“I guess so.”
“I presume,” said the elder woman, “that he’s talked to you about it. He never tells me much. I don’t see why you should want to go. What’s it like?”
“Oh, I don’t know. But it’s the day the graduating class have to themselves, and all their friends come.”
“Well, I don’t know why anybody should want to go,” said Mrs. Durgin. “I sha’n’t. Tell him he won’t want to own me when he sees me. What am I goin’ to wear, I should like to know? What you goin’ to wear, Cynthy?”
Jeff’s place at Harvard had been too long fixed among the jays to allow the hope of wholly retrieving his condition now. It was too late for him to be chosen in any of the nicer clubs or societies, but he was not beyond the mounting sentiment of comradery, which begins to tell in the last year among college men, and which had its due effect with his class. One of the men, who had always had a foible for humanity, took advantage of the prevailing mood in another man, and wrought upon him to ask, among the fellows he was asking to a tea at his rooms, several fellows who were distinctly and almost typically jay. The tea was for the aunt of the man who gave it, a very pretty woman from New York, and it was so richly qualified by young people of fashion from Boston that the infusion of the jay flavor could not spoil it, if it would not rather add an agreeable piquancy. This college mood coincided that year with a benevolent emotion in the larger world, from which fashion was not exempt. Society had just been stirred by the reading of a certain book, which had then a very great vogue, and several people had been down among the wretched at the North End doing good in a conscience-stricken effort to avert the millennium which the book in question seemed to threaten. The lady who matronized the tea was said to have done more good than you could imagine at the North End, and she caught at the chance to meet the college jays in a spirit of Christian charity. When the man who was going to give the tea rather sheepishly confessed what the altruistic man had got him in for, she praised him so much that he went away feeling like the hero of a holy cause. She promised the assistance and sympathy of several brave girls, who would not be afraid of all the jays in college.
After all, only one of the jays came. Not many, in fact, had been asked, and when Jeff Durgin actually appeared, it was not known that he was both the first and the last of his kind. The lady who was matronizing the tea recognized him, with a throe of her quickened conscience, as the young fellow whom she had met two winters before at the studio tea which Mr. Westover had given to those queer Florentine friends of his, and whom she had never thought of since, though she had then promised herself to do something for him. She had then even given him some vague hints of a prospective hospitality, and she confessed her sin of omission in a swift but graphic retrospect to one of her brave girls, while Jeff stood blocking out a space for his stalwart bulk amid the alien elegance just within the doorway, and the host was making his way toward him, with an outstretched hand of hardy welcome.