One day, after the east wind had ceased to blow the breath of the ice-fields of Labrador against the New England coast, and the buds on the trees along the mall between the lawns of the avenue were venturing forth in a hardy experiment of the Boston May, Mrs. Vostrand asked Westover if she had told him that Mr. Vostrand was actually coming on to Boston. He rejoiced with her in this prospect, and he reciprocated the wish which she said Mr. Vostrand had always had for a meeting with himself.
A fortnight later, when the leaves had so far inured themselves to the weather as to have fully expanded, she announced another letter from Mr. Vostrand, saying that, after all, he should not be able to come to Boston, but hoped to be in New York before she sailed.
“Sailed!” cried Westover.
“Why, yes! Didn’t you know we were going to sail in June? I thought I had told you!”
“Why, yes. We must go out to poor Checco, now; Mr. Vostrand insists upon that. If ever we are a united family again, Mr. Westover—if Mr. Vostrand can arrange his business, when Checco is ready to enter Harvard —I mean to take a house in Boston. I’m sure I should be contented to live nowhere else in America. The place has quite bewitched me—dear old, sober, charming Boston! I’m sure I should like to live here all the rest of my life. But why in the world do people go out of town so early? Those houses over there have been shut for a whole month past!”
They were sitting at Mrs. Vostrand’s window looking out on the avenue, where the pale globular electrics were swimming like jelly-fish in the clear evening air, and above the ranks of low trees the houses on the other side were close-shuttered from basement to attic.
Westover answered: “Some go because they have such pleasant houses at the shore, and some because they want to dodge their taxes.”
“To dodge their taxes?” she repeated, and he had to explain how if people were in their country-houses before the 1st of May they would not have to pay the high personal tax of the city; and she said that she would write that to Mr. Vostrand; it would be another point in favor of Boston. Women, she declared, would never have thought of such a thing; she denounced them as culpably ignorant of so many matters that concerned them, especially legal matters. “And you think,” she asked, “that Mr. Durgin will be a good lawyer? That he will-distinguish himself?”
Westover thought it rather a short-cut to Jeff from the things they had been talking of, but if she wished to speak of him he had no reason to oppose her wish. “I’ve heard it’s all changed a good deal. There are still distinguished lawyers, and lawyers who get on, but they don’t distinguish themselves in the old way so much, and they get on best by becoming counsel for some powerful corporation.”
“And you think he has talent?” she pursued. “For that, I mean.”