Abigail sniffed scornfully with her thin nostrils.
“Wait and see,” said the Squire.
“I shall wait a long time before I see,” she said, but she was mistaken. The very next week Jerome did not come, then a month went by and he had not appeared once at the Squire’s house.
One Sunday afternoon, during the latter part of July, Lucina Merritt strolled down the road to her aunt Camilla’s. The day was very warm—droning huskily with insects, and stirring lazily with limp leaves.
There had been no rain for a long time, and the road smoked high with white dust at every foot-fall. Lucina raised her green and white muslin skirts above her embroidered petticoat, and set her little feet as lightly as a bird’s. She carried a ruffled green silk parasol to shield herself from the sun, though her hat had a wide brim and flapped low over her eyes.
Her mother had remonstrated with her for going out in the heat, since she had not looked quite well of late. “You will make your head ache,” said she.
“It is so cool in Aunt Camilla’s north room,” pleaded Lucina, and had her way.
She walked slowly, as her mother had enjoined, but it was like walking between a double fire of arrows from the blazing white sky and earth; when she came in sight of her aunt Camilla’s house her head was dizzy and her veins were throbbing.
Lucina had not been happy during the last few weeks, and sometimes, in such cases, physical discomfort acts like a tonic poison. For the latter part of the way she thought of nothing but reaching the shelter of Camilla’s north room; her mind regarding all else was at rest.
Miss Camilla’s house was closed as tightly as a convent; not a breath of out-door air would she have admitted after the early mornings of those hot days. Lucina entered into night and coolness in comparison with the glare of day outside. When she had her hat removed, and sat in the green gloom of the north parlor, sipping a glass of water which Liza had drawn from the lowest depths of the well, then flavored with currant-jelly and loaf-sugar, she felt almost at peace with her own worries.
Her aunt Camilla, clad in dimly flowing old muslin, sat near the chimney-place, swaying a feather fan. She had her Bible on her knees, but she had not been reading; the light was too dim for her eyes. The fireplace was filled with the feathery green of asparagus, which also waved lightly over the gilded looking-glass, and was reflected airily therein. Asparagus plumes waved over all the old pictures also. The whole room from this delicate garnishing, the faded green tone of the furniture covers and carpet, from the wall-paper in obscure arabesques of green and satiny white, appeared full of woodland shadows. Miss Camilla, swaying her feather fan, served to set these shadows slowly eddying with a motion of repose. She had dozed in her chair, and her mind had lapsed into peaceful dreams before her niece arrived. Now she sat beaming gently at her. “Do you feel refreshed, dear?” she asked, when Lucina had finished her tumbler of currant-jelly water.