THE LANDLORD AT LION'S HEAD
By William Dean Howells
In those dim recesses of the consciousness where things have their beginning, if ever things have a beginning, I suppose the origin of this novel may be traced to a fact of a fortnight's sojourn on the western shore of lake Champlain in the summer of 1891. Across the water in the State of Vermont I had constantly before my eyes a majestic mountain form which the earlier French pioneers had named "Le Lion Couchant," but which their plainer-minded Yankee successors preferred to call "The Camel's Hump." It really looked like a sleeping lion; the head was especially definite; and when, in the course of some ten years, I found the scheme for a story about a summer hotel which I had long meant to write, this image suggested the name of 'The Landlord at Lion's Head.' I gave the title to my unwritten novel at once and never wished to change it, but rejoiced in the certainty that, whatever the novel turned out to be, the title could not be better.
I began to write the story four years later, when we were settled for the winter in our flat on Central Park, and as I was a year in doing it, with other things, I must have taken the unfinished manuscript to and from Magnolia, Massachusetts, and Long Beach, Long Island, where I spent the following summer. It was first serialized in Harper's Weekly and in the London Illustrated News, as well as in an Australian newspaper—I forget which one; and it was published as a completed book in 1896.
I remember concerning it a very becoming despair when, at a certain moment in it, I began to wonder what I was driving at. I have always had such moments in my work, and if I cannot fitly boast of them, I can at least own to them in freedom from the pride that goes before a fall. My only resource at such times was to keep working; keep beating harder and harder at the wall which seemed to close me in, till at last I broke through into the daylight beyond. In this case, I had really such a very good grip of my characters that I need not have had the usual fear of their failure to work out their destiny. But even when the thing was done and I carried the completed manuscript to my dear old friend, the late Henry Loomis Nelson, then editor of the Weekly, it was in more fear of his judgment than I cared to show. As often happened with my manuscript in such exigencies, it seemed to go all to a handful of shrivelled leaves. When we met again and he accepted it for the Weekly, with a handclasp of hearty welcome, I could scarcely gasp out my unfeigned relief. We had talked the scheme of it over together; he had liked the notion, and he easily made me believe, after my first dismay, that he liked the result even better.
I myself liked the hero of the tale more than I have liked worthier men, perhaps because I thought I had achieved in him a true rustic New England type in contact with urban life under entirely modern conditions. What seemed to me my esthetic success in him possibly softened me to his ethical shortcomings; but I do not expect others to share my weakness for Jeff Durgin, whose strong, rough surname had been waiting for his personality ever since I had got it off the side of an ice-cart many years before.
At the time the story was imagined Harvard had been for four years much in the direct knowledge of the author, and I pleased myself in realizing the hero's experience there from even more intimacy with the university moods and manners than had supported me in the studies of an earlier fiction dealing with them. I had not lived twelve years in Cambridge without acquaintance such as even an elder man must make with the undergraduate life; but it is only from its own level that this can be truly learned, and I have always been ready to stand corrected by undergraduate experience. Still, I have my belief that as a jay—the word may now be obsolete—Jeff Durgin is not altogether out of drawing; though this is, of course, the phase of his character which is one of the least important. What I most prize in him, if I may go to the bottom of the inkhorn, is the realization of that anti-Puritan quality which was always vexing the heart of Puritanism, and which I had constantly felt one of the most interesting facts in my observation of New England.
As for the sort of summer hotel portrayed in these pages, it was materialized from an acquaintance with summer hotels extending over quarter of a century, and scarcely to be surpassed if paralleled. I had a passion for knowing about them and understanding their operation which I indulged at every opportunity, and which I remember was satisfied as to every reasonable detail at one of the pleasantest seaside hostelries by one of the most intelligent and obliging of landlords. Yet, hotels for hotels, I was interested in those of the hills rather than those of the shores.
I worked steadily if not rapidly at the story. Often I went back over it, and tore it to pieces and put it together again. It made me feel at times as if I should never learn my trade, but so did every novel I have written; every novel, in fact, has been a new trade. In, the case of this one the publishers were hurrying me in the revision for copy to give the illustrator, who was hurrying his pictures for the English and Australian serializations.
KITTERY POINT, MAINE, July, 1909.
THE LANDLORD AT LION'S HEAD
If you looked at the mountain from the west, the line of the summit was wandering and uncertain, like that of most mountain-tops; but, seen from the east, the mass of granite showing above the dense forests of the lower slopes had the form of a sleeping lion. The flanks and haunches were vaguely distinguished from the mass; but the mighty head, resting with its tossed mane upon the vast paws stretched before it, was boldly sculptured against the sky. The likeness could not have been more perfect, when you had it in profile, if it had been a definite intention of art; and you could travel far north and far south before the illusion vanished. In winter the head was blotted by the snows; and sometimes the vagrant clouds caught upon it and deformed it, or hid it, at other seasons; but commonly, after the last snow went in the spring until the first snow came in the fall, the Lion's Head was a part of the landscape, as imperative and importunate as the Great Stone Face itself.
Long after other parts of the hill country were opened to summer sojourn, the region of Lion's Head remained almost primitively solitary and savage. A stony mountain road followed the bed of the torrent that brawled through the valley at its base, and at a certain point a still rougher lane climbed from the road along the side of the opposite height to a lonely farm-house pushed back on a narrow shelf of land, with a meagre acreage of field and pasture broken out of the woods that clothed all the neighboring steeps. The farm-house level commanded the best view of Lion's Head, and the visitors always mounted to it, whether they came on foot, or arrived on buckboards or in buggies, or drove up in the Concord stages from the farther and nearer hotels. The drivers of the coaches rested their horses there, and watered them from the spring that dripped into the green log at the barn; the passengers scattered about the door-yard to look at the Lion's Head, to wonder at it and mock at it, according to their several makes and moods. They could scarcely have felt that they ever had a welcome from the stalwart, handsome woman who sold them milk, if they wanted it, and small cakes of maple sugar if they were very strenuous for something else. The ladies were not able to make much of her from the first; but some of them asked her if it were not rather lonely there, and she said that when you heard the catamounts scream at night, and the bears growl in the spring, it did seem lonesome. When one of them declared that if she should hear a catamount scream or a bear growl she should die, the woman answered, Well, she presumed we must all die some time. But the ladies were not sure of a covert slant in her words, for they were spoken with the same look she wore when she told them that the milk was five cents a glass, and the black maple sugar three cents a cake. She did not change when she owned upon their urgence that the gaunt man whom they glimpsed around the corners of the house was her husband, and the three lank boys with him were her sons; that the children whose faces watched them through the writhing window panes were her two little girls; that the urchin who stood shyly twisted, all but his white head and sunburned face, into her dress and glanced at them with a mocking blue eye, was her youngest, and that he was three years old. With like coldness of voice and face, she assented to their conjecture that the space walled off in the farther corner of the orchard was the family burial ground; and she said, with no more feeling that the ladies could see than she had shown concerning the other facts, that the graves they saw were those of her husband's family and of the children she had lost there had been ten children, and she had lost four. She did not visibly shrink from the pursuit of the sympathy which expressed itself in curiosity as to the sickness they had died of; the ladies left her with the belief that they had met a character, and she remained with the conviction, briefly imparted to her husband, that they were tonguey.
The summer folks came more and more, every year, with little variance in the impression on either side. When they told her that her maple sugar would sell better if the cake had an image of Lion's Head stamped on it, she answered that she got enough of Lion's Head without wanting to see it on all the sugar she made. But the next year the cakes bore a rude effigy of Lion's Head, and she said that one of her boys had cut the stamp out with his knife; she now charged five cents a cake for the sugar, but her manner remained the same. It did not change when the excursionists drove away, and the deep silence native to the place fell after their chatter. When a cock crew, or a cow lowed, or a horse neighed, or one of the boys shouted to the cattle, an echo retorted from the granite base of Lion's Head, and then she had all the noise she wanted, or, at any rate, all the noise there was most of the time. Now and then a wagon passed on the stony road by the brook in the valley, and sent up its clatter to the farm-house on its high shelf, but there was scarcely another break from the silence except when the coaching-parties came.
The continuous clash and rush of the brook was like a part of the silence, as the red of the farm-house and the barn was like a part of the green of the fields and woods all round them: the black-green of pines and spruces, the yellow-green of maples and birches, dense to the tops of the dreary hills, and breaking like a bated sea around the Lion's Head. The farmer stooped at his work, with a thin, inward-curving chest, but his wife stood straight at hers; and she had a massive beauty of figure and a heavily moulded regularity of feature that impressed such as had eyes to see her grandeur among the summer folks. She was forty when they began to come, and an ashen gray was creeping over the reddish heaps of her hair, like the pallor that overlies the crimson of the autumnal oak. She showed her age earlier than most fair people, but since her marriage at eighteen she had lived long in the deaths of the children she had lost. They were born with the taint of their father's family, and they withered from their cradles. The youngest boy alone; of all her brood, seemed to have inherited her health and strength. The rest as they grew up began to cough, as she had heard her husband's brothers and sisters cough, and then she waited in hapless patience the fulfilment of their doom. The two little girls whose faces the ladies of the first coaching-party saw at the farm-house windows had died away from them; two of the lank boys had escaped, and in the perpetual exile of California and Colorado had saved themselves alive. Their father talked of going, too, but ten years later he still dragged himself spectrally about the labors of the farm, with the same cough at sixty which made his oldest son at twenty-nine look scarcely younger than himself.
One soft noon in the middle of August the farmer came in from the corn-field that an early frost had blighted, and told his wife that they must give it up. He said, in his weak, hoarse voice, with the catarrhal catching in it, that it was no use trying to make a living on the farm any longer. The oats had hardly been worth cutting, and now the corn was gone, and there was not hay enough without it to winter the stock; if they got through themselves they would have to live on potatoes. Have a vendue, and sell out everything before the snow flew, and let the State take the farm and get what it could for it, and turn over the balance that was left after the taxes; the interest of the savings-bank mortgage would soon eat that up.
