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Jerome, A Poor Man - A Novel
by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
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Abigail sniffed scornfully with her thin nostrils.

"Wait and see," said the Squire.

"I shall wait a long time before I see," she said, but she was mistaken. The very next week Jerome did not come, then a month went by and he had not appeared once at the Squire's house.



Chapter XXIX

One Sunday afternoon, during the latter part of July, Lucina Merritt strolled down the road to her aunt Camilla's. The day was very warm—droning huskily with insects, and stirring lazily with limp leaves.

There had been no rain for a long time, and the road smoked high with white dust at every foot-fall. Lucina raised her green and white muslin skirts above her embroidered petticoat, and set her little feet as lightly as a bird's. She carried a ruffled green silk parasol to shield herself from the sun, though her hat had a wide brim and flapped low over her eyes.

Her mother had remonstrated with her for going out in the heat, since she had not looked quite well of late. "You will make your head ache," said she.

"It is so cool in Aunt Camilla's north room," pleaded Lucina, and had her way.

She walked slowly, as her mother had enjoined, but it was like walking between a double fire of arrows from the blazing white sky and earth; when she came in sight of her aunt Camilla's house her head was dizzy and her veins were throbbing.

Lucina had not been happy during the last few weeks, and sometimes, in such cases, physical discomfort acts like a tonic poison. For the latter part of the way she thought of nothing but reaching the shelter of Camilla's north room; her mind regarding all else was at rest.

Miss Camilla's house was closed as tightly as a convent; not a breath of out-door air would she have admitted after the early mornings of those hot days. Lucina entered into night and coolness in comparison with the glare of day outside. When she had her hat removed, and sat in the green gloom of the north parlor, sipping a glass of water which Liza had drawn from the lowest depths of the well, then flavored with currant-jelly and loaf-sugar, she felt almost at peace with her own worries.

Her aunt Camilla, clad in dimly flowing old muslin, sat near the chimney-place, swaying a feather fan. She had her Bible on her knees, but she had not been reading; the light was too dim for her eyes. The fireplace was filled with the feathery green of asparagus, which also waved lightly over the gilded looking-glass, and was reflected airily therein. Asparagus plumes waved over all the old pictures also. The whole room from this delicate garnishing, the faded green tone of the furniture covers and carpet, from the wall-paper in obscure arabesques of green and satiny white, appeared full of woodland shadows. Miss Camilla, swaying her feather fan, served to set these shadows slowly eddying with a motion of repose. She had dozed in her chair, and her mind had lapsed into peaceful dreams before her niece arrived. Now she sat beaming gently at her. "Do you feel refreshed, dear?" she asked, when Lucina had finished her tumbler of currant-jelly water.

"Yes, thank you, Aunt Camilla."

"I fear you were not strong enough to venture out in such heat, glad as I am to see you, dear. Had you not better let 'Liza bring you a pillow, and then you can lie down on the sofa and perhaps have a little nap?"

"No, thank you, Aunt Camilla, I am not sleepy. I am quite well. I am going to sit by the window and read."

With that Lucina rose, got a book bound in red and gold from the stately mahogany table, and seated herself by the one window whose shutters were not tightly closed. It was a north window, and only one leaf of the upper half of the shutter was open. The aperture disclosed, instead of burning sky, a thick screen of horse-chestnut boughs. The great fan-like leaves almost touched the window-glass, and tinted all the dim parallelogram of light.

Even Lucina's golden head and fair face acquired somewhat of this prevailing tone of green, being transposed into another key of color. All her golden lights, and her roses, were lost in a delicate green pallor, which might have beseemed a sea-nymph. Her aunt, sitting aloof in that same green shaft of day filtered through horse-chestnut leaves, and also changed thereby, kept glancing at her uneasily. She knew that her brother and his wife had been anxious lately about Lucina. She ventured a few more gently solicitous remarks, which Lucina met sweetly, still with a little impatience of weariness, scarcely lifting her face from her book; then she ventured no more.

"The child does not like to have us so anxious over her," she thought, with that unfailing courtesy and consideration which would spare others though she torment herself thereby. She longed exceedingly to offer Lucina a wineglass of a home-brewed cordial, compounded from the rich juice of the blackberry, the finest of French brandy, and sundry spices, which was her panacea, but she abstained, lest it disturb her. Miss Camilla set a greater value upon peace of mind than upon aught else.

Lucina bent her face over her book, and turned the leaves quickly, as if she were reading with absorption. Presently Miss Camilla thought she looked better. The soft lapping as of waves, of the Sabbath calm, began again to oversteal her body and spirit. Visions of her peaceful past seemed to confuse themselves with the present. "You—must stay to tea, and—not—go home until—after sunset, when it is cooler," she murmured, drowsily, and with a dim conviction that this was a Sabbath of long ago, that Lucina was a little girl in a short frock and pantalettes; then in a few minutes her head drooped limply towards her shoulder, and all her thoughts relaxed into soft slumberous breaths.

When her aunt fell asleep, Lucina looked up, with that quick, startled sense of loneliness which sometimes, in such case, comes to a sensitive consciousness. "Aunt Camilla is asleep," she thought; she turned to her book again. It was a copy of Mrs. Hemans's poems. Somehow the vivid sentiment of the lines failed to please her, though she, like her young lady friends, had heretofore loved them well. Lucina read the first stanza of "The warrior bowed his crested head" with no thrill of her maiden breast; then she turned to "The Bride of the Greek Isles," and that was no better.

She arose, tiptoed softly over to the table, and examined the other books thereon. There were volumes of the early English poets, an album, and A Souvenir of Friendship, in red and gold, like the Hemans. She opened the souvenir, and looked idly at the small, exquisitely fine steel engravings, the alliterative verses, the tales of sentiment beginning with long preambles couched in choicest English. She shut the book with a little weary sigh, and looked irresolutely at her sleeping aunt, then at the chair by the north window.

Lucina felt none of the languor which is sometimes caused by extreme heat. Instead, there was a fierce electric tension through all her nerves. She was weary almost to death, the cool of this dark room was unutterably grateful to her, yet she could not remain quiet. She had left her parasol and hat on the hall-table. She stole out softly, with scarcely the faintest rustle of skirts, tied on her hat, took her parasol, and went through the house to the back-garden door.

Looking back, she saw the old servant-woman's broadly interrogatory face in a vine-wreathed kitchen-window. "I am going out in the garden a little while, 'Liza," said Lucina.

The garden was down-crushed, its extreme of sweetness pressed out beneath the torrid sunbeams as under flaming hoofs. Lucina passed between the wilting ranks and flattened beds of flowers, and the breath of them in her face was like the rankest sweetness of love, when its delicacy, even for itself, is all gone. The pungent odor of box was like a shameless call from the street. Lucina went into the summer-house and sat down. It was stifling, and the desperate sweetnesses of the garden seemed to have collected there, as in a nest.

Lucina, after a minute, sprang up, her face was a deep pink, she had a gentle distracted frown on her sweet forehead, her lips were pouting; she did not look in the least like the Lucina of the early spring.

She went out of the summer-house, and down the garden paths, and then over a stone wall, into the rear field, which bounded it. This field had been mowed not long before, and the stubble was pink and gold in the afternoon light.

The field was broad, and skirted on the west by a thick wood. Lucina, holding her green parasol, crossed the field to the wood. The stubble was hot to her feet, white butterflies flew in her face, rusty-winged things hurled themselves in her path, like shrill completions from some mill of insect life.

All along the wood there was a border of shadow. Lucina kept close to the trees, and so down the field. A faint, cool dampness stole out from the depths of the wood and tempered the heat for the width of its shade. Lucina put down her parasol; she was walking quite steadily, as if with a purpose.

The wood extended the length of many fields, running parallel with the main village street, behind the houses. Lucina, passing the Prescott house from the rear, instead of the front, seeing the unpainted walls and roof-slopes of barn and wood-sheds, and the garden, had a curious sense of retroversion in material things which suited well her mind. She felt that day as if she were turned backward to her own self.

The fields were divided from one another by stone walls. Lucina crossed these, and kept on until she reached a field some distance beyond Doctor Prescott's house. Then she left the shadow of the wood, and crossed the field to the main road. In crossing this she kept close to the wall, slinking along rapidly, for she felt guilty; this field was all waving with brown heads of millet which should not have been trampled.

She got to the road and nobody had seen her. She crossed it, entered a rutty cart-path, and was in the Edwards' woodland.

For the first time in her life, Lucina Merritt was doing something which she acknowledged to herself to be distinctly unmaidenly. She had come to this wood because she had heard Jerome say that he often strolled here of a Sunday afternoon. Her previous little schemes for meeting him had been innocent to her own understanding, but now she had tasted the fruit of knowledge of her own heart.

She felt fairly sick with shame at what she was doing, she blushed to her own thoughts, but she had a helpless impulse as before, some goading spur in her own nature which she could not withstand.

She hurried softly down the cart-path between the trees, then suddenly stood still, for under a great pine-tree on the right lay Jerome. His hat was off, one arm was thrown over his head, his face was flushed with heat and slumber. Lucina, her body bent aloof with an indescribable poise of delicacy and the impulse of flight, yet looked at her sleeping lover until her whole heart seemed to feed itself through her eyes.

Lucina had not seen him for more than six weeks, except by sly glimpses at meeting and on the road. She thought, pitifully, that he had grown thin; she noticed what a sad droop his mouth had at the corners. She pitied, loved, and feared him, with all the trifold power of her feminine heart.

