One morning Westover got leave from Mrs. Durgin to help Cynthia open the dim rooms and cold corridors at the hotel to the sun and air. She promised him he should take his death, but he said he would wrap up warm, and when he came to join the girl in his overcoat and fur cap, he found Cynthia equipped with a woollen cloud tied around her head, and a little shawl pinned across her breast.
“Is that all?” he reproached her. “I ought to have put on a single wreath of artificial flowers and some sort of a blazer for this expedition. Don’t you think so, Mrs. Durgin?”
“I believe women can stand about twice as much cold as you can, the best of you,” she answered, grimly.
“Then I must try to keep myself as warm as I can with work,” he said. “You must let me do all the rough work of airing out, won’t you, Cynthia?”
“There isn’t any rough work about it,” she answered, in a sort of motherly toleration of his mood, without losing anything of her filial reverence.
She took care of him, he perceived, as she took care of her brother and her father, but with a delicate respect for his superiority, which was no longer shyness.
They began with the office and the parlor, where they flung up the windows, and opened the doors, and then they opened the dining-room, where the tables stood in long rows, with the chairs piled on them legs upward. Cynthia went about with many sighs for the dust on everything, though to Westover’s eyes it all seemed frigidly clean. “If it goes on as it has for the past two years,” she said, “we shall have to add on a new dining-room. I don’t know as I like to have it get so large!”
“I never wanted it to go beyond the original farmhouse,” said Westover. “I’ve been jealous of every boarder but the first. I should have liked to keep it for myself, and let the world know Lion’s Head from my pictures.”
“I guess Mrs. Durgin thinks it was your picture that began to send people here.”
“And do you blame me, too? What if the thing I’m doing now should make it a winter resort? Nothing could save you, then, but a fire. I believe that’s Jeff’s ambition. Only he would want to put another hotel in place of this; something that would be more popular. Then the ruin I began would be complete, and I shouldn’t come any more; I couldn’t bear the sight.”
“I guess Mrs. Durgin wouldn’t think it was lion’s Head if you stopped coming,” said Cynthia.
“But you would know better than that,” said Westover; and then he was sorry he had said it, for it seemed to ask something of different quality from her honest wish to make him know their regard for him.
She did not answer, but went down a long corridor to which they had mounted, to raise the window at the end, while he raised another at the opposite extremity. When they met at the stairway again to climb to the story above, he said: “I am always ashamed when I try to make a person of sense say anything silly,” and she flushed, still without answering, as if she understood him, and his meaning pleased her. “But fortunately a person of sense is usually equal to the temptation. One ought to be serious when he tries it with a person of the other sort; but I don’t know that one is!”