There are times when a quick conviction, from something like a special favor or caress of the great motherhood of nature, which makes us all as child to child, comes over one. “His pine-trees ain’t any different from other folks’ pine-trees,” flashed through Jerome’s mind.
He went on straight round the house to the south-side door, whither everybody went to consult the doctor. He knocked, and in a moment the door opened, and a young girl with weak blue eyes, with a helpless droop of the chin, and mouth half opened in a silly smile, looked out at him. She was a girl whom Doctor Prescott had taken from the almshouse to assist in the lighter household duties. She was considered rather weak in her intellect, though she did her work well enough when she had once learned how.
Jerome bent his head with a sudden stiff duck to this girl. “Is Doctor Prescott at home?” he inquired.
“Yes, sir,” replied the girl, with the same respectful courtesy and ceremony with which she might have greeted the Squire or any town magnate, instead of this poor little boy. Her mind was utterly incapable of the faculties of selection and discrimination. She applied one formula, unmodified, to all mankind.
“Can I see him a minute?” asked Jerome, gruffly.
“Yes, sir. Will you walk in?”
The girl, moving with a weak, shuffling toddle, like a child, led Jerome through the length of the entry to a great room on the north side of the house, which was the doctor’s study and office. Two large cupboards, whose doors were set with glass in diamond panes in the upper panels, held his drugs and nostrums. Books, mostly ponderous volumes in rusty leather, lined the rest of the wall space. When Jerome entered the room the combined odor of those leather-bound folios and the doctor’s drugs smote his nostrils, as from a curious brewing of theoretical and applied wisdom in one pot.
“Take a seat,” said the girl, “and I will speak to the doctor.” Then she went out, with the vain, pleased simper of a child who has said her lesson well.
Jerome sat down and looked about him. He had been in the room several times before, but his awe of it preserved its first strangeness for him. He eyed the books on the walls, then the great bottles visible through the glass doors on the cupboard shelves. Those bottles were mostly of a cloudy green or brown, but one among them caught the light and shone as if filled with liquid rubies. That was valerian, but Jerome did not know it; he only thought it must be a very strong medicine to have such a bright color. He also thought that the doctor must have mixed all those medicines from rules in those great books, and a sudden feverish desire to look into them seized him. However, neither his pride nor his timidity would have allowed him to touch one of those books, even if he had not expected the doctor to enter every moment.