Jackson made no recognition of Jeff’s professed self-sacrifice. “I don’t want any vacation. I’m feeling first-rate now. I guess that stuff I had from the writin’ medium has begun to take hold of me. I don’t know when I’ve felt so well. I believe I’m going to get stronger than ever I was. Jeff say I needed a rest?”
Something like a smile of compassion for the delusion of his brother dawned upon the sick man’s wasted face, which was blotched with large freckles, and stared with dim, large eyes from out a framework of grayish hair, and grayish beard cut to the edges of the cheeks and chin.
Mrs. Durgin and Cynthia did not seek any formal meeting the next morning. The course of their work brought them together, but it was not till after they had transacted several household affairs of pressing importance that Mrs. Durgin asked: “What’s this about you and Jeff?”
“Has he been telling you?” asked Cynthia, in her turn, though she knew he had.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Durgin, with a certain dryness, which was half humorous. “I presume, if you two are satisfied, it’s all right.”
“I guess we’re satisfied,” said the girl, with a tremor of relief which she tried to hide.
Nothing more was said, and there was no physical demonstration of affection or rejoicing between the women. They knew that the time would come when they would talk over the affair down to the bone together, but now they were content to recognize the fact, and let the time for talking arrive when it would. “I guess,” said Mrs. Durgin, “you’d better go over to the helps’ house and see how that youngest Miller girl’s gittin’ along. She’d ought to give up and go home if she a’n’t fit for her work.”
“I’ll go and see her,” said Cynthia. “I don’t believe she’s strong enough for a waitress, and I have got to tell her so.”
“Well,” returned Mrs. Durgin, glumly, after a moment’s reflection, “I shouldn’t want you should hurry her. Wait till she’s out of bed, and give her another chance.”
Jeff had been lurking about for the event of the interview, and he waylaid Cynthia on the path to the helps’ house.
“I’m going over to see that youngest Miller girl,” she explained.
“Yes, I know all about that,” said Jeff. “Well, mother took it just right, didn’t she? You can’t always count on her; but I hadn’t much anxiety in this case. She likes you, Cynthia.”
“I guess so,” said the girl, demurely; and she looked away from him to smile her pleasure in the fact.
“But I believe if she hadn’t known you were with her about my last year in Harvard—it would have been different. I could see, when I brought it in that you wanted me to go back, her mind was made up for you.”
“Why need you say anything about that?”
“Oh, I knew it would clinch her. I understand mother. If you want something from her you mustn’t ask it straight out. You must propose something very disagreeable. Then when she refuses that, you can come in for what you were really after and get it.”