“I told mother,” Lawrence answered, “and she advised me to say nothing about it to father yet. Mother thought I had better go on and study medicine, and get ready to practice, and perhaps then father might think better of it. She says we are both young enough to wait two or three years.”
Jerome, in his leather apron, with his grimy hands, and face even, darkened with the tan of the leather, looked half suspiciously and bitterly at this other young man in his fine cloth and linen, with his white hands that had never done a day’s labor. “You know what you are about?” he said, almost roughly. “You know what you are, you know what she is, and what we all are. You know you can’t separate her from anything.”
“I don’t want to,” cried Lawrence, with a great blush of fervor. “I’ll be honest with you, Jerome. I didn’t know what to do at first. I knew how much I thought of your sister, and I hoped she thought something of me, but I knew how father would feel, and I was dependent on him. I knew there was no sense in my marrying Elmira, or any other girl, against his wishes, and starving her.”
“There are others he would have you marry,” said Jerome, a pallor creeping through the leather grime on his face.
Lawrence colored. “Yes, I suppose so,” he said, simply; “but it’s no use. I could never marry any other girl than Elmira, no matter how rich and handsome she was, nor how much she pleased father, even if she cared about me, and she wouldn’t.”
“You have been—going a little with some one else, haven’t you?” Jerome asked, hoarsely.
Lawrence stared. “What do you mean?”
“I—saw you riding—”
“Oh,” said Lawrence, laughing, “you mean I’ve been horseback-riding with Lucina Merritt. That was nothing.”
“It wasn’t nothing if she thought it was something,” Jerome said, with a flash of white face and black eyes at the other.
Lawrence looked wonderingly at him, laughed first, then responded with some indignation, “Good Lord, Jerome, what are you talking about?”
“What I mean. My sister doesn’t marry any man over another woman’s heart if I know it.”
“Good Lord!” said Lawrence. “Why, Jerome, do you suppose I’d hurt little Lucina? She doesn’t care for me in that way, she never would. And as for me—why, look here, Jerome, I never so much as held her hand. I never looked at her even, in any way—” Lawrence shook his head in emphatic reiteration of denial.
“I might as well tell you that Lucina was the one I meant when I said father would like others better,” continued Lawrence, “but Lucina Merritt would never care anything about me, even if I did about her, and I never could. Handsome as she is, and I do believe she’s the greatest beauty in the whole county, she hasn’t the taking way with her that Elmira has—you must see that yourself, Jerome.”
Jerome laughed awkwardly. Nobody knew how much joy those words of Lawrence Prescott’s gave him, and how hard he tried to check the joy, because it should not matter to him except for Elmira’s sake.