The long, loose cough took him, and another cough answered it like an echo from the barn, where his son was giving the horses their feed. The mild, wan-eyed young man came round the corner presently toward the porch where his father and mother were sitting, and at the same moment a boy came up the lane to the other corner; there were sixteen years between the ages of the brothers, who alone were left of the children born into and borne out of the house. The young man waited till they were within whispering distance of each other, and then he gasped: "Where you been?"
The boy answered, promptly, "None your business," and went up the steps before the young man, with a lop-eared, liver-colored mongrel at his heels. He pulled off his ragged straw hat and flung it on the floor of the porch. "Dinner over?" he demanded.
His father made no answer; his mother looked at the boy's hands and face, all of much the same earthen cast, up to the eaves of his thatch of yellow hair, and said: "You go and wash yourself." At a certain light in his mother's eye, which he caught as he passed into the house with his dog, the boy turned and cut a defiant caper. The oldest son sat down on the bench beside his father, and they all looked in silence at the mountain before them. They heard the boy whistling behind the house, with sputtering and blubbering noises, as if he were washing his face while he whistled; and then they heard him singing, with a muffled sound, and sharp breaks from the muffled sound, as if he were singing into the towel; he shouted to his dog and threatened him, and the scuffling of his feet came to them through all as if he were dancing.
"Been after them woodchucks ag'in," his father huskily suggested.
"I guess so," said the mother. The brother did not speak; he coughed vaguely, and let his head sink forward.
The father began a statement of his affairs.
The mother said: "You don't want to go into that; we been all over it before. If it's come to the pinch, now, it's come. But you want to be sure."
The man did not answer directly. "If we could sell off now and get out to where Jim is in Californy, and get a piece of land—" He stopped, as if confronted with some difficulty which he had met before, but had hoped he might not find in his way this time.
His wife laughed grimly. "I guess, if the truth was known, we're too poor to get away."
"We're poor," he whispered back. He added, with a weak obstinacy: "I d'know as we're as poor as that comes to. The things would fetch something."
"Enough to get us out there, and then we should be on Jim's hands," said the woman.
"We should till spring, maybe. I d'know as I want to face another winter here, and I d'know as Jackson does."
The young man gasped back, courageously: "I guess I can get along here well enough."
"It's made Jim ten years younger. That's what he said," urged the father.
The mother smiled as grimly as she had laughed. "I don't believe it 'll make you ten years richer, and that's what you want."
"I don't believe but what we should ha' done something with the place by spring. Or the State would," the father said, lifelessly.
The voice of the boy broke in upon them from behind. "Say, mother, a'n't you never goin' to have dinner?" He was standing in the doorway, with a startling cleanness of the hands and face, and a strange, wet sleekness of the hair. His clothes were bedrabbled down the front with soap and water.
His mother rose and went toward him; his father and brother rose like apparitions, and slanted after her at one angle.
"Say," the boy called again to his mother, "there comes a peddler." He pointed down the road at the figure of a man briskly ascending the lane toward the house, with a pack on his back and some strange appendages dangling from it.
The woman did not look round; neither of the men looked round; they all kept on in-doors, and she said to the boy, as she passed him: "I got no time to waste on peddlers. You tell him we don't want anything."
The boy waited for the figure on the lane to approach. It was the figure of a young man, who slung his burden lightly from his shoulders when he arrived, and then stood looking at the boy, with his foot planted on the lowermost tread of the steps climbing from the ground to the porch.
The boy must have permitted these advances that he might inflict the greater disappointment when he spoke. "We don't want anything," he said, insolently.
"Don't you?" the stranger returned. "I do. I want dinner. Go in and tell your mother, and then show me where I can wash my hands."
The bold ease of the stranger seemed to daunt the boy, and he stood irresolute. His dog came round the corner of the house at the first word of the parley, and, while his master was making up his mind what to do, he smelled at the stranger's legs. "Well, you can't have any dinner," said the boy, tentatively. The dog raised the bristles on his neck, and showed his teeth with a snarl. The stranger promptly kicked him in the jaw, and the dog ran off howling. "Come here, sir!" the boy called to him, but the dog vanished round the house with a fading yelp.
"Now, young man," said the stranger, "will you go and do as you're bid? I'm ready to pay for my dinner, and you can say so." The boy stared at him, slowly taking in the facts of his costume, with eyes that climbed from the heavy shoes up the legs of his thick-ribbed stockings and his knickerbockers, past the pleats and belt of his Norfolk jacket, to the red neckcloth tied under the loose collar of his flannel outing-shirt, and so by his face, with its soft, young beard and its quiet eyes, to the top of his braidless, bandless slouch hat of soft felt. It was one of the earliest costumes of the kind that had shown itself in the hill country, and it was altogether new to the boy. "Come," said the wearer of it, "don't stand on the order of your going, but go at once," and he sat down on the steps with his back to the boy, who heard these strange terms of command with a face of vague envy.
The noonday sunshine lay in a thin, silvery glister on the slopes of the mountain before them, and in the brilliant light the colossal forms of the Lion's Head were prismatically outlined against the speckless sky. Through the silvery veil there burned here and there on the densely wooded acclivities the crimson torch of a maple, kindled before its time, but everywhere else there was the unbroken green of the forest, subdued to one tone of gray. The boy heard the stranger fetch his breath deeply, and then expel it in a long sigh, before he could bring himself to obey an order that seemed to leave him without the choice of disobedience. He came back and found the stranger as he had left him. "Come on, if you want your dinner," he said; and the stranger rose and looked at him.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Thomas Jefferson Durgin."
"Well, Thomas Jefferson Durgin, will you show me the way to the pump and bring a towel along?"
"Want to wash?"
"I haven't changed my mind."
"Come along, then." The boy made a movement as if to lead the way indoors; the stranger arrested him.
"Here. Take hold of this and put it out of the rush of travel somewhere." He lifted his burden from where he had dropped it in the road and swung it toward the boy, who ran down the steps and embraced it. As he carried it toward a corner of the porch he felt of the various shapes and materials in it.
Then he said, "Come on!" again, and went before the guest through the dim hall running midway of the house to the door at the rear. He left him on a narrow space of stone flagging there, and ran with a tin basin to the spring at the barn and brought it back to him full of the cold water.
"Towel," he said, pulling at the family roller inside the little porch at the door; and he watched the stranger wash his hands and face, and then search for a fresh place on the towel.
Before the stranger had finished the father and the elder brother came out, and, after an ineffectual attempt to salute him, slanted away to the barn together. The woman, in-doors, was more successful, when he found her in the dining-room, where the boy showed him. The table was set for him alone, and it affected him as if the family had been hurried away from it that he might have it to himself. Everything was very simple: the iron forks had two prongs; the knives bone handles; the dull glass was pressed; the heavy plates and cups were white, but so was the cloth, and all were clean. The woman brought in a good boiled dinner of corned-beef, potatoes, turnips, and carrots from the kitchen, and a teapot, and said something about having kept them hot on the stove for him; she brought him a plate of biscuit fresh from the oven; then she said to the boy, "You come out and have your dinner with me, Jeff," and left the guest to make his meal unmolested.
The room was square, with two north windows that looked down the lane he had climbed to the house. An open door led into the kitchen in an ell, and a closed door opposite probably gave access to a parlor or a ground- floor chamber. The windows were darkened down to the lower sash by green paper shades; the walls were papered in a pattern of brown roses; over the chimney hung a large picture, a life-size pencil-drawing of two little girls, one slightly older and slightly larger than the other, each with round eyes and precise ringlets, and with her hand clasped in the other's hand.
The guest seemed helpless to take his gaze from it, and he sat fallen back in his chair at it when the woman came in with a pie.
"Thank you, I believe I don't want any dessert," he said. "The fact is, the dinner was so good that I haven't left any room for pie. Are those your children?"
"Yes," said the woman, looking up at the picture with the pie in her hand. "They're the last two I lost."
"Oh, excuse me—" the guest began.
"It's the way they appear in the spirit life. It's a spirit picture."
"Oh, I thought there was something strange about it."
"Well, it's a good deal like the photograph we had taken about a year before they died. It's a good likeness. They say they don't change a great deal at first."
She seemed to refer the point to him for his judgment, but he answered wide of it:
"I came up here to paint your mountain, if you don't mind, Mrs. Durgin-Lion's Head, I mean."
"Oh yes. Well, I don't know as we could stop you if you wanted to take it away." A spare glimmer lighted up her face.
The painter rejoined in kind: "The town might have something to say, I suppose."
"Not if you was to leave a good piece of intervale in place of it. We've got mountains to spare."
"Well, then, that's arranged. What about a week's board?"
"I guess you can stay if you're satisfied."
"I'll be satisfied if I can stay. How much do you want?"
The woman looked down, probably with an inward anxiety between the fear of asking too much and the folly of asking too little. She said, tentatively: "Some of the folks that come over from the hotels say they pay as much as twenty dollars a week."
"But you don't expect hotel prices?"
"I don't know as I do. We've never had anybody before."
The stranger relaxed the frown he had put on at the greed of her suggestion; it might have come from ignorance or mere innocence. "I'm in the habit of paying five dollars for farm board, where I stay several weeks. What do you say to seven for a single week?"
"I guess that 'll do," said the woman, and she went out with the pie, which she had kept in her hand.
The painter went round to the front of the house and walked up and down before it for different points of view. He ran down the lane some way, and then came back and climbed to the sloping field behind the barn, where he could look at Lion's Head over the roof of the house. He tried an open space in the orchard, where he backed against the wall enclosing the little burial-ground. He looked round at it without seeming to see it, and then went back to the level where the house stood. "This is the place," he said to himself. But the boy, who had been lurking after him, with the dog lurking at, his own heels in turn, took the words as a proffer of conversation.
"I thought you'd come to it," he sneered.
"Did you?" asked the painter, with a smile for the unsatisfied grudge in the boy's tone. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
The boy looked down, and apparently made up his mind to wait until something sufficiently severe should come to him for a retort. "Want I should help you get your things?" he asked, presently.
