Elmira herself was losing her girlish bloom. She was one who needed absolute certainties to quiet distrustful imaginations, and matters betwixt herself and Lawrence Prescott were less and less on a stable footing. Lawrence was working hard; she should not have suspected that his truth towards her flagged, but she sometimes did. He did not come to see her regularly. Sometimes two weeks went past, sometimes three, and he had not come. In fact, Lawrence endeavored to come only when he could do so openly.
“I hate to deceive father more than I can help,” he told Elmira, but she did not understand him fully.
She was a woman for whom the voluntary absence of a lover who yet loves was almost an insoluble problem, and in that Lucina was not unlike her. She was not naturally deceptive, but, when it came to love, she was a Jesuit in conceiving it to sanctify its own ends.
The suspense, the uncertainty, as to her lover coming or not, was beginning to tell upon her. Every nerve in her slight body was in an almost constant state of tension.
It was just a week from that day that Jerome and Elmira, being seated in meeting, saw Lucina enter with her parents and her visiting friends. Jerome’s heart leaped up at the sight of Lucina, then sank before that of the young man following her up the aisle. “He is going to marry her; she has forgotten me,” he thought, directly.
As for Elmira, she eyed Miss Rose Soley’s dark ringlets under the wide velvet brim of her hat, the crimson curve of her cheek, and the occasional backward glance of a black eye at Lawrence Prescott seated directly behind her. When meeting was over, she caught Jerome by the arm. “Come out quick,” she said, in a sharp whisper, and Jerome was glad enough to go.
Lucina’s guests spent Thanksgiving with her. Jerome saw them twice, riding horseback with Lawrence Prescott—Lucina on her little white horse, Miss Soley on Lawrence’s black, the strange young man on the Squire’s sorrel, and Lawrence on a gray.
Lucina colored when she saw Jerome, and reined her horse, lingering behind the others, but he did not seem to notice it, and never looked at her after his first grave bow; then she touched her horse, and galloped after her friends with a windy swirl of blue veil and skirts.
Jerome wondered if his sister would hear that Lawrence Prescott had been out riding with Lucina and her friends. When he got home that night, he met Belinda Lamb coming out of the gate; when he entered, he saw by Elmira’s face that she had heard. She was binding shoes very fast; her little face was white, except for red spots on the cheeks, her mouth shut hard. Her mother kept looking at her anxiously.
“You’d better not worry till you know you’ve got something to worry about; likely as not, they asked him to go with them ’cause Lucina’s beau don’t know how to ride very well, and he couldn’t help it,” she said, with a curious aside of speech, as if Jerome, though on the stage, was not to hear.