The painter could not make out at first whether the girl herself was pleased with the picture or not, and in his uncertainty he could not give it her at once, as he had hoped and meant to do. It was by a kind of accident he found afterward that she had always been passionately proud of his having painted her. This was when he returned from the last sojourn he had made in Paris, whither he went soon after the Whitwells settled in North Cambridge. He left the picture behind him to be framed and then sent to her with a letter he had written, begging her to give it houseroom while he was gone. He got a short, stiff note in reply after he reached Paris, and he had not tried to continue the correspondence. But as soon as he returned he went out to see the Whitwells in North Cambridge. They were still in their little house there; the young widower had married again; but neither he nor his new wife had cared to take up their joint life in his first home, and he had found Whitwell such a good tenant that he had not tried to put up the rent on him. Frank was at home, now, with an employment that gave him part of his time for his theological studies; Cynthia had been teaching school ever since the fall after Westover went away, and they were all, as Whitwell said, in clover. He was the only member of the family at home when Westover called on the afternoon of a warm summer day, and he entertained him with a full account of a visit he had paid Lion’s Head earlier in the season.
“Yes, sir,” he said, as if he had already stated the fact, “I’ve sold my old place there to that devil.” He said devil without the least rancor; with even a smile of good-will, and he enjoyed the astonishment Westover expressed in his demand:
“Sold Durgin your house?”
“Yes; I see we never wanted to go back there to live, any of us, and I went up to pass the papers and close the thing out. Well, I did have an offer for it from a feller that wanted to open a boa’din’-house there and get the advantage of Jeff’s improvements, and I couldn’t seem to make up my mind till I’d looked the ground over. Fust off, you know, I thought I’d sell to the other feller, because I could see in a minute what a thorn it ’d be in Jeff’s flesh. But, dumn it all! When I met the comical devil I couldn’t seem to want to pester him. Why, here, thinks I, if we’ve made an escape from him—and I guess we have, about the biggest escape—what have I got ag’in’ him, anyway? I’d ought to feel good to him; and I guess that’s the way I did feel, come to boil it down. He’s got a way with him, you know, when you’re with him, that makes you like him. He may have a knife in your ribs the whole while, but so long’s he don’t turn it, you don’t seem to know it, and you can’t help likin’ him. Why, I hadn’t been with Jeff five minutes before I made up my mind to sell to him. I told him about the other offer—felt bound to do it—and