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.