If Lucina’s parents had changed little, she had changed much, with the wonderful change of a human spring, and this time Jerome saw her as well as her gown. She wore that same silken gown of a pale-blue color, spangled with roses, and the skirts were so wide and trained over a hoop and starched petticoats that they swung and tilted like a great double flower, and hit on this side and that with a quick musical slur. Over Lucina’s shoulders, far below her waist, fell her wonderful fair hair, in curls, and every curl might well have proved a twining finger of love. Lucina wore a bonnet of fine straw, trimmed simply enough with a white ribbon, but over her face hung a white veil of rich lace, and through it her pink cheeks and lips and great blue eyes and lines of golden hair shone and bloomed and dazzled like a rose through a frosted window.
Lucina Merritt was a rare beauty, and she knew it, from her looking-glass as well as the eyes of others, and dealt with herself meekly wherewithal, and prayed innocently that she might consider more the embellishment of her heart and her mind than her person, and not to be too well pleased at the admiring looks of those whom she met. Indeed, it was to this end that she wore the white veil over her face, though not one of the maiden mates would believe that. She fancied that it somewhat dimmed her beauty, and that folk were less given to staring at her, not realizing that it added to her graces that subtlest one of suggestion, and that folk but stared the harder to make sure whether they saw or imagined such charms.
Jerome Edwards saw this beautiful Lucina coming, and it was suddenly as if he entered a new atmosphere. He did not know why, but he started as if he had gotten a shock, and his heart beat hard.
Squire Merritt made as if he would greet him in his usual hearty fashion, but remembering the day, and hearing, too, the first strains of the opening hymn from the meeting-house, for the bell had stopped tolling, he gave him only a friendly nod as he passed on with his wife. Miss Camilla inclined her head with soft graciousness; but Jerome looked at none of them except Lucina. She did not remember him; she glanced slightly at his face, and then her long fair lashes swept again the soft bloom of her cheeks, and her silken skirts fairly touched him as she passed. Jerome stood still after they had all entered the meeting-house; the long drone of the hymn sounded very loud in his ears.
He made a motion towards the meeting-house, hesitated, made another, then turned decidedly to the road. It seemed suddenly to him that his clothes must be soiled and dusty after his work in John Upham’s house, that his hair could not be smooth, that he did not look well enough to go to meeting. So he went home, yielding for the first time, without knowing that he did so, to that decorative impulse which comes to men and birds alike when they would woo their mates.