As she looked at him, her remembrance of old days so deepened and intensified that they seemed to close upon the present and the future. Love, even when it has apparently no past, is at once a memory and a revelation. Lucina saw the little lover of her innocent childish dreams asleep there, she saw the poor boy who had gone hungry and barefoot, she saw the young man familiar in the strangeness of the future. And, more than that, Lucina, who had hitherto shown fully to her awakening heart only her thought of Jerome, having never dared to look at him and love him at the same time, now gazed boldly at him asleep, and a sense of a great mystery came over her. In Jerome she seemed to see herself also, the unity of the man and woman in love dawned upon her maiden imagination. She felt as if Jerome's hands were her hands, his breath hers. "I never knew he looked like me before," she thought with awe.

Then suddenly Jerome, with no stir of awaking, opened his eyes and looked at her. Often, on arousing from a deep sleep, one has a sense of calm and wonderless observation as of a new birth. Jerome looked for a moment at Lucina with no surprise. In a new world all things may be, and impossibilities become commonplaces.

Then he sprang up, and went close to her. "Is it you?" he said, in a sobbing voice.

Lucina looked at him piteously. She wanted to run away, but her limbs trembled, her little hands twitched in the folds of her muslin skirt. Jerome saw her trembling, and a soft pink suffusing her fair face, even her sweet throat and her arms, under her thin sleeves. He knew, with a sudden leap of tenderness, which would have its way in spite of himself, why she was there. She had wanted to see him so, the dear child, the fair, wonderful lady, that she had come through the heat of this burning afternoon, stealing away alone from all her friends, and even from her own decorous self, for his sake. He pointed to the clear space under the pine where he had been lying. "Shall we sit down there—a minute?" he stammered.

"I—think I—had better go," said Lucina, faintly, with the quick impulse of maidenhood to flee from that which it has sought.

"Only a few minutes—I have something to tell you."

They sat down, Lucina with her back against the pine-tree, Jerome at her side. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but instead it widened into a vacuous smile. He looked at Lucina and she at him, then he came closer to her and took her in his arms.

Neither of them spoke. Lucina hid her face on his breast, and he held her so, looking out over her fair head at the wood. His mouth was shut hard, his eyes were full of fierce intent of combat, as if he expected some enemy forth from the trees to tear his love from him. For the first time in his life he realized the full might of his own natural self. He felt as if he could trample upon the needs of the whole world, and the light of his own soul; to gain this first sweet of existence, whose fragrance was in his face.

The strongest realization of his nature hitherto, that of the outreaching wants of others, weakened. He was filled with the insensate greed of creation for himself. He held Lucina closer, and bent his head down over hers. Then she turned her face a little, and their lips met.

Lucina had never since her childhood kissed any man but her father, and as for Jerome, he had held such things with a shame of scorn. This meant much to both of them, and the shock of such deep meaning caused them to start apart, as if with fear of each other. Lucina raised her head, and even pushed Jerome away, gently, and he loosened his hold and stood up before her, all pale and trembling.

"You must forgive me—I—forgot myself," he said, with quick gasps for breath, "I won't—sit—down there again." Then he went on, speaking fast: "I have been—wanting to tell you, but there was no chance. I could not come to see you any longer. I could not. I thought a man could go to see a woman when he was in love with her, and could bear it when the love was all on his side, and there was no—chance of marriage. I thought I could bear it if it pleased you, but—I didn't know it would be like this. I was never in love, and I did not know. I could think of nothing but wanting you. It was spoiling me for everything else, and there are other things in the world besides this. If I came much longer I should not be fit to come. I could not come any longer." Jerome looked down at Lucina, with an air of stern, yet wistful, argument. She sat before him with downcast, pale, and sober face, then she rose, and all her girlish irresolution and shame dropped from her, and left for a moment the woman in her unveiled.

"I love you as much as you love me," she said, simply.

Jerome looked at her. "You—don't mean—that?"

"Yes, I suppose I did when you told me first, but I did not know it then. Now I know it. I have been very unhappy because I feared you might be staying away because you thought I did not love you, but I dared not try to see you as I did before, because I had found myself out. To-day I could not help it, whatever you might think of me, or whatever I might think of myself. I could not bear to worry any longer, lest you might be unhappy because you thought I did not love you. I do, and you need not stay away any more for that."

"Lucina—you don't mean—"

"Do you think I would have let you—do as you did a minute ago, if I had not?" said she, and a blush spread over her face and neck.

"I—thought—it was all—me—that—you—did not—"

"No, I let you," whispered Lucina.

"Oh, you don't mean that you—like me this same way that I do you—enough to marry me! You don't mean that?"

"Yes, I do," replied Lucina; she looked up at him with a curious solemn steadfastness. She was not blushing any more.

"I—never thought of this," Jerome said, drawing a long, sobbing breath. He stood looking at her, his face all white and working. "Lucina," he began, then paused, for he could not speak. He walked a little way down the path, then came back. "Lucina," he said, brokenly, "as God is my witness—I never thought of this—I never—thought that you—could— Oh, look at yourself, and look at me! You know that I could not have thought—oh, look at yourself, there was never anybody like you! I did not think that you could—care for or—be hurt by—me."

"I have never seen anybody like you, not even father," Lucina said. She looked at him with the shrinking yet loving faithfulness of a child before emotion which it cannot comprehend. She could not understand why, if Jerome loved her and she him, there was anything to be distressed about. She could not imagine why he was so pale and agitated, why he did not take her in his arms and kiss her again, why they could not both be happy at once.

"Oh, my God!" cried Jerome, and looked at her in a way which frightened her.

"Don't," she said, softly, shrinking a little.

"Lucina, you know how poor I am," he said, hoarsely. "You know I—can't—marry."

"I don't need much," said she.

"I couldn't—give you what you need."

"Father would, then."

"No, he would not. I give my wife all or nothing."

Lucina trembled. The same look which she remembered when Jerome would not take her little savings was in his eyes.

"Then—I would not take anything from father," she said, tremulously. "I wouldn't mind—being—poor."

"I have seen the wives of poor men, and you shall not be made one by me. If I thought I had not strength enough to keep you from that, as far as I was concerned, I would leave you this minute, and throw myself in the pond over there."

"I am not afraid to be the wife of—a poor man—if I love him. I—could save, and—work," Lucina said, speaking with the necessity of faithfulness upon her, yet timidly, and turning her face aside, for her heart had begun to fear lest Jerome did not really love her nor want her, after all. A woman who would sacrifice herself for love's sake cannot understand the sacrifice, nor the love, which refuses it.

"You shall not be, whether you are afraid or not!" Jerome cried out, fiercely. "Haven't I seen John Upham's wife? Oh, God!"

Lucina began moving slowly down the path towards the road; Jerome followed her. "I must go," she said, with a gentle dignity, though she trembled in all her limbs. "I came across the fields from Aunt Camilla's. I left her asleep, and she will wake and miss me."

"Oh," cried Jerome, "I wish—" then he stopped himself. "Yes, she will, I suppose," he added, lamely.

"He does not want me to stay," thought Lucina, with a sinking of heart and a rising of maiden pride. She walked a little faster.

Jerome quickened his pace, and touched her shoulder. "You must not think about me—about this," he murmured, hoarsely. "You must not be unhappy about it!"

Lucina turned and looked in his face sadly, yet with a soft stateliness. "No," said she, "I will not. I do not see, after all, why I should be unhappy, or you either. Many people do not marry. I dare say they are happier. Aunt Camilla seems happy. I shall be like her. There is nothing to hinder our friendship. We can always be friends, like brothers and sisters even, and you can come to see me—"

"No, I can't," said Jerome, "I can't do that even. I told you I could not."

Lucina said no more. She turned her face and went on. She said good-bye quickly when she reached the road, and was across it and under the bars into the millet.

Jerome did not attempt to follow her; he stood for a moment watching her moving through the millet, as through the brown waves of a shallow sea; then he went back into the woods. When he reached the place where he had sat with Lucina he stopped and spoke, as if she were still there.

"Lucina," he said, "I promise you before God, that I will never, so long as I live, love or marry any other woman but you. I promise you that I will work as I never did before—my fingers to the bone, my heart to its last drop of blood—to earn enough to marry you. And then, if you are free, I will come to you again. I will fight to win you, with all the strength that is in me, against the whole world, and I will love you forever, forever, but I promise you that I will never say this in your hearing to bind you and make you wait, when I may die and never come."



Chapter XXX

Lucina did not go into her aunt Camilla's house again that afternoon. She crossed the fields—her aunt's garden—skirted the house to the road—thence home.

When she entered the south door her mother met her. "Why didn't you wait until it was cooler?" she asked; then, before the girl could answer, "What is the matter? Why, Lucina, you have been crying!"

"Nothing," replied Lucina, piteously, pushing past her mother.

"Where are you going?"

"Up-stairs to my chamber." With that Lucina was on the stairs, and her mother followed.

The two were a long time in Lucina's chamber; then Abigail came down alone to her husband in the sitting-room.

The Squire, who was as alert as any fox where his beloved daughter was concerned, had scented something wrong, and looked up anxiously when his wife entered.

"She isn't sick, is she?" he asked.

"She will be, if we don't take care," Abigail replied, shortly.

"You don't mean it!" cried the Squire, jumping up. "I'll go for the doctor this minute. It was the heat. Why didn't you keep her at home, Abigail?"

"Sit down, for mercy's sake, Eben!" said Abigail. She sat down herself as she spoke, and crossed her little slender feet and hands with a quick, involuntary motion, which was usual to her. "It is as I told you," said she. Abigail Merritt, good comrade of a wife though she was, yet turned aggressively feminine at times.

The Squire sat down. "What do you mean, Abigail?"

