But, all at once, as Jerome hesitated a soft red came flaming over Lucina’s face and neck, and tears of distress welled up in her eyes. Far it was from her to understand how her lover felt, for awe of herself was beyond her imagination, and a dreadful fear lest her mother had been mistaken and Jerome did not want her after all, was in her heart. She gave him a little look, at once proud and piteously shamed, and put her hand on the door-latch; but with that Jerome was at her side and his arms were around her.
“Oh, Lucina,” he said, “I am poor—I am poorer than when I spoke to you before. You must give all and I nothing, except myself, which seems to me as nothing when I look at you. Will you take me so?”
Then Lucina looked straight up in his face, and her blushes were gone, and her blue eyes were dark, as if from unknown depths of love and faithfulness. “Don’t you know,” she said, with an authoritative seriousness, which seemed beyond her years and her girlish experience—“don’t you know that when I give you all I give to myself, and that if I did not give you all I could never give to myself, but should be poor all my life?
“And, and—” continued Lucina, tremulously, for she was beginning to falter, being nerved to such length of assertive speech only by her wish to comfort and reassure Jerome, “don’t you know—don’t you know, Jerome, that—a woman’s giving is all her taking, and—you wouldn’t take the gingerbread, dear, and the money for the shoes, when we were both children—but, maybe your—taking from—somebody who loves you is your—best giving—”
With that Lucina was sobbing softly on Jerome’s shoulder, and he was leaning his face close to hers, whispering brokenly and kissing her hair and her cheek.
“It doesn’t matter, after all, because you lost your mill, dear,” Lucina said, presently, “because we have money enough for everything, now.”
“It is your money, for your own needs always,” Jerome returned, quickly, and with a sudden recoil as from a touch upon a raw surface, for the sensitiveness of a whole life cannot be hardened in a moment.
“No, it is yours, too; he meant it so,” said Lucina, with a little laugh. “You wait a minute and I will show you.”
With that Lucina fumbled in the pocket of her silken gown and produced a letter.
“Read this, dear,” said she, “and you will see what I mean.”
“What is it?” asked Jerome, wonderingly, staring at the superscription, which was, “For Mistress Lucina Merritt, to be opened and read by herself, at her pleasure and discretion, and to be read by herself and Jerome Edwards jointly on the day of their betrothal.”
“Come over to the light and we will read it together,” said Lucina.
Jerome and Lucina sat down on the sofa under the branching candlestick and read the letter with their heads close together. The letter ran: