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.
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.