“I don’t suppose the Italians expect their wives to black their boots, but I’ve heard that they beat them, sometimes.”
“In exaggerated cases, perhaps they do,” Mrs. Vostrand admitted. “And, of course,” she added, thoughtfully, “there is nothing like a purely American marriage for happiness.”
Westover wondered how she really regarded her own marriage, but she never betrayed any consciousness of its variance from the type.
A young couple came strolling down the avenue who to Westover’s artistic eye first typified grace and strength, and then to his more personal perception identified themselves as Genevieve Vostrand and Jeff Durgin.
They faltered before one of the benches beside the mall, and he seemed to be begging her to sit down. She cast her eyes round till they must have caught the window of her mother’s apartment; then, as if she felt safe under it, she sank into the seat and Jeff put himself beside her. It was quite too early yet for the simple lovers who publicly notify their happiness by the embraces and hand-clasps everywhere evident in our parks and gardens; and a Boston pair of social tradition would not have dreamed of sitting on a bench in Commonwealth Avenue at any hour. But two such aliens as Jeff and Miss Vostrand might very well do so; and Westover sympathized with their bohemian impulse.
Mrs. Vostrand and he watched them awhile, in talk that straggled away from them, and became more and more distraught in view of them. Jeff leaned forward, and drew on the ground with the point of his stick; Genevieve held her head motionless at a pensive droop. It was only their backs that Westover could see, and he could not, of course, make out a syllable of what was effectively their silence; but all the same he began to feel as if he were peeping and eavesdropping. Mrs. Vostrand seemed not to share his feeling, and there was no reason why he should have it if she had not. He offered to go, but she said, No, no; he must not think of it till Genevieve came in; and she added some banalities about her always scolding when she had missed one of his calls; they would be so few, now, at the most.
“Why, do you intend to go so soon?” he asked.
She did not seem to hear him, and he could see that she was watching the young people intently. Jeff had turned his face up toward Genevieve, without lifting his person, and was saying something she suddenly shrank back from. She made a start as if to rise, but he put out his hand in front of her, beseechingly or compellingly, and she sank down again. But she slowly shook her head at what he was saying, and turned her face toward him so that it gave her profile to the spectators. In that light and at that distance it was impossible to do more than fancy anything fateful in the words which she seemed to be uttering; but Westover chose to fancy this. Jeff waited