“Jeff took the word. “Yes, I did. I intend to keep a hotel.”
“What hotel?” asked Mrs. Durgin, with a touch of taunting in her tone.
The mother of the bold, rebellious boy that Jeff had been stirred in Mrs. Durgin’s heart, and she looked at him with the eyes, that used to condone his mischief. But she said: “I guess you’ll find out that there’s more than one has to agree to that.”
“Yes, there are two: you and Jackson; and I don’t know but what three, if you count Cynthy, here.”
His mother turned to the girl. “You think this fellow’s got sense enough to keep a hotel?”
“Yes, Mrs. Durgin, I do. I think he’s got good ideas about a hotel.”
“And what’s he goin’ to do with his college education?”
Jeff interposed. “You think that all the college graduates turn out lawyers and doctors and professors? Some of ’em are mighty glad to sweep out banks in hopes of a clerkship; and some take any sort of a place in a mill or a business house, to work up; and some bum round out West ’on cattle ranches; and some, if they’re lucky, get newspaper reporters’ places at ten dollars a week.”
Cynthia followed with the generalization: “I don’t believe anybody can know too much to keep a hotel. It won’t hurt Jeff if he’s been to Harvard, or to Europe, either.”
“I guess there’s a pair of you,” said Mrs. Durgin, with superficial contempt. She was silent for a time, and they waited. “Well, there!” she broke out again. “I’ve got something to chew upon for a spell, I guess. Go along, now, both of you! And the next time you’ve got to face your mother, Jeff, don’t you come in lookin’ round anybody’s petticoats! I’ll see you later about all this.”
They went away with the joyful shame of children who have escaped punishment.
“That’s the last of it, Cynthy,” said Jeff.
“I guess so,” the girl assented, with a certain grief in her voice. “I wish you had told her first!”
“Oh, never mind that now!” cried Jeff, and in the dim passageway he took her in his arms and kissed her.
He would have released her, but she lingered in his embrace. “Will you promise that if there’s ever anything like it again, you won’t wait for me to make you?”
“I like your having made me, but I promise,” he said.
Then she tightened her arms round his neck and kissed him.
The will of Jeff’s mother relaxed its grip upon the purpose so long held, as if the mere strain of the tenacity had wearied and weakened it. When it finally appeared that her ambition for her son was not his ambition for himself and would never be, she abandoned it. Perhaps it was the easier for her to forego her hopes of his distinction in the world, because she had learned before that she must forego her hopes of him in other ways. She had vaguely