"I mean—that I wish that Edwards boy had never entered this house."

"Abigail, you don't mean that Lucina— What do you mean, Abigail?" finished the Squire, feebly.

"I mean that I was right in thinking some harm would come from that boy being here so much," replied his wife. Then she went on and repeated in substance the innocent little confession which Lucina had made to her in her chamber.

The Squire listened, his bearded chin sunken on his chest, his forehead, under the crest of yellow locks, bent gloomily.

"It seems as if you and I had done everything that we could for the child ever since she was born," he said, huskily, when his wife had finished. His first emotion was one of cruel jealousy of his daughter's love for another man.

Abigail looked at him with quick pity, but scarcely with full understanding. She could never lose, as completely as he, their daughter, through a lover. She had not to yield her to another of the same sex, and in that always the truest sting of jealousy lies.

"So far as that goes, it is no more than we had to expect, Eben," she said. "You know that. I turned away from my parents for you."

"I know it, Abigail, but—I thought, maybe, it wouldn't come yet a while. I've done all I could. I bought her the little horse—she seemed real pleased with that, Abigail, you know. I thought, maybe, she would be contented a while here with us."

"Eben Merritt, you don't for a minute think that she can be anywhere but with us, for all this!"

"It's the knowledge that she's willing to be that comes hard," said the Squire, piteously—"it's that, Abigail."

"I don't know that she's any too willing to," returned Abigail, half laughing. "The principal thing that seems to trouble the child is that Jerome won't come to see her. I rather think that if he would come to see her she would be perfectly contented."

"And why can't he come to see her, if she wants him to—will you tell me that?" cried the Squire, with sudden fervor.

"Eben Merritt, would you have the poor child getting to thinking more of him than she does, when he isn't going to marry her?"

"And why isn't he going to marry her, if she wants him? By the Lord Harry, Lucina shall have whoever she wants, if it's a prince or a beggar! If that fellow has been coming here, and now—"

"Eben, listen to me and keep quiet!" cried Abigail, running at her great husband's side, with a little, wiry, constraining hand on his arm, for the Squire had sprung from his seat and was tramping up and down in his rage that Lucina should be denied what she wanted, even though it were his own heart's blood. "You know what I told you," Abigail said. "Jerome is behaving well. You know he can't marry Lucina—he hasn't a penny."

"Then I'll give 'em pennies enough to marry on. The girl shall have whom she wants; I tell you that, Abigail."

"How much have you got to give them until we are gone, even if Jerome would marry under such conditions; and I told you what he said to Lucina about it," returned his wife, quietly.

"I'll go to work myself, then," shouted the Squire; "and as for the boy, he shall swallow his damned pride before he gives my girl an anxious hour. What is he, to say he will or will not, if she lifts her little finger? By the Lord Harry, he ought to go down on his face like a heathen when she looks at him!"

"Eben," said Abigail, "will you listen to me? I tell you, Jerome is behaving as well as any young man can. I know he is, from what Lucina has told me. He loves her, and he is proving it by giving her up. You know that he cannot marry her unless he drags her into poverty, and you know how much you have to help them with. You know, too, good as Jerome is, and worthy of praise for what he has done, that Lucina ought to do better than marry him."

"He is a good boy, Abigail, and if she's got her heart set on him she shall have him."

"You don't know that her heart is set on him, Eben. I think the best thing we can do is to send her down to Boston for a little visit—she may feel differently when she comes home."

"I won't have her crossed, Abigail. Was she crying when you left her?"

"She will soon be quiet and go to sleep. I am going to make some toast for her supper. Eben, where are you going?" The Squire had set forth for the door in a determined rush.

"I am going to see that boy, and know what this work means," he cried, in a loud voice of wrath and pity.

However, Abigail's vivacious persistency of common-sense usually overcame her husband's clumsy headlongs of affection. She carried the day at last, and the Squire subsided, though with growls of remonstrance, like a partially tamed animal.

"Have your way, and send her down to Boston, if you want to, Abigail," said he; "but when she comes back she shall have whatever she wants, if I move heaven and earth to get it for her."

So that day week Jerome, going one morning to his work, stood aside to let the stage-coach pass him, and had a glimpse of Lucina's fair face in the wave of a blue veil at the window. She bowed, but the stage dashed by in such a fury of dust that Jerome could scarcely discern the tenor of the salutation. He thought that she smiled, and not unhappily. "She is going away," he told himself; "she will go to parties, and see other people, and forget me." He tried to dash the bitterness of his heart at the thought, with the sweetness of unselfish love, but it was hard. He plodded on to his work, the young springiness gone from his back and limbs, his face sternly downcast.

As for Lucina, she was in reality leaving Upham not unhappily. She was young, and the sniff of change is to the young as the smell of powder to a war-horse. New fields present always wide ranges of triumphant pleasure to youth.

Lucina, moreover, loved with girlish fervor the friend, Miss Rose Soley, whom she was going to visit in Boston. She had not seen her for some months, and she tasted in advance the sweets of mutual confidences. That morning Jerome's face was a little confused in Lucina's mind with that of a rosy-cheeked and dark-ringleted girl, and young passion somewhat dimmed by gentle affection for one of her own sex.

Then, too, Lucina had come, during the last few days, to a more cheerful and hopeful view of the situation. After all, Jerome loved her, and was not that the principal thing? Perhaps, in time, it would all come right. Jerome might get rich; in the meantime, she was in no hurry to be married and leave her parents, and if Jerome would only come to see her, that would be enough to make her very happy. She thought that after her return he would very probably come. She reasoned, as she thought, astutely, that he would not be able to help it, when he saw her after a long absence. Then she had much faith in her father's being able to arrange this satisfactorily for her, as he had arranged all other matters during her life.

"Now don't you fret, Pretty," he had said, when she bade him good-bye, "father will see to it that you have everything you want." And Lucina, all blushing with innocent confusion, had believed him.

In addition to all this she had in her trunks, strapped at the back of the stage-coach, two fine, new silk gowns, and one muslin, and a silk mantilla. Also she carried a large blue bandbox containing a new plumed hat and veil, which cheered her not a little, being one of those minor sweets which providentially solace the weak feminine soul in its unequal combat with life's great bitternesses.

Lucina was away some three months, not returning until a few days before Thanksgiving; then she brought her friend, Miss Rose Soley, with her, and also a fine young gentleman, with long, curling, fair locks, and a face as fair as her own.

While Lucina was gone, Jerome led a life easier in some respects, harder in others. He had no longer the foe of daily temptation to overcome, but instead was the steady grind of hunger. Jerome, in those days, felt the pangs of that worst hunger in the world—the hunger for the sight of one beloved. Some mornings when he awoke it seemed to him that he should die of mere exhaustion and starvation of spirit if he saw not Lucina before night. In those days he would rather have walked over fiery plough-shares than visited any place where he had seen Lucina, and where she now was not. He never went near the wood, where they had sat together; he would not pass even, if he could help it, the Squire's house or Miss Camilla's. His was one of those minds for whom, when love has once come, place is only that which holds, or is vacant of, the beloved. He was glad when the white frost came and burned out the gardens and the woodlands with arctic fires of death, for then the associations with old scenes were in a measure lost.

One Sunday after the frost, when the ground was shining stiff with it, as with silver mail, and all the trees thickened the distance as with glittering furze, he went to his woodland, and found that he could bear the sight of the place where he and Lucina had been together; its strangeness of aspect seemed to place it so far in the past.

Jerome threw up his head in the thin, sparkling air. "I will have her yet," he said, quite aloud; and "if I do not, I can bear that."

He felt like one who would crush the stings of fate, even if against his own heart. He had grown old and thin during the last weeks; he had worked so hard and resolutely, yet with so little hope; and he who toils without hope is no better than a slave to his own will. That day, when he went home, his eyes were bright and his cheeks glowing. His mother and sister noticed the difference.

"I was afraid he was gettin' all run down," Ann Edwards told Elmira; "but he looks better to-day."

Elmira herself was losing her girlish bloom. She was one who needed absolute certainties to quiet distrustful imaginations, and matters betwixt herself and Lawrence Prescott were less and less on a stable footing. Lawrence was working hard; she should not have suspected that his truth towards her flagged, but she sometimes did. He did not come to see her regularly. Sometimes two weeks went past, sometimes three, and he had not come. In fact, Lawrence endeavored to come only when he could do so openly.

"I hate to deceive father more than I can help," he told Elmira, but she did not understand him fully.

She was a woman for whom the voluntary absence of a lover who yet loves was almost an insoluble problem, and in that Lucina was not unlike her. She was not naturally deceptive, but, when it came to love, she was a Jesuit in conceiving it to sanctify its own ends.

The suspense, the uncertainty, as to her lover coming or not, was beginning to tell upon her. Every nerve in her slight body was in an almost constant state of tension.

It was just a week from that day that Jerome and Elmira, being seated in meeting, saw Lucina enter with her parents and her visiting friends. Jerome's heart leaped up at the sight of Lucina, then sank before that of the young man following her up the aisle. "He is going to marry her; she has forgotten me," he thought, directly.

As for Elmira, she eyed Miss Rose Soley's dark ringlets under the wide velvet brim of her hat, the crimson curve of her cheek, and the occasional backward glance of a black eye at Lawrence Prescott seated directly behind her. When meeting was over, she caught Jerome by the arm. "Come out quick," she said, in a sharp whisper, and Jerome was glad enough to go.

Lucina's guests spent Thanksgiving with her. Jerome saw them twice, riding horseback with Lawrence Prescott—Lucina on her little white horse, Miss Soley on Lawrence's black, the strange young man on the Squire's sorrel, and Lawrence on a gray.

