Then, following Miss Camilla’s remonstrating glance, he saw little Jerome Edwards standing in the arbor door, through which his entrance was blocked by the Squire’s great legs and his fishing-tackle, with the air of an insulted ambassador who is half minded to return to his own country.
The Squire made room for him to pass with a hearty laugh. “Bless you, my boy!” said he, “I’m barring out the guest I invited myself, am I? Walk in—walk in and sit down.”
Jerome, half melted by the Squire’s genial humor, half disposed still to be stiffly resentful, hesitated a second; but Miss Camilla also, for the second time, invited him to enter, with her gentle ceremony, which was the subtlest flattery he had ever known, inasmuch as it seemed to set him firmly in his own esteem above his poor estate of boyhood; and he entered, and seated himself in the place indicated, at his hostess’s right hand, near the little tea-table.
Jerome, hungry boy as he was, having the spicy richness of that wonderful fruit-cake in his nostrils, noted even before that the lavender scent of Miss Camilla’s garments, which seemed, like a subtle fragrance of individuality and life itself, to enter his thoughts rather than his senses. The boy, drawn within this atmosphere of virgin superiority and gentleness, felt all his defiance and antagonism towards his newly discovered pride of life shame him.
The great and just bitterness of wrath against all selfish holders of riches that was beginning to tincture his whole soul was sweetened for the time by the proximity of this sweet woman in her silks and laces and jewels. Not reasoning it out in the least, nor recognizing his own mental attitude, it was to him as if this graceful creature had been so endowed by God with her rich apparel and fair surroundings that she was as much beyond question and envy as a lily of the field. He did not even raise his eyes to her face, but sat at her side, at once elevated and subdued by her gentle politeness and condescension. When Lucina returned, and ’Liza followed with the extra cups and plates, and the tea began, he accepted what was proffered him, and ate and drank with manners as mild and grateful as Lucina’s. She could scarcely taste the full savor of her fruit-cake, after all, so occupied she was in furtively watching this strange boy. Her blue eyes were big with surprise. Why should he take Aunt Camilla’s cake, and even her bread-and-butter, when he would not touch the gingerbread she had offered him, nor the money to buy shoes? This young Lucina had yet to learn that the proud soul accepts from courtesy what it will not take from love or pity.