"Why, yes," said the painter, with a glance of surprise. "I shall be much obliged for a lift." He started toward the porch where his burden lay, and the boy ran before him. They jointly separated the knapsack from the things tied to it, and the painter let the boy carry the easel and campstool which developed themselves from their folds and hinges, and brought the colors and canvas himself to the spot he had chosen. The boy looked at the tag on the easel after it was placed, and read the name on it—Jere Westover. "That's a funny name."
"I'm glad it amuses you," said the owner of it.
Again the boy cast down his eyes discomfited, and seemed again resolving silently to bide his time and watch for another chance.
Westover forgot him in the fidget he fell into, trying this and that effect, with his head slanted one way and then slanted the other, his hand held up to shut out the mountain below the granite mass of Lion's Head, and then changed to cut off the sky above; and then both hands lifted in parallel to confine the picture. He made some tentative scrawls on his canvas in charcoal, and he wasted so much time that the light on the mountain-side began to take the rich tone of the afternoon deepening to evening. A soft flush stole into it; the sun dipped behind the top south of the mountain, and Lion's Head stood out against the intense clearness of the west, which began to be flushed with exquisite suggestions of violet and crimson.
"Good Lord!" said Westover; and he flew at his colors and began to paint. He had got his canvas into such a state that he alone could have found it much more intelligible than his palette, when he heard the boy saying, over his shoulder: "I don't think that looks very much like it." He had last been aware of the boy sitting at the grassy edge of the lane, tossing small bits of earth and pebble across to his dog, which sat at the other edge and snapped at them. Then he lost consciousness of him. He answered, dreamily, while he found a tint he was trying for with his brush: "Perhaps you don't know." He was so sure of his effect that the popular censure speaking in the boy's opinion only made him happier in it.
"I know what I see," said the boy.
"I doubt it," said Westover, and then he lost consciousness of him again. He was rapt deep and far into the joy of his work, and had no thought but for that, and for the dim question whether it would be such another day to-morrow, with that light again on Lion's Head, when he was at last sensible of a noise that he felt he must have been hearing some time without noting it. It was a lamentable, sound of screaming, as of some one in mortal terror, mixed with wild entreaties. "Oh, don't, Jeff! Oh, don't, don't, don't! Oh, please! Oh, do let us be! Oh, Jeff, don't!"
Westover looked round bewildered, and not able, amid the clamor of the echoes, to make out where the cries came from. Then, down at the point where the lane joined the road to the southward and the road lost itself in the shadow of a woodland, he saw the boy leaping back and forth across the track, with his dog beside him; he was shouting and his dog barking furiously; those screams and entreaties came from within the shadow. Westover plunged down the lane headlong, with a speed that gathered at each bound, and that almost flung him on his face when he reached the level where the boy and the dog were dancing back and forth across the road. Then he saw, crouching in the edge of the wood, a little girl, who was uttering the appeals he had heard, and clinging to her, with a face of frantic terror, a child of five or six years; her cries had grown hoarse, and had a hard, mechanical action as they followed one another. They were really in no danger, for the boy held his dog tight by his collar, and was merely delighting himself with their terror.
The painter hurled himself upon him, and, with a quick grip upon his collar, gave him half a dozen flat-handed blows wherever he could plant them and then flung him reeling away.
"You infernal little ruffian!" he roared at him; and the sound of his voice was enough for the dog; he began to scale the hill-side toward the house without a moment's stay.
The children still crouched together, and Westover could hardly make them understand that they were in his keeping when he bent over them and bade them not be frightened. The little girl set about wiping the child's eyes on her apron in a motherly fashion; her own were dry enough, and Westover fancied there was more of fury than of fright in her face. She seemed lost to any sense of his presence, and kept on talking fiercely to herself, while she put the little boy in order, like an indignant woman.
"Great, mean, ugly thing! I'll tell the teacher on him, that's what I will, as soon as ever school begins. I'll see if he can come round with that dog of his scaring folks! I wouldn't 'a' been a bit afraid if it hadn't 'a' been for Franky. Don't cry any more, Franky. Don't you see they're gone? I presume he thinks it smart to scare a little boy and a girl. If I was a boy once, I'd show him!"
She made no sign of gratitude to Westover: as far as any recognition from her was concerned, his intervention was something as impersonal as if it had been a thunder-bolt falling upon her enemies from the sky.
"Where do you live?" he asked. "I'll go home with you if you'll tell me where you live."
She looked up at him in a daze, and Westover heard the Durgin boy saying: "She lives right there in that little wood-colored house at the other end of the lane. There ain't no call to go home with her."
Westover turned and saw the boy kneeling at the edge of a clump of bushes, where he must have struck; he was rubbing, with a tuft of grass, at the dirt ground into the knees of his trousers.
The little, girl turned hawkishly upon him. "Not for anything you can do, Jeff Durgin!"
The boy did not answer.
"There!" she said, giving a final pull and twitch to the dress of her brother, and taking him by the hand tenderly. "Now, come right along, Franky."
"Let me have your other hand," said Westover, and, with the little boy between them, they set off toward the point where the lane joined the road on the northward. They had to pass the bushes where Jeff Durgin was crouching, and the little girl turned and made a face at him. "Oh, oh! I don't think I should have done that," said Westover.
"I don't care!" said the little girl. But she said, in explanation and partial excuse: "He tries to scare all the girls. I'll let him know 't he can't scare one!"
Westover looked up toward the Durgin house with a return of interest in the canvas he had left in the lane on the easel. Nothing had happened to it. At the door of the barn he saw the farmer and his eldest son slanting forward and staring down the hill at the point he had come from. Mrs. Durgin was looking out from the shelter of the porch, and she turned and went in with Jeff's dog at her skirts when Westover came in sight with the children.
Westover had his tea with the family, but nothing was said or done to show that any of them resented or even knew of what had happened to the boy from him. Jeff himself seemed to have no grudge. He went out with Westover, when the meal was ended, and sat on the steps of the porch with him, watching the painter watch the light darken on the lonely heights and in the lonely depths around. Westover smoked a pipe, and the fire gleamed and smouldered in it regularly with his breathing; the boy, on a lower' step, pulled at the long ears of his dog and gazed up at him.
They were both silent till the painter asked: "What do you do here when you're not trying to scare little children to death?"
The boy hung his head and said, with the effect of excusing a long arrears of uselessness: "I'm goin' to school as soon as it commences."
"There's one branch of your education that I should like to undertake if I ever saw you at a thing like that again. Don't you feel ashamed of yourself?"
The boy pulled so hard at the dog's ear that the dog gave a faint yelp of protest.
"They might 'a' seen that I had him by the collar. I wa'n't a-goin' to let go."
"Well, the next time I have you by the collar I won't let go, either," said the painter; but he felt an inadequacy in his threat, and he imagined a superfluity, and he made some haste to ask: "who are they?"
"Whitwell is their name. They live in that little house where you took them. Their father's got a piece of land on Zion's Head that he's clearin' off for the timber. Their mother's dead, and Cynthy keeps house. She's always makin' up names and faces," added the boy. "She thinks herself awful smart. That Franky's a perfect cry-baby."
"Well, upon my word! You are a little ruffian," said Westover, and he knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "The next time you meet that poor little creature you tell her that I think you're about the shabbiest chap I know, and that I hope the teacher will begin where I left off with you and not leave blackguard enough in you to—"
He stopped for want of a fitting figure, and the boy said: "I guess the teacher won't touch me."
Westover rose, and the boy flung his dog away from him with his foot. "Want I should show you where to sleep?"
"Yes," said Westover, and the boy hulked in before him, vanishing into the dark of the interior, and presently appeared with a lighted hand-lamp. He led the way upstairs to a front room looking down upon the porch roof and over toward Zion's Head, which Westover could see dimly outlined against the night sky, when he lifted the edge of the paper shade and peered out.
The room was neat, with greater comfort in its appointments than he hoped for. He tried the bed, and found it hard, but of straw, and not the feathers he had dreaded; while the boy looked into the water-pitcher to see if it was full; and then went out without any form of goodnight.
Westover would have expected to wash in a tin basin at the back door, and wipe on the family towel, but all the means of toilet, such as they were, he found at hand here, and a surprise which he had felt at a certain touch in the cooking renewed itself at the intelligent arrangements for his comfort. A secondary quilt was laid across the foot of his bed; his window-shade was pulled down, and, though the window was shut and the air stuffy within, there was a sense of cleanliness in everything which was not at variance with the closeness.
The bed felt fresh when he got into it, and the sweet breath of the mountains came in so cold through the sash he had lifted that he was glad to pull the secondary quilt up over him. He heard the clock tick in some room below; from another quarter came the muffled sound of coughing; but otherwise the world was intensely still, and he slept deep and long.
The men folks had finished their breakfast and gone to their farm-work hours before Westover came down to his breakfast, but the boy seemed to be of as much early leisure as himself, and was lounging on the threshold of the back door, with his dog in waiting upon him. He gave the effect of yesterday's cleanliness freshened up with more recent soap and water. At the moment Westover caught sight of him, he heard his mother calling to him from the kitchen, "Well, now, come in and get your breakfast, Jeff," and the boy called to Westover, in turn, "I'll tell her you're here," as he rose and came in-doors. "I guess she's got your breakfast for you."
Mrs. Durgin brought the breakfast almost as soon as Westover had found his way to the table, and she lingered as if for some expression of his opinion upon it. The biscuit and the butter were very good, and he said so; the eggs were fresh, and the hash from yesterday's corned-beef could not have been better, and he praised them; but he was silent about the coffee.
"It a'n't very good," she suggested.
"Why, I'm used to making my own coffee; I lived so long in a country where it's nearly the whole of breakfast that I got into the habit of it, and I always carry my little machine with me; but I don't like to bring it out, unless—"
"Unless you can't stand the other folks's," said the woman, with a humorous gleam. "Well, you needn't mind me. I want you should have good coffee, and I guess I a'n't too old to learn, if you want to show me. Our folks don't care for it much; they like tea; and I kind of got out of the way of it. But at home we had to have it." She explained, to his inquiring glance.
