Innocence and ignorance can be as easily hood-winked by kindness as by contumely.
This little Jerome, who had leaped, under the spur of necessity, to an independence of understanding beyond his years, allowed himself to be quite misled by the Squire as to his attitude in the matter of the mortgage. In spite of the momentary light reflected from the doctor’s shrewder intelligence which had flashed upon his scheme, the Squire was able to delude him with a renewed belief in it, after he had informed him of the transfer of the mortgage-deed, which took place the next morning.
“I decided to buy that wood-lot of your father’s, as your mother was willing,” said the Squire; “and as I had not the money in hand to pay down, I gave my note to your mother for it, as you proposed the doctor should do, and allowed six per cent. interest.”
Jerome looked at him in a bewildered way.
“Well, what is the matter? Aren’t you as willing to take my note as the doctor’s?” asked the Squire.
“Is it fair?” asked Jerome, hesitatingly.
“Fair to you?”
“No; to you.”
“Of course it is fair enough to me. Why not?”
“The doctor didn’t think it was,” said the boy, getting more and more bewildered.
“Why didn’t he?”
“I don’t—know—” faltered Jerome; and he did not, for the glimmer of light which he had got from the doctor’s worldly wisdom had quite failed him. He had seen quite clearly that it was not fair, but now he could not.
“Oh, well, I dare say it is fairer for me than for him,” said the Squire, easily. “Probably he had the ready money; I haven’t the ready money; that makes all the difference. Don’t you see it does?”
“Yes—sir,” replied Jerome, hesitatingly, and tried to think he saw; but he did not. A mind so young and immature as his is not unlike the gaseous age of planets, overlaid with great shifting masses of vapor, which part to disclose dazzling flame-points and incomparable gleams, then close again. Only time can accomplish a nearer balance of light in minds and planets.
Then, too, as the first strain of unwonted demands relaxed a little through use, Jerome’s mental speed, which seemed to have taken him into manhood at a bound, slackened, and he even fell back somewhat in his tracks. He was still beyond what he had ever been before, for one cannot return from growth. He would never be as much of a child again, but he was more of a child than he had been yesterday.
His mother also had been instrumental towards replacing him in his old ways. Ann, after her day of crushed apathy, aroused herself somewhat. When the Squire, the lawyer, and Doctor Prescott came the next morning, she kept them waiting outside while she put on her best cap. She had a view of the road from her rocking-chair, and when she saw the three gentlemen advancing with a slow curve of progress towards her gate, which betokened an entrance, she called sharply to Elmira, who was washing dishes, “Go into the bedroom and get my best cap, quick,” at the same time twitching off the one upon her head.