“Well, sir,” said the doctor, “knowing that fact myself, having it admitted by you and all others, I have yet determined to abide by my part of that instrument, and relinquish one fourth part of the property of which I stand possessed.”
Jerome started; he could scarcely believe his ears.
“But,” the doctor continued, “since I am in no wise bound by the terms of the instrument, as drawn up by Lawyer Means, I propose to alter some of them, as I deem judicious for the public welfare. One-fourth of my property, which consists largely of real estate, cannot manifestly be given in ready money without great delay and loss. Therefore I propose giving to a large extent in land, and in a few cases liquidations of mortgage deeds; and—I also propose giving in such proportions and to such individuals as I shall approve and select; a strictly indiscriminate division is directly opposed to my views. I trust that you do not consider that this method is to be objected to on the grounds of any infringement upon my legal restrictions.”
“No, sir, I don’t,” replied Jerome.
“There is one other point, then I have done,” said Doctor Prescott. “I have withdrawn my objection to my son’s marriage with your sister. That is all. I have said and heard all I wish, and I will not detain you any longer.” Doctor Prescott looked at him with a pale and forbidding majesty in his clear-cut face. Jerome arose, and was passing out without a word, as he was bidden, when the old man held out his hand. He had the air of extending a sceptre, and a haughty downward look, as if the whole world, and his own self, were under his feet. Jerome shook the proffered hand, and went. His hand was on the latch of the outer door, when the sitting-room door on the left opened, and he felt himself enveloped, as it were, in a softly gracious feminine presence, made evident by wide rustlings of silken skirts, pointed foldings of lavender-scented white wool over out-stretched arms, and heaving waves of white lace over a high, curving bosom. Doctor Prescott’s wife drew Jerome to her as if he were still a child, and kissed him on his cheek. “Give your sister my fondest love, and may God give you your own reward, dear boy,” she said, in her beautiful voice, which was like no other woman’s for sweetness and softness, though she was as large as a queen.
Then she was gone, and Jerome went home, with the scent of lavender from her laces and silks and white wools still in his nostrils, and a subtler sweetness of womanhood and fine motherhood dimly perceived in his soul.
When he got home, he knew, by the light in the parlor windows, that Lawrence was with his sister. He had been in bed some time before he heard the front door shut.
Elmira, when she came up-stairs, opened his door a crack, and whispered, in a voice tremulous with happiness, “Jerome, you asleep?”
“Do—you know—about Lawrence and me?”