Lucina colored when she saw Jerome, and reined her horse, lingering behind the others, but he did not seem to notice it, and never looked at her after his first grave bow; then she touched her horse, and galloped after her friends with a windy swirl of blue veil and skirts.

Jerome wondered if his sister would hear that Lawrence Prescott had been out riding with Lucina and her friends. When he got home that night, he met Belinda Lamb coming out of the gate; when he entered, he saw by Elmira's face that she had heard. She was binding shoes very fast; her little face was white, except for red spots on the cheeks, her mouth shut hard. Her mother kept looking at her anxiously.

"You'd better not worry till you know you've got something to worry about; likely as not, they asked him to go with them 'cause Lucina's beau don't know how to ride very well, and he couldn't help it," she said, with a curious aside of speech, as if Jerome, though on the stage, was not to hear.

He took no notice, but that night he had a word with his sister after their mother had gone to bed. "If he has asked you to marry him, you ought to trust him," said he. "I don't believe his going to ride with that girl means anything. You ought to believe in him until you know he isn't worthy of it."

Elmira turned upon him with a flash of eyes like his own. "Worthy!" she cried—"don't I think he would be worthy if he did leave me for her! Do you think I would blame him if he did leave anybody as poor as I am, worked 'most to skin and bone, of body and soul too, for anybody like that girl? I guess I wouldn't blame him, and you needn't. I don't blame him; it's true, I know, he'll never come to see me again, but I don't blame him."

"If he doesn't come to see you again he'll have me to hear from," Jerome said, fiercely.

"No, he won't. Don't you ever dare speak to him, or blame him, Jerome Edwards; I won't have it." Elmira ran into her chamber, leaving an echo of wild sobs in her brother's ears.

The day after Thanksgiving, Lucina's friends went away; when Jerome came home that night Elmira's face wore a different expression, which Mrs. Edwards explained with no delay.

"Belinda Lamb has been here," she said, "and that young man is that Boston girl's beau; he ain't Lucina's, and Lawrence Prescott ain't nothing to do with it. He was up there last night, but it wa'n't anything. Why, Jerome Edwards, you look as pale as death!"

Jerome muttered some unintelligible response, and went out of the room, with his mother staring after him. He went straight to his own little chamber, and, standing there in the still, icy gloom of the winter twilight, repeated the promise which he had made in summer.

"If you are true to me, Lucina," he said, in a straining whisper—"if you are true to me—but I'll leave it all to you whether you are or not, I'll work till I win you."



Chapter XXXI

On the evening of the next day Jerome went to call on Lawyer Eliphalet Means. Lawyer Means lived near the northern limit of the village, on the other side of the brook.

Jerome, going through the covered bridge which crossed the brook, paused and looked through a space between the side timbers. This brook was a sturdy little torrent at all times; in spring it was a river. Now, under the white concave of wintry moonlight, it broke over its stony bed with a fierce persistency of advance. Jerome looked down at the rapid, shifting water-hillocks and listened to their lapsing murmur, incessantly overborne by the gathering rush of onset, then nodded his head conclusively, as if in response to some mental question, and moved on.

Lawyer Eliphalet Means lived in the old Means house. It upreared itself on a bare moon-silvered hill at the right of the road, with a solid state of simplest New England architecture. It dated back to the same epoch as Doctor Prescott's and Squire Merritt's houses, but lacked even the severe ornaments of their time.

Jerome climbed the shining slope of the hill to the house door, which was opened by Lawyer Means himself; then he followed him into the sitting-room. A great cloud of tobacco smoke came in his face when the sitting-room door was thrown open. Through it Jerome could scarcely see Colonel Jack Lamson, in a shabby old coat, seated before the blazing hearth-fire, with a tumbler of rum-and-water on a little table at his right hand.

"Sit down," said Means to Jerome, and pulled another chair forward. "Quite a sharp night out," he added.

"Yes, sir," replied Jerome, seating himself.

Lawyer Means resumed his own chair and his pipe, at which he puffed with that jealous comfort which comes after interruption. Colonel Lamson, when he had given a friendly nod of greeting to the young man, without removing his pipe from his mouth, leaned back his head again, stretched his legs more luxuriously, and blew the smoke in great wreaths around his face. This sitting-room of Lawyer Means's was a scandal to the few matrons of Upham who had ever penetrated it. "Don't look as if a woman had ever set foot in it," they said. The ancient female relative of Lawyer Means who kept his house had not been a notable house-keeper in her day, and her day was nearly past. Moreover, she had small control over this particular room.

The great apartment, with the purple clouds of tobacco smoke, which were settling against its low ceiling and in its far corners, transfused with golden gleams of candles and rosy flashes of fire-light, dingy as to wall-paper and carpet, with the dust of months upon all shiny surfaces, seemed a very fortress of bachelorhood wherein no woman might enter.

The lawyer's books in the tall cases were arranged in close ranks of strictest order, as were also the neatly ticketed files of letters and documents in the pigeon-holes of the great desk; otherwise the whole room seemed fluttering and protruding out of its shadows with loose ends of paper and corners of books. All the free lines in the room were the tangents of irrelevancy and disorder.

The lawyer, puffing at his pipe, with eyes half closed, did not look at Jerome, but his attitude was expectant.

Jerome stared at the blazing fire with a hesitating frown, then he turned with sudden resolution to Means. "Can I see you alone a minute?" he asked.

The Colonel rose, without a word, and lounged out of the room; when the door had shut behind him, Jerome turned again to the lawyer. "I want to know if you are willing to sell me two hundred and sixty-five dollars' worth of your land," said he.

"Which land?"

"Your land on Graystone brook. I want one hundred and thirty-two dollars and fifty cents' worth on each side."

"Why don't you make it even dollars, and what in thunder do you want the land on two sides for?" asked the lawyer, in his dry voice, threaded between his lips and pipe.

Jerome took an old wallet from his pocket. "Because two hundred and sixty-five dollars is all the money I've got saved," he replied, "and—"

"You haven't brought it here to close the bargain on the spot?" interrupted the lawyer.

"Yes; I knew you could make out the deed."

Means puffed hard at his pipe, but his face twitched as if with laughter.

"I want it on both sides of the brook," Jerome said, "because I don't want anybody else to get it. I want to build a saw-mill, and I want to control all the water-power."

"I thought you said that was all the money you had."

"It is."

"How are you going to build a saw-mill, then? That money won't pay for enough land, let alone the mill."

"I am going to wait until I save more money; then I shall buy more land and build the mill," replied Jerome.

"Why not borrow the money?"

Jerome shook his head.

"Suppose I let you have some money at six per cent.; suppose you build the mill, and I take a mortgage on that and the land."

"No, sir."

"Why not? If I am willing to trust a young fellow like you with money, what is your objection to taking it?"

"I would rather wait until I can pay cash down, sir," replied Jerome, sturdily.

"You'll be gray as a badger before you get the money."

"Then I'll be gray," said Jerome. His handsome young face, full of that stern ardor which was a principle of his nature, confronted the lawyer's, lean and dry, deepening its shrewdly quizzical lines about mouth and eyes.

Means looked sharply at Jerome. "What has started you in this? What makes you think it will be a good thing?" he asked.

"No saw-mill nearer than Westbrook, good water-power, straight course of brook, below the falls can float logs down to the mill from above, then down to Dale. People in Dale are paying heavy prices for lumber on account of freight; then the railroad will go through Dale within five years, and they will want sleepers, and—"

"Perhaps they won't take them from you, young man."

"I have been to Squire Lennox, in Dale; he is the prime mover in the railroad, and will be a director, if not the president; he has given me the refusal of the job."

"Where will you get your logs?"

"I have bargained with two parties."

"Five years is a long time ahead."

"It won't be, if I wait long enough."

"You are a damned fool not to borrow the money. The railroad may go through in another year, and all the standing wood in the county may burn down," said Means, quietly.

"Let it then," said Jerome, looking at him.

The lawyer laughed, silently.

When Jerome went home he had in his pocket a deed of the land, but on the right bank of the brook only, the lawyer having covenanted not to sell or build upon the left bank. Thus he had enough land upon which to build his mill when he should have saved the money. He felt nearer Lucina than he had ever done before. The sanguineness of youth, which is its best stimulant for advance, thrilled through all his veins. He had mentioned five years as the possible length of time before acquisition; secretly he laughed at the idea. Five years! Why, he could save enough money in three years—in less than three years—in two years! It had been only a short time since he had made the last payment on the mortgage, and he had saved his two hundred and sixty-five dollars. A saw-mill would not cost much. He could build a great part of it himself.

That night Jerome truly counted his eggs before they were hatched. All the future seemed but a nest for his golden hopes. He would work and save—he was working and saving. He would build his mill; as he thought further, the foundation-stones were laid, the wheel turned, and the saw hissed through the live wood. He would marry Lucina; he saw her in her bridal white—

All this time, with that sublime cruelty which man can show towards one beloved when working for love's final good, and which is a feeble prototype of the Higher method, Jerome gave not one thought to the fact that Lucina knew nothing of his plans, and, if she loved him, as she had said, must suffer. When, moreover, one has absolute faith in, and knowledge of, his own intentions for the welfare of another, it is difficult to conceive that the other may not be able to spell out his actions towards the same meaning.

Jerome really felt as if Lucina knew. The next Sunday he watched her come into meeting with an exquisite sense of possession, which he imagined her to understand.

When he did not go to see her that night, but, instead, sat happily brooding over the future, it never once occurred to him that it might be otherwise with her.

