“Yes; I’m real glad, Elmira.”
“I hope you’ll forgive me for speaking to you the way I did, Jerome.”
“That’s all right, Elmira.”
The next morning Jerome was just going out of the yard when he met Paulina Maria Judd and Henry coming in. Paulina Maria held her blind son by the hand, but he walked with an air of resisting her guidance.
“J’rome, I’ve come to see you about that money,” said Paulina Maria. “I hear you’re goin’ to give us two hundred and fifty dollars. I told you once we wouldn’t take your money.”
“This is different. This is the money Colonel Lamson left me, that I’d agreed to give away.”
“It ain’t any different to us. You can keep it.”
“I sha’n’t keep it, anyway. For God’s sake, aunt, take it! Henry, take it, and get your eyes cured!”
“I sha’n’t take money that’s given in any such way, and neither will my son. I haven’t changed my mind about what I said the other night, and neither has he. You need this money yourself. If the money had been left to us, it would have been different; we sha’n’t take it, and you needn’t offer it to us; you can count us out in your division. We sha’n’t take what Doctor Prescott has offered neither—to give us the mortgage on our house. It’s an honest debt, and we don’t want to shirk it. If we’re paupers, we’ll be paupers of God, but of no man!”
“Henry,” pleaded Jerome, “just listen to me.” But it was of no avail. His cousin turned his blind face sternly away from his pleading voice, and went out of the yard, still seeming to strive against his mother’s leading hand.
Jerome followed them, still arguing with them; he even walked with them a little, after the turn of the road. Then he gave it up, and went on to the store, where he had an errand. He resolved to see Adoniram, and try to influence him to take the money for his blind son. He could not believe that he would not do so. Long before he reached the store he could hear the gabble of excited voices, and loud peals of rough laughter. “What’s going on?” he thought. When he entered, he saw Simon Basset backed up against a counter, at bay, as it were, before a great throng of village men and boys. Basset was deathly white through his grime and beard-stubble, his gaunt jaws snapping like a wolf’s, his eyes fierce with terror.
“Shell out, Simon,” shouted a young man, with a butting motion of a shock head towards the old man. “Shell out, I tell ye, or ye’ll have a writ served on ye.”
“I tell ye I won’t; ye don’t know nothin’ about it; I ’ain’t got no property!” shrieked Simon Basset, amidst a wild burst of laughter.
“He ’ain’t got no property, he ’ain’t, hi!” shouted the boys on the outskirts, with peals of goblin merriment.
“I tell ye I ’ain’t got more’n five thousand dollars to my name!”
“You ’ain’t, eh? Where’s all your land, you old liar?” asked the young man, who seemed spokesman for the crowd.