“I don’t need much,” said she.
“I couldn’t—give you what you need.”
“Father would, then.”
“No, he would not. I give my wife all or nothing.”
Lucina trembled. The same look which she remembered when Jerome would not take her little savings was in his eyes.
“Then—I would not take anything from father,” she said, tremulously. “I wouldn’t mind—being—poor.”
“I have seen the wives of poor men, and you shall not be made one by me. If I thought I had not strength enough to keep you from that, as far as I was concerned, I would leave you this minute, and throw myself in the pond over there.”
“I am not afraid to be the wife of—a poor man—if I love him. I—could save, and—work,” Lucina said, speaking with the necessity of faithfulness upon her, yet timidly, and turning her face aside, for her heart had begun to fear lest Jerome did not really love her nor want her, after all. A woman who would sacrifice herself for love’s sake cannot understand the sacrifice, nor the love, which refuses it.
“You shall not be, whether you are afraid or not!” Jerome cried out, fiercely. “Haven’t I seen John Upham’s wife? Oh, God!”
Lucina began moving slowly down the path towards the road; Jerome followed her. “I must go,” she said, with a gentle dignity, though she trembled in all her limbs. “I came across the fields from Aunt Camilla’s. I left her asleep, and she will wake and miss me.”
“Oh,” cried Jerome, “I wish—” then he stopped himself. “Yes, she will, I suppose,” he added, lamely.
“He does not want me to stay,” thought Lucina, with a sinking of heart and a rising of maiden pride. She walked a little faster.
Jerome quickened his pace, and touched her shoulder. “You must not think about me—about this,” he murmured, hoarsely. “You must not be unhappy about it!”
Lucina turned and looked in his face sadly, yet with a soft stateliness. “No,” said she, “I will not. I do not see, after all, why I should be unhappy, or you either. Many people do not marry. I dare say they are happier. Aunt Camilla seems happy. I shall be like her. There is nothing to hinder our friendship. We can always be friends, like brothers and sisters even, and you can come to see me—”
“No, I can’t,” said Jerome, “I can’t do that even. I told you I could not.”
Lucina said no more. She turned her face and went on. She said good-bye quickly when she reached the road, and was across it and under the bars into the millet.
Jerome did not attempt to follow her; he stood for a moment watching her moving through the millet, as through the brown waves of a shallow sea; then he went back into the woods. When he reached the place where he had sat with Lucina he stopped and spoke, as if she were still there.