All poor Lucina's ebullition of spirits from her pleasant visit, her pretty gowns, and her fond belief that Jerome could not have meant what he said, and would come to see her after her return, was fast settling into the dregs of disappointment.

Night after night she put on one of her prettiest gowns, and waited with that wild torture of waiting which involves uncertainty and concealment, and Jerome did not come. Lucina began to believe that Jerome did not love her; she tried to call her maidenly pride to her aid, and succeeded in a measure. She stopped putting on a special gown to please Jerome should he come; she stopped watching out for him; she stopped healing her mind with hope in order that it might be torn open afresh with disappointment, but the wound remained and gaped to her consciousness, and Lucina was a tender thing. She held her beautiful head high and forced her face to gentle smiles, but she went thin and pale, and could not sleep of a night, and her mother began to fret about her, and her father to lay down his knife and fork and stare at her across the table when she could not eat.

Squire Eben at that time ransacked the woods for choice game, and himself stood over old Hannah or his wife, broiling the delicate birds that they be done to a turn, and was fit to weep when his pretty Lucina could scarcely taste them. Often, too, he sent surreptitously to Boston for dainties not obtainable at home—East India fruits and jellies and such—to tempt his daughter's appetite, and watched her with great frowns of anxious love when they were set before her.

One afternoon, when Lucina had gone up to her chamber to lie down, having left her dinner almost untasted, though there was a little fat wild bird and guava jelly served on a china plate, and an orange and figs to come after, the Squire beckoned his wife into the sitting-room and shut the door.

"D'ye think she's going into a decline?" he whispered. His great frame trembled all over when he asked the question, and his face was yellow-white. Years ago a pretty young sister of his, whose namesake Lucina was, had died of a decline, as they had termed it, and, ever since, death of the young and fair had worn that guise to the fancy of the Squire. He remembered just how his young sister had looked when she was fading to her early tomb, and to-day he had seemed to see her expression in his daughter's face.

Abigail laid her little hand on his arm. "Don't look so, Eben," she said. "I don't think she is in a decline; she doesn't cough."

"What ails her, Abigail?"

Mrs. Merritt hesitated. "I don't know that much ails her, Eben," she said, evasively. "Girls often get run down, then spring up again."

"Abigail, you don't think the child is fretting about—that boy again?"

"She hasn't mentioned his name to me for weeks, Eben," replied Abigail, and her statement carried reassurance, since the Squire argued, with innocent masculine prejudice, that what came not to a woman's tongue had no abiding in her mind.

His wife, if she were more subtle, gave no evidence of it. "I think the best plan would be for her to go away again," she added.

The Squire looked at her wistfully. "Do you think it would, Abigail?"

"I think she would brighten right up, the way she did before."

"She did brighten up, didn't she?" said the Squire, with a sigh. "Well, maybe you're right, Abigail, but you've got to go with her this time. The child isn't going away, looking as she does now, without her mother."

So it happened that, a week or two later, Jerome, going to his work, met the coach again, and this time had a glimpse of Abigail Merritt's little, sharply alert face beside her daughter's pale, flower-like droop of profile. He had not been in the shop long before his uncle's wife came with the news. She stood in the doorway, quite filling it with her voluminosity of skirts and softly palpitating bulk, holding a little fluttering shawl together under her chin.

"They've gone out West, to Ohio, to Mis' Merritt's cousin, Mary Jane Anstey, that was; she married rich, years ago, and went out there to live, and Abigail 'ain't seen her since. She's been teasin' her to come for years; her own folks are all dead an' gone, an' her husband is poorly, an' she can't leave him to come here. Camilla, she paid the expenses of one of 'em out there. Lucina's been real miserable lately, an' they're worried about her. The Squire's sister, that she was named for, went down in a decline in six months; so her mother has taken her out there for a change, an' they're goin' to make a long visit. Lucina is real poorly. I had it from 'Lizy Wells. Camilla told her."

Jerome shifted his back towards his aunt as he sat on his bench. His face, bent over his work, was white and rigid.

"You're coldin' of the shop off, Belindy," said Ozias.

"Well, I s'pose I be," said she, with a pleasant titter of apology, and backed off the threshold and shut the door.

"That's a woman," said Ozias, "who 'ain't got any affairs of her own, but she's perfectly contented an' happy with her neighbors', taken weak. That's the kind of woman to marry if you ain't got anythin' to give her—no money, no interests in life, no anythin'."

Jerome made no reply. His uncle gave a shrewd glance at him. "When ye can't eat lollypops, it's jest as well not to have them under your nose," he remarked, with seemingly no connection, but Jerome said nothing to that either.

He worked silently, with fierce energy, the rest of the morning. He had not heard before of Lucina's ill health; she had not been to church the Sunday previous, but he had thought of nothing serious from that. Now the dreadful possibility came to him—suppose she should die and leave his world entirely, of what avail would all his toil be then? When he went home that noon he ate his dinner hastily, then, on his way back to the shop, left the road, crossed into a field, and sat down in the wide solitude, on a rock humping out of the dun roll of sere grass-land. Always, in his stresses of spirit, Jerome sought instinctively some closet which he had made of the free fastnesses of nature.

The day was very dull and cold; snow threatened, should the weather moderate. Overhead was a suspended drift of gray clouds. The earth was stark as a corpse in utter silence. The stillness of the frozen air was like the stillness of death and despair. A fierce blast would have given at least the sense of life and fighting power. "Suppose she dies," thought Jerome—"suppose she dies."

He tried to imagine the world without Lucina, but he could not, for with all his outgoing spirit his world was too largely within him. For the first time in his life, the conception of the death of that which he loved better than his life was upon him, and it was a conception of annihilation. "If Lucina is not, then I am not, and that upon which I look is not," was in his mind.

When he rose, he staggered, and could scarcely see his way across the field. When he entered his uncle's shop, Ozias looked at him sharply. "If you're sick you'd better go home and go to bed," he said, in a voice of harsh concern.

"I am not sick," said Jerome, and fell to work with a sort of fury.

As the days went on it seemed to him that he could not bear life any longer if he did not hear how Lucina was, and yet the most obvious steps to hear he did not take. It never occurred to him to march straight to the Squire's house, and inquire of him concerning his daughter's health. Far from that, he actually dreaded to meet him, lest he read in his face that she was worse. He did not go to meeting, lest the minister mention her in his prayer for the sick; he stayed as little as possible in the company of his mother and sister, lest they repeat the sad news concerning her; if a neighbor came in, he got up and left the room directly. He never went to the village store of an evening; he ostracized himself from his kind, lest they stab him with the confirmation of his agonizing fear. For the first time in his life Jerome had turned coward.

One day, when Lucina had been gone about a month, he was coming home from Dale when he heard steps behind him and a voice shouting for him to stop. He turned and saw Colonel Jack Lamson coming with breathless quickening of his stiff military gait.

When the Colonel reached him he could scarcely speak; his wheezing chest strained his coat to exceeding tightness, his face was purple, he swung his cane with spasmodic jerks. "Fine day," he gasped out.

"Yes, sir," said Jerome.

It was near the end of February, the snow was thawing, and for the first time there was a suggestion of spring in the air which caused one, with the recurrence of an old habit of mind, to listen and sniff as for birds and flowers.

The two men stepped along, picking their way through the melting snow. "The doctor has ordered me out for a three-mile march every day. I'm going to stent myself," said the Colonel, still breathing hard; then he looked keenly at Jerome. "What have you been doing to yourself, young fellow?" he asked.

"Nothing. I don't know what you mean," answered Jerome.

"Nothing! Why, you have aged ten years since I last saw you!"

"I am well enough, Colonel Lamson."

"How about that deed I witnessed? Have you got enough money to build the mill yet?"

"No, I haven't," replied Jerome, with a curious tone of defiance and despair, which the Colonel interpreted wrongly.

"Oh, don't give up yet," he said, cheerfully. "Rome wasn't built in a day, you know."

Jerome made no reply, but trudged on doggedly.

"How is she?" asked the Colonel, suddenly.

Jerome turned white and looked at him. "Who?" he said.

The Colonel laughed, with wheezy facetiousness. "Why, she—she. Young men don't build nests or saw-mills unless there is a she in the case."

"There isn't—" began Jerome. Then he shut his mouth hard and walked on.

"It's only my joke, Jerome," laughed the Colonel, but there was no responsive smile on Jerome's face. Colonel Lamson eyed him narrowly. "The Squire had a letter from his wife yesterday," he said, with no preface. Then he started, for Jerome turned upon him a face as of one who is braced for death.

"How—is she?" he gasped out.

"Who? Mrs. Merritt? No, confound it all, my boy, she's better! Hold on to yourself, my boy; I tell you she's better."

Jerome gave a deep sigh, and walked ahead so fast that the Colonel had to quicken his pace. "Wait a minute," he panted; "I want a word with you."

Jerome stopped, and the Colonel came up and faced him. "Look here, young man," he said, with sudden wrath, "if I thought for a minute you had jilted that girl, I wouldn't stop for words; I would take you by the neck like a puppy, and I'd break every bone in your body."

Jerome squared his shoulders involuntarily; his face, confronting the Colonel's, twitched. "I'll kill you or any other man who dares to say I did," he cried out, fiercely.

"If I hadn't known you didn't I would have seen you damned before I'd spoken to you," returned the Colonel; "but what I want to ask now is, what in—are you doing?"

"I'd like to know what business 'tis of yours!"

"What in—are you doing, my boy?" repeated the Colonel.

There was something ludicrous in the contrast between his strong language and his voice, into which had come suddenly a tone of kindness which was almost caressing. Jerome, since his father's day, had heard few such tones addressed to him, and his proudly independent heart was softened and weakened by his anxiety and relief over Lucina.

