"Sold Durgin your house?"
"Yes; I see we never wanted to go back there to live, any of us, and I
went up to pass the papers and close the thing out. Well, I did have an
offer for it from a feller that wanted to open a boa'din'-house there and
get the advantage of Jeff's improvements, and I couldn't seem to make up
my mind till I'd looked the ground over. Fust off, you know, I thought
I'd sell to the other feller, because I could see in a minute what a
thorn it 'd be in Jeff's flesh. But, dumn it all! When I met the
comical devil I couldn't seem to want to pester him. Why, here, thinks
I, if we've made an escape from him--and I guess we have, about the
biggest escape--what have I got ag'in' him, anyway? I'd ought to feel
good to him; and I guess that's the way I did feel, come to boil it down.
He's got a way with him, you know, when you're with him, that makes you
like him. He may have a knife in your ribs the whole while, but so
long's he don't turn it, you don't seem to know it, and you can't help
likin' him. Why, I hadn't been with Jeff five minutes before I made up
my mind to sell to him. I told him about the other offer--felt bound to
do it--and he was all on fire. 'I want that place, Mr. Whitwell,' s'd
he. 'Name your price.' Well, I wa'n't goin' to take an advantage of the
feller, and I guess he see it. 'You've offered me three thousand,' s'd
I, 'n' I don't want to be no ways mean about it. Five thousand buys the
place.' 'It's mine,' s'd he; just like that. I guess he see he had a
gentleman to deal with, and we didn't say a word more. Don't you think I
done right to sell to him? I couldn't 'a' got more'n thirty-five hundred
out the other feller, to save me, and before Jeff begun his improvements
I couldn't 'a' realized a thousand dollars on the prop'ty."
"I think you did right to sell to him," said Westover, saddened somewhat
by the proof Whitwell alleged of his magnanimity.
"Well, Sir, I'm glad you do. I don't believe in crowdin' a man because
you got him in a corner, an' I don't believe in bearin' malice. Never
did. All I wanted was what the place was wo'th--to him. 'Twa'n't wo'th
nothin' to me! He's got the house and the ten acres around it, and he's
got the house on Lion's Head, includin' the Clearin', that the poottiest
picnic-ground in the mountains. Think of goin' up there this summer?"
"No," said Westover, briefly.
"Well, I some wish yon did. I sh'd like to know how Jeff's improvements
struck you. Of course, I can't judge of 'em so well, but I guess he's
made a pootty sightly thing of it. He told me he'd had one of the
leadin' Boston architects to plan the thing out for him, and I tell you
he's got something nice. 'Tain't so big as old Lion's Head, and Jeff
wants to cater to a different style of custom, anyway. The buildin's
longer'n what she is deep, and she spreads in front so's to give as many
rooms a view of the mountain as she can. Know what 'runnaysonce' is?
Well, that's the style Jeff said it was; it's all pillars and pilasters;
and you ride up to the office through a double row of colyums, under a
kind of a portico. It's all painted like them old Colonial houses down
on Brattle Street, buff and white. Well, it made me think of one of them
old pagan temples. He's got her shoved along to the south'ard, and he's
widened out a piece of level for her to stand on, so 't that piece o'
wood up the hill there is just behind her, and I tell you she looks nice,
backin' up ag'inst the trees. I tell you, Jeff's got a head on him!
I wish you could see that dinin'-room o' his: all white colyums, and
frontin' on the view. Why, that devil's got a regular little theatyre
back o' the dinin'-room for the young folks to act ammyture plays in, and
the shows that come along, and he's got a dance-hall besides; the parlors
ain't much--folks like to set in the office; and a good many of the rooms
are done off into soots, and got their own parlors. I tell you, it's
swell, as they say. You can order what you please for breakfast, but for
lunch and dinner you got to take what Jeff gives you; but he treats you
well. He's a Durgin, when it comes to that. Served in cou'ses, and
dinner at seven o'clock. I don't know where he got his money for 't all,
but I guess he put in his insurance fust, and then he put a mortgage on
the buildin'; be as much as owned it; said he'd had a splendid season
last year, and if he done as well for a copule of seasons more he'd have
the whole prop'ty free o' debt."
