“Is this another charity patient?” asked his friend, with a grin.
“No,” replied Westover. “You can charge this fellow along the whole line.”
Before he parted with the lawyer he had his misgivings, and he said: “I shouldn’t want the blackguard to think I had got a friend a fat job out of him.”
The lawyer laughed intelligently. “I shall only make the usual charge. Then he is a blackguard.”
“There ought to be a more blistering word.”
“One that would imply that he was capable of setting fire to his property?”
“I don’t say that. But I’m glad he was away when it took fire,” said Westover.
“You give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Yes, of every kind of doubt.”
Westover once more promised himself to have nothing to do with Jeff Durgin or his affairs. But he did not promise this so confidently as upon former occasions, and he instinctively waited for a new complication. He could not understand why Jeff should not have come home to look after his insurance, unless it was because he had become interested in some woman even beyond his concern for his own advantage. He believed him capable of throwing away advantages for disadvantages in a thing of that kind, but he thought it more probable that he had fallen in love with one whom he would lose nothing by winning. It did not seem at all impossible that he should have again met Bessie Lynde, and that they should have made up their quarrel, or whatever it was. Jeff would consider that he had done his whole duty by Cynthia, and that he was free to renew his suit with Bessie; and there was nothing in Bessie’s character, as Westover understood it, to prevent her taking him back upon a very small show of repentance if the needed emotions were in prospect. He had decided pretty finally that it would be Bessie rather than another when he received a letter from Mrs. Vostrand. It was dated at Florence, and after some pretty palaver about their old friendship, which she only hoped he remembered half as fondly as she did, the letter ran:
“I am turning to you now in
a very strange difficulty, but I do not
know that I should turn to you even now, and knowing all I do of
your goodness, if I were not asked to do so by another.
“I believe we have not heard from each other since the first days of my poor Genevieve’s marriage, when everything looked so bright and fair, and we little realized the clouds that were to overcast her happiness. It is a long story, and I will not go into it fully. The truth is that poor Gigi did not treat her very kindly, and that she has not lived with him since the birth of their little girl, now nearly two years old, and the sweetest little creature in the world; I wish you could see her; I am sure it would inspire your pencil with the idea of an angel-child. At first I hoped that