“Doctor Prescott did.”
“I suppose so, or he wouldn’t have signed.”
“Do you think the boy would live up to his part of the bargain?” asked the Colonel, who, being somewhat gouty of late years, limped slightly on the frozen ground.
“I’d stake every cent I’ve got in the world on it,” cried Squire Eben Merritt, striding ahead—“every cent, sir!”
“Well, there’s no chance of his being put to the test,” said Lamson.
“Chance!” exclaimed the lawyer. “Good heavens! You might as well talk of his chance of inheriting the throne of the Caesars. I know the Edwards family, and I know Jerome’s mother’s family, root and branch, and there isn’t five thousand dollars among them down to the sixth cousins; and as for the boy’s accumulating it himself—where are the twenty-five thousand dollars in these parts for him to accumulate in ten years? You might as well talk of his discovering a gold-mine in that famous wood-lot. But I’ll be damned if Basset wasn’t as much scared as if the poor fellow had been jingling the gold in his pocket. If Jerome Edwards does, through the Lord or the devil, get twenty-five thousand dollars, I hope I shall be alive to see the fun.”
“Hush,” whispered John Jennings; “he is behind us, and I would not have such a generous young heart as that think itself spoken of lightly.”
“Would he do it?” Colonel Lamson asked, short-winded and reflective.
“I’ll be damned if he wouldn’t!” cried the lawyer.
“By the Lord Harry, he would!” cried Squire Eben, each using his favorite oath for confirmation of his opinion.
Jerome, following in their tracks with his uncle Ozias, heard perfectly their last remarks, and lagged behind to hear no more, though his heart leaped up to second with fierce affirmation the lawyer and the Squire.
“Keep behind them,” he whispered to Ozias; “I don’t want to listen.”
“Think you’d give it away if you had it, do ye?” his uncle asked, with his dry chuckle.
“I don’t think—I know.”
“How d’ye know?”
“You think I wouldn’t, do you?” asked Jerome, angrily.
“I’d be more inclined to believe ye if I see ye more generous with what ye’ve got to give now.”
Jerome started, and stared at his uncle’s face, which, in the freezing moonlight, looked harder, and more possessed of an inscrutable bitterness of wisdom. “What d’ye mean?” he asked, sharply. “What on earth have I got to give, I’d like to know?”
Ozias Lamb tapped his head. “How about that?” he asked. “How about the strength you’re puttin’ into algebry an’ Latin? You don’t expect ever to learn enough to teach, do ye?”
Jerome shook his head.
“Well, then it’s jest to improve your own mind. Improve your mind—what’s that? What good is that goin’ to do your fellow-bin’s? I tell ye, Jerome, ye ain’t givin’ away what you’ve got to give, an’ we ain’t none of us.”