Jeff’s size and shape forbade him to try for the flowers from the shoulders of others. He was one of a group of jays who set their backs to the Tree, and fought away all comers except their own; they pulled down every man not of their sort, and put up a jay, who stripped the Tree of its flowers and flung them to his fellows below. As he was let drop to the ground, Jeff snatched a handful of his spoil from him, and made off with it toward the place where he had seen Bessie Lynde and her party. But when he reached the place, shouldering and elbowing his way through the press, she was no longer there. He saw her hat at a distance through the crowd, where he did not choose to follow, and he stuffed the flowers into his breast to give to her later. He expected to meet her somewhere in the evening; if not, he would try to find her at her aunt’s house in town; failing that, he could send her the flowers, and trust her for some sort of leading acknowledgment.
He went and had a bath and dressed himself freshly, and then he went for a walk in the still evening air. He was very hot from the battle which had been fought over him, and which he had shared with all his strength, and it seemed to him as if he could not get cool. He strolled far out along Concord Avenue, beyond the expanses and ice-horses of Fresh Pond, into the country toward Belmont, with his hat off and his head down. He was very well satisfied, and he was smiling to himself at the ease of his return to Bessie, and securely speculating upon the outcome of their renewed understanding.
He heard a vehicle behind him, rapidly driven, and he turned out for it without looking around. Then suddenly he felt a fiery sting on his forehead, and then a shower of stings swiftly following each other over his head and face. He remembered stumbling, when he was a boy, into a nest of yellow-jackets, that swarmed up around him and pierced him like sparks of fire at every uncovered point. But he knew at the same time that it was some one in the vehicle beside him who was lashing him over the head with a whip. He bowed his head with his eyes shut and lunged blindly out toward his assailant, hoping to seize him.
But the horse sprang aside, and tore past him down the road. Jeff opened his eyes, and through the blood that dripped from the cuts above them he saw the wicked face of Alan Lynde looking back at him from the dogcart where he sat with his man beside him. He brandished his broken whip in the air, and flung it into the bushes. Jeff walked on, and picked it up, before he turned aside to the pools of the marsh stretching on either hand, and tried to stanch his hurts, and get himself into shape for returning to town and stealing back to his lodging. He had to wait till after dark, and watch his chance to get into the house unnoticed.
The chum to whom Jeff confided the story of his encounter with a man he left nameless inwardly thanked fortune that he was not that man; for he knew him destined sooner or later to make such reparation for the injuries he had inflicted as Jeff chose to exact. He tended him carefully, and respected the reticence Jeff guarded concerning the whole matter, even with the young doctor whom his friend called, and who kept to himself his impressions of the nature of Jeff’s injuries.