Westover could see that the prosperity of the unjust man had corrupted
the imagination and confounded the conscience of this simple witness, and
he asked, in the hope of giving his praises pause: "What has he done
about the old family burying-ground in the orchard?"
"Well, there!" said Whitwell. "That got me more than any other one
thing: I naturally expected that Jeff 'd had 'em moved, for you know and
I know, Mr. Westover, that a place like that couldn't be very pop'la'
with summer folks; they don't want to have anything to kind of make 'em
serious, as you may say. But that devil got his architect to treat the
place, as he calls it, and he put a high stone wall around it, and
planted it to bushes and evergreens so 't looks like a piece of old
garden, down there in the corner of the orchard, and if you didn't hunt
for it you wouldn't know it was there. Jeff said 't when folks did
happen to find it out, he believed they liked it; they think it's
picturesque and ancient. Why, some on 'em wanted him to put up a little
chapel alongside and have services there; and Jeff said he didn't know
but he'd do it yet. He's got dark-colored stones up for Mis' Durgin and
Jackson, so 't they look as old as any of 'em. I tell you, he knows how
to do things."
"It seems so," said Westover, with a bitterness apparently lost upon the
"Yes, sir. I guess it's all worked out for the best. So long's he
didn't marry Cynthy, I don't care who he married, and--I guess he's made
out fust-rate, and he treats his wife well, and his mother-in-law, too.
You wouldn't hardly know they was in the house, they're so kind of quiet;
and if a guest wants to see Jeff, he's got to send and ask for him; clerk
does everything, but I guess Jeff keeps an eye out and knows what's goin'
on. He's got an elegant soot of appartments, and he lives as private as
if he was in his own house, him and his wife. But when there's anything
goin' on that needs a head, they're both right on deck.
"He don't let his wife worry about things a great deal; he's got a fust-
rate of a housekeeper, but I guess old Mis' Vostrand keeps the
housekeeper, as you may say. I hear some of the boa'ders talkin' up
there, and one of 'em said 't the great thing about Lion's Head was 't
you could feel everywheres in it that it was a lady's house. I guess
Jeff has a pootty good time, and a time 't suits him. He shows up on the
coachin' parties, and he's got himself a reg'lar English coachman's rig,
with boots outside his trouse's, and a long coat and a fuzzy plug-hat: I
tell you, he looks gay! He don't spend his winters at Lion's Head: he is
off to Europe about as soon as the house closes in the fall, and he keeps
bringin' home new dodges. Guess you couldn't get no boa'd there for no
seven dollars a week now! I tell you, Jeff's the gentleman now, and his
wife's about the nicest lady I ever saw. Do' know as I care so much
about her mother; do' know as I got anything ag'inst her, either, very
much. But that little girl, Beechy, as they call her, she's a beauty!
And round with Jeff all the while! He seems full as fond of her as her
own mother does, and that devil, that couldn't seem to get enough of
tormentin' little children when he was a boy, is as good and gentle with
that little thing as-pie!"
Whitwell seemed to have come to an end of his celebration of Jeff's
success, and Westover asked:
"And what do you make now, of planchette's brokenshaft business? Or
don't you believe in planchette any more?"
Whitwell's beaming face clouded. "Well, sir, that's a thing that's
always puzzled me. If it wa'n't that it was Jackson workin' plantchette
that night, I shouldn't placed much dependence on what she said; but
Jackson could get the truth out of her, if anybody could. Sence I b'en
up there I b'en figurin' it out like this: the broken shaft is the old
Jeff that he's left off bein'--"
Whitwell stopped midway in his suggestion, with an inquiring eye on the
painter, who asked: "You think he's left off being the old Jeff?"
