She did adopt him then and there, for who could refuse such a son! Brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin, a frank, rugged, clean-shaven face, features strong enough to excite criticism and good enough to bear it; broad-shouldered, deep-chested, strong in arm and limb, he carried his six feet of manhood like an Apollo in tweeds. He was introduced to the girls,—the men he knew,—but he was not so quick in his speeches to them. Our Hercules was only mildly conscious of his merits, and was evidently relieved when Jack hurried him off to his room to dress for dinner. When he was fairly out of hearing there was a chorus of comments. The girls all declaimed him handsome, and the boys said:—
“That isn’t the best of it,—he’s a trump! Wait till you know him.”
Jane was too loyal to Jack to admit that his friend was any handsomer or in any way a finer fellow than her brother.
“Who said he was?” said Frank, “Jack Williams is out and out the finest man I know. We were sizing him up by such fellows as Phil and me.”
“Jack’s the most popular man at Yale,” said Phil, “but he’s too modest to know it; Jarvis will tell you so. He thinks it’s a great snap to have Jack for his chum.”
These things were music in my ears, for I was quite willing to agree with the boys, and the mother’s eyes were full of joy as she led the way to the dining room. That was a jolly meal. Nothing was said that could be remembered, and yet we all talked a great deal and laughed a great deal more. City, country, farm, college, and seminary were touched with merry jests. Light wit provoked heavy laughter, and every one was the better for it. It was nine o’clock before we left the table. I heard Jarvis say:—
“Miss Jane, I count it very unkind of Jack not to have let me go to Farmington with him last term. He used to talk of his ‘little sister’ as though she were a miss in short dresses. Jack is a deep and treacherous fellow!”
“Rather say, a very prudent brother,” said Jane. “However, you may come to the Elm Tree Inn in the spring term, if Jack will let you.”
“I’ll work him all winter,” was Jarvis’s reply.
Christmas light was slow in coming. There was a hush in the air as if the earth were padded so that even the footsteps of Nature might not be heard. Out of my window I saw that a great fall of snow had come in the night. The whole landscape was covered by fleecy down—soft and white as it used to be when I first saw it on the hills of New England. No wind had moved it; it lay as it fell, like a white mantle thrown lightly over the world. Great feathery flakes filled the air and gently descended upon the earth, like that beautiful Spirit that made the plains of Judea bright two thousand years ago. It seemed a fitting emblem of that nature which covered the unloveliness of the world by His own beauty, and changed the dark spots of earth to pure white.