"My father kept the tavern on the old road to St. Albans, on the other side of Lion's Head. That's where I always lived till I married here."
"Oh," said Westover, and he felt that she had proudly wished to account for a quality which she hoped he had noticed in her cooking. He thought she might be going to tell him something more of herself, but she only said, "Well, any time you want to show me your way of makin' coffee," and went out of the room.
That evening, which was the close of another flawless day, he sat again watching the light outside, when he saw her come into the hallway with a large shade-lamp in her hand. She stopped at the door of a room he had not seen yet, and looked out at him to ask:
"Won't you come in and set in the parlor if you want to?"
He found her there when he came in, and her two sons with her; the younger was sleepily putting away some school-books, and the elder seemed to have been helping him with his lessons.
"He's got to begin school next week," she said to Westover; and at the preparations the other now began to make with a piece of paper and a planchette which he had on the table before him, she asked, in the half- mocking, half-deprecating way which seemed characteristic of her: "You believe any in that?"
"I don't know that I've ever seen it work," said the painter.
"Well, sometimes it won't work," she returned, altogether mockingly now, and sat holding her shapely hands, which were neither so large nor so rough as they might have been, across her middle and watching her son while the machine pushed about under his palm, and he bent his wan eyes upon one of the oval-framed photographs on the wall, as if rapt in a supernal vision. The boy stared drowsily at the planchette, jerking this way and that, and making abrupt starts and stops. At last the young man lifted his palm from it, and put it aside to study the hieroglyphics it had left on the paper.
"What's it say?" asked his mother.
The young man whispered: "I can't seem to make out very clear. I guess I got to take a little time to it," he added, leaning back wearily in his chair. "Ever seen much of the manifestations?" he gasped at Westover.
"Never any, before," said the painter, with a leniency for the invalid which he did not feel for his belief.
The young man tried for his voice, and found enough of it to say: "There's a trance medium over at the Huddle. Her control says 't I can develop into a writin' medium." He seemed to refer the fact as a sort of question to Westover, who could think of nothing to say but that it must be very interesting to feel that one had such a power.
"I guess he don't know he's got it yet," his mother interposed. "And planchette don't seem to know, either."
"We ha'n't given it a fair trial yet," said the young man, impartially, almost impassively.
"Wouldn't you like to see it do some of your sums, Jeff ?" said the mother to the drowsy boy, blinking in a corner. "You better go to bed."
The elder brother rose. "I guess I'll go, too."
The father had not joined their circle in the parlor, now breaking up by common consent.
Mrs. Durgin took up her lamp again and looked round on the appointments of the room, as if she wished Westover to note them, too: the drab wallpaper, the stiff chairs, the long, hard sofa in haircloth, the high bureau of mahogany veneer.
"You can come in here and set or lay down whenever you feel like it," she said. "We use it more than folks generally, I presume; we got in the habit, havin' it open for funerals."
Four or five days of perfect weather followed one another, and Westover worked hard at his picture in the late afternoon light he had chosen for it. In the morning he tramped through the woods and climbed the hills with Jeff Durgin, who seemed never to do anything about the farm, and had a leisure unbroken by anything except a rare call from his mother to help her in the house. He built the kitchen fire, and got the wood for it; he picked the belated pease and the early beans in the garden, and shelled them; on the Monday when the school opened he did a share of the family wash, which seemed to have been begun before daylight, and Westover saw him hanging out the clothes before he started off with his books. He suffered no apparent loss of self-respect in these employments, and, while he still had his days free, he put himself at Westover's disposal with an effect of unimpaired equality. He had expected, evidently, that Westover would want to fish or shoot, or at least join him in the hunt for woodchucks, which he still carried on with abated zeal for lack of his company when the painter sat down to sketch certain bits that struck him. When he found that Westover cared for nothing in the way of sport, as people commonly understand it, he did not openly contemn him. He helped him get the flowers he studied, and he learned to know true mushrooms from him, though he did not follow his teaching in eating the toadstools, as his mother called them, when they brought them home to be cooked.
If it could not be said that he shared the affection which began to grow up in Westover from their companionship, there could be no doubt of the interest he took in him, though it often seemed the same critical curiosity which appeared in the eye of his dog when it dwelt upon the painter. Fox had divined in his way that Westover was not only not to be molested, but was to be respectfully tolerated, yet no gleam of kindness ever lighted up his face at sight of the painter; he never wagged his tail in recognition of him; he simply recognized him and no more, and he remained passive under Westover's advances, which he had the effect of covertly referring to Jeff, when the boy was by, for his approval or disapproval; when he was not by, the dog's manner implied a reservation of opinion until the facts could be submitted to his master.
On the Saturday morning which was the last they were to have together, the three comrades had strayed from the vague wood road along one of the unexpected levels on the mountain slopes, and had come to a standstill in a place which the boy pretended not to know his way out of. Westover doubted him, for he had found that Jeff liked to give himself credit for woodcraft by discovering an escape from the depths of trackless wildernesses.
"I guess you know where we are," he suggested.
"No, honestly," said the boy; but he grinned, and Westover still doubted him.
"Hark! What's that?" he said, hushing further speech from him with a motion of his hand. It was the sound of an axe.
"Oh, I know where we are," said Jeff. "It's that Canuck chopping in Whitwell's clearing. Come along."
He led the way briskly down the mountain-side now, stopping from time to time and verifying his course by the sound of the axe. This came and went, and by-and-by it ceased altogether, and Jeff crept forward with a real or feigned uncertainty. Suddenly he stopped. A voice called, "Heigh, there!" and the boy turned and fled, crashing through the underbrush at a tangent, with his dog at his heels.
Westover looked after them, and then came forward. A lank figure of a man at the foot of a poplar, which he had begun to fell, stood waiting him, one hand on his axe-helve and the other on his hip. There was the scent of freshly smitten bark and sap-wood in the air; the ground was paved with broad, clean chips.
"Good-morning," said Westover.
"How are you?" returned the other, without moving or making any sign of welcome for a moment. But then he lifted his axe and struck it into the carf on the tree, and came to meet Westover.
As he advanced he held out his. hand. "Oh, you're the one that stopped that fellow that day when he was tryin' to scare my children. Well, I thought I should run across you some time." He shook hands with Westover, in token of the gratitude which did not express itself in words. "How are you? Treat you pretty well up at the Durgins'? I guess so. The old woman knows how to cook, anyway. Jackson's about the best o' the lot above ground, though I don't know as I know very much against the old man, either. But that boy! I declare I 'most feel like takin' the top of his head off when he gets at his tricks. Set down."
Whitwell, as Westover divined the man to be, took a seat himself on a high stump, which suited his length of leg, and courteously waved Westover to a place on the log in front of him. A long, ragged beard of brown, with lines of gray in it, hung from his chin and mounted well up on his thin cheeks toward his friendly eyes. His mustache lay sunken on his lip, which had fallen in with the loss of his upper teeth. From the lower jaw a few incisors showed at this slant and that as he talked.
"Well, well!" he said, with the air of wishing the talk to go on, but without having anything immediately to offer himself.
Westover said, "Thank you," as he dropped on the log, and Whitwell added, relentingly: "I don't suppose a fellow's so much to blame, if he's got the devil in him, as what the devil is."
He referred the point with a twinkle of his eyes to Westover, who said: "It's always a question, of course, whether it's the devil. It may be original sin with the fellow himself."
"Well, that's something so," said Whitwell, with pleasure in the distinction rather than assent. "But I guess it ain't original sin in the boy. Got it from his gran'father pootty straight, I should say, and maybe the old man had it secondhand. Ha'd to say just where so much cussedness gits statted."
"His father's father?" asked Westover, willing to humor Whitwell's evident wish to philosophize the Durgins' history.
"Mother's. He kept the old tavern stand on the west side of Lion's Head, on the St. Albans Road, and I guess he kept a pootty good house in the old times when the stages stopped with him. Ever noticed how a man on the mean side in politics always knows how to keep a hotel? Well, it's something curious. If there was ever a mean side to any question, old Mason was on it. My folks used to live around there, and I can remember when I was a boy hangin' around the bar-room nights hearin' him argue that colored folks had no souls; and along about the time the fugitive- slave law was passed the folks pootty near run him out o' town for puttin' the United States marshal on the scent of a fellow that was breakin' for Canada. Well, it was just so when the war come. It was known for a fact that he was in with them Secesh devils up over the line that was plannin' a raid into Vermont in '63. He'd got pootty low down by that time; railroads took off all the travel; tavern 'd got to be a regular doggery; old man always drank some, I guess. That was a good while after his girl had married Durgin. He was dead against it, and it broke him up consid'able when she would have him: Well, one night the old stand burnt up and him in it, and neither of 'em insured."
Whitwell laughed with a pleasure in his satire which gave the monuments in his lower jaw a rather sinister action. But, as if he felt a rebuke in Westover's silence, he added: "There ain't anything against Mis' Durgin. She's done her part, and she's had more than her share of hard knocks. If she was tough, to sta't with, she's had blows enough to meller her. But that's the way I account for the boy. I s'pose—I'd oughtn't to feel the way I do about him, but he's such a pest to the whole neighborhood that he'd have the most pop'la' fune'l. Well, I guess I've said enough. I'm much obliged to you, though, Mr.—"
"Westover," the painter suggested. "But the boy isn't so bad all the time."
"Couldn't be," said Whitwell, with a cackle of humorous enjoyment. "He has his spells of bein' decent, and he's pootty smart, too. But when the other spell ketches him it's like as if the devil got a-hold of him, as I said in the first place. I lost my wife here two-three years along back, and that little girl you see him tormentin', she's a regular little mother to her brother; and whenever Jeff Durgin sees her with him, seems as if the Old Scratch got into him. Well, I'm glad I didn't come across him that day. How you gittin' along with Lion's Head? Sets quiet enough for you?" Whitwell rose from the stump and brushed the clinging chips from his thighs. "Folks trouble you any, lookin' on?"
