“Maybe you’re right,” Jerome said, after a little.
After having left his uncle, he walked more slowly still. Soon the Squire and his friends were quite out of sight. The moonlight was very full and brilliant, the trees were crooked in hard lines, and the snow-drifts crested with white lights of ice; there was no softening of spring in anything, but the young man felt within him one of those flooding stirs of the spirit which every spring faintly symbolizes. A great passion of love and sympathy for the needy and oppressed of his kind, and an ardent defence of them, came upon Jerome Edwards, poor young shoemaker, going home with his sack of meal over his shoulder. Like a bird, which in the spring views every little straw and twig as towards his nest and purpose of love, Jerome would henceforth regard all powers and instrumentalities that came in his way only in their bearing upon his great end of life.
On reaching home that night he packed away his algebra and his Latin books on the shelf in his room, and began a new study the next evening.
Seth Prescott was the only practising physician for some half-dozen villages. His mud-bespattered sulky and his smart mare, advancing always with desperate flings of forward hoofs—which caused the children to scatter—were familiar objects, not only in the cluster of Uphams, but also in Dale and Granby, and the little outlying hamlet of Ford’s Hill, which was nothing but a scattering group of farm-houses, with a spire in their midst, and which came under the jurisdiction of Upham. In all these villages people were wont to run from the windows to the doors when they saw the doctor’s sulky whirl past, peer after it, up or down the road, to see where it might stop, and speculate if this old soul were about to leave the world, or that new soul to come into it.
One afternoon, not long before he was twenty-one, Jerome Edwards walked some three miles and a half to Ford’s Hill to carry some shoes to a woman binder who was too lame to come for them herself. Jerome walked altogether of late years, for the white horse was dead of old age: but it was well for him, since he was saved thereby from the permanent crouch of the shoe-bench.
When, having left his shoes, he was returning down the steep street of the little settlement, he saw Doctor Prescott’s sulky ahead of him. Then, just before it reached a small weather-beaten house on the right, he saw a woman rush out as if to stop it, and a man follow after her and pull her back through the door.
The sulky was driven past at a rapid pace; for the weather was sharp, and the doctor’s mare stepped out well after standing. When Jerome reached the house the doctor was scarcely within hailing distance; but the woman was out again, calling after him frantically: “Doctor! Doctor! Doctor Prescott! Stop! Stop here! Doctor!”