"I am—working my fingers to the bone—to win her, sir," he blurted out, brokenly.

"Does she know it?"

"Do you think I would say anything to her to bind her when I might never be able to marry her?" said Jerome, with almost an accent of wonder.

The Colonel whistled and said no more, for just then Belinda Lamb and Paulina Maria came up, holding their petticoats high out of the slush.

The two men walked on to Upham village, the Colonel straight, as if at the head of a battalion, though his lungs pumped hard at every step, holding back his square shoulders, protruding his tight broadcloth, swinging his stick airily, Jerome at his side, burdened like a peasant, with his sheaf of cut leather, but holding up his head like a prince.



Chapter XXXII

Lucina and her mother were away some three months; it was late spring when they returned. It had been told in Upham that Lucina was quite well, but when people saw her they differed as to her appearance. "She looks dreadful delicate now, accordin' to my way of thinkin'," some of the women, spying sharply upon her from their sitting-room windows and their meeting-house pews, reported.

Jerome saw her for the first time after her return when she followed her father and mother up the aisle one Sunday in May when all the orchards were white. He thought, with a great throb of joy, that she looked quite well, that she must be well. If the red and white of her cheeks was a little too clear, he did not appreciate it. She was all in white, like the trees, with some white blossoms and plumes on her hat.

After meeting, he lingered a little on the porch, though Elmira was walking on, with frequent pauses turning her head and looking for him. However, when Lucina appeared, he did not get the kindly glance for which he had hoped. She was talking so busily with Mrs. Doctor Prescott that she did not seem to see him, but the color on her cheeks was deeper. Jerome joined his sister hastily and went home quite contented, thinking Lucina was very well.

However, in a few weeks' time he began to hear whispers to the contrary. Sometimes Lucina did not go to meeting; still, she was seen out frequently riding and walking. When Jerome caught a glimpse of her he strove to shut away the knowledge that she did not look well from his own consciousness. But when Lucina had been at home six weeks she took a sudden turn for the better, which could have been dated accurately from a certain morning when she met Colonel Jack Lamson, she being out riding and he walking. He kept pace with the slow amble of her little white horse for some distance, sometimes grasping the bridle and stopping in a shady place to talk more at ease.

When Lucina got home that noon her mother noticed a change in her. "You look better than you have done for weeks," said she.

"I enjoyed my ride," Lucina said, with a smile and a blush which her mother could not fathom. The girl ate a dinner which gladdened her father's heart; afterwards she went up to her chamber, and presently came down with her hat on and her silk work-bag on her arm.

"I am going to take one of my chair-covers over to Aunt Camilla's," said she.

"Well, walk slowly," said her mother, trying to conceal her delight lest it betray her past anxiety. Lucina had not touched her embroidery for weeks, nor stepped out-of-doors of her own accord.

When she was gone her father and mother looked at each other. "She's better," Eben said, with a catch in his voice.

"I haven't seen her so bright for weeks," replied Abigail. She had a puzzled look in spite of her satisfaction. That night she ascertained through wariest soundings that Lucina had not met Jerome when riding in the morning. She had suspected something, though she scarcely knew what. Lucina's secrecy lately had deceived even her mother. She had begun to think that the girl had not been as much in earnest in her love affair as she had thought, and was drooping from some other cause.

When Lucina revealed with innocent readiness that she had met Colonel Lamson that morning and talked with him, and with no one else, Abigail could make nothing of it.

However, Lucina from that day on improved. She took up her little tasks; she seemed quite as formerly, only, possibly, somewhat older and more staid.

The Squire thought that her recovery was due to a certain bitter medicine which Doctor Prescott had given her, and often extolled it to his wife. "It is singular that medicine should work like a flash of lightning after she had been taking it for weeks with no effect," thought Abigail, but she said nothing.

One afternoon, not long after her talk with Colonel Lamson, Lucina met Jerome face to face in the road, and stopped and held out her hand to him. "How do you do?" she said, paling and blushing, and yet with a sweet confidence which was new in her manner.

Jerome bowed low, but did not offer his hand. She held out hers persistently.

"I can't shake hands," he said, "mine is stained with leather; it smells of it, too."

"I am not afraid of leather," Lucina returned, gently.

"I am," Jerome said, with a defiance in which there was no bitterness. Then, as Lucina still looked at him and held out her hand, with an indescribable air of pretty, childish insistence and womanly pleading, her blue eyes being sober almost to tears, he motioned her to wait a moment, and swung over the fence and down the road-side, which was just there precipitous, to the brook-bed. He got down on his knees, plunged his hands into the water, like a golden net-work in the afternoon light, washed his hands well, and returned to Lucina. She laid her little hand in his, but she shook her head, smiling. "I liked it better the other way," said she.

"I couldn't touch your hand with mine like that."

"You would give me more if you let me give you something sometimes," said Lucina, with a pretty, sphinx-like look at him as she drew her hand away.

Jerome wondered what she had meant after they had separated. Acute as he was, and of more masterly mind than she, he was at a loss, for she had touched that fixed idea which sways us all to greater or less degree and some to delusion. Jerome, with his one principle of giving, could not even grasp a problem which involved taking.

He puzzled much over it, then decided, not with that lenient slighting, as in other cases when womankind had vexed him with blind words, but with a fond reverence, as for some angelic mystery, that it was because Lucina was a girl. "Maybe girls are given to talking in that riddlesome kind of way," thought Jerome.

He was blissfully certain upon one point, at all events. Lucina's whole manner had given evidence to a confidence and understanding upon her part.

"She knows what I am doing," he told himself. "She knows how I am working, and she is contented and willing to wait. She knows, but she isn't bound." Jerome had not dreamed that Lucina's indisposition had had aught to do with distress of mind upon his account.

Now he fell upon work as if it had been a veritable dragon of old, which he must slay to rescue his princess. He toiled from earliest dawn until far dark, and not with hands only. Still he did not neglect his gratuitous nursing and doctoring. He saved like a miser, though not at his mother's and sister's expense. He himself would taste, in those days, no butter, no sugar, no fresh meat, no bread of fine flour, but he saw to it that is mother and Elmira were well provided.

When winter came again, he used to hasten secretly along the road, not wishing to meet Lucina for a new reason—lest she discover how thin his coat was against the wintry blast, how thin his shoes against the snow.

"I never thought Jerome was so close," Elmira sometimes said to her mother.

"He ain't close, he's got an object," returned Ann, with a shrewd, mysterious look.

"What do you mean, mother?"

"Nothin'."

Elmira's and Lawrence's courtship progressed after the same fashion. If Doctor Prescott suspected anything he made no sign. Lawrence was attending patients regularly with his father and reading hard.

Sometimes, during his occasional calls upon Elmira, he saw Jerome. The two young men, when they met on the road, exchanged covertly cordial courtesies; a sort of non-committal friendship was struck up between them. Lawrence was the means of introducing Jerome to a new industry, of which he might otherwise never have heard.

"Father and I were on the old Dale road this morning," he said, "and there is a fine cranberry-meadow there on the left, if anybody wants to improve it. There's plenty of chance for drainage from that little stream that runs into Graystone, and it's sheltered from the frost. Old Jonathan Hawkins owns it; we went there—his wife is sick—and he said he used to sell berries off it, but it had run down. He said he'd be glad to let somebody work it on shares, just allowing him for the use of the land. He's too old to bother with it himself, and he is pretty well straitened for money. There's money in it, I guess."

Jerome listened, and the next day went over to Jonathan Hawkins's place, on the old Dale road, and made his bargain. Some of his work on the cranberry-meadow was done before light, his lantern moving about the misty expanse like a marsh candle. When the berries were ripe he employed children to pick them, John Upham's among the rest. He cleared quite a sum by this venture, and added it to his store. In two years' time he had saved enough money for his mill, and early in the fall had the lumber all ready. He had engaged one carpenter from Dale; he thought that he could build the mill himself with his help, and that of some extra hands for raising.

On the evening before the day on which he expected to begin work he went to see Adoniram Judd. The Judds lived off the main road, in a field connected with it by a cart-path. Their house, after the commonest village pattern—a long cottage with two windows on either side of the front door—stood closely backed up against a wood of pines and larches. The wind was cold, and the sound of it in the evergreens was like a far-off halloo of winter. The house had a shadowy effect in waning moonlight, the walls were mostly gray, being only streaked high on the sheltered sides with old white paint.

Since Paulina Maria could not afford to have a coat of new paint on her house, she had a bitter ambition, from motives of tidiness and pride, to at least remove all traces of the old. She felt that the chief sting of present deprivation lay in the evidence of its contrast with former plenty. She hated the image in her memory of her cottage glistening with the white gloss of paint, and would have weakened it if she could. Paulina Maria accordingly, standing on a kitchen-chair, had scrubbed with soap and sand the old paint-streaks as high as her long arms would reach, and had, at times, when his rheumatism would permit, set her tall husband to the task. The paint, which was difficult to remove by any but its natural effacers—the long courses of nature—was one of those minor material antagonisms of life which keep the spirit whetted for harder ones.

Paulina Maria Judd had many such; when the pricks of fate were too firm set against her struggling feet she saved herself from the despair of utter futility by taking soap and water and sand, and going forth to attack the paint on her house walls, and also the front door-stone worn in frequent hollows for the collection of dirt and dust.

This evening, when Jerome drew near, he saw a long rise of back over the door-step, and a swiftly plying shoulder and arm. Paulina Maria looked up without ceasing when Jerome stood beside her.

"You're working late," he said, with an attempt at pleasantry.

