Basset broke through them with an oath and made for the door. “It’s a damned lie, I tell ye!” he shouted, hoarsely; “an’ if J’rome’s sech a G— d— fool, I’ll see ye all to h—, and him too, afore I pay a dollar on’t.”
When the door had slammed behind him, the men looked at one another curiously. “You don’t s’pose J’rome will do it,” one said, meditatively.
“He’ll do it when the river runs uphill an’ crows are white,” answered another, with a hard laugh.
“I dun’no’,” said another, doubtfully. “J’rome Edwards ’s always been next-door neighbor to a fool, an’ there’s no countin’ on what a fool ’ll do!”
“S’pose you’d calculate on comin’ in for some of the fool’s money, if he should give it up,” remarked a dry and unexpected voice at his elbow.
The man looked around and saw Ozias Lamb. “Ye don’t think he’ll do it, do ye?” he cried, eagerly.
“‘Ain’t got nothin’ to say,” replied Ozias. “I s’pose when a fool does part with his money, there’s always wise men ’nough to take it.”
John Upham, who, with some meagre little purchases in hand, had been listening to the discussion, started for the door. When he had opened it, he turned and faced them. “I’ll tell ye one thing, all of ye,” he said, “an’ that is, he’ll do it.”
There was a clamor of astonishment. “How d’ye know it? Did he tell ye so?” they shouted.
“Wait an’ see,” returned John Upham, and went out.
Plodding along his homeward road, a man passed him at a rapid stride. John Upham started. “Hullo, J’rome,” he called, but getting no response, thought he had been mistaken.
However, the man was Jerome, but the tumult of his soul almost deafened him to voices of the flesh. He was, for the time, out of the plane of purely physical sounds on one of the spirit, full of unutterable groanings and strivings.
When Jerome had received the news of his legacy, he had felt, for the first time in his whole life, the joy of sudden acquisition and possession. His head reeled with it; he was, in a sense, intoxicated. “Am I rich? I—I?” he asked himself. Pleasures hitherto out of his imagination of possession seemed to float within his reach on this golden tide of wealth.
He would have been more than man had not this first grasp of the divining-rod of the pleasures of earth filled him with the lust of them. Even his love for Lucina, and his parents and sister, seemed for a while subverted by that love for himself, to which the chance of its gratification gave rise. Vanities which he had never known within his nature, and petty emulations, rose thick, like a crop of weeds on a rich soil. He saw himself in broadcloth and fine linen, with a great festoon of gold chain on his breast and a gold watch in pocket, walking with haughty flourishes of a cane, or riding in his own carriage. He saw himself in a new house, grander than Doctor Prescott’s; he saw his parlor more richly furnished, his wife, his mother and sister more finely attired than any women in the village, his father throned like a king in the late sunshine of life. Jerome had usually sound financial judgment and conservative estimate of the value of money, but now he thought of twenty-five thousand dollars as almost unlimited wealth.