"Not yet," said Westover.
"Well, there ain't a great many to," said Whitwell, going back to his axe. "I should like to see you workin' some day. Do' know as I ever saw an attist at it."
"I should like to have you," said Westover. "Any time."
"All right." Whitwell pulled his axe out of the carf, and struck it in again with a force that made a wide, square chip leap out. He looked over his shoulder at Westover, who was moving away. "Say, stop in some time you're passin'. I live in that wood-colored house at the foot of the Durgins' lane."
In a little sunken place, behind a rock, some rods away, Westover found Jeff lurking with his dog, both silent and motionless. "Hello?" he said, inquiringly.
"Come back to show you the way," said the boy. "Thought you couldn't find it alone."
"Oh, why didn't you say you'd wait?" The boy grinned. "I shouldn't think a fellow like you would want to be afraid of any man, even for the fun of scaring a little girl." Jeff stopped grinning and looked interested, as if this was a view of the case that had not occurred to him. "But perhaps you like to be afraid."
"I don't know as I do," said the boy, and Westover left him to the question a great part of the way home. He did not express any regret or promise any reparation. But a few days after that, when he had begun to convoy parties of children up to see Westover at work, in the late afternoon, on their way home from school, and to show the painter off to them as a sort of family property, he once brought the young Whitwells. He seemed on perfect terms with them now, and when the crowd of larger children hindered the little boy's view of the picture, Jeff, in his quality of host, lifted him under his arms and held him up so that he could look as long as he liked.
The girl seemed ashamed of the good understanding before Westover. Jeff offered to make a place for her among the other children who had looked long enough, but she pulled the front of her bonnet across her face and said that she did not want to look, and caught her brother by the hand and ran away with him. Westover thought this charming, somewhat; he liked the intense shyness which the child's intense passion had hidden from him before.
Jeff acted as host to the neighbors who came to inspect the picture, and they all came, within a circuit of several miles around, and gave him their opinions freely or scantily, according to their several temperaments. They were mainly favorable, though there was some frank criticism, too, spoken over the painter's shoulder as openly as if he were not by. There was no question but of likeness; all finer facts were far from them; they wished to see how good a portrait Westover had made, and some of them consoled him with the suggestion that the likeness would come out more when the picture got dry.
Whitwell, when he came, attempted a larger view of the artist's work, but apparently more out of kindness for him than admiration of the picture. He said he presumed you could not always get a thing like that just right the first time, and that you had to keep trying till you did get it; but it paid in the end. Jeff had stolen down from the house with his dog, drawn by the fascination which one we have injured always has for us; when Whitwell suddenly turned upon him and asked, jocularly, "What do you think, Jeff?" the boy could only kick his dog and drive it home, as a means of hiding his feelings.
He brought the teacher to see the picture the last Friday before the painter went away. She was a cold-looking, austere girl, pretty enough, with eyes that wandered away from the young man, although Jeff used all his arts to make her feel at home in his presence. She pretended to have merely stopped on her way up to see Mrs. Durgin, and she did not venture any comment on the painting; but, when Westover asked something about her school, she answered him promptly enough as to the number and ages and sexes of the school-children. He ventured so far toward a joke with her as to ask if she had much trouble with such a tough subject as Jeff, and she said he could be good enough when he had a mind. If he could get over his teasing, she said, with the air of reading him a lecture, she would not have anything to complain of; and Jeff looked ashamed, but rather of the praise than the blame. His humiliation seemed complete when she said, finally: "He's a good scholar."
On the Tuesday following, Westover meant to go. It was the end of his third week, and it had brought him into September. The weather since he had begun to paint Lion's Head was perfect for his work; but, with the long drought, it had grown very warm. Many trees now had flamed into crimson on the hill-slopes; the yellowing corn in the fields gave out a thin, dry sound as the delicate wind stirred the blades; but only the sounds and sights were autumnal. The heat was oppressive at midday, and at night the cold had lost its edge. There was no dew, and Mrs. Durgin sat out with Westover on the porch while he smoked a final pipe there. She had come to join him for some fixed purpose, apparently, and she called to her boy, "You go to bed, Jeff," as if she wished to be alone with Westover; the men folks were already in bed; he could hear them cough now and then.
"Mr. Westover," the woman began, even as she swept her skirts forward before she sat down, "I want to ask you whether you would let that picture of yours go on part board? I'll give you back just as much as you say of this money."
He looked round and saw that she had in the hand dropped in her lap the bills he had given her after supper.
"Why, I couldn't, very well, Mrs. Durgin—" he began.
"I presume you'll think I'm foolish," she pursued. "But I do want that picture; I don't know when I've ever wanted a thing more. It's just like Lion's Head, the way I've seen it, day in and day out, every summer since I come here thirty-five years ago; it's beautiful!"
"Mrs. Durgin," said Westover, "you gratify me more than I can tell you. I wish—I wish I could let you have the picture. I—I don't know what to say—"
"Why don't you let me have it, then? If we ever had to go away from here—if anything happened to us—it's the one thing I should want to keep and take with me. There! That's the way I feel about it. I can't explain; but I do wish you'd let me have it."
Some emotion which did not utter itself in the desire she expressed made her voice shake in the words. She held out the bank-notes to him, and they rustled with the tremor of her hand.
"Mrs. Durgin, I suppose I shall have to be frank with you, and you mustn't feel hurt. I have to live by my work, and I have to get as much as I can for it—"
"That's what I say. I don't want to beat you down on it. I'll give you whatever you think is right. It's my money, and my husband feels just as I do about it," she urged.
"You don't quite understand," he said, gently. "I expect to have an exhibition of my pictures in Boston this fall, and I hope to get two or three hundred dollars for Lion's Head."
"I've been a proper fool," cried the woman, and she drew in a long breath.
"Oh, don't mind," he begged; "it's all right. I've never had any offer for a picture that I'd rather take than yours. I know the thing can't be altogether bad after what you've said. And I'll tell you what! I'll have it photographed when I get to Boston, and I'll send you a photograph of it."
"How much will that be?" Mrs. Durgin asked, as if taught caution by her offer for the painting.
"Nothing. And if you'll accept it and hang it up here somewhere I shall be very glad."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Durgin, and the meekness, the wounded pride, he fancied in her, touched him.
He did not know at first how to break the silence which she let follow upon her words. At last he said:
"You spoke, just now, about taking it with you. Of course, you don't think of leaving Lion's Head?"
She did not answer for so long a time that he thought she had not perhaps heard him or heeded what he said; but she answered, finally: "We did think of it. The day you come we had about made up our minds to leave."
"But I've been thinkin' of something since you've been here that I don't know but you'll say is about as wild as wantin' to buy a three-hundred- dollar picture with a week's board." She gave a short, self-scornful laugh; but it was a laugh, and it relieved the tension.
"It may not be worth any more," he said, glad of the relief.
"Oh, I guess it is," she rejoined, and then she waited for him to prompt her.
"Well, it's this; and I wanted to ask you, anyway. You think there'd be any chance of my gettin' summer folks to come here and board if I was to put an advertisement in a Boston paper? I know it's a lonesome place, and there ain't what you may call attractions. But the folks from the hotels, sometimes, when they ride over in a stage to see the view, praise up the scenery, and I guess it is sightly. I know that well enough; and I ain't afraid but what I can do for boarders as well as some, if not better. What do you think?"
"I think that's a capital idea, Mrs. Durgin."
"It's that or go," she said. "There ain't a livin' for us on the farm any more, and we got to do somethin'. If there was anything else I could do! But I've thought it out and thought it out, and I guess there ain't anything I can do but take boarders—if I can get them."
"I should think you'd find it rather pleasant on some accounts. Your boarders would be company for you," said Westover.
"We're company enough for ourselves," said Mrs. Durgin. "I ain't ever been lonesome here, from the first minute. I guess I had company enough when I was a girl to last me the sort that hotel folks are. I presume Mr. Whitwell spoke to you about my father?"
"Yes; he did, Mrs. Durgin."
"I don't presume he said anything that wa'n't true. It's all right. But I know how my mother used to slave, and how I used to slave myself; and I always said I'd rather do anything than wait on boarders; and now I guess I got to come to it. The sight of summer folks makes me sick! I guess I could 'a' had 'em long ago if I'd wanted to. There! I've said enough." She rose, with a sudden lift of her powerful frame, and stood a moment as if expecting Westover to say something.
He said: "Well, when you've made your mind up, send your advertisement to me, and I'll attend to it for you."
"And you won't forget about the picture?"
"No; I won't forget that."
The next morning he made ready for an early start, and in his preparations he had the zealous and even affectionate help of Jeff Durgin. The boy seemed to wish him to carry away the best impression of him, or, at least, to make him forget all that had been sinister or unpleasant in his behavior. They had been good comrades since the first evil day; they had become good friends even; and Westover was touched by the boy's devotion at parting. He helped the painter get his pack together in good shape, and he took pride in strapping it on Westover's shoulders, adjusting and readjusting it with care, and fastening it so that all should be safe and snug. He lingered about at the risk of being late for school, as if to see the last of the painter, and he waved his hat to him when Westover looked back at the house from half down the lane. Then he vanished, and Westover went slowly on till he reached that corner of the orchard where the slanting gravestones of the family burial-ground showed above the low wall. There, suddenly, a storm burst upon him. The air rained apples, that struck him on the head, the back, the side, and pelted in violent succession on his knapsack and canvases, camp-stool and easel. He seemed assailed by four or five skilful marksmen, whose missiles all told.
When he could lift his face to look round he heard a shrill, accusing voice, "Oh, Jeff Durgin!" and he saw another storm of apples fly through the air toward the little Whitwell girl, who dodged and ran along the road below and escaped in the direction of the schoolhouse. Then the boy's face showed itself over the top of one of the gravestones, all agrin with joy. He waited and watched Westover keep slowly on, as if nothing had happened, and presently he let some apples fall from his hands and walked slowly back to the house, with his dog at his heels.
