"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 you are."
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 mother's hand.
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. "Vostrand."
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 little kiss.
"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 demanded, indignantly.
"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 enduring indifference.
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 it.
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 optimistic philosopher.
"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 think?"
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 for him?"
"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 themselves—"
"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 years.
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- five.
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 then.
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 Cynthia.
"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 very old."
"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, Cynthia."
"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 Pathetic hopefulness 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
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE LANDLORD AT LIONS HEAD:
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 Crimson torch of a maple, kindled before its time Disposition to use his friends Errors of a weak man, which were usually the basest Exchanging inaudible banalities Fear of asking too much and the folly of asking too little Government is best which governs least 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 Honesty is difficult I don't ever want to take the whip-hand I suppose they must feel it I sha'n't forget this very soon If one must, it ought to be champagne Insensate pride that mothers have in their children's faults Intent upon some point in the future Iron forks had two prongs Jefferson Joyful shame of children who have escaped punishment Man that could be your friend if he didn't like you Married Man: after the first start-off he don't try No two men see the same star Nothing in the way of sport, as people commonly understand it Pathetic hopefulness People whom we think unequal to their good fortune Picture which, he said to himself, no one would believe in Quiet but rather dull look of people slightly deaf Society interested in a woman's past, not her future Stupefied by a life of unalloyed prosperity and propriety The great trouble is for the man to be honest with her 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 We're company enough for ourselves With all her insight, to have very little artistic sense Women talked their follies and men acted theirs World made up of two kinds of people World seems to always come out at the same hole it went in at