"Well, sir, you got me there," the philosopher confessed. "I didn't see
anything to the contrary, but come to think of it--"
"Why couldn't the broken shaft be his unfulfilled destiny on the old
lines? What reason is there to believe he isn't what he's always been?"
"Well, come to think of it--"
"People don't change in a day, or a year," Westover went on, "or two or
three years, even. Sometimes I doubt if they ever change."
"Well, all that I thought," Whitwell urged, faintly, against the hard
scepticism of a man ordinarily so yielding, "is 't there must be a moral
government of the universe somewheres, and if a bad feller is to get
along and prosper hand over hand, that way, don't it look kind of as if--"
"There wasn't any moral government of the universe? Not the way I see
it," said Westover. "A tree brings forth of its kind. As a man sows he
reaps. It's dead sure, pitilessly sure. Jeff Durgin sowed success, in a
certain way, and he's reaping it. He once said to me, when I tried to
waken his conscience, that he should get where he was trying to go if he
was strong enough, and being good had nothing to do with it. I believe
now he was right. But he was wrong too, as such a man always is. That
kind of tree bears Dead Sea apples, after all. He sowed evil, and he
must reap evil. He may never know it, but he will reap what he has sown.
The dreadful thing is that others must share in his harvest. What do you
Whitwell scratched his head. "Well, sir, there's something in what you
say, I guess. But here! What's the use of thinkin' a man can't change?
Wa'n't there ever anything in that old idee of a change of heart? What
do you s'pose made Jeff let up on that feller that Jombateeste see him
have down, that day, in my Clearin'? What Jeff would natch'ly done would
b'en to shake the life out of him; but he didn't; he let him up, and he
let him go. What's the reason that wa'n't the beginnin' of a new life
"We don't know all the ins and outs of that business," said Westover,
after a moment. "I've puzzled over it a good deal. The man was the
brother of that girl that Jeff had jilted in Boston. I've found out that
much. I don't know just the size and shape of the trouble between them,
but Jeff may have felt that he had got even with his enemy before that
day. Or he may have felt that if he was going in for full satisfaction,
there was Jombateeste looking on."
"That's true," said Whitwell, greatly daunted. After a while he took
refuge in the reflection, "Well, he's a comical devil."
Westover said, in a sort of absence: "Perhaps we're all broken shafts,
here. Perhaps that old hypothesis of another life, a world where there
is room enough and time enough for all the beginnings of this to complete
"Well, now you're shoutin'," said Whitwell. "And if plantchette--"
Westover rose. "Why, a'n't you goin' to wait and see Cynthy? I'm
expectin' her along every minute now; she's just gone down to Harvard
Square. She'll be awfully put out when she knows you've be'n here."
"I'll come out again soon," said Westover. "Tell her--"
" Well, you must see your picture, anyway. We've got it in the parlor.
I don't know what she'll say to me, keepin' you here in the settin'-room
all the time."
Whitwell led him into the little dark front hall, and into the parlor,
less dim than it should have been because the afternoon sun was burning
full upon its shutters. The portrait hung over the mantel, in a bad
light, but the painter could feel everything in it that he could not see.
"Yes, it had that look in it."
"Well, she ha'n't took wing yet, I'm thankful to think," said Whitwell,
and he spoke from his own large mind to the sympathy of an old friend who
he felt could almost share his feelings as a father.
When Westover turned out of the baking little street where the Whitwells
lived into an elm-shaded stretch of North Avenue, he took off his hat and
strolled bareheaded along in the cooler air. He was disappointed not to
have seen Cynthia, and yet he found himself hurrying away after his
failure, with a sense of escape, or at least of respite.
What he had come to say, to do, was the effect of long experience and
much meditation. The time had arrived when he could no longer feign to
himself that his feelings toward the girl were not those of a lover, but
he had his modest fears that she could never imagine him in that
character, and that if he should ask her to do so he should shock and
grieve her, and inflict upon himself an incurable wound.
