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.