When they had passed through the avenue of brook willows, and the brook itself had wound away through fields spotted as with emeralds and gold, and then had passed some pasture-lands where red cattle were grazing, and then came to a little stretch of pines, beyond which the white walls of a house glimmered, Lawrence held up his arms to Elmira. “It isn’t necessary,” said he, “but if you don’t want to ride my horse, with me leading him, past the houses there, why, I’ll take you down, as I said.”
And with that Elmira slipped down, and Lawrence had kissed her again, and she had not chidden him, and was following after him, trembling and quite pale, except for the reflection of her pink sunbonnet, while he rode slowly ahead.
When the cluster of houses were well passed he stopped and lifted her again to the mare’s saddle, and the old shyness of the blackberry-field was over both of them again as they went on their way. In truth, Lawrence was sorely bewildered betwixt his impulse of young love and innocent conviction that his honor ought to be pledged with the kiss, since they were boy and girl no longer, and his memory of his father and what he might decree for him. As for Elmira, she was much troubled in mind lest she ought to rebuke the young man for his boldness, but could not bring herself so to do, not being certain that she had not kissed him back and been as guilty as he.
The young couple went so all the way to Granby, striving now and then, with casual talk, each to blind the other as to perturbation of spirit. Lawrence lifted her from the saddle when Granby village came in sight, but he did not kiss her again. Indeed, Elmira kept her head well down that he might not; but he asked if he might call and see her, and she said yes, and the next Wednesday evening was mentioned, that day being Thursday. Then she fluttered up the Granby street to Imogen and Sarah Lawson’s with her mother’s wedding silk, and Lawrence Prescott rode back to Upham. Much he would have liked to linger and take Elmira back as she had come, or else drive over for her later with a chaise, but she had refused.
“Imogen and Sarah can have one of their neighbors’ horses and wagons whenever they like,” said she, “and they will carry me home if I want them to.”
A strange maidenly shyness of her own bliss and happiness, which she longed to repeat, was upon her. She had not told Lawrence what her errand in Granby was. The truth was that she had planned her new gown because Lawrence had come home, and she was anxious to wear it to meeting in the hope that he might admire her in it. Should she betray this artless preening and trimming of her maiden plumage, which, though, like a bird’s, an open secret of nature, must nevertheless be kept sacred by an impulse of modest concealment and deceit towards the one for whose sake it all was?
They who have sensitive palates for all small, sweet, but secondary savors of life that come in their way, and no imaginative desires for others, are contented in spirit. When also small worries and affairs, even those of their neighbors in lieu of their own, serve them as well as large ones to keep their minds to a healthy temper of excitement and zest of life, there is no need to pity them for any lack of full experience.