She made no sign of gratitude to Westover: as far as any recognition from her was concerned, his intervention was something as impersonal as if it had been a thunder-bolt falling upon her enemies from the sky.
“Where do you live?” he asked. “I’ll go home with you if you’ll tell me where you live.”
She looked up at him in a daze, and Westover heard the Durgin boy saying: “She lives right there in that little wood-colored house at the other end of the lane. There ain’t no call to go home with her.”
Westover turned and saw the boy kneeling at the edge of a clump of bushes, where he must have struck; he was rubbing, with a tuft of grass, at the dirt ground into the knees of his trousers.
The little, girl turned hawkishly upon him. “Not for anything you can do, Jeff Durgin!”
The boy did not answer.
“There!” she said, giving a final pull and twitch to the dress of her brother, and taking him by the hand tenderly. “Now, come right along, Franky.”
“Let me have your other hand,” said Westover, and, with the little boy between them, they set off toward the point where the lane joined the road on the northward. They had to pass the bushes where Jeff Durgin was crouching, and the little girl turned and made a face at him. “Oh, oh! I don’t think I should have done that,” said Westover.
“I don’t care!” said the little girl. But she said, in explanation and partial excuse: “He tries to scare all the girls. I’ll let him know ’t he can’t scare one!”
Westover looked up toward the Durgin house with a return of interest in the canvas he had left in the lane on the easel. Nothing had happened to it. At the door of the barn he saw the farmer and his eldest son slanting forward and staring down the hill at the point he had come from. Mrs. Durgin was looking out from the shelter of the porch, and she turned and went in with Jeff’s dog at her skirts when Westover came in sight with the children.
Westover had his tea with the family, but nothing was said or done to show that any of them resented or even knew of what had happened to the boy from him. Jeff himself seemed to have no grudge. He went out with Westover, when the meal was ended, and sat on the steps of the porch with him, watching the painter watch the light darken on the lonely heights and in the lonely depths around. Westover smoked a pipe, and the fire gleamed and smouldered in it regularly with his breathing; the boy, on a lower’ step, pulled at the long ears of his dog and gazed up at him.
They were both silent till the painter asked: “What do you do here when you’re not trying to scare little children to death?”
The boy hung his head and said, with the effect of excusing a long arrears of uselessness: “I’m goin’ to school as soon as it commences.”
“There’s one branch of your education that I should like to undertake if I ever saw you at a thing like that again. Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself?”