When Westover reached the level of the road and the shelter of the woods near Whitwell's house, he unstrapped his load to see how much harm had been done to his picture. He found it unhurt, and before he had got the burden back again he saw Jeff Durgin leaping along the road toward the school-house, whirling his satchel of books about his head and shouting gayly to the girl, now hidden by the bushes at the other end of the lane: "Cynthy! Oh, Cynthy! Wait for me! I want to tell you something!"
Westover, received next spring the copy for an advertisement from Mrs. Durgin, which she asked to have him put in some paper for her. She said that her son Jackson had written it out, and Westover found it so well written that he had scarcely to change the wording. It offered the best of farm-board, with plenty of milk and eggs, berries and fruit, for five dollars a week at Lion's Head Farm, and it claimed for the farm the merit of the finest view of the celebrated Lion's Head Mountain. It was signed, as her letter was signed, "Mrs. J. M. Durgin," with her post- office address, and it gave Westover as a reference.
The letter was in the same handwriting as the advertisement, which he took to be that of Jackson Durgin. It enclosed a dollar note to pay for three insertions of the advertisement in the evening Transcript, and it ended, almost casually: "I do not know as you have heard that my husband, James Monroe Durgin, passed to spirit life this spring. My son will help me to run the house."
This death could not move Westover more than it had apparently moved the widow. During the three weeks he had passed under his roof, he had scarcely exchanged three words with James Monroe Durgin, who remained to him an impression of large, round, dull-blue eyes, a stubbly upper lip, and cheeks and chin tagged with coarse, hay-colored beard. The impression was so largely the impression that he had kept of the dull- blue eyes and the gaunt, slanted figure of Andrew Jackson Durgin that he could not be very distinct in his sense of which was now the presence and which the absence. He remembered, with an effort, that the son's beard was straw-colored, but he had to make no effort to recall the robust effect of Mrs. Durgin and her youngest son. He wondered now, as he had often wondered before, whether she knew of the final violence which had avenged the boy for the prolonged strain of repression Jeff had inflicted upon himself during Westover's stay at the farm. After several impulses to go back and beat him, to follow him to school and expose him to the teacher, to write to his mother and tell her of his misbehavior, Westover had decided to do nothing. As he had come off unhurt in person and property, he could afford to be more generously amused than if he had suffered damage in either. The more he thought of the incident, the more he was disposed to be lenient with the boy, whom he was aware of having baffled and subdued by his superior wit and virtue in perhaps intolerable measure. He could not quite make out that it was an act of bad faith; there was no reason to think that the good-natured things the fellow had done, the constant little offices of zeal and friendliness, were less sincere than this violent outbreak.
The letter from Lion's Head Farm brought back his three weeks there very vividly, and made Westover wish he was going there for the summer. But he was going over to France for an indefinite period of work in the only air where he believed modern men were doing good things in the right way. He W a sale in the winter, and he had sold pictures enough to provide the means for this sojourn abroad; though his lion's Head Mountain had not brought the two hundred and fifty or three hundred dollars he had hoped for. It brought only a hundred and sixty; but the time had almost come already when Westover thought it brought too much. Now, the letter from Mrs. Durgin reminded him that he had never sent her the photograph of the picture which he had promised her. He encased the photograph at once, and wrote to her with many avowals of contrition for his neglect, and strong regret that he was not soon to see the original of the painting again. He paid a decent reverence to the bereavement she had suffered, and he sent his regards to all, especially his comrade Jeff, whom he advised to keep out of the apple-orchard.
Five years later Westover came home in the first week of a gasping August, whose hot breath thickened round the Cunarder before she got half-way up the harbor. He waited only to see his pictures through the custom-house, and then he left for the mountains. The mountains meant Lion's Head for him, and eight hours after he was dismounting from the train at a station on the road which had been pushed through on a new line within four miles of the farm. It was called Lion's Head House now, as he read on the side of the mountain-wagon which he saw waiting at the platform, and he knew at a glance that it was Jeff Durgin who was coming forward to meet him and take his hand-bag.
The boy had been the prophecy of the man in even a disappointing degree. Westover had fancied him growing up to the height of his father and brother, but Jeff Durgin's stalwart frame was notable for strength rather than height. He could not have been taller than his mother, whose stature was above the standard of her sex, but he was massive without being bulky. His chest was deep, his square shoulders broad, his powerful legs bore him with a backward bulge of the calves that showed through his shapely trousers; he caught up the trunks and threw them into the baggage-wagon with a swelling of the muscles on his short, thick arms which pulled his coat-sleeves from his heavy wrists and broad, short hands.
He had given one of these to Westover to shake when they met, but with something conditional in his welcome, and with a look which was not so much furtive as latent. The thatch of yellow hair he used to wear was now cropped close to his skull, which was a sort of dun-color; and it had some drops of sweat along the lighter edge where his hat had shaded his forehead. He put his hat on the seat between himself and Westover, and drove away from the station bareheaded, to cool himself after his bout with the baggage, which was following more slowly in its wagon. There was a good deal of it, and there were half a dozen people—women, of course—going to Lion's Head House. Westover climbed to the place beside Jeff to let them have the other two seats to themselves, and to have a chance of talking; but the ladies had to be quieted in their several anxieties concerning their baggage, and the letters and telegrams they had sent about their rooms, before they settled down to an exchange of apprehensions among themselves, and left Jeff Durgin free to listen to Westover.
"I don't know but I ought to have telegraphed you that I was coming," Westover said; "but I couldn't realize that you were doing things on the hotel scale. Perhaps you won't have room for me?"
"Guess we can put you up," said Jeff.
"No chance of getting my old room, I suppose?"
"I shouldn't wonder. If there's any one in it, I guess mother could change 'em."
"Is that so?" asked Westover, with a liking for being liked, which his tone expressed. "How is your mother?"
Jeff seemed to think a moment before he answered:
"Just exactly the same."
"A little older?"
"Not as I can see."
"Does she hate keeping a hotel as badly as she expected?"
"That's what she says," answered Jeff, with a twinkle. All the time, while he was talking with Westover, he was breaking out to his horses, which he governed with his voice, trotting them up hill and down, and walking them on the short, infrequent levels, in the mountain fashion.
Westover almost feared to ask: "And how is Jackson?"
"First-rate—that is, for him. He's as well as ever he was, I guess, and he don't appear a day older. You've changed some," said Jeff, with a look round at Westover.
"Yes; I'm twenty-nine now, and I wear a heavier beard." Westover noticed that Jeff was clean shaved of any sign of an approaching beard, and artistically he rejoiced in the fellow's young, manly beauty, which was very regular and sculpturesque. "You're about eighteen?"
"Is Jackson as much interested in the other world as he used to be?"
"I guess he keeps it up with Mr. Whitwell. He don't say much about it at home. He keeps all the books, and helps mother run the house. She couldn't very well get along without him."
"And where do you come in?"
"Well, I look after the transportation," said Jeff, with a nod toward his horses—" when I'm at home, that is. I've been at the Academy in Lovewell the last three winters, and that means a good piece of the summer, too, first and last. But I guess I'll let mother talk to you about that."
"All right," said Westover. "What I don't know about education isn't worth knowing."
Jeff laughed, and said to the off horse, which seemed to know that he was meant: "Get up, there!"
"And Cynthia? Is Cynthia at home?" Westover asked.
"Yes; they're all down in the little wood-colored house yet. Cynthia teaches winters, and summers she helps mother. She has charge of the dining-room."
"Does Franky cry as much as ever?"
"No, Frank's a fine boy. He's in the house, too. Kind of bell-boy."
"And you haven't worked Mr. Whitwell in anywhere?"
"Well, he talks to the ladies, and takes parties of 'em mountain- climbing. I guess we couldn't get along without Mr. Whitwell. He talks religion to 'em." He cast a mocking glance at Westover over his shoulder. "Women seem to like religion, whether they belong to church or not."
Westover laughed and asked: "And Fox? How's Fox?"
"Well," said Jeff, "we had to give Fox away. He was always cross with the boarders' children. My brother was on from Colorado, and he took Fox back with him."
"I didn't suppose," said Westover, "that I should have been sorry to miss Fox. But I guess I shall be."
Jeff seemed to enjoy the implication of his words. "He wasn't a bad dog. He was stupid."
When they arrived at the foot of the lane, mounting to the farm, Westover saw what changes had been made in the house. There were large additions, tasteless and characterless, but giving the rooms that were needed. There was a vulgar modernity in the new parts, expressed with a final intensity in the four-light windows, which are esteemed the last word of domestic architecture in the country. Jeff said nothing as they approached the house, but Westover said: "Well, you've certainly prospered. You're quite magnificent."
They reached the old level in front of the house, artificially widened out of his remembrance, with a white flag-pole planted at its edge, and he looked up at the front of the house, which was unchanged, except that it had been built a story higher back of the old front, and discovered the window of his old room. He could hardly wait to get his greetings over with Mrs. Durgin and Jackson, who both showed a decorous pleasure and surprise at his coming, before he asked:
"And could you let me have my own room, Mrs. Durgin?"
"Why, yes," she said, "if you don't want something a little nicer."
"I don't believe you've got anything nicer," Westover said.
"All right, if you think so," she retorted. "You can have the old room, anyway."
Westover could not have said he felt very much at home on his first sojourn at the farm, or that he had cared greatly for the Durgins. But now he felt very much at home, and as if he were in the hands of friends.
It was toward the close of the afternoon that he arrived, and he went in promptly to the meal that was served shortly after. He found that the farm-house had not evolved so far in the direction of a hotel as to have reached the stage of a late dinner. It was tea that he sat down to, but when he asked if there were not something hot, after listening to a catalogue of the cold meats, the spectacled waitress behind his chair demanded, with the air of putting him on his honor:
"You among those that came this afternoon?"