During this last absence of his he had let his fancy dwell constantly
upon her, until life seemed worth having only if she would share it with
him. He was an artist, and he had always been a bohemian, but at heart
he was philistine and bourgeois. His ideal was a settlement, a fixed
habitation, a stated existence, a home where he could work constantly in
an air of affection, and unselfishly do his part to make his home happy.
It was a very simple-hearted ambition, and I do not quite know how to
keep it from appearing commonplace and almost sordid; but such as it was,
I must confess that it was his. He had not married his model, because he
was mainly a landscapist, perhaps; and he had not married any of his
pupils, because he had not been in love with them, charming and good and
lovely as he had thought some of them; and of late he had realized more
and more why his fancy had not turned in their direction. He perceived
that it was already fixed, and possibly had long been fixed.
He did not blink the fact that there were many disparities, and that
there would be certain disadvantages which could never be quite overcome.
The fact had been brought rather strenuously home to him by his interview
with Cynthia's father. He perceived, as indeed he had always known, that
with a certain imaginative lift in his thinking and feeling, Whitwell was
irreparably rustic, that he was and always must be practically Yankee.
Westover was not a Yankee, and he did not love or honor the type, though
its struggles against itself touched and amused him. It made him a
little sick to hear how Whitwell had profited by Durgin's necessity,
and had taken advantage of him with conscientious and self-applausive
rapacity, while he admired his prosperity, and tried to account for it by
doubt of its injustice. For a moment this seemed to him worse than
Durgin's conscientious toughness, which was the antithesis of Whitwell's
remorseless self-interest. For the moment this claimed Cynthia of its
kind, and Westover beheld her rustic and Yankee of her father's type.
If she was not that now, she would grow into that through the lapse from
the personal to the ancestral which we all undergo in the process of the
The sight of her face as he had pictured it, and of the soul which be had
imagined for it, restored him to a better sense of her, but he felt the
need of escaping from the suggestion of her father's presence, and taking
further thought. Perhaps he should never again reach the point that he
was aware of deflecting from now; he filled his lungs with long breaths,
which he exhaled in sighs of relief. It might have been a mistake on the
spiritual as well as the worldly side; it would certainly not have
promoted his career; it might have impeded it. These misgivings flitted
over the surface of thought that more profoundly was occupied with a
question of other things. In the time since he had seen her last it
might very well be that a young and pretty girl had met some one who had
taken her fancy; and he could not be sure that her fancy had ever been
his, even if this had not happened. He had no proof at all that she had
ever cared or could care for him except gratefully, respectfully, almost
reverentially, with that mingling of filial and maternal anxiety which
had hitherto been the warmest expression of her regard. He tried to
reason it out, and could not. He suddenly found himself bitterly
disappointed that he had missed seeing her, for if they had met, he would
have known by this time what to think, what to hope. He felt old--
he felt fully thirty-six years old--as he passed his hand over his crown,
whose gossamer growth opposed so little resistance to his touch. He had
begun to lose his hair early, but till then he had not much regretted his
baldness. He entered into a little question of their comparative ages,
which led him to the conclusion that Cynthia must now be about twenty-
Almost at the same moment he saw her coming up the walk toward him from
far down the avenue. For a reason, or rather a motive, of his own he
pretended to himself that it was not she, but he knew instantly that it
was, and he put on his hat. He could see that she did not know him, and
it was a pretty thing to witness the recognition dawn on her. When it
had its full effect, he was aware of a flutter, a pause in her whole
figure before she came on toward him, and he hurried his steps for the
charm of her beautiful blushing face.
It was the spiritual effect of figure and face that he had carried in his
thought ever since he had arrived at that one-sided intimacy through his
study of her for the picture he had just seen. He had often had to ask
himself whether he had really perceived or only imagined the character he
had translated into it; but here, for the moment at least, was what he
had seen. He hurried forward and joyfully took the hand she gave him.
He thought he should speak of that at once, but it was not possible, of
course. There had to come first the unheeded questions and answers about
each other's health, and many other commonplaces. He turned and walked
home with her, and at the gate of the little ugly house she asked him if
he would not come in and take tea with them.
