He sighed with resignation. “All right, mamma. That’s all.” Then, in a livelier tone, he said: “Ole Gurney took the bandages off my hand this morning. All healed up. Says I don’t need ’em any more.”
“Why, that’s splendid, papa!” she cried, beaming. “I was afraid— Let’s see.”
She came toward him, but he rose, still keeping his hand in his pocket. “Wait a minute,” he said, smiling. “Now it may give you just a teeny bit of a shock, but the fact is—well, you remember that Sunday when Sibyl came over here and made all that fuss about nothin’ —it was the day after I got tired o’ that statue when Edith’s telegram came—”
“Let me see your hand!” she cried.
“Now wait!” he said, laughing and pushing her away with his left hand. “The truth is, mamma, that I kind o’ slipped out on you that morning, when you wasn’t lookin’, and went down to ole Gurney’s office—he’d told me to, you see—and, well, it doesn’t amount to anything.” And he held out, for her inspection, the mutilated hand. “You see, these days when it’s all dictatin’, anyhow, nobody’d mind just a couple o’—”
He had to jump for her—she went over backward. For the second time in her life Mrs. Sheridan fainted.
It was a full hour later when he left her lying upon a couch in her own room, still lamenting intermittently, though he assured her with heat that the “fuss” she was making irked him far more than his physical loss. He permitted her to think that he meant to return directly to his office, but when he came out to the open air he told the chauffeur in attendance to await him in front of Mr. Vertrees’s house, whither he himself proceeded on foot.
Mr. Vertrees had taken the sale of half of his worthless stock as manna in the wilderness; it came from heaven—by what agency he did not particularly question. The broker informed him that “parties were interested in getting hold of the stock,” and that later there might be a possible increase in the value of the large amount retained by his client. It might go “quite a ways up” within a year or so, he said, and he advised “sitting tight” with it. Mr. Vertrees went home and prayed.
He rose from his knees feeling that he was surely coming into his own again. It was more than a mere gasp of temporary relief with him, and his wife shared his optimism; but Mary would not let him buy back her piano, and as for furs—spring was on the way, she said. But they paid the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker, and hired a cook once more. It was this servitress who opened the door for Sheridan and presently assured him that Miss Vertrees would “be down.”
He was not the man to conceal admiration when he felt it, and he flushed and beamed as Mary made her appearance, almost upon the heels of the cook. She had a look of apprehension for the first fraction of a second, but it vanished at the sight of him, and its place was taken in her eyes by a soft brilliance, while color rushed in her cheeks.