“You gave me something to live for,” he said. “You kept me alive, I think—and I’ve hurt you like this!”
“Not you—oh no!”
“You could forgive me, Mary?”
“Oh, a thousand times!” Her right hand went out in a faltering gesture, and just touched his own for an instant. “But there’s nothing to forgive.”
“And you can’t—you can’t—”
“Can’t what, Bibbs?”
“Marry you?” she said for him.
“No, no, no!” She sprang up, facing him, and, without knowing what she did, she set her hands upon his breast, pushing him back from her a little. “I can’t, I can’t! Don’t you see?”
“No, no! And you must go now, Bibbs; I can’t bear any more— please—”
“Never, never, never!” she cried, in a passion of tears. “You mustn’t come any more. I can’t see you, dear! Never, never, never!”
Somehow, in helpless, stumbling obedience to her beseeching gesture, he got himself to the door and out of the house.
Sibyl and Roscoe were upon the point of leaving when Bibbs returned to the New House. He went straight to Sibyl and spoke to her quietly, but so that the others might hear.
“When you said that if I’d stop to think, I’d realize that no one would be apt to care enough about me to marry me, you were right,” he said. “I thought perhaps you weren’t, and so I asked Miss Vertrees to marry me. It proved what you said of me, and disproved what you said of her. She refused.”
And, having thus spoken, he quitted the room as straightforwardly as he had entered it.
“He’s so queer!” Mrs. Sheridan gasped. “Who on earth would thought of his doin’ that?”
“I told you,” said her husband, grimly.
“You didn’t tell us he’d go over there and—”
“I told you she wouldn’t have him. I told you she wouldn’t have Jim, didn’t I?”
Sibyl was altogether taken aback. “Do you supose it’s true? Do you suppose she wouldn’t?”
“He didn’t look exactly like a young man that had just got things fixed up fine with his girl,” said Sheridan. “Not to me, he didn’t!”
“But why would—”
“I told you,” he interrupted, angrily, “she ain’t that kind of a girl! If you got to have proof, well, I’ll tell you and get it over with, though I’d pretty near just as soon not have to talk a whole lot about my dead boy’s private affairs. She wrote to Jim she couldn’t take him, and it was a good, straight letter, too. It came to Jim’s office; he never saw it. She wrote it the afternoon he was hurt.”
“I remember I saw her put a letter in the mail-box that afternoon,” said Roscoe. “Don’t you remember, Sibyl? I told you about it—I was waiting for you while you were in there so long talking to her mother. It was just before we saw that something was wrong over here, and Edith came and called me.”