Westover claimed to be of the new arrivals.
"Well, then, you can have steak or chops and baked potatoes."
He found the steak excellent, though succinct, and he looked round in the distinction it conferred upon him, on the older guests, who were served with cold ham, tongue, and corned-beef. He had expected to be appointed his place by Cynthia Whitwell, but Jeff came to the dining-room with him and showed him to the table he occupied, with an effect of doing him special credit.
From his impressions of the berries, the cream, the toast, and the tea, as well as the steak, he decided that on the gastronomic side there could be no question but the Durgins knew how to keep a hotel; and his further acquaintance with the house and its appointments confirmed him in his belief. All was very simple, but sufficient; and no guest could have truthfully claimed that he was stinted in towels, in water, in lamp- light, in the quantity or quality of bedding, in hooks for clothes, or wardrobe or bureau room. Westover made Mrs. Durgin his sincere compliments on her success as they sat in the old parlor, which she had kept for herself much in its former state, and she accepted them with simple satisfaction.
"But I don't know as I should ever had the courage to try it if it hadn't been for you happening along just when you did," she said.
"Then I'm the founder of your fortunes?"
"If you want to call them fortunes. We don't complain It's been a fight, but I guess we've got the best of it. The house is full, and we're turnin' folks away. I guess they can't say that at the big hotels they used to drive over from to see Lion's Head at the farm." She gave a low, comfortable chuckle, and told Westover of the struggle they had made. It was an interesting story and pathetic, like all stories of human endeavor the efforts of the most selfish ambition have something of this interest; and the struggle of the Durgins had the grace of the wish to keep their home.
"And is Jeff as well satisfied as the rest?" Westover asked, after other talk and comment on the facts.
"Too much so," said Mrs. Durgin. "I should like to talk with you about Jeff, Mr. Westover; you and him was always such friends."
"Yes," said Westover; "I shall be glad if I can be of use to you."
"Why, it's just this. I don't see why Jeff shouldn't do something besides keep a hotel."
Westover's eyes wandered to the photograph of his painting of Lion's Head which hung over the mantelpiece, in what he felt to be the place of the greatest honor in the whole house, and a sudden fear came upon him that perhaps Jeff had developed an artistic talent in the belief of his family. But he waited silently to hear.
"We did think that before we got through the improvements last spring a year ago we should have to get the savings-bank to put a mortgage on the place; but we had just enough to start the season with, and we thought we would try to pull through. We had a splendid season, and made money, and this year we're doin' so well that I ain't afraid for the future any more, and I want to give Jeff a chance in the world. I want he should go to college."
Westover felt all the boldness of the aspiration, but it was at least not in the direction of art. "Wouldn't you rather miss him in the management?"
"We should, some. But he would be here the best part of the summer, in his vacations, and Jackson and I are full able to run the house without him."
"Jackson seems very well," said Westover, evasively.
"He's better. He's only thirty-four years old. His father lived to be sixty, and he had the same kind. Jeff tell you he had been at Lovewell Academy?"
"Yes; he did."
"He done well there. All his teachers that he ever had," Mrs. Durgin went on, with the mother-pride that soon makes itself tiresome to the listener, "said Jeff done well at school when he had a mind to, and at the Academy he studied real hard. I guess," said Mrs. Durgin, with her chuckle, "that he thought that was goin' to be the end of it. One thing, he had to keep up with Cynthy, and that put him on his pride. You seen Cynthy yet?"
"No. Jeff told me she was in charge of the diningroom."
"I guess I'm in charge of the whole house," said Mrs. Durgin. "Cynthy's the housekeeper, though. She's a fine girl, and a smart girl," said Mrs. Durgin, with a visible relenting from some grudge, "and she'll do well wherever you put her. She went to the Academy the first two winters Jeff did. We've about scooped in the whole Whitwell family. Franky's here, and his father's—well, his father's kind of philosopher to the lady boarders." Mrs. Durgin laughed, and Westover laughed with her. "Yes, I want Jeff should go to college, and I want he should be a lawyer."
Westover did not find that he had anything useful to say to this; so he said: "I've no doubt it's better than being a painter."
"I'm not so sure; three hundred dollars for a little thing like that." She indicated the photograph of his Lion's Head, and she was evidently so proud of it that he reserved for the moment the truth as to the price he had got for the painting. "I was surprised when you sent me a photograph full as big. I don't let every one in here, but a good many of the ladies are artists themselves-amateurs, I guess—and first and last they all want to see it. I guess they'll all want to see you, Mr. Westover. They'll be wild, as they call it, when they know you're in the house. Yes, I mean Jeff shall go to college."
"Bowdoin or Dartmouth?" Westover suggested.
" Well, I guess you'll think I'm about as forth-putting as I was when I wanted you to give me a three-hundred-dollar picture for a week's board."
"I only got a hundred and sixty, Mrs. Durgin," said Westover, conscientiously.
"Well, it's a shame. Any rate, three hundred's the price to all my boarders. My, if I've told that story once, I guess I've told it fifty times!"
Mrs. Durgin laughed at herself jollily, and Westover noted how prosperity had changed her. It had freed her tongue, it has brightened her humor, it had cheered her heart; she had put on flesh, and her stalwart frame was now a far greater bulk than he remembered.
"Well, there," she said, "the long and the short of it is, I want Jeff should go to Harvard."
He commanded himself to say: "I don't see why he shouldn't."
Mrs. Durgin called out, "Come in, Jackson," and Westover looked round and saw the elder son like a gaunt shadow in the doorway. "I've just got where I've told Mr. Westover where I want Jeff should go. It don't seem to have ca'd him off his feet any, either."
"I presume," said Jackson, coming in and sitting lankly down in the feather-cushioned rocking-chair which his mother pushed toward him with her foot, "that the expense would be more at Harvard than it would at the other colleges."
"If you want the best you got to pay for it," said Mrs. Durgin.
"I suppose it would cost more," Westover answered Jackson's conjecture. "I really don't know much about it. One hears tremendous stories at Boston of the rate of living among the swell students in Cambridge. People talk of five thousand a year, and that sort of thing." Mrs. Durgin shut her lips, after catching her breath. "But I fancy that it's largely talk. I have a friend whose son went through Harvard for a thousand a year, and I know that many fellows do it for much less."
"I guess we can manage to let Jeff have a thousand a year," said Mrs. Durgin, proudly, "and not scrimp very much, either."
She looked at her elder son, who said: "I don't believe but what we could. It's more of a question with me what sort of influence Jeff would come under there. I think he's pretty much spoiled here."
"Now, Jackson!" said his mother.
"I've heard," said Westover, "that Harvard takes the nonsense out of a man. I can't enter into what you say, and it isn't my affair; but in regard to influence at Harvard, it depends upon the set Jeff is thrown with or throws himself with. So, at least, I infer from what I've heard my friend say of his son there. There are hard-working sets, loafing sets, and fast sets; and I suppose it isn't different at Harvard in such matters from other colleges."
Mrs. Durgin looked a little grave. "Of course," she said, "we don't know anybody at Cambridge, except some ladies that boarded with us one summer, and I shouldn't want to ask any favor of them. The trouble would be to get Jeff started right."
Westover surmised a good many things, but in the absence of any confidences from the Durgins he could not tell just how much Jackson meant in saying that Jeff was pretty much spoiled, or how little. At first, from Mrs. Durgin's prompt protest, he fancied that Jackson meant that the boy had been over-indulged by his mother: "I understand," he said, in default of something else to say, "that the requirements at Harvard are pretty severe."
"He's passed his preliminary examinations," said Jackson, with a touch of hauteur, "and I guess he can enter this fall if we should so decide. He'll have some conditions, prob'ly, but none but what he can work off, I guess."
"Then, if you wish to have him go to college, by all means let him go to Harvard, I should say. It's our great university and our oldest. I'm not a college man myself; but, if I were, I should wish to have been a Harvard man. If Jeff has any nonsense in him, it will take it out; and I don't believe there's anything in Harvard, as Harvard, to make him worse."
"That's what we both think," said Jackson.
"I've heard," Westover continued, and he rose and stood while he spoke, "that Harvard's like the world. A man gets on there on the same terms that he gets on in the world. He has to be a man, and he'd better be a gentleman."
Mrs. Durgin still looked serious. "Have you come back to Boston for good now? Do you expect to be there right along?"
"I've taken a studio there. Yes, I expect to be in Boston now. I've taken to teaching, and I fancy I can make a living. If Jeff comes to Cambridge, and I can be of any use—"
"We should be ever so much obliged to you," said his mother, with an air of great relief.
"Not at all. I shall be very glad. Your mountain air is drugging me, Mrs. Durgin. I shall have to say good-night, or I shall tumble asleep before I get upstairs. Oh, I can find the way, I guess; this part of the house seems the same." He got away from them, and with the lamp that Jackson gave him found his way to his room. A few moments later some one knocked at his door, and a boy stood there with a pitcher. "Some ice- water, Mr. Westover?"
"Why, is that you, Franky? I'm glad to see you again. How are you?"
"I'm pretty well," said the boy, shyly. He was a very handsome little fellow of distinctly dignified presence, and Westover was aware at once that here was not a subject for patronage. "Is there anything else you want, Mr. Westover? Matches, or soap, or anything?" He put the pitcher down and gave a keen glance round the room.
"No, everything seems to be here, Frank," said Westover.
"Well, good-night," said the boy, and he slipped out, quietly closing the door after him.
Westover pushed up his window and looked at Lion's Head in the moonlight. It slumbered as if with the sleep of centuries-austere, august. The moon -rays seemed to break and splinter on the outline of the lion-shape, and left all the mighty mass black below.
In the old porch under his window Westover heard whispering. Then, "You behave yourself, Jeff Durgin!" came in a voice which could be no other than Cynthia Whitwell's, and Jeff Durgin's laugh followed.
