“All right, Cynthy. You’ll have the night to think it over—I guess you won’t sleep much—and I’ll trust you to do what’s the best thing about it.”
Cynthia found Mrs. Durgin in the old farm-house kitchen at work getting breakfast when she came up to the hotel in the morning. She was early, but the elder woman had been earlier still, and her heavy face showed more of their common night-long trouble than the girl’s.
She demanded, at sight of her, “What’s the matter with you and Jeff, Cynthy?”
Cynthia was unrolling the cloud from her hair. She said, as she tied on her apron: “You must get him to tell you, Mrs. Durgin.”
“Then there is something?”
“Has Jeff been using you wrong?”
Cynthia stooped to open the oven door, and to turn the pan of biscuit she found inside. She shut the door sharply to, and said, as she rose: “I don’t want to tell anything about it, and I sha’n’t, Mrs. Durgin. He can do it, if he wants to. Shall I make the coffee?”
“Yes; you seem to make it better than I do. Do you think I shouldn’t believe you was fair to him?”
“I wasn’t thinking of that. But it’s his secret. If he wants to keep it, he can keep it, for all me.”
“You ha’n’t give each other up?”
“I don’t know.” Cynthia turned away with a trembling chin, and began to beat the coffee up with an egg she had dropped into the pot. She put the breakfast on the table when it was ready, but she would not sit down with the rest. She said she did not want any breakfast, and she drank a cup of coffee in the kitchen.
It fell to Jeff mainly to keep the talk going. He had been out at the barn with Jombateeste since daybreak, looking after the cattle, and the joy of the weather had got into his nerves and spirits. At first he had lain awake after he went to bed, but he had fallen asleep about midnight, and got a good night’s rest. He looked fresh and strong and very handsome. He talked resolutely to every one at the table, but Jombateeste was always preoccupied with eating at his meals, and Frank Whitwell had on a Sunday silence, which was perhaps deepened by a feeling that there was something wrong between his sister and Jeff, and it would be rash to commit himself to an open friendliness until he understood the case. His father met Jeff’s advances with philosophical blandness and evasion, and Mrs. Durgin was provisionally dry and severe both with the Whitwells and her son. After breakfast she went to the parlor, and Jeff set about a tour of the hotel, inside and out. He looked carefully to the details of its winter keeping. Then he came back and boldly joined his mother where she sat before her stove, whose subdued heat she found pleasant in the lingering cold of the early spring.
He tossed his hat on the table beside her, and sat down on the other side of the stove. “Well, I must say the place has been well looked after. I don’t believe Jackson himself could have kept it in better shape. When was the last you heard from him?”