“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.