Elmira showed more decision of spirit than her lover had dreamed was in her. She drove him away, in spite of his protestations. “All is over between us, if you don’t go at once—at once,” said she, with a strange, hysterical force which intimidated him.
“Elmira, you know I will be true to you, dear. You know I will marry you, in spite of father and the whole world,” vowed Lawrence; but he went at her insistence, not knowing, indeed, what else to do.
The next day Elmira wrote him a letter setting him free. When she had sent the letter she sat working some hours longer, then she went up-stairs and to bed. That night she was in a high fever.
Lawrence came, but she did not know it. He had a long talk with Jerome, and almost a quarrel. The poor young fellow, in his wrath and shame of thwarted manliness, would fain have gone to that excess of honor which defeats its own ends. He insisted upon marrying Elmira out of hand. “I’ll never give her up—never, I’ll tell you that. I’ve told father so to his face!” cried Lawrence. When he went up-stairs with Jerome and found Elmira in the uneasy stupor of fever, he seemed half beside himself.
“I’m to blame, father’s to blame. Oh, poor girl—poor girl,” he groaned out, when he and Jerome were down-stairs again.
That night Lawrence had a stormy scene with his father. He burst upon him in his study and upbraided him to his face. “You’ve almost killed her; she’s got a fever. If she lives through it I am going to marry her!” he shouted.
The doctor was pounding some drugs in his mortar. He brought the pestle down with a dull thud, as he replied, without looking at his son. “You will marry her or not, as you choose, my son. I have not forbidden you; I have simply stated the conditions, so far as I am concerned.”
The next morning, before light, Lawrence was over to see Elmira. After breakfast his mother came and remained the greater part of the day. Elmira grew worse rapidly. Since Doctor Prescott was out of the question, under the circumstances, a physician from Westbrook was summoned. Elmira was ill several weeks; Lawrence haunted the house; his mother and Paulina Maria did much of the nursing, as Mrs. Edwards was unable. Neither Lawrence nor Mrs. Prescott ever fairly knew if Doctor Prescott was aware that she nursed the sick girl. If he was, he made no sign. He also said nothing more to Lawrence about his visits.
It was nearly spring before Elmira was quite recovered. Her illness had cost so much that Jerome had not been able to make good the deficit occasioned by his loan to Ozias Lamb, as he would otherwise have been. He postponed his mill again until autumn, and worked harder than ever. That summer he tried the experiment of raising some of the fine herbs, such as summer savory, sweet-marjoram, and thyme, for the market. Elmira helped in that. There is always a relief to the soul in bringing it into intimate association