Jerome saw her for the first time after her return when she followed her father and mother up the aisle one Sunday in May when all the orchards were white. He thought, with a great throb of joy, that she looked quite well, that she must be well. If the red and white of her cheeks was a little too clear, he did not appreciate it. She was all in white, like the trees, with some white blossoms and plumes on her hat.
After meeting, he lingered a little on the porch, though Elmira was walking on, with frequent pauses turning her head and looking for him. However, when Lucina appeared, he did not get the kindly glance for which he had hoped. She was talking so busily with Mrs. Doctor Prescott that she did not seem to see him, but the color on her cheeks was deeper. Jerome joined his sister hastily and went home quite contented, thinking Lucina was very well.
However, in a few weeks’ time he began to hear whispers to the contrary. Sometimes Lucina did not go to meeting; still, she was seen out frequently riding and walking. When Jerome caught a glimpse of her he strove to shut away the knowledge that she did not look well from his own consciousness. But when Lucina had been at home six weeks she took a sudden turn for the better, which could have been dated accurately from a certain morning when she met Colonel Jack Lamson, she being out riding and he walking. He kept pace with the slow amble of her little white horse for some distance, sometimes grasping the bridle and stopping in a shady place to talk more at ease.
When Lucina got home that noon her mother noticed a change in her. “You look better than you have done for weeks,” said she.
“I enjoyed my ride,” Lucina said, with a smile and a blush which her mother could not fathom. The girl ate a dinner which gladdened her father’s heart; afterwards she went up to her chamber, and presently came down with her hat on and her silk work-bag on her arm.
“I am going to take one of my chair-covers over to Aunt Camilla’s,” said she.
“Well, walk slowly,” said her mother, trying to conceal her delight lest it betray her past anxiety. Lucina had not touched her embroidery for weeks, nor stepped out-of-doors of her own accord.
When she was gone her father and mother looked at each other. “She’s better,” Eben said, with a catch in his voice.
“I haven’t seen her so bright for weeks,” replied Abigail. She had a puzzled look in spite of her satisfaction. That night she ascertained through wariest soundings that Lucina had not met Jerome when riding in the morning. She had suspected something, though she scarcely knew what. Lucina’s secrecy lately had deceived even her mother. She had begun to think that the girl had not been as much in earnest in her love affair as she had thought, and was drooping from some other cause.
When Lucina revealed with innocent readiness that she had met Colonel Lamson that morning and talked with him, and with no one else, Abigail could make nothing of it.