The room was square, with two north windows that looked down the lane he had climbed to the house. An open door led into the kitchen in an ell, and a closed door opposite probably gave access to a parlor or a ground-floor chamber. The windows were darkened down to the lower sash by green paper shades; the walls were papered in a pattern of brown roses; over the chimney hung a large picture, a life-size pencil-drawing of two little girls, one slightly older and slightly larger than the other, each with round eyes and precise ringlets, and with her hand clasped in the other’s hand.
The guest seemed helpless to take his gaze from it, and he sat fallen back in his chair at it when the woman came in with a pie.
“Thank you, I believe I don’t want any dessert,” he said. “The fact is, the dinner was so good that I haven’t left any room for pie. Are those your children?”
“Yes,” said the woman, looking up at the picture with the pie in her hand. “They’re the last two I lost.”
“Oh, excuse me—” the guest began.
“It’s the way they appear in the spirit life. It’s a spirit picture.”
“Oh, I thought there was something strange about it.”
“Well, it’s a good deal like the photograph we had taken about a year before they died. It’s a good likeness. They say they don’t change a great deal at first.”
She seemed to refer the point to him for his judgment, but he answered wide of it:
“I came up here to paint your mountain, if you don’t mind, Mrs. Durgin-Lion’s Head, I mean.”
“Oh yes. Well, I don’t know as we could stop you if you wanted to take it away.” A spare glimmer lighted up her face.
The painter rejoined in kind: “The town might have something to say, I suppose.”
“Not if you was to leave a good piece of intervale in place of it. We’ve got mountains to spare.”
“Well, then, that’s arranged. What about a week’s board?”
“I guess you can stay if you’re satisfied.”
“I’ll be satisfied if I can stay. How much do you want?”
The woman looked down, probably with an inward anxiety between the fear of asking too much and the folly of asking too little. She said, tentatively: “Some of the folks that come over from the hotels say they pay as much as twenty dollars a week.”
“But you don’t expect hotel prices?”
“I don’t know as I do. We’ve never had anybody before.”
The stranger relaxed the frown he had put on at the greed of her suggestion; it might have come from ignorance or mere innocence. “I’m in the habit of paying five dollars for farm board, where I stay several weeks. What do you say to seven for a single week?”
“I guess that ’ll do,” said the woman, and she went out with the pie, which she had kept in her hand.