He saw the girl in the morning. She met him at the door of the dining- room, and he easily found in her shy, proud manner, and her pure, cold beauty, the temperament and physiognomy of the child he remembered. She was tall and slim, and she held herself straight without stiffness; her face was fine, with a straight nose, and a decided chin, and a mouth of the same sweetness which looked from her still, gray eyes; her hair, of the average brown, had a rough effect of being quickly tossed into form, which pleased him; as she slipped down the room before him to place him at table he saw that she was, as it were, involuntarily, unwillingly graceful. She made him think of a wild sweetbrier, of a hermit-thrush; but, if there were this sort of poetic suggestion in Cynthia's looks, her acts were of plain and honest prose, such as giving Westover the pleasantest place and the most intelligent waitress in the room.
He would have liked to keep her in talk a moment, but she made business- like despatch of all his allusions to the past, and got herself quickly away. Afterward she came back to him, with the effect of having forced herself to come, and the color deepened in her cheeks while she stayed.
She seemed glad of his being there, but helpless against the instincts or traditions that forbade her to show her pleasure in his presence. Her reticence became almost snubbing in its strictness when he asked her about her school-teaching in the winter; but he found that she taught at the little school-house at the foot of the hill, and lived at home with her father.
"And have you any bad boys that frighten little girls in your school?" he asked, jocosely.
"I don't know as I have," she said, with a consciousness that flamed into her cheeks.
"Perhaps the boys have reformed?" Westover suggested.
"I presume," she said, stiffly, "that there's room for improvement in every one," and then, as if she were afraid he might take this personally, she looked unhappy and tried to speak of other things. She asked him if he did not see a great many changes at Lion's Head; he answered, gravely, that he wished he could have found it just as he left it, and then she must have thought she had gone wrong again, for she left him in an embarrassment that was pathetic, but which was charming.
After breakfast Westover walked out and saw Whitwell standing on the grass in front of the house, beside the flagstaff. He suffered Westover to make the first advances toward the renewal of their acquaintance, but when he was sure of his friendly intention he responded with a cordial openness which the painter had fancied wanting in his children. Whitwell had not changed much. The most noticeable difference was the compact phalanx of new teeth which had replaced the staggering veterans of former days, and which displayed themselves in his smile of relenting. There was some novelty of effect also in an arrangement of things in his hat-band. At first Westover thought they were fishhooks and artificial flies, such as the guides wear in the Adirondacks to advertise their calling about the hotel offices and the piazzas. But another glance showd him that they were sprays and wild flowers of various sorts, with gay mosses and fungi and some stems of Indian-pipe.
Whitwell seemed pleased that these things should have caught Westover's eye. He said, almost immediately: "Lookin' at my almanac? This is one of our field-days; we have 'em once a week; and I like to let the ladies see beforehand what nature's got on the bill for 'em, in the woods and pastur's."
"It's a good idea," said Westover, "and it's fresh and picturesque." Whitwell laughed for pleasure.
"They told me what a consolation you were to the ladies, with your walks and talks."
"Well, I try to give 'em something to think about," said Whitwell.
"But why do you confine your ministrations to one sex?"
"I don't, on purpose. But it's the only sex here, three-fourths of the time. Even the children are mostly all girls. When the husbands come up Saturday nights, they don't want to go on a tramp Sundays. They want to lay off and rest. That's about how it is. Well, you see some changes about Lion's Head, I presume?" he asked, with what seemed an impersonal pleasure in them.
"I should rather have found the old farm. But I must say I'm glad to find such a good hotel."
"Jeff and his mother made their brags to you?" said Whitwell, with a kind of amiable scorn. "I guess if it wa'n't for Cynthy she wouldn't know where she was standin', half the time. It don't matter where Jeff stands, I guess. Jackson's the best o' the lot, now the old man's gone." There was no one by at the moment to hear these injuries except Westover, but Whitwell called them out with a frankness which was perhaps more carefully adapted to the situation than it seemed. Westover made no attempt to parry them formally; but he offered some generalities in extenuation of the unworthiness of the Durgins, which Whitwell did not altogether refuse.
"Oh, it's ail right. Old woman talk to you about Jeff's going to college? I thought so. Wants to make another Dan'el Webster of him. Guess she can's far forth as Dan'el's graduatin' went." Westover tried to remember how this had been with the statesman, but could not. Whitwell added, with intensifying irony so of look and tone: "Guess the second Dan'el won't have a chance to tear his degree up; guess he wouldn't ever b'en ready to try for it if it had depended on him. They don't keep any record at Harvard, do they, of the way fellows are prepared for their preliminary examinations?"
"I don't quite know what you mean," said Westover.
"Oh, nothin'. You get a chance some time to ask Jeff who done most of his studyin' for him at the Academy."
This hint was not so darkling but Westover could understand that Whitwell attributed Jeff's scholarship to the help of Cynthia, but he would not press him to an open assertion of the fact. There was something painful in it to him; it had the pathos which perhaps most of the success in the world would reveal if we could penetrate its outside.
He was silent, and Whitwell left the point. "Well," he concluded, "what's goin' on in them old European countries?"
"Oh, the old thing," said Westover. "But I can't speak for any except France, very well."
"What's their republic like, over there? Ours? See anything of it, how it works?"
"Well, you know," said Westover, "I was working so hard myself all the time—"
"Good!" Whitwell slapped his leg. Westover saw that he had on long India-rubber boots, which came up to his knees, and he gave a wayward thought to the misery they would be on an August day to another man; but Whitwell was probably insensible to any discomfort from them. "When a man's mindin' his own business any government's good, I guess. But I should like to prowl round some them places where they had the worst scenes of the Revolution, Ever been in the Place de la Concorde?" Whitwell gave it the full English pronunciation.
"I passed through it nearly every day."
"I want to know! And that column that they, pulled down in the Commune that had that little Boney on it—see that?"
"In the Place Vendome?"
"Yes, Plass Vonndome."
"Oh yes. You wouldn't know it had ever been down."
"Nor the things it stood for?"
"As to that, I can't be so sure."
"Well, it's funny," said the philosopher, "how the world seems to always come out at the same hole it went in at!" He paused, with his mouth open, as if to let the notion have full effect with Westover.
The painter said: "And you're still in the old place, Mr. Whitwell?"
"Yes, I like my own house. They've wanted me to come up here often enough, but I'm satisfied where I am. It's quiet down there, and, when I get through for the day, I can read. And I like to keep my family together. Cynthy and Frank always sleep at home, and Jombateeste eats with me. You remember Jombateeste?"
Westover had to say that he did not.
"Well, I don't know as you did see him much. He was that Canuck I had helpin' me clear that piece over on Lion's Head for the pulp-mill; pulp- mill went all to thunder, and I never got a cent. And sometimes Jackson comes down with his plantchette, and we have a good time."
"Jackson still believes in the manifestations?"
"Yes. But he's never developed much himself. He can't seem to do much without the plantchette. We've had up some of them old philosophers lately. We've had up Socrates."
"Is that so? It must be very interesting."
Whitwell did not answer, and Westover saw his eye wander. He looked round. Several ladies were coming across the grass toward him from the hotel, lifting their skirts and tiptoeing through the dew. They called to him, "Good-morning, Mr. Whitwell!" and "Are you going up Lion's Head to-day?" and "Don't you think it will rain?"—"Guess not," said Whitwell, with a fatherly urbanity and an air of amusement at the anxieties of the sex which seemed habitual to him. He waited tranquilly for them to come up, and then asked, with a wave of his hand toward Westover: "Acquainted with Mr. Westover, the attist?" He named each of them, and it would have been no great vanity in Westover to think they had made their little movement across the grass quite as much in the hope of an introduction to him as in the wish to consult Whitwell about his plans.
The painter found himself the centre of an agreeable excitement with all the ladies in the house. For this it was perhaps sufficient to be a man. To be reasonably young and decently good-looking, to be an artist, and an artist not unknown, were advantages which had the splendor of superfluity.
He liked finding himself in the simple and innocent American circumstance again, and he was not sorry to be confronted at once with one of the most characteristic aspects of our summer. He could read in the present development of Lion's Head House all the history of its evolution from the first conception of farm-board, which sufficed the earliest comers, to its growth in the comforts and conveniences which more fastidious tastes and larger purses demanded. Before this point was reached, the boarders would be of a good and wholesome sort, but they would be people of no social advantages, and not of much cultivation, though they might be intelligent; they would certainly not be fashionable; five dollars a week implied all that, except in the case of some wandering artist or the family of some poor young professor. But when the farm became a boarding-house and called itself a hotel, as at present with Lion's Head House, and people paid ten dollars a week, or twelve for transients, a moment of its character was reached which could not be surpassed when its prosperity became greater and its inmates more pretentious. In fact, the people who can afford to pay ten dollars a week for summer board, and not much more, are often the best of the American people, or, at least, of the New England people. They may not know it, and those who are richer may not imagine it. They are apt to be middle-aged maiden ladies from university towns, living upon carefully guarded investments; young married ladies with a scant child or two, and needing rest and change of air; college professors with nothing but their modest salaries; literary men or women in the beginning of their tempered success; clergymen and their wives away from their churches in the larger country towns or the smaller suburbs of the cities; here and there an agreeable bachelor in middle life, fond of literature and nature; hosts of young and pretty girls with distinct tastes in art, and devoted to the clever young painter who leads them to the sources of inspiration in the fields and woods. Such people are refined, humane, appreciative, sympathetic; and Westover, fresh from the life abroad where life is seldom so free as ours without some stain, was glad to find himself in the midst of this unrestraint, which was so sweet and pure. He had seen enough of rich people to know that riches seldom bought the highest qualities, even among his fellow-countrymen who suppose that riches can do everything, and the first aspects of society at Lion's Head seemed to him Arcadian. There really proved to be a shepherd or two among all that troop of shepherdesses, old and young; though it was in the middle of the week, remote alike from the Saturday of arrivals and the Monday of departures. To be sure, there was none quite so young as himself, except Jeff Durgin, who was officially exterior to the social life.