“Mother’s queer,” Jerome told himself as he went down the road, and then dismissed the matter from his mind, for the consideration of the Upham baby and the probable nature of its ailment, upon which, however, he did not allow himself to dwell too long. Early in his amateur practice Jake Noyes had inculcated one precept in his mind, upon which he always acted.
“There’s one thing I want to tell ye, J’rome, and I want ye to remember it,” Jake Noyes had said, “and that is, a doctor had ought to be like jurymen—he’d ought to be sworn in to be unprejudiced when he goes to see a patient, just as a juryman is when he goes to court. If you don’t know what ails ’em, don’t ye go to speculatin’, as to what ‘tis an’ what ye’ll do, on the way there. Ten chances to one, if you’re workin’ up measles in your mind an’ what you’ll do for them, you’ll find it’s mumps, an’ then you’ve got to cure your own measles afore you cure their mumps; an’ if you’re hard-bitted an’ can’t stop yourself easy when you’re once headed, you may give saffron tea to bring out the measles whether or no. Think of the prospect, or the gals, or your soul’s salvation, or anythin’ but the sick folks, before you get to ’em the first time and don’t know what ails ’em.”
In girls Jerome had, so far, no interest; in his soul’s salvation he had little active concern. The revivals which were occasionally upstirred in the community by prayer, and the besom of threatened destruction, passed over him like a hot wind, for which he had no power of sensation, sometimes to his own wonder. Probably the cause lay in the fact that he was too thoroughly, without knowing it, rooted and grounded in his own creed to be emotionally moved by religious appeals. Jerome had, as most have, consciously or not, and vitally or not, his own creed. He believed simply in the unquestionable justice of the intent of God, the thwarting struggles against it by free man, and that his duty to apply his small strength towards furthering what he could, if no more than an atom, of the eternal will lay plain before him.
Jerome, who had not yet been disturbed by love of woman, who fretted not over the salvation of his own soul, had therefore, in order to follow his mentor’s advice, to turn his attention to the prospect. His way led in an opposite direction from the church, and he was late, so met none of the worshippers bound to meeting. He was rather glad of that. After he left the village the road lay through the woods, and now and then between blueberry-fields or open spaces of meadow, with green water-lines and shadows purple with violets in the hollows. Red cows in the meadows stared at him as he passed, with their mysterious abstraction from all reflection, then grazed again, moving in one direction from the sun. The blueberry-patches spread a pale green glimmer of blossoms, like a sheen of satin in a high light; young ferns curled beside the road like a baby’s fingers grasping at life; the trees, which were late