"I have to do my cleanin' late or not at all," replied Paulina Maria, in her cold, calm voice. She rubbed more soap on her cloth.

"Uncle Adoniram at home?" Jerome had always called Adoniram "Uncle," though he was his father's cousin.

"Yes."

"I want to see him a minute about something."

"You'll have to go round to the back door. I can't have more dirt tracked into this while it's wet."

Jerome went around the house to the back door. As he passed the lighted sitting-room windows he saw a monstrous shadow with steadily moving hands on the curtain. He fumbled his way through the lighted room, in which sat Adoniram Judd closing shoes and his son Henry knitting. When the door opened Henry, whose shadow Jerome had seen on the window-pane, looked up with the vacant peering of the blind, but his fingers never ceased twirling the knitting-needles.

"How are you?" said Jerome.

Adoniram returned his salutation without rising, and bade him take a chair. Henry spoke not at all, and bent his dim eyes again over his knitting without a smile. Henry Judd had the lank height of his father, and his blunt elongation of face and features, informed by his mother's spirit. The result in his expression was an absolute ferocity instead of severity of gloom, a fury of resentment against his fate, instead of that bitter leaning towards it which is the acme of defiance.

Henry Judd bent his heavy, pale brows over the miserable feminine work to which he was forced. His long hands were white as a girl's, and revealed their articulation as they moved; his face, transparently pale, showed a soft furze of young beard on cheek and chin.

"How are you, Henry?" asked Jerome.

Henry made no reply, only scowled more gloomily. Paulina Maria's ardent severity of Christianity had produced in her son, under his first stress of life, a fierce rebound. To no word of Scripture would Henry Judd resort for comfort; he never bent knee in prayer, and would not be led, even by his mother's authority, to meeting on Sunday. The voice of his former mates, who had with him no sympathy of like affliction, filled him with a sullen rage of injury. He was somewhat younger than Jerome, but had seemed formerly much attracted to him. Now he had not spoken to him for a year.

Jerome, when he entered, had looked happy and eager, as if he was burdened with some pleasant news. Now his expression changed; he looked at Adoniram, then at Henry, then at Adoniram again, and motioned an inquiry with his lips. Adoniram shook his head sadly.

Paulina Maria came in through the kitchen, where she had left her scrubbing utensils, got an unfinished shoe, and sat down to her binding. She did not notice Jerome again, and he sat frowning moodily at the floor.

"It is a cold night for the season," remarked Adoniram, at length, with an uneasy attempt at entertainment, to which Jerome did not respond with much alacrity. He acted at first as if he did not hear, then collected himself, said that it was cold, and there might be a frost if the wind went down, and rose.

"You ain't goin' so soon?" asked Adoniram, with slow surprise.

"I only ran over for a minute; I've got some work to do," muttered Jerome, and went out.

He went along the ridgy cart-path across the field to the road, but when he reached it he stopped short. He stood for ten minutes or more, motionless, thinking so intently that it was as if his body stood aside from his swift thought, then he returned to the Judd house.

He went around to the back door, but when he reached it he stopped again. After a little he crept noiselessly back to the cart-path, and so to the road again.

But it was as if, when he reached the road, he met some unseen and mighty arm of denial which barred it. He stopped there for the second time. Then he went back again to the Judd house, and this time when he reached the door he opened it and went in.

When he entered the sitting-room, where Adoniram and Paulina Maria and Henry were, they all looked up in astonishment.

"Forgot anything?" inquired Adoniram.

"Yes," replied Jerome. Then he went on, speaking fast, in a strained voice, which he tried hard to make casual. "There was something I wanted to say. I've been thinking about Henry's eyes. If—you want to take him to Boston, to that doctor, I've got the money. I've got five hundred dollars you're welcome to. I believe you said it would take that." He looked straight at Paulina Maria as he spoke, and she dropped her work and looked at him.

Adoniram made a faint, gasping noise, then sat staring at them both. Henry started, but knitted on as remorselessly as his own fate.

"How did you come by so much money?" asked Paulina Maria, in her pure, severe voice.

"I saved if from my earnings."

"What for?"

"You'll be welcome to take it, and use it for Henry."

"That ain't answering my question."

Jerome was silent.

"You needn't answer if you don't want to," said Paulina Maria, "for I know. You've kept it dark from everybody but Lawyer Means and your mother and Elmira, but your mother told me a year ago. I haven't told a soul. You've been saving up this money to build a mill with and—I've been over to your mother's this afternoon—you are going to start it to-morrow."

"I am not obliged to start it to-morrow," said Jerome.

"You're obliged to for all me. Do you think I'll take that money?"

Jerome turned to Henry. "Henry, it's for you, and not your mother," said he. "Will you take it?"

Henry, still knitting, shook his head.

"I tell you there is no hurry about the mill. I can wait and earn more. I give it to you freely."

"We shouldn't take it unless I give you a note of hand, Jerome," Adoniram interposed, in a quavering voice.

Paulina Maria looked at her husband. "What is your note of hand worth?" she asked, sternly.

"Won't you take it, Henry? I've always thought a good deal of you, and I don't want you to be blind," Jerome said.

Henry shook his head; there was an awful inexorableness with himself displayed in his steady knitting.

"There are things worse than blindness," said Paulina Maria. "Nobody shall sacrifice himself for my son. If our own prayers and sacrifices are not sufficient, it is the will of the Lord that he should suffer, and he will suffer."

"Take it, Henry," pleaded Jerome, utterly disregarding her.

"Would you take it in my son's place?" demanded Paulina Maria, suddenly. She looked fixedly at Jerome. "Answer me," said she.

"That has nothing to do with it!" Jerome cried, angrily. "He is going blind, and this money will cure him. If you are his mother—"

"Don't ask anybody to take even a kindness that you wouldn't take yourself," said Paulina Maria.

Jerome flung out of the room without another word. When he got out-of-doors, he found Adoniram at his elbow.

"I want ye to know that I'm much obliged to ye, J'rome," he whispered. He felt for Jerome's hand and shook it. "Thank ye, thank ye, J'rome," he repeated, brokenly.

"I don't want any thanks," replied Jerome. "Can't you take the money and make Henry go with you to Boston and see the doctor, if she won't?"

"It's no use goin' agin her, J'rome."

"I believe she's crazy."

"No, she ain't, J'rome—no, she ain't. She knows how you saved up that money, an' she won't take it. She's made so she can't take anybody else's sufferin' to ease hers, an' so's Henry—he's like his mother."

"Can't you make her take it, Uncle Adoniram?"

"She can't make herself take it; but I'm jest as much obliged to ye, J'rome."

Adoniram was about to re-enter the house. "She'll wonder where I be," he muttered, but Jerome stopped him. "If I do begin work on the mill to-morrow," said he, "I sha'n't be able to fetch and carry to Dale, nor to do as much work in Uncle Ozias's shop. Do you suppose you can help out some?"

"I can, if I'm as well as I be now, J'rome."

"Of course, you can earn more than you do now," said Jerome. That was really the errand upon which he had come to the Judds that evening. He had been quite elated with the thought of the pleasure it would give them, when the possibility of larger service—Henry's cure by means of his cherished hoard—had suddenly come to him.

He arranged with Adoniram Judd that he should go to the shop the next morning, then bade him good-night, and turned his own steps thither.

When he came in sight of Ozias Lamb's shop, its window was throwing a long beam of light across the field creeping with dry grass before the frosty wind. When Jerome opened the door, he started to see Ozias seated upon his bench, his head bowed over and hidden upon his idle hands. Jerome closed the door, then stood a moment irresolute, staring at his uncle's dejected figure. "What's the matter, Uncle Ozias?" he asked.

Ozias did not speak, but made a curious, repellent motion with his bowed shoulders.

"Are you sick?"

Again Ozias seemed to shunt him out of the place with that speaking motion of his shoulder.

Jerome went close to him. "Uncle Ozias, I want to know what is the matter?" he said, then started, for suddenly Ozias raised his face and looked at him, his eyes wild under his shaggy grizzle of hair, his mouth twisted in a fierce laugh. "Want to know, do ye?" he cried—"want to know? Well, I'll tell ye. Look at me hard; I'm a sight. Look at me. Here's a man, 'most threescore years and ten, who's been willin' to work, an' has worked, an' 'ain't been considered underwitted, who's been strugglin' to keep a roof over his head an' his wife's, an' bread in their two mouths; jest that, no more. He 'ain't had any children; nobody but himself an' his wife, an' she contented with next to nothin'. Jest a roof an' bread for them—jest that; an' he an able-bodied man, that's worked like a dog—jest that; an' he's got to give it up. Look at him, he's a sight for wise men an' fools." Ozias laughed.

"What on earth do you mean, Uncle Ozias?"

"Simon Basset is goin' to foreclose to-morrow."

Jerome stared at his uncle incredulously. "Why, I thought you had earned plenty to keep the interest up of late years!" he said.

"There was more than present interest to pay; there was back interest, and I've been behind on taxes, and there was an old doctor bill, when I had the fever; an' that wa'n't all—I never told ye, nor anybody. I was fool enough to sign a note for George Henry Green, in Westbrook, some years ago. He come to me with tears in his eyes, said he wouldn't care so much if it wa'n't for his wife an' children; he'd got to raise the money, an' couldn't get nobody to sign his note. I lost every dollar of it. It's been all I could do to pay up, an' I couldn't keep even with the interest. I knew it was comin'."

"How much interest do you owe?" asked Jerome, in an odd voice. He was very pale.

"Two hundred an' seventy dollars—it's twelve per cent."

"And you can't raise it?"

"Might as well try to raise the dead."

"Well, I can let you have it," said Jerome.

