“I’ve got to work at something,” Jerome told himself; “if it isn’t one thing, it’s got to be another.” He dwelt always upon Lucina: what she was thinking of him; if she thought that he did not love her, because he had given her up; if she would look at him, if she were to see him, as his sister had done the night before. Jerome had not yet answered Lucina’s letter. He did not know how to answer it; but he carried it with him night and day.
He went home, got his horse and plough, and fell to work in his hilly garden ground. His father came out and sat on a stone and watched him happily. Jerome was scarcely accustomed to his father yet, but he treated him as tenderly as if he were a child, and the old man followed him like one. Indeed, he seemed to prefer his son to his wife, though Ann watched him with jealous affection. Ann Edwards had never walked since the night of her husband’s return. She never alluded to it; sometimes her children thought that she had not known it herself.
Jerome was still ploughing in the afternoon when his uncle Ozias Lamb came.
Ozias stumped softly through the new-turned mould. He had a folded paper in his hand, and he extended it towards Jerome. “D’ye know anythin’ about this?” he asked. His face was ashy.
Jerome brought his horse to a stand. “What is it?”
“Don’t ye know?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well, it’s that mortgage deed that Basset held on my place, with—the signature torn off, cancelled—” Ozias said, in a hoarse voice. “D’ye know anythin’ about it now?”
“No, I don’t,” replied Jerome, with emphasis.
“Well,” said Ozias, “I found it under the front door-sill. Belindy said she heard a knock on the front door, but when she went there wa’n’t nobody there, an’ there was this paper. She come runnin’ out to the shop with it. It was jest before noon. What d’ye s’pose it means?”
Jerome took the deed and examined it closely. “Have you read what’s written above the heading of it?” he asked.
“No; what is it, J’rome?”
Ozias put on his spectacles; Jerome pointed to a crabbed line above the heading of the mortgage deed.
“I giv as present the forth part of my proputty, this morgidge to Ozier Lamm.
“He’s took crazy!” cried Ozias, staring wildly at it.
“Guess he’s been crazy over dollars and cents all his life, and this is just an acute phase of it,” replied Jerome, calmly, taking up his plough handles again.
“I b’lieve the hull town’s crazy. I’ve heard that Doctor Prescott has give his place back to John Upham, an’ Peter Thomas is comin’ out of the poor-farm an’ goin’ back to his old house. J’rome, I declar’ to reason, I b’lieve you’re crazy, an’ the hull town has caught it. What’s that? Who’s comin’?”
A wild-eyed little boy, with fair hair stiff to the breeze, came racing across the plough ridges. “Come quick! Come quick!” he gasped. “They’ve sent me—Doctor Prescott’s ain’t to home—he’s most dead! Come quick!”