“It’s that already.”
“He doesn’t think it’s half as good as he can make it.”
“It wouldn’t be half what it is now, if it wa’n’t for you and Frank.”
“I guess he understands that,” said Cynthia. “Frank would be the clerk.”
“Got it all mapped out!” said Whitwell, proudly, in his turn. “Look out you don’t slip up in your calculations. That’s all.”
“I guess we cha’n’t slip up.”
Jeff came into the ugly old family parlor, where his mother sat mending by the kerosene-lamp which she had kept through all the household changes, and pushed enough of her work aside from the corner of the table to rest his arm upon it.
“Mother, I want you to listen to me, and to wait till I get done. Will you?”
She looked up at him over her spectacles from the stocking she was darning; the china egg gleamed through the frayed place. “What notion have you got in your head, now?”
“It’s about Jackson. He isn’t well. He’s got to leave off work and go away.”
The mother’s hand dropped at the end of the yarn she had drawn through the stocking heel, and she stared at Jeff. Then she resumed her work with the decision expressed in her tone. “Your father lived to be sixty years old, and Jackson a’n’t forty! The doctor said there wa’n’t any reason why he shouldn’t live as long as his father did.”
“I’m not saying he won’t live to a hundred. I’m saying he oughtn’t to stay another winter here,” Jeff said, decisively.
Mrs. Durgin was silent for a time, and then she said. “Jeff, is that your notion about Jackson, or whose is it?”
“It’s mine, now.”
Mrs, Durgin waited a moment. Then she began, with a feeling quite at variance with her words:
“Well, I’ll thank Cynthy Whit’ell to mind her own business! Of course,” she added, and in what followed her feeling worked to the surface in her words, “I know ’t she thinks the world of Jackson, and he does of her; and I presume she means well. I guess she’d be more apt to notice, if there was any change, than what I should. What did she say?”
Jeff told, as nearly as he could remember, and he told what Cynthia and he had afterward jointly worked out as to the best thing for Jackson to do. Mrs. Durgin listened frowningly, but not disapprovingly, as it seemed; though at the end she asked: “And what am I going to do, with Jackson gone?”
Jeff laughed, with his head down. “Well, I guess you and Cynthy could run it, with Frank and Mr. Whitwell.”
“Mr. Whit’ell!” said Mrs. Durgin, concentrating in her accent of his name the contempt she could not justly pour out on the others.
“Oh,” Jeff went on, “I did think that I could take hold with you, if you could bring yourself to let me off this last year at Harvard.”
“Jeff!” said his mother, reproachfully. “You know you don’t mean that you’d give up your last year in college?”