“People sick in that way are always hopeful,” said Westover.
“Oh, don’t I know it! Ha’n’t I seen my children and my husband—Oh, do ask that doctor to answer as quick as he can!”
Westover had a difficulty in congratulating Jeff which he could scarcely define to himself, but which was like that obscure resentment we feel toward people whom we think unequal to their good fortune. He was ashamed of his grudge, whatever it was, and this may have made him overdo his expressions of pleasure. He was sensible of a false cordiality in them, and he checked himself in a flow of forced sentiment to say, more honestly: “I wish you’d speak to Cynthia for me. You know how much I think of her, and how much I want to see her happy. You ought to be a very good fellow, Jeff!”
“I’ll tell her that; she’ll like that,” said Jeff. “She thinks the world of you.”
“Does she? Well!”
“And I guess she’ll be glad you sent word. She’s been wondering what you would say; she’s always so afraid of you.”
“Is she? You’re not afraid of me, are you? But perhaps you don’t think so much of me.”
“I guess Cynthia and I think alike on that point,” said Jeff, without abating Westover’s discomfort.
There was a stress of sharp cold that year about the 20th of August. Then the weather turned warm again, and held fine till the beginning of October, within a week of the time when Jackson was to sail. It had not been so hard to make him consent when he knew where the doctor wished him to go, and he had willingly profited by Westover’s suggestions about getting to Egypt. His interest in the matter, which he tried to hide at first under a mask of decorous indifference, mounted with the fire of Whitwell’s enthusiasm, and they held nightly councils together, studying his course on the map, and consulting planchette upon the points at variance that rose between them, while Jombateeste sat with his chair tilted against the wall, and pulled steadily at his pipe, which mixed its strong fumes with the smell of the kerosene-lamp and the perennial odor of potatoes in the cellar under the low room where the companions forgathered.
Toward the end of September Westover spent the night before he went back to town with them. After a season with planchette, their host pushed himself back with his knees from the table till his chair reared upon its hind legs, and shoved his hat up from his forehead in token of philosophical mood.
“I tell you, Jackson,” he said, “you’d ought to get hold o’ some them occult devils out there, and squeeze their science out of ’em. Any Buddhists in Egypt, Mr. Westover?”
“I don’t think there are,” said Westover. “Unless Jackson should come across some wandering Hindu. Or he might push on, and come home by the way of India.”
“Do it, Jackson!” his friend conjured him. “May cost you something more, but it ’ll be worth the money. If it’s true, what some them Blavetsky fellers claim, you can visit us here in your astral body—git in with ’em the right way. I should like to have you try it. What’s the reason India wouldn’t be as good for him as Egypt, anyway?” Whitwell demanded of Westover.