Her father talked with him while she got the tea, and when it was ready
her brother came in from his walk home out of Old Cambridge and helped
her put it on the table. He had grown much taller than Westover, and he
was very ecclesiastical in his manner; more so than he would be,
probably, if he ever be came a bishop, Westover decided. Jombateeste, in
an interval of suspended work at the brick yard, was paying a visit to
his people in Canada, and Westover did not see him.
All the time while they sat at table and talked together Westover
realized more and more that for him, at least, the separation of the last
two years had put that space between them which alone made it possible
for them to approach each other on new ground. A kind of horror, of
repulsion, for her engagement to Jeff Durgin had ceased from his sense of
her; it was as if she had been unhappily married, and the man, who had
been unworthy and unkind, was like a ghost who could never come to
trouble his joy. He was more her contemporary, he found, than formerly;
she had grown a great deal in the past two years, and a certain
affliction which her father's fixity had given him concerning her passed
in the assurance of change which she herself gave him.
She had changed her world, and grown to it, but her nature had not
changed. Even her look had not changed, and he told her how he had seen
his picture in her at the moment of their meeting in the street. They
all went in to verify his impression from the painting. "Yes, that is
the way you looked."
"It seems to me that is the way I felt," she asserted.
Frank went about the house-work, and left her to their guest. When
Whitwell came back from the post-office, where he said he would only be
gone a minute, he did not rejoin Westover and Cynthia in the parlor.
The parlor door was shut; he had risked his fate, and they were talking
it over. Cynthia was not sure; she was sure of nothing but that there
was no one in the world she cared for so much; but she was not sure that
was enough. She did not pretend that she was surprised; she owned that
she had sometimes expected it; she blamed herself for not expecting it
Westover said that he did not blame her for not knowing her mind; he had
been fifteen years learning his own fully. He asked her to take all the
time she wished. If she could not make sure after all, he should always
be sure that she was wise and good. She told him everything there was to
tell of her breaking with Jeff, and he thought the last episode a supreme
proof of her wisdom and goodness.
After a certain time they went for a walk in the warm summer moonlight
under the elms, where they had met on the avenue.
"I suppose," she said, as they drew near her door again, "that people
don't often talk it over as we've done."
"We only know from the novels," he answered. "Perhaps people do, oftener
than is ever known. I don't see why they shouldn't."
"I've never wished to be sure of you so much as since you've wished to be
sure of yourself."
"And I've never been so sure as since you were willing to let me," said
"I am glad of that. Try to think of me, if that will help my cause, as
some one you might have always known in this way. We don't really know
each other yet. I'm a great deal older than you, but still I'm not so
"Oh, I don't care for that. All I want to be certain of is that the
feeling I have is really--the feeling."
"I know, dear," said Westover, and his heart surged toward her in his
tenderness for her simple conscience, her wise question. "Take time.
Don't hurry. Forget what I've said--or no; that's absurd! Think of it;
but don't let anything but the truth persuade you. Now, good-night,
"Mr. Westover" he reproached her.
She stood thinking, as if the question were crucial. Then she said,
firmly, "I should always have to call you Mr. Westover."
"Oh, well," he returned, "if that's all!"
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Boldest man is commonly a little behind a timid woman
Could not imagine the summer life of the place
Crimson which stained the tops and steeps of snow
Errors of a weak man, which were usually the basest
Exchanging inaudible banalities
He might walk home with her if he would not seem to do so
He's the same kind of a man that he was a boy
Hollow hilarities which people use to mask their indifference
I suppose they must feel it
If one must, it ought to be champagne
Intent upon some point in the future
No two men see the same star
Picture which, he said to himself, no one would believe in
Quiet but rather dull look of people slightly deaf
Stupefied by a life of unalloyed prosperity and propriety
To be exemplary is as dangerous as to be complimentary
W'at you want letter for? Always same thing
Want something hard, don't you know; but I want it to be easy
With all her insight, to have very little artistic sense
World made up of two kinds of people