“I’m what they call in love,” Jerome said to himself. He turned very pale, and looked away from Lucina. He felt as if suddenly he had come to the brink of some dread abyss of nature.
“That is why I want to go to see her to-night,” he thought. “I won’t go; I won’t!”
Just before the bell stopped tolling, Doctor Prescott’s family went up the aisle in stately file, the doctor marching ahead with an imperious state which seemed to force contributions from followers and beholders, as if a peacock were to levy new eyes for his plumage from all admiration along his path. The doctor’s wife, in her satins and Indian cashmeres, followed him, moving with massive gentleness, a long ostrich plume in her bonnet tossing softly. Last came Lawrence, slight and elegantly erect, in his city broadcloth and linen, a figure so like his father as to seem almost his double, and yet with a difference beyond that of age, so palpable that a child might see it—a self-spelled word, with a different meaning in two languages.
The Merritt pew was just behind Doctor Prescott’s. Lawrence had not been seated long before he turned slightly and cast a smiling glance around at beautiful Lucina, who inclined her head softly in response. Jerome had thus far never felt on his own account jealousy of any human being, he had also never been made ignominious by self-pity; now, both experiences came to him. Seeing that look of Lawrence Prescott’s, he was suddenly filled with that bitterness of grudging another the sweet which one desires for one’s self which is like no other bitterness on earth; and he who had hitherto pitied only the deprivations of others pitied his own, and so became the pauper of his own spirit. “He likes her,” he told himself; “of course she’ll like him. He’s Doctor Prescott’s son. He’s got everything without working for it—I’ve got nothing.”
Jerome looked at neither of them again. When meeting was over, he strode rapidly down the aisle, lest he encounter them.
“What ailed you in meeting, Jerome?” Elmira asked as they were going home.
“You looked so pale once I thought you were going to faint away.”
“I tell you nothing ailed me.”
“You were dreadfully pale,” persisted Elmira. She was so happy that morning that she had more self-assertion than usual. Lawrence Prescott had looked around at her three times; he had smiled at her once, when he turned to leave the pew at the close of meeting. Jerome had not noticed that, and she had not noticed Lawrence’s smile at Lucina. She had been too fluttered to look up when Lawrence first entered.
That afternoon Jerome and Elmira set out for meeting again, but when they reached the turn of the road Jerome stopped.
“I guess I won’t go this afternoon,” said he.
“Why, what’s the matter? Don’t you feel well?” Elmira asked.
“Yes, I feel well enough, but it’s warm. I guess I won’t go.” Elmira stared at him wonderingly. “Run along; you’ll be late,” said he, trying to smile.