“All right.” Whitwell pulled his axe out of the carf, and struck it in again with a force that made a wide, square chip leap out. He looked over his shoulder at Westover, who was moving away. “Say, stop in some time you’re passin’. I live in that wood-colored house at the foot of the Durgins’ lane.”
In a little sunken place, behind a rock, some rods away, Westover found Jeff lurking with his dog, both silent and motionless. “Hello?” he said, inquiringly.
“Come back to show you the way,” said the boy. “Thought you couldn’t find it alone.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say you’d wait?” The boy grinned. “I shouldn’t think a fellow like you would want to be afraid of any man, even for the fun of scaring a little girl.” Jeff stopped grinning and looked interested, as if this was a view of the case that had not occurred to him. “But perhaps you like to be afraid.”
“I don’t know as I do,” said the boy, and Westover left him to the question a great part of the way home. He did not express any regret or promise any reparation. But a few days after that, when he had begun to convoy parties of children up to see Westover at work, in the late afternoon, on their way home from school, and to show the painter off to them as a sort of family property, he once brought the young Whitwells. He seemed on perfect terms with them now, and when the crowd of larger children hindered the little boy’s view of the picture, Jeff, in his quality of host, lifted him under his arms and held him up so that he could look as long as he liked.
The girl seemed ashamed of the good understanding before Westover. Jeff offered to make a place for her among the other children who had looked long enough, but she pulled the front of her bonnet across her face and said that she did not want to look, and caught her brother by the hand and ran away with him. Westover thought this charming, somewhat; he liked the intense shyness which the child’s intense passion had hidden from him before.
Jeff acted as host to the neighbors who came to inspect the picture, and they all came, within a circuit of several miles around, and gave him their opinions freely or scantily, according to their several temperaments. They were mainly favorable, though there was some frank criticism, too, spoken over the painter’s shoulder as openly as if he were not by. There was no question but of likeness; all finer facts were far from them; they wished to see how good a portrait Westover had made, and some of them consoled him with the suggestion that the likeness would come out more when the picture got dry.
Whitwell, when he came, attempted a larger view of the artist’s work, but apparently more out of kindness for him than admiration of the picture. He said he presumed you could not always get a thing like that just right the first time, and that you had to keep trying till you did get it; but it paid in the end. Jeff had stolen down from the house with his dog, drawn by the fascination which one we have injured always has for us; when Whitwell suddenly turned upon him and asked, jocularly, “What do you think, Jeff?” the boy could only kick his dog and drive it home, as a means of hiding his feelings.