“Good’-night, Mrs. Durgin.”
Jeff Durgin entered Harvard that fall, with fewer conditions than most students have to work off. This was set down to the credit of Lovewell Academy, where he had prepared for the university; and some observers in such matters were interested to note how thoroughly the old school in a remote town had done its work for him.
None who formed personal relations with him at that time conjectured that he had done much of the work for himself, and even to Westover, when Jeff came to him some weeks after his settlement in Cambridge, he seemed painfully out of his element, and unamiably aware of it. For the time, at least, he had lost the jovial humor, not too kindly always, which largely characterized him, and expressed itself in sallies of irony which were not so unkindly, either. The painter perceived that he was on his guard against his own friendly interest; Jeff made haste to explain that he came because he had told his mother that he would do so. He scarcely invited a return of his visit, and he left Westover wondering at the sort of vague rebellion against his new life which he seemed to be in. The painter went out to see him in Cambridge, not long after, and was rather glad to find him rooming with some other rustic Freshman in a humble street running from the square toward the river; for he thought Jeff must have taken his lodging for its cheapness, out of regard to his mother’s means. But Jeff was not glad to be found there, apparently; he said at once that he expected to get a room in the Yard the next year, and eat at Memorial Hall. He spoke scornfully of his boarding-house as a place where they were all a lot of jays together; and Westover thought him still more at odds with his environment than he had before. But Jeff consented to come in and dine with him at his restaurant, and afterward go to the theatre with him.
When he came, Westover did not quite like his despatch of the half-bottle of California claret served each of them with the Italian table d’hote. He did not like his having already seen the play he proposed; and he found some difficulty in choosing a play which Jeff had not seen. It appeared then that he had been at the theatre two or three times a week for the last month, and that it was almost as great a passion with him as with Westover himself. He had become already a critic of acting, with a rough good sense of it, and a decided opinion. He knew which actors he preferred, and which actresses, better still. It was some consolation for Westover to find that he mostly took an admission ticket when he went to the theatre; but, though he could not blame Jeff for showing his own fondness for it, he wished that he had not his fondness.