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.