Cynthia followed with the generalization: “I don’t believe anybody can know too much to keep a hotel. It won’t hurt Jeff if he’s been to Harvard, or to Europe, either.”
“I guess there’s a pair of you,” said Mrs. Durgin, with superficial contempt. She was silent for a time, and they waited. “Well, there!” she broke out again. “I’ve got something to chew upon for a spell, I guess. Go along, now, both of you! And the next time you’ve got to face your mother, Jeff, don’t you come in lookin’ round anybody’s petticoats! I’ll see you later about all this.”
They went away with the joyful shame of children who have escaped punishment.
“That’s the last of it, Cynthy,” said Jeff.
“I guess so,” the girl assented, with a certain grief in her voice. “I wish you had told her first!”
“Oh, never mind that now!” cried Jeff, and in the dim passageway he took her in his arms and kissed her.
He would have released her, but she lingered in his embrace. “Will you promise that if there’s ever anything like it again, you won’t wait for me to make you?”
“I like your having made me, but I promise,” he said.
Then she tightened her arms round his neck and kissed him.
The will of Jeff’s mother relaxed its grip upon the purpose so long held, as if the mere strain of the tenacity had wearied and weakened it. When it finally appeared that her ambition for her son was not his ambition for himself and would never be, she abandoned it. Perhaps it was the easier for her to forego her hopes of his distinction in the world, because she had learned before that she must forego her hopes of him in other ways. She had vaguely fancied that with the acquaintance his career at Harvard would open to him Jeff would make a splendid marriage. She had followed darkling and stumbling his course in society as far as he would report it to her, and when he would not suffer her to glory in it, she believed that he was forbidding her from a pride that would not recognize anything out of the common in it. She exulted in his pride, and she took all his snubbing reserves tenderly, as so many proofs of his success.
At the bottom of her heart she had both fear and contempt of all towns-people, whom she generalized from her experience of them as summer folks of a greater or lesser silliness. She often found herself unable to cope with them, even when she felt that she had twice their sense; she perceived that they had something from their training that with all her undisciplined force she could never hope to win from her own environment. But she believed that her son would have the advantages which baffled her in them, for he would have their environment; and she had wished him to rivet his hold upon those advantages by taking a wife from among them, and by living the life of their world. Her wishes, of course, had no such distinct formulation, and the