Jerome gave his mother the same reason which he had given Ozias for the postponement of the mill.
“It seems to me it’s dreadful queer you didn’t find out it wa’n’t best till the day before you were goin’ to start work on it,” said she, but she suspected nothing.
As for Elmira, she manifested little interest in that or anything else. She was not well that autumn. Elmira’s morbidly sensitive temperament was working her harm under the trial of circumstances. Extreme love, sensitiveness, and self-depreciation in some natures produce jealousy as unfailingly as a chemical combination its given result. Elmira, though constantly spurring herself into trust in her lover, was again jealous of him and Lucina Merritt.
Lawrence had been seen riding and walking with Lucina. He had called at the Squire’s on several evenings, when Elmira had hoped that he might visit her. She was too proud to mention the matter to Lawrence, but she began to be galled into active resentment by her clandestine betrothal. Why should not everybody know that she had a beau like other girls; that Lawrence was hers, not Lucina Merritt’s? Elmira wished, recklessly and defiantly, that people could find out every time that Lawrence came to see her. Whenever she heard a hint to the effect that he was attentive to her, she gave it significance by her bearing. Possibly in that way she herself precipitated matters.
She had not been feeling well for some time, having every afternoon a fever-ache in her limbs and back, and a sensation of weariness which almost prostrated her, when, one evening, Lawrence came, and, an hour afterwards, his father.
Elmira never forgot, as long as she lived, Doctor Prescott’s handsome, coldly wrathful old face, as he stood in the parlor door looking at her and Lawrence. He had come straight in, without knocking. Mrs. Edwards had gone to bed, Jerome was not at home.
Lawrence had been sitting on the sofa with Elmira, his arm around her waist. He arose with her, still clasping her, and confronted his father. “Well, father,” he said, with an essay at his gay laugh, though he blushed hotly, and then was pale. As for Elmira, she would have slipped to the floor had it not been for her lover’s arm.
Doctor Prescott stood looking at them.
“Father, this is the girl I am going to marry,” Lawrence said, finally, with a proudly defiant air.
“Very well,” replied the doctor; “but when you marry her, it will be without one penny from me, in realization or anticipation. You will have only what your wife brings you.”
“I can support my wife myself,” returned Lawrence, with a look which was the echo of his father’s own.
“So you can, before long, at the expense of your father’s practice, which he himself has given you the ability to undermine,” said the doctor, in his cold voice. “I bid you both good-evening. You, my son, can come home within a half-hour, or you will find the doors locked.” With that the doctor went out; there was a creak of cramping wheels, and a lantern-flash in the window, then a roll, and clatter of hoofs.