“Yes; he seems to have looked it all up pretty thoroughly.”
“Done it for me, I guess, much as anything. I was always talkin’ it up with him. Jeff’s kep’ his eyes open, that’s a fact. He’s got a head on him, more’n I ever thought.”
Westover decided that Mrs. Durgin’s prepotent behavior toward Mrs. Marven the summer before had not hurt her materially, with the witnesses even. There were many new boarders, but most of those whom he had already met were again at Lion’s Head. They said there was no air like it, and no place so comfortable. If they had sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, Westover had to confess that the pottage was very good. Instead of the Irish woman at ten dollars a week who had hitherto been Mrs. Durgin’s cook, under her personal surveillance and direction, she had now a man cook, whom she boldly called a chef and paid eighty dollars a month. He wore the white apron and white cap of his calling, but Westover heard him speak Yankee through his nose to one of the stablemen as they exchanged hilarities across the space between the basement and the barn-door. “Yes,” Mrs. Durgin admitted, “he’s an American; and he learnt his trade at one of the best hotels in Portland. He’s pretty headstrong, but I guess he does what he’s told—in the end. The meanyous? Oh, Franky Whitwell prints then. He’s got an amateur printing-office in the stable-loft.”
One morning toward the end of August, Whitwell, who was starting homeward, after leaving his ladies, burdened with their wishes and charges for the morrow, met Westover coming up the hill with his painting-gear in his hand. “Say!” he hailed him. “Why don’t you come down to the house to-night? Jackson’s goin’ to come, and, if you ha’n’t seen him work the plantchette for a spell, you’ll be surprised. There a’n’t hardly anybody he can’t have up. You’ll come? Good enough!”
What affected Westover first of all at the seance, and perhaps most of all, was the quality of the air in the little house; it was close and stuffy, mixed with an odor of mould and an ancient smell of rats. The kerosene-lamp set in the centre of the table, where Jackson afterward placed his planchette, devoured the little life that was left in it. At the gasps which Westover gave, with some despairing glances at the closed windows, Whitwell said: “Hot? Well, I guess it is a little. But, you see, Jackson has got to be careful about the night air; but I guess I can fix it for you.” He went out into the ell, and Westover heard him raising a window. He came back and asked, “That do? It ’ll get around in here directly,” and Westover had to profess relief.
Jackson came in presently with the little Canuck, whom Whitwell presented to Westover: “Know Jombateeste?”
The two were talking about a landslide which had taken place on the other side of the mountain; the news had just come that they had found among the ruins the body of the farm-hand who had been missing since the morning of the slide; his funeral was to be the next day.