Squire Merritt stared. “The smartest young fellow in this town,” he said, with a kind of crusty loyalty, “but when it comes to Lucina—Lucina!”
“I’ve liked that boy, Eben, ever since that night in Robinson’s store,” said the Colonel, with a curious gravity.
“So have I,” returned the Squire, defiantly, “and before that—ever since his father died. He was the bravest little rascal. He’s a hero in his way. I was telling Lucina the other day what he’d done. But when it comes to his lifting his eyes to her, to her—by the Lord Harry, Jack, nobody shall have her, rich or poor, good or bad. I don’t care if he’s a prince, or an angel from heaven. Don’t I know what men are? I’m going to keep my angel of a child a while myself. I’ll tell you one thing, sir, and that is, Lucina thinks more to-day of her old father than any man living; I’ll bet you a thousand she does!” Squire Eben’s voice fairly broke with loving emotion and indignation.
“Can’t take you up, Eben,” said the Colonel, dryly; “I’d be too darned sure to lose, and I couldn’t pay a dollar; but—to-morrow’s coming.”
Squire Eben Merritt stood looking at his friend, a frown of jealous reverie on his open face. Suddenly, with no warning, as if from a sudden uplifting of the spirit, it cleared away. He laughed out his great hearty laugh. “Well, by the Lord Harry, Jack,” said he, “when the girl does lose her heart, though I hope it won’t be for many a day yet, if it’s to a good man that can take care of her and fight for her when he’s gone, her old father won’t stand in the way. Lucina always did have what she wanted, and she always shall.”
For three weeks after that Jerome never saw Lucina at all. He avoided the sight of her in every way in his power. He went to Dale and returned after dark; he stayed away from meeting. He also strove hard to drive, even the thought of her, from his mind. He got out his algebra and Latin books again; every minute during which he was not at work, and even during his work, he tried to keep his mind so full that Lucina’s image could not enter. But sometimes he had a despairing feeling, that her image was so incorporated with his very soul, that he might as well strive to drive away a part of himself.
He had no longer any jealousy of Lawrence Prescott. One day Lawrence had come to the shop when he was at work, and asked to speak to him a moment outside. He told him how matters stood between himself and Elmira. “I like your sister,” Lawrence had said, soberly and manfully. “I don’t see my way clear to marrying her yet, and I told her so. I want you to understand it and know just what I mean. I’ve got my way to make first. I don’t suppose—I can count on much encouragement from father in this. You know it’s no disparagement to Elmira, Jerome. You know father.”
“Does your father know about it?” asked Jerome.