“Do you want me to know what she said?” asked Jeff, respectfully, reverently almost.
Cynthia said, gently: “She says that then you must show you didn’t mean any harm to me, and that you cared for me, all through, and you didn’t care for anybody else.”
“Thank you,” said Jeff, and he turned to his mother. “I’ll do everything I can to make Cynthy believe that, mother.”
The girl broke into tears and went out of the room. She sent in the night-watcher, and then Jeff took leave of his mother with an unwonted kiss.
Into the shadow of a starlit night he saw the figure he had been waiting for glide out of the glitter of the hotel lights. He followed it down the road.
“Cynthia!” he called; and when he came up with her he asked: “What’s the reason we can’t make it true? Why can’t you believe what mother wants me to make you?”
Cynthia stopped, as her wont was when she wished to speak seriously. “Do you ask that for my sake or hers?”
“For both your sakes.”
“I thought so. You ought to have asked it for your own sake, Jeff, and then I might have been fool enough to believe you. But now—”
She started swiftly down the hill again, and this time he did not try to follow her.
Mrs. Durgin’s speech never regained the measure of clearness it had before; no one but Cynthia could understand her, and often she could not. The doctor from Lovewell surmised that she had sustained another stroke, lighter, more obscure than the first, and it was that which had rendered her almost inarticulate. The paralysis might have also affected her brain, and silenced her thoughts as well as her words. Either she believed that the reconciliation between Jeff and Cynthia had taken place, or else she could no longer care. She did not question them again, but peacefully weakened more and more. Near the end of September she had a third stroke, and from this she died.
The day after the funeral Jeff had a talk with Whitwell, and opened his mind to him.
“I’m going over to the other side, and I shan’t be back before spring, or about time to start the season here. What I want to know is whether, if I’m out of the house, and not likely to come back, you’ll stay here and look after the place through the winter. It hasn’t been a good season, but I guess I can afford to make it worth your while if you look at it as a matter of business.”
Whitwell leaned forward and took a straw into his mouth from the golden wall of oat sheaves in the barn where they were talking. A soft rustling in the mow overhead marked the remote presence of Jombateeste, who was getting forward the hay for the horses, pushing it toward the holes where it should fall into their racks.
“I should want to think about it,” said Whitwell. “I do’ know as Cynthy’d care much about stayin’—or Frank.”