When the shoes were done Jerome loaded himself with them, and, watching his chance, beckoned his sister slyly to follow him as he went out. Standing in the sweet spring sunlight in the door-yard, he questioned her. “What did mother mean, Elmira?” he said.
“Nothing,” she replied, blushing shyly.
“What is it you want, Elmira?”
“Nothing. I don’t want anything, Jerome.”
“Do you want—a new silk dress or anything?”
“A new silk dress? No.” Elmira’s manner, when fairly aroused and speaking, was full of vivacity, in curious contrast to her dreaming attitude at other times.
“I tell you what ’tis, Elmira,” said Jerome, soberly. “I want you to have all you need. I don’t know what mother meant, but I want you to have things like other girls. I wish you wouldn’t put any more of your earnings in towards the mortgage. I can manage that alone, with what I’m earning now. I can pay it up inside of two years now. I told you in the first of it you needn’t do anything towards that.”
“I wasn’t going to earn money and not do my part.”
“Well, take your earnings now and buy things for yourself. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. I can earn enough for all the rest. There’s no need of mother’s working so hard, either. I can’t charge for mixing up doses of herbs, as she wants me to, for I don’t do it for anybody that isn’t too poor to pay the doctor, but I earn enough besides, so neither of you need to work your fingers to the bone or go without everything. I’ll give you some money. Get yourself a blue silk with roses on it; seems to me I saw one in meeting last Sunday.”
Elmira laughed out with a sweet ring. Her black hair was tossing in the spring wind, her whole face showed variations and under-meanings of youthful bloom and brightness in the spring light.
“’Twas Lucina Merritt wore the blue silk with roses on it; it rustled against your knee when she passed our pew,” she cried. “She is just home from her young ladies’ school, and she’s as pretty as a picture. I guess you saw more than the silk dress, Jerome Edwards.”
With that Elmira blushed, and dropped her eyes in a curious sensitive fashion, as if she had spoken to herself instead of her brother, who looked at her quite gravely and coolly.
“I saw nothing but the silk,” he said, “and I thought it would become you, Elmira.”
“I am too dark for blue,” replied Elmira, fairly blushing for her own blushes. At that time Elmira was as a shy child to her own emotions, and Jerome’s were all sleeping. He had truly seen nothing but the sweep of that lovely rose-strewn silk, and never even glanced at the fair wearer.
“Why not have a red silk, then?” he asked, soberly.
“I can’t expect to have things like Squire Merritt’s daughter,” returned Elmira. “I don’t want a new silk dress; I am going to have a real pretty one made out of mother’s wedding silk; she’s had it laid by all these years, and she says I may have it. It’s as good as new. I’m going over to Granby this morning to get it cut. When Imogen and Sarah Lawson came over last week they told me about a mantua-maker there who will cut it beautifully for a shilling.”