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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 406 pages of information about Jerome, A Poor Man.
of Puritanism was so strong that it defeated its own ends.  The other women were at times inflexible; Paulina Maria was always rigid.  The others could be severe; Paulina Maria might have conducted an inquisition.  She had in her possibilities of almost mechanical relentlessness which had never been tested in her simple village life.  Paulina Maria never shirked her duty, but it could not be said that she performed it in any gentle and Christ-like sense.  She rather attacked it and slew it, as if it were a dragon in her path.  That night she was very weary.  She had toiled hard all day at her own vigorous cleaning.  Her bones and muscles ached.  The spring languor also was upon her.  She was not a strong woman, but she never dreamed of refusing to go to Ann Edwards’s and assist her in her sad preparations.

She and Belinda Lamb remained and worked until midnight; then they went home.  Jerome had to escort them through the silent village street—­he had remained up for that purpose.  Elmira had been sent to bed.  When the boy came home alone along the familiar road, between the houses with their windows gleaming with blank darkness in his eyes, with no sound in his ears save the hoarse bark of a dog when his footsteps echoed past, a great strangeness of himself in his own thoughts was upon him.

He had not the feminine ability to ease descent into the depths of sorrow by catching at all its minor details on the way.  He plunged straight down; no questions of funeral preparations or mourning bonnets arrested him for a second.  “My father is dead,” Jerome told himself; “he jumped into the pond and drowned himself, and here’s mother, and Elmira, and the mortgage, and me.”

This poor little me of the village boy seemed suddenly to have grown in stature, to have bent, as it grew, under a grievous burden, and to have lost all its childish carelessness and childish ambition.  Jerome saw himself in the likeness of his father, bearing the mortgage upon his shoulders, and his boyish self never came fully back to him afterwards.  The mantle of the departed, that, whether they will or not, covers those that stand nearest, was over him, and he had henceforth to walk under it.

Chapter IV

The next morning Paulina Maria and Belinda Lamb returned to finish preparations, and Jerome was sent over to the West Corners to notify some relatives there of the funeral service.  Just as he was starting, it was decided that he had better ride some six miles farther to Granby, and see some others who might think they had a claim to an invitation.

“Imogen Lawson an’ Sarah were always dreadful touchy,” said Mrs. Edwards.  “They’ll never get over it if they ain’t asked.  I guess you’d better go there, Jerome.”

“Yes, he had,” said Paulina Maria.

“It’s a real pleasant day, an’ I guess they’ll enjoy comin’,” said Belinda.  Paulina Maria gave her a poke with a hard elbow, that hurt her soft side, and she looked at her wonderingly.

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