“Guess so too,” said Jerome.
“Pass over your plate; you must be hungry by this time,” said his mother. She heaped his plate with the stew. “There,” said she, “don’t you wait any longer. I guess mebbe you’d better set the dish down on the hearth to keep warm for Elmira and your father first, though.”
“Ain’t you goin’ to eat any yourself?” asked Jerome.
“I couldn’t touch a mite of that stew if you was to pay me for it. I never set much by parsnip stew myself, anyway.”
Jerome eyed his mother soberly. “There’s enough,” said he. “I’ve got all I can eat here.”
“I tell you I don’t want any. Ain’t that enough? There’s plenty of stew if I wanted it, but I don’t. I never liked it any too well, an’ to-day seems as if it fairly went against my stomach. Set it down on the hearth the way I told you to, an’ eat your dinner before it gets any colder.”
Jerome obeyed. He ate his plate of stew; then his mother obliged him to eat another. When Elmira returned she had her fill, and there was plenty left for Abel Edwards when he should come home.
Jerome, well fed, felt like another boy when he returned to his task in the garden. “Guess I can get this spadin’ ’most done this afternoon,” he said to himself. He made the brown earth fly around him. He whistled as he worked. As the afternoon wore on he began to wonder if he could not finish the garden before his father got home. He was sure he had not come as yet, for he had kept an eye on the road, and besides he would have heard the heavy rattle of the wood-wagon. “Father ’ll be real tickled when he sees the garden all done,” said Jerome, and he stopped whistling and bent all his young spirit and body to his work. He never thought of feeling anxious about his father.
At five o’clock the back door of the Edwards house opened. Elmira came out with a shawl over her head and hurried up the hill. “Oh, Jerome,” she panted, when she got up to him. “You must stop working, mother says, and go right straight off to the ten-acre lot. Father ‘ain’t come home yet, an’ we’re dreadful worried about him. She says she’s afraid something has happened to him.”
Jerome stuck his spade upright in the ground and stared at her. “What does she s’pose has happened?” he said, slowly. Jerome had no imagination for disasters.
“She thinks maybe he’s fell down, or some wood’s fell on him, or Peter’s run away.”
“Peter wouldn’t ever run away; it’s much as ever he’ll walk lately, an’ father don’t ever fall down.”
Elmira fairly danced up and down in the fresh mould. She caught her brother’s arm and twitched it and pushed him fiercely. “Go along, go along!” she cried. “Go right along, Jerome Edwards! I tell you something dreadful has happened to father. Mother says so. Go right along!”
Jerome pulled himself away from her nervous clutch, and collected himself for flight. “He was goin’ to carry that wood to Doctor Prescott’s,” said he, reflectively. “Ain’t any sense goin’ to the ten-acre lot till I see if he’s been there.”