Doctor Prescott’s face hardened. “Your husband owed me for a half-year’s interest,” he began, calmly.
“My husband didn’t owe you any interest money. He paid you in work and wood.”
“That was for medical attendance,” proceeded the doctor, imperturbably. “He owed me half a year’s interest. I considered it best for your interests, as well as mine, to foreclose, and should have done so had not Squire Merritt taken the matter out of my hands. I should advise him to a like measure, but he is his own best judge.”
“Squire Merritt will not foreclose,” said Eliphalet Means; “and he will be easy about the payments.”
“Well,” said Ann, with a strange, stony look, “I guess I understand. I’m satisfied.”
Doctor Prescott gathered up his medicine-chest, bade the others a gruff, ceremonious good-morning, and went out. His sulky had been drawn up before the gate for some time, and Jake Noyes had been lounging about the yard.
The lawyer and the Squire lingered, as they had yet the business regarding the sale of the woodland to arrange.
Curiously enough, Ann was docile as one could wish about that. Whether her previous struggle had exhausted her or whether she began to feel some confidence in her advisers, they could not tell. She made no difficulty, but after all was adjusted she looked at the lawyer with a shrewd, sharp gleam in her eyes.
“Doctor Prescott can’t get his claws on it now, anyhow,” she said; “and he always wanted it, ’cause it joined his.”
The Squire and the lawyer looked at each other. The Squire with humorous amazement, the lawyer with a wink and glance of wise reminder, as much as to say: “You know what I have always said about women. Here is a woman.”
Jerome was digging out in his garden-patch, and Elmira, in her blue sunbonnet, was standing, full of scared questioning, before him, when the Squire came lounging up the slope and reported as before said, to the convincing of the boy in innocent credulity.
When he had finished, he laid hold on Elmira’s little cotton sleeve and pulled her up to her brother, and stood before them with a kindly hand on a shoulder of each, smiling down at them with infinite good-humor and protection.
“Don’t you worry now, children,” he said. “Be good and mind your mother, and you’ll get along all right. We’ll manage about the interest money, and there’ll be meal in the barrel and a roof over your heads as long as you want it, according to the Scriptures, I’ll guarantee.”
With that Squire Eben gave each a shake, to conceal, maybe, the tenderness of pity in him, which he might, in his hearty and merry manhood, have accounted somewhat of a shame to reveal, as well as tears in his blue eyes, and was gone down the hill with a great laugh.
Elmira looked after him. “Ain’t he good?” she whispered. But as for Jerome, he stood trembling and quivering and looking down at a print the Squire’s great boot had made in the soft mould. When Elmira had gone, he went down on his knees and kissed it passionately.