“I am afraid I couldn’t.”
“You could try.”
“Oh, I’m used to that.”
“Then it’s a bargain,” she said. She jumped from her chair and went over to him, and smoothed his hair over his forehead and kissed the place she had smoothed, though it was unpleasantly damp to her lips. “Poor boy, poor boy! Now, remember! No more jays for me, and no more jags for you. Goodnight.”
Her brother broke into a wild laugh at her slanging, which had such a bizarre effect in relation to her physical delicacy.
Jeff did not know whether Miss Bessie Lynde meant to go to Mrs. Bevidge’s Thursdays or not. He thought she might have been bantering him by what she said, and he decided that he would risk going to the first of them on the chance of meeting her. She was not there, and there was no one there whom he knew. Mrs. Bevidge made no effort to enlarge his acquaintance, and after he had drunk a cup of her tea he went away with rage against society in his heart, which he promised himself to vent at the first chance of refusing its favors. But the chance seemed not to come. The world which had opened its gates to him was fast shut again, and he had to make what he could of renouncing it. He worked pretty hard, and he renewed himself in his fealty to Cynthia, while his mind strayed curiously to that other girl. But he had almost abandoned the hope of meeting her again, when a large party was given on the eve of the Harvard Mid-Year Examinations, which end the younger gayeties of Boston, for a fortnight at least, in January. The party was so large that the invitations overflowed the strict bounds of society at some points. In the case of Jeff Durgin the excess was intentional beyond the vague benevolence which prompted the giver of the party to ask certain other outsiders. She was a lady of a soul several sizes larger than the souls of some other society leaders; she was not afraid to do as she liked; for instance, she had not only met the Vostrands at Westover’s tea, several years before, but she had afterward offered some hospitalities to those ladies which had discharged her whole duty toward them without involving her in any disadvantages. Jeff had been presented to her at Westover’s, but she disliked him so promptly and decidedly that she had left him out of even the things that she asked some other jays to, like lectures and parlor readings for good objects. It was not until one of her daughters met him, first at Willie Morland’s tea and then at Mrs. Bevidge’s meeting, that her social conscience concerned itself with him. At the first her daughter had not spoken to him, as might very well have happened, since Bessie Lynde had kept him away with her nearly all the time; but at the last she had bowed pleasantly to him across the room, and Jeff had responded with a stiff obeisance, whose coldness she felt the more for having been somewhat softened herself in Mrs. Bevidge’s altruistic atmosphere.