Moreover, his acres brought him a fair income. They were sowed to clover and timothy, and barley and corn, and gave such hay and such crops as no others in town.
As Jerome passed these fair fields, either golden-green with the young grass, or ploughed in even ridges for the new seeds, set with dandelions like stars, or pierced as to the brown mould with emerald spears of grain, he scowled at them, and his mouth puckered grimly and piteously. He thought of all this land which Doctor Prescott owned; he thought of the one poor little bit of soil which he was going to offer him, to keep a roof over his head. Why should this man have all this, and he and his so little? Was it because he was better? Jerome shook his head vehemently. Was it because the Lord loved him better? Jerome looked up in the blue spring sky. The problem of the rights of the soil of the old earth was upon the boy, but he could not solve it—only scowl and grieve over it.
Past the length of the shining fields, well back from the road, with a fine curve of avenue between lofty pine-trees leading up to it, stood Doctor Prescott’s house. It was much the finest one in the village, massively built of gray stone in large irregular blocks, veined at the junctions with white stucco; a great white pillared piazza stretched across the front, and three flights of stone steps led over smooth terraces to it; for it was raised on an artificial elevation above the road-level. Jerome, having passed the last field, reached the avenue leading to the doctor’s house, and stopped a moment. His hands and feet were cold; there was a nervous trembling all over his little body. He remembered how once, when he was much younger, his mother had sent him to the doctor’s to have a tooth pulled, how he stood there trembling and hesitating as now, and how he finally took matters into his own hands. A thrill of triumph shot over him even then, as he recalled that mad race of his away up the road, on and on until he came to the woods, and the tying of the offending tooth to an oak-tree by a stout cord, and the agonized but undaunted pulling thereat until his object was gained.
“I’d ’nough sight rather go to an oak-tree to have my tooth out than to Doctor Prescott,” he had said, stoutly, being questioned on his return; and his father and mother, being rather taken at a loss by such defiance and disobedience, scarcely knew whether to praise or blame.
But there was no oak-tree for this strait. Jerome, after a minute of that blind groping and feeling, as of the whole body and soul, with which one strives to find some other way to an end than a hard and repugnant one, gave it up. He went up the avenue, holding his head up, digging his toes into the pine-needles, with an air of stubborn boyish bravado, yet all the time the nervous trembling never ceased. However, half-way up the avenue he came into one of those warmer currents which sometimes linger so mysteriously among trees, seeming like a pool of air submerging one as visibly as water. This warm-air bath was, moreover, sweetened with the utmost breath of the pine woods. Jerome, plunging into it, felt all at once a certain sense of courage and relief, as if he had a bidding and a welcome from old friends.