“And you needn’t worry,” he said, turning to his wife. “This won’t have any effect on your idea, because there wasn’t any sense to it, anyhow. D’you think she’d be very likely to take Bibbs—after she wouldn’t take Jim? She’s a good-hearted girl, and she lets Bibbs come to see her, but if she’d ever given him one sign of encouragement the way you women think, he wouldn’t of acted the stubborn fool he has—he’d ‘a’ been at me long ago, beggin’ me for some kind of a job he could support a wife on. There’s nothin’ in it—and I’ve got the same old fight with him on my hands I’ve had all his life—and the Lord knows what he won’t do to balk me! What’s happened now’ll probably only make him twice as stubborn, but—”
“SH!” Mrs. Sheridan, still in the doorway, lifted her hand. “That’s his step—he’s comin’ down-stairs.” She shrank away from the door as if she feared to have Bibbs see her. “I—I wonder—” she said, almost in a whisper—“I wonder what he’d goin’—to do.”
Her timorousness had its effect upon the others. Sheridan rose, frowning, but remained standing beside his chair; and Roscoe moved toward Sibyl, who stared uneasily at the open doorway. They listened as the slow steps descended the stairs and came toward the library.
Bibbs stopped upon the threshold, and with sick and haggard eyes looked slowly from one to the other until at last his gaze rested upon his father. Then he came and stood before him.
“I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble with me,” he said, gently. “You won’t, any more. I’ll take the job you offered me.”
Sheridan did not speak—he stared, astounded and incredulous; and Bibbs had left the room before any of its occupants uttered a sound, though he went as slowly as he came. Mrs. Sheridan was the first to move. She went nervously back to the doorway, and then out into the hall. Bibbs had gone from the house.
Bibbs’s mother had a feeling about him then that she had never known before; it was indefinite and vague, but very poignant—something in her mourned for him uncomprehendingly. She felt that an awful thing had been done to him, though she did not know what it was. She went up to his room.
The fire George had built for him was almost smothered under thick, charred ashes of paper. The lid of his trunk stood open, and the large upper tray, which she remembered to have seen full of papers and note-books, was empty. And somehow she understood that Bibbs had given up the mysterious vocation he had hoped to follow—and that he had given it up for ever. She thought it was the wisest thing he could have done—and yet, for an unknown reason, she sat upon the bed and wept a little before she went down-stairs.
So Sheridan had his way with Bibbs, all through.
As Bibbs came out of the New House, a Sunday trio was in course of passage upon the sidewalk: an ample young woman, placid of face; a black-clad, thin young man, whose expression was one of habitual anxiety, habitual wariness and habitual eagerness. He propelled a perambulator containing the third—and all three were newly cleaned, Sundayfied, and made fit to dine with the wife’s relatives.