"You?"

"Yes."

His uncle looked at him with his sharp, strained eyes; then he made a hoarse noise, between a sob and a cough. "Rob you of that money you've been savin' to build your mill! We'll take to the woods first!" he cried.

"I've saved a good deal more than two hundred and seventy dollars."

"You want every dollar of it for your mill. Don't talk to me."

"I'd want every dollar if I was going to build it, but I am not," said Jerome.

"What d'ye mean? Ain't ye goin' to start it to-morrow?"

"No, I've decided not to."

"Why not, I'd like to know?"

"I'm going to wait until the Dale railroad seems a little nearer. I shouldn't have much business for the mill now if I built it, and there's no use in its standing rotting. I'm going to wait a little."

Poor Ozias Lamb looked at him with his keen old eyes, which were, perhaps, dulled a little by the selfishness of his sore distress. "D'ye mean what ye say, J'rome?" he asked, wistfully, in a tone that was new to him.

"Yes, I do; you can have the money as well as not."

"I'll give ye my note, an' ye can have this piece of land an' the shop—this ain't mortgaged—as security, an' I'll pay ye—fair per cent.," Ozias said, hesitatingly.

"All right," returned Jerome.

"An'," Ozias faltered, "I'll work my fingers to the bone; I'll steal—but you shall have your money back before you are ready to begin the mill."

"That may be quite a while," Jerome said, laughing as openly as a child. His uncle suspected nothing, though once he could scarcely have been deceived.

"I've been round to Uncle Adoniram's to-night," Jerome added, "to get him to come here to-morrow and help with that lot of shoes. I'm going to take up with an offer I've had to cut some wood on shares. I think I can make some money out of it, and it'll be a change from so much shoemaking, for a while."

"You never was the build for a shoemaker," said his uncle.



Chapter XXXIII

Jerome gave his mother the same reason which he had given Ozias for the postponement of the mill.

"It seems to me it's dreadful queer you didn't find out it wa'n't best till the day before you were goin' to start work on it," said she, but she suspected nothing.

As for Elmira, she manifested little interest in that or anything else. She was not well that autumn. Elmira's morbidly sensitive temperament was working her harm under the trial of circumstances. Extreme love, sensitiveness, and self-depreciation in some natures produce jealousy as unfailingly as a chemical combination its given result. Elmira, though constantly spurring herself into trust in her lover, was again jealous of him and Lucina Merritt.

Lawrence had been seen riding and walking with Lucina. He had called at the Squire's on several evenings, when Elmira had hoped that he might visit her. She was too proud to mention the matter to Lawrence, but she began to be galled into active resentment by her clandestine betrothal. Why should not everybody know that she had a beau like other girls; that Lawrence was hers, not Lucina Merritt's? Elmira wished, recklessly and defiantly, that people could find out every time that Lawrence came to see her. Whenever she heard a hint to the effect that he was attentive to her, she gave it significance by her bearing. Possibly in that way she herself precipitated matters.

She had not been feeling well for some time, having every afternoon a fever-ache in her limbs and back, and a sensation of weariness which almost prostrated her, when, one evening, Lawrence came, and, an hour afterwards, his father.

Elmira never forgot, as long as she lived, Doctor Prescott's handsome, coldly wrathful old face, as he stood in the parlor door looking at her and Lawrence. He had come straight in, without knocking. Mrs. Edwards had gone to bed, Jerome was not at home.

Lawrence had been sitting on the sofa with Elmira, his arm around her waist. He arose with her, still clasping her, and confronted his father. "Well, father," he said, with an essay at his gay laugh, though he blushed hotly, and then was pale. As for Elmira, she would have slipped to the floor had it not been for her lover's arm.

Doctor Prescott stood looking at them.

"Father, this is the girl I am going to marry," Lawrence said, finally, with a proudly defiant air.

"Very well," replied the doctor; "but when you marry her, it will be without one penny from me, in realization or anticipation. You will have only what your wife brings you."

"I can support my wife myself," returned Lawrence, with a look which was the echo of his father's own.

"So you can, before long, at the expense of your father's practice, which he himself has given you the ability to undermine," said the doctor, in his cold voice. "I bid you both good-evening. You, my son, can come home within a half-hour, or you will find the doors locked." With that the doctor went out; there was a creak of cramping wheels, and a lantern-flash in the window, then a roll, and clatter of hoofs.

Elmira showed more decision of spirit than her lover had dreamed was in her. She drove him away, in spite of his protestations. "All is over between us, if you don't go at once—at once," said she, with a strange, hysterical force which intimidated him.

"Elmira, you know I will be true to you, dear. You know I will marry you, in spite of father and the whole world," vowed Lawrence; but he went at her insistence, not knowing, indeed, what else to do.

The next day Elmira wrote him a letter setting him free. When she had sent the letter she sat working some hours longer, then she went up-stairs and to bed. That night she was in a high fever.

Lawrence came, but she did not know it. He had a long talk with Jerome, and almost a quarrel. The poor young fellow, in his wrath and shame of thwarted manliness, would fain have gone to that excess of honor which defeats its own ends. He insisted upon marrying Elmira out of hand. "I'll never give her up—never, I'll tell you that. I've told father so to his face!" cried Lawrence. When he went up-stairs with Jerome and found Elmira in the uneasy stupor of fever, he seemed half beside himself.

"I'm to blame, father's to blame. Oh, poor girl—poor girl," he groaned out, when he and Jerome were down-stairs again.

That night Lawrence had a stormy scene with his father. He burst upon him in his study and upbraided him to his face. "You've almost killed her; she's got a fever. If she lives through it I am going to marry her!" he shouted.

The doctor was pounding some drugs in his mortar. He brought the pestle down with a dull thud, as he replied, without looking at his son. "You will marry her or not, as you choose, my son. I have not forbidden you; I have simply stated the conditions, so far as I am concerned."

The next morning, before light, Lawrence was over to see Elmira. After breakfast his mother came and remained the greater part of the day. Elmira grew worse rapidly. Since Doctor Prescott was out of the question, under the circumstances, a physician from Westbrook was summoned. Elmira was ill several weeks; Lawrence haunted the house; his mother and Paulina Maria did much of the nursing, as Mrs. Edwards was unable. Neither Lawrence nor Mrs. Prescott ever fairly knew if Doctor Prescott was aware that she nursed the sick girl. If he was, he made no sign. He also said nothing more to Lawrence about his visits.

It was nearly spring before Elmira was quite recovered. Her illness had cost so much that Jerome had not been able to make good the deficit occasioned by his loan to Ozias Lamb, as he would otherwise have been. He postponed his mill again until autumn, and worked harder than ever. That summer he tried the experiment of raising some of the fine herbs, such as summer savory, sweet-marjoram, and thyme, for the market. Elmira helped in that. There is always a relief to the soul in bringing it into intimate association with the uniformity of nature. Elmira, bending over the bed of herbs, with the sweet breath of them in her nostrils, gained a certain quiet in her unrest of youth and passion. It was as if she kept step with a mightier movement which tended towards eternity. She had persisted, in spite of Lawrence's entreaties, in her determination that he should cease all attention to her. He had gone away, scarcely understanding, almost angry, with her, but she was firm, with a firmness which she herself had not known to be within her capacity.

She looked older that summer, and there was a staidness in her manner. She always worked over the herb-beds with her back to the road, lest by any chance she should see Lawrence riding by with Lucina.

"I know what you're working so extra hard for," she told Jerome one day, with wistful, keen eyes upon his face.

"I've always worked hard, haven't I?" he said, evasively.

"Yes, you've worked hard, but this is extra hard. Jerome Edwards, you think, maybe, if you can earn enough, you can marry her by-and-by."

Jerome colored, but he met his sister's gaze freely. "Well, suppose I do," said he.

"Oh, Jerome, do you suppose it's any use—do you suppose she will?" Elmira cried out, in a kind of incredulous pity.

"I know she will."

"Did she say so—did she say she would wait? Oh, Jerome!"

"Do you think I would bind her to wait?"

"But she must have owned she liked you. Did she?"

"That's between her and me."

"Don't you feel afraid that she may turn to somebody else? Don't you, Jerome?" Elmira questioned him with a feverish eagerness which puzzled him.

"Not with her," he answered.

Elmira felt comforted by his faith in a way which he did not suspect. It strengthened her own. Perhaps, after all, Lawrence would not care for Lucina; perhaps he would work and wait for her, as, indeed, he had vowed to do. After that Elmira worked over the herb-beds with her face to the road. When Belinda Lamb reported that Lawrence and Lucina had been out riding, and Ann said, with a bitter screw of her nervous little face, "Fish in shallow waters bites easy, especially when there's gold on the hook," she was not much disturbed.

Ann fully abetted her daughter in her resolution to dismiss her suitor, after his father's manifestation. "I guess there's as good fish in the sea as ever was caught," said she, "and I guess Doctor Seth Prescott 'll find out that. If there's them he don't think fit to tie his son's shoestrings, there's them that feels above tyin' 'em."

In September Jerome began work on his mill. He had never been so hopeful in his life. It cost him more self-denial not to go to Lucina and speak out his hope than ever before. He queried with himself if he could not go, then shut his heart, opening like a mouth of hunger for happiness, hard against it. "The mill may burn down; they may not buy the logs. I've got to wait," he told himself.

By early spring the mill was in full operation. The railroad through Dale was surveyed, and work was to be commenced on it the next fall, and Jerome had the contract for the sleepers. Again he wondered if he should not go to Lucina and tell her, and again he resolved to wait. He had made up his mind that he would not speak until a fixed